18 October, 2017

When Good Men Leave Us Too Soon

By Ajita Kadirgamar

Ajita Kadirgamar

On the Occasion of Lakshman Kadirgamar‘s Twelfth Death Anniversary – When good men leave us too soon

Twelve years ago today, on August 12th, my father’s life was brutally cut short by two bullets to the chest and one to the head. A good man, at the height of his intellectual and political prowess, he was felled to the ground like a majestic tree axed because it stands too proudly in a forest that men covet for their selfish and ulterior motives.

Twelve years after the deed, the question of who really killed LK may seem like a closed case, however conspiracy theories still abound as to who gave the orders for his life and voice to be silenced.

Would it be pompous and arrogant of me as his daughter to state that with his departure, we witnessed the death of the species of noble and patriotic politician? Is it a generational phenomenon or have we finally experienced (in our lifetime) the demise of the honest, accountable, articulate, gentleman politician who puts country before self.

Lakshman Kadirgamar

If I had the luxury of saying LK must be “turning in his grave” at the present circumstances in Sri Lanka’s foreign affairs department, I would humorously throw it out there. However, since his spot in the family grave lies empty, that idiom doesn’t quite work.

Being the die-hard patriot he was, if at the age of 85 he was still alive today, he would probably weep at the wretched state of affairs in Sri Lanka. The post of Foreign Minister which he elevated to one of high esteem during his tenure (1994 to 2001, 2004 -2005) has today fallen into the clutches of dastardly thieves and base scoundrels and the government currently finds itself looking for a replacement from among its pathetic ranks. As an elder statesman, perhaps his counsel would have been sought this past week with regards to the nomination of a suitable replacement Foreign Minister.

What would LKs stance have been on the choice of candidates so far discussed? 1) A former attorney general and member of parliament who resigned in 2015 as a minister over the Avant Garde statement in Parliament; 2) A minister, also a lawyer, who despite his father having been a prominent political figure in the 90’s, who was killed by a suicide bomber, has maintained a somewhat low profile in local politics; 3) A minister with a foreign degree in Economics who has diplomatic experience, has represented the country at numerous international forums, and who speaks ‘proper’ English; 4) The recent, former Foreign Minister.

Would he recommend the one with diplomatic experience and exposure to the world stage? Or perhaps one from the legal fraternity – the older more jaded man or the fresher face with yet untainted blood? Would he vote for the one who has already held the post and knows the inside workings of the Foreign Ministry and has established relationships with his counterparts the world over? What if LK, still in the living world had mentored a worthy successor all these years? Would we be where we find ourselves today?

We will never know and I cannot presume to guess. What I do know however is that LK had a solid knack of choosing the right people to represent Sri Lanka.  In my biography ‘The Cake that was Baked at Home’ (2015), published on the occasion of his 10th death anniversary I recount stories of and from personalities he called on to serve the country.

“My father enticed other top professionals to join the service as ‘non career diplomats’. They included the likes of H.L. de Silva (Lawyer), Mangala Moonesinghe (Lawyer/politician), Warnasena Rasaputra (former Governor of the Central Bank), John de Saram (Lawyer/UN Diplomat), S.B. Pethiyagoda (Academic/FAO), Devinda Subasinghe (US-based economist) and others. Such people had fine, quick minds, they were highly cultured and well travelled and by virtue of their professions they had the kind of on-the-job training required to act independently or with little supervision.”

What certainly distinguished LK from other foreign ministers (and politicians in general) was that he was not a time server; he was not in the game to fleece state coffers or to secure his political status by devious means. To him serving his country was a calling and he once told a colleague “Since one has to die some day it would be an honour to die in harness” (to die while still working or active, prior to retirement).

“Perhaps because LK came into politics so late in life and following a highly successful UN career, his purpose and ambition were different from other run of the mill politicians and even his predecessors in the Foreign Ministry. He did not have a constituency to please for votes to keep him in office, he was not in it for the perks (travel, per diems, press coverage etc); he quite simply wanted to be a vehicle for change. As he so often said, he wanted to give back to his country.

