By N. Kumaraguruparan –
Sri Lankan Thamils history of the by gone era if correctly recorded cannot miss the golden pages for the legacy of Kumar Ponnambalam a scholarly vociferous voice of Tamils
A rich black rose in style but a Scholarly vociferous voice of Tamils of the bygone era has been snatched away from us at the dawn of this decade, the first martyr of this millennium on the 5th January 2000. Yes it is now fourteen years on this 5th of January 2014. Had he been alive, he would have counted 76years at his age born on August 12 ,1938. It is no one but was my great late leader Kumar Ponnambalam, It is no one but most courageous defender of the human rights of Tamils and an eminent criminal lawyer Kumar Ponnambalam, the proud General Secretary of All Ceylon Tamil Congress then.
“Kumar” was also well known as “G.G.Ponnambalam Junior”, the only son of a Queen’s Counsel, Statesman and erudite scholar G.G.Ponnambalam an accepted Tamil leader whose name has been engraved in the history of Sri Lanka from the time of State Council’s era succeeding te political journey of late statesman Sir Ponnammbalam Ramanathan. Perhaps admitting great GG’s statesmanship in recognition ,Srilankan Government published a postal stamp few years after his demise .
Correct analysis of politics has revealed that late G.G. Ponnambalam QC,a dominant leader of Tamils had been the father of thamil nationalism in this country.
Kumar Ponnambalam a product of Cantab bath (Cambridge) always behaved in a highly refined and civilized manner so much so he had never been hesitant to express his apology when he was wrong. He possessed high sense of humor . That was Kumar whom I admired for his qualities. Never the less his chosen vocabulary had been volcanic if really rubbed deliberately on the wrong side,but that is Kumar Ponnambalam .
Kumar was born into wealth and circumstances. Born and bred and stood first among the equal elites of Cinnamon Gardens. But his inheritance was that he was proud to say that he was a blue blooded Tamil. He had been proud and delighted in displaying it. Secondly, he being the son of the great Tamil leader G.G. Ponnambalam, father of Tamil nationalism in this country and eminent lawyer and erudite scholar . Kumar considered these two symbol of pride.
Millennia of pride and independence the Tamils cherished were manifest in Kumar. His courage was indomitable. Situations too demanded his role. The wisdom from his learning and his successful profession were readily available at the services of his community. He proved this in practice on various occasions.
I am really proud of those 25 years in the Tamil Congress, first as a student of politics working closely with Kumar. I felt the same with the WPF then which is now DPF led by Mano Ganesan. In the changing political scenario in the North and East, the need of the hour was the solidarity of Tamils and Tamil parties even now at least in principle to protect the interests of the Tamils from attempts to make them second class citizens in this country . North has given the peoples mandate now. Kumar realized this and initiated talks aimed at Tamil unity a couple of weeks before his assassination. I was with him at those talks. In fact the last one was on the 3rd of January by 10.30 pm with Mano Ganesan &his brother. Though they were young amateurish politicos he strongly believed that these duos can develop a strong force in the capital city . unfortunately he has been assassinated on the 5th January 2000. the whole world was shaken over his assassination.
In the same path of Kumar The Tamil parties representing the people in the north and east realized the need for a common alliance. The talks had been 95% successful and representation was identified with people’s mandate. Several rounds of talks were held with international participation. This was the situation then.
But later the South’s priority was to end the war. But we see not even a slow process instead of a quick political proposal or a negotiated settlement South rushed through the war to end the war.
The reality then was that Kumar’s dreams and his far-sighted political aspirations were taking shape. But later after the abrogation of the Ceasefire Agreement, the north east crisis swinging into a full-scale war was visible.
Kumar dedicated his life to the Tamil cause but differed from others. He expected a transparent political scenario and did not believe in behind-the-scene deals. He did not believe in political gimmicks and mincing words for self-centered politics because he did not depend on political power for his bread and butter and political survival. Kumar had been a good friend of very many Sinhalese, elite families, professionals and business classes.
He had two primary concerns in furthering the Tamil cause. Firstly he believed that a respectable solution could be worked on the basis of the Thimpu Principles.
There was a strong reason behind this. Kumar believed that the insistence of the recognition of the Thimpu Principles would expose the true position of the Sinhala leadership whether they genuinely recognized the legitimate aspirations of the Tamil people in principle. If the basic principle is accepted by the Sinhala nation sincerely this will facilitate the subsequent stages of peace process.
