by Sachi Sri Kantha, September , 2023
Previously I had contributed twice on G.G. (Kumar) Ponnambalam Jr. to this website The first was on the occasion of his 69th birthday in 2007. [https://sangam.org/2007/08/Kumar.php?uid=2505].
The second was in 2008, regarding his 1982 Presidential candidacy.[https://sangam.org/2008/08/Ponnambalam_Candidacy.php?uid=3042]
This year, Kumar Ponnambalam’s 85th birthday had passed by on Aug. 12th. The sentiments I expressed in 2007 still remain the same for me, especially in comparison to two of his contemporaries – viz., recognized sons (S.C. Chandrahasan and Neelan Tiruchelvam) of two respected Tamil leaders (S.J.V. Chelvanayakam and M. Tiruchelvam) : “When I re-read the epistles contributed by Kumar (as he is popularly known among Eelam Tamils) to the Colombo press in the 1990s, I feel saddened by the premature loss of one warrior who stood up for us, when it counted.”
After the first Presidential election held in October 20, 1982, in which Kumar was one of the six participants and the lone Tamil candidate, Mervyn de Silva tagged Kumar as ‘THE LONE GUERRILLA’ (Lanka Guardian, Nov. 1, 1982, p.1). Here are Mervyn’s thoughts.
“Having seized the day to give the near-extinct Tamil Congress a new lease of life, Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam (or better still G.G. Ponnambalam Jr.) is making maximum use of the fact that he came first in the Jaffna district to embarrass the TULF leadership. ‘They did not have the guts to hold public meetings and tell the people their stand. Instead they held some so-called seminars in private homes and in back gardens’ sneers Mr. Ponnambalam.
Mr. Ponnambalam speaks with the authority of 170,000 votes, while the TULF finds solace in the well below 50% poll. While some make sly use of figures to claim Mr. Ponnambalam in fact helped the UNP, Mr. Ponnambalam argues that the TULF ensured a first count win for Mr. Jayewardene. What goes on in the mind of the Tamil voter in the north? Perhaps only a general election will provide an answer. In ‘Tigerland’, Kumar is the lone guerrilla.”
Well, this was written in 1982. When the general election was held more than six years later, in Feb. 1989, much water had flown under the proverbial ‘bridge’; the fortunes of the then TULF leadership (A. Amirthalingam and M. Sivasithamparam) had plummeted to drastic levels to such an extent that Amirthalingam was hand-twisted (by the Indian South Bloc’s duplicitous ‘peace negotiators’ and RAW intelligence elements) to contest the elections in the Batticaloa district list, and he lost his credibility there too!
I provide below two items contributed by Kumar Ponnambalam to the short lived Hot Spring (London), edited by S. Sivanayagam in 1999. The first is the text of Kumar’s speech made at the 55th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, on April 9, 1999. The second was a lengthy critical expose on the low grade political career of his contemporary Neelan Tiruchelvam, following the latter’s assassination. Finally, I also include a letter I wrote in 1999 to support Kumar’s accusation of Neelan Tiruchelvam as a ‘local relay’ of CIA interests; it was published prior to his assassination.
Repeal the 6th Amendment
[G. G. Ponnambalam Jr., Hot Spring, London, April 1999, pp. 17-18]
‘Vanakkam, Madame Chairperson,
Despite clear and universally agreed standards, violations of basic and fundamental rights continue in many parts of the world. The Geneva-based Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, recently carried out a fact-finding mission in Sri Lanka, and concludes that:
‘The present and previous Governments of Sri Lanka have been in serious breach of their obligations to ensure to all individuals, subject to their jurisdiction, the rights recognized by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’.
‘Freedom of expression, a question we are considering under Item II, is included in Chapter Three of the Constitution of Sri Lanka captioned ‘Fundamental Rights’. Article 14(1) (a) reads thus: every citizen is entitled to freedom of speech and expression including publication.’
In August 1983, the Parliament of Sri Lanka passed what is popularly referred to as the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution which made it an offence to advocate separation. This Amendment was passed in the wake of the disgraceful pogrom against the Tamil nation in Sri Lanka that made the then Sri Lanka government and the extreme chauvinist section of the Sinhala Nation a laughing stock in the eyes of the world. The Amendment was passed when no Member of Parliament from the North and East of Sri Lanka was present in Parliament.
