Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C

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Home >Tamils - a Nation without a State> One Hundred Tamils of the 20th Century > M.K.Eelaventhan

One Hundred Tamils of the 20th Century


Sachi Sri Kantha on Eelaventhan - a Man with a Mission 13 December 2000
Sri Lanka's State Controlled Sunday Observer's Chauvinistic Jibe, 1 August 2004 - " 'King of Eelam' and the TNA - A diplomatic row surfaced across the Palk Straits last week. Self named 'King of Eeelam', M.K. Eelaventhen, a TNA parliamentarian travelled to Tamil Nadu with his SAARC labelled diplomatic passport which allows the holder a visa-free travel to any SAARC country. .. TNA leaders say that they did not want confrontation with India at the moment as they expect its support for the peace process. Parliamentarians of Tamil National Alliance are scheduled to visit India next month for talks with Indian leaders. What will be the position of Eelventhen or the TNA flock if he is not allowed entry when he attempts again?
Will Eelaventhen be dropped from the flock ? Will there be any compromise among TNA parliamentarians ? Will the "King of Eelam" be left in the lurch? .."
note by
tamilnation.org - The Sri Lanka state controlled Sunday Observer's comments serve to underline the hollowness of the apology that President Kumarantunga tendered last week and reflects, yet again, the deep roots of Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism. M.K.Eelaventhan will rest content in the knowledge that he has all the right enemies.
India turns back Tamil National Alliance MP, 24 July 2004 "Mr. Eelaventhan, a nominated Tamil National Alliance MP was turned back by Indian immigration authorities Saturday. Indian government officials confirmed that the TNA MP was refused entry to India at the Chennai International Airport Saturday..."[see also India & the Tamil Struggle]
Tamil Nation & the Unity of India - Nadesan Satyendra, 3 February 2001 "...Those concerned to secure the unity of India will need to adopt a more 'principle centred' approach towards struggles for self determination in the Indian region..."
Tribute to a Mentor - Sachi Sri Kantha, 12 April 2004 "It is gladdening to read in the TamilNet news of April 9th that Mr.M.K.Eelaventhan has been officially nominated by the Tamil National Alliance as one of the two national list parliamentarians, through the Thamil Arasu Katchchi (ITAK). What a turn of events for a bona fide Tamil activist who was an Eelam refugee in Tamil Nadu from 1983 until the end of 2000, when Indian Poo-Bahs deported him unceremoniously to Sri Lanka. I have not met Eelaventhan personally for the past 23 years, but he remains a mentor for me, since I saw him for the first time as a school boy in the early 1960s.
India Deports Eelaventhan to Sri Lanka, 6 December 2000
M.K.Eelaventhan on Arumuga Naavalar, 1996
M. K. Eelaventhan on M.Sivasithamparam


Nadesan Satyendra, 12 December 2000

In the early hours of the morning of Monday, 4 December 2000, at about 5 a.m. Indian Immigration and Police officials, dressed in civilian clothes, arrived at the humble home of 68 year old M.K.Eelaventhan, at Arumbakkam in Chennai, in Tamil Nadu.

They informed him that he was to be escorted to the Immigration Office at Shastri Bavan in Nungambakkam. He was taken instead to the Meenambakkam Airport.

Eelaventhan's wife was not informed that her husband was to be deported. At the airport, Eelaventhan protested, sat on the floor and refused to leave voluntarily. The Indian officials bodily carried the 68 year old and somewhat frail Eelaventhan to the Colombo bound, Air Lanka plane. Two Indian officials escorted Eelaventhan on the flight to Colombo and handed him over to the Sri Lanka Immigration Authorities. He was given fifty Sri Lankan rupees and asked 'to go home'.

The stated reason for the deportation was that Eelaventhan had overstayed his 'visa'. But, there was no court order which authorised the officials to deport Eelaventhan. Indeed, the officials conceded as much, when they adopted the subterfuge of informing Eelaventhan that he was being taken to the Immigration Office at Nungambakkam.

