Colombo Telegraph

Lakshman Kadirgamar: Quite A Different Doubt Arises In My Mind

By Charles Sarvan

Charles Sarvan

A friend sent me a copy of a recent panegyric and lament on the late Foreign Minister, as carried by you, together with his comment, extracts of which I reproduce below. (The LTTE, “the usual suspects” for all things dastardly, are thought to have killed Mr. Kadirgamar though, to my knowledge, there wasn’t a thorough investigation or an official report.) I quote:

“And this is perhaps the most dangerous kind of writing for the cause of justice for the minorities:  suave, liberal humanism, typical of the English speaking middle class, self-righteously “reasonable” and “balanced” and “idealistically concerned” with what matters, though flaunting also its self-professed “realism”. But the slips show. Sri Lanka as victim of the Channel 4 videos episode, with indignities heaped on it, subjected to moral opprobrium, damaged, never mind the innocents who paid the actual price of the victory that ended the war. And the terror and extremism are all on the side of the defeated (though it is conceded that some of the majority show extremism).  It’s exactly the message that it is [name omitted] role to express, though with none of this obfuscating “elegance”.  And the discomfort (we have encountered this so many times before, even from so -called decent, honourable and thoughtful people) with even the possibility of investigating honestly what actually happened is too, too evident.  If at all, it has to be done through ” effective, timely, sensible diplomacy” – presumably this would give more chance that it would be as useless as the kind of investigation that the committees of inquiry which are habitually appointed every time the innumerable criminal activities that are taking place become too difficult to ignore are supposed to carry out, but never actually do (except in the case of the former Chief Justice). The only consequence is that attitudes will be firmed up that will ensure that the real causes of the conflict will never either be recognised or addressed, particularly because none of these people who are putting themselves as spokespersons for the cause of justice and equality will accept responsibility not just for what happened, but for their own attitudes, which allowed it to happen, even ensured that it would.  [It is] dangerous because the “innocent” veneer could well help it claim and assume high moral ground and authority, guaranteeing the permanent institutionalisation of the Jathika Chintanaya ideology across the board, and the permanent transfer of the minority problem to the back burner.

[Lines omitted] Apart from helping conceal one’s own culpability, one can while pointing fingers set oneself up as the new elitist moral and intellectual leaders of the place, preaching justice and  celebrating for public consumption friends and others in the minorities whose positions are so vulnerable precisely because of the stances one has adopted on the issues involved along with all of the many whose responsibility for the tragedy of our land is clearly evident.  There seems to be a great deal of this kind of sanctimonious writing going on in the country at the moment by people whose records throughout the worst of the conflict have been patently dismal, and too many decent people seem to be buying into the whole deplorable hoax..” End of quote.

Quite a different doubt arises in my mind (though I’m conscious that a question in Logic is whether it’s possible to prove or disprove negatives, for example, that unicorns don’t exist). I doubt that, for all the encomiums heaped on the now safely dead Foreign Minister, Mr. Kadirgamar would have won an election had he stood against a Sinhalese Buddhist candidate.  One recalls that Ponnambalam Arunachchalam, the driving force behind the formation of the Ceylon National Congress, left the organization feeling betrayed and disillusioned. (Of his brother, President J. R. Jayewardene, in his Address delivered on the life and work of Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan at the Vivekananda Society, Colombo, November 30, 1991, reminded the audience that Sir Ponnambalam was even called the Tamil who was the foster parent of the Sinhalese. In the aftermath of the riots of 1915, the President said, one voice and one alone was heard within and outside the Legislature: that of Ponnambalam Ramanathan. He saved the Sinhala race from destruction, taking on single-handed “the worst exhibition of British imperialism as displayed by the 1915 Martial Law atrocities directed solely against the Sinhalese.”) According to a survey published in the Washington Post, 8 November 2012, as many whites voted for Obama as had for Bill Clinton when the latter was elected. But, given the entrenched majoritarian, as distinct from ‘democratic’, nature of the Island’s politics, and mindful of what I suggested about ‘the silent majority’ (Colombo Telegraph, 6th April 2013), would Sinhalese voters have chosen Kadirgamar as against a fellow Sinhalese Buddhist? Is that why he didn’t try to get his post a more authentic, electoral-based, foundation? We are back with the unicorn, unable either to prove or disprove.

I leave with extracts from an ‘open letter’ (Sunday Leader, Colombo, Oct.26, 1997)  written to the Foreign Minister by yet another victim whose murder remains unsolved, namely, Kumar Ponnambalam (Unfortunately, Mr Kadirgamar didn’t deign to reply, at least, not publicly.)

“Minister Sir,

Congratulations […] for having been voted ‘The Sri Lankan of the Year’ by the Lanka Monthly Digest!

[…] But first, can you recall the day I invited you to attend a meeting of Tamils at the BMICH on March 26, 1994 before the general elections? Your immediate reaction, which still rings in my ears, was “What politics for me, Kumar?”

Tell me, minister Sir, did you go into the Cabinet because, within four months you understood what politics was all about, or was it that this government sought to make use of your name, which happens to be a Tamil name, only to show the world that they also have a Tamil in the Cabinet? Having only lent your Tamil name to the machinations of this government, you described yourself as a representative of the Tamil at the General Assembly of the United Nations in September 1994. Were you being honest in so describing yourself, having gone into parliament through the back door?

Do you remember July 1995, minister Sir, when your dishonesty was shown when you took the ICRCto task for having made public, the bombing of the Navaly church which killed so many innocent Tamil civilians after your government asked the Tamils to go there for refuge? Do you also remember the September of that year when you tried dishonestly to hide the cruel bombing of a school in Nagar Kovil, when so many children were killed during the lunch break?

It is one of the greater tragedies that the countries that have branded the LTTE as terrorists have done so knowing full well that the free media of the world have been prevented by your government from going to the war zone to see for themselves […] What is terrorism?  Cannot political parties and, indeed, governments be terrorists? Is it not the fact that it is common knowledge in Sri Lanka that various Sri Lankan governments have been guilty of terrorism? Is it not a fact that political parties in Sri Lanka are and have been guilty of terrorism?”

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