In the very recent past, we have seen two separate incidents concerning another dimension to freedom of expression. In November 1998, as the General Secretary of the oldest recognized Tamil political party in Sri Lanka, I was interviewed in Sinhala over the Swarnavahini television’s Sinhala channel, where, although not being a spokesperson for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), I said I support their political ideology. Immediately thereafter, there were written and verbal attacks and threats on me, emanating from the racist section of the Sinhala nation. Their attitude was encouraged enthusiastically by the Sinhala pro-Government print media. Soon the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) was involved and visited my home twice and I was interrogated for many hours.
Though the LTTE is a banned organization in Sri Lanka at the moment, the LTTE’s political wing, the People’s Front of the Liberation Tigers (PFLT) is yet a recognized party in Sri Lanka and has been so since 1987 and the PFLT has not been banned.
In contrast, in February 1999, a number of members of the Buddhist and Christian clery went into the jungles on their own and met with high-ranking members of the LTTE and had discussions. Thereafter, there was wide publicity to this meeting in the print and electronic media. But there was no objection from the extremist section of the Sinhala nation for going to meet a banned organization – perhaps because all who went were Sinhalese!
Madame Chairperson, with regard to disappearances and summary executions, the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, in its Report prepared for this 55th Session of the Commission, states that in Sri Lanka, disappearances continue to occur at high levels.
On July 3rd 1998, an army soldier named Rajapakse, just convicted of murder by the High Court of Colombo, reported to the same Court a mass grave of about 400 persons in a vast desolate tract known as Chemmani in the Jaffna Peninsula. This disclosure became international news immediately. Even after 9 months, today the most elementary step of taking Rajapakse to the site and asking him to point out the exact spot has not been done. Instead a dubious drama has just been enacted by the Sri Lanka government of getting some experts to give a report as to whether the soil has been disturbed.
I am aware of what I am about to say may shock this august audience, but coming from the island of Sri Lanka, it behoves me to speak what is happening there. An incident took place in February 1999. The head of one Rajaratnam Rajeswaran was found in the drain opposite the Jaffna New Market. Investigations revealed that Rajeswaran’s identity was with the army at one of the Vadamarachchi check points and that the head belonged to a torso that was found in the toilet pit of an abandoned house in Nelliady within the Vadamarachchi area and about 25 miles away from where the head was found. As if this were not enough, there are 15 check points between the places where the head and the torso were found!
On 25 March 1999, construction workers were digging a part of the Durayappa Stadium in the heart of Jaffna City and about five miles from Chemmani itself, when they came across at least ten skulls and a pile of human bones. The find was reported to the police and the Municipal authorities. For almost a week, the police or the authorities did not think it fit to cordon off the area or to place police guard.
This brings to mind what the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions has said in his Report after a recent visit to Sri Lanka. ‘Effective impunity encourages political violence and is a destabilizing element in all contexts of the Sri Lankan socio-political system…This impunity has led to arbitrary killings and has contributed to the uncontrollable spiraling of violence…Impunity for those responsible for human rights violations remains a serious concern.’ [Note from the transcriber: dots, as in the original.]
Madame Chairperson, We therefore call upon this assembly, ‘to demand of the Sri Lankan government the immediate repeal of the Sixth Amendment to the Sri Lanka Constitution. To demand of the Sri Lankan government that freedom of expression is not selectively implemented against the Tamils, and to request that the Sri Lankan government be transparent and fair in dealing with sensitive issues such as mass graves and disappearances. Thank You.’
Neelan – The Other side of the story
[G. G. Ponnambalam Jr., Hot Spring, London, Aug-Sept, 1999, pp. 15-18]
It is over one month since Dr. Neelakandan Tiruchelvam’s demise at the hands of an assassin. I wish to place on record the feelings of a preponderant section of the Tamils on the matter of Tiruchelvam’s death.
Eulogies have come in from abroad and locally. From foreigners and from the Sinhalese. Indeed, at this time, it is the done thing to say all the good things about a dead person. But there has been hardly a good word for him from the Tamils, whether from abroad or locally. Why this glaring dichotomy?
