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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2041

Late Lakshman Kadirgamar fondly remembered in Canada

Toronto, 05 September, (Asiantribune.com): "Lakshman Kadirgamar was proud to be Sri Lankan. He wanted the new generations to look at each other in the spirit of Sri Lankan brotherhood and sisterhood, transcending narrow differences. He steadfastly stood for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka."

Mrs. Suganthie Wijayasuriya Kadirgamar, widow of the late Lakshman Kadirgamar said, “despite threats to his life from the LTTE, he was not deterred from standing for what he believed to be right.”

She further said , “When he undertook the Foreign Minister’s portfolio in the Government of Sri Lanka in 1994 he had a daunting challenge ahead of him. The new government extended the hand of peace to the LTTE along with a devolution package, which the latter rejected and recommenced hostilities. With various international organizations taking a biased and pro-LTTE approach, and the adverse reporting made his task more difficult. Lakshman worked tirelessly day and night, regularly briefing opinion makers in the west. He argued that Sri Lanka could not be divided on ethnic or religious lines as its citizens were so heavily intermingled."

On the occasion to mark the 25th anniversary of Sri Lanka United National Association of Canada, a remembrance day meeting of Late Kadirgamar was held on 3oth th August in the main auditorium of the Scarborough Civic Centre, in Toronto.

As special guests of honor Dr. Palitha Kohona, Secretary of Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Mrs. Suganthie Wijayasuriya Kadirgamar, widow of the late Lakshman Kadirgamar, who is an Attorney-at-Law and partner of the Law Firm, F.J. & G De Saram of Colombo, participated in the meeting. At the  25th anniversary of Sri Lanka United National Association of Canada,  a remembrance day   meeting  of Late Kadirgamar was held  in the  main auditorium of the Scarborough Civic Centre, in Toronto in sessionAt the 25th anniversary of Sri Lanka United National Association of Canada, a remembrance day meeting of Late Kadirgamar was held in the main auditorium of the Scarborough Civic Centre, in Toronto in session

Dr. Kohona in his keynote address spoke on the topic, ‘Remembering Lakshman Kadirgamar: Bridging the Divide and Reaching a Sustainable Peace in Sri Lanka’

Dr. Kohona started his speech quoting from an interview given by the late Lakshman Kadirgamar to the Japanese National Television (NHK) in September 2004 from which we have extracted the following:

“ I am first and foremost a citizen of Sri Lanka. I don’t carry labels of race or religion or any other label. I believe there should be a united Sri Lanka. I believe that our peoples can live together, they did live together. They must in the future learn to live together after this trauma is over.”

Dr. Kohona next extended his warmest congratulations and best wishes to SLUNA’s Executive Committee, members and well wishers on the 25th anniversary, which had been formed at a time when our country was besmirched by a virulent hate campaign unleashed in the aftermath of July 1983 riots, for courageously taking on the daunting challenge posed by the well-oiled, slick anti-Sri Lanka propaganda machine that sought the division of the country.

The portrait of the late Lakshman Kadirgamar was installed at the head table by Mr. Rajeev Gnanaratnam, President of the Trinity College OBA. Mr. Bandula Jayasekera, Sri Lanka’s Consul General in Toronto, placed a garland made out of of jasmine flowers around the portrait. The attendees stood in silence for one minute in memory of the late Lakshman Kadirgamar and all other victims of terrorism in Sri Lanka and the rest of the world.

Mahinda Gunasekera, President of the association welcomed the distinguished guests and the large gathering of attendees who participated despite it being the Labor Day weekend which marks the end of the summer season normally spent outdoors with family and friends. He said that SLUNA had reached 25 years which is a big slice of Toronto’s 175 year history. In celebrating the association’s silver jubilee, it was felt important and fitting to remember the late . Lakshman Kadirgamar, who is regarded as a great hero of Sri Lanka of recent times, in whose memory a special meeting was held by us in September 2005 one month after his life was snuffed out by a bullet aimed by a Tamil Tiger Terrorist assassin hidden in a neighborhood house.

