By Bandula Jayasekara
“People who live in Sri Lanka are first and foremost Sri Lankans, then we have our race and religion, which is something given to us at birth”. “We have to live in Sri Lanka as Sri Lankans tolerating all races and religion”. - Lakshman Kadirgamar (Born April 12, 1932 – Sacrificed his life for his Motherland August 12, 2005)
It is seven years since a Hero of our times; Lakshman Kadirgamar was felled by a cowardly LTTE assassin’s bullet. LTTE terrorists which targeted him succeeded finally but, not before Kadirgamar did his motherland, Sri Lanka proud.
I remember not too long ago. Lakshman Kadirgamar told me in his usual style, “Son, I have got my own swimming pool now. I used to go to the Army pool, but, I didn’t want to bother them all the time.”For the man who swam 1000 meters daily, the end came when one least expected it. Near his swimming pool.
One of Sri Lanka’s most loved public figures, Kadirgamar was a lawyer, a scholar and a politician and a gentleman. But, more than that he was a man who loved his country.
It was Kadirgamar who led the way to clear the tarnished image of Sri Lanka after he became Foreign Minister. He countered the LTTE terrorist propaganda in the West that the terrorist organization was a brave bunch of people crying for freedom. Many in the West thought so until Kadirgamar and the Foreign Ministry and others exposed the terrorist lie. He led the campaign to get the LTTE banned in several countries and put a stop to many of their fundraising activities. All in all, that made him LTTE’s Target No 1 at the time.
Kadirgamar was fearless. He even told the international community where to get off. He was responsible for sending away two UNDP heads who tried to interfere in Sri Lankan affairs at the time. Another one was warned. He made sure that they respected and followed the country’s rules and law. He gave us, Sri Lankans, pride.
Having had the opportunity to associate closely with him, I remember how Kadirgamar never minced his words when talking about the LTTE problem. When certain international and Sri Lankan journalists referred to “LTTE controlled areas”, Kadirgamar refused to let the description stick. “Temporarily controlled areas by the LTTE” is how he insisted on describing the area. He always believed that it would be temporarily. It is sad Lakshman Kadirgamar could not live to see Mahinda Rajapaksa elected as the President of Sri Lanka and then to see him liberating the country from the clutches of the terrorists.
Kadirgamar was very particular about details whether it be his clothes, his food (But, we are told that he had a sweet tooth and got caught to his wife Suganthi having put chocolates in his pocket) his speeches or his meetings with others. Diplomats, Journalists, Politicians and members of his staff would walk out of his house or office wiser, and dare I say happier.
Even when he was in the opposition many saw him as the Foreign Minister because of the manner he conducted himself and whilst the UNP was betraying the country with the now infamous CFA. When Lakshman Kadirgamar spoke the world listened. When journalists got to know that Kadirgamar was going to be present at a press conference, there would be a scarcity of chairs in the packed hall.
Lakshman Kadirgamar will be remembered for his honesty, courage and his larger than life personality. He will be remembered by right thinking Sri Lankan Tamils and others as a man who scarificed his life for peace.