The Tamils have been condemned by the international and local media for being unmoved and callous indeed, showing supreme indifference at Tiruchelvam’s death. ‘Silence is the most perfect expression of scorn’ said George Bernard Shaw. It should not be so, we are told, because he was a ‘Tamil politician’, a ‘Tamil parliamentarian’, a ‘Tamil moderate’, a ‘fighter of minority rights’, a ‘human rights activist’, a ‘committed crusader for peace’, an ‘international figure’ and a hoard of other things that he is supposed to have stood for. Still, there were no Tamil banners, no Tamil leaflets as is customary, no mass Tamil participation at his funeral barring the well-known Tamil supporters of Sinhala Governments and the Establishment, no Tamil speakers at the cremation barring the Secretary General of his Party, and no eulogies from Tamils. Indeed, not a Tamil, after all. All this, a strong indictment indeed.
Tiruchelvam had an unnatural death. But he is only one such Tamil. There have been thousands of Tamils in the recent past having had similar fate at the hands of successive Sinhala Governments hell-bent on the genocide of Tamils. They were also precious lives. Precious Tamil lives, no different from that of Tiruchelvam. But nobody would stop to think about them. Why? Is it because they were not friends of the Sinhalese? Is it because they were no use to the Establishment?
In the beleaguered and tiny Tamil Nation, Tiruchelvam was very good material. I will say this in full measure. Acknowledging this fact, he was asked to contest the Colombo District on an independent Tamil list in 1994. He refused and assumed the roll of a kingmaker by searching for Tamils to get onto the Peoples Alliance (PA) list. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
As a Tamil, Tiruchelvam was an enemy unto himself. As a ‘Tamil politician’, Tiruchelvam did not know what his constituency was. Was it the Tamils or was it really the Sinhalese? He preferred anybody other than the Tamils. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
TULF & Thimpu
As a Tamil, he could have been blinded to the Tamil aspirations at this moment because the party to which he belonged, the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) was a signatory to the Thimpu Principles of August 1985 which laid down the four principles extolling Tamil aspirations. In the process of fashioning some convoluted ‘Peace Package’, that saw three drafts in as many years in some engine room behind, Tiruchelvam saw to it that the sacred aspirations of the Tamils were smashed up or completely ignored. And this, so soon after Thimpu. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
That Tiruchelvam was an architect of the notorious ‘Peace Package’ everybody knew for sometime. But Tiruchelvam was very secretive about this and would never admit it. Why? If the ‘Peace Package’ was any good to the Tamils, was any good to the Tamils, surely he should have been proud of it? The Tamils have not forgotten this.
His father, the late M. Tiuchelvam argued in the Amirthalingam Trial-at-Bar that the Tamils had not lost their sovereignty when the Portuguese captured Jaffna and that sovereignty remained with the Tamils when the British left the shores and, therefore, what was left for the Tamils to do was to restore that sovereignty with the setting up of the separate state of Tamil Eelam. Tiruchelvam has seen to it that this case that was built up was smashed for all times by the ‘Peace Package’ that he ‘co-authored’. That too, after he put out a book containing his father’s submission under the aegis of the Tiruchelvam Pothu Pani Manram. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
Tiruchelvam was more an Establishments Man. An Establishment Man of successive brutal Sinhala Governments. He was a great friend of the Official Languages Commission and would be a principal speaker at all its functions and indeed had a very close associate of his as one of the Commissioners. But this Tamil Commissioner would eternally complain about the impotence of the Commission. Tiruchelvam did not help in the full and proper implementation of the Tamil Language inspite of his well-known proximity to the Sinhala Establishment. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
Tiruchelvam reveled in being an engine-room boy. He loved that role which was detested by the ordinary Tamil. It was this character that prevented him from facing the hustings and his Tamil peers. Still, it got him into Parliament twice, but only as a nominated member on each occasion. The only time he faced the Tamils was when the ‘friendly’ Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) was in situ in Tamil Eelam in 1989. But even his ‘international connections’ could not help him in 1989 when he faced his own kind.
Sensitive to Tamil sentiments? An answer to this could be had from the various eulogies and encomiums that have been paid to him. Very, very significantly, not one of them had anything to say about Tiruchelvam’s contribution to the Tamils! And even more significantly even the President of his Party, M. Sivasithamparam, has singularly assumed a position of stony silence! Equally significantly, the Tiruchelvam Pothu Pani Manram has chosen to distance itself from Tiruchelvam at this moment.