I think to LK ‘giving back’ meant offering his services to the nation and asking for nothing in return. His vast intellectual capacity combined with international legal expertise meant he could quickly pinpoint areas for action and reform. He could see the bigger picture at all times and anticipate the necessary response. He could pick up a phone and speak to senior movers and shakers almost anywhere in the word. His years at the UN had provided him an unsurpassed network. These were some of the unique facets he brought to the table.”

By god where have all the decent men gone? The fact is, there will never be another Lakshman Kadirgamar. Never again will we have a statesman of his calibre. This sentiment originates not from me, but echoes timelessly from the multitude of people I continue to meet in this life journey of mine.

I attempt to sum up the man in the closing paragraph of my book, thus: “My anguish aside, I cannot deny my father, Lakshman Kadirgamar, was a colossus, a unique being, the likes of which the nation will never encounter again. He gave his all. He was the last of the Ceylonese. I think that’s how he would like to be remembered.”

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Latest comments

  • 9
    2

    No doubt, he was of a great intellect and was a gift for the country. He however was blinded by the interaction with and influence by the power elites that was narrow minded that put them and their people ahead of the country. He could have been a greater man had he stood up for the rights of the oppressed and refused to go along with the aggressive power base against the minorities. Although he was vocal for the rights of the oppressed Tamils at the initial stages of his politics, he abandoned that path and instead so focused on suppressing their struggle and their voices. It’s unfortunate that he chose some of the paths he took, and it was indeed unfortunate his life ended the way it did.

  • 6
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    AK:

    “Thank you for this wonderful insight into an incident I was not aware of. If I do a 3rd edition of the biography ‘The Cake that was Baked at Home’ with updates, I will certainly add this story.”

    Many of the posts should have enlightened you, I hope your a little better honest than your father and would update with the truth, good and bad if you do decide to do the 3rd edition. So people can really see the man behind the myth. Who played the long game by dumping his Tamil wife and getting a Sinhalese because that was the best possible move as he could not become a Sinhalese and changing to Buddhism.

    Based on what you have written even you don’t believe that the credit should go to LTTE. Karma is a B.

  • 4
    18

    To Burt and ALL the other Haters,

    It is so tiring to keep reading the same pathetic, uninformed, contradictory comments over and over.

    1) Have you read the book? If so you will see that I portrayed the man with all his flaws and warts. This if anything, is what has endeared people to the book.
    2) All of you so called experts on my family history, please get your facts right. LK was NEVER married to a Tamil woman! My mother, his first wife is French.
    3)LK had an open mind to, and was highly read on all religions – Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism etc. His interest in religion was academic. He had read voraciously on history, religion and culture since he was a child. Again, the book refers to his interest in religion (he was an ‘Omnist’) and reveals the fact that one of the few people who had 24 hour access to him was his priest!
    4) As to who murdered him, any savvy person knows there are several possibilities. The only thing you and all the other ‘experts’ are right about, is that Karma is indeed a B!@#$. So don’t worry too much about it, it’s not your problem is it?

    • 9
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      Ajita Kadirgamar,

      Your dad LK was a public persona. When one gets to be a public figure, he loses some of the privileges private citizens enjoy. He got into it on his own accord. Tamils did not drag him into politics. But, by his entry, he, involuntarily perhaps, earned for himself public scrutiny.
      1) So, calling others haters, is just your impression. Its validity is open to debate.
      2) You now ask, ‘Have you read the book?’. (You have not said anywhere in your article that unless one reads your book, in addition, the article may cause some misunderstanding.)
      3) You claim that for your part, you had pointed out the ‘flaws and warts’ of LK, in your book. Let me grant you that you had. Once the benefit of that doubt is granted in your favour, how do you expect one to live with the title, When Good Men Leave Us Too Soon, of your article.
      4) I haven’t read your book. But, I have ‘read’ the man. And, I wasn’t impressed at all.
      5) Yet, I kept it to myself. Your comment is the one making me to come public.
      6) In Sri Lanka everyone carries his identity on his/her sleeve. I am a Tamil. What was LK? What are you? Does it matter?
      7) You have every right to call your father a good man. But, when you splash it here, you are inviting criticism, don’t you. And, people have a right to express their views, based on their interactions. Your father was never married to a Tamil. Yet, someone thought (incorrectly) that he was. Why was it so insulting? What kind of a slur was that? All you had to do was to passively point out the mistake.
      8) Finding out as to who murdered your dad should never be more of an issue to others than to you yourself. For that reason, your seemingly untroubled remark that any savvy person knows there are several possibilities, leaves me bewildered. Why are you so aloof!
      9) The finding – if it could be determined- would heal your mind, and the minds of all those haters as well.
      10) So, don’t say, ‘So don’t worry too much about it, it’s not your problem’. It is our problem.

