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Selected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha
The Deals of Dr.Neelan -
19 July 2007
Ponnambalam Jr.�s Assertions
The International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES) is the public house built by Dr.Neelan Tiruchelvam (born 1944), in 1982. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of ICES, and its opportune to think a little about the deals of Dr.Neelan and why ICES came to be built. One should search for clues beyond what is presented in the website of ICES. The ICES was built at the time when Cold War rhetoric was flourishing. The chief patron of ICES was the Ford Foundation, one of the grand wands of American philanthropy cum diplomatic maneuvers.
Until Neelan Tiruchelvam�s assassination on July 29, 1999, I had read a few disgruntled commentaries penned by anti-Tamil polemicists such as Dr.Susantha Goonetilake and H.L.D.Mahindapala on the pernicious influence on the Sri Lankan policy making by the local relays of Yankee imperial agents (read as Dr.Neelan Tiruchelvam) and their public house of dubious repute (read as ICES).
I had initially felt that these were sour grape comments of Sinhalese analysts who lacked Neelan Tiruchelvam�s talent in attracting American funding. However, following his assassination such overt criticism on Neelan became muted, since projecting Neelan (a fellow Tamil ethnic) as an unfortunate victim of LTTE brutality was good for pro-Sinhalese propaganda. Thus, a �dead Neelan� became the darling of these same carrion-feeding commentators.
At the time of his untimely death, Neelan was functioning as a nominated TULF MP in the Sri Lankan parliament, and also held the rank of a Vice President of TULF. The good deeds of Neelan Tiruchelvam have been brandished in the anti-LTTE polemics by some Tamil analysts (prominent among these are D.B.S.Jeyaraj, Radhika Coomaraswamy and Rajan Hoole) who parade their skills in front of Sinhalese constituency. But, G.G.(Kumar) Ponnambalam Jr. was an exception. G.G.Ponnambalam Jr. asserted in a commentary immediately after Tiruchelvam�s death that �Tiruchelvam was indeed a CIA agent.�
For their historical relevance, I provide below six contributions on the deals of Dr.Neelan Tiruchelvam. Three were authored by Ponnambalam Jr., who was a political rival of Tiruchelvam in 1980s and 1990s; and the other three were authored by D.B.S.Jeyaraj, for whom Tiruchelvam played a benefactor role in sponsoring/facilitating Jeyaraj�s entry for the Harvard Nieman Fellowship in Journalism (for one of the 12 international journalists slot in the Class of 1989). In the words of Jeyaraj, �I had a close personal relationship with Neelan. He was my friend, philosopher and guide. He was greatly instrumental in moulding my career. It was Neelan Tiruchelvam who facilitated my initial journalistic links with The Hindu and Frontline.� [Frontline magazine, Madras, Aug.14, 1999]
What is poignant is that, Ponnambalam Jr. had the courage of his conviction to say openly that Neelan Tiruchelvam, like the Emperor in that Hans Christian Andersen�s story, was nothing but naked in the eyes of Eelam Tamils. While Jeyaraj had attempted to show that the formal eulogies delivered to Dr.Tiruchelvam by high ranking Americans including that of President Bill Clinton recognized Tiruchelvam�s talents as an internationally recognized peace negotiator and human rights activist, these eulogies also shed some unsavory light and provided circumstantial hints about the links Neelan had with the executive branch of American bureaucracy. How?
Kumar Ponnambalam also suffered the same fate of Neelan Tiruchelvam five months later, on January 5, 2000. How come that Kumar Ponnambalam�s assassination hardly elicited a blink from the executive branch of American bureaucracy? Born in 1938, Ponnambalam Jr. was only 6 years older than Tiruchelvam.
In the eyes of Eelam Tamils, both Tiruchelvam and Ponnambalam Juniors, had the same political pedigree - being the sons of two ranking Tamil politicians of yore. In this, Ponnambalam Jr. was at a higher pedestal since his father G.G.Ponnambalam was the uncrowned king of Tamils for more than a decade (1936-1948) until he accepted a Cabinet minister position, but M.Tiruchelvam was in national limelight only for three years (1965-1968) as a Cabinet minister, since he took to politics after his retirement from the Sri Lanka Attorney General's Department where he had served as Solicitor General. While schooled and stationed in Colombo, both Ponnambalam and Tiruchelvam Juniors slowly gained recognition as human rights advocates in 1980s.
The only visible difference (in the eyes of Eelam Tamils) between Neelan Tiruchelvam and Kumar Ponnambalam was that whereas the latter had blossomed into a vocal activist for Tamil rights and had been a regular participant of electoral democracy (which the Washington Poo-Bahs like to toot from the roof top), Tiruchelvam was essentially a back-room deal maker and hardly known for his vocal activism for Tamil rights. If one cares to links the dots to clarify the hidden frame, then the high octane eulogies delivered by the Washington representatives of executive branch makes simple sense.
ICES History, as told by Prof.K.M.de Silva
The ICES, established in 1982, is the ultimate flagship of Dr.Neelan Tiruchelvam�s professional endeavors. I�ll let Prof.Kingsley Muthumuni de Silva � the ranking Sinhalese historian and a co-author of two volume hagiography of President J.R.Jayewardene � to describe, how this ICES came to be established. Here is the story, in his own words, as it appears in the ICES website [ www.ices.lk/about/history.shtml ]:
In his eulogy to Neelan, Prof.de Silva also had described the same anecdote of he and Neelan being �invitees to a Ford Foundation sponsored conference held in a game park some 200 kilometres or so from Nairobi� [vide, Ethnic Studies Report, January 1999, vol.17, no.1, pp.125-128].
The Ford Foundation links to CIA
What has not been mentioned by Prof.K.M.de Silva is the fact that the Ford Foundation have had cozy links with CIA operations and sponsoring international conferences with expense paid trips to locales which historians from Third World countries can hardly dream of visiting, was a bait used by the Ford Foundation to rope in potential academics. Just google the phrases �Ford Foundation� and �CIA agents� in combination. One of the top five items which appear is a thought-provoking commentary by James Petras, entitled �The Ford Foundation and the CIA: A documented case of philanthropic collaboration with the secret police�, dated Dec.2001 ( www.rebelion.org/petras/english/ford010102 ). For reference, I provide below the beginning and end of this commentary.
The two introductory paragraphs state:
James Petras concluded his commentary with the following paragraph:
Neelan Tiruchelvam � a CIA agent?
Now, connect the corners of the triangle. First, the ICES funded by the Ford Foundation, is Neelan Tiruchelvam�s flagship for ethnic harmony and human rights. Secondly, the Ford Foundation has functioned as a front organization of CIA to rope moral-challenged Third World academics. Thirdly, the high octane eulogy with US Presidential imprimatur couldn�t have been a reality if CIA hasn�t been a beneficiary of valuable services.
In March 1983 Neelan Tiruchelvam took his oaths in the parliament as a TULF MP for Vaddukoddai. �Access to the axis of power� is the cardinal rule in intelligence gathering. In 1982-83, Tiruchelvam had access to both, Eelam Tamil leadership (then, Amirthalingam) and Sinhalese President (then, J.R.Jayewardene). Subsequently, in the final five years of his life (1994-99), Tiruchelvam had access to the Sinhalese President (Chandrika Kumaratunga), via Kadirgamar-headed Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
According to Ponnambalam Jr., Kadirgamar (despite his notable lack of political gravitas among the Tamils) owed it to Neelan�s back-room brokering skill for his appointment as the Foreign Minister in 1994. Thus, Ponnambalam Jr.�s assertion that Neelan Tiruchelvam had functioned as a source for CIA has circumstantial validity.
Since Kumar Ponnambalam�s devastating expose on the deals of Neelan Tiruchelvam remain scattered, I felt that for easy reference these deserve to be brought together in a single file. As such I present the materials which I have gathered, in chronological sequence.
When these six features are read in sequel, Tamils also can get a clear view of how well Kumar Ponnambalam clobbered the anti-LTTE analyst D.B.S.Jeyaraj, in the 4th and 6th features. I also wish to draw specific attention on Jeyaraj�s duplicity in his rebuttal to Kumar Ponnambalam, presented here as the 5th feature. He has made a sneaky reference to folks like me: �The Tiger lobby is emulating the fascist Goebbels and constantly repeats gross untruths in a bid to make it the truth. But the propaganda is based on blatant falsehoods.� (dated October 3, 1999).
But Jeyaraj�s own Goebbelsian propaganda against LTTE, due to swallowing the ropes offered by the Indian Intelligence officials is on record in the Frontline magazine, under the title �Sonia and the Tigers� (dated July 3, 1999). Check the dates again. Barely three months earlier, in a perfect illustration of a Goebbelsian spin, Jeyaraj had written as follows: �In the LTTE�s logic there may evolve a new determination to eradicate the hindrance that is Sonia [Gandhi]. It has also been the style of the LTTE to remove the head, or the most effective member, of an �enemy organisation� in order to undermine it�So, given the LTTE psyche, it is possible to conclude that it would consider the assassination of Sonia Gandhi as spelling the doom of the Congress (I)��. Now that eight years have passed and that Sonia Gandhi is still amongst us, it is a relief for many that this Jeyaraj�s �conclusion� stands as a perfect example of a practitioner of Goebellsian journalism, as immortalized in the Kipling�s verse [The Song of the Banjo, 1894]:
G.G.Ponnambalam - D.B.S.Jeyaraj on
It is over one month since Dr.Neelakandan Tiruchelvam�s demise at the hands of an assassin. I wish to place on record the feelings of a preponderant section of the Tamils on the matter of Tiruchelvam�s death. Eulogies have come in from abroad and locally. From foreigners and from the Sinhalese. Indeed, at this time, it is the done thing to say all the good things about a dead person. But there has been hardly a good word for him from the Tamils, whether from abroad or locally. Why this glaring dichotomy?