Mr. Kadirgamar was not a narrow communalist but one who considered himself a Sri Lankan first, and one who acknowledged the benefits that his country gave him. The LTTE which INGOs, NGOs and some foreign governments claimed to operate a de-facto government in the usurped territory of the north and east of Sri Lanka controlled by the terror group with armed force, had only developed heavily fortified concrete bunkers, acres of mine fields and explosives laden booby traps, child soldiers, brainwashed Black Tiger Suicide Bombers, large cemeteries to bury the misled youth and adult tiger cadres, kangaroo courts and torture chambers, whilst the health, education, welfare and administrative structure was manned and funded by the government of Sri Lanka. Happily we are meeting at a time, when the boundaries of the usurped territory is fast receding and the writ of the democratically elected state is being extended to the areas being liberated by Sri Lanka’s security forces who are freeing the powerless Tamil civilians living under the terror regime of the LTTE.

Mr. Bandula Jayasekera, Sri Lanka’s Consul General in Toronto, congratulated SLUNA for defending Sri Lanka’s interests in Canada against a brutal terrorist organization hell bent on breaking up the country. He said that Mr. Kadirgamar was aware of the effective role being played by SLUNA in correcting the distorted picture painted by the pro-LTTE lobby. He said that Mr. Kadirgamar’s loss was deeply felt by the whole of Sri Lanka, and that in an article he wrote in the Sri Lankan papers he even revealed that Hon. Manmohan Singh the Prime Minister of India had openly cried on hearing of the tragic death.

Mr. Anandasangaree was formally introduced by Miss Avanti de Zoysa. The TULF leader bemoaned the loss of an educated and respected leader. He had a few days prior to his assassination attended the book launch of Mr. Kadirgamar’s latest publication, and inquired about his security as he was a target of the terrorist LTTE. He was horror struck to realize that Mr. Kadirgamar’s life had been taken by a terrorist bullet, and that too when his services were most needed in healing the nation’s wounds, he was removed from our midst. He thanked SLUNA for inviting him but did complain about the short time of five minutes allotted for his speech.

Mrs. Badriya Al Ayad said she belonged to a minority community but felt one with the members of SLUNA where her voice was respected. She commended SLUNA for the long list of achievements and was proud to be a part of the organization. She wanted everyone in the audience to become an unofficial ambassador for Sri Lanka, and tell their fellow Canadians about the true position in the country. She wanted more persons to join the association to extend the equality and harmony enjoyed in Canada to all the people in Sri Lanka in the near future.

Alan Tonks, MP, spoke of the long history of Sri Lanka extending to over 2000 years, and said he was hopeful that the experience of the past will be of great value in resolving the problems of the present time. He said that Canada was not perfect, and he would call it a work in progress. He spoke of his being the Mayor of the cosmopolitan City of Toronto before his election to the federal parliament. He welcomed the Foreign Secretary, Mrs. Kadirgamar and other special guests from Sri Lanka, and thanked SLUNA for inviting him to this event.

Yasmin Ratansi, MP, thanked SLUNA for inviting her and said she was pleased to have the opportunity to address the meeting. She spoke of the importance of safeguarding human rights within a plural society, where people should feel equal to one another in order that they may contribute to that society. She said that the experiment of Canada was working well though not perfect, and that efforts are being made to realise her full potential. She recommended Canada as an example which Sri Lanka may follow to resolve the lingering issues within her multi-ethnic, multi-religious community.

Councillor Raymond Cho conveyed the best wishes of the Mayor of Toronto, and said he was glad to participate in the event. He was pained to hear of the killing of the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, and said that such acts cannot solve problems. He said that Sri Lanka should turn away from violence and seek peaceful means to resolve issues.

