Malinga H. Gunaratne reflects on the loss of a close friend
He was a young lawyer in the prime of life. Polished, persuasive, impeccably attired. Refreshingly unassuming and gentle. I was a young planter exuberant, a little reckless, and sometimes, irreverent. As unlike, as the two of us were, we established a firm friendship that lasted almost 40 years.

Lakshman Kadirgamar and I used to meet at our homes, at the many plantation clubs that he visited after his day’s work was done. It was here, that I was taken almost unknowingly to a different world. A world of quiet analysis. Of delving gently, and with delicacy, into the fallibilities and foibles of humankind. A world of philosophy, not difficult to understand, with Lakshman analyzing the strengths and frailties of the human condition. A master of the spoken word, with a deep understanding of the workings of the mind of judges, of opposing lawyers, he was always courteous and indulgent with those like me, who were inclined to fixed positions. It was from him that I learnt, that there was nothing in the field of human conflict, that could not be resolved by the presentation of the truth, with tolerance and patience, and in non-confrontational manner.

He was proud of being a product of Manipay, the Colombo 7 of Jaffna, that great cradle of learning and independence. He was a free spirit who could not come to terms with coercion, compulsion and terror. And that is why he opposed the actions of the LTTE. Lakshman had no perception of fear. He did not understand fear.

Today some of the elitist Tamils in Colombo are vicariously happy that an assassin felled this human icon from our midst. He did not oppose the LTTE because he was a traitor to the Tamils, he did so, because he could not permit his proud, and free people, to be subjugated by terror and brutality.

He could never accept the recruitment of child soldiers, and unleashing them as human bombs. He loved children too much to let this happen. He watched the people of Jaffna being deprived of their land, their possessions, sometimes even a lifetime’s savings, all in the name of liberating them from oppression. He saw his Jaffna, a seat of vigorous democracy, being deprived of electing the people of their choice.

Lakshman did not, like some men, wear his courage like a badge on his coat. But he was an extremely brave man who had to do what was right. Always. He also was too much of a human being to make speeches, and announce to the world, why he was doing the right thing. It had to be done, and he just went ahead and did it.

To his liberal mind the slaying of those Tamil people holding opposing views and exercising the freedom of speech, that Jaffna was famous for, was almost sacrilege. Debate, persuasion, and the gentle art of winning over the opposition, with measured submissions was the very essence of his life. Though possessed of extreme physical courage, his only weapon, was his mesmerizing ability to persuade.

Lakshman lived most of his adult life with, and among the Sinhalese. He knew they had many faults, but he was firm, in his assertion that they were not racists. He knew that there was no discrimination in the south, of a magnitude that required a separate state for the Tamil people to live in safety. The quintessential Lakshman Kadirgamar, he was neither frightened nor reluctant to say it loudly and clearly for the whole world to hear, ‘That if you cannot live with the Sinhalese you cannot live with anyone else, anywhere else’.
Unlike some leading Tamils in Colombo, who have earned rich rewards in the south, no doubt by dint of hard work, but, never being the victims of any form of discrimination.

It is they, who now indulge and practise every act of deception and duplicity to destroy the very Sovereign State that gave them life. It is they, who seemed to rejoice, at the assassination of Lakshman Kadirgamar. They will soon have to make the choice. Are you going to live in the south and do everything, other than carry a gun in the support of a separate state? Or are you going to join the fight to keep Sri Lanka a Sovereign Nation.

Harbouring the enemy, giving them money and resources, providing information, giving safe houses, will have to be brought under the microscope of the state agencies fighting terrorism. It is the powerful enemy within that must be dealt with. They cannot be permitted to hunt with the Tiger and run with the state. There must be special units monitoring their movements. After all, they are the enemy within.

Everybody knows who they are.
Lakshman then, was not only the most accomplished spokesman that Sri Lanka ever had. His, was the lone voice that articulated the real tragedy under the jackboot of the Fascist dictator in the north. He saw many historical precedents, where a people were defiled at the bar of world opinion, for their conspiracies and compliance by silence.

An international lawyer, he had memories of the Nuremburg trials where Hitler’s henchmen were brought to account for the atrocities committed against mankind. In the name of the Fatherland. Eelam, Fatherland, Hitler, Prabakaran, what difference is there?

The German people are even today, atoning for the crimes of the Fuhrer. The Museum of the Holocaust bears mute testimony, to this dark era in human history.

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was the most daring General in the history of Germany. The Desert Fox, he was called, because he ran rings round the British forces. He along with Generals Erwin Von Witzleben, Gustav Von Zielberg rose up against this scourge of God. They eventually went to their deaths, at the hands of Hitler. But they rid the world of this monster. The whole Prussian officer corps, participated in this move to rid the German people of this menace. Today history records Hitler as the tyrant and the oppressor, and those who rose against him, as the true patriots and friends of the German people. What place will history hold for the Tamils who conspire by their silence? Make the choice now before it is too late.