The Tamils have been condemned by the international and local media for being unmoved and callous indeed, showing supreme indifference at Tiruchelvam�s death. �Silence is the most perfect expression of scorn� said George Bernard Shaw. It should not be so, we are told, because he was a �Tamil politician�, �a Tamil parliamentarian�, �a Tamil moderate�, a �fighter of minority rights�, a �human rights activist�, a �committed crusader for peace�, an �international figure� and a hoard of other things that he is supposed to have stood for.
Still, there were no Tamil banners, no Tamil leaflets as is customary, no mass Tamil participation at his funeral barring the well known Tamil supporters of Sinhala Governments and the Establishment, no Tamil speakers at the cremation barring the Secretary General of his Party, and no eulogies from Tamils. Indeed, one would have thought he was not a Tamil, after all. All this, a strong indictment indeed.
Tiruchelvam had an unnatural death. But he is only one such Tamil. There have been thousands of Tamils in the recent past having had similar fate at the hands of successive Sinhala Governments hell-bent on the genocide of Tamils. They were also precious lives. Precious Tamil lives, no different from that of Tiruchelvam. But nobody would stop to think about them. Why? Is it because they were not friends of the Sinhalese? Is it because they were of no use to the Establishment?
In the beleaguered and tiny Tamil Nation, Tiruchelvam was very good material. I will say this in full measure. Acknowledging this fact, he was asked to contest the Colombo District on an independent Tamil list in 1994. He refused and assumed the roll of a king-maker by searching for Tamils to get onto the Peoples Alliance (PA) list. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
As a Tamil, Tiruchelvam was an enemy unto himself. As a �Tamil politician�, Tiruchelvam did not know what his constituency was. Was it the Tamils or was it really the Sinhalese? He preferred anybody other than the Tamils. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
TULF & Thimpu
As a Tamil, he could not have been blinded to the Tamil aspirations at this moment because the party to which he belonged, the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) was a signatory to the Thimpu Principles of August 1985 which laid down the four principles extolling Tamil aspirations. In the process of fashioning some convoluted �Peace Package�, that saw three drafts in as many years in some engine room behind, Tiruchelvam saw to it that the sacred aspirations of the Tamils were smashed up or completely ignored. And this, so soon after Thimpu, the Tamils have not forgotten this.
That Tiruchelvam was an architect of the notorious �Peace Package� everybody knew for sometime. But Tiruchelvam was very secretive about this and would never admit it. Why? If the �Peace Package� was any good to the Tamils, surely he should have been proud of it? The Tamils have not forgotten this.
His father, the late M.Tiruchelvam argued in the Amirthalingam Trial-at-Bar that the Tamils had not lost their sovereignty when the Portuguese captured Jaffna and that sovereignty remained with the Tamils when the British left the shores and, therefore, what was left for the Tamils to do was to restore that sovereignty with the setting up of the separate state of Tamil Eelam. Tiruchelvam has seen to it that this case that was built up was smashed for all times by the �Peace Package� that he �co-authored�. That too, after he put out a book containing his father�s submission under the aegis of the Tiruchelvam Pothu Pani Manram. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
Tiruchelvam was more an Establishments Man. An Establishment Man of successive brutal Sinhala Governments. He was a great friend of The Official Languages Commission and would be a principal speaker at all its functions and indeed had a very close associate of his as one of the Commissioners. But this Tamil Commissioner would eternally complain about the impotence of the Commission. Tiruchelvam did not help in the full and proper implementation of the Tamil Language inspite of his well-known proximity to the Sinhala Establishment. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
Tiruchelvam reveled in being an engine-room boy. He loved that role which was detested by the ordinary Tamil. It was this character that prevented him from facing the hustings and his Tamil peers. Still, it got him into Parliament twice, but only as a nominated member on each occasion. The only time he faced the Tamils was when the �friendly� Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) was in situ in Tamil Eelam in 1989. But even his �international connections� could not help him in 1989 when he faced his own kind. [Was he sen]sitive to Tamil sentiments? An answer to this could be had from various eulogies and encomiums that have been paid to him. Very, very significantly, not one of them had anything to say about Tiruchelvam�s contribution to the Tamils! And even more significantly even the President of his Party, M.Sivasithamparam, has singularly assumed a position of stony silence! Equally significantly, the Tiruchelvam Pothu Pani Manram has chosen to distance itself from Tiruchelvam at this moment.
In December 1995 when an alien Sinhala army �captured� Jaffna by setting foot in a deserted Tamil land mass, the insensitive Sinhala Government wanted a song and dance to appease the baser Sinhala sentiments. Poor Tiruchelvam was equally insensitive in suggesting that the Nandhi flag should be hoisted at the �victory ceremony� of the Sinhalese in order to satisfy the Tamils! This was done. Was this necessary? The Tamil Nation, which was reeling at that time, has not forgotten this.
Baling Out Chandrika
In 1997 October when President Kumaratunga, at a weekly meeting of financial officials on Fridays, blurted she would get onto the streets and attack Tamils if the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) attacked Buddhist places of worship and this leaked out and there was a hue and cry from the Tamil quarter, Tiruchelvam feigned another�s signature in an irrelevant and disgraceful letter to the President which sought, dishonestly, to bale the President out of a very difficult position. To say that Tiruchelvam is a paragon of virtue, even after this notorious act, is nothing but midsummer madness. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
Tiruchelvam is described as a �crusader for peace� and �a tireless worker towards resolution of conflicts�. After Tiruchelvam�s death, it has surfaced that he was abandoning Parliament and the �Peace Package� for pastures new and that he was going to take up a teaching assignment in America on 1st September 1999.
Some interested parties want the people to accept the �Peace Package� as this would be the least that they could do in the memory of Tiruchelvam. But if D.B.S.Jeyaraj�s eulogy at page 10 of �The Hindu� of 7-8 [Aug]-99 is anything to go by, Tiruchelvam obviously did not tell Jayaraj, even as late as 35 minutes before his death, that he was leaving the shores in a matter of days. On the contrary, Tiruchelvam had even minutes before his death �wanted a little more time in Parliament to accomplish his goal of achieving a political �settlement�.
It will not be easy unraveling this strange situation more so if we take into consideration what the President has said about presenting the �Peace Package� to Parliament by the end of August 1999. This, too, has raised Tamil eyebrows and all sorts of questions are being asked in Tamil circles. Was Tiruchelvam decamping after ensuring his pension? Where is his commitment to the Peace Cause, leave alone the Tamils? The Tamils have not forgotten this.
Thiruchelvam is described as an �international figure�. Of particular interest to Tamils was the fact that he was Chairman of the Minority Rights Group International. This organization did a study of Sri Lanka after the present Government came into power and brought out a report in February 1996 with special reference to the Tamils. It was an indictment against his friend � the Sinhalese Government. The Report had many recommendations. Some Tamil organizations had written to Tiruchelvam during his stewardship requesting him to use his good offices with the Government to which he was so close (as has been now made out by representatives of this Government) and alleviate the distress of the Tamils. He just would not move in the matter. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
South Africa bloomer
In July 1998 when President Kumaratunga went to distant South Africa and came out with the bloomer that the Tamils are not the original people of this island and there was a mass protest from Tamils, here and abroad, there was not a whimper from the international personality that Tiruchelvam was. He could have used his good offices as an international figure that he was held out to be, to neutralize this statement, more so, when he had the opportunity to do so as he was in South Africa soon after the President�s characteristically ill-conceived outburst. He did nothing. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
To make matters worse, Foreign Minister Lucky Kadirigama [Lakshman Kadirgamar] who, incidentally catapulted into the political arena from nowhere, due largely to a typical Tiruchelvam machination, completely let down his friend by calling a press conferenced on 2-8 [Aug]-99 and announcing, with pompous finality, that Tiruchelvam was a virtual consultant to the Foreign Ministry. This has opened the eyes of the Tamils who now charge that Tiruchelvam, with his �international connections� as was evidenced by the outpourings that came from abroad and specifically from America, had a hand in the designation of the LTTE [as a foreign terrorist organization] and that Tiruchelvam was indeed a CIA agent. A greater disservice Kadirigama [Kadirgamar] could not have done to Tiruchelvam.
In spite of the fact that the President had done nothing about Tiruchelvam�s �Peace Package� for three years, that he should have thought that she was still the best bet for the Tamils when the whole Tamil Nation was arraigned against the President for years showed not only Tiruchelvam�s political acumen but also the distance he occupied from the Tamil Nation.
