Ilankai Tamil Sangam
Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA
Farewell to Lakshman Kadirgamar
by Sachi Sri Kantha
Many readers will consider this article in somewhat bad taste because it does not speak well of someone who has passed on. The editor is of the opinion that one must look at a life honestly and acknowledge the good and the bad. The feelings expressed in this article are definitely widely shared. -- Editor
Lakshman Kadirgamar was born in 1932. Eleven years before that Maha Kavi [Great Poet] Subramaniya Bharathi died an accidental death at the age of 39, trampled by a temple elephant in Tamil Nadu. Bharathi, during his stellar career as the conscience of Tamil pride, wrote a number of poems to praise, stimulate, instill confidence and, also, sometimes to curse his fellow ethnics.
One of Bharathi’s signature poems was ‘Nadippu Sudeshikal’ [Acting Patriots]. It is a relatively long poem, consisting of 18 triads. Though it has been popularized in Tamil music concerts and Tamil movies, not all the 18 triads have been presented in such popularizations. Since Kadirgamar’s career as a politician began in 1994, I have amply felt that Bharathi must have had personal adversaries like Kadirgamar, during his own days, to compose this poem. I provide three triads of this Bharathi poem in the Tamil original, and in my English translation. Bharathi used the word ‘KiLLi’ [which literally means parrot; but also has figurative use as an endearing term to a young female – equivalent to ‘baby’ or ‘darling’ in English] in each of the 18 triads.
Nenjil uramu-minri nermai thiranu-minri
Vanchanai solvaaradi – KiLLiye
Vaai chollil Veerar-adi.
[Without courageous heart – without talent for honesty
they spread deceit around – Baby
They are the heroes of talk]
Sontha Sahotharangal Thunpathil Saathal Kandum
Sinthai Irankaaradi – KiLLiye
[Watching their own brothers distressed by deaths
Doesn’t melt their hearts – Baby
They’ve forgotten nobility]
Maanam sirithenrenni – Vaazhvu perithenrennum
Eenarkulaham thannil – KiLLiye
Irukka Nilaimai undo.
[‘Dignity is nothing; Life is everything’
such thinking low lives in the world – Baby
Do they deserve to live?]
The triad 12 of Bharathi’s poem says it succinctly and forcefully. One could even interpret this particular triad as a curse [an aram-file- line] from the poet, who, in his life, had been harassed and humiliated by his contemporary ethnic Poo Bahs many times.
One could also wonder whether Bharathi had a premonition on the social worth of fellows who are nothing but heroes of talk. One can further wonder whether, Lakshman Kadirgamar – with all his earned medals on punditry – had bothered to read and reflect on this signature poem of Bharathi’s. This was probably a chink in his academic armor.
Now that Lakshman Kadirgamar has departed to meet his Maker on August 12th, it is apt to profile the fellow from an Eelam Tamil perspective. Starting on August 13th, Kadirgamar has been hailed as a ‘hero’, a ‘visionary’ and what not, by the partisan media hacks in Colombo and Chennai. Of course media blockheads – both Sinhalese and a segment of Tamils - have a vested interest in wailing about Kadirgamar’s demise since he provided good copy with bombastic pronouncements on all topics under the Sun [global terrorism, child soldiers, human rights, democracy, military procurements, disappearances of Tamil commoners due to army brutality, etc. etc.] which more or less presented a jaundiced view on the LTTE and their leader Pirabhakaran.
As an Eelam Tamil, here is my no nonsense profile, in alphabetical format, on the vainglorious career of Kadirgamar since 1994. I chose this convenient format to provide a counter note to the bloated elegies of partisan hacks. To substantiate the validity of my profile, I also provide published excerpts from three anti-LTTE individuals [namely Anura Bandaranaike, Rajan Hoole and Lasantha Wickrematunga] on Kadirgamar’s legacy. These observations by two Sinhalese and one Tamil, corroborate my profile. First, here is my alphabetical profile on Kadirgamar.
A – Arrogant snob
B – Born Christian and pretending Buddhist
C – Collaborator of anti-Tamil elements
D – Darling of India’s Poo-Bahs
E – Eelam hater
F – Foreign Minister and Fool
G – Globe trotter on taxpayer money
H – Human rights ignoramus
I – Intellectual Property Rights expert
J – Jaffna ancestry
K – Knave, dishonoring the Hindu holy name Kadirgamar
L – Legal luminary and liar
M – Media manipulator in Colombo and Chennai
N – Natty, narcissist politician
O – Oxford University alumnus
P – Prime minister aspirant
Q – Quotable hero of Sinhalese media’s blockheads
R – Research and Analysis Wing (aka RAW) consultant
S – Surrogate Aiyah (brother) of President Chandrika
T – Token Tamil; Toady Tamil; Tongue slinger; Tyranny’s sweet talker
U – Unelected parliamentarian
V – Villain of Tamil rights
W – World-class certified beggar for aid and armaments
X – X-before 1994 [Note: X- refers to unknown or unspecified, in mathematics lingo]
Y – Yodeller of Sinhalese democracy
Z – Zero among Eelam Tamils
Now I provide the assessments of three anti-LTTE individuals on Kadirgamar’s professional competence, in chronological order.
