One Hundred Tamils
of the 20th Century
Mamanithar G.G. (Kumar) Ponnambalam Jr
respectfully joins many thousands of Tamils living in many lands
and across distant seas in paying tribute to Kumar Ponnambalam, a Tamil who stood up,
unafraid, to eloquently defend the right of his people
to live in equality and in freedom.
Ponnambalam's Widow Receives
Husband's Maamanithar Award
from Tamil Eelam Leader, 11 May 2003
G.G.Ponnambalam Q.C. 1902 - 1977
Kumar Ponnambalam, was born on 12
August 1938. He entered Sri Lankan politics in the early 60's. In 1966 he became the
president of the Tamil Congress' Youth Wing. He later became General Secretary of the All
Ceylon Tamil Congress. A lawyer by profession (he was called to the Bar from Lincoln's
Inn, London in 1974), he contested in the Sri Lanka general elections in 1977 and in the
presidential elections in 1982. He was shot dead in Colombo on 5 January 2000.
Many Tamils will regard the open letter that he wrote to Sri Lanka
President Chandrika Kumaratunga a few days before he was murdered, as an enduring epitaph
to his steadfast commitment to the struggle of his people for equality and freedom. The
letter addressed to the Sri Lanka President was titled "Your speech reflects your
hatred" and read:
|"I write as a Tamil Eelavan.
But more importantly, I write as an unalloyed, unrepentant supporter of the political
philosophy of the LTTE and as one who, with that conviction, lives in the South. I write
as one who has publicly stated this position of mine not only within this island but also
without, and both verbally and in writing. I write as one whom you have recognized in your
speech. And, I write as one who refuses to be deterred by the naked threats that dot your
"I refer to your Victory Speech of 22-12-99 on your election, once
again, as President.
I write as a Tamil Eelavan. But more importantly, I write as an unalloyed,
unrepentant supporter of the political philosophy of the LTTE and as one who, with that
conviction, lives in the South. I write as one who has publicly stated this position of
mine not only within this island but also without, and both verbally and in writing. I
write as one whom you have recognized in your speech. And, I write as one who refuses to
be deterred by the naked threats that dot your speech.
Permit me to tell you that your speech reflects the hatred that you have,
only too readily, recognized in others.
Your speech is nauseatingly replete with one word - "peace". But
the tenor of your speech is anything but one that is, in any way, conciliatory or given to
You have sent a clarion call to all your "Tamil brothers and
sisters" with outstretched hands of friendship. This shows your stark insincerity if
one only recalls your speech made many moons ago, when you inaugurated the Sama Tawalama
at Anuradhapura, with the unacceptable posture that this island is Sinhala land and Buddhist country.
refer to 18 December 1999 as "the night that will go down in history as the night
this land was touched by the hand of darkness one too many times".
You indulge in this rhetoric because it happens to concern
you. Do you not realize that there are thousands of widows in Tamil Eelam to whom certain
nights have gone down, in their own lives, as nights that have
been touched by the hand of darkness which is yours, as Commander-in-Chief of your armed
You have challenged "those who doubt (your) resolve to lift the curse
of hatred and death that has fallen upon (this) land" to look you in the face now and
voice our doubts about the sincerity of the desire to
forge permanent peace. I hasten, with this letter, to say just that to you with all
the vehemence I command. I am fortified in this statement by your victory speech itself.
You want to finish the LTTE. Please do so, if you can. With that will
go, for all times, any prospect of permanent peace in this island. Your election results
shows ruthlessly that all Tamils, not only Tamil Eelavar but also the Upcountry Tamils,
not only do not want you because they do not trust you anymore, but also do not want a
political solution from you. This is an indictment on all your postulations of wanting to
forge permanent peace.
Just take your peace packages. There were
three in as many years, during the first three years after the commencement of your
tenure. For the next two years, there was not a murmur about those packages. Even those
three packages were diluted with each subsequent appearance! Surely, anyone who has a
genuine desire to bring about a political solution will not trifle with packages every
summer? One stands or falls with just one.
You say that you see very clearly "the enemy that walks so
freely" in this island, and you identify that enemy as "hatred". No, the
enemy you see are the Tamils in this island. Thank God this is reciprocated by every Tamil
worth his salt. This has also been evidenced by the election results.
boast that "the entire LTTE terrorist enterprise will fail"
against you but, in the same breath, you contradict yourself pathetically by wanting the
Tamils to bring Pirabaharan to the negotiating table. You have played ducks and drakes for
far too long about whether you want to talk to the LTTE or not. Political maturity demands
that you and your Government finally state whether you want to talk to the LTTE,
unconditionally, or not. It is only when this is known definitely will anybody move in
If talking to the LTTE at the negotiating table is your honest position,
then your outburst about "cowards of the LTTE" and "terrorist cowards"
or your urge to wipe out the LTTE, must surely be counter productive.
By all means "clear away the culture of terror and death", which
has become the way of life in this island thanks to the
Sinhalese who first showed everybody the way in June 1956. But you will realize
immediately, as everybody in this island realizes, that
you will have to start doing so at your very own doorstep in the first instance,
before you decide to go anywhere near the LTTE!
May I close by referring to your constant refrain about bringing about
peace. If you are hoping to bring about peace through any one of your packages, please
forget it. The Tamils have shown unmistakably that they are not interested in you or in
your peace packages.
In fact, if the Tamils are worth their salt, they will not want anything
dished out by you, or for that matter, by your adversary. Why should we? We Tamils were not born to depend on the
"benevolence" of the Sinhalese or on what they choose to dish out to us. A part of this island rightfully belongs to the Tamils,
in as much as the other part rightfully belongs to the Sinhalese. This must be appreciated
by the Sinhalese.