Friends of Tiruchelvam have said that the Tamils have kept their distance from Tiruchelvam because of fear of the LTTE and as the �Indian Express� has said �mortgaged its soul to the LTTE�. I do not think the LTTE would ever think of videoing those who attended the Tiruchelvam funeral in order to take it out of those Tamils. Such modus operandi are only carried out by a despotic Sinhala Government to intimidate and harass Tamils who attend Tamil political meetings in the vastly predominant Sinhala Colombo.
As a �Tamil Parliamentarian�, Tiruchelvam went into Parliament, first, in 1982 when he was nominated to the Vaddukottai seat � the constituency which staged the Pannakam Convention way back in 1976 where the momentous resolution for the separate state of Tamil Eelam was passed. During that stint in Parliament, Tiruchelvam did not make one speech about the Tamils or Tamil Eelam, even so soon after the Pannakam Convention. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
Game of Hide & Seek
From the word go in August 1994, the TULF would nominally speak on the debate for the extension of the Emergency and slither away during voting time. Tiruchelvam would not even speak at such debates, lest it hurts the Establishment. This game of hide and seek went on for about a year or more till the TULF suddenly changed course due to one Tamil ridiculing them out of hand. The Tamils never expected a Tamil with Tiruchelvam�s intellectual stature to lend himself to play hide and seek during tragic times. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
From the time this particular Sinhala Government took office, Tiruchelvam�s party, the TULF, on the basis of dubious logic, would oppose the votes of the Ministry of Defense but would vote with the Government for the Budget. This, the TULF thought, was honesty. But the Tamils viewed this as intellectual dishonesty of a very base order because this Sinhala Government�s reign has been the bloodiest in the history of this island, as far as the Tamils are concerned. Tiruchelvam, inspite of his intellectual attainments, did not try to extricate himself from this obscene and ridiculous situation, even if he could not change the course of his party. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
In the five years since 1994 that Tiruchelvam has been a parliamentarian, he has spoken on matters ranging from sex to satan. But he could not have spoken even five times about the pathetic and tragic plight of the Tamils under this barbaric Sinhala Government? Thousands of Tamil civilians have been killed, tens of Tamil villages shelled, hundreds of Tamil homes and acres of Tamil agricultural lands have been destroyed, many places of worship and schools in Tamil Eelam bombed, food and medicine denied to Tamil refugees, torture and rape used as weapons of war against the Tamils, Tamils used as human mine detectors and as forced labour by an alien Sinhala army, disappearances of Tamils in their hundreds and mass Tamil graves coming to light only now, merciless murders of caged and, therefore, helpless Tamil political prisoners. Indeed, the genocide of the Tamils! There wasn�t a whimper from Tiruchelvam. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
The use of Tamil as an administrative language in the District of Colombo could only be done if the President makes a proclamation in terms of the Sixteen Amendment and the proclamation is gazetted. Only if this is done would all the records be kept in Tamil also and Tamil be used as a language of court. Repeated requests were made to the President. In spite of Tiruchelvam�s position with the President, he did nothing to have this done. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
Lip Service to Peace
Tiruchelvam has been described as a �Tamil moderate�. Was he really? It is legion, certainly amongst the Tamils, that it was his party, the TULF that goaded the Tamil youth to take to arms with the inflammatory speeches they made from all their platforms so much so that the youth slit their wrists, drew blood and dramatically placed �pottu� of blood on the foreheads of TULF leaders during the 1977 hustings. The Tamil youth took to arms in a big way, as a result. All the Tamils who carry guns today and who are snuggly ensconced in the lap of the despicable Sinhala Government which is making use of them like chattel, will not deny this.
f Tiruchelvam was a true moderate and if he was in the TULF then, why did he not dissociate himself with the TULF line? If he was not in the TULF then, why did he join it thereafter? As if this is not enough, the TULF manifesto for the 1977 General Elections said that the Constitution of Tamil Eelam would be �brought into operation either by peaceful means or by direct action or struggle�. What does this sentence denote, if it does not refer to an armed struggle? The TULF has not unequivocably jettisoned this stand of theirs. Tiruchelvam is therefore part and parcel of this philosophy. To pay lip service or otherwise to �peace�, whilst running with the hare and hunting with the hound, is hypocritical if not downright despicable. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
Not One Word of Protest
Tiruchelvam is held out to be a �fighter for minority rights�. How could it have been? For, long before Tiruchelvam came onto the political firmament, the Tamils categorically changed their position on this matter and held themselves to be a �Nation� and refused to think, again, as a �minority�. So, if he was a fighter for minority rights, he could certainly not have had the Tamils in mind. Tamils could not be expected to forget this.
Tiruchelvam is held out to be a �human rights activist�. It is the position of the Tamils that never before have they been at the receiving end of so much human rights violations and so much brutal and barbaric violence as has been experienced by them since August 1994. During the bloodiest period of this god-forsaken country�s history, was there one word of protest, loud and clear, from Tiruchelvam in the name of the Tamils? The Tamils have not forgotten this.
Tiruchelvam took his oaths under the Sixth Amendment which the International Commission of Jurists (another of those international agencies which sent an eulogy on Tiruchelvam�s demise) condemned as undemocratic and in violation of Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
Did Tiruchelvam ever have Tamil interests at heart or was he even sensitive to Tamil sentiments? Rather than psychoanalyze the Tamils, let us come to grips with reality. Tiruchelvam�s funeral took place in Colombo; not in Tamil Eelam. The Sinhalese bandwagon says that �400,000 Tamils have colonized Colombo because they could not stand LTTE harassment.� If that argument is correct, why were those Tamils not present at Tiruchelvam�s funeral?
Indeed, where were the so-called Colombo Tamils who are said not even to know of the LTTE? Or did Tiruchelvam�s funeral show the Sinhalese and the international community about the silent revolution that is under way? And was the realization of this mass support for the silent revolution that led the Sinhala and international sector to work overtime to obtain eulogies about the �brutal�, �despicable�, �senseless�, �dastardly�, �cowardly�, �callous�, �heartless�, �monstrous� act that killed Tiruchelvam?
Make no mistake. Any death that is not natural or accidental must, indeed, be described in those superlative terms. But who started it all? Who made this the culture of this island? Who made this a way of life in this country? Let the Tiruchelvam murder lead to some soul-searching, at least, not only in the Sinhala quarter but also in the TULF corner.
What I have written is not a justification for the murder of Tiruchelvam. Rather, it is to place before the world the other side of the story, if it could be such, for the staggering unconcern and stunning indifference on the part of the Tamils everywhere regarding this incident. There is really no point in blaming the Tamils en masse for their �indifference� because they have their reasons, and valid ones too. I am only seeking to place those reasons publicly.
What I have written might be described as not being appropriate at this time. But the other side of the story had to be writ and writ soon. The international sector have had their say about Tiruchelvam. The Sinhalese have had theirs. The Tamils must now have their say and bring out their perspective. It is my position that a Tamil must first say, whatever that is not popular, sitting fairly and squarely in Colombo. That is why I have written the Tamil point of view about Tiruchelvam.
Why blame the Tamils for being unmoved over the Tiruchelvam incident? That is their right; their prerogative. Indeed, that is democracy. Is this hue and cry about the Tamil silence because Tiruchelvam is a friend of the Sinhalese? If Sri Lanka is a democracy, then it must be bound by the Peoples Will. The Tamil People have shown their will. To continue pretending not to understand the mind of the Tamils betray the arid and infertile terrain of a degenerate mind.
Many moons ago, the �Darling of Jaffna� was flashed a question by his best friend as to what he thought was the greatest thing in life. The politician of yore shot back unhesitatingly, �the love of one�s own People�. Did Tiruchelvam enjoy the love of his people? Ask Nirupama Subramaniam.
Dr. Tiruchelvam and the tragedy of Tamils- Part 1
by D.B.S. Jeyaraj
The �Tamil Times� is a monthly journal being published in London from January 1982. It departed from tradition for the first time in 18 years and devoted the entire contents of its August issue towards the assassination of distinguished Tamil politician Neelan Tiruchelvam.
Though not described as a memorial number the entire issue apart from advertisements published news items, comments and articles on Dr. Tiruchelvam's death. Even the editorial was transformed into a miscellany of notable quotes about him. The cover too was a montage of Dr. Tiruchelvam's images. In the dark cloud of silence that has enveloped mainstream Tamils after Dr. Tiruchelvam's killing the deviant action of the Tamil Times stands out as a silver lining.
Ever since Dr. Tiruchelvam was brutally assassinated on July 29 in Colombo the civilised world has been reacting in horror and disgust, messages of sympathy have been pouring in from all corners of the globe. US President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Azworthy, Australian Foreign Minister Graham Downer, Indian External Affairs Minister Jaswanth Singh are but some of the prominent personalities who have condemned the killing and paid tribute to Dr. Tiruchelvam's memory.
Organisations such as the Amnesty International, Minority Rights Group and International Commission of Jurists, too, have done so. What is remarkable about this is that Dr. Tiruchelvam was neither a head of state nor even a government minister. Only personalities of that ilk have been recipients of such accolades in the past.