If the deportation was lawful, why was it that Eelaventhan was not informed of the deportation at the time that he was taken from his home? Why was no deportation order served on Eelaventhan? Why was no opportunity given to Eelaventhan to contest the legality of the 'deportation order', if there was one?

Why was no opportunity afforded to Eelaventhan to take leave of his wife and family and take his personal effects and belongings with him? Why was Eelaventhan denied his fundamental right to protest against a removal which separated him from his wife and family?

In any case, why was Eelaventhan denied an adjudication by a court of the lawfulness of a deportation to Sri Lanka - the very country from which he escaped in 1983, fearing persecution for the political views that he held.

Again, thousands of other Eelam Tamils continue to reside in Tamil Nadu without proper 'visa' documents. Why was Eelaventhan alone selected for deportation? Why was Eelaventhan denied his fundamental right to equality before the law?

New Delhi did not allege that Eelaventhan was a 'terrorist'. New Delhi did not allege that Eelaventhan belonged to an armed militant group. New Delhi did not allege that Eelaventhan belonged to a banned organisation. New Delhi did not allege that Eelaventhan was a member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. New Delhi did not allege any of this, because it was fully aware that there was not an iota of evidence to support any such allegation.

Yes, Eelaventhan was an indefatigable advocate for an independent Tamil Eelam. Yes, he supported the struggle for Tamil Eelam - but he did not agree with all the actions of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Yes, he was an unswerving supporter of the Vaddukodai Resolution of the Tamil United Liberation Front. Yes, he worked openly and with passion to secure the democratic mandate that the Tamil people had given for the establishment of an independent Tamil Eelam. Yes, he was a committed supporter of the Gandhian S.J.V.Chelvanayagam. Yes, he agreed without reservation with S.J.V. Chelvanayagam's announcement in 1975:

"...I wish to announce to my people and to the country that I consider the verdict at this election as a mandate that the Tamil Eelam nation should exercise the sovereignty already vested in the Tamil people and become free."

Eelaventhan was a political activist who spoke with eloquence, and wrote fearlessly. Tamil Eelam was very much part of his being. Unsurprisingly, in the 1977 pogrom against the Tamils, Eelaventhan's home in Nugegoda, in Colombo was targeted and destroyed by Sinhala mobs and Eelaventhan sought refuge in the Saraswathy Hall camp in Bambalapitiya. He himself narrowly escaped with his life after an attack by Sinhala workers at his place of employment, the Central Bank in Colombo.

After the genocidal attacks launched on Tamils in Eelam in 1983, Eelaventhan sought refuge in Tamil Nadu, where he continued his political campaign in support of the struggle for Tamil Eelam. He was a committed Tamil nationalist.

And, yes, it appears that recently, he also issued statements which welcomed Veerappan's stand on Tamil nationalism.

There are those who would dismiss Veerappan as a smuggler and a 'brigand'. Kuttimuni and Thangathurai were also reviled as smugglers. Often it is in the adventurous and in the outlaw, that the spirit of resistance to alien rule first begins to manifest. Today, some Tamil Nadu politicians may be content to play the same role that Appapillai Amirthalingam played in Sri Lanka in the period subsequent to 1977 - engaging in the rhetoric of Tamil nationalism on public platforms and buying space for their Parliamentary activity by being quick to condemn, out of hand, all extra parliamentary actions. It is not necessary to agree with everything that Veerappan may have done to recognise the force of the comment of the Karnataka writer Guna on 'What Caused Veerappan":

"The social environment that drove Veerappan into the forests as a sandalwood smuggler or poacher had lit in him the fiery fire of Tamil nationalism, as he had witnessed the (Karnataka) State sponsored anti -Tamil violence for ethnic cleansing. So, Veerappan has don a new role..."

It is against this backdrop that the true reason for Eelaventhan's deportation emerges. The true reason was not that Eelaventhan had overstayed his residence 'visa' (which had, in any case, expired more than two years ago). Not to put too fine a point on the matter, the stated 'overstay' reason was simply a convenient cover up for a politically motivated act by the executive branch of the Indian government.

