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Ana Pararajasingham, Australia
A Tribute to Adrian Wijemanne
at Anjali Meeting in Sydney, Australia on 17 September 2006
[read by Mano Navaratnam, the Secretary of Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations]
I regret deeply my inability to pay my tribute to Adrian Wijemanne, in person. Adrian was a man who spoke and wrote not only with great understanding, but also with immense courage about the conflict that had engulfed the land of his birth. Adrian Wijemanne was one of the very few Sinhalese who, despite being regularly threatened with reprisals by his detractors stood his ground convinced that what he said was indeed in the interest of both the Sinhalese and the Tamil people.
I became aware of Adrian’s views when a Tamil friend of his shared a letter that Adrian had written to him. With this friend’s permission, I began to correspond with Adrian and discovered that his passion for a just resolution to the conflict stemmed from his deep concern for his own people-the Sinhalese.
Adrian realised that the war was unwinnable for the Sinhalese. As a historian he knew that attempting to settle the conflict through military means would only cause immeasurable harm to both the Sinhalese and the Tamil people. It was a theme that he advocated through his writing and at seminars.
To the Sinhalese political establishment, these proclamations by a man whose credentials as a historian were unquestionable were deeply embarrasing.Unable to dismiss Adrian Wijemanne's well articulated arguments they sought to attack him personally. According to a close friend, Neville Jayaweera, “His detractors not only ridiculed and abused him, but also directed at him, hate mail, death threats and promises of bodily harm if he ever set foot in his native Sri Lanka"
Adrian Wijemanne was cast very much in the role of the Hebrew prophets of old, who, warned their people and their kings whenever they sought to pursue destructive and unjust ways. It is not surprising that Neville Jayaweera in his appreciation should compare Adrian Wijemanne to John the Baptist whose prophesy was also a cry in the wilderness.
It was not that Adrian Wijemanne did not realise that the Sinhalese people had great difficulty in accepting his arguments. He was well aware of it. Even those very close to Adrian had difficulty in understanding his arguments. He made this clear by dedicating his book 'War and Peace in Post Colonial Ceylon' 'to Chitra my wife, whose relentless opposition to the entire project and uncompromising rejection of every salient point herein has dispelled any lingering doubt as to the need, the urgent need, for the book"
Perhaps the greatest price that he paid for his bold stand was the alienation by his own people. He was shunned by the Sinhala community in the UK and threatened with dire consequences should he ever visit Sri Lanka.
Despite all of this he persisted, propelled by his Christian commitment to justice and his love for humanity.
His speeches and writings were greatly influenced by his study of history and a sense of optimism. Many years ago he wrote “The easiest and most confident prediction that an historian can make is that - that peace is inevitable. There never has been, there is not now, nor there ever be an unending and permanent war"
In remembering Adrian Wijemanne, it is only appropriate that we should revisit what he regarded to be a just solution that would benefit both the Sinhalese and the Tamil nations.
According to Adrian Wijemaanne what was required was amity and not unity. In his keynote address to the US Tamil Sangam in November 1997, Adrian said that he looked forward to "the inevitable separation of our nations into two states" and that to herald the "beginning of a long future of amity and humanity"
In the epilogue to his book 'War and Peace in Post Colonial Ceylon' he was optimistic stating that "The Sinhala leadership is notably pragmatic when it eventually awakes to the realities of the situation"
It is inevitable that Adrian Wijemanne, the prophet will be proven right .I for one certainly have no doubts in this regard.
The time for the Tamil people and Sinhala people to coexist as equals is not far away. When that happens, it is the Sinhalese people who will realise that rivers of blood need not have spilled had they heeded the voice of a true and loyal Sinhala patriot – Adrian Wijemanne
May his soul rest in peace.