Secondly, he realized that other Tamil parties at the time were largely interested in achieving narrow political gains but he was convinced that the LTTE was the only organization that was genuinely dedicated towards fighting for the legitimate aspirations of the Tamils. He felt that if there was no such struggle, the south would never consider meaningful power devolution or a peace process to solve the Tamil question.
It was no secret that Kumar openly supported the “political ideology” of the LTTE basic Kumar was a person who hate violence,. But he was convinced that historically, the south had failed to accept alternate solutions and had been deceiving the Tamil leaders.
Yes, the pragmatic vision of Kumar are the writings we see on the wall now. It was because of this political belief and also because of the role he played as a human rights activist in openly challenging the government’s policies with regard to the Tamils, that he met with his tragic death. As an activist, he addressed the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva in 1997 and 1999, and the European Parliament in Brussels in 1998. His campaign reached the zenith and gave him international recognition.
His involvement in the Krishanthi Kumarasamy rape and murder case and the Chemmani mass graves, to mention a few, brought to light the atrocities committed by some elements of the armed forces.
It was during President Kumaratunga’s first term that Kumar had to appear for innocent Tamil youths who suffered at the hands of the security forces. I can remember that on one occasion Kumar made a midnight visit to stop the police bulldozing a Tamil house in Wellawatte. If he was called to safeguard the Tamils’ rights even at midnight, he had the blessed extra courage of Lord Krishna.
It was with much dedication that Kumar worked with Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Anura Bandaranaike to bring out the Democratic People’s Alliance (DPA) manifesto at the 1988-89 elections and campaigned tirelessly for Ms. Bandaranaike,
With Ms. Bandaranaike’s defeat and the rejection of the DPA manifesto, he was convinced that the south would not offer an acceptable solution to the ethnic question. The DPA manifesto called for greater devolution of power.
I had attended several all-party conferences then with Kumar representing the All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) – and now with Mano Ganesan. There again we have seen the phenomenon of history repeating itself. As Kumar believed there would not be a southern consensus in bringing about an acceptable and legitimate solution to the ethnic turmoil.
My late leader, Kumar, had never been a member of parliament or a local councillor, yet he was a mighty man who challenged the governments of the day. I have heard that the pen is mightier than sword. We witnessed this in Kumar’s pen. The power of his pen and the volleys of truth it fired were so devastating that they led to his death.
Bill Pascrell (Jr), member of the Congress of the United States House of Representatives on condolences has described as “I appreciate Kumar Ponnambalam’s contribution to the protection of the human and political rights of Tamil people. Throughout his career, Mr Ponnambalam was a tireless advocate of freedom of speech, advocating the legitimate cause of Tamils in Sri Lanka.”
“Kumar Ponnambalam who worked closely with the Tamils and spoke out of his belief”, said Ms Nita Lowey another member of the Congress of the US.
European Parliamentarian Hon. Robert Evans who was closely associated with the late Kumar Ponnambalam commented Mr Ponnambalam was never afraid to speak out and was always conscious of the safety of other people. He pointed a finger of blame for atrocities at the Sri Lankan military and the then Sri Lankan government.
As a human rights lawyer Kumar Ponnambalam spoke of the situation in Sri Lanka at forums around the world. In Brussels meeting, he drew attention to the amazing lack of coverage of the Sri Lankan civil war in the European and world press.
It is unique that “Kumar’” being not an elected member of the people dominated an active role in the Tamil politics but a genuine voice. His assassination, eight years ago was considered a devastating blow to the whole Tamil community.
He advocated Thimpu Principles as a basis for a political formula. The reason for his insistence on the recognition of “Thimpu” first was two fold. Firstly he felt that if the South was genuine in recognizing the legitimate aspirations of the Tamils’ of the North East, before embarking on the technicalities of such a solution.
He addressed the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva in 1997 and the European Parliament in the Brussels in 1998.
A product of Cambridge bath, Barrister and old Royalist and his involvement & attachment in cricket clubs “Kumar” was considered among the Colombo elite community as a good friend. God give us men the time demands, strong minds great hearts, true faith and willing hands.
Kumar’s demise has created a vacuum in Tamil politics. A sincere soul never sleeps in slumber is the Almighty’s creation.
*Dr. N. Kumaraguruparan MPC ,Depuuty Leader DPF and was the General Secretary of ACTC after late Kumar Ponnambalam for more than four years