M.K. Eelventhan – Appreciation; Part 2

by Sachi Sri Kantha, June 22, 2024

Part 1

Eelaventhan as an Author

MK Eelaventhan’s published book (2007)

Having been in public life for nearly six decades, most Tamils in Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu do recognize Eelaventhan as a persuasive bilingual speaker, in the oratorical traditions of Dravidian leaders Anna (1909-1969) and Nedunchezhian (1920-2000). But Eelaventhan’s skills as a bilingual author has not gained much credence. I’d say, he himself was responsible for this. He had published quiet a number of non-fiction (biographies) works on notable historical and contemporary Tamil personalities in Tamil. But, I’d categorize majority of Eelaventhan’s publications as ‘booklets’ (of less than 50 pages), because they don’t pass the conventional definition of a book (excluding childrens’ book) by UNESCO, that should be more than 50 pages. Being one who moved with the masses, Eelaventhan’s style is clear and easy to gulp in Tamil and English, devoid of literary gymnastics practiced by his contemporary academic professors like Kailasapathy (1933-1982) and Sivathamby (1932-2011). Digital copies of nine Eelaventhan’s publications are available for perusal in the Noolaham foundation (https://noolaham.org/) site. These are:

Sir Pon Ramanathan, 1955, 16 pp. (in Tamil); 2002, 32 pp (in English)

Kappaloddi Sekkiluththa semmal Va U Si [V.O. Chidambaram Pillai], 1962, 14 pp.

En nokkil Ananthacoomaraswamy [Ananda Coomarasamy in my View], 1971, 15 pp.

Manickavasagar Maanbu [The glory of Saint Manickavasagar], 10 pp.

Paavai Thamil [Saint Manickavasagar’s Use of Tamil] , 1974, 28 pp.

Konamamalaiyai choozhnthulla kodumaikal paareer. Thudithezhunthu thunbam tudaikka vaareer [Look the tyranny surrounding Trincomalee; Come along to wipe this calamity], 2001 (?), 12 pp.

Sellaritha Senthamizh suvadikalluku puthu vaazhu koduththa Thandamizhth Thamotharanar [C.W. Thamotharam Pillai, who rejuvenated the Old Tamil ola manuscripts destroyed by termites], 2002, 8 pp.

Thamizhaal Ulaganda Thaninayaga Adikalaar [Rev. Father Thaninayagam, who ruled the globe with Tamil], 2013, 78 pp.

The influence of Dravidian literary tradition in titling the works with alliteration is noticeable in many of Eelaventhan’s publications. Quite a chunk of Eelaventhan’s personal papers and his collection of published materials were lost irretrievably during the August 1977 anti-Tamil looting and arson of his residence in Nugegoda. Being the president of the Colombo branch of TULF, Eelaventhan was indeed a marked Tamil, and by God’s grace, he and his family escaped from death miraculously. It also should be recorded for posterity, apart from Eelaventhan, even the rented house of Mr. M. Sivasithamparam, then newly elected MP for Nallur (the President of TULF), located at the Norris Canal Road, was also vandalized and personal collections were set on fire.


Eelaventhan’s autograph to Sachi Sri Kantha, Dec. 6., 2007

ainly due to such acts of cultural genocide perpetrated on Eelam Tamils, for record keeping, I had been pleading with Eelaventhan in the post-1977 phase, to write and publish what he knows about personalities he had interacted in his life, without further delay. Eventually, during his 2007 trip to Canada, he made arrangement to publish a selection of parliamentary speeches, lectures made at various locations, few published articles and interviews in a book of 332 pages. It was titled, ‘In the Path of Tamil Nationalism: Eelaventhan’s Records’. When I met him in Tokyo, Eelaventhan gave me a complimentary copy with an inscription, dated Dec 6, 2007. I provide an English translation of what he had written:

“A gift to my thamby Sachi Sri Kantha, who is passionate about Tamil ethnics. I believe that your interest that I should publish something is somewhat fulfilled by this [work]. Again, my heart-felt greetings.

