dialogue to carry forward Kadir’s legacy
The eulogy at the Service of Thanksgiving for Lakshman Kadirgamar
at the Cathedral of Christ, the Living Saviour by Silan Kadirgamar.
In the many exchanges of letters in the last few days I had this
piece from my eldest brother in Toronto who has vivid memories of
the Kadirgamar home “Lalitha” at Queen’s Road,
where Lakshman grew and was nurtured.
splendid era,” he writes “one of which we were all proud
of and relished being associated with has gone.” And he adds,
“I cannot forget my early childhood days in the 1930s visiting
the home of my Uncle and Aunty.
was a little boy of three or four with lovely locks of long curly
I wish to dwell on two facets missed in the flood of tributes. Lakshman’s
personality and values were to a great extent shaped and influenced
by his distinguished father, outstanding brothers and sister. He
was the youngest in a family of five brothers and one sister. Few
are aware that he lost his mother Parimalam nee Mather at the tender
age of eight, and the task of taking care of him fell on his sister
Easwary Richards. The second facet relates to the Lakshman we knew
before he entered parliamentary politics. Born, bred, educated and
having lived the greater part of my life in Jaffna, a visit to the
Kadirgamar home at Queen’s Road was an occasion looked forward
to. In the first of my visits in the mid-50s the room allocated
to me was Lakshman’s. He was away in the UK. There I had my
first exposure to his mini-library that made a permanent impression
on me, revealing the man, the ideas and the values that shaped his
the tributes I have noted two comments relevant to what I have to
say today. H.L. de Silva his close friend used the phrase “to
the manner born - an icon to be treasured for generations.”
Sudarshan Seneviratne on TV stressed the exceptional manner in which
he engaged people in discussions. These interactions ceased after
he entered politics.
had similar frank discussions over the years with two of his brothers
Sam and Rajan. Lakshman’s father Sam J.C. Kadirgamar was a
well-known figure in the first half of the 20th century. He had
great ambition for his sons, which did not work out the way he willed.
As it turned out Lakshman went to Trinity College and became the
single member of the family entering the Faculty of Law. His brothers
Bhai and Rajan were attracted to the security forces during the
Second World War. Sam took to the legal profession and became a
distinguished Q.C. The brothers Bhai and Rajan remained in the services.
A fourth brother Mana died young under tragic circumstances in a
Christian Kadirgamar did not give up this very Hindu name when he
was baptized. My uncle once told me that we have given a great deal
of trouble to the world in adopting this name. A name, which I have
noted, that none of my many good Sinhalese friends can either spell
or pronounce correctly.
K.C. Kadirgamar was an interpreter Maudaliyar.
Lakshman served on the legal committee of the YMCA for several years
and I was told only yesterday that he was a life member Bible Society.
He was the first in the family’s long history to enter politics
in contemporary Lanka - a subject on which I need not dwell.
of my own recollections of Lakshman have been covered by the extra-ordinary
media coverage his death brought to him. In one of his interviews
he revealed that he had received tons of abuse in his mail. This
last week he has received tons of adulation and praise from people
from all walks of life.
Lakshman could have lost his life in a plane crash in Greece in
the early 80s. He was the last to leave the plane and had to jump
off the emergency exit and was bed-ridden for three months.
are living in an age of religious fundamentalisms and bigotry that
fuel senseless conflict. This can only be contained by meaning dialogue
among peoples of all faiths. Lakshman was essentially an inter-faith
person. His theology, if I may say so, was explicitly stated in
his Celestine Fernando memorial lecture on October 1992 before he
became a Minister. His religious convictions perceiving common values
in the four great religions, has struck a responsive cord.
there is any way in which his family and friends would like to perpetuate
his memory, I plead that we give the highest priority to and carry
forward his ideals in inter-faith dialogue in a world increasingly
torn asunder in the name of religion, leading to far greater tragedies
than we have already experienced.
has carved for himself a permanent place, in the life of this country,
which will increasingly be seen in perspective as the years roll
by. When the dust and heat has settled on the conflict that has
torn this country apart, and when we have our own truth and justice
commission in the great South African tradition, when the perpetrators
of violence and injustice have made their confessions and made peace
across the ethnic divide, I hope and believe the people of this
lovely island will jointly celebrate the life and work of Lakshman
Kadirgamar. We pray the day will come soon.
Engum Shanthi Nilava vendum, Athma shanthi Oonga ulahile, Engum
Shanthi Nilava vendum.