In December 1995 when an alien Sinhala army ‘captured’ Jaffna by setting foot in a deserted Tamil land mass, the insensitive Sinhala Government wanted a song and dance to appease the baser Sinhala sentiments. Poor Tiruchelvam was equally insensitive in suggesting that the Nandhi flag should be hoisted at the ‘victory ceremony’ of the Sinhalese in order to satisfy the Tamils! This was done. Was this necessary? The Tamil Nation, which was reeling at that time, has not forgotten this.
Bailing out Chandrika
In 1997 October when President Kumaratunga, at a weekly meeting of financial officials on Fridays, blurted she would get onto the streets and attack Tamils if the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) attacked Buddhist places of worship and this leaked out and there was hue and cry from the Tamil quarter. Tiruchelvam feigned another’s signature in an irrelevant and disgraceful letter to the President which sought, dishonestly, to bale the President out of a very difficult position. To say that Tiruchelvam is a paragon of virtue, even after this notorious act, is nothing but midsummer madness. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
Tiruchelvam is described as a ‘crusader for peace’ and ‘a tireless worker towards resolution of conflicts’. After Tiruchelvam’s death, it has surfaced that he was abandoning Parliament and the ‘Peace Package’ for pastures new and that he was going to take up a teaching assignment in America on 1st September 1999. Some interested parties want the people to accept the ‘Peace Package’ as this would be the least that they could do in the memory of Tiruchelvam. But if D,B.S.Jeyaraj’s eulogy at page 10 of ‘The Hindu’ of 7-8-99 is anything to go by, Tiruchelvam obviously did not tell Jayaraj, even as late as 35 minutes before his death, that he was leaving the shores in a matter of days. On the contrary, Tiruchelvam had even minutes before his death ‘wanted a little more time in Parliament to accomplish his goal of achieving a political settlement.’ It will not be easy unravelling this strange situation more so if we take into consideration what the President has said about presenting the ‘Peace Package’ to Parliament by the end of August 1999. This, too, has raised Tamil eyebrows and all sorts of questions are being asked in Tamil circles. Was Tiruchelvam decamping after ensuring his pension? Where is his commitment to the Peace Cause, leave alone the Tamils? The Tamils have not forgotten this.
Tiruchelvam is described as an ‘international figure’. Of particular interest to Tamils was the fact that he was Chairman of the Minority Rights Group International. This organization did a study of Sri Lanka after the present Government came into power and brought out a report in February 1996 with special reference to the Tamils. It was an indictment against his friend – the Sinhalese Government. The Report had many recommendations. Some Tamil organizations had written to Tiruchelvam during his stewardship requesting him to use his good offices with the Government to which he was so close (as has been now made out by representatives of the Government) and alleviate the distress of the Tamils. He just would not move in the matter. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
South Africa bloomer
In July 1998 when President Kumaratunga went to distant South Africa and came out with the bloomer that the Tamils are not the original people of this island and there was a mass protest from Tamils, here and abroad, there was not a whimper from the international personality that Tiruchelvam was.
He could have used his good offices as an international figure that he was held out to be, to neutralize this statement, more so, when he had the opportunity to do so as he was in South Africa soon after the President’s characteristically ill-conceived outburst. He did nothing. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
To makes matters worse, Foreign Minister Lucky Kadirigama [Note by transcriber: i.e., Lakshman Kadirgamar. Used as a derisive reference to the then Foreign Minister] who, incidentally, was suddenly catapulted into the political arena from nowhere, due largely to a typical Tiruchelvam machination, completely let down his friend by calling a press conference on 2-8-99 and announcing, with pompous finality, that Tiruchelvam was a virtual consultant to the Foreign Ministry. This has opened the eyes of the Tamils who now charge that Tiruchelvam, with his ‘international connections’ as was evidenced by the outpourings that came from abroad and specifically from America, had a hand in the designation of the LTTE and that Tiruchelvam was indeed a CIA agent. A greater dis-service Kadirigama could not have done to Tiruchelvam.
In spite of the fact that the President had done nothing about Tiruchelvam’s ‘Peace Package’ for three years, that he should have thought that she was still the best bet for the Tamils when the whole Tamil Nation was arraigned against the President for years showed not only Tiruchelvam’s political acumen but also the distance he occupied from the Tamil Nation.