As far as the Tamils are concerned, they in turn, must appreciate that if
their aspirations hold that as a Nation they have the
right to self-determination and that that right is inalienable in that it is born with
them, then they must have the political wisdom, strength and sagacity to exercise that
right and decide their own political future themselves. They have, for far too long,
looked to peace packages, negotiating tables and anything offered or dished out by the
Sinhalese. This beggarly attitude must go. The sooner it goes, the better it is for the
The Tamil Nation has, through the Delegation of
the Tamil People, solemnly informed the world about its aspirations in August 1985 at
Thimpu. To go back on that position will be tantamount to compromising future
generations of Tamils yet unborn. The present generation does not have the right to
compromise future generations. Any signal that would give the Sinhalese the idea that the
Tamils are not serious about their aspirations, or that they are climbing down, will be an
act of treachery. The present generation does not seem to tolerate such treachery or to
take kindly to traitors.
May I end by saying that, on the basis of what I have just stated I,
personally, have got disgusted and tired of talks, third party intervention, etc. My
considered conviction is that a political solution to the Tamil Problem is in the hands of
the Tamils themselves and only in their hands and that the Sinhalese and Tamils can continue to live in
this island and in peace only if they live in two definite and distinct compartments each
minding their own business unfettered by the other. Only such an arrangement will
prove relevant that great quotation on peace you have used in your speech:
"Peace is a battle. Peace is never given freely, never acquired. Its
conquest is the result of courage and of respect for others. It demands awareness and
commitment from everyone. Peace is not the law imposed by the mighty, but that which is
founded on equality and dignity of all peoples."
Mamanithar Award - Tamilnet 7 January 2000
"Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam, the assassinated Tamil political leader, has been bestowed
with the Most Eminent Person (Mamanithan) award by the Liberation Tigers' leadership, the
organisation said in a statement from its London offices Saturday.
The LTTE said the award was for Mr. Ponnambalam's "dedicated patriotism and for
his outstanding contribution to the cause of Tamil liberation".
"Conferring this highest national award for extra-ordinary services on Mr.
Ponnambalam, the LTTE leader Mr. Pirapaharan praised him as a great patriot who
courageously championed the freedom of the Tamil nation," the LTTE said.
In a special statement issued Friday Mr. Pirapaharan categorised Mr. Ponnambalam as
"a revolutionary political leader who fought for human justice with sincere
determination and commitment," the LTTE said.
Living in the heart of the Sri Lanka capital and disregarding the dangers that threatened
his life, he challenged the evils of Sinhala chauvinism, the LTTE leader had observed.
"Mr. Ponnambalam was an outstanding patriot who deeply loved his Tamil homeland. He
supported the formation of an independent Tamil state based on the right to
self-determination of the Tamil people. He firmly believed in the armed revolutionary
struggle as the authentic political mode for the emancipation of the Tamils," the
LTTE statement quoted Mr Pirapaharan as saying.
"Therefore, he openly and courageously supported the LTTE and its political ideology.
He defended the cause of our liberation movement in the international arena. His courage,
dedication and the deep commitment with which he contributed to the cause of freedom is
highly commendable," Mr. Pirapaharan had declared. "
Award Citation in Tamil
Tribute by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
- 6 January 2000
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) wishes to express its deep shock and profound
grief over the brutal killing of Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam, a courageous Tamil leader who
fearlessly exposed the hypocrisy of the Sinhala state and audaciously championed the cause
of the Tamil nation.
We accuse the Sri Lanka government and the Tamil quisling groups of masterminding and
executing this heinous crime to silence a brave, daring voice of reason that defended the
rights of the Tamils.
Mr. Ponnambalam's sudden death is a great and irreparable loss to the Tamils, a monumental
tragedy that has befallen the Tamil nation at a critical historical time.
Faced with constant threat to his life and property, Mr. Ponnambalam lived in the heart of
the Sri Lankan capital and boldly challenged his racist adversaries. His speeches and
writings, which touched on extremely controversial issues, expressed its truthfullness,
genuiness, uprightness and indomitable spirit for justice.
He pleaded for the rights and liberties of thousands of innocent Tamils in Colombo who
were subjected to constant persecution at the hands of the tyrannical Sinhala state. He
also voiced for the Tamils rights at international forums.
Mr. Ponnambalam was the only Tamil leader who openly and fearlessly supported the armed
freedom struggle of the Liberation Tigers. He endorsed the policy of the LTTE as the
authentic political project based on the right to self-determination of the Tamil people.
By his gallant and heroic life in advancing the legitimate cause of the Tamils amidst all
dangers, Mr. Ponnambalam has earned the respect and admiration of his people as a true
Tribute by Australasian Federation of
Tamil Associations - Media Release, 6 January 2000
The Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations (AFTA) is shocked and grieved at the
cold blooded murder of Kumar Ponnambalam, a human rights lawyer, and the General Secretary
of All Ceylon Tamil Congress, a political party in Sri Lanka. He is reported to have been
murdered in cold blood in Colombo on 5th morning by a anti-Tamil group in Sri Lanka.
Mr. Ponnambalam has been a fearless critic of the Sri Lankan government and its
security forces for their blatant violations of Human Rights of the Tamil people. It is an
irony that only a 3 days ago during a three hour long television interview, the Sri Lankan
President had issued a stern warning to all her critics. This incident can not be treated
in isolation because in December 1999, the Chief Editor of the Tamil weekly
"Thinamurasu", also supportive of the Tamil struggle, was murdered under similar
circumstances. These gruesome incidents appear to expose a trend suggestive of attempts by
forces close to the government circles to silence the voices raised against the genocidal
oppression of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka.
Tamils in Sri Lanka will miss the courageous voice of Kumar, as also by the hundreds of
Tamil youth languishing in cruel detention centres across the island. As a human rights
activist he was one of the very few lawyers who were prepared to appear on their behalf on
humanitarian grounds. Kumar has relentlessly toiled to expose scores of rape cases and
thousands of disappearances of Tamils in the hands of the Sri Lankan security forces and
government backed militia.
Kumar passionately believed in the Tamils' right to their homeland based on the
principle of self-determination. Unlike the Sinhala regimes' racist hatred towards the
Tamils, Kumar always respected the Sinhala people and was committed to educating them of
the need to recognise this right to progress towards a durable political solution with
peace and justice. Unfortunately he had to pay a price with his life for his ideals. His
untimely demise is a great loss to all the peoples of Sri Lanka.