The timing of the removal, the selection of Eelaventhan from thousands of other similar Tamil asylum seekers, the way the removal was carried out, and the subterfuge that was adopted, prove that the deportation, was directed to stifle the growth of Tamil nationalism - and to send appropriate signals to others who may be inclined to follow the path that Eelaventhan had had the courage and conviction to tread.

But, here, New Delhi is wrong. Not because Tamil nationalism has not taken root in the Indian sub continent. It has. But because patently unjust and inhumane actions, which separate a man from his wife and his loved ones, which punish a man for no lawful cause, which deny a man his freedom of speech, which deny him equality before the law, which deny him judicial review of arbitrary executive action, and which make a mockery of the rule of law, will not stifle but will fertilise the growing togetherness of a people. New Delhi may want to pay more than passing attention to the words of Leonard W.Doob in 1964:

".. if people feel that someone with whom they identify themselves has been killed, tortured, or otherwise deprived of some value, their indignation is likely to be great and perhaps long enduring...the emergence of a martyr... facilitates patriotism and nationalism... " (Leonard W.Doob: Patriotism and Nationalism, Yale University Press, 1964 - see also - What is a nation?)

Additionally, New Delhi may want to revisit the words of the Bengali writer, Pramatha Chaudhuri in 1920:

"...It is not a bad thing to try and weld many into one but to jumble them all up is dangerous, because the only way we can do that is by force...To be united due to outside pressure and to unite through mutual regard are not the same.."

Unity will not come by attempting to suppress the growth of the separate national identities of the peoples of the Indian subcontinent. The unity of India will not be secured by actions such as those taken, in relation to Eelaventhan.

At the direction of the Indian authorities, Eelaventhan was unlawfully and agonisingly separated from his wife and family, denied recourse to the Courts and arbitrarily handed over to the tender mercies of Sri Lanka - a Sri Lanka which is notorious for its human rights record, where torture of Tamil detainees is 'widespread and standard procedure' and where murder of Tamil prisoners in custody is a recurrent phenomenon.

And here, it has to be said that the efforts of some Tamil Nadu political leaders to persuade New Delhi to obtain assurances from Sri Lanka for the safety of Eelaventhan, will be seen by many Tamils as attempts to secure that the fox will look after the chicken in the chicken pen - with care and affection. These Tamil Nadu political leaders (who are anxious to retain their 'influence' with New Delhi) cannot be unaware of the fate that befell Kumar Ponnambalam in January 2000. The price that Eelaventhan will be called upon to pay for his safety, will be to maintain a discreet silence on the Tamil national question - and that, after all, was what the deportation was about, and presumably both New Delhi and Colombo will be satisfied if that particular end result is achieved.

The truth is that New Delhi and Colombo have connived in the violation of the rule of law, so that each may advance its perceived short term political ends.

The truth is that Eelaventhan had sought asylum in Tamil Nadu. He had committed no crime - and that was why no charge was laid against him in a court of law. He was punished by an executive fiat. He was punished because he was a Tamil and because he voiced the pain, the anguish and the aspirations of his people. It is a privilege to include M.K.Eelaventhan as one of the Hundred Tamils of the 20th Century.

Sachi Sri Kantha on Eelaventhan - a Man with a Mission 13 December 2000

"When it comes to painting the peculiarities of the minds of Indian Poo-Bahs, none can do better than R.K.Narayan. In one of his essays entitled, 'When India was a Colony', written to the New York Times magazine, Narayan reminisced as follows:

"I had a close relative in the I.C.S.[Indian Civil Service] who could not be seen or spoken to even by members of his family living under the same roof, except by appointment.....

The I.C.S. manual was his Bible that warned him against being twoo familiar with anyone. He was advised how many mangoes he could accept out of a basket that a favor-seeker proffered; how far away he should hold himself when a garland was brought to be slipped over his neck. It was a matter of propriety for an average visitor to leave his vehicle at the gate and walk down the drive; only men of certain status could come in their cars and alight at the portico.... it dehumanized the man, especially during the national struggle for independence. These men proved ruthless in dealing with agitators, and may well be said to have out-Heroded Herod. Under such circumstances, they were viewed as a monstrous creation of the British. An elder statesman once defined the I.C.S. as being neither Indian nor civil nor service....

