23 September, 2018

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Kumar Ponnambalam: The Murky Politics Of Heroes & Traitors

By Rajan Hoole

Dr. Rajan Hoole

Dr. Rajan Hoole

Tamils & The Political Culture Of Auto-Genocide – III

A separate tragedy was that of Kumar Ponnambalam’s, who was murdered six months after Neelan on 5th January 2000.

Kumar will be remembered for being one of Neelan’s harshest critics in his latter days, for vocally supporting the LTTE’s positions and even appearing on foreign platforms of the LTTE. However, on looking back, his career marks an enigma that is characteristic of these tragic times. What would surprise many is that in the early 1990s he was perhaps the boldest and strongest critic of the LTTE.

Speaking at a Rotary Club forum in Hotel Taj Samudra on 30th April 1991 (Sunday Times), he suggested that one reason why the Premadasa Government chose to speak to the LTTE was because, “[It] was one group capable of mass human destruction, which is all that it can do…[and] Everybody is frightened of the local thug.” He added:

Kumar Ponnambalam

Kumar Ponnambalam

“An LTTE top brass told me on 1st December 1988 that there is no point in anybody talking to the LTTE about elections: ‘How can you talk about elections with a warrior?’ he asked me. Consistent with this stand, the LTTE passed death sentences on all those who collaborated in the 1989 elections…

“I, for one, am very clear about what obtains in the North and East. There is no democracy there. Either one toes the LTTE line or you perish. You dare not open your mouths against the LTTE. There will be no elections hereafter. Mark my words. It’s the gun that rules. The brains and the tongue have been silenced for ever.”

He further said about a year later (Sunday Times 29.3.92):

“I disagree with Mr. Thondaman’s proposition that there was no way the LTTE could be isolated from the Tamil people…. There is a limit to everything, it is the abject fear on the part of the Tamils, specially those in the peninsula, to open their mouths, that is preventing Mr. Thondaman from getting the proper signals. I am amused at the claim of the LTTE that it is the sole representative of the Tamil people at the moment….. The TULF used to claim the same thing with arrogance. It did not last long… Today it is the LTTE’s turn. It cannot last long… a time might come when today’s ‘outcasts’ in the eyes of the LTTE, would refuse to sit with the LTTE at the same table.”

At this time (1990-95) the LTTE controlled Jaffna. An LTTE man calling himself Kakka wrote in the Jaffna paper Eelanatham that during the campaign for the 1981 June DDC elections, he and Seelan (Charles Anthony) had been sent to the Tamil Congress party office in Jaffna to talk to Kumar Ponnambalam. Their orders were to ask him to withdraw from the elections, and if he showed any hesitation, to shoot him on the spot. He offered to withdraw if given a letter and his life was spared. The TULF won the election. Evidently, the LTTE did not take Kumar seriously except as a marginal nuisance. Some of his anger against the TULF was no doubt legitimate.

However by August 1994 Kumar Ponnambalam was airing a stridently pro-LTTE position. This may have been a reaction to his anger against the other Tamil parties, especially the TULF, Neelan’s party, whom he felt were slighting him after stealing a march on him by unfair means. He had fallen out with the SLFP following its rejection of the common DPA manifesto before the 1989 General Elections. He was also unhappy with Premadasa’s UNP to which his leading ACTC colleague Motilal Nehru had crossed over. He was facing isolation and taking a pro-LTTE line was partly a ploy which he hoped would win him Tamil votes in Colombo. Personally, he was a courteous man who was also a loyal friend. It is however unlikely that he had any illusions about the LTTE.

In Kumar’s talk on 30.4.91 above, he also said: “Is it a status symbol that one supports the LTTE? I know many Tamils who go out of their way to show they support the LTTE. This is the manifestation of a deep-rooted inferiority complex! Why, I even know of a UNP candidate of the City who told my sibling that the LTTE is supporting him!” Kumar in time followed the precedent of the UNP mayoral candidate. How did he plunge into this murky course that he was so clear about?

The dubious Police investigation into Kumar’s murder has tended to compromise the Government (see Sect. 21.1.6). The LTTE leader’s response to the murder too had surprised people. For a man he could not have taken seriously, the LTTE leader was quick to grant Kumar the title of Maa Manithan – a ‘Truly Great Man’. It was the same or similar kind of honour bestowed on the late Prof. A. Thurairajah, and Prof. C.J. Eliezer of Australia!

*To be continued..

*From Rajan Hoole‘s “Sri Lanka: Arrogance of Power – Myth, Decadence and Murder”. Thanks to Rajan for giving us permission to republish. To read earlier parts click here

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Latest comments

  • 3
    5

    I am amused at the claim of the LTTE that it is the sole representative of the Tamil people. The TULF used to claim the same thing with arrogance. It did not last long… Today it is the LTTE’s turn.

    Well, TNA prevented EPDP from getting a cabinet position in the current Parliament.

    It looks like nothing has changed.

  • 4
    1

    If not for antics of the EPDP and those MR favoured to represent the SLFP- UPFA in the north and east, MR would have been viewed in a better light in these provinces.

    The voting pattern in the north at the recently held elections show how the people view these parties.