AFTA salutes this brave champion of human rights and shares with his family, friends,
well wishers and Tamils in Sri Lanka and world over, the pain and grief caused and
reiterates that only a peacefully negotiated political settlement to the conflict would
end such dastardly acts in Sri Lanka.
Tribute by Member of European Parliament Robert
Evans 6 January 2000
+44 171 490 4904 (office) or +44 385 290546 (mobile)
Labour MEP Robert Evans said today that the death of Kumar Ponnambalam was a tragic loss
for Sri Lanka and the Tamil community. Mr Ponnambalam, a Tamil lawyer, was assassinated in
Speaking in London Robert Evans MEP, said 'I considered Kumar Ponnambalam
a friend of mine. I had met him several times and visited him only a few months ago in his
house in Colombo. I am devastated that he should have died in this way.
'Mr Ponnambalam was never afraid to speak out and was always conscious of
the safety of others. His personal courage was such that he knew he would always be a
possible target but his concern was always for other people. This was especially so when I
went to his home.'
'Kumar was also a realist,' said Robert Evans. ' He knew from years of
personal experience that the freedom struggle of the Tamil people could not rely solely on
the democratic process. He was also prepared to point a finger of blame for atrocities at
the Sri Lankan military and the Sri Lankan government.'
'Above all he recognised, like me, that the only lasting solution to the
war would come from discussion and dialogue between the two parties to the conflict with
As a human rights' lawyer Kumar Ponnambalam spoke of the situation in Sri
Lanka at forums around the world. 'Only recently he was in Brussels meeting with MEPs. He
drew attention to the amazing lack of coverage of the Sri Lankan civil war in the European
and world press.'
'The contrast' commented Robert Evans, ' between the lack of coverage of
the situation in Sri Lanka and Chechnya is very stark. The war in Sri Lanka is different
but equally violent. The Sri Lankan government suppresses the coverage and Kumar was
exposing this and many other aspects of the Tamil case.'
'His loss is a devastating blow to the whole Tamil community. Our thoughts
today must surely be with his family. The best lasting tribute to Kumar Ponnambalam will
be if the struggle for peace in Sri Lanka continues in the wake of his tragic death.'
Tribute by Colombo University
Tamil Students, 9 January 2000
A poem printed and distributed at the funeral of Mr.Kumar Ponnambalam by
the Colombo University Tamil Students. Many students from the Colombo University and Law
College also participated in the funeral procession.To read the Tamil
script you will require the Mylai font which may be downloaded here
ekaZmfp< plfkAlkf kzkmf..
ec[fB va _ya..
ec[fB va.. u[f
cvkfkiriAykfKkf Pd vrcf
cigfktfti[f KAkkfKqf ;RnfT
cIbiy ciBtfAtEy.. u[f
cirtftilf krmf Avtft
ciB nrikqf yaArya?
KRdfDpf pibvikqf ndtfTmf
kqfqgf kpdmilfla u[f
evqfAq uqfqtfti[f M[f ni[fB
EvdfDtf tIrfkfk evdfkpfpdfEda ;nft
nmfp AvtfTtf tgfkqf
'dfdpfprf Pdfdgfkqalf 'gfkqi[mf
evdfFpf p<Atkfkpf pDAkyilf
tdfFkf Ekdfd tmizf mkE[
:zm]itf tiR nadfF[f tvpf p<tlfv..
ptvikfkayf `AlAkyiEl - u[f
cdfdtf tibAmAytf tmizfcf
p>mikfK `Fyilf p<Atnft u]fAmkAqpf
p<dfDpf p<dfD AvtfT nI
~mikfKmf `tirfcfci tnftayf..
ulKkfK urtfTcf eca[f[ayf..
pqfqtftilf kidnft namf
paergfKmf 'DtfTcf ec[fbayf..
prinfT Epc yaRqfqarf?
k]f]Iralf Kqipfpadfd - ;kf
kaAdtf Etctftilf 'mkfKkf
`nftpf epriy ekqrvmf
kalmf evK T\rmilfAl
k]f]IRd[f kti klgfki
Rev.Father S.J.Emmanuel, Germany
Whether I be
Christian or Kumar be Hindu,
You O Lord, are that One Unique Source and Summit of Life, Truth and Justice.
We both worship You, yesterday, today and tomorrow
And we all will come to rest in You for ever.
I thank you
Lord for the Sixty years of Life you have given to
Though it be only sixty years by length of time,
you have blessed Kumar with a breadth of life that is global.
He has stretched out his love and touched all of us Tamils
the high and the low, those living within and without Tamil Eelam,
those living today and will live hereafter in Thamil Eelam.
His life, O
Lord, has been one of Courageous Service
in witness to Your love of the Poor and the Suffering,
and in defence of Your Truth and Justice,
for the thousands who fell as victims of torture, rape and murder.
Lord, as a
Christian, I too believe what Kumar believed and practiced ,namely,
Makkazhin Sevai Mahesan Sevai
(service to people is service to God),
But Lord, courage for Truth and Justice, appears a rare commodity among us Tamils
Give me and to my fellow Tamils
that courageous dedication to serve your people
thirsting for nothing but Justice and Peace.
That length and
breadth of Kumars life, O Lord,
are they not an expression of Kumars depth of life in You ?
What a deep conviction he had to serve Truth and Justice?
For Kumar to put his wealth of learning and talents courageously and brilliantly,
in defence of the victims of injustice,
Lord, surely, you were with Kumar and Kumar was with you.
shot through and through every fibre of his being,
His words were pregnant with a Himalayan passion for Truth and Justice.
Lord, it was with that conviction and that passion,
Kumar faced the enemies and challenged the mighty and the powerful,
It was that passion to win justice for us Tamils,
that touched the hearts of all Tamils in the world.
Lord, grant us
too that conviction, passion and courage,
to stand up for what we believe to be right.
Lord, he was a
man of faith, expressing always dependence on you!
Morning after morning as the elite and the professional of Cinnamon Gardens were driven
for high office,
Kumar stood bent in worship before you O Lord,
The rest of the day, O Lord, he never bent himself, neither forward nor backwards.
