22 April, 2021

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Comrade Sivaguru Ganesan

By Kumar David

In the 1950s the GCE A-Level was thought to be a challenging hurdle and few candidates obtained A-grades in all four subjects – those seeking university entrance (there was only one university) offered three or four subjects. Those admitted in July 1959 sat A-levels in December 1958, I think only five in the whole Island secured four A-grades. One was Sivaguru Ganesan of Jaffna Hindu College who entered the prestigious Engineering Faculty of the University of Ceylon then located at Reid Avenue at the head of a 13 strong Jaffna Hindu contingent. More significant was that Ganesan was the only LSSP Full Party Member among the schoolboys admitted in 1959. Despite my longer left pedigree I was a Candidate Member who secured Full Membership only in my freshman year. Membership of the LSSP carried prestige in that bygone era. Ganesan’s early mentor in Marxism and Trotskyism was the much admired Panudevan who steered many young men from Jaffna in that direction for a period of about 30 years.

Ganesan was politically active in the university and three of us Ganesan, Wijedoru and I led the Colombo University’s left, synonymous with Samasamajist, caucus of the time. Doru and Ganesan were distracted into card game diversions in their sophomore year to the damage of their academic attainments though both were very bright and capable. Doru with his impulsive character and extrovert personality became the de facto mascot of the Class of 1963. Ganesan has been described as a unique personality unassuming and friendly, liked by all. Those were the days my friend that we thought would never end! 

Sivaguru Ganesan was deeply troubled by the plight of the Tamils from the time the ethnic conflict turned violent. Previously he was satisfied with the Parity of Status demand but it became increasingly clear to all of us young leftists that the Sri Lankan masses was unwilling to go that way. He never supported or associated with the LTTE and firmly opposed terrorism but he understood that the Tigers was putting up a last ditch fight for Tamil rights. Ganesan, another comrade Kuhan and I developed a basic document in Hong Kong in the mid-1980s that became an important feeder into the Thimpu discussions.

Sivaguru was born in Malaysia in March 1942 during a Japanese bombing raid. He was such a large baby that his mother was proud she managed the delivery unaided – she fondly called him her little elephant. His father was a businessman, what you might call a small time private banker. As a child Sivaguru loved food. He had a stammer till the age of 12 and was an active playful child. His father, keen on education did not encourage sports so he was privately educated although he won a scholarship to state school. He won prizes in primary and junior school and his A-Level maths result I have been told ranked first among all-island candidates. A family member described Ganesan as a person of infinite patience with deep compassion for all and generous to a fault. At every stage of life he carried a heavy cross bravely and showed deep concern for friends and relatives in difficulties.

After graduation he pulled himself out of the rut of academic neglect of and excelled again. He served as an Assistant Secretary in Pieter Keuneman’s Housing Ministry in the early 1970s at which time he was more attracted to the Communist Party than the LSSP. He decided to resume a full-time academic career and registered for a Master’s course in the Department of Architecture at University of Tokyo and followed it up with a PhD at the University College, London. He completely switched careers into academia and joined the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Hong Kong. At the time of his retirement he had risen to a professorship. While in Hong Kong he published a widely used and widely referenced book on building construction. 

Sivaguru Ganesan passed away in Colombo due to a cardiac condition on 6 March 2021. He will be much missed by his grieving family, his engineering faculty buddies and his loyal comrades. 

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Latest comments

  • 5
    0

    Thank you Kumar for those memories.
    Ganbesan was indeed a remarkable character in the Faculty whom I admired for his commitment although I was a keen FP supporter and he a leftist.
    *
    BTW, a few slips:
    “In the 1950s the GCE A-Level”
    In the 1950s we had the SSC and HSC, and the University Entrance Examination (which had the same papers as HSC, and could be sat together).
    “Class of 1963”– should it not be 1958 (on entering university) or 1959 (on admission to the Faculty)?

    • 0
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      SS (where did you find the J?) thanks for the correction of A-Level to HSC as it was in our ancient days.

      About “Class-XXYY”, the practice I thought was that XXYY should be the year of graduation.

      KD

      • 1
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        Dr.KD, You are right. At least in the American system, when they say ‘class of xxxx’ it usually means the year of graduation.

        But back in Sri Lanka, they may still use a different terminology, like an entrance batch, cohort, etc. , in which case the year of entrance may make more sense.

        • 0
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          Agnos, the term is ‘Batch of’.

      • 1
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        Why are you getting personal? Where I got the J is not for public information.
        Normally batches identify themselves by the year of admission and not graduation. (Also, several graduate much later).

    • 3
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      SJ

      “……………………………… whom I admired for his commitment although I was a keen FP supporter and he a leftist.”

      Is it FP or CP?
      It must be a typo.

