G.G. (Kumar) Ponnambalam Jr. Remembered on His 24th Assassination Anniversary

by Sach Sri Kantha, January 1, 2024

G.G. (Kumar) Ponnambalam Jr.

Front Note

G.G. (Kumar) Ponnambalam Jr. (1938-2000) was assassinated on January 5, 2000, in Colombo. To remember him, I provide two published documents. One – an ‘Open Letter’ to the then Sri Lankan president Chandrika Kumaratunga. Most probably, this was the final public statement released by Kumar prior to his tragic death. The other one was an eulogy to Kumar, written by journalist S. Sivanayagam. Both appeared in the Sivanayagam-edited, short-lived monthly Hot Spring (London) – a journal of commitment, with the dateline Dec 1999. I provide these two documents for digital preservation. I also contributed a few commentaries/letters to this Hot Spring journal.

Though the date line of this particular Hot Spring issue was December 1999, it is apparent it was published post January 5, 2000. In his editorial criticizing the government of Chandrika Kumaratung, Sivanayagam also made a passing reference to the assassination of the then Jaffna district MP and journalist Ramesh Atputharajah (1963-1999) in Wellawatte, Colombo that occurred in November 2, 1999. Atputharajah belonged to the EPDP, headed by Douglas Devananda. Kumar Ponnambalam was also assassinated in Wellawatte, Colombo.


An Open Letter to Kumaratunga

by G.G. Ponnambalam Jr.

[Hot Spring, London, Dec 1999, pp. 25-26]

[Note: Sentence in bold is as in the original]

I refer to your Victory speech of 22-12-99 on your election, once again, as President. I write as a Tamil Ealavan. But more importantly, I write as an unalloyed and unrepentant supporter of the political philosophy of the LTTE and as one who, with that conviction, lives in the South. I write as one who has publicly stated this position of mine not only within this island but also without, and both verbally and in writing. I write as one whom you have recognized in your speech. And, I write as one who refuses to be deterred by the naked threats that dot your speech.

Permit me to tell you that your speech reflects the hatred that you have, only too readily, recognized in others. Your speech is nauseatingly replete with one word – ‘peace’. But the tenor of your speech is anything but one that is, in any way, conciliatory or given to peace.

You have sent a clarion call to all your ‘Tamil brothers and sisters’ without outstretched hands of friendship. This shows your stark insincerity if one only recalls your speech made many moons ago when you inaugurated the Sama Tawalama at Anuradhapura with the unacceptable posture that this island is Sinhala land and Buddhist country.

You refer to 18th December 1999 as ‘the night that will go down in history as the night this land was touched by the hand of darkness one too many times’. You indulge in this rhetoric because it happens to concern you. Do you not realize that there are thousands of widows in Tamil Eelam to whom certain nights have gone down, in their own lives, as nights that have been touched by the hand of darkness caused by your machinations as Commander-in-Chief of your armed forces?

You have challenged ‘those who doubt (your) resolve to life the curse of hatred and death that has fallen upon (this) land’ to look you in the face now and voice our doubts about the sincerity of the desire to forge permanent peace. I hasten, with this letter, to say just that to you with all the vehemence I command, I am fortified in this statement by your victory speech itself.

You want to finish the LTTE. Please do so, if you can. With that will go, for all times, any prospect of permanent peace in this island. Your election results shows ruthlessly that all Tamils, not only Tamil Eelaver but also the Upcountry Tamils, not only do not want you because they do not trust you anymore, but also do not want a political solution from you. This is an indictment on all your postulations of wanting to forge permanent peace.

Just take your peace packages. There were three in as many years, during the first three years after the commencement of your tenure. For the next two years, there was not a murmur about those packages. Even those three packages were diluted with each subsequent appearance! Surely, anyone who has a genuine desire to bring about a political solution will not trifle with packages every summer?

You say that you see very clearly ‘the enemy that walks so freely’ in this island, and you identify that enemy as ‘hatred’. No, the enemy you see are the Tamils in this island. Thank God this is reciprocated by every Tamil worth his salt. This has also been evidenced by the election results.

You boast that ‘the entire LTTE terrorist enterprise will fail’ against you but, in the same breath, you contradict yourself pathetically by wanting the Tamils to bring Prabhakaran to the negotiating table. You have played ducks and drakes for far too long about whether you want to talk to the LTTE or not. Political maturity demands that you and your Government finally state whether you want to talk to the LTTE, unconditionally, or not. It is only when this is known definitely will anybody move in this matter.