Here was a Tamil with a rare Backbone for his convictions!
I thank you Lord, for the gift of this believer with that backbone,
who reminds us all, perhaps we who are proud and haughty, that we depend on You,
who reminds us all never to compromise with untruth and injustice..
Lord Jesus was
betrayed by Judas -
An ungrateful disciple enticed by thirty pieces of silver!
Hitler had his willing executioners as well as even religious leaders who connived by
Lord, enlighten our conscience and grant us courage
never to betray nor to compromise with injustice.
We may be knowingly or unknowingly by our silence betray the Cause of Truth, Justice and
Lord, give speech to our lips, and strength to our backbones, to stand up and speak up.
For fear of
facing criticism, for fear of being associated with a just rebellion,
for fear of being counted among the ordinary and the young,
many of us are still behind the walls of silence
Lord wake us up, give us courage to stand up and to speak out.
Kumar is gone!
Lord, I am tempted to ask You,
is it a curse of yours, that we Tamils have so many cowards and willing betrayers of truth
I believe not, Lord.
You, who gave us a Kumar
You who gave us that fearless leader, that Champion of Truth and that courageous Defender
of the Rights of People, Surely, you are not going to leave us orphans.
those enemies and cowards who have silenced him!
Often we are tempted to think falsely, that these enemies and cowards are all
on the other side of some divide.
Help us Lord to rid of that cowardice, for which Kumar fell a victim
Help us to close ranks with one another,
to straighten up, to stand up and to serve You and your people thirsting for Truth,
Justice and Peace!
A tall fire is
consuming the body of Kumar,
may its warmth and light spread over the entire Tamil Nation.
Lord give us a heart to love our motherland and our people.
Lord give us the light of wisdom, more than titles of wealth and learning, to embrace the
Lord grant us, even a bit of that heroic courage you gave to Kumar, to stand up for what
to speak out for Truth and Justice without counting the cost.
say, are not for the dead, but for the living.
Yes, Lord, Kumar had done his duty, perhaps more than his duty
In his Moksha Life with You, O Lord,
may Kumar live on in us,
not merely in our memory, not merely in our history,
but in the heart and mind of all Tamils in the very soul of Thamil Eelam.
Associations of Canadian Thamils Le Federation des Associations des Tamoules Canadiens, 6
January 2000 - 2121 Warden Avenue, Suite
202, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada M1T 3N9 *Tel: (416) 498-3228, & Fax: (416) 498 9179
FACT is deeply shocked, dismayed and horrified to learn about the execution style
killing of Kumar Ponnambalam on January 05, 2000. Kumar Ponnambalam was an indomitable
fighter who despite threat to his life fought hard virtually single handed in the
Lions den to quote his own words. We have no doubt in our minds that Kumar
Ponnambalam was a victim of state terrorism at its worst.
Kumar Ponnambalam was not only a politician and leading lawyer, but also a human rights
activist who championed the cause of Tamils who fell victim of state terrorism. He
appeared free and argued their cases in the courts to secure justice.
As a politician he fearlessly articulated the aspirations of the Tamil people both
inside and outside the country. He spoke in support of the political philosophy and the
armed struggle of the LTTE without any reservation. He frequently appeared before
international forums and UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva to plead for the right of
self-determination of the Tamil people. He was firmly convinced that a political solution
based on the Thimpu principles only will satisfy the political aspirations of the Tamil
people and eventually pave the way for a durable peace.
FACT had very close relationship with Kumar Ponnambalam for the last several years. He
was the chief speaker at the 6th Annual FACT Dinner in aid of Tamils'Rehabilitation
Organization (TRO ) held in 1997. He received a standing ovation at the end of his speech
from the audience including Members of Parliament from Federal as well as Ontario
Province. He was also present at the 8th Annual FACT Dinner held on May 23,1999 along with
Mrs.Dr.Y. Ponnambalam in Toronto.
In Kumar Ponnambalam we have lost a political leader, a human rights activist and above
all a tireless advocate who fought against a racist government's genocidal war against the
Tamil people. He will be sadly missed by the victims of rape, detainees languishing in
prisons and families of hundreds of missing Tamil youths.
FACT while saluting the great warrior and freedom fighter wish to expresses its
condolence to his wife Mrs.Dr.Yogaluxmy and his son and daughter. We resolve to carry on
the unfinished struggle left behind by Kumar Ponnambalam till his dreams and aspirations
of an independent Tamil Eelam becomes a reality. That probably is the greatest monument we
can erect in memory of Kumar Ponnambalam.
Mr John Ball, Sri Lanka Peace Project Policy Office,
Australian Council for Overseas Aid (ACFOA), 19 January 2000
The Australian Council for Overseas Aid (ACFOA) condemns the January 5 assassination of
Mr Kumar Ponnampalam, a respected and outspoken human rights lawyer and General Secretary
of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress.
ACFOA expresses its deep sympathy to members of his family and urges the Sri Lankan
authorities to do all possible to bring the killers to speedy justice. A previously
unknown group, the "National Front Against Tigers", has claimed responsibility.
Mr Ponnampalam was an outspoken critic of the Sri Lankan Government, including
President Kumaratunga, and a strong supporter of the cause of a separate Tamil state. He
was widely respected for his courageous assistance of Tamils so often
detained or imprisoned because of the Sri Lankan
security forces checking for Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) suspects.
He helped expose hidden crimes.For example, he highlighted the
gang-rape and murder of a Jaffna school girl, Krishanthy
Kumaraswamy, and the abduction and murder of two of her close relatives and a friend.
The conviction of soldiers for these crimes led to the
graves investigations in the Jaffna peninsula.