The British managed to create a solid core of Anglophiles who were so brainwashed that they would harangue and argue that India would be in chaos if the British left, and called Mahatma Gandhi a demagogue and mischief maker, and would congratulate Churchill on his calling Mahatma Gandhi 'half-naked fakir'...." (A Writer's Nightmare - Selected Essays 1958-1988, Penguin Books, 1988, p.222-232)

Well, Gandhi and Churchill have passed into eternity. But the I.C.S. mentality portrayed by Narayan still lingers on in the successors who followed the steps of Narayan's I.C.S. relative. This is how I reconciled myself to the recent news of M.K.Eelaventhan's deportation from India.

Eelaventhan became a recognizable personality for me around 1963, when I was a 10-year old kid at the Colombo Hindu College. Since then, until mid 1970s, he was a familiar face for me and to other Tamil school children and university undergrads in Colombo, since he frequently delivered lectures and actively participated in the Saraswathi Poosai celebrations and annual art and dance programs held in school premises and in public halls like Saraswathi Hall, Saiva Mangaiyar Kazhagam Hall, Ramakrishna Hall, Vivekananda Hall and New Kathiresan Hall.

What impressed me most about him was his dimunitive physical stature, penetrating and enthusiastic eyes, infective smile and quick strides. He was always a man in a hurry, like Mahatma Gandhi. Even in the 1960s, long before the Eelam campaign began in earnest, he became an active one-man propagandist for Eelam - by adopting the name 'Eelaventhan', by which he became well known.

Like a sponge, by watching his activities, I also imbibed his passion for Tamil culture and his bi-lingual (Tamil and English) talent in expressing his views to an audience - even to those who disagreed with him stridently. He could quote extemporaneously verses from Saint Manickavasagar and speeches from Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Muhamad Ali Jinnah, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, S.J.V.Chelvanayakam and S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike to buttress his point.

A couple of his oft-quoted proverbs still ring in my ear. He used to say, 'Aar kutthianaalum arisiyaanaal sari' [Whoever mills, what we need is the rice], and 'Engallukku Silusiluppu Vendaam, Palahaaram thaan thevai'[What we need is the sweets and not the rattling noise].

In the mid 1970s (between 1975 and 1979), I was in close orbit with Eelaventhan in Colombo. While serving as the President of the Colombo branch of TULF, Eelaventhan canvassed actively among the Tamils and non-Tamils for the cause of Eelam liberation.

I was one of the nearly 30-odd regulars to the weekly discussion sessions he organized and conducted at a location near Bambalapitiya (Colombo 4) junction. He held court at the front porch of a house belonging to the businessman S.Thirunavukarasu (who became the M.P. for Vaddukoddai in 1977). For his weekly sessions, Eelaventhan invited a number of public figures regularly to exchange information and convey the ideas of Tamil youth. Some of these personalities whom I listened to in these meetings include, the noted journalist Mervyn de Silva (editor of Lanka Guardian), Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam and Muslim leader M. Ashraff (who was then a neophyte to the Sri Lankan politics).

Because of his propaganda activities related to Eelam campaign, Eelaventhan became a marked person in Colombo, and suffered during the 1977 ethnic riots. He was physically assaulted and his valuable collection of Tamiliana literature kept in Nugegoda was destroyed by the Sinhala thugs. It pained us (those lucky ones who narrowly escaped from such savagery) much to see Eelaventhan suffering like Gandhi at the hands of arrogant, unruly elements. But, the Gandhian 'never-give-up' spirit in him gave Eelaventhan the strength to continue his mission.

In August 1978, an year after the 1977 ethnic riots, when I organized a cultural event to celebrate the release of my first Tamil book, Thamil Isai Theepam (a text book on theory of Carnatic Music, which subsequently received the Sri Lanka Sahitya Award for research literature in Tamil for 1977) at the New Kathiresan Hall, Colombo, I honored Eelaventhan by inviting him to preside that function, which he graciously accepted. Memories of those days are still fresh in my mind. The last I met Eelaventhan personally was in January 1981, at the 5th International Tamil Research Conference held in Madurai. It will be twenty years next month. I have grown now and I have no doubt that Eelaventhan's words of nurture played a significant role in my intellectual growth and I'll ever be thankful for his mentoring.

