Let us translate Kumar’s dreams and ideas into reality
When news broke out, exactly a year ago, that Kumar Ponnambalam had been shot dead by unidentified gunmen in the heart of Colombo, it triggered shock and gloom among the Tamils both inside and outside Sri Lanka.
At Queens Park, Toronto, in freezing temperature many degrees below zero, more than 4000 Tamils gathered to express their grief and outrage at the dastardly murder of Kumar Ponnambalam. Members of Federal and Provincial Parliaments, Councillors of the City of Toronto, Representatives of Human Rights Organizations and community organizations all came to pay him homage.
Not only in Toronto, but around the world, in London, Sydney and Colombo thousands of Tamils mourned and staged rallies in his memory. In the Northeast (Tamil Homeland) people observed hartal by closing shops and schools. Black flags flew all over the towns and individual homes.
No other death in such cowardly circumstances in recent times has evoked so much anger, anguish and sorrow as that of Kumar Ponnambalam.
As an “ unrepentant supporter of the political philosophy of the LTTE” and fighting like a ferocious Tiger in the den of the Lion, death was following Kumar like a shadow, but he was undaunted. He openly spoke and wrote about the plight of the Tamil people, the denial of their basic rights and freedoms with a passion unrivalled by other Tamil politicians who claimed to represent Tamils. He wrote against President Chandrika’s regime for its genocidal and brutal war against the Tamil people. He lambasted President Chandrika, in the same manner he took President Premadasa to task during his last years, for prosecuting the “War for Peace” as nothing but a cynical ploy to militarily defeat the LTTE and ipso facto destroy the aspirations of the Tamil people.
Kumar Ponnambalam was steadfast in his belief that any political solution to the ethnic conflict should be based on the Thimpu principles. He rightly pointed out that the aspirations of the Tamil people as enunciated in the four-point Thimpu declaration have to be met to resolve the ethnic conflict. His was an authentic voice of the oppressed Tamil people in defence of their birthrights.
Kumar Ponnambalam drew a distinction between the grievances and aspirations of the Tamil people. He argued that the Tamil people have taken up arms in self-defence to free themselves from Sinhala hegemonic rule and to achieve full statehood.
Kumar Ponnambalam laid to great use his debating skills, his mastery of the English language and his experience as a practitioner of law to catapult the national liberation struggle of the Tamil people before the bar of world opinion. His mission took him to the far corners of the globe from Canberra to Ottawa and Washington to Geneva.
Kumar Ponnambalam acted more like a human rights advocate than a politician. He pleaded in his own efficacious style for justice, equality and dignity to the Tamil people brutalised and traumatised by an ill-fated war. He decried the Sinhala dominated government crude use of naked military force to solve the political conflict between the Tamil Nation and the Sinhala Nation.
There is not the slightest doubt that it was Kumar Ponnambalam’s fearless advocacy of the Tamil cause that earned him the wrath of powerful enemies perched at the seat of power. It was no lesser a person than the President of the country who pinpointed with uncanny accuracy who she thought was her enemy.
President Chandrika in her victory speech delivered on December 22,1999 singled out Kumar as “one of those who aid and abet terror” just falling short of spelling out his name. She issued the explicit threat that “Let all those who aid and abet terror be warned...let those who secretly or openly condone the path of violence pursued by the cowards of the LTTE be warned: the days of terror in this land are numbered, and that number is small.”
President Chandrika conveniently forgot the fact that it was she who escalated STATE TERROR which brought unprecedented death, destruction, misery and tears to thousands of innocent Tamils. According to Amnesty International report 540 Tamils simply disappeared into thin air after arrest and torture by the Sinhala armed forces. While President Chandrika opened up graves at Sooriyakanda in the South she dug mass graves at Chemmani in the North to bury Tamil youths.
Sensing danger to Kumar’s life from no lesser person than the Head of State, who often talked like a street ruffian than a holder of an exalted office, many of his friends warned him to take precaution. There were earlier attempts to arrest him and the CID police have quizzed him more than once. I personally sent him an e-mail message warning him of the ominous threat to his life. Taking no chances, I managed to get a friend of mine to read President Chandrika’s speech containing the ominous threat to him over the phone.
You any more “ It was an open secret that Kumar Ponnambalam was very critical of President Chandrika’s regime for its genocidal and brutal war against the Tamil people.”
Whatever his enemies might say about his merits or defects, Kumar Ponnambalam emerged during the late nineties as a symbol of Tamil courage and defiance. More than anyone else his assassins realised this symbolism and therefore decided to eliminate him.
Unsurprisingly, the Police have not apprehended the killers of Kumar Ponnambalam so far. It is doubtful whether the long arm of the law will ever catch them since the killing was clearly an inside job, aided and instigated by President Chandrika Kumaratunga herself.
Amantha Perera writing in the Sunday Leader on July 30, 2000 described the investigation into Kumar Ponnambalam’s murder by SSP Bandula ‘Show’ Wickremesinghe as ‘Boru Show’! D.B.S. Jeyaraj wrote an article calling it derisively “ A charade of an investigation.”
On behalf of the late Kumar Ponnambalam’s family, their lawyer Daya Perera, PC wrote to the Attorney General requesting him to remove SSP Wickremesinghe from the investigation “ Since his conduct vis-a-vis this investigation shows that his sole objective appears to be to exonerate the Government of any complicity in the killing of Mr. Ponnambalam at whatever cost. SSP Wickremesinghe had even before the investigation begun took pains to clear the government's name. He acted more like a government representative rather than an investigator attempting to put together the clues. At one point Show Wickremesinghe had gone so far as to state "this government would not do such a thing and that the EPDP was behind it."
SSP Wickremasinghe had also made attempts to bring in an LTTE connection into the murder. He had told the Ponnambalam family that just after the murder two people were seen at the scene of the crime wearing jeans similar to those worn by the LTTE.
In Kumar Ponnambalam the Tamil Nation has lost an indefatigable freedom fighter who fought for the basic rights and aspirations of the enslaved Tamil people. In his own words he was a Tiger who fought the Lion in its own den!
“Mamanithan” Kumar Ponnambalam has carved a place for himself in Tamil minds by fearlessly and relentlessly espousing the Tamil cause. The greatest tribute we can pay to his fond memory is to keep the flames of freedom burning till we achieve our cherished goal of a sovereign and independent state of Tamil Eelam. Let us close ranks and work tirelessly to transform his dreams and ideas into reality. His enemies might have succeeded in silencing him physically, but never his dreams and ideas.
(Namnadu -January 2001)