The tributes paid by a cross section of the world's eminent statespersons, political leaders, academics, human rights activists, scholars, jurists and intellectuals illustrate the multi- dimensional attributes of the remarkable person that was Neelan. The Tamil Times issue in that sense is a glowing testimony to the calibre of a gentle person whose death has evoked world-wide eulogies steeped in very high quality. This spontaneous response of a near universal and greater nature however has to be juxtaposed with another reaction that is particular and to some extent lesser.
This response or non- response, whether contrived or otherwise is best illustrated by Nirupama Subramaniam's perceptive report in the �Indian Express� of August 3. She says, "Tiruchelvam's senseless killing may have outraged the world, but Sri Lanka's Tamil community, which has mortgaged its soul to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) remains unmoved and unprotesting. While there have been no calls from anyone in the Tamil community except the former militant groups, specifically condemning the LTTE for the killing, the justifications have begun".
Nirupama, who incidentally hails from Tamil Nadu in India, goes on to cite instances of this. Among these are details of conversation among Tamils at a book launch in Wellawatte. This is what the Colombo Correspondent of the �Indian Express� wrote: "According to those present at the function many justified the killing on the grounds that Dr. Tiruchelvam was close to the government. The general feeling was that while alive Dr. Tiruchelvam made no positive contribution to the Tamil cause, and his death made no difference to the community, a lawyer present at the function reported".
These sentiments allegedly expressed by sections of the Colombo Tamil community are indeed outrageously wrong and callously insensitive. They are however symptomatic of a deep-seated malaise that has afflicted the Sri Lankan Tamil community. While the silent majority among them remain overtly detached and non-committal, a vociferously vituperative minority continues to attack and character assassinate a man who has already been assassinated.
In the case of Dr. Tiruchelvam one is able to discern all the signs of blaming-the-victim syndrome and also, to borrow a phrase from Indian commentator Praful Bidwai, manifestations of �victimising the victim� itself. While he was alive Dr. Tiruchelvam was the pet target of direct and indirect Tiger propaganda. Almost every Tiger organ within and outside Sri Lanka dished out venomous and hateful news and comments about him. The LTTE poet laureate Puthuvai Rathinadurai writing under the pseudonym Viyaasan wrote hate poetry ceaselessly against him. Several others, including some Tiger fellow travellers who had their petty pickaxes to grind, also followed suit.
Many persons with different motives hitched their wagons to the LTTE star. An easy way to curry favour or avoid Tiger displeasure was to attack a vulnerable target. The inoffensive democrat that he was Neelan Tiruchelvam fitted the bill. Thus the past four or five years have seen a cacophony of diatribes against him. Most prominent among them was a distinguished. Tamil politician whose lifelong ambition of being a Parliamentarian has been consistently rejected by Tamil voters.
A Tamil tabloid published in Colombo also plays a negative role in this regard. This weekly led and continues to lead the media hound pack in a vicious campaign against Dr. Tiruchelvam. The king pin is an ex-militant turned Tamil parliamentarian from a Tamil party. This tabloid has contributed greatly towards undermining Dr. Tiruchelvam's image among Tamils.
Many years ago before the LSSP aligned with the SLFP, Sirima Bandaranaike referred to N. M. Perera in Sinhala as the man who �nomaraa maru� her late husband. This was in reference to the Trotskyite leader's sustained campaign of political strikes against S.W.R.D Bandaranaike. Likewise this tabloid too can be accused in Tamil of �Kollaamal Kondra� in the case of Neelan. The lone assassin standing at the Rosmead Place-Kynsey Road intersection destroyed only Dr. Tiruchelvam's body. But as far as the Tamil reading public was concerned Dr. Tiruchelvam's political reputation had been exterminated before.
What is repugnantly repulsive about the situation is that the vilification of Dr. Tiruchelvam continues among sections of the Tamils even after his death. As was the case before his death most of this maligning is based on a wholesale distortion of truth. The Tamil people who like to boast of their millennia old cultural legacy seem oblivious to the fact that one of their hallowed values is being violated in the most disgusting way.
The age old custom of not vilifying a dead person is being flouted flagrantly in the most foul manner. It must be noted that the LTTE weekly �Eelamurasu� published in Paris too was constrained to preface a critique of Dr. Tiruchelvam with a public apology to the readers for dishonoring the Tamil cultural tradition of speaking ill of the dead.
The Tamil tabloid in Colombo has been publishing despicable news and views about Dr. Tiruchelvam after his death too. The man who was assassinated brutally is now being character assassinated relentlessly. That a paper which claims to be the largest selling Tamil weekly can go on denigrating a dead person who cannot defend himself speaks volumes about the socio-cultural morass the Tamil community has sunk into. The abysmal nadir in this respect however has been reached by �vocal Warriors� of upper crust Tamil society.
The various pro-LTTE websites, e-mail exchanges and English journals have been publishing various articles criticising Dr. Tiruchelvam after his death. Some of these written by �prominent� but not necessarily eminent Tamils have been collected as part of a single web page in the New York Tamil Sangam website. It is a good indicator to gauge the depths of depravity the Sri Lankan Tamils have descended to. All decent people will be appalled by the incredibly vitriolic attacks defiling the memory of an intellectual giant whose only �crime� was to strive for a peaceful settlement.
The New York Tamil Sangam is in many ways a front for the LTTE in the USA. Nevertheless the office bearers and most members are acknowledged professionals from the cream of Tamil society. Yet they are able to indulge in a vulgar exhibition that offends all canons of decency.
Worse still are the motley crew of demolition experts writing about Dr. Tiruchelvam. They are supposedly members of the Sri Lankan Tamil elite. Some are alumni of Oxford and Cambridge; some have dined and wined at the inns of Lincoln, Gray, Inner and Middle Temple; some have Ph.Ds from the prestigious universities of the west. Yet they have all like Caesar's enemies �drawn their swords separately to strike jointly� in a revolting display of necrophobia.
A Tamil poet described them succinctly �Savathukku Mele Moothiram Peyyurangal� (They are urninating on a corpse). What is deplorable about this sordid affair is that many of these people are old Royalists and Thomians who knew Dr. Tiruchelvam personally and had at various times obtained favours from him too.
One's disgust increases even more when these Tamil websites pat themselves on their backs by publishing congratulatory responses from readers over the articles published.
These responding readers range from retired UN experts to nuclear scientists, from Catholic priests to university lecturers. How is it that such �educated� people subjected to the emancipator aspects of modern Western society and claiming to be the legatee of an ancient and honorable culture violate the basic tenets of decent conduct?
It is almost as if impelled by a desire to ingratiate themselves with their masters, the LTTE, each one is standing up to be counted by the Tigers as having approved their action. In a bid to ingratiate with the LTTE, the diatribe authors are competing among themselves, too. One of them has published his �masterpiece� as a glossy booklet and is distributing it free by post to sections of the Tamil Diaspora.
In contrast to this gutter sniping is the conspicuous public silence of other Tamils. Except for a few, most Tamils have neither condemned the killing nor expressed their appreciation of Dr. Tiruchelvam openly. It is this �deafening silence� that is being interpreted by certain elements as a �sanction� of the assassination. The truth however is that as Nirupama Subramaniam expresssed it well "Tamil souls have been mortgaged to the LTTE�. In many cases it is a mortal fear of the LTTE that has contributed to this non-committal behaviour.
There have been several instances of people condemning the killing in private but not daring to say so in public. Some who have been critical about the killing when conversing with trusted confidantes have performed somersaults publicly. In our villages there is a habit of not mentioning the snake or devil by name. This is because of the fear that some harm would befall them as these personify evil. Similarly the Tamil psyche too does not dare mention the LTTE by name let alone criticise it. The naive belief is that by avoiding public comments against the LTTE they could ward off possible danger from it. If only all those Tamils who are well aware of Dr. Tiruchelvam's positive and dedicated role in the sphere of achieving Tamil rights dared to articulate their feelings publicly!
What a qualitative difference it would make to the current climate. But no the evil within exerts a stranglehold on the collective vocal chords of the community. So Dr. Tiruchelvam's detractors are able to create and promote the impression that he was a traitor who had to be eliminated.
The assassination of Dr. Tiruchelvam and its aftermath serve to portray vividly the totalitarian hold exercised by the LTTE over the collective conscience of the Tamil community. An entity with neo - fascist tendencies and is accountable to none has appropriated the leadership of the Tamil people. The right to express a different viewpoint let alone dissent is effectively tabooed. Again what a vortex the community has been sucked into. The majority of Sri Lankan Tamils are Saivites. The right of dissent is an age old Saivite Tamil tradition.
One of the great �Thiruvilaiaadals� (Great Divine Feast) by Lord Siva pertains to Nakkeeran the Madurai poet who composed the �Tirumurugaattuppadai�. There arose a doubt in the mind of the Pandyan King as to whether the fragrance of his queen's hair was natural or artificial. Lord Siva in an avatar wrote a stanza saying it was natural. The King concurred. But Nakkeeeran the head of the Tamil Sangham or Academy objected. He said it was artificial. Lord Siva began arguing with Nakkeeran and finally revealed himself and expected submission from the poet.