I'm sure that, being a honest Gandhian, Eelaventhan possesses the courage and conviction to overcome the current intimidation and insult perpetrated on him by the Indian Poo-Bahs. I pray for his health and safety. His worthy mission deserves due recognition. Thus, for his role as an unconventional teacher (and mentor) to hundreds of young Tamils in Eelam and Tamil Nadu for the past 40 years, I nominate Eelavanthan's name for inclusion in the list of 100 Tamils of the 20th century.

M. K. Eelaventhan on M.Sivasithamparam

Last five months as TNA leader was Lion of Udupiddy's finest hour

[Source: Northeastern Monthly - October 2005]

The passing away of Murugesu Sivasithamparam, former president, Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), took away a leading personality of the Tamil community. He was born on 20 July 1923 at Karaveddy, Jaffna into an elite family. He had his early education at Vigneswara College, Karaveddy, which was an important influence in shaping his career. He then joined Colombo's St. Joseph's College, and later passed out as an advocate from the Law College, Colombo.

In keeping with the youthful tendency to revolt and defy authority, he started his political career as a communist. He later came under the influence of G. G. Ponnambalam - one time hero of the Tamils and world-renowned criminal lawyer. Sivasithamparam became a member of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) and was elected as an MP for Udupiddy. His personality and his commanding voice earned him the name, Lion of Udupiddy.

This was the time (1960s) when he was made deputy speaker of parliament. He earned the respect and goodwill of both the government and opposition by maintaining strict impartiality and by the dignified way he conducted the affairs of the House.

In the early 1970s, ethnic politics in this country took a turn for the worse. The Tamils felt that the Sinhala leadership would never grant them any meaningful concessions and that the political deception of their leaders had become a permanent feature. They concluded that unless and until the Tamils buried their petty differences and raised their voices in unison there would be no future for the community. This compelling factor, made the Tamil Arasu Kadchi, the ACTC and Ceylon Workers Congress to come together and the Tamil United Front was formed.

He was actively involved in this unity move and later became member of the TULF. He contested in the 1977 general elections from the Nallur electorate and won with an overwhelming majority. The TULF brought in the famous Vaddukoddai Resolution in 1976 (often compared to Mohammad Ali Jinnah's Lahore Resolution of 1942), where it stated that the Tamils were a nation and had the right to chart their political future based on the right of self-determination and declared the state of Eelam as the ultimate goal. The famous trial-at-bar where eminent legal luminaries like S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, Ponnambalam and M. Tiruchelvam played important parts by focusing on the plight of the Tamils followed this. Here too Sivasithamparam played a prominent role.

The ethnic riots of 1977 were a turning point in the history of the Eelam Tamils. It was in that year J. R. Jeyewardene, in typical form, asserted in parliament arrogantly, "If you want war we are for war, if you want peace we are for peace - this is what my people say." It was virtually a declaration of war on the Tamils. The violence orchestrated by the powers that be in 1977 was exacerbated as a result of this speech and the island witnessed the worst form of racial riots in its history. During these riots thousands of innocent lives were lost, property worth millions destroyed and the entire economy shattered. The homes of the present writer at Nugegoda, and that of Sivasithamparam's at No. 100 Norris Canal Road, Maradhana, were razed to the ground. Sivasithamparam never cared to rebuild that house. "I too must share the sufferings of my people," is what he said. This statement of his speaks volumes of his total identification with the Tamil masses.

In 1983 Jayewardene also brought in the sixth amendment to the constitution preventing the TULF from campaigning for Eelam by designating advocacy for a separate state an act of treason. This resulted in the TULF leadership not being able to participate in the workings of parliament and the party leadership, including Sivasithamparam, taking refuge in India. Exile however helped to ventilate Tamil grievances to the outside world.