If talking to the LTTE at the negotiating table is your honest position, then your outburst about ‘cowards of the LTTE’ and ‘terrorist cowards’ or your urge to wipe out the LTTE, must surely be counterproductive.

By all means ‘clear away the culture of terror and death’, which has become the way of life in this island thanks to the Sinhalese who first showed everybody the way in June 1956. But you will realize immediately, as everybody in this island realizes, that you will have to start doing so at your very own doorstep in the first instance, before you decide to go anywhere near the LTTE!

May I close by referring to your constant refrain about bringing about peace. If you are hoping to bring about peace through any one of your packages, please forget it. The Tamils have shown unmistakably that they are not interested in you or in your peace packages.

In fact, if the Tamils are worth their salt, they will not want anything dished out by you, or for that matter, by your adversary. Why should we? We Tamils were not born to depend on the ‘benevolence’ of the Sinhalese or on what they choose to dish out to us. A part of this island rightfully belongs to the Tamils, in as much as the other part rightfully belongs to the Sinhalese. This must be appreciated by the Sinhalese.

As far as the Tamils are concerned, they in turn, must appreciate that if their aspirations hold that as a Nation they have the right to self-determination and that that right is inalienable in that it is born with them, then they must have the political wisdom, strength and sagacity to exercise that right and decide their own political future themselves. They have, for far too long, looked to peace packages, negotiating tables and anything offered or dished out by the Sinhalese. This beggarly attitude must go. The sooner it goes, the better it is for the Tamils.

The Tamil Nation has, through the delegation of the Tamil people, solemnly informed the world about its aspirations in August 1985 at Thimpu. To go back on that position will be tantamount to compromising future generations of Tamils yet unborn. The present generation does not have the right to compromise future generations. Any signal that would give the Sinhalese the idea that the Tamils are not serious about their aspirations, or that they are climbing down, will be an act of treachery. The present generation does not seem to tolerate such treachery or to take kindly to traitors.

Many I end by saying that, on the basis of what I have just stated, I personally, have got disgusted and tired of talks, third party intervention etc. My considered conviction is that a political solution to the Tamil problem is in the hands of the Tamils themselves and only in their hands and that the Sinhalese and Tamils can continue to live in this island and in peace only if they live in two definite and distinct compartments each minding their own business unfettered by the other. Only such an arrangement will prove relevant that great quotation on peace you have used in your speech:

‘Peace is a battle. Peace is never given freely, never acquired. Its conquest is the result of courage and of respect for others. It demands awareness and commitment from eveyr one. Peace is not the law imposed by the mighty, but that which is founded on equality and dignity of all peoples.’


Your Excellency, Shame on you woman” – editorial comment

by S. Sivanayagam

[Hot Spring, London, Dec 1999, pp. 1-2]

[Note: Sentences in bold and italics, as well as the inserted dots are as in the original]

S. Sivanayagam

The lone, courageous Tamil voice in Colombo – that of Mr. G.G. Ponnambalam (Jr) – has been silenced for ever; murdered by a pro-government gunman, in broad daylight, in a Tamil residential area, in the capital city of Colombo, on the morning of Wednesday, January 5, 2000. But his fate was sealed earlier; sealed on the day Madame President of the country sobbed her heart out and spewed hatred and warnings through her State idiot box.

 In her victory speech on December 22, having invited the audience to ‘look at her wounds’ (they were already looking at them); having ‘thanked the gods’ for sparing her life (there are no ‘gods’ in a true Buddhist’s vocabulary); having spoken of ‘the vicious pain of losing a father’ (failing to mention that the ‘vicious pain’ was caused by a Buddhist monk in holy robes armed with a revolver); having spoken of ‘the loving pain of motherhood’ (all mothers in the world do feel the same pain, as did Jaffna school girl Krishanthi’s mother when she saw her daughter’s violated body before she was strangled in turn by Madame’s President’s armed rapists); having spoken about the ‘soul-destroying pain of losing a husband (failing to mention that she lost her husband at the hands of a Sinhala extremist); she went on to declare thus:

‘…Let all those who act in the name of hatred and terror in the Northeast and their supporters in the South be warned…Let all those who aid and abet terror be warned, let those who by act or omission support terror be warned, let those who secretly or openly condone the path of violence pursued by the LTTE be warned… (Govt. owned Sunday Observer, Dec 26, 1999).