    Dr. RN

    • 2
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      Hello Dr. RN,

      I think both you and I know why EPDP, KP, Karuna and Pallian are “hated” as you have said.

      They are all classed as “collaborators” who work with the Sinhala people isn’t it?

      So essentially your position is the same as the TNA. I cannot imagine how one can succeed in Ceylon without collaborating with the Sinhala people. Although here you are endorsing it isn’t it?

      If TNA does not want to collaborate then, that is fine. It also provokes people against EPDP et al whipping up racism calling them “Traitor” etc – isn’t it?

      In other cultures things of this nature is called racism.

      • 2
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        The only Sinhalese that the Tamils abhor and would not touch with a barge pole or collaborate with are MR and Sinhalese of your ilk and type with whom the EPDP,Kp, Karuna, Pillaiyan, Dayamaster,and his den.of thieves are comfortably cuddled up.
        TheTamils and the TNA will collaborate and relate with all other Sinhalese that is the difference.
        So is that a problem for you? What is racist in that?

        • 1
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          Listen new fella on the scene,

          Ask your buddy Dr. RN there – he will confirm the following.

          The “non-collaboration” doctrine is in the founding memorandum of ITAK. They copied theirs from MDK of Tamil Nadu formed the same year. “non-collaboration” is with the entire Sinhala culture here in Ceylon just as MDK “non-collaborates” with the Hindus.

          So that is how racism entered your DNA and destroyed you.

          • 0
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            Hey Racist low life Vibushana, what happened to you? Did your wife runaway with your Tamil paper boy?

  • 4
    2

    Sadly he was also a dynamic lawyer and defended people regardless of their race or religion. He was a rich upperclass aristocrat with a well known weakness. I feel that weakness may have been exploited by his assassins. His legendary Benz 180 with tinted glasses and his other Mercedes Benzes were very famous in Colombo at certain stress relief joints at Thunmulla and other places. But he was a good man and did not deserve to die even if he was an LTTE terrorist supporter and became very hateful of Sinhalese while living in Colombo in the elite areas. But he was very fair before that. He was a gentleman with conflicting views in his head I think. His problem was his weakness of the amorous kind. We should all unreservedly condemn his murder as well as Tamil Tiger terrorist murders of Neelan. Amirthalingam and many others. Who killed GG Junior may never be known; that is sad. WE all know Tamil Tiger facists killed Neelan.

    • 1
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      “Who killed GG Junior may never be known.”

      Nonsense. There were media reports,[Edited out]

      • 0
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        @Agnos, [Edited out]

  • 2
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    Every other Tamil,according to this chap Rajan HOOLE,is LTTE.
    Exceptions are Lakshman Kadirgamer and himself.But,with his specialised knowledge,he has still to inform us who killed Kadirgamer.
    In the immediate aftermath of the 1983 riots Hoole,Rajani,Nirmala,etc etc were very much supportive of the armed struggle of the umpteen number of the militant groups. Now they appear to break bread with Douglas!

  • 3
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    Tamil politics have become filthy, shabby, dirty. divisive for power and what not, since the passing away of Mr.Chelvanayagam until now. The Tamil common man do not know what lies ahead or their future.

  • 0
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    According to dictionary Traitor is
    “a person who betrays someone or something, such as a friend, cause, or principle”
    Then the question arises why somebody does that. Generally the answer is to get privileges and wealth.
    One may argue he is betraying a cause for a principle of his own or he does not like the leadership of the cause. But if this act brings damage to the cause which majority believes in as well as just then the argument fails.

  • 1
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    The Federal Party had always blocked Kumar.A hangover from the earlier FP-Tamil Congress dispute.Even though SJV Q.C and GGP Q.C came together in the latter days-Post-1972,sections of the F.P.refused to grant him the ticket to contest under TULF in Jaffna.For Kumar this was a turning point.
    Rajan Hoole is quite right when Kumar was a courteous man who also was a loyal friend.
    Lasantha Wicramatunga founder of the Sunday Leader had mentioned the numerous ways Kumar had helped in the Legal aspects of the launch of the newspaper without charging a cent.
    True,Kumars career is an Enigma of those tragic times.
    Perhaps,Kumar and Lasantha threw caution to the winds.After all Discretion is the better part of Valour.

  • 0
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    Kumar Ponnambalam, as I knew him, became a supporter of LTTE after LTTE attacked his house in Colombo by throwing grenade. He may have felt that the LTTE will not allow him to survive if he continue to criticize them. It is immediately after this incident that be made an about tern regarding his attitude on LTTE.

    As I am aware, that he never wanted to go abroad for good and he want to live in this country. His killing remain a great secrete. As I understood from reliable sources associating with CBK regime that his outspoken criticism on CBK’s government was suppose to be the reason for his assassination. His willingness to help people with out looking into their identity has caused his death as he has gone out with a Sinhala person, no knowing that it is a death trap, who requested some help from Kumar. So, the government is speaking of the need present to bring the truth out and this will be one of many cases that the truth to be established. Vimukthi

  • 1
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    Hey useless fellows at CT, why did you delete the names of the masterminds behind the assassination of Kumar Ponnambalam? This makes you complicit in the killing!!!!!!!!!

  • 0
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    Question the Ratwatte boys and you will get the answer.

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