We learned from him, he learned from us
The JVP issued a statement last week on the assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadrigamar. One reference was this: "The JVP and he (Mr. Kadirgamar) came from different histories and backgrounds. But, we developed a strong bond based on his decency and love for the country." JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe sent The Sunday Times the following article expanding on that theme.

We are still in shock and in mourning about a person that we of the JVP and the country loved and admired. It is time for all of us to take stock and for us to take the opportunity to say a few words on how we of the JVP interacted with Minister Kadirgamar.

Mr. Kadirgamar fought for the integrity of the country. Equally important, and perhaps more so, he fought for democracy and human rights for all the people especially of the Tamils living in the North and East.

When we first heard of Mr. Kadirgamar over 10 years ago, in 1994 we had not met him in person. We had only read about his straightforward and honest actions through the media. We followed his work over the years. In 2004 when we came to form the new government we thought him the most suitable for the highest office then available. It is no secret that we campaigned strongly for him. Others who now unreservedly extol his virtues would understand and appreciate our viewpoint. We believe we must all learn from him the qualities of honesty and straightforwardness.

As we began to meet him regularly, we became friends. Our friendship was based on an agreement to disagree if needed. We soon discovered that he behaved correctly, probably because he had grown up in mature environments both in Sri Lanka and internationally, where correct norms on how to conduct business was followed.

He never spoke without an agreed agenda. So our discussions were up to the point, businesslike. He was always very punctual. If he was even five minutes delayed he would apologise. There were many times he would cancel other appointments to meet us. This was because he understood the basic nature of coalition politics. We were the major coalition partner and he took our viewpoints seriously. And when we met again at the next meeting he would go back to our earlier agenda and especially draw attention to those areas where there were disagreements. He never tried to gloss over or conceal genuine differences.

He was honest in politics, in discussions and in personal dealings. As he began to know us, he started in turn to appreciate some of our actions especially our honesty. And he said so several times. We, of course, came from different histories and different backgrounds. But because of his honesty we developed a strong bond. After official matters were over, he wanted us to stay behind and chat freely as normal friends, not political associates. We regret that in our busy political life we could not oblige him always.

After we left the Sandanaya too, he reiterated the invitation to chat in such a manner. It is wrongly put by some quarters that he blindly followed our ideas. That was not true. We stood for administrative decentralization, he stood for federalism. We said how in Sri Lanka's context, federalism and separatism were entwined. He did not necessarily agree, but was eager to hear what we said. He considered them reasoned arguments.

But these differences were no barrier for civilized discussion, between us. Both sides agreed that the final solution to the national question was by discussion and dialogue of all the parties to the conflict. When we spoke at length about consistency in democracy and the need to wipe out inequalities in all communities, he listened with considerable attention. We both agreed that democracy should be the foundation for any future in any part of Sri Lanka. If the people were for federal solution on the democratic will, then so be it. If the people wanted administrative decentralization, then so be it.

We both believed that in the search for democracy and equality in the country, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers and Malays should not be considered second-class citizens and also should not be condemned to a dictatorship without democracy and human rights. He together with us did not believe that the LTTE, the major suppresser of free will and democracy, could in any way be considered the sole representative of Tamils.

We learned from him how international diplomacy was conducted. He mentioned to us the working of human rights organizations in the United Nations and other international organizations. When we were ignorant of certain matters he pointed out our own failings and we appreciated it. We learned from him.

He confessed several times that before meeting us he had a wrong impression about us--given to him by interested parties. He appreciated our idealism and he repeated several times that he wanted our idealism to be harnessed in the forward march of the country. We know that many times he had corrected others' false views on us and showed them our true nature. We found him appreciating views, irrespective of a person's social origin. And he would openly say so when he disagreed. There was no coercion whatsoever or attempt to force his views on others without first convincing them.

As we came to know him personally, we were glad that we had proposed him to high office, although then only knowing him from his actions. When he contested the post of Secretary of the Commonwealth we were relieved that he did not succeed because we felt that he could serve the motherland better than serving the world. And we did express these sentiments to him to his face. He gave us his broad smile.

After the Sandanaya was dissolved we spoke with him. He was disappointed. We said that this was not the first Sandanaya or the last. And we said that whatever be the fate of the political alliance, our appreciation of him would not diminish. Later when we met him for a non-political chat we found him as open as ever. He did not betray SLFP secrets but clearly his discomfort on such issues as PTOMS were plain to see.

Today our country is in deep trouble. The prime and first duty of any country's leaders is to maintain the country's borders intact. It is for this purpose that countries whatever their size or nature from whichever part of the world, maintain an army and a foreign service. Today, our borders have been eroded in an attempt to carve out a separate state. There are no signs that the LTTE has given up these aims. In the Wanni today there exists an illegal entity from which the government is debarred and which at every turn aims to legalise it as a separate state and expand its boundaries. Eradicating this entity should be the legitimate objective of any person aspiring to be a leader of the country.

We are today in a phony peace trap. It is difficult to get out of it. Within this trap our sovereignty is continuously getting eroded. If this cease-fire was not phony we should not have any LTTE assassinations. Minister Kadirgamar should have been able to cycle freely from his official residence to his own home for his swim.

The LTTE leaders have said several times recently that they are prepared to go to war. This was possibly meant to blackmail us. The government on the other hand has bent over backwards every time to accommodate the LTTE's unreasonable and increasing demands. And so does the international community. The LTTE is not so strong as it seems. They are afraid of freedom and democracy for the Tamils. It has lost effective control of the East. It is maintained partly by the government.

The United States and Britain have recently seen terrorism, namely attacks on noncombatants. These are by no means legitimate armed struggles. The LTTE has been guilty of all the crimes over which the western powers, the "International Community", has been campaigning against and even went to war for. The LTTE has done ethnic cleansing, in fact it invented it. It has the largest amount of suicide bombers, in fact it invented it. It recruits children as soldiers—this too was invented by the LTTE. It prevents democracy.

Those who are genuinely against war should now pressurize the LTTE. There are strict laws against terrorism in the USA and Britain. The LTTE should not be given visas by these countries. The JVP hopes to hold a major demonstration in London and in capitals of other countries for democracy and against the LTTE. We are asking Britain to deport Mr. Balasingham. We are also advocating both abroad and locally, the highest transfer of resources to rebuild the devastated areas in the North and East. We also want the greatest possible welfare to the population there, delivered through the existing government machinery.

It is time now to ask some direct questions. Will the LTTE come for peace talks? Democracy and human rights for Tamils should be the main subject of such talks. If the LTTE resorts to war, as the signs indicate they will, we must prepare for self-defence. We must prepare now. The international community must support us in that legitimate self- defence. If the International community governments do not come to our assistance, we will appeal directly to the terrorism-affected people of US, Britain, France, and other countries. This would be similar to what they did for us in our time of need when the tsunami hit us.

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