Mr Ponnampalam is one more high profile victim of attacks directed against politicians
of different views in Sri Lanka. Such attacks, which have continued since Mr Ponnampalam's
death, cause terrible personal suffering and create a social climate that heighten
human rights abuses. These attacks promote fear which stifles
open debate on political issues and only serve to harden political views. ACFOA pleads for
an end to such violent attacks and an entry into negotiations by all combatants to
peacefully resolve Sri Lanka's political disputes.
the silencing of Kumar Ponnambalam (courtesy Sunday Observer, 20 February
What was most depressing about the Kumar Ponnambalam's
funeral, orations was the reluctance of many speakers to call a murder a murder and to
condemn it. I saw it as a reflection of the pathetic quality of leadership of the
spokespersons for the various sections of the Tamil people. It also perhaps explained why
the Tamil people throughout the country, with the few exceptions from expected quarters,
saw his loos as their personal loss. The response to the news of his death was spontaneous
and unprecedented in scale for the Tamil people of Sri Lanka.
I did not share his political views and still believe that
his approach to certain issued was subjective. But he spoke when it mattered in situations
where people who claimed to know better chose to keep silent. Various things have been
said by various people about him since his death. Some of the malicious utterances that
come from the chauvinists and from some masquerading as advocates of human rights do not
surprise me. It is wrong to expect any other response from such forces when, without the
slightest prompting or persuasion, the Tamil masses in Sri Lanka and the Tamil Diaspora
responded with anger and deep felt sorrow to his death.
Many of the tributes to Kumar, like attacks on him, have
been for his political role during the past few years. As important as his sense of
commitment to the welfare of the Sri Lankan Tamil community, was his faith in the
democratic process and freedom of expression. Some do not like to be reminded of the role
he played during the last years of the Premadasa regime. The courage that he showed in his
last years cannot be separated from that and, unlike what certain analysts try to
construct, Kumar's political stance was not erratic or opportunistic. Its logic and
consistency have to be understood in the contest of the political developments since the
Kumar was treated badly by the TULF, the reasons for which
I will not go into here. Kumar had no doubt that the creation of the TULF was a desperate
move by the Federal Party for political survival, that Tamil Eelam was an electoral ploy
of a party that was discredited, and that, if anybody was serious about a separate Tamil
Eelam, it certainly was not the TULF. He used every opportunity to expose the TULF. He
invited the TULF leadership to contest the Presidential Election of 1982 on the Eelam
issue, knowing very well that despite the series of humiliations suffered by the TULF in
the hands of J.R. Jayawardene since 1977, it dared not act in defiance of Jayawardene. He
contested on behalf of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress and his performance was adversely
affected by the now forgotten enthusiasm of the people of the North for the SLFP
The state-orchestrated violence of 1983 changed things for
everybody in Sri Lanka, and his position on the right to self determination of the Tamil
nationality was consolidated in the wake of those ugly events. The then Sri Lankan
government was not serious about finding a just, lasting and peaceful solution to the
national question and negotiations were used as a means of avoiding rather than finding a
solution. It is in this context that Kumar had been insistent on the principles accepted
at the Thimpu talks as the basis of a solution to the national question.
Kumar was more trusting of the Indian ruling establishment
than some of us who were suspicious. But the arrival of Indian troops on Sri Lankan soil
made the issues clear to many, and his position moved closer to that of Mrs. Bandaranaike
and the Left Communists of the North on the question of Indian involvement. When the Left
Communists of the North united with other progressive forces to support Mrs. Bandaranaike
at the Presidential election of 1988, Kumar played a valuable role that endeared him to
Mrs. Bandaranaike. (The LTTE which later decided that the Tamil people should not support
any candidate at the elections was angered by the decision of the supporters of Mrs.
Bandaranaike to stick to their decision). The Left Communists extended their support to
Kumar in the parliamentary elections.
The change in Kumar's attitude towards the LTTE has to be seen in the light of the conduct of the leaders of the Tamil liberation
movements who had long abandoned their political ideal and become appendages of the Sri
Lankan government if not the Indian government. He saw the LTTE as the only genuine force
that stood for the aspirations of the Tamil people. This is something that the UNP and the
PA have, at least implicitly, admitted at some stage or the other during the past five
years, Kumar gave voice to this position, but from a Tamil nationalist point of view.
This country is divided today. I like it to be reunited
and see no way other than the recognition of the right of the Tamil nationality to self
determination to achieve that unity. Some accuse that Kumar was an enemy of the unity of
this country, but I think differently. I believe that it is the forces of chauvinism and
the national political parties which are insincere about a just and lasting solution to
the problem that lend the greatest support to the separatist cause.
Kumar's political role was limited by the fact that he
acted as an individual and more than in his father's time, the leader seemed to carry
greater political significance than the rest of the ACTC. There is a tendency for some to
diminish his importance by comparing him with his father. But Kumar's were more difficult
times. And he took far greater risks than any unarmed Tamil political so far, and achieved
more than any of his parliamentary political rivals.
Kumar, more importantly than as a politician of
exceptional courage, conviction and integrity, was a genuine voice of an oppressed
nationality, a voice that was hold and loud enough to be heard. The question before all
those who stand for social justice is whether we can allow the silencing of Kumar's voice
to become the silencing of all voices of protest and dissent.
The challenge that Kumar's assassins, I do not mean just
the gunman and his accomplice (s), have thrown at us is not new. It originated during the
last UNP regime and has not gone away. But in the present volatile political climate it is
far more grave than any like it before. To see the assassination of Kumar as a challenge
to the Tamil community is inadequate. It demands a resolute response from all the forces
of social justice in this country. How we act will decide the future of this country.
Commemoration of Kumar Ponnambalam’s 3rd Death
Anniversary in Paris
Tamil Centre for Human Rights – TCHR,
9, rue des Peupliers - 95140 Garge les Gonesse, Paris (Established in 1990)
[email protected] /
Press Release Ref : A1/PR/2003 05 January 2003
Yesterday, Saturday (4/1/03), Tamil Centre for Human Rights – TCHR, commemorated
the third death anniversary of Mr Kumar Ponnambalam at Temple Hall in Paris,
France. At the beginning of the event, a photograph of Mr Ponnambalam was
garlanded and the traditional oil lamp was lit by Ms. Deirdre McConnell –
Director International Programme of TCHR. A minute silence was then observed.
The function was presided over by Mr T. Vincent. During the event, signatures
were collected from those present, for the appeal that was then sent to Mr Ranil
Wickeramasinghe by TCHR.
