Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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Three Month Anniversary of Mr. Pararajasingam's Assassination

This speech was delivered at a memorial service held in Toronto for friends and family on March 4, 2006 by Usha S. Sri-Skanda-Rajah.

In Memory of Maamanithar Joseph Pararajasingam

In the best traditions of Thamil custom and culture; of honoring Thamil Heroism, Statesmanship and Valour, the highest accolade and the most prestigious honour that could ever be bestowed on a human being - "Mamanithar" - Great Man or Great Human Being - was conferred on Joseph Pararajasingam on behalf of the Thamil-speaking people by Thalaivar Velupillai Pirapaharan.

Mr. Joseph Pararajasingam, MP, 2004

Joseph Pararajasingam will forever be alive in the hearts and minds of the Thamil people.

He will enter the annals of history and as 'A Great Man'.

How do you measure a man’s greatness?  – By his ideals; by how he lived; by his conduct; by what he achieved while he was alive; by how he is thought of by his wife; his children; his people; his peers; his colleagues; by other communities; by world leaders; by history.

A great man lives and works for others, not for himself; a great man is driven by a force for good; a great man values honesty and integrity; a great man serves God and his people; dedicates his every living moment and his resources for the ideal that he envisions for his people and sacrifices his life for it; a great man does not let the fear of dying at the hands of those who want to stop him get in the way of his pursuit, for achieving the higher purpose that he is striving for; a great man would be sorely missed; he never dies, but is alive and keeps alive the cause he lived and died for.

Joseph Pararajasingam is indeed a Great Man. His ideal was achieving freedom and dignity for his people and until his last breath he worked tirelessly towards it.

A journalist by profession, Joseph Pararajasingam started his political life in 1952 with the Federal Party. He served the people of the NorthEast as a distinguished Member of Parliament for the Batticaloa District in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka since 1990. He had the distinction of being elected as a Member of Parliament in 1994 with the highest number of preferential votes ever obtained by a Tamil politician since the introduction of the Proportional Representation system in Sri Lanka.

A Great Man of the people, Joseph Pararajasingam was loved by all the Thamil- speaking people. He strived to unite the Thamils, whether Christians, Muslims or Hindus, and believed deeply in the merger of the North and East as one Thamil Nation. He was the Great Man of the East, a leader Thamils needed in the East, who they couldn’t afford to lose, who is indeed irreplaceable. On his martyrdom there was deep sadness and a sense of loss in the whole of Thamil Eelam. TamilNet reported that, as a mark of condemnation and respect, shops were closed down; Banks did not operate; government and provincial offices were not functioning as workers did not report for duty; public markets and local government were completely paralyzed and transport disrupted. Despite intimidation and threats to their lives by his known assassins and their armed goons, the people openly showed their grief and outrage for a Great Man.

A “formidable human rights defender” and a humanitarian, Joseph Pararajasingam was responsible for the formation of the Red Cross Society in the Batticaloa district and was later a founding member of the NorthEast Secretariat on Human Rights (NESOHR).

From the time he entered Parliament, Pararajasingam helped to uncover human rights violations committed against the Tamils by the Sri Lanka Armed Forces in the NorthEast and in other parts of the country. He was responsible for filing the highest number of petitions - over 2000 of them - to the committee appointed by the then government to look into the arrest, torture, and detention of Tamil youths for the period from 1984 to 1987. He was responsible for forcing the government to appoint the first Presidential Commission of Inquiry to inquire into the Kokkadicholai massacre in Batticaloa, which resulted in him being threatened with bodily harm. He was the first person to raise the case of the rape and murder of Krishanti, Krishanti, who at 16 yrs was, along with her mother, brother and neighbor, tortured murdered and buried in Chemmani, the now notorious mass graves where more than 400-600 Thamils were allegedly buried according to evidence given by the accused in the case.

Amnesty International was “appalled” upon hearing of the murder of this Great Human Rights Activist, condemning his killing by “unidentified attackers” on Christmas Eve inside St Mary’s church soon after receiving Holy Communion from His Grace, Bishop Kingsley Swampillai.

A  Great Man, to qualify as one, has to be a Great Statesman, especially if he lived and breathed politics. Joseph Pararajasingam was no doubt a great Statesman and was recognized as such by his peers. President Mahinda Rajapakse acknowledged it in a letter he sent to the “Family.” His colleagues in the Tamil National Alliance, who were distraught, hailed him “as unequivocally committed to the resolution of the Thamil National Question by peaceful means and was greatly concerned about the possible resumption of war and firmly believed that the Thamil quest for freedom must be resolved in a just and durable manner through dialogue and negotiations.”

A Great Man must be respected by the world and the International Community. Joseph Pararajasingam was an executive member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Canada’s then Minister of Foreign Affairs and later Minister of Defense Bill Graham called him a “Man of Peace” and said “but he is also a man of steely determination, of great courage, a man willing to risk his life for his people.”

This Great Man took it upon himself to bring to the international arena both violations of human rights committed against Thamils by the security forces and the “Freedom Struggle” of the Thamils to which he was deeply committed. The way the Thamil Diaspora came together to express their anger and grief shows that Joseph Pararajasingam had touched people’s hearts.

Few Great Men can be all this; and also be great husbands. Joseph Pararajasingam was indeed a Great Husband. If you meet Sugunam Pararajasingam, you would have no doubts about it. Sugunam - the soft and gentle lady; who has a charismatic winning appeal. So dignified in her grief; yet inconsolable, and still pining for her husband..

For 49 years Joseph Pararajasingam faithfully shared his life with his greatest friend and indefatigable and ardent supporter, who would have given anything to give her life for him; agonizing over her regret that had she been near - he was a little ahead of her after receiving communion - she could have - would have placed her body as a human shield to save her husband from the assassins’ bullets. The assassins, who nevertheless turned on her to make sure she too had a fair share of the bullets which left her unconscious, also injuring many others in the church, including children. To her horror, she later found out her husband had died. 49 years of wedded bliss shattered in one cruel act.

A great father is judged by how he treats his children and his children’s mother. The children and grandchildren of Joseph Pararajasingam have no words to describe their love and immense respect for their father and grandfather, who was a father not only to them, not only to his electorate, but a father to the whole Thamil Nation.     

When Thalaivar Velupillai Pirapaharan bestowed the title of “Great Man,” he said “Joseph Parajasingam’s extraordinary attachment to the Thamil cause gravitated all towards him.” That extraordinary fervor for freedom that he kept alive will endear him forever in the Thamil consciousness.

Joseph Pararajasingam will enter the annals of history and feature in the Epic that is “The Victory of Thamil Freedom” as A Great Man. A Maamanithar!

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