Sivasithamparam was a highly respected personality. Even his Sinhala friends were in full appreciation of his contribution in parliament. Ajith Samaranayake, the well-known, senior journalist, and a keen observer of political events in Sri Lanka had this to say on Sivasithamparam. "Siva really came into his own in the 1977 parliament when the TULF led a depleted opposition. He was the able second in command to the leader of the opposition A. Amirthalingam. With his towering six-foot appearance, his barrel chest and parade commander's voice he was perhaps that parliament's most formidable speaker. He did not go in for flowery oratory and his diction was simple but as a criminal lawyer of long experience he had the forensic skill of going directly to the heart of an argument and destroying it. The speech he made debunking the claims made by the then Industries Minister and arch TULF-baiter Cyril Mathew that Tamil examiners were favoring Tamil AL students, will remain for a long time as a model of parliamentary oratory."

If Amirthalingam had a fiery tongue and a short temper (although this never lasted long and he was most handsome in his apologies) Sivasithamparam never lost his cool. He was always calm and his most formidable weapon was irrefutable logic. But this did not mean he lacked indignation or feeling for the cause of his people. When driven to indignation he was an antagonist to be feared and such an instance occurred when the security forces, in one of their many (and retrospectively futile operations, which did so much to rouse Tamil resentment), arbitrarily shot dead a young man sleeping on the verandah of his office (Sunday Observer 9 June 2002).

Pages could be written on how close I was to Sivasithamparam. The 1961 satyagraha, witnessed widespread protests in the Tamil areas. The late-lamented Dr. E. M. V. Naganathan and Sivasithamparam were leading the satyagrahies opposite the Jaffna kachcheri (the present Jaffna Secretariat) when a deadly baton charge on Naganathan resulted in a bloody injury to his head. The armed soldiers beat Sivasithamparam who was at the scene giving protection to the satyagrahies, especially the women, on his shoulders and arms. The injury he sustained had an effect on his health till his death.

Because of the emergency during this period (1961), we could not ventilate our political grievances openly. We had meetings in temples and addressed the devotees quoting passages from the devotional hymns of Tamil saints and sages. We excelled in quoting apt phrases from Thirunavukarasar and Manicavasakar, one of which rendered in the English, would read, "We shall not fear death and we refuse to be subjugated by any power on earth." I vividly recollect the reaction of the audience to our emotional appeal, and how Sivasithamparam was moved by the gesture of the devotees assembled there. We covered many temples on the same mission but the event at Bambalapitiya Pilliyar temple, Colombo, played an important part in our political activities and strengthened our spiritual roots.

In addition to the above we were fully involved in political activities, including addressing mass meetings and attending seminars in the 60s and 70s. But unfortunately for us the TULF, after winning the 1977 election with a massive mandate on the Eelam issue, it succumbed to the pressure of Jayewardene and accepted proposals for district councils in 1981. This led to a debate between the younger and more senior elements in the Tamil political leadership as to how we should approach our future programme based on the mandate given by the people.

The year 1979 was a crucial for me when I faced interdiction from the Central Bank for addressing a Hindu conference at Allahabad, India, without obtaining prior permission from the Bank. This interdiction was followed by my arrest under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), by the CID opposite the Bank. I was taken to Jaffna and kept incarcerated at the army camp in the Dutch fort for three months incommunicado. It was at this critical juncture that Sivasithamparam came to my rescue by appearing for me at the trial. As a legal luminary he presented my case in such a convincing manner that the judge gave a verdict of acquittal. In that hour of dire need, he came to my rescue. If he had not appeared for me, the case would have dragged on for months and years: hence my eternal debt to him.

Events moved fast and the TULF justified its acceptance of the district council proposals as an interim arrangement. But we, the hardened lot in the TULF - especially Kovai Mahesan former editor, Suthanthiran, and Dr. S A Tharmalingam parted company from the TULF and formed the Tamil Eelam Liberation Front (TELF). Though we had moved in opposite directions, we maintained personal cordiality. I respected Sivasithamparam's age, seniority and political experience, and he in turn, respected and appreciated my deep conviction and my unfaltering stand on fundamentals.