(1) Anura Bandaranaike’s speech during the Emergency Debate [in the Sri Lankan parliament, October 7, 1999]
[Note: When Anura made this criticism on Kadirgamar, he was aligned with the UNP] "…Lakshman Kadirgamar, being a Tamil, who should be most interested in settling this problem – because Tamils are the ones who have suffered the most, the innocent Tamils - says, ‘no mediator.’ I cannot understand this. Sir, the LTTE in response to the Hon. Lakshman Kadirgamar’s statement has categorically stated that they want a mediator and they have lashed out at Minister Kadirgamar. It was published in our local newspapers. I think it was published in ‘The Island.’ All the Tamil parties are asking for a mediator.
Mr.Ronnie de Mel says that the Hon. Foreign Minister was completely ‘hamashed’ and torn to pieces in the American and the British press. He was torn to pieces by the press.
This man is doing irreparable damage to our foreign policy. He comes in suits, looking very smart and he bungles his foreign policy left, right and center and puts everybody in jeopardy. Does he realize that there are massacres going on in Ampara and everywhere else? There are innocent Tamils who are dying in Mullaitivu. Innocent Sinhalese are being butchered and innocent Muslims are getting butchered. He is staying in the Waldorf Astoria in New York, one of the finest hotels in the world, like a Lord in his Suite, and making statements while poor Sinhalese and Tamils are getting massacred here. What kind of a Foreign Minister have we got?
….He lives under heavy security, behind huge cement bunkers at McCarthy Road, now Wijerama Mawatha. All the roads are closed and barricaded. Nobody can go anywhere near that place. But what about the security of the poor innocent Sinhalese who got murdered at Gonogala? What about the security of the poor Tamils who got bombed in Mullaitivu? Kadirgamar does not realize that. He is under heavy security, traveling around the world, living in the best hotels, drinking the finest wines and eating the finest food, while these poor people are dying like dogs on the road. He does not realize this…" [courtesy: Hot Spring, London, Oct.-Nov.1999, pp.9-11]
(2) Rajan Hoole’s thoughts in his 2001 book
"…The press on 29th October 1999 carried an official statement on Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar’s meeting with the UN Working Group on Disappearances. He contended that the forensic excavations in Chemmani, Jaffna, with international observers in attendance, had exonerated the Government of the mass disappearances in 1996. These, he said, ‘made clear that there was no mass grave as suggested by parties that have a vested interest in tarnishing the good name earned by Sri Lanka on human rights issues in recent times.’ The issue was clearly not one mass grave, but hundreds of witnessed and recorded disappearances. Furthermore, no prosecutions have resulted from the skeletons recovered and identified." [courtesy: Sri Lanka – The Arrogance of Power – Myths, Decadence & Murder, 2001, pp.436-437]
(3) Lasantha Wickrematunga’s editorial in 2005
"…One needs to remember that the focus in the form of the JVP and dissidents within the SLFP, are mustering the forces of bigotry. The oddball in the dissident camp is Lakshman Kadirgamar, who has been a vociferous opponent of the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement. Indeed, he traveled the world ridiculing it and pouring scorn on it. Now, his boss, the President, has turned tables on him, putting her not insignificant weight behind the ceasefire agreement. That leaves Kadirgamar out in the cold, looking like a right ass, an emotion to which he is no stranger.
Even as Kadirgamar’s star of political hanger-on-ship wanes, his excesses as Foreign Minister are coming under-ever increasing scrutiny. Recent uncontradicted revelations that his wife, Sugandhi, has been dipping her paws into state coffers, claiming official traveling allowances, could result one day in criminal charges against the pair for the misappropriation of state property. What is more, were he to head a future government, it is most unlikely that Ranil Wickremesinghe will repeat the error of having the state sponsor Kadirgamar to live in the style to which he has become accustomed. The duo’s snooty arrogance and conceit have left them with few friends in Sri Lanka, and with the likelihood of charges looming, many observers feel that they may be amongst the first to flee the country in the wake of a change of government." [Courtesy: editorial entitled, ‘The Gathering Storm’, Sunday Leader, Colombo, July 3, 2005.]
Kadirgamar in an animal metaphor
In 1965, Tarzie Vittachi (1921-1993) - Ceylon’s foremost Sinhalese journalist and commentator of his generation – published a book entitled, Trials of Transition in the Island in the Sun. In it, he sketched the political theater of the 1950s. Vittachi narrated a wonderful non-fiction account using animal metaphors to portray the island’s politicians, including those who had served as top incumbents. In Vittachi’s version, the political jungle of the island had old lion (D.S. Senanayake), slimy electric eel (Solomon Bandaranaike), rogue elephant (John Kotelawala), old owl (Oliver Goonetilleke), tired tortoise (Dudley Senanayake), water buffalo (C.P. de Silva), two headed snake (R.G. Senanayake), jabberwocky (Dahanayake), black panther (Philip Gunawardene), white panther (N.M. Perera), gingelly fish (G.G. Ponnambalam), red robins (Communists) and chameleons (Muslim politicians).
Strangely missing in Vittachi’s plot then, was a toad. Maybe, five decades ago, a toad of the caliber of Kadirgamar was missing in Colombo’s political theater. Otherwise, it would not have escaped the attention of Vittachi’s penetrating eyes. Thus, Kadirgamar’s singular contribution to island’s politics was to play the role of a super-toad to the chief incumbent. It is sad that among the media personalities now, none has a spine like Vittachi had then. Otherwise, at least one would have had the courage of conviction to note what role Lakshman Kadirgamar took on and performed splendidly from 1994 until the day of his death.
Posted August 16, 2005