      • 5
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        Unreal
        As I read your comment I am convinced that the greatest enemy of the Tamils is Tamils themselves.

        • 5
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          You are correct the greatest enemy of the Tamils are the recently Sinhalised Indian origin immigrant Tamils like you., Shenali, Karawa Ramona Nalin Silva. MuthuKarrupan Weravansa, Durawa Anagarika Dharmapala, Neelaperumal Bandaranaicke, Thambi Mudalali Jayawardene, Athulath Mudaliar. Ravathai now Sinhalised to Ratwatte. The list goes on. All recent Indian Tamil migrants from what is now modern day Tamil Nadu and then Tamil southern Andhra and Kerala. Now beating the anti Tamil drum. To these now add the fast Singhalising Colombo Chetties, The wester coast Paravans( Bharatha) and the so called Sri Lankan Moors who in reality are ethnic Indian Tamil Hindu converts to Islam. Now using their religion and made up Arab/Moor origin to claim a different identity and have been gleefully joining the Sinhalese in their anti Tamil dance. All recently migrated South Indians

        • 5
          5

          But LK associated with Sinhala terrorism, not only turning a blind eye to the atrocities, but also lying in international forums to cover them.

        • 3
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          Eusense, I would like to take up your finding, but ask for some reasoning. Come on Eusense, spit out your reason(s). Until such time I am going to believe that your masters are our foes!
          *
          NB: When did Ajita accept you to act on her behalf, – not that it matters to me. If you ever wish to respond to this rejoinder, check with her first, lest you too fall foul with her.

          • 5
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            Mr. unreal,
            Do I have to spell this out for you? What happens when Tamils are divided?
            Tell me any Tamil success stories since independence. Either your leaders were selfish for power and money or were stupid to wage a terror war against the country. Look at Wigneswaran, (the Colombo Tamil), he says “This Country as a whole has transitioned from a low to a middle income Country. But the Northern Province has not. It is still a low income area”. What was he doing during the past 7 years? What has he done for the Tamils? Do you really think he is worried about the poor Tamils in the north? Only thing he has been active was condemning the gov. at every turn and complaining to every visiting foreign group and talking about reconciliation. Is that his winning strategy? Being on the offensive?
            A smart action could have been using LK to achieve Tamil goals.
            What I see is stupid Tamils cut throats of each other and hope their “problems” will be solved. Good example is you. Why attack this offspring of LK? what are you going to achieve by that other than showing how divided the Tamils are!

      • 5
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        She finds being Tamil a slur and insulting , despite being half Tamil , and carrying a pure ancient Tamil name. Kathirgammar or Kathirkammar means the Tamil god Lord Murugan. Now Sinhalised to Kataragamma or Katararagama Deviyo. That is why she posted NEVER in capital letters, a subconscious hate reaction and revulsion of being associated with a Tamil mother. Like you stated she could have nicely and passively pointed it out but she did not. You cannot blame her. Her father hated his own people and did a lot to harm them and he would have consciously or subconsciously instilled this hatred and revulsion for his own people to his part Tamil children who still carry a pure ancient Tamil name of a Tamil Saivite god. Lord Murugan the son of supreme being Lord Siva.

        • 4
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          Ronan
          I don’t blame her or her father. Nobody wants to be associated with Tamil terrorism.