Yours, Eelaventhan/ 6 Dec 2007”

Unfortunately, this book with 59 items related to Eelaventhan appears to be a ‘quickie’, arranged haphazardly, without consideration for proper editing, proof-reading and a needed index. Definitely it contains ‘meat’, but it was poorly served to the readers. Many would say, this book is a ‘copy’ of Eelaventhan’s personality – well meaning, but prepared and presented in haste, with errors.

At the sametime, one cannot ignore that the style of Eelaventhan has been praised by two recognized Eelam poets – namely T. Rudhramurthy (1927-1971) aka Mahakavi and Kasi Ananthan (b. 1938). Their pertinent verses are provided nearby.

Even in the publisher’s note (Nagalingam Gunasekar) of this book, it is stated that Eelaventhan had planned to return to Sri Lanka on December 4th. As such, the book had to be printed in limited time. But, following the targeted assassination of Tamilchelvan on November 2, 2007, he was deployed by the LTTE leadership for other specific activities, while he was beyond the borders of Sri Lanka.


On the Issue of Eelaventhan losing his nominated MP status in Dec 2007

Eelaventhan praised by poet Mahakavi

One of the popular colloquial idioms in American English is, ‘Monday morning quarterback’. This phrase is defined in Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins (1977) by William Morris and Mary Morris as “A Monday morning quarter back is a chap who is quick to second-guess the man who is really doing the job”. Tamils have their share of Monday morning quarterbacks, especially among the politicians of Leftist shade of Trotsky, Stalin and Mao varieties (N. Sanmugathasan, Santhasilan Kathirgamar, V. Anandasangaree), journalists (Dominic Jeeva, D.B.S. Jeyaraj) and nitpickers (Prof S. Sivasegaram, Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole, Rajasingham Narendran). The deeds of Eelaventhan has long been a fodder to this tribe of ‘Monday morning quarter backs’. Though this tribe hardly contribute anything positively to the Tamil cause, they indulge in finding faults with Eelaventhan. A derisive proverb/idiom in Tamil, ‘Koorai eri kozhi pidikka mudiyatha kuru, Vaanam eri Vakundam kaatuven enran’ [The guru who couldn’t climb the roof to catch a hen, bragged that he’ll fly in the sky to show the Heaven] amply blunts Eelaventhan criticism of this particular tribe.

David Jeyaraj had written, what I consider as nonsense facts about this issue (including an error in chronology – see below), inserting an innuendo about Pottu Amman, as follows:

“The LTTE wanted him to return but Eelaventhan delayed his departure. LTTE intelligence chief Pottu Ammaan was angry and hatched a conspiracy to oust Eelaventhan as MP. The leave of absence obtained from Parliament was not renewed by his fellow MPs from TNA. Eelaventhan did not know about this. When he reached Colombo in November 2007, the national list MP was shocked to discover that he was no longer an MP because he had been absent from Parliament for more than three months without leave. Eelaventhan went to the Wanni and appealed but to no avail.” [https://sangam.org/m-k-eelavethan-dies-in-canada-aged-90/]

On the issue of Eelaventhan losing his nominated MP status in December 2007, I’m privy to specific information, which these Monday morning quarterbacks among Tamils DO NOT KNOW. This is because, Eelaventhan spent a few days with me in Tokyo, on his return route to Colombo in December 2007. There, he was targeted by the then-Mahinda Rajapaksa’s henchmen. First, I provide two background information notes, which I’ve culled; (1) from BBC Sandeshaya Sinhala service (Dec 17, 2007) and (2) Eelaventhan’s interview to the Morning Leader (Dec 19, 2007).



Eelaventhan in 8 lines, by poet Kasi Ananthan

Transcript of BBC Sandeshaya Sinhala service (Dec 17, 2007)

A senior minister in the Sri Lankan government is accused of conspiring to keep an MP away as the parliament voted for a crucial vote.