      • 0
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        NV,
        No. SJ was an early supporter of FP. I think the late Rajamanickam of the FP from Trinco was his relative. He became a leftist later.

        • 1
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          Agnos

          Thanks
          I am told he is a Maoist for a long long time before Maoism became a cult.
          Like all Tamils is he a born anti Indian, because he thinks he is a superior person and a great thinker?

          Anyway can you tell us about Sivaguru Ganesan?

      • 0
        0

        Native Vedda,

        SJ during his younger days was a DMK supporter and MGR fanatic.

        Haven’t you heard about Metamorphosis?.

        With age, Some people mature others become senile

        • 0
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          MGR fanatic! That is news to me.
          What have you become to say such things?

        • 1
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          srikrish

          Please bear with SJ.
          He is confused between Maoism and Humanism all because he liked the weeping widow.

          Most of those who were born and bred in this island are Champaign Socialists.

    • 0
      2

      ” BTW, a few slips:

      Yes, life of a comedy like yours is only a few slips.

      ” Ganbesan was indeed a remarkable character “
      Savams, instead of your own corrector “Kan besan”, can you write about the person Prof. Kumar mentioning?
      ” I was a keen FP supporter “
      What you mean by keen supporter? You are one like goat try to bite the tender sooth on all. That’s all; then you start to spill vicious poison on all around you.
      You were never FP, That time FP cannot afford to take in cesspool dwellers in that. Now tell all of us what was wrong in Ganesan, that you try to isolate from him as you were FP and he was Communist? Come clean, instead of your usual blah blah.

      Why are you getting into this? Do you think if you forcefully insert you into this people going to be convinced all paramilitaries are graceful communists? Even after you Googled, you could not put one of your own sentence about the gentleman Prof Kumar referring. Pathetic!

  • 2
    1

    No offence to the deceased. But it is strange to see kids of hardcore leftists end up in capitalist US and Western countries.

    • 5
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      Kumar David
      Can you see where CT is heading?
      There is only one comment appreciating your tribute.

      • 0
        3

        “Can you see where CT is heading?”

        Yes, not to trap you are leading & guiding.

      • 1
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        Are you surprised ? In almost every case there is very little relevance to the main article in the host of comments. May be, that, it is a therapeutic platform for releasing steam.

    • 0
      3

      That is fine. No biggie. Now only there are some pretenses, but earlier, some of these gentlemen mistakenly thought joining the Leftists is only the way to liberate from Britain. You can see most of them are engineers, layers, Dr……. no politicians or economists. Then the rain stopped but the spray to wind continued for a decade or two. They took the path of enemy’s enemy is my friend. You can see that there is no real leftist in Tamils now, other than Professor Kumar. That is why we call him last Left left. The chapter of Leftism is closed within Tamils.

  • 0
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    Dear KD

    You helped the Thimbu discussions?? the mandate for such discussions were given by whom exactly????

    • 0
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      Dear KD

      Can you write a bot more about Thimbu and how it was born and the participants etc please.

      This will be a very useful info for all the investigations into human right abuse in SL since 1970. Do you know where they are all now??

      • 2
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        OK Rumble I will tell you what I know though I try hard to avoid responding to CT Comments because I have had my chance, and now it is the turn of Commentators.

        In the mid-1980s there was a chance that a negotiated settlement could be worked out between the SL State-Sinhalese people on one side, and the LTTE-Tamils on the other. (Rumble don’t tell me that on both sides the institutions, not necessarily the people, were arseholes, but I/we were desperate for peace).

        Hence SG, Kuhan and I drafted Five Thimpu Principles, Four of were were officially tabled at the negotiations.
        (Wikepedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thimpu_principles).

        You may consider our efforts all cock Rumble, but 35 years ago we were not as intelligent or as advanced as those like you are now. But this was our then best suggested negotiating stance.

        • 0
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          Thank you for the honest response Sir. Most appreciated and total respect for the content and intent too.

          I do not think my previous generations effort were “cock” never except think we need to work together now for a better future having learned the world in a different light…no more fronts in the well that applies to myself too.

          To be honest if it was not for my batch who joined various groups or stolen from Jaffna needed up in Indian training camps I would have joined the military too. Many of my friends needed up killing each other/teachers/cicil events/police/security officials/even parents and relatives/thuggery all came with the gun..after-all they were children who could blame them..but the FP/TULF are thugs with a different agenda not fit any society.

          Gruesome killings yet to be discusses at national and international level…and the impact this had on people in Jaffna is beyonf=d human comprehension….parents begged their neighbours children not to kill their own holding on to their feet?????? that was the bottom line..when this FP/TULF monster no where to be seen as the elected and having initiated the horrors. We shall address this soon Sir….nothing to do with Sinhala people but an internal issue in Jaffna requires “right to reply” at UNCHR level for human savagery.

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