But Nakkeeran refused and continued to say Lord Siva's opinion was wrong. Then Lord Siva threatened to open his third eye in the forehead and burn Nakkeeran. Still Nakkeeran was unrelenting saying �Nettrikkann Thirappinum Kuttram Kuttrame� (Even if you open your third eye your opinion is wrong). An angry Siva burnt him to ashes but later relented and resurrected Nakkeeran restoring him to grace. The Nakkeeran episode has come to represent the courageous tradition of dissent within the Tamil ethos. Today like many other things the tradition and right of dissent too have been exploded by the barbaric hordes masquerading as Tamil saviours.
Given the tremendous transnational condemnation over Dr. Tiruchelvam's killing, it is easy to discern why the LTTE and its minions have to keep on character assassinating the man even after killing him. These attempts though despicable are in a sense feebly pathetic. Even as torrents of enlightened world opinion pour down in condemnation of the LTTE, a small group tries hard to vilify Dr. Tiruchelvam and justify his killing. Again this will succeed to a limited extent only among certain shades of Tamil opinion.
Dr. Tiruchelvam and the tragedy of Tamils- Part 2 by D.B.S. Jeyaraj
Subramaniya Bharathy the great Tamil poet of early twentieth century when glorifying the Tamil language sang �Maraivaaga Namakkul Palangkathaigal Pesei Payanillai, Thiramaana Pulamaienil Velinaattar Athai Vanakkam Seithal Vendum� (There is no use in talking about past matters among ourselves, if possessing merit it must be praised by foreigners) Although this was in reference to the merits of Tamil, it also applies to Neelan Tiruchelvam and his Tamil detractors. While these so- called pseudo nationalist Tamils character-assassinate Tiruchelvam within the Tamils, International opinion that matters continues to respect and honour his life and work.
Contrary to the viewpoint that he worked against Tamil interests, Tiruchelvam was a man who had dedicated himself to the upliftment of the Tamils and the redressing of their grievances. Only unlike many of his abrasive and chauvinist kinsfolk he possessed a larger vision which realised that the ultimate well-being of the Sri Lankan Tamils was possible only in a united but not necessarily unitary Sri Lanka where all communities including that of his own could co-exist in a climate of peace, amity and harmony with justice, equality and dignity. Despite being maligned by extremist sections on both sides of the ethnic divide he strove relentlessly to achieve this goal until a misguided suicide bomber cut short a fruitful life on that fateful day.
It would indeed be a grave error for Tamils to feel that Tiruchelvam was not concerned about the Tamil plight or depict his principled issue-based support to the Kumaratunga regime's endeavour at Constitutional reform as a collaborative act. He was a moderate in terms of his adherence to democratic principles and abhorrence of violence. A salient aspect of his political philosophy was illustrated during his speech in Parliament on June 15 this year, opposing Capital Punishment. He said "I would like to express my strong moral opposition to this measure.... we cannot glorify death, whether in the battlefield or otherwise. We on the other hand must celebrate life and are fiercely committed to protecting and securing the sanctity of life, which is the most fundamental value without which all other rights and freedoms become meaningless."
This principled opposition to the politics of death, displacement and despair certainly did not make him a devotee of what is now described as the dominant mode of the Tamil political struggle. By his courageous and honest refusal to pay lip service to the so called armed struggle Tiruchelvam placed himself in the unenviable position of being perceived by the proponents of Tamil virulence as an opponent of Tamil rights. Of course other Tamil elements with their own petty axes to grind promoted this perception and projected Neelan in a negative light.
The crux of the matter is that Tiruchelvam was certainly not a moderate when it came to Tamil rights. By character, training and inclination he chose Constitutional reform as the mode of achieving it. Ranging from the time he wrote a dissenting report to the conclusions of the Victor Tennekoon Commission on Devolution to his efforts at Constitution making in association with the People's Alliance Government he has never ever compromised on the fundamental rights of the Tamils. He was a Constitutionalist but like the founding fathers of the USA, a revolutionary constitutionalist. The Tamil pseudo-nationalists criticising the draft constitution as a �sell out of the Tamils� are yet to present a coherent and effective critique on those lines. The draft in its original form was a path breaking exercise amounting to quasi- federalism in the entire South Asian region.
On the other hand the mirror images of the Tamil hawks within the Sinhala community seem to have identified the Constitution in the making as a potential threat to Sinhala chauvinist hegemony in the Island and until the time of his death were bitterly critical of Tiruchelvam. A point lost on his Tamil detractors.
Unlike many prominent Tamils who seem wittingly or unwittingly oblivious to the tragic Tamil predicament Tiruchelvam was a man very much concerned about it. Since political hypocrisy was not one of his attributes Tiruchelvam realised that the establishment of Tamil Eelam was neither desirable nor attainable. The pursuit of such a mirage through a violent compaign could only result in long term misery for the Tamils he felt. The fact that the arena of conflict was primarily the Northern and Eastern Provinces meant hardship and suffering of the highest order for the Tamils. Besides he was very worried about the dispersal of the Tamil community from their areas of historic habitation and their consequent relocation to other parts of the world.
�It is this permanent migration that would be the most detrimental factor to the well-being of the Tamils in Sri Lanka� was a constant comment of his. A reduction of numbers would result in diminished political importance he felt. In that context a letter by former Central Bank Governor N.U. Jayawardena that was published in a Colombo newspaper some time ago is relevant. Mr. Jayawardene in that pointed out two things. First he said that the Sri Lankan population would achieve zero growth by 2025 and stabilise itself. Second given the current rate of Sri Lankan Tamil outward migration its population percentage at that time would be only 1.9%. As such it would become a �Manageable minority� was NUJ's conclusion.
The drastic long term effect of the conflict on the Sri Lankan Tamils is something that is either not realised or willfully ignored by the �Vocal Warriors� of the Tamil Eelam armed struggle. The question of whether the LTTE will win or lose the war becomes irrelevant in a situation where the Tamil population itself would become a feeble entity as it is already becoming. Those who proclaim triumphantly from their safe abodes overseas that the LTTE cannot be militarily defeated must ask themselves whether such a possibility falls within the objectives of their so called �enemy�.
The longer the conflict rages on the more the economy of the Tamil areas decline. Population decreases. In the final analysis the Tamil war that began with a bang will decay into a pathetic whimper. There was also the factor of geopolitical reality that was against the birth of a Tamil state on the Island. However much the sacrifice and valour of the Tigers there was just no way they could achieve their goal in the long run.
For these reasons and more Neelan Tiruchelvam was among those actively involved in trying to get the war suspended. He was also working diligently behind the scenes to get the government to resume talks with the LTTE. Tiruchelvam felt that only third party facilitation initially and subsequent mediation would succeed. This view that the war should end and talks with the Tigers should be initiated did not endear him to many sections of the government.
This coupled with his uncompromising stance on constitutional issues like changing the unitary structure of the state led to deteriorating relations between him and the upper echelons of the current regime. After his death many government figures are painting a glossy yet untrue picture of the situation that prevailed.
Tiruchelvam wanted talks between the government and LTTE for another reason too. He was realistic enough to know that the major player on the Tamil side was the LTTE. Because of their destructive capacity only the Tigers possessed bargaining clout that could extract maximum rights for the Tamils at the bargaining table he felt. Besides there was a humane aspect too. Though he did not agree with their aims or methods Tiruchelvam had a great deal of compassion and sympathy for the young cadres of the LTTE sacrificing themselves on the altar of Eelam. �It was a needless waste of young lives for an unwinnable cause� he felt. Although he has been demonised as a Tamil traitor working against the LTTE, history will record in the future that such charges were way off the mark. Although many Tamils are unable to see it now there will come a time when posterity will acknowledge and realise the value and importance of Neelan's current role.
The allegations made by Tamil sections against Tiruchelvam can be effectively countered only with the passage of time. In an environment where enlightened global opinion appreciates Tiruchelvam's positive role, it may seem incongruous to pay particular attention to the negative reaction among a section of the Tamils.
Nevertheless the fact remains that though the man was a citizen of the world he was rooted in the Tamil ethos. It would have been simple and indeed safer for him to ignore the Tamil plight and involve himself with other issues. Nevertheless he remained concerned and tried in every way possible to prescribe a political remedy that would cure the malady. It is therefore necessary that attempts be made to salvage his unfairly tarnished reputation among the Tamils. A start could be made perhaps by publishing the various Parliamentary Speeches he made and the memoranda he wrote on behalf of the Tamils. Also his role in Tamil politics should be placed in proper perspective.
Neelan Tiruchelvam's loss is irreplaceable and his life cannot be redeemed. But what can be done is to redeem his tarnished name among sections of the Tamil people. The bard of Avon in his immortal classic dramatises the eloquent oratory of Mark Anthony. Though Brutus and his cohorts had influenced public opinion to revile Julius Caesar, Anthony reverses the situation through adressing the people in that famous oration which begins: �Friends, Romans, Countrymen ....� Likewise the good name of Neelan has to be salvaged and restored for posterity. This is the least that can be done for this gentle and noble soul who was indeed goodness personified while living.
Open Letter to D.B.S.Jeyaraj: Have You Asked Yourself Why? by G.G.Ponnambalam Jr. [courtesy: Sunday Times, Colombo; Sept.26, 1999]
I read your two-part article in The Sunday Times of 12.9.99 and 19.9.99 largely concerning Neelan Tiruchelvam. What you have sought to do is to take to task the Tamils living all over the world, for not singing hosannas about Tiruchelvam.