          • 2
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            We all know that you and most of the so called Sinhalese , most of whom are in reality recently Sinhalised immigrant South Indians low or high born, proudly associate with State sponsored Sinhalese terrorism on the island’s Tamils. My name is Rohan ( actual name) not Ronan

            • 2
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              Ronan
              I don’t care from where I came from or from where you came from. The important thing is we are here and we need to live peacefully.
              If any Tamil has problem with the gov. There is a reason for that. There are millions of Tamils all over the country who are living productive lives and doing better than the Sinhalese. I don’t know what state sponsored terrorism is. If you are concerned don’t indulge in anti-Sri Lankan activities. I thought you learned that terrorism is brutal.

    • 7
      2

      AK:

      “LK was NEVER married to a Tamil woman! My mother, his first wife is French.”
      Whether he dumped a French woman or Tamil did not matter for his long game. What mattered was how does he present himself to the Sinhalese without being a Sinhalese, the closest was marrying one.

      “LK had an open mind to, and was highly read on all religions – Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism etc. His interest in religion was academic. “

      And he still could not grasp the concept that the basic tenant of any religion was honesty and integrity.

    • 4
      4

      Sadly your reply is also pathetic, with half truths. To call those making constructive criticism based on facts as haters, only shows that you have something to hide.
      1) Have you mentioned in the book that LK told lies about atrocities committed by security forces on non-combatant Tamils. As a Christian did he ever confess about his crime and ask for repentance. Goebels also told lies for his country to safeguard German troops similar to what LK did, then why is the different treatment.
      2) Your mother is not 100% French. Her name is Angela Malik. Her Father is of Pakistani origin. So why are you not divulging this fact, and misinforming others.
      3 ) LK was a broad minded person in his young days, but moment he was offered the post of foreign minister, he ceased to be one, and his adopting Buddhism was not on any logic but purely an opportunistic move.
      4 ) Why are you scared to name the culprit as it is now an open secret. Government hushed it and placed the blame on LTTE for political leverage, and not on truth.

    • 5
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      Ajita,

      You are erring again, mistaking the negative responses as hatred. Rather, they reflect the anguish of the many mothers, daughters, wives and sisters who faced tragedy much worse than yours, a tragedy caused by a regime that LK willingly supported and protected: Protected at international forums, despite knowing that the truth was to the contrary. Please review the two interviews cited in the responses, in case you are still unaware of the step-motherly treatment of a segment of Sri Lankans by their own Government using LK as the “Convenient Tamil” that they needed.

      Even though that realization may not help reduce your own anguish at your Dad’s untimely death at his senior age, many would want you to at least recognize the anguish of a large number of Tamils as they deal with at the loss of their own and at a much, much earlier stage in their natural lives and responsibilities.

      A daughter’s celebration of her father as the world’s best dad will never be challenged. However when you want to pass off grossly undue compliments on one who helped forcibly subdue a community, his own community at that, and exemplify him as a “noble and patriotic” national treasure, you pain many a nerve, as you inevitably found out!

    • 5
      2

      Your tangential, yet pained, comment on the empty familial burial site did not go unnoticed. Why not be more forthright in case there is any concern that political expediency may have subordinated the personal or familial preferences, even at the tragic death of one of such public eminence. If you yourself feel the need to ”beat around the bush” on such an issue so dear to your heart, can you imagine the plight of the hundreds of thousands of less literate, less intelligent, less resourceful, less connected, and less powerful who still mourn in the dark about the loved ones who vanished into thin air.
      I was also intrigued by your compulsion to vilify the one who misstated about the first wife being a Tamil. Your vehement declarative emphasis was quite stark. Now, there was another comment on the same lines that chose to accuse LK of pointedly seeking to marry a Sinhalese girl for his second wife. That can’t be true – right. Why such focus on finding a Sinhalese girl? Why not Tamil woman? Why not a French women? Or any other? What motivated specifically narrowing down to Sinhalese? Couldn’t be true – right? Or could it?! Would you have the same compulsion and the vehemence in countering that “rumour”?

