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75th birth anniversary of the late Maamanithar

2013-08-27 20:11:40
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Kumar Ponnambalam

In this month, two meetings were held, one in Colombo and the other in Jaffna to observe the 75th birth anniversary of the late Maamanithar Kumar Ponnambalam. Gurubaran Kumaravadivel delivered the memorial lecture in Jaffna. In his address Gurubaran emphasised that Tamils should not take the 13th Amendment even as a starting point; instead they should not be hesitant to fight for national autonomy and for the right to self-determination.  They should not be carried away by the step-by-step process; instead they should seek investigations on war crimes, referendum and an interim administration.  For this they should concentrate on mass mobilisation. However it is not very clear, how demand for implementation of promised reforms could be a hindrance to the struggle to win national identity and the right of self determination for the Tamil nationality. As Gurubaran says, struggle has to be through a powerful mass mobilisation. If I remember correct, Kumar was one of the fist Tamil leaders to realise the necessity of not only mobilisation of Tamils but also southern mass mobilisation against Sinhala chauvinism. He was oriented towards that end from the very beginning.

I met Kumar for the first time at Cambridge, where both of us were post graduate students. That was in 1967. Of course we were in different faculties; he was involved in further studies in Law, while I was doing research in Electro Magnetic Theory. However Lankan students used to meet very often and inevitably the discussion moved into a debate on the Tamil national problem. In such discussions Kumar was able to stress forcefully his point of view. Yet sometimes he was disturbed by Sinhala chauvinist elements who avoided serious discussions on this subject by shouting remarks. Kumar was a sensitive man; he never made rude remarks. At such moments he used to get very upset and I always came to his defence. In several instances I took him to my college and helped him to cool down. We discussed how we could work together once we get back to Lanka.

"I met Kumar for the first time at Cambridge, where both of us were post graduate students. That was in 1967. Of course we were in different faculties; he was involved in further studies in law, while I was doing research in electro magnetic theory"

Back in Lanka in 1970, I assumed duties in the academic staff of the Peradeniya Engineering Faculty. While involved in academic work I continued to be an active Sama Samajist though I disagreed with the coalition politics of the leadership. In 1975 I was arrested by the famous fourth floor police officers and they questioned me about my involvement in producing “Vama Sama Samajist” paper. The Government sealed Udeni Press for printing this registered paper. However investigations stopped after the fall of the government. Then came the UNP regime; I faced continuous problems that needed the help of a good lawyer, but I could not contact Kumar. Then in 1979 suddenly I met Kumar at Dalada Weediya in Kandy. He grasped and shook me as if in anger and said “Bahu, I read in the papers about your problems. Why didn’t you call me? Remember I am at your service any time.” A few months later I was arrested with several others for leading the general strike and sathyagraha of 1980. Kumar promptly came to my defence and continued the legal battle for eleven years until all of us were set free. He never charged a penny; on the contrary often he contributed to our party fund. Though he never agreed with our socialist aims, he valued enormously our consistent struggle to defend the right of self determination of the Tamil nation. He was killed by the Sinhala racists who were working within the regime of Chandrika. As the President she should bear the responsibility for this cold-blooded murder. On the other hand he was killed because he stood irreconcilably for the liberation of Tamil people. As such he sacrified his life for the liberty of his people.

We miss him today, because the unity between struggles in the north with those of the south is more evident today than ever before. What happened at Weliweriya became an eye opener to many in the south. If the masses who merely asked for the right to use water in their soil were shot down mercilessly, a genocidal attack on a nation asking for the right of self determination should not be a surprise.  However the Mahinda regime is backed by the global capital. Global powers including India are behind this regime that is internally supported by Sinhala chauvinists. IMF is happy with the development programme of the government though it is not directly related to the poor masses. Investors, MNCs are given the power to exploit freely the land, earth resources, marine resources and other ecological resources of the country. The Mahinda regime locally rests on a fascist type of network that appears to control a large part of the state and also the underworld. Though the government claims that it is working on Buddhist principles it is very clear to many Sinhala people too, that the regime is a terrible burden on the people. We have a duty to remember fallen heroes such as Kumar Ponnambalam and go forward until truth and justice prevail.


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