Inter-faith 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.

“A 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.

akshman was a little boy of three or four with lovely locks of long curly hair.”
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 life.

In 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.

I have 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 motor accident.

Karthigeyan 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.

Grandfather 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.

Many 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.

We 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.

If 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.

He 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.

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