Living in Canada, with no friends, you are at liberty to sell your wares to whoever is prepared to publish them. But you have no right to abuse the Tamils because they see no merit in Tiruchelvam or refuse to jump on to the international bandwagon to sing hosannas about him.
You may be obliged or grateful to Tiruchelvam for having been sent to the USA, in the first instance, on some scholarship obtained for you by him and you are well within your right to display appreciation for that act by writing good about him. But it must end there.
Just because a certain section of the people have �reacted in horror and disgust� about the Tiruchelvam assassination, that does not make them �civilized�. Equally, because some organizations and �some prominent personalities have condemned the killing and paid tribute to Tiruchelvam�, it does not mean that �mainstream Tamils�, too, must slavishly do the same.
I agree that �what is remarkable about this is that Tiruchelvam was neither a head of state nor even a Government Minister� and that �only personalities of that ilk have been recipients of such accolades in the past�. This is what is perplexing to mainstream Tamils and is making them wonder if all this is orchestrated by Sri Lanka's Government to show the world that they have at least one Tamil friend.
As you say, �tributes have been paid by a cross section of the world's eminent states, persons, political leaders, academics, human-rights activists, scholars, jurists and intellectuals illustrating the multi-dimensional attributes� of Tiruchelvam. But there has not been one Tamil amongst this illustrious list. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why?
As you state, Tiruchelvam's �death has evoked world-wide eulogies steeped in very high �quality�. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why there has been no eulogy from at least one Tamil about your �gentle and noble soul who was goodness personified�. You state that �the silent majority among them (the Tamils) remain overtly detached and non-committal�. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why? You write that �as far as the Tamil reading public was concerned, Tiruchelvam's political reputation had been exterminated before� his death. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why?
You state that �what is repugnantly repulsive.....is that the vilification of Tiruchelvam continues among sections of the Tamils even after his death.� Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why?
You complain that �acknowledged professionals from the cream of Tamil society� have attacked Tiruchelvam. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why there is such universal criticism of your �citizen of the world�?
You say that Sri Lankan Tamil elite, some from Oxford and Cambridge, others from the Inns of Court, doctorates from prestigious universities of the West, have all drawn swords to criticise Tiruchelvam. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why they are attacking your �inoffensive democrat�?
You say that �retired UN experts to nuclear scientists, from Catholic priests to University lecturers�, have all approbated what has been said by the Tamils about Tiruchelvam. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why there is this universal condemnation on the part of the Tamils about your �intellectual giant whose only crime was to strive for a peaceful settlement�?
As your friend Nirupama Subramaniam has written in the much quoted �Indian Express� of 3.8.99 �Sri Lanka's Tamil community remains unmoved and unprotesting�. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why?
You charge that the verdict of the Tamils, as heard by Subramaniam at the book launch at Wellawatte, that �Tiruchelvam made no positive contribution to the Tamil cause� is �indeed outrageously wrong and callously insensitive�. If this is your conviction why do you not catalogue your case, without more ado?
You have the audacity to say that the Tamil attitude, in not singing the praises of Tiruchelvam, is �symptomatic of a deep-seated malaise that has afflicted the Sri Lankan Tamil community�. Why do you not give your reasons, without more ado?
You charge that �a vociferous vituperative minority continues to attack� Tiruchelvam. But they have done so openly identifying themselves. Why do you not name them and meet their arguments? If you cannot, do not complain.
You charge that �whilst he was alive Tiruchelvam was the pet target of direct and indirect Tiger propaganda. Almost every Tiger organ within and outside Sri Lanka dished out venomous and hateful news and comments about him�. If this was true, why did you not rise to the defence of Tiruchelvam then without complaining now, more so because you sell your wares to many publications at the same time, not only in one country but also in other countries?
This is not all. You have the audacity and impertinence to refer to the �cacophony of diatribes against the inoffensive democrat during the past four or five years� and go along to say that the �most prominent among them was a distinguished Tamil politician whose life-long ambition of being a Parliamentarian has been consistently rejected by Tamil voters�. Why don't you be a man and have the guts to refer by name to those who contributed to the cacophony of diatribes? In any case did you, D.B.S. Jeyaraj, rise to the defense of Tiruchelvam even during the past four or five years? Did you reply to the cacophony of diatribes? If you had not and you held your peace, you are stopped now from complaining.
I will acknowledge that your reference to �the Tamil politician who has been consistently rejected by Tamil voters� is to me. I have the guts to accept your reference, which guts you sadly lack. And it is this guts that even the person you have sort to champion lacked in not going before his peers - his own people.
You have the temerity to complain that �the Tamils are violating one of their hallowed values in the most disgusting way by vilifying a dead person�. When the Tamils kept quiet, you and your ilk questioned about �the dark cloud of silence that has enveloped mainstream Tamils�. Having provoked those Tamils, when they come out and give their reasons by analysing Tiruchelvam's role or non-role, you question about �age old customs�. "Heads I win, tails you lose", is that what you are saying?
If �the Tamil tabloid in Colombo has been publishing despicable news and views about Tiruchelvam after his death too�, be a man and write to that Tamil tabloid immediately. If the Tamil tabloid does not publish what you write, then complain. If you do not do this, your credibility is in question because you are attacking a Tamil tabloid in an English publication and, therefore, behind the back of the Tamil tabloid. It is cowardly to stab a person from behind.
�A dead person cannot defend himself�. Very true. But others, like you, can do the job. Have you not, D.B.S. Jeyaraj, denigrated a dead person in your own writings? And have you not been given fitting replies? You know what I am referring to. You are, therefore, the last person who should be talking of �the socio-cultural morass the Tamil community has sunk to�!
If those who are attacking Tiruchelvam are alumni of Royal and St. Thomas' and �had at various times obtained favours from him,� be a man and name them so that public opinion could sanction them for being ungrateful. If you cannot do this, don't talk. You mention about �Tiruchelvam's positive and dedicated role in the sphere of achieving Tamil rights�. Instead of lamenting that only some Tamils are aware of this aspect, why don't you catalogue them for the benefit of all Tamils and the world?
If I could accept the merciless and ruthless and repeated rejection of me by the Tamil voters, it is high-time that you, D.B.S. Jeyaraj, and others of your ilk, learn to graciously accept the almost universal opinion of the Tamils about Tiruchelvam. By all means laud Tiruchelvam. That is your prerogative. But to refer to Tiruchelvam as a �distinguished Tamil politician� will not only betray your foolishness, but also create another hornet's nest provoking irate Tamils the world over to respond.
Oh Jnr. You�re
Wrong and Wrong Again! by D.B.S. Jeyaraj
Last Sunday happened to be very warm and sunny here in Canada despite the season being fall. Some friends and I decided to make use of an opportunity that may not arise in the coming months and organised an open air barbecue party. It was a happy occasion full of fun, friendship and warmth besides of course the grub.
One of my friends, a virtual internet addict, came a little late waving a sheaf of computer print outs. �D.B.S. Jeyaraj�, he thundered in his baritone voice. �You are the recipient of an open letter. It's there in today's Sunday Times�. My heart skipped a beat and then pitter-pattered faster. A rush of blood to my head. An open letter addressed to me in a national newspaper! All these days I thought such epistles were sent only to great personalities. Now I have got one. �Go ahead and make my day� I muttered like Eastwood, �Tell me who it's from�. �Kumar Ponnambalam,� he said. What an anti-climax, what a disappointment.
The open letter went around, with each friend guffawing at what he or she found amusing. A common cause of laughter was the reference to my living in Canada with no friends. There was a lot of good humoured discussion about the open letter and what I should do about it. The majority felt it was not worth answering. �This guy goes on repeating himself ad nauseam without making a valid point. So just forget it. Write something sensible instead of replying this,� my friends said.
There was also a minor problem. How do I address him when responding? In the good old days I called him, �Annan or Annai� (elder brother). Those days are gone now. Calling him Kumar or Ponna could be interpreted as an endearing term (God, no!).
In his letter he had referred to me as D.B.S. Jeyaraj. I could call him G.G. Ponnambalam in full or GG or Ponnambalam. But that would remind me of his father with whom I have no quarrel. After all the primary problem with the man is that he carries forever a chip on his shoulder that he is not treated as a chip of the old block by voters. So I decided finally that I would call him by the bracket he puts at the end of his name - Junior. So junior it shall be as Sean Connery calls Harrison Ford in the Spielberg movie.
So Jnr., let me tell you at the outset that I have no desire to be dragged into a sordid exchange of words with you about Neelan Tiruchelvam. While I am eternally ready to discuss the great man that he was in any public fora, I have no intention of being sucked into an exchange of letters with you on the subject. As for your pathetic attempts to denigrate a noble soul after his death Jnr., it only exposes you to the world and even a million dips in the holy Ganges would not absolve you. All I want to do Jnr. is to expose some of your twisted falsehood and issue you a challenge.