Tamil expatriates felt that I was an ideal choice for propagation and lobbying the Tamil cause and I was sent to India on this mission. Sivasithamparam and Amirthalingam also took refuge in Tamil Nadu and went about their mission of making India understand the plight of the Eelam Tamils. We (the extremists) and they (the moderates) often agreed on some issues and violently clashed on others. Here too, though our differences were visible and audible, we maintained the decorum that was expected of us.

Sivasithamparam and Amirthalingam believed in reconciliation with the Sinhala leadership to extract what concessions they could. But Tharmalingam, Mahesan and I were clear that a compromise formula or conciliatory attitudes would not in any way help us achieve our goal. Even at the international Eelam conferences held in the United States in 1984, we expressed opinions that were diametrically opposed to one another.

A few years went by and Sivasithamparam and Amirthalingam came back to Sri Lanka to try and undo the damage that was done to the Tamils. They failed miserably. But while they were able to return to Sri Lanka and work here, political compulsions stood in the way of my coming back to Sri Lanka, which confined my activities mainly to Tamil Nadu and India. Whenever Sivasithamparam visited Tamil Nadu we shared our opinions on many issues. When he was critically ill I often made courtesy calls to inquire about his health and he was full of appreciation of my gesture.

A turning point in my career occurred in 5 December 2000 when the Indian government thought it fit to deport me to Sri Lanka in a most unexpected way and by indulging in a diabolical lie. The government said I was being packed off to because I had overstayed my visa. In reality however, my wife, children and I were registered as refugees in Tamil Nadu and were officially issued a refugee card.

The political climate in Sri Lanka underwent dramatic changes. The LTTE attacks on Elephant Pass and the Katunayake airport shattered the PA government. President Chandrika Kumaratunga's party was reduced to a minority and she dissolved parliament. The Sinhalese and Tamils as a whole felt that such a volatile situation was unsustainable. Something had to be done to bring political stability and build up the economy of the country which was facing ruination. Elections of 5 December 2001 resulted in the UNP and its allies headed by Ranil Wickremesinghe returning into power.

The Tamils in turn, had returned the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) by an overwhelming majority, displaying thereby their unity and acting as one people under the leadership of the LTTE. The TNA needed a senior, sober leader to head the party. Sivasithamparam arrived on the 5 January 2002 to take up the leadership. He died on 5 June, after completing exactly five months in his new parliamentary role.

Though he served 50 years in politics, the last five months of his career became a memorable period for me. My intention is not to belittle or decry the earlier, 50-year period of his political life and its ups and downs. But the last five months of his career have made him an inseparable part of history.

During this short period our friendship was renewed and we had intimate conversations on crucial issues. His foreword to my pamphlet on Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan is a lasting testimony for the cause he represented and the love and attachment he had for me in recognition of my services to the Tamil people. In his foreword he says "There is not a Tamil who does not know or at least heard of Eelaventhan. He has gone to every nook and corner of Tamil Nadu and championed the cause of Tamil freedom. He is an unfaltering devotee of Tamil freedom. He has been a loyal and devoted follower of Thanthai Chelvanayakam. At times he might have appeared to be critical of Thanthai. But he was never wanting in loyalty and devotion to Thanthai Chelva."

Sivasithamparam's open declaration that Prabhakaran was the accredited leader and the LTTE the sole representative of the Tamils, both inside and outside the parliament, was a shock to his political opponents, but was cherished by all the Tamils. Rising above party differences Sivasithamparam was recognised as a humble servant for the cause of Tamil Eelam. It is said that humility is the essence of greatness, and Sivasithamparam was, in all respects, an embodiment of that virtue. His funeral was one of the biggest in recent history.

The Tigers who were onetime his deadliest opponents became his dearest admirers and the moving tributes paid by the LTTE has become part of history. His removal from the political scene was a deeply moving moment but he can have the consolation that when he died the entire Tamil nation wept. In his death he has become a hero and history remembers him with gratitude.

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