Mrs. Suganthie Wijayasuriya Kadirgamar was formally introduced by Miss Theja Gunasekera. Mrs. Kadirgamar thanked SLUNA for inviting her and said it was a difficult task to speak of her late husband Lakshman’s life in such a short space of time. She therefore said she would confine her comments to the period 1994 to 2001, and the years 2004 and 2005 when he served as Sri Lanka’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. In order to understand his thinking, she quoted the following from a television address given by Lakshman in 1994 stating his reasons for entering the political arena:

“I have had a privileged life by birth, by education, by access to opportunities, and I have always felt that a time must come when you must give something back to the society in which you have grown up and from which you have taken so much. So-called educated people must not shirk responsibilities in public life. I have reached that stage in my life when, without being heroic about it, I feel I should participate more fully in public life. If you treat the democratic process as one of extreme and sustained confrontation and hostility to those of different persuasions then there is little scope for independence and objectivity in politics. Independence based on reasoned positions, even in dissent, can only be healthy for a party and for society as a whole.”

When he undertook the Foreign Minister’s portfolio in the Government of Sri Lanka in 1994 he had a daunting challenge ahead of him. The new government extended the hand of peace to the LTTE along with a devolution package, which the latter rejected and recommenced hostilities. With various international organizations taking a biased and pro-LTTE approach, and the adverse reporting made his task more difficult. Lakshman worked tirelessly day and night, regularly briefing opinion makers in the west. He argued that Sri Lanka could not be divided on ethnic or religious lines as its citizens were so heavily intermingled.

Lakshman was proud to be Sri Lankan. He wanted the new generations to look at each other in the spirit of Sri Lankan brotherhood and sisterhood, transcending narrow differences. He steadfastly stood for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka.

Despite threats to his life from the LTTE, he was not deterred from standing for what he believed to be right. In conclusion, she thanked SLUNA for their commitment to forge ahead our interests, and fostering Canada – Sri Lanka friendship.

Dr. Palitha Kohona , Foreign Secretary of Sri Lanka, the keynote speaker was was introduced to the audience by Miss Lakmini Pinnaduwage. Dr. Kohona spoke on the topic, ‘Remembering Lakshman Kadirgamar: Bridging the Divide and Reaching a Sustainable Peace in Sri Lanka’

Dr. Kohona started his speech quoting from an interview given by the late Lakshman Kadirgamar to the Japanese National Television (NHK) in September 2004 from which we have extracted the following:

“ I am first and foremost a citizen of Sri Lanka. I don’t carry labels of race or religion or any other label. I believe there should be a united Sri Lanka. I believe that our peoples can live together, they did live together. They must in the future learn to live together after this trauma is over.”

Dr. Kohona next extended his warmest congratulations and best wishes to SLUNA’s Executive Committee, members and well wishers on the 25th anniversary, which had been formed at a time when our country was besmirched by a virulent hate campaign unleashed in the aftermath of July 1983 riots, for courageously taking on the daunting challenge posed by the well-oiled, slick anti-Sri Lanka propaganda machine that sought the division of the country. The sad events of 1983 which remains the biggest blot on Sri Lanka’s history, did not take place in isolation, but was the result of other causes such as the killing of the Jaffna Mayor, Mr. Alfred Duraiappa in 1975, and the state of lawlessness in the northern region, and hateful propaganda against the majority community which created an extremely tense atmosphere that blew the lid resulting in the riots following the killing of 13 soldiers on that fateful day in July 1983. The persistent barrage of negative comments on Sri Lanka deliberately disseminated to facilitate the goals of the LTTE, had to be countered by organizations such as SLUNA, which services are acknowledged with admiration by all Sri Lankans.

Dr. Kohona next quoted from letters written by Dr. Nallai Nallainayagam, a former Sri Lankan civil servant, now resident in Canada, and Dr. Lakshman Abeywardene, a medical doctor, recently published in the Sri Lankan newspapers, about their painful experiences during the mob violence of July 1983. The riots brought out the worst and best of human traits, with many Sinhalese and Muslims risking their lives to protect their Tamil neighbours and strangers in their own homes till they could be taken to safety.