Besides much of what you have written is empty rhetoric and nothing more. There are a few points that warrant a rejoinder. But I would certainly like to destroy some of the myths you are trying to create about yourself and Neelan. The only point in your letter that deserves a response from me is perhaps your question as to why I did not try and defend Neelan when he was alive. The simple answer Junior is that Neelan would never allowed any of his friends to do so including myself. Despite his extensive contacts with the media both in Sri Lanka and abroad he would never promote himself or defend himself. He was the ultimate �Karmayogi� and a living embodiment of the �Gita�s essence.
I vividly remember his response, when I once asked him why he ignores your repeated attempts to provoke him. Neelan told me that men of straw cannot be expected to rise beyond the Peter principle and that they must feud in order to assert their nuisance value! How�zat Junior? Anyway get one thing clear Jnr., Neelan dead or alive is in no need of people defending himself. He is far too great for that. Neither my praising him nor your debasing him will affect his name in the long run. When Martin Luther King died in 1968, the American media were full of articles written for and against him. Does anyone now remember who wrote them? What has endured however is the good name and legacy of King.
Junior in your fervour to denigrate Neelan you have not spared his father either. You have alleged that the late M. Tiruchelvam hosted a public reception in Colombo to the accused persons of the Duraiappa murder trial after their release. A gross terminological inexactitude Jnr! M. Tiruchelvam died on November 22, 1976. Of the seven accused in the Duraiappa trial, the first two to be discharged were Selvaratnam Selvakumar (7th) and Thambipillai Santhathiyaar (6th) in mid 1977. The last to be acquitted was Balasubramaniyam Kalapathy (1st) in 1978. So how can you say Murugesu Tiruchelvam hosted a reception when he was dead long before the accused were released.
Also have you forgotten in this context Junior that your father too had agreed to defend the accused in the Duraiappa case despite Dr. Parameshwary Duraiappa being his niece and how it caused convulsions within the family? Since your father passed away in February 1977 before the Duraiappa trial, the issue of his appearing in the case did not arise. But have you forgotten how you also wanted to appear in the trial but could not do so because all the seven accused, were firmly opposed to it. Don't you think that you owe a public apology to all members of the late Mr. Tiruchelvam's family? Also don't forget that many persons knowledgeable about the Duraiappa trial are still alive.
In any case what exactly is your position on this? Let's say M. Tiruchelvam was alive when the Duraiappa assassins were acquitted and had hosted a reception. Are you saying that he should not have done it? What's wrong in organizing a reception to seven persons acquitted after due process of the law? Are you saying that any one indicted is automatically guilty? If so why are you appearing for persons charged under the PTA or even the Penal Code for that matter? Also don't forget that your current leader Prabhakaran was also implicated in the Duraiappa trial. Be careful he may take offense at your comments about the Duraiappa trial.
Let's take your charge against Neelan that he never spoke about the Tamil predicament in Parliament. Oh Jnr., wrong, wrong and wrong again. I was present in Parliament in February 1983 when he made his maiden speech in Parliament. It was full of statistics spotlighting clearly the systematic economic neglect of the Tamil areas. I remember it was a little dull because it was devoid of rhetoric or tomfoolery characteristic of some Parliamentarian wannabees that I know. But then that was Neelan, a man who did not believe in playing to the gallery.
I was in Canada when he got elected to Parliament in 1994. I've never seen him speak in the House during this stint. But I've always seen references to his Parliamentary role in newspapers both local and foreign. I also receive the Hansard by sea mail, so it is a trifle late. I've read the many speeches he made on the predicament of the Tamils. I've also read about his courageous and concrete contribution to the emergency debates. I think that numerically, Neelan has spoken more times in Parliament than the total membership of the Tamil Congress.
Your line is that Neelan was power hungry for a Parliament seat. But why have you forgotten that Neelan was one of those rare souls who spurned an opportunity of being an MP and that too a directly elected one? After Mr. Yogasangary was killed in Madras on June 1990, his seat had to be filled by others on the TULF list. Mr. Yogeswaran was no more and M. Sivasithamparam declined. The next in line was Neelan who was also the TULF Secretary at that time. All he had to do was nominate himself. But when Abu Yusoof of the EPRLF appealed to him not to accept it so that he (Yusoof) could be appointed, Neelan gracefully consented. This was because he thought the Muslims chased away from the North required representation. But Mr. Srinivasan of the ENDLF who was next in line was not as magnanimous as Neelan. He come to Colombo from London and became MP thereby depriving Abu Yusoof. Neelan's gesture of not taking his oaths and letting his Parliamentary membership lapse was in vain. Had he taken office then no one could say that he was never directly elected.
Now let's come to a fact that you seem to overlook when you blare forth about being the spokesperson for a preponderant section of the Tamils. You also try to project an impression that you command more support among Tamils and is therefore better equipped to speak for the Tamils. Let's examine the validity of your assertion.
So far there has been only one occasion when you and Neelan contested on the same turf. This was the Parliamentary elections of February 15, 1989. Then Neelan contested under the TULF symbol in the Jaffna district while you contested the same under the Tamil Congress. You led your list and therefore had the opportunity of garnering most preferences that would accrue to your party. Neelan was just one of many others way down in the list. But what happened Junior? Neelan Tiruchelvam got 8074 while you got only 2866. So in the only ever direct democratic confrontation Neelan got nearly three times the votes you got. Neelan is no more and so the matter is not of practical interest but I would wager that in spite of your political showmanship, Neelan would have got more votes than you in any part of Sri Lanka. So get off your high horse and face facts that speak for themselves.
Junior you are again not being truthful when you say that you all were keeping quiet and that you were provoked into writing against Neelan because others were praising him. But the truth is that your article attacking him had appeared many weeks ago in the Tamil Circle and the Tamil Canadian web sites. Then it came in the Tamil Guardian Fortnightly. It was only in the latter stages that it came in the Colombo newspapers. Also let's put the cycle of events concerning Neelan's death in proper perspective. Neelan was pilloried in the Tiger press and by LTTE fellow travellers before and after his assassination.
The post assassination slandering was aimed at checking the shock waves among the national and international community. The crude attempt was twofold. First to show that no Tamils were mourning Neelan and secondly to demonstrate that the so-called lack of concern among Tamils was not due to LTTE fear. The takeoff point for the denigrators of Neelan was Nirupama Subramanian's line in the Indian Express �the Colombo Tamils who have mortgaged their souls to the LTTE are unmoved�. After conveniently glossing over the �mortgaged souls� part the pro-LTTE lobby is now trying to demolish Neelan's image.
The Tiger lobby is emulating the fascist Goebbels and constantly repeats gross untruths in a bid to make it the truth. But the propaganda is based on blatant falsehoods. Neelan Tiruchelvam has been mourned and written about by many Tamils. It is only a vituperative minority that tried to denigrate him and is attempting to pose as the authentic representatives of the Tamils. A self serving myth.
The only disappointment from my viewpoint is that many Tamils who could have spoken up kept quiet. But then the fear of the LTTE is great indeed. But appealing to the Tamil conscience has indeed paid dividends and more and more Tamils shedding their silence now. I wish you a long life Junior, but don't forget that if you were gone there would not even be a whimper from the Tamils in Colombo. In any case the larger than life persona of Neelan is now assuming �Vishwarhoobha� proportions. The institutions he helped found would perpetuate his good name.
Another constant refrain by you is that Neelan did not use his alleged good relations with Kumaratunga to remedy the Tamil plight. You know that this charge is not true. But what I want to know is why you did not do anything yourself. The Tamils have not forgotten that in 1988 you were close to Mrs. Bandaranaike, the present Prime Minister and mother of the President. So close were you that you asked her publicly not to forget her �Kalu Putha�. The Tamils have not forgotten this.
I think I have gone on long enough Jnr. Before I issue my challenge I need your opinion as a legal eagle on two matters. The first is about defamation laws. Why is there no provision in the law where people libellously slandering dead persons cannot be sued? Did the lacuna occur because no lawmaker thought people would be slandering dead people? Would you advocate legal reform where the family members or associates of a dead person being slandered could sue the people doing it?
The second point is about Neelan's assassination itself. Do you think that the criminal laws could be amended in such a way that those persons who character assassinated him before and are continuing to do so after his death be considered as culpable. The free media movement's statement on the death of �Satana� editor Rohana Kumara says, �it is our firm belief that this hate campaign (By media sections) in part created the circumstances that led to the killing�. Likewise don't you think that the vilification campaign against Neelan contributed to his death. Now the character assassination continues. So what about charging these vendors of hate as instigators and accessories before and after of the murder?
Finally let me come to my challenge. There is no point in writing back and forth to English newspapers alone. Besides my readers and editors have great expectations of me. They would like me to write on substantive issues with seriousness and not engage in a frivolous exchange of words with you. So what I would suggest is that both of us engage in a public debate in Colombo. I am planning to come there in the summer of 2000. If you are impatient, then I can make myself available in late January 2000. Only in that case you will have to pay my airfare.
The debate should be in Tamil since you are such a valiant champion of the Tamil cause for whatever it is worth. Your claims about going or not going before the Tamil people can be met then. Whether you want it televised or not is entirely up to you. There is only one precondition. You have to purify your usage of words. I find that you are using words like manly and manhood etc., rather freely. This is understandable since the first part of your name must have given you much trouble at Royal.