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) legislator M.K. Eelaventhan told BBC Sandeshaya that minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle suggested he abstain from voting or the government would raise the issue of his absence over a long period. The parliament voted for the third reading of the budget proposals on 14 December. ‘I was prevented from entering the parliament sessions because they said my MP’s right has been deprived,’ he said.

A parliamentarian loses his right to be a legislator if he does not attend parliamentary sessions continuously over a three month period. The MP says the blunder happened due to bureaucracy but not due to his fault. ‘Some bungling at the bureaucracy level, I have become the victim. And this is, an action of venom by Fernandopulle, who raised this issue on Thursday night,’ MP Eelaventhan told BBC Sinhala.com. ‘With venom and vengeance, Fernandopulle has done this’.

The Chief Government Whip, minister Fernandopulle, did not deny that he contacted the MP on Thursday evening. However, he insisted that the MP lost his position due to his own actions. ‘Nobody can sack him from the parliament. He last came to the parliament on 21 August. Then he came to the parliament on 10 December,’ the minister told BBC Sandeshaya.

Minister Fernandopulle admitted that the government raised the issue with the Speaker as ‘every single vote was important’ as there were attempts to topple the government at the Budget vote. ‘I gave him a courtesy call on Thursday night, but I did not ask him not to vote against or abstain from voting,’ the minister added.

TNA parliamentarian Kanagasabey was entrusted with requesting an extension of leave in case if he could not come back on time, according to M.K. Eelaventhan. However, the TNA MP was told that there was no need for extending leave as Eelaventhan has attended parliamentary sessions on 10 October, he added. The whole saga, MP Eelaventhan said, was a bureaucratic blunder which resulted in tarnishing his own image as a senior politician.”

Eelaventhan’s interview to the Morning Leader (Dec 19, 2007) appeared in Dec 19, 2007. Excerpts:

Q: Have you lost your parliamentary seat, what is your status?

A: I have not been officially told as to whether my parliamentary seat has been cancelled or not. But, to be frank, I was told that there was an issue like this. The reasons told to me are also ridiculous and interesting. MP Kanagasabai, on my behalf, had gone to hand over the letter stating that I would not be able to attend parliament for three months. He was told that it was not needed. Mr. Kanagasabai had acted on their instructions and not mine. I’m not accusing him of anything. But, I’m being penalised for mistakes made by others. I did attend parliament on December 10 and the following days. I also made a speech. No one raised any issue.

Q: Three of your MPs were not present in parliament for the budget vote on the 14th while one of the MPs did not attend the vote on November 19 because their relatives were abducted and were threatened not to vote against the budget. Does this mean that every time there is a crucial vote in parliament, relatives of MPs will be abducted to prevent them from voting?

A: These abductions are carried out by the paramilitary groups – mainly the Karuna people. I think now it is Pillayan. However, this is an embarrassing question but very important. It is time that we now decided what should be done. We cannot let this go on and refrain from attending parliament on important days. We should come to a decision.

Q: The LTTE is known to have suicide cadres. They also carry cyanide capsules with them to signify the sacrifice they are prepared to make for their cause. How do you reconcile that with the TNA parliamentarians who do not come to parliament to vote because their relatives have been abducted?

A: If this had happened to me, I would have faced the consequences. However, I cannot expect everyone to be the same as me. However, the LTTE is different from the TNA. They are ready to sacrifice their lives for the Tamils. We, the TNA, are not super heroes. We have limitations with regard to our functions. We have been in parliament since 2004 and have achieved nothing. You might ask as to what is the purpose of us being there. Who else is there for the Tamils? Those who are there are political lepers.

Q: It is speculated that you have close links with Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle and that you had gone with him to meet the Speaker. Is it true? If not, what exactly happened?