The appeal requests the Prime Minister :
· To call for an immediate independent/impartial inquiry into the murder of
· To call for an explanation from the Police officers who have failed to
investigate this inquiry,
· To investigate all those whose names appeared in newspaper articles in
connection with the murder,
· To allow a Parliamentary debate which will pave the way for clarification of
doubts raised by democratically elected fellow colleagues in Parliament. The
previous government in power is believed to have been heavily involved in Kumar
Ponnambalam’s murder. TCHR understands that a Private Members’ Motion has been
filed by Mr Vinayagamoorthy MP for a debate in Parliament.
Speakers at this event were Mr. Karalapillai – Rtd Principal, Ms. Deirdre
McConnell – IDP, TCHR, Mr. S. V. Kirubaharan – General Secretary, TCHR, Mr.
Balasuntharam – Federation, Mr. Nageswaran - Eelamurasu and Mr. Sriharan –
All the speakers strongly condemned the Sri Lankan Police and the Attorney
General’s Department for not holding a proper independent investigation
regarding the brutal assassination of Mr Kumar Ponnambalam - surrounding which
there is much evidence. The speakers also mentioned how the Sri Lankan legal
system in the island is partial.
Three Years Later We Miss Kumar
Ponnambalam - V.Thangavelu, Canada, 4 January 2003
It was like yesterday, but 3 long years have vanished since assassins
cowardly pumped bullets into the body of Kumar Ponnambalam on the fateful
day 5th of January 2000 when he was driving his Mercedes along Ramakrishna
Terrace, Wellawatte, Colombo. Tragically one of the would be assassins who
had earlier lured Kumar out of his house was seated in the back of his car.
His bullet-riddled body was discovered less than an hour later still at the
wheel of his Mercedes.
The news of his assassination in such cowardly circumstances reverberated
around the globe provoking uncontrollable anger, anguish and sorrow among
Out of dozens of political murders that took place during President
Chandrika’s Kumaratunga's presidency; the most foul was arguably that of
Kumar Ponnambalam. He was the General Secretary of the All Ceylon Thamil
Congress founded by his father G.G. Ponnambalam, Q.C.
It took full two days for President Kumaratunga to convey her condolence
message to the bereaved family though she was living close by and knew Kumar
Ponnambalam quite well.
President Chandrika Kumaratunga expressed shock and grief, but she lied
through her teeth as subsequent events revealed. Ironically though the
condolence letter was delivered to Mrs. Kumar Ponnambalam’s residence on
January 07, 2000 it was actually dated May 06,1999! She was hard-put to
explain the glaring and ominous discrepancy in the date!
Kumar Ponnambalam was an eminent human rights defender to whom victims or
their relatives turned in great numbers when there is arrest, detention,
torture, rape and extra-judicial killings to secure justice. According to
the Attorney General’s Department Kumar Ponnambalam appeared in 98% of the
cases under the notorious PTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act). This Act
enacted to target Thamil militants was widely used or misused by the armed
forces to arrest, torture and murder ordinary civilians with impunity. After
arresting Thamils on flimsy grounds, the authorities kept them locked up in
jails for years on end without charges or trial. Hundreds of such political
detainees are still languishing in prisons. Confessions were extracted from
Thamil detainees under torture and almost all the suspects who were lucky to
be charged under the PTA in courts got acquitted by the presiding judges.
In the eighties Kumar Ponnambalam used to appear in cases involving Sinhala
youths who were arrested under the PTA for suspected involvement with the
As a Thamil politician he was the first to articulate the Thimpu principles
of Nation, Homeland and Self-determination not merely as basic rights but as
the “aspirations" of the Thamil People. He was also steadfast in his belief
that the mandate obtained by the TULF in 1977 “while being members of the
National State Assembly of Ceylon, will also form themselves into the
National Assembly of Thamil Eelam which will draft a constitution for the
state of Thamil Eelam and establish the independence of Thamil Eelam by
bringing that constitution into operation either by peaceful means or by
direct action or struggle" is sacrosanct and the TULF is duty bound to
In 1977 Thamil people voted to return 17 TULF Members throughout the north
and east. They voted for them primarily as their representatives to the
proposed National Assembly of Thamil Eelam, which would draft a constitution
and establish the independence of the Thamil Eelam.
Therefore, Kumar Ponnambalam came hard on those TULF members of parliament,
who ignored or wanted to set aside the 1977 mandate given by the people and
the principles articulated by all Thamil parties at Thimpu. He poured scorn
on those cooperating with the government led by President Chandrika
Kumaratunga and were ready to barter the Thamil nations right to
self-determination to earn favours while the Thamil youths were sacrificing
their dear lives for the very same rights. To him the TULF M.PP were a set
of “Quislings” and he lost no opportunity to berate them right royally in
his writings and speeches.
Kumar Ponnambalam’s open support to the cause of Thamil Eelam in the “den of
the lions” often invoked the wrath of Sinhala hardliners, but he was
unrepentant. In real life he was a pacifist who counted among his closest
friends many Sinhalese opposed to his views. It was said he was one of the
greatest admirers of the Sri Lankan cricket team.
The year 1997 was a turning point in Kumar Ponnambalam’s political career.
For over a decade he has been championing the cause of Thamils, but he never
found a popular platform to air his views. He lost every election he
In November 1997 he came to Canada on a private visit, but I decided to ask
him to address the Maveerar Vizha held by the World Thamil Movement. I was
then the Vice President of the WTM and President of FACT and that gave me a
lot of muscle to brush aside opposition from a few well meaning but
politically green friends.
On November 29, Kumar Ponnambalam addressed an overflowing North Albion
Collegiate Hall in Toronto and on the following day at Woburn Collegiate at
Scarborough. In both these commemorative meetings he spoke his heart out
without mincing words. He heaped praise on all those martyrs who sacrificed
their dear lives for the cause of Thamil Eelam. He said the best tribute the
Thamils could pay to the memory of the fallen heroes was to translate their
dreams into reality. His speech was punctuated with thunderous applause by
an appreciative audience.