Lakshman Kadirgamar was such a patriot, not only to the Tamil people but to the entire land of his birth. His liberal intellect transcended ethnicity in the name of which, the most dastardly crimes are being committed. Like some Colombo Tamils he had no need to assume a superiority complex.

He, in his own way, understood that his Maker, had endowed him with so many virtues, attributes and abilities that made him walk easily with Kings, almost like a King himself, but without a crown made by the hand of man. Lakshman was more divinely bestowed, with a commanding stature, a soothing voice (which keeps reverberating in my ears), outstanding integrity, and high intellect, which must have made him know that he would go out this way, but he refused to compromise. And there, lies his greatness; he refused to compromise even in the face of death.

Sri Lanka has become a servile nation. Our leaders are echoing chorus after chorus, of plaudits and platitudes to those who are working overtime to destroy our land. Lakshman, almost alone, fought these forces. His weapons were the weapons of civilized man. Properly marshalled reasoning, uncompromising rectitude and irrefutable logic. The advocate addressed the world.

What Tamil, what Sinhalese, what Muslim, which Sri Lankan can refuse to be proud of this most precious man, who was the best among equals, wherever he went. On July 12, he was the Chief Guest at the launch of my book ‘The Tortured Island’. There, he made a statement for the record.

I quote ‘Let me close, Herman by saying to you, and by saying to everybody in this room, as loudly and as clearly as I can, and I wish to be quoted on this point, that I remain totally committed to the Sovereign State of Sri Lanka.’ Unquote. After the launch he joined us at the Royal Colombo Golf Club for dinner. He stayed almost till the end 2 a.m., captivating all those who spoke to him with his charm and simplicity.

When he was leaving my two sons Maithri and Uchi accompanied him to the car. He got into his car, and got out again, for a final word with Maithri. “Maithri,” he said, “your father is a very old friend of mine, you must look after him.” With tears in his eyes, Maithri related this story to me, when he heard of his assassination.

This nation could not look after you. You gave so much, so silently, so that we were free, sovereign and independent. Sleep well, gentle Prince, sleep well. You have entered the land that knows no pain, no suffering, and no sorrow.
You are a hero, not in a man-made gallery of heroes, but in the eternal hearts and souls of the people whom you served so well.
And, heroes will always be the children of history.

I mourn the loss of courage and the future of my country
Frankfurt, August 15, 5.15 p.m: They bid farewell to our Foreign Minister today. It was a solemn ceremony as well as a grand ceremony, befitting of this great man. They had the ritual gun salute. I always wonder about this “gun-salute”. Today it seemed all the more incongruous, for a man felled by the gun.

In any case it was a solemn and grand ceremony. His son and nephew lit the pyre. His son looked dashing - as always, and I wonder how he felt at this awkward moment of fame. Maybe he would have preferred other occasions for the world to view him. Not least because of his feelings for his father.
The sky was cloudy. It’s inter-monsoon. In Sri Lanka it’s either monsoon or inter-monsoon. Today the sky was cloudy. Faces were sombre. Unashamed tears welled in many a celebrity, political and otherwise.

Of course this is how I imagined it to be. I did not see it. I was far away, in the windowless room at the internet café. I was, however, too early to catch glimpses or images of the ceremony. But I imagine this is how it must be. I will see tomorrow if I imagined correctly.

How does one say goodbye to someone one never knew? Or is it sufficient to know someone through his work? Or through his friends? Or by watching him on the television? Or by reading about him in the newspapers? How can one feel such loss for someone that one only knew of? Maybe it is possible to know someone without actually knowing him.

I wore black today. It’s not unusual here to wear black. It’s quite fashionable, so no one would think anything amiss. Not that I know anyone who would make this observance. That is apart from my husband, who is my sole soul-mate here. I was at the Zeil, and at the square there was a larger gathering of the group that I like to believe are Tamil asylum seekers. Was it my imagination or were there more of them gathered today and were they more drunk and louder than usual. I hope they noticed that I wore black. Probably not.

I said goodbye to him over the internet. I mourned for the man. For his wife. For those close to him. But as every Sri Lankan with, dare I say ‘patriotic’ feelings, I mourned for my country. I mourned for the loss of a man who won the verbal battle against the Tamil Tigers, near single-handedly. As others I mourned the loss of a principled politician in the crass of muck that paints our political landscape.

I mourn the loss of intellect. I mourn the loss of vision. I mourn the loss of fairplay. I mourn the loss of courage. I mourn the loss of a father, husband and friend. And I mourn the loss of a future for my country.

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