Now what shall we debate about. Firstly you state openly where you stand on Neelan's murder. Do you justify it or not? Then about the LTTE, what is your position on it? What is your politics now? If you are for Eelam why are you still calling your party All Ceylon Tamil Congress? If you advocate armed struggle then have any of your children joined the Tigers?
In that context let us also talk of how Neelan and G.L. Pieris helped a Tamil politician bad mouthing them to obtain seats of higher education for his daughter and son in the West. We could also talk about the politician who wrote to his alma mater abroad seeking university admission on the grounds that Tamils were not being admitted to varsities in Lanka. You can also explain how you are the only Tamil who has not been arrested in Colombo despite your stated Tiger connections. Lesser Tamils are detained for the flimsiest of reasons. What's the big mystery Junior?
Since you are a public politician, could you also make a declaration of your properties and assets and in whose names they are registered. We could also talk about the Tamil politico who boasts that he carries no Identity Card but the moment he is stopped at an army check post, phones his wife and gets her to call the army commander who in turn gets his men to release him. So over to you Junior, be a �person� and take up my challenge.
Ponnambalam�s reply to Jeyaraj: I see no attempt to answer my queries by G.G.Ponnambalam Jr. [courtesy: Sunday Times, Colombo; Oct.10, 1999]
By now Jeyaraj would have seen my unedited open-letter to him which is on the Internet after �The Sunday Times� published only an edited version on 26-09-1999.
�The Sunday Times� which published his reply to me on 3-10-1999, did not publish almost one-third of my open-letter to Jeyaraj for the obvious reason that if that one-third was published, they would not be able to publish Jeyaraj's 'stuff' thereafter because his credibility would have been completely 'gone.' But what, indeed, was Jeyaraj's reply to my open letter to him which was published in �The Sunday Times� on 3-10-99? Did he attempt, repeat attempt, to answer even one of the questions I raised in my letter?
Instead, the entirety of Jeyaraj's reply has been a personal reference to me and my family and nothing more. �The Sunday Times� should be ashamed of itself for having published this. The Sunday Times on 26-09-1999 published a truncated version of my open letter, omitting that passage where I alleged mala fides on the part of Jeyaraj in his reference to me in his two-part article.
I said there that I had refused to speak to Jeyaraj when he tried to contact me in December 1997 when I was in Canada. I now ask him publicly why he wanted to speak to a person who had been consistently rejected by Tamil voters? What is it that he and I have in common? Jeyaraj says I have a perpetual chip on my shoulders. Of course Jeyaraj is best suited, by virtue of his tremendous intellectual and academic attainments, to psycho-analyze people! Jeyaraj says that Tiruchelvam, �the great man that he was�, �would never allow any of his friends to� defend him and he makes reference to me and refers to some private conversation between Tiruchelvam and himself. Even in his two-part article Jeyaraj has written about only some private conversations, at best, between Tiruchelvam and himself.
Jeyaraj refers to a statement I made about M. Tiruchelvam. That statement I made not in my open letter to him in The Sunday Times but in an article that was published in another English daily on 15-09-1999. I might have made a mistake. If I had made a mistake I am ready to apologise unreservedly. I read of it in some other article. I am checking on this. But this is only one of the very many points I made in that article and also in my open-letter. Jeyaraj says I �wanted to appear in the (Duraiappah) trial but could not do so because all the seven accused were firmly opposed to it�. This is a lie. Jeyaraj does not know that the accused did not object to my appearing and that I did appear in the case.
Jeyaraj refers to Prabhakaran as my current leader. This will be a good moment to find out about Jeyaraj. Who is this D.B.S. Jeyaraj? He talked of �Tiger fellow travellers who had their petty pick axes to grind� in his two-part article. Did he also not hitch his own wagon to the LTTE star? Is it not the fact that when he was in Sri Lanka, he would religiously make a pilgrimage every weekend to the LTTE camps in the Jaffna Peninsula in order to be with Mahendrarajah alias Mahattaya, to pick up the crumbs to use in his columns the following week?
Having gone to Canada, when the crisis about Mahattaya erupted, did he not publish in his own Tamil weekly �Manjari� that Prabhakaran is a fine fellow who will do the correct thing by Mahattaya and that very same week, in his weekly dispatch to the English �The Island� in Colombo did he not write that Prabhakaran is a God-forsaken guy who will not play fair by Mahattaya? Did he not take up this diametrically opposite positions, at the same moment, hoping that the Tigers will not see the English �Island�? Did not this diabolical act of his land him in a crisis which led to his own �Manjari� being closed down?
Jeyaraj says Tiruchelvam made many speeches in Parliament on the predicament of the Tamils. But Jeyaraj who �receives the Hansard by sea mail� fails to give references to any such speech! He speaks of the Parliamentary seat spurned by Tiruchelvam when Yogasangari�s seat became vacant. The Tamils know that Tiruchelvam had made all the plans to take his oaths but was intimidated and forced into not accepting that seat by the EPRLF which contested under the TULF banner in 1989, on the grounds that Yogasangari was an EPRLF man and, therefore, the vacancy should be filled only by an EPRLF person. This talk of the large-hearted gesture of Tiruchelvam giving way to a Muslim because Muslims were chased away from the North is coming out for the first time only now.
Will Jeyaraj state in which newspaper this position appeared? Or, is this also some private communication between Tiruchelvam and Jeyaraj? Jeyaraj refers to the General Elections of 1989 and compares the number of votes received by Tiruchelvam and myself. Jeyaraj does not mention what the whole world knows that the TULF contested, embracing all other Tamil militant groups except the EROS, under the command of the Indian High Commissioner and when the IPKF which was in situ in the north.
The Tamil Congress contested without a friend in such a setup. The Tamils of the peninsula also know how only Tiruchelvam's posters, having his photograph, were plastered on the walls of Jaffna, to the total exclusion of the others, literally overnight. How come? Ask the IPKF! In any case, would Jeyaraj say that even the 1989 General Election was a free and fair one, as far as the Tamil areas were concerned?
Jeyaraj says I am �not being truthful when you say that you all were keeping quiet and that you were provoked into writing against Neelan because others were praising him.� I wrote in my article of 15-9-99 that it was when the question was asked as to whether �the Tamils have mortgaged their souls to the LTTE� because they did not react to the death of Tiruchelvam that I was stating what was largely the perception of the Tamil people. The Tamils are not concerned about �the shock waves among the national and international community�. The national eulogies were from the Sinhalese quarter.
Jeyaraj asks why I did not do anything for the Tamils in 1988 when I was �close to Ms. Bandaranaike�, whilst I am blaming Tiruchelvam for not doing anything for the Tamils under the present regime. Jeyaraj's dishonesty is such that he is unwilling to disclose that whilst Ms. Bandaranaike did not form the Government in December 1988, Tiruchelvam's Kumaratunga did form a Govemment and is in a position to do things. Jeyaraj says that I asked Ms. Bandaranaike not to forget her �Kalu Putha�. That is not what I said and the Tamils have not forgotten that either!
As to the legal points Jeyaraj raises, he can ask the present Govemment, to bring the necessary laws on defamation immediately as they are desperately in the mood to do so, as we can see! Jeyaraj complains about the vilification campaign that contributed to Tiruchelvam's assassination. Even in his two-part article he complained of a Tamil tabloid in Colombo without naming it �which led and continued to lead the media hound pack in a vicious campaign against Tiruchelvam�. So, it is not only individuals but also Tamil tabloids and media hound packs! But why was Jeyaraj not naming this Tamil tabloid? Why is Jeyaraj talking of a Tamil tabloid in an English article?
Jeyaraj had the audacity to write that �most of this maligning is based on whole-sale distortion of truth�. When he realised all this, did he go to the defence of Tiruchelvam? If this is so, why did he not seek to bring out the truth? Why is his role negative? If he had the truth on his side, why was he not man enough to rise to the occasion? This man Jeyaraj takes high ground and states �neither my praising him nor your debasing him will affect his name in the long run�. But is all this only �empty rhetoric�, for, in the concluding passages of his two-part article, he feebly and pathetically wants to salvage Tiruchelvam's reputation among the Tamils �and suggest publishing the various Parliamentary speeches he made and the memoranda he wrote on behalf of the Tamils�.
Jeyaraj challenges me. There is a Tamil saying that �a rat which could not escape itself tried to take a broom-stick with it�! Let Jeyaraj first start by answering the various questions in my article of 15-9-1999 and my open-letter to him, then let him restart publishing his Tamil weekly �Manjari�, which are challenges in themselves.
Jeyaraj refers to a Tamil politician who had been helped by Tiruchelvam and Prof. G.L. Pieris �to obtain seats of higher education for his daughter and son in the West�.Let Jeyaraj name that Tamil politician. Or, is this also some private communication between Tiruchelvam and himself? Jeyaraj talks about �the politician who wrote to his alma mater abroad seeking university admission on the grounds that Tamils were not being admitted to varsities in Lanka�. Let him name the politician and the alma mater concerned and publish the document or letter which he is privy to or get that alma mater to do so.
Does not D.B.S. Jeyaraj realize that by his ill-conceived two-part article he has not only shown the international community but also the world how universally antagonistic the Tamils are towards his �ultimate Karmayogi and a living embodiment of the Gita's essence�?