28 May, 2022


Tireless Advocate Of The Legitimate Aspirations Of Tamils Of Sri Lanka

By N. Kumaraguruparan

Dr. N. Kumaraguruparan

Dr. 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.

Kumar Ponnambalam

Kumar Ponnambalam

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

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Latest comments

  • 7

    Well done Kumaraguruparan

    This shows how you are grateful to Kumar Ponnambalam.

    There are hundreds of others think the same as you.

    Unfortunately Kumar Ponnambalam’s son, who was a pet of Thamilselvan, could not do politics after Thamilselvan.

    That was the end of Tamil congress, Ponnambalam family, end of everything.

    Until today, we saw a single piece article written by Kumar’s son Gajendrakumar.

    This is the gratitude he has for his father, family and the Tamil Congress.

    Gajendrakumar is Black sheep in the Ponnambalam’s family and among the Tamils.

    If anyone who cant manage their own family life, how can they manage politics of the community.

    It is a pitty that you left this party

    Good work by Well done Kumaraguruparan

  • 8

    G.G. Ponnambalam shouted 50:50 only to have the required votes in parliament to become Prime Minister of Ceylon. He failed in that mission, joined the Government of independent Ceylon and supported it as it removed the citizenship and voting rights of the Indian Tamils in Ceylon. G.G. Junior, also known as Kumar, lived in luxury in Queens Road Colombo given the revenues from his tin mines in Malaysia but otherwise left no concrete and positive legacy for the poverty striken Tamils of the Vanni and interior Batticaloa, not to mention the Nuwara Eliya District. He instead incessantly attacked Neelan Tiruchelvam out of jealousy.

  • 2

    I am glad someone thought of remembering the colourful Kumar Ponnambalam. Thinking of Kumar, I am often reminded of the press description of the great American political leader – late Adlai Stevenson “the President that never was” I am equally pained to recall it was 2 hours after we spoke on the phone that morning I was given the shattering news of Kumar’s assassination in Colombo 6 allegedly by a well known gangster-contract killer from Moratuwa.
    It was revolting, and yet symbolic of the times then, to hear later the killer went and reported the Mission Accomplished to a VVIP in the Govt. of the day “weday keruwa” (Sir, I did the job)

    The accomplished and courtly mannered Kumar was equally well versed in English, Tamil and Sinhalese as he was with the laws. He spoke Tamil and English with equal ease and proficiency. He had a wide network of friends among the Sinhalese. Human Rights was his forte and he defended, free, as many Sinhalese as Tamils. Dr. Wickremabahu Karunarane will confirm this.

    One rarely comes across any as passionate to fight for justice for the Tamils as Kumar, whose removal prematurely removed from our midst a learned and brilliant political leader who could have contributed so much for the national discourse. Unlike most of today’s political leaders Kumar would never subject him to be called a rogue. He was born wealthy and was abundandly provided for that he will never trade his personal integrity. He was often misunderstood not only by the Sinhalese but by Tamils as well. As he once told a meeting of Professionals, where he was my guest and speaker, to a burst of appreciative laughter “The Sinhalese rejected me in Colombo and the Tamils in Jaffna. I seem unwanted both by the Tamils and Sinhalese”

    Some unkind comments have been made of Gajen here. My personal belief is the young man carries much of Kumar’s gallant genes and will use this in due time for the wider cause of gaining lost rights to the Tamil people – the fondest wish of his father. What is not known outside is he was a deeply religious person. Personally, I would have liked to see his devoted wife and constant companion Yoga also in the political scene.

    Kumar Ponnambalam will remain in the memory of the country for a very long time.


    • 0

      Thank you…

  • 6

    “Tireless Advocate Of The Legitimate Aspirations Of Tamils Of Sri Lanka”…rather someone who lived on the shadow and the wealth of his dad and grandad

    The Ponnambalam’s, Chelvanaygams’ and even the Thondamans’ and their generation… never did any thing for the liberation of Indian Tamils toiling in the tea estates generation after the generation.

  • 0

    RajasH will excuse me if I disagree with him. The late S. Thondaman gave much of his entire life to the well-being of the people of recent Indian origin (PORIO) we he preferred to call them. Changing the very image of this once Dalit community will remain to his eternal credit. Restoring their citizenship rights after nearly 40 years, by peaceful means, was only one aspect of his achievements by which he earned national recognition. He constantly used pressure on the Govt of the day to raise the PQL of PORIO. If the PORIO secured nearly 10 MPs in the late 1980s – equalling their Parliamentary strength in 1947 – it was due to the sole efforts and influences of the great man. He was never accused of financial impropriety. In fact he lost his considerable land assets to Land Reform and was left with “Wavendon” – which too was under lien to keep the CWC going. Today’s political leaders secured their influence and political power through the foundations laid by the late leader. Those who followed him destroyed the party after his death and the good image he left by every conceivable way and just deserve the opprobium within the party and outside in the country.

    R. Varathan

  • 0

    My father gave Kumar art lessons when he was a young boy. One day he asked Kumar to draw a railway station. He drew a platform and two lines only. Father asked him why he did not draw a train. Kumar’s curt reply was, “The train has left”.

    He remained as irrepressible as ever. It was Kumar and I who first went to the morgue in Colombo to see Krishanthy Kumaraswamy, her mother, brother and neighbour’s bodies in September 1996.

    He told me sooon after,” Don’t expect justice for Tamils from the government”.

    His stinginess is legendary but when it comes to pleading for journalists be they Tamils, Muslims or Sinhalese, he appeared free of charge.

    I was interviewing him at his residence one day and it took him nearly one hour to call his wife to make me a cup of tea and when it arrived it was weak with not much sugar in it.

    We will miss him.

    • 0

      I was interviewing him at his residence one day and it took him nearly one hour to call his wife to make me a cup of tea and when it arrived it was weak with not much sugar in it.

      Late Sivaram said the same.

      Their son follow the same path of his mother. Today everything in a stall-mate

      We miss Kumar

  • 1

    Kumar was full of sound and fury,… Signifying nothing.

    Was also little naughty on the side!

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