We are deeply saddened by the death of our founder, colleague and mentor Solomon Arulanandan David, who was known to the Tamil people as “David Iya” or “Gandhiyam David”. He suffered from illness in the last few years and was 92 years of age at the time of death. A qualified architect and town planner, David left Sri Lanka after the enactment of the discriminatory Sinhala Only Act in 1956. After working in different countries, such as Australia, UK, Nigeria and Kenya, he returned to Sri Lanka in1972 and devoted his life to alleviating the suffering of the Tamil people. In this task he involved himself in countless projects seeking to improve the lives of people by individual and cooperative action.
He assisted the Tamil Information Centre to produce the film “Banished from Paradise”, the first documentary which connected the plight of the upcountry Tamils and the struggle of the north-east Tamils. The film, produced by Focus Film Frankfort, laid the foundation to create greater awareness of the Tamil cause and struggle in South India and in the western nations.
David Iya was the President of “Gandhiyam”, a non-governmental organisation established in 1977 in the northern Sri Lankan area of Vavuniya to settle upcountry Tamils of Indian origin who were displaced by episodes of violence in the 1970s. Under the leadership of David Iya, Gandhiyam settled thousands of upcountry Tamils in Vavuniya, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Mannar by providing them financial assistance, housing and other facilities.
David Iya was known for his exceptional energy, commitment, and guidance on compassionate social values to the youth who were involved in the Tamil Eelam Liberation struggle. He was a true Gandhiyan and was opposed to violence. He was a hardened opponent of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) of Sri Lanka. He and his colleague Dr. Rajasundaram, Secretary of Gandhiyam, undertook the cause against the PTA. They campaigned against the use of the PTA exclusively against the Tamil people, particularly the Tamil youth.
He was arrested on 7 April 1983 and imprisoned. Although he was subjected to severe torture in detention, in his later writings he did not neglect to mention the Sinhalese prison officers who showed compassion and kindness towards Tamil prisoners. He was one of the few who escaped the massacre of Tamil prisoners by Sinhalese prisoners in Colombo’s Welikada Central Prison on 25 July 1983. He survived the mass murder along with Dr. Dharmalingam, Dr. Jeyakularajah, Nithiyananthan and Suthanthiran editor Kovai Mahesan. He was then transferred to Batticaloa prison, from where he and his friends escaped on 23 September 1983 and fled to India.
He carried on his fight in exile in India for freedom and justice of the Tamil people. He often expressed his desire to return and to die in his homeland. He returned to Sri Lanka last month after two decades. He was shocked to see the devastation of his land and the plight of the people. He was shattered and heartbroken. David Iya’s dying wish was to have his personal library in Chennai brought to the Vanni for the use of the people.
David Iya has been described as a “true servant of the people”. He was also a tireless worker, a visionary and always led by example. The Tamil people of Sri Lanka have lost a true freedom fighter, a hero to all who treasure liberty, freedoms and the dignity of humankind. David Iya may no longer be with us, but his journey continues and his life will be an inspiration to us all.
Tamil Information Centre proposes to hold a memorial event for David Iya in the near future.
Tamil Information Centre
Bridge End Close
Kingston Upon Thames KT2 6PZ
Telephone: +44 (0)20 8546 1560
Fax: +44 (0)20 8546 5701
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