Friends of Tiruchelvam have said that the Tamils have kept their distance from Tiruchelvam because of fear of the LTTE and as the ‘Indian Express’ has said ‘mortgaged its sould to the LTTE’. I do not think the LTTE would ever think of videoing those who attend the Tiruchelvam funeral in order to take it out of those Tamils. Such modus operandi are only carried out by a despotic Sinhala Government to intimidate and harass Tamils who attend Tamil political meetings in the vastly predominant Sinhala Colombo.
As a ‘Tamil parliamentarian’, Tiruchelvam went into Parliament, first, in 1982 when he was nominated to the Vaddukottai seat – the constituency which staged the Pannakam Convention way back in 1976 where the momentous resolution for the separate state of Tamil Eelam was passed. During that stint in Parliament, Tiruchelvam did not make one speech about the Tamils or Tamil Eelam, even so soon after the Pannakam Convention. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
Game of Hide & Seek
From the word ‘go’ in August 1994, the TULF would nominally speak on the debate for the extension of the Emergency and slither away during voting time. Tiruchelvam would not even speak at such debates, lest it hurts the Establishment. This game of hide and seek went on for about a year or more till the TULF suddenly changed course due to one Tamil ridiculing them out of hand. The Tamils never expected a Tamil with Tiruchelvam’s intellectual stature to lend himself to play hide and seek during tragic times. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
From the time this particular Sinhala Government took office, Tiruchelvam’s party, the TULF, on the basis of dubious logic, would oppose the votes of the Ministry of Defense but would vote with the Government for the Budget. This, the TULF thought, was honesty. But the Tamils viewed this as intellectual dishonesty of a very base order because this Sinhala Government’s reign has been the bloodiest in the history of this island, as far as the Tamils are concerned. Tiruchelvam, inspite of his intellectual attainments, did not try to extricate himself from this obscene and ridiculous situation, even if he could not change the course of his party. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
In the five years since 1994 that Tiruchelvam has been a parliamentarian, he has spoken on matters ranging from sex to Satan. But he could not have spoken even five times about the pathetic and tragic plight of the Tamils under this barbaric Sinhala Government? Thousands of Tamil civilians have been killed, tens of Tamil villages shelled, hundreds of Tamil homes and acres of Tamil agricultural lands have been destroyed, many places of worship and schools in Tamil Eelam bombed, food and medicine denied to Tamil refugees, torture and rape used as weapons of war against the Tamils, Tamils used as human mine detectors and as forced labour by an alien Sinhala army, disappearnaces of Tamils in their hundreds and mass Tamil graves coming to light only now, merciless murders of caged and, therefore, helpless Tamil political prisoners. Indeed, the genocide of the Tamils! There wasn’t a whimper from Tiruchelvam. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
The use of Tamil as an administrative language in the District of Colombo could only be done if the President makes a proclamation in terms of the Sixteenth Amendment and the proclamation is gazette. Only if this is done would all the records be kept in Tamil also and Tamil be used as a language of Court. Repeated requests were made to the President. Inspite of Tiruchelvam’s position with the President, he did nothing to have this done. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
Lip service to Peace
Tiruchelvam has been described as a ‘Tamil moderate’. Was he really? It is legion, certainly amongst the Tamils, that it was his party, the TULF that goaded the Tamil youth to take to arms with the inflammatory speeches that made from all their platforms so much so that the youth slit their wrists, drew blood and dramatically placed ‘pottu’ of blood on the foreheads of TULF leaders during the 1977 hustings. The Tamil youth took to arms in a big way, as a result. All the Tamils who carry guns today and who are snuggly ensconced in the lap of the despicable Sinhala Government which is making use of them like chattel, will not deny this. If Tiruchelvam was a true moderate and if he was in the TULF then, why did he not disassociate himself with the TULF life? If he was not in the TULF then, why did he join it thereafter? As if this is not enough, the TULF manifesto for the 1977 General Elections said that the Constitution of Tamil Eelam would be ‘brought into operation either by peaceful means or by direct action or struggle’. What does this sentence denote, if it does not refer to an armed struggle? The TULF has not unequivocably jettisoned this stand of theirs. Tiruchelvam is therefore part and parcel of this philosophy. To pay lip service or otherwise to ‘peace’, whilst running with the hare and hunting with the hound, is hypocritical if not downright despicable. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
Not one word of protest
Tiruchelvam is held out to be a ‘fighter for minority rights’. How could it have been? For, long before Tiruchelvam came onto the political firmament, the Tamils categorically changed their position on this matter and held themselves to be a ‘Nation’ and refused to think, again, as a ‘minority’. So, if he was a fighter for minority rights, he could certainly not have had the Tamils in mind. Tamils could not be expected to forget this.