On December 01, he spoke at a largely attended FACT dinner where he was the
chief guest speaker. This time he spoke in English to the benefit of Members
of both Federal and Provincial Parliament who were present on the occasion.
A Minister of the Ontario Provincial Parliament who followed him confessed
that it is difficult for him to speak after Kumar Ponnambalam's powerful
It was after his appearance at the Maveerar Vizha in Canada; Kumar
Ponnambalam began exposing the human rights violations of President
Chandrika Kumaratunga’s government with added vigour and ferocity. He used
his skills of advocacy to present the plight of the Thamils who day in and
day out were subjected to heavy aerial bombardment, artillery shelling,
severe economic embargo, arrest, detention, torture and extra-judicial
killings in international forums. In short the systematic and pervasive
violations of their civil and political rights. He addressed the European
Parliament (Brussels), the Council of Europe (Strasbourg) and the United
Nations Commission on Human Rights (Geneva). He also spoke at seminars and
conferences in Australia, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, UK and USA.
Whenever he returned to the island after his sojourn abroad there were
always rumours circulating in the pro-Sinhala press of his imminent arrest
Though 3 long years have passed the assassins of Kumar Ponnambalam have not
been arraigned before the courts. On December 23, 2001 The Sunday Leader
dropped a bombshell when it published a report dated September 7, 2000,
addressed to President Kumaratunga by Bandula 'Show' Wickramasinghe, Senior
Superintendent of Police and (then) Director of the Colombo Crime Detective
Bureau who was in charge of Kumar Ponnambalam’s murder investigation. The
Sunday Leader article was appropriately captioned “CBK's 'bloody' secrets in
the house of conspiracy.” Among other things the Police officer stated in
“ Few weeks prior to the assassination of Ponnambalam, Mahen Ratwatte had
told Moratuwa Saman and RPC Ranasinghe in Sinhalese ayi yakko sinhala
minissu marannay, puluwannam ara Kumar Ponnambalam jathi wadi wagay thadi
demelek marapanko. As per the instigations of Mahen Ratwatte, RPC Ranasinghe
master planned the assassination and got friendly with Kumar Ponnambalam,
posing as one 'Shantha.'
On January 5, 2000 'Shantha' personally went to the house of Kumar
Ponnambalam's revealed that “On January 5, 2000 'Shantha' personally went to
the house of Kumar Ponnambalam's around 8.30 in the morning and lured
him……….. As arranged, Moratuwa Saman and Sujeewa waited for the arrival of
Ponnambalam, and the both of them fired five rounds from their pistol.
Ponnambalam succumbed to his gunshot injuries. After the assassination, the
RPC immediately informed Mahen Ratwatte about the killing.
But however, he was prevented from surrendering by Mahen Ratwatte. I
contacted Mahen Ratwatte and spoke to him requesting from him to surrender
RPC Ranasinghe, but Mahen Ratwatte prevented his appearance and told me 'why
are you worried, all the top people know about the assassination.'
Besides the information provided by RPC Ranasinghe, my private informants
have brought to my notice that Ranasinghe had been harboured by Lohan
Ratwatte and Mahen Ratwatte and at present Dhammika is being kept at his
mothers home on top of a hill close to Mahiyawwa cemetery, Kandy. It is also
common knowledge amongst Kandy residents that Dhammika Perera travels along
with Lohan Ratwatte in a tinted four-wheel drive vehicle. “ (Emphasis mine)
Apparently Chandrika knew the persons who committed the murder and those who
abetted the crime at least as early as September 2000, but she kept mum and
chose to do nothing. She deliberately shielded the culprits from the long
arm of the law by sitting on the report she received from the Police Officer
for close to 4 months! Her complicity in the commitment of the crime goes
without saying. She is what in legal jargon “an accessory after the fact”
viz one who, knowing that a person (s) has been a party to the offence,
receives, comforts or assists that person for the purpose of enabling that
person to escape.
Today we miss Kumar Ponnambalam when his skills as a distinguished lawyer
and his advocacy as a human rights activist are badly in need.
Moratu Saman -
killed before spilling the beans
By: Frederica Jansz, Source: Sunday Leader - May 31, 2003
Gunned down by an unknown assailant, Moratu Saman had only
weeks before his death, confided to a leading criminal lawyer and a lawyer cum
politician that his life was in danger as a result of him having carried out
numerous assassinations on behalf of leading politicians in the People's
Sri Lanka's regular brutal killings are no longer even a
topic for debate. The killers are rarely caught while the police attribute
almost every gruesome murder to that of the 'underworld' - a vague term
referring to contract killers who remain at large - as did Moratu Saman until he
fell victim to a member, probably from his own clan.
One month ago, Gajan Ponnambalam, member of parliament and
son of the slain Kumar Ponnambalam received a telephone call from Moratu Saman.
The underworld thug did not speak directly to Ponnambalam but conveyed his wish
to meet with Ponnambalam through a third party.
The go between, an individual for whom well known criminal
lawyer Daya Perera and Ponnambalam had appeared, had telephoned Gajan
Ponnambalam around 8.30 p.m. He told Gajan that Moratu Saman was standing by his
side and wanted to come out with the whole story regarding his father Kumar
Ponnambalam's murder. The gangster had however insisted he needed legal
assistance before he could make his confession.
Gajan had asked who ordered the contract killer to
assassinate his father? Moratu Saman had replied that the orders came from "the
very high in the previous government." Ponnambalam had then asked, "Why do you
now want to come out with the story - three years after my father was killed -
what stopped you three years ago?"
Listening as the underworld killer spoke in the background,
Gajan heard him respond saying he had strong assurances from those in the PA
that he would be well looked after and guarded. He had said however that nothing
had been done and he had information that those responsible for "hit jobs" in
the previous government, were planning to get rid of him and all others who had
carried out various contract killings for fear of details being divulged. Moratu
Saman had then told Gajan "my life is now in real danger..I am certain I will
also be killed."
Ready to tell story
The third party who kept up the three way telephone
conversation had then asked Gajan to speak directly with the killer. Ponnambalam
however had refused saying, "I cannot. He killed my father. If he wants to come
clean tell him to get in touch with Daya Perera who is looking after this case
on behalf of the family."