Men who are wise to the ways of women know that looks are important for them; even to women Presidents. The loss of an eye and the consequent disfigurement of her face is not something that any woman can afford to look back except with anger. One has to make due allowance for that, particularly to the head of a country who is constantly in the public eye. But hatred in the heart and confusion in the head is not something that one expects in the executive president of a country.

Mr. Ponnambalam’s grave error was that he did not pay adequate heed to those one-eyed warnings. Instead of that, he wrote an open letter to the President (see, page 25) where he made the specific charge at her – ‘Your speech reflects your hatred’. If Mr Ponnambalam thought he was exercising his fundamental right as a citizen expressing his independent view in what is believed to be a democratic society that upholds freedome of expression, he was in greatest error. That rosy picture of democracy is only in the eyes of certain sections of the foreign media which lap up all what the government spokesmen say and pass them off to unsuspecting readers and listeners as ‘news’.

Killing of a Tamil Editor

Mr Ponnambalam could have at least heeded what happened to Atputharajah (Ramesh) th editor of the popular Tamil weekly ‘Thinamurasu’ – a MP at that, at least by name – who paid the price for his overtly pro-LTTE stance by being gunned down in similar fashion, in broad daylight, in a Tamil residential area, two months ago. To this day, the verdict on his killing lies swept under the government carpet.

No hatred towards the Sinhalese

Mr Ponnambalam also made another cardinal error. He might have presumed, even knowing that he was treading on dangerous ground, that his personal standing as a well known politician, the influence he wielded among a wide circle of Sinhalese friends, his fluency in the Sinhalese language, and his own knowledge that he had at no time any hatred towards the Sinhalese people, would have ensured that no physical harm could come to him. It is that freedom from fear that possibly made him trust even that man who called himself ‘Shantha’ (not an uncommon first name among Sinhalese) and ingratiated himself with Mr Ponnambalam during the previous two weeks and in some way contributed to the crime.

Signing his own death warrant

His fatal error however came in that open letter where he said: ‘I write as one whom you have recognized in your speech, and I write as one who refuses to be deterred by the naked threats that dot your speech’. With that one statement, he signed his own death warrant. Mr Ponnambalam should have known better. He was living and moving about freely in a city that had known 40 years of racist violence, thuggery, intimidation, and State-sponsored mayhem from the time of her father’s rule in the fifties. Today, under the daughter’s rule, the situation had deteriorated to such an extent that one can hire a daylight killer for at little as Rs 5,000 in Sri Lanka’s devalued currency; such is the competitive market for hired killers among the increasing number of army deserters with guns.

But to a man who was a single-minded crusader for Tamil rights nothing was daunting enough, not even the risk of life. Never before in the island’s post-colonial history has one man done so much for so many of his oppressed people in so short a span of time as five years. Never before has any government panoplied in power felt so vulnerable and so helpless against one man as did the Chandrika government in the looming presence of bogeyman Mr Ponnambalam in Colombo. Something had to be done to quieten him, and this was the only way it could be done.

But the Colombo government’s problem has not ended. It has just begun. Away from Colombo, the situation in the battlefront in the north has begun to cause mental convulsions among government circles. With the help of censorship and the distactions in Colombo the military debacles are being kept under wraps. Any time in the near future someone is going to press the panic button. Throughout the President’s speeches and interviews one can detect an underlying current of anger, fear, desperation, frustration and pique.

The unspoken logic appears to be, if one cannot win the war against the Tigers in the North, go for the easily targetable Tamils in the South and take your vengeance on them. Mr Ponnambalam for example. The defencelss Tamil political prisoners in the Kalutara jail for example. Three of them have been already killed by the prison warders, and the Welikade jail massacres of Black July ’83 could well be replayed while the human rights watchers look away.

The good news for Ranil

There is no doubt that Sri Lanka under the rule of a physically wounded and mentally distraught President is sliding into anarchy. The bad news for UNP leader Ranil Wickremasinghe was that he lost the presidential election. The good news for him is that he will not be the one who will be presiding over the liquidation of the Sinhala empire in the Northeast.


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  1. ranjan

    I wish there was or is a way to obtain and republish the exchange of letters, or letters written by GG “Kumar” Ponambalam in the Leader Newspaper naming and questioning the disloyalty of an unelected foreign minister who made it his mission to have the “west” outlaw the LTTE.
    Context is all.
    ANY article(s) on the execution of GG or any Tamil in or out of office deserves a detailed picture indicating events and comments before and after the execution.