Tiruchelvam is held out to be a ‘human rights activist’. It is the position of the Tamils that never before have they been at the receiving end of so much human rights violations and so much brutal and barbaric violence as has been experienced by them since August 1994. During the bloodiest period of this God-forsaken country’s history, was there one word of protest, loud and clear, from Tiruchelvam in the name of the Tamils? The Tamils have not forgotten this.
Tiruchelvam took his oaths under the Sixth Amendment which the International Commission of Jurists (another of those international agencies which sent an eulogy on Tiruchelvam’s demise) condemned as undemocratic and in violation of Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
Did Tiruchelvam ever have Tamil interests at heart or was he even sensitive? Rather than psychoanalyze the Tamils, let us come to grips with reality. Tiruchelvam’s funeral took place in Colombo: not in Tamil Eelam. The Sinhalese bandwagon says that ‘400,000 Tamils have colonized Colombo because they could not stand LTTE harassment’. If that argument is correct, why were those Tamils not present at Tiruchelvam’s funeral? Indeed, where were the so-called Colombo Tamils who are said not even to know of the LTTE? Or did Tiruchelvam’s funeral show the Sinhalese and the international community about the silent revolution that is under way? And was the realization of this mass support for the silent revolution that led the Sinhala and international sector to work overtime to obtain eulogies about the ‘brutal’, ‘despicable’, ‘senseless’, ‘dastardly’, ‘cowardly’, ‘callous’, ‘heartless’, ‘monstrous’ act that killed Tiruchelvam?
Make no mistake. Any death that is not natural or accidental must, indeed, be described in those superlative terms. But who started it all? Who made this the culture of this island? Who made this a way of life in this country? Let the Tiruchelvam murder lead to some soul-searching, at least, not only in the Sinhala quarter but also in the TULF corner.
What I have written is not a justification for the murder of Tiruchelvam. Rather, it is to place before the world the other side of the story. If it could be such, for staggering unconcern and stunning indifference on the part of the Tamils everywhere regarding this incident. There is really no point in blaming the Tamils en masse for their ‘indifference’ because they have their reasons, and valid ones too. I am only seeking to place those reasons publicly.
What I have written might be described as not being appropriate at this time. But the other side of the story had to be writ and writ soon. The international sector have had their say about Tiruchelvam. The Sinhalese have had theres. The Tamils must now have their say and bring out their perspective. It is my position that a Tamil must first say, whatever that is not popular, sitting fairely and squarely in Colombo. That is why I have written the Tamil point of view about Tiruchelvam.
Why blame the Tamils for being unmoved over the Tiruchelvam incident? That is their right; their prerogative. Indeed, that is democracy. Is this hue and cry about the Tamil silence because Tiruchelvam is a friend of the Sinhalese? If Sri Lanka is a democracy, then it must be bound by the Peoples Will. The Tamil People have shown their will.
To continue pretending not to understand the mid of the Tamils betray the arid and infertile terrain of a degenerate mind.
Many moons ago, the ‘Darling of Jaffna’ was flashed a question by his best friend as to what he thought was the greatest thing in life. The politician of yore shot back unhesitatingly. ‘The love of one’s own People’. Did Tiruchelvam enjoy the love of his people? Ask Nirupama Subramaniam.
I contributed my thoughts substantiating Kumar’s accusation on Neelan Tiruchelvam, as a CIA agent. The text of this letter (which appeared in the Hot Spring, Oct-Nov. 1999, p. 14) is reproduced verbatim here.