    • 1
      2

      Dear Ajita,

      Don’t pay too much attention to these wannabe political “experts”. They are not even suitable to remove coconut husks if I were to decide what they would be doing for a living.

      Back to your Father, the great Lakshman Kadiragama, these disgruntled Tamils are mad at him because he dealt them a killer blow at the World diplomatic stage. Thanks to your Father, the LTTE was listed as a terrorist organization by Foreign Countries that would have eventually saved so many lives back in Sri Lanka.

      Your Father was a great man and don’t let these rif-rafs take anything away from this great man. If I were to find one single flaw in your Father, that was that he went to the wrong school. Not to say TCK is a bad school. But as a Thomian I wish he was on of ours.

      • 0
        0

        Of course Ajita,

        You can expect kudos from the guys whose skin your dad helped save in the international arena. Your problem is that you expected only those kudos from these puerile professionals and their cheer leaders who couldn’t defend their own actions in a civilized world.

        And so they are grateful for your dad’s willingness to compromise his fundamental values to defend the scoundrels. Not surprisingly, however, you got slammed with reality as well, as most of the comments above prove! You want to take comfort in the charlatan’s shoulders, that is your choice.

        The rogues never fail to pull the LTTE-defense as they have nothing else to hide their shame with – like the dogs that raise their legs no matter where they get hurt. Go check what the BBC host told your Dad when he raised that same “leg”!

        It is neither your arrogance nor pomposity , as you coyly suggest, that are operational here – it is rather the fundamental mis-assessment with respect to honesty, nobility and patriotism!

  • 6
    3

    Ajita Kadirgamar

    “As to who murdered him, any savvy person knows there are several possibilities.”

    I have only two questions about your dad. Who pulled the trigger and who ordered it especially when the bullet was fired from a retired SP’s house. My second question was was he not qualified to be the Prime Minister. Both are my public interest questions. I vehemently opposed to the way you have lumped me with others.

    I am not interested in whom he was married to or whether he was a practicing gay.

    This is a public forum we reserve the right to ask stupid questions and comment idiotically. I would not have taken all these comments/typing seriously if I were you.

    Rather than we spending money on purchasing the book you should make it available on CT free of charge, if you want us to read it.

    • 5
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      Stupid vedda
      You have exclusive rights to ask stupid questions. And you are doing so rightfully!!

      • 4
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        Bloody Nuisance

        I am sorry I thought sach was helping you to find your padikkama. Hang in there.

  • 3
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    Ajitha

    Could you please tell me where your father was born – In Manipay or Colombo. I am asking this question because the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute website says he was born in Colombo. You can get the information in his birth certificate or passport.

    The media reported at the time of his death that he was born in Manipay. My grandmother went to Vembadi Girls School with your grandmother (LK’s mother). Your grandmother’s father Edward Mather was I believe the only person who had a car in Manipay then (between 1915 to 1925)

    • 4
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      Rasa Vellala at Manipay had horse drawn chariot and rode with 6 horses thereby changing the english law. Go check.

      • 2
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        Emanuel

        Were your grandmother street cleaner at that time? What did she do with the horse s**t? Did she package it into manure and sell it to the white master who loved roses? This could be an invaluable historical fact.

        • 0
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        • 0
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          “”Were your grandmother street cleaner at that time? What did she do with the horse s**t?””
          CT permits you and others to character assassinate people of class unlike them and you. go fetch new law reports at lincoln’s inn- it was changed to – only the queen can have a horse drawn carriage with 4 horses and others cannot have more as he rode with 6 horses. My grandmother’s folk were your british raj. (CT might get envious)

  • 4
    4

    Hey,hey, hey. Whats the fuss? Any article whether it be the weather or train delays,
    descends into a Tamil Vs Sinhala fight.I guess it’s the same suspects (may know each other) who gets their nuts off through these subtexts at the bottom. Pathetic but oh some folks have this vicarious pleasure. Ajita et al should never read these nor attempt to reply. Just say your piece and leave it to the erudite to ponder. CT should have a separate column/ forum, for these pathetic lowlife to fight amongst themselves till they snuff out.

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  • 0
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