A: It is not so. I went to meet the Secretary General of Parliament as soon as I got to know there was an issue regarding my attendance. Members of the government also came in at that time and cajoled me.”


On Eelaventhan’s scuffle with Jeyaraj Fernandopulle

The Dec 2007 issue of Eelaventhan losing his MP status has to be studied from multiple perspectives. He was an ardent, vocalist supporter of LTTE, which was at war with the GOSL.  LTTE’s chief adviser Anton Balasingham (the public face of LTTE in international circles) had died in Dec. 2006. Then, S.P. Thamilselvan (the younger, and the next public face of LTTE in international circles) was assassinated by SL armed forces by targeted killing on November 2, 2007. As a result of this, Eelaventhan was deputed by Prabhkaran himeself to ‘spend time overseas’ to present the LTTE’s case to the international community. This job, Eelaventhan did to his utmost effort, and he conveyed to me what Prabhakaran had requested from him.

Why Eelaventhan spent a few days with me in Tokyo, in December 2007, was related to this issue. During 2006, when Mangala Samaraweera (1956-2021) was the Foreign Minister in Mahinda Rajapaksa’s cabinet from Nov 2005 to Jan 2007, a concerted diplomatic effort was made to Japan, to declare LTTE as a ‘foreign terrorist organization’. Even after Samaraweera leaving this position, his successor also continued this effort, less noticeably. Eelaventhan’s remit from Prabhakaran was to blunt this ‘diplomatic war’ against the LTTE. I’m privy to this information, because during his brief stay in Tokyo, Eelaventhan met an influential Japanese official, who had direct link to the Prime Minister’s Office. This explains his delay in landing in Colombo. I could infer that somehow Eelaventhan was successful in blunting Mahinda Rajapaksa’s ‘diplomatic war’ against LTTE in Japan. Now that Prabhakaran and Eelaventhan are no more among the living, I thought I should bring this fact (not known to others so far) open to the public. Eventually, unlike India, Japan never declared LTTE as a ‘foreign terrorist organization’, though it usually abides by the USA’s political positions/decisions.

Eelaventhan also let me know, that within parliament itself, Mahinda had been angling to ‘pull him’ towards his ‘side’ directly and/or indirectly by inducement of favors. I do know that quite a few elected MPs of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) fell for this sort of Mahinda ‘pull’. But, in Eelaventhan’s case, Mahinda chose the wrong guy to fall in his trap! In one instance, Eelaventhan told me that Mahinda had asked him, ‘What Eelaventhan, you talk like Thamilselvan, in your demands?’. To which, Eelaventhan had replied, ‘Whether it is Thamilchelvan or Eelaventhan, we present our Tamil case in front of you directly, and as the power holder, it’s for you to solve it.’ What Mahinda couldn’t achieve directly, it’s my inference that he had delegated Jeyaraj Fernandopulle [then functioning as the Chief Government whip] to either pull Eelaventhan towards their side, or push him out of parliament by hook or by crook.

Within parliament, Eelaventhan did engage in taunting debates with Fernandopulle, while speaking about prevailing corruption in contemporary Sri Lanka. For example, I provide an English translation of his speech below:

“One who is seated in front of us, and who frequently interrupt my speech is Minister Fernandopulle. Privately, he is my friend. A good individual. But, he is NOT Fernandopulle. One whose ancestors of our ethnicity Fernando Pillai, has now morphed into Pulle. Because of this, with his father, he speaks in Tamil. With his wife, speaks in mixed Tamil. But, though he wish to call his daughter ‘Mahale’, he couldn’t. He calls her ‘duva’ in Sinhalese. We call it, Degeneration sets in within a generation [these words in italics, are in English]….” [Parliamentary Debates – Hansard, Official Report, Feb 21, 2007, pp. 689-696]

This had been reproduced in an abridged version in Eelaventhan’s 2007 book. It should also be remembered that Jeyaraj Fernandopulle became a victim of a suicide bomber (identified as an act of LTTE) on Apr 6, 2008! Simply four months after Eelaventhan lost his MP status in the parliament. This fact contradicts David Jeyaraj’s innuendo on Pottu Amman. Suppose, Pottu Amman “was angry and hatched a conspiracy to oust Eelaventhan as MP” in Dec 2007, how Jeyaraj Fernandopulle fell a victim of a LTTE suicide bomber in April 2008?