“The allegation of being a CIA agent in Sri Lanka is a serious one to tag to any individual. Thus, one sentence in G.G. Ponnambalam (Jr)’s excellent commentary on the political career of late Neelan Tiruchelvam deserves further analysis (Hot Spring, Aug-Sept. 1999). This particular sentence states, “…Tamils who now charge that Tiruchelvam, with his ‘international connections’ as was evidenced by the outpourings that came from abroad and specifically from America, had a hand in the designation of the LTTE [as a ‘terrorist organization’] and that Tiruchelvam was indeed a CIA agent.” Is there any proverbial ‘smoking gun’ for the charge that Neelan could have been a CIA agent?
Before I read G.G. Ponnambalam (Jr)’s commentary in the Hot Spring, I was intrigued by a couple of tid-bits which appeared in the eulogy of Celia Dugger to Neelan, published in the New York Times of Aug. 24. In it, she had written as follows:
‘Tiruchelvam’s elder son, Nirgunan, 26, an investment banker in Singapore, became almost obsessed with his fathe’s security. He begged his father to stay inside their house, or to wear a bullet proof best and travel in a bomb-proof car. The son tracked down an aging bomb-proof Jaguar that had carried the Queen of England when she visited Sri Lanka in the early 1980s. But when his father used the car, it broke down. The one garage that could fix it always seemed to be busy.’
I feel that some vital information is missing in the above passage. How Nirgunan was able to locate the bomb-proof Jaguar which carried the Queen of England for his dad? Did he receive any extra-ordinary help from ‘foreign hands’ to purchase this car? Why ‘only one garage’ could fix this bullet-proof car? Why this ‘one garage’ was always ‘busy?’ How many months (or years) did Neelan use this car?
In addition, the condolence message of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to Neelan’s untimely death needs to b taken with a pinch of salt. I wish to elaborate a little. Early this year New York Times (Feb 23, 1999) published an article by Philip Shenon with the title, ‘CIA was with UN in Iraq for years, Ex-Inspector says’. First two sentences of this article is very relevant to the readers, I believe. Thus, I reproduce them below:
‘The CIA began placing American spies among UN weapons inspectors in Iraq only a year after the end of the Persian Gulf War of 1991 and worked closely with the United Nations to organize the inspections, a former arms inspector says. The former inspector, Scott Ritter, said in a new book that he and a senior CIA official operating under an assumed name had planned some of the largest and most complex inspections undertaken by the United Nations and that the United Nations inspection teams had included ‘CIA paramilitary covert operatives.’
This exposure revealed to neutral observers that CIA has infiltrated the United Nations, and even the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan seems to behave like a person on CIA’s pay roll. It is a pity that Kofi Annan is being fooled by the CIA and he has a lot to learn from the master-statesman Nelson Mandela. In his autobiography ‘Long Walk to Freedom’, Mandela did not mince his words about the nefarious role played by the CIA. He had written explicitly that ‘the CIA has been responsible for many contemptible activities in its support of American imperialism’. One should also note that during President Reagan’s regime, quite a segment of those who posed as the ‘human rights activists’ in the USA did not criticize the then prevailing apartheid system in South Africa strongly while Mandela was in prison. They just believed the ‘doctored version’ of the CIA-supplied ‘truth’ that Mandela and those who supported him in the international scene (such as Libya’s leader Muammar Quaddafi) were ‘terrorists’.
Thus, unless evidence to the contrary is revealed publicly, messages of condolences offered by Kofi Annan as well as President Bill Clinton on Neelan’s untimely death have to be taken as circumstantial evidence of a link between Neelan Tiruchelvam and CIA.
Sachi Sri Kantha,|
Fukuroi City 437-0126, Japan.’
Unlike his father G.G. Ponnambalam (1902-1977) or his son Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam (b.1974) Kumar failed to get elected as a member of parliament in Ceylon/Sri Lanka, despite trying three times in 1977, 1989 and 1994. But, he has a notable achievement in defeating J.R. Jayewardene in the Jaffna district votes, at the first Presidential election in 1982. For many Tamils, like me, Ponnambalam Jr.’s life was an excellent example of endurance. The last two lines of American sportswriter Grantland Rice’s ‘Alumnus Football’ poem fits neatly for his achievements:
‘For when the One Great Scorer comes
to mark against your name;
He writes – not that you won or lost
but how you played the game.’
There is hardly any doubt, Kumar played the game gallantly in the time allotted to him – not as a collaborator, a compromiser, a fart-catcher, BUT as a Tamil hero.