Ponnambalam subsequently briefed President's Counsel Daya
Perera of his conversation and told him to expect a call from Moratu Saman.
Moratu Saman had thereafter telephoned Perera and spoken
directly with the renowned criminal lawyer. Identifying himself, he told Perera
that he wanted to come out with the whole story surrounding Kumar Ponnambalam's
brutal killing. He however asked Perera if the lawyer would represent him.
Perera refused saying, "I cannot appear for you - you killed
my friend." He however told the killer, "If you tell me exactly who ordered the
killing and how it was done, I am prepared to represent you in your other
Perera then asked him if Anuruddha Ratwatte or any member of
the Ratwatte family had ordered the killing. The gangster had replied the
question but not divulged the details.
Moratu Saman had then told Perera, "I will come and meet with
you and tell you the whole story." - Daya Perera agreed. The meeting however
never took place and three weeks later, on Sunday, May 18, Moratu Saman was shot
dead in Panadura as he drove home.
Three months ago, an attempt was made on Moratu Saman's life
in Malabe. His killers however missed and Moratu Saman was only injured in the
Highly placed police sources revealed that all evidence
points to Moratu Saman being a victim of another contract killer. He knew too
much and was too big a threat for various politicos who learned on the grapevine
that Moratu Saman was beginning to talk about some of his exploits.
No CID investigation
His killing has been relegated to just another murder. The
Criminal Investigations Department (CID) has received no instructions to find
Moratu Saman's killers - instead a routine police investigation into the murder
is now underway.
Previously, The Sunday Leader exposed stunning details of a
taped conversation between two policemen regarding the murder of Kumar
Ponnambalam. Police officer Sugath alias Shantha Ranasinghe, in this
conversation spoke with OIC Nuwan Wedasinghe of the former Criminal Detection
Bureau (CDB) and right hand-man to SSP Bandula Wickremasinghe, former Director
The tape implicates a Ratwatte. In it Sugath Ranasinghe, a
Reserve police officer is speaking with OIC Wedasinghe who initiated the
telephone conversation on behalf of SSP Bandula Wickremasinghe.
Before this tape came into the possession of The Sunday
Leader, Bandula Wickremasinghe in a sworn affidavit to the CID and Interior
Minister John Amaratunga alleged that Mahen Ratwatte, son of General Anuruddha
Ratwatte was involved in the murder of Kumar Ponnambalam. As a result of this
affidavit being published by this newspaper, Mahen Ratwatte's lawyer, Mahendra
Dias, on January 31, 2002 wrote to The Sunday Leader denying his client's
involvement in this case.
Sugath Ranasinghe was the number one suspect in the
assassination of Kumar Ponnambalam. In his conversation with Wedasinghe,
Ranasinghe says he was let down by the cops he trusted who promised to save him
by promoting him as a state witness in this crime.
Two days before Mahen Ratwatte got his lawyer to write on his
behalf to The Sunday Leader, Ranasinghe in a sworn affidavit attempted to remove
all blame from Mahen Ratwatte and went so far as to say that SSP Bandula
Wickremasinghe "is trying to sling mud on Mahen Ratwatte for political gain."
The fact that Mahen Ratwatte got his lawyer to write to us
professing his innocence in the murder of Kumar Ponnambalam, with an attached
copy of Sugath Ranasinghe's affidavit also proclaiming Mahen Ratwatte's non
involvement in this crime, only further implicates Mahen Ratwatte's connection
to the key suspect in this murder. The taped conversation between Ranasinghe and
Wedasinghe reached The Sunday Leader subsequently.
The investigation by the CID into the assassination of Kumar
Ponnambalam found that President Chandrika Kumaratunga deliberately suppressed
an official police report which had stated that Mahen Ratwatte, son of former
Deputy Defence Minister, Anuruddha Ratwatte was involved in master-minding the
The statements of former Director, Criminal Detection Bureau,
SSP Bandula Wickremasinghe and his Officer in Charge, Nuwan Wedasinghe were
recorded by the CID in connection with this killing. In his statement to the
sleuths, Wickremasinghe reiterated that he handed over a detailed report on
Ponnambalam's killing to Kumaratunga at her request, citing the involvement of
Mahen Ratwatte, but that the President did nothing about the facts it held.
Planned the murder
Wickremasinghe has in the signed affidavit stated that his
investigation into the murder found evidence which proved that Mahen Ratwatte
was involved in planning the crime.
OIC Nuwan Wedasinghe has also said in his statement to police
that a taped telephone conversation he had with one of the suspects, Police
Constable Sugath Ranasinghe alias Shantha revealed that Mahen Ratwatte had
indeed planned the killing.
The taped dialogue in one instance has recorded Ranasinghe
telling Wedasinghe that soon after the killing, the murderers reported to "...
Ranasinghe admits to having lured Ponnambalam out of his home
at Queens Road in Colombo 3 to Ramakrishna Road at Colombo 6, where he was shot
dead at point blank range.
Wedasinghe also told police that he is aware of the official
report compiled by SSP Bandula Wickremasinghe and handed over to Kumaratunga.
This report clearly states that a subsequent police investigation into the
murder of Ponnambalam seriously implicates Mahen Ratwatte as an accomplice.
Investigations also revealed that the son of another VIP of the previous regime
had also been in contact with the killers over this incident.
The CID later recorded a statement from Mahen Ratwatte as
well,and the file was referred to the Attorney General for advice. The AG has
now responded stating that since the removal of the criminal defamation law,
Bandula Wickremesinghe cannot be prosecuted for defaming the President.
The AG has also said that there is insufficient evidence to
institute charges for the murder against Mahen Ratwatte. The sole evidence that
is available is Sugath Ranasinghe's taped telephone conversation, which cannot
be used for prosecution as he remains an accused.
What may have turned this case around would have been Moratu
Saman's confession. This however has now been permanently laid to rest.
IGP, T. E. Anandarajah is now considering if Wickramesinghe
by providing an affidavit is guilty of committing 'departmental lapses' and
should thus face a disciplinary inquiry.