Among the Sinhalese politicians he had to interact during his brief parliamentary career, Eelaventhan had the utmost contempt for rabid nationalist Wimal Weerawansa. He told me simply, ‘That guy is a pure unadulterated evil’, with whom he was forced to communicate, by Mahinda Rajapaksa. The problem was, Weerawansa couldn’t speak either English or Tamil, and Eelaventhan couldn’t speak Sinhala.

A regret with Tamil folks who do business with ‘Eelam’ Tag

That Eelaventhan has been a devoted Eelamist is a given. During his stay in Tokyo, he expressed me his regret about few Tamils on whom he had trusted much, who subsequently came to use ‘Eelam’ tag simply for their self-promotion and never bothered to contribute their skills towards the Eelam cause. He tagged them as ‘pachchonthikal’ (chameleons). These included, Amirthalingam (Tamil United Liberation Front), S.J.V. Chelvanayakam’s son S.C. Chandrahasan (Organisation for Eelam Refugees’ Rehabilitation), Uma Maheswaran (People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam) and DMK leader Karunanidhi (founder of Tamil Eelam Supporters’ Organisation in 1985). Eelaventhan was critical especially with Chandrahasan, because in late 1970s, it was with him he had revolted against Amirthalingam’s leadership to form the Tamil Eelam Liberation Front (TELF) later, along with Sutantiran editor Kovai Mahesan. He summed up Chandrahasan’s deals with Indian officials as ‘Unworthy son of a worthy father’.

About the leadership of Amirthalingam, with whom he parted company in 1981, Eelaventhan was quoted in the aftermath of anti-Tamil riots of July 1983 as follows:

“Eelaventhan has been in India since February this year.

‘The prime minister [Indira Gandhi] seemed terribly sympathetic, and promised ‘appropriate action’,” he said. ‘Our leadership has been our ruination. We have ceased to believe in parliamentary democracy. Sri Lanka has become a mobocracy. What we need now are freedom fighters, not debaters.’ ” [India Today, Sept 15, 1983]

My personal debt

Apart from what I had written in part 1 of this Appreciation, I’m thankful to Eelaventhan for one more thing. In mid 1970s, before I made my debut as a junior level academic at the University of Peradeniya, to lecture in English to the students, it was Eelaventhan who pushed me first to speak in English impromptu in front of an assembled gathering. The occasion, if memory serves, was to summarise the contents of a lecture on Constitutional rights of Tamils by Prof. Alfred Jeyaratnam Wilson (1928-2000) in English and to say ‘thanks’ for his acceptance to deliver that lecture. Being not one with political science training, I was too shy to open my mouth without a prepared script, but Eelaventhan prodded me with the words ‘You don’t have to be shy. You simply talk, what is in your mind. That’s more than enough’. This was indeed a good omen to my future career as a university academic.


Though Eelaventhan’s mortal coils had left us, his deeds will live in the memory of those who had come to know his personality, simplicity and kindness. Even without an earned Ph.D (or a vanity Ph.D to be tagged like ‘Doctor Kalaignar’ or ‘Doctor Jayalalitha’), or an affiliated university position, Eelaventhan committed himself as a perpetual teacher for decades. I’ll not assert that he was a perfect man. He had his faults, but unlike many who pretend to claim more than what they had done to the Tamil ethnics in their lifetime with tub-thumping oratory or vanity drives in international platforms, Eelaventhan’s deeds deserve recognition.


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