Since 1983, terrorist violence unleashed by the LTTE has claimed the lives of thousands of our people belonging to all communities, including the cream of our political leadership and intelligentsia, i.e. President Premadasa, Lalith Athulathmudali, Gamini Dissanayake, and Tamil politicians such as A.Amirthalingam, V.Yogeswaran, and more recently, Neelan Tiruchelvam, Keethesh Loganathan, T. Maheswaran and Maheswary Velayutham. The numerous atrocities committed by the LTTE such as the gunning down of Buddhist pilgrims meditating at the Sacred Bodhi Tree in Anuradhapura, the much venerated Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy, the killing of Muslims at prayer inside the mosque in Kathankudy and several more brutal attacks over the last quarter century have not evoked uncontrollable passions, as the Sinhalese and Muslims did not respond with violence to these outrageously provocative attacks, unlike what would normally happen in other countries. We need to move forward – we will remember the pain, we must also look to the future. Sri Lanka’s former President made a public apology on behalf of the nation to the victims of the July’83 riots and also took action to compensate the affected families, although such monetary compensation would never be adequate to those who lost loved ones. Our future lies not in scratching the old wound, but re-building the nation with compassion and trust.

The LTTE was completely evicted from the Eastern Province in 2006, and civil administration and democracy restored after a lapse of two decades. A former terrorist from the TMVP, Sivanathurai Chandrakanthan (Pillaiyan) which embraced the democratic mainstream was elected the Chief Minister. He publicly stated that he renounced violence and terrorism after a young Sinhala woman carrying an infant, whose husband had been killed by the LTTE, brought food and drink to him when he was an LTTE armed cadre hiding in Maduru Oya. Terrorism and violence is not the answer to political disenchantment within a democracy. With 54% of the Tamil population moving out of the north and east into government controlled areas, they have voted with their feet by abandoning the goal of a separate ‘Eelam’ by whatever means.

On 12th August 2005, Sri Lanka lost not only her Foreign Minister, but a veritable national treasure, when a LTTE assassin felled Lakshman Kadirgamar in cold blood. The great son of our soil did yeomen service, armed only with his brilliant intellectand superb understanding of the world, nailed the canards and false propaganda carried out relentlessly by the LTTE and its extensive international network. Lakshman Kadirgamar was a hero in his lifetime.

Nation building is no easy task. It requires the participation of all stakeholders and the commitment of all sections of the people. We have to break free from our insular lines of thinking, and be open to new ideas and move towards the future with optimism and courage as one nation. I believe SLUNA too could take up this challenge and become a partner in rebuilding Sri Lanka devoid of conflict, as one nation and one people.

Mr. Anton Perera and Dr. Asoka Perera read out letters of appreciation sent by the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka,. Rathnasiri Wickramanayake addressed to Daya Hettiarachchi and Mahinda Gunasekera respectively.

Second segment of the Program:

The meeting was adjourned for a short recess of 15 minutes during which time refreshments were served to all VIPs and other attendees, part sponsored by M&M TWINS Limited. On re-assembling in the meeting hall, the President drew attention to our being left with 45 minutes for the remainder of the program which was originally spread over one-and-a-half hours, necessitating the revision of the agenda.

A video highlighting some of SLUNA’s achievements was partially screened. The speech by SLUNA’s President on ‘Some insights about the Association’ was skipped over, and Mr. Jivinda de Silva of New York representing WAPS and the US associations was called to address the meeting. Jivinda spoke of the close cooperation given by SLUNA to the US groups, formation of the World Federation of Overseas Sri Lankan Associations being established in 1985 on SLUNA’s initiative. SLUNA using the services of the internationally recognized intelligence expert, Dr. Rohan Gunaratna, to compile reports of the LTTE’s criminal and fundraising activities in Canada to support the banning of the terror group and its front organizations, and subsequent report published by the US group using his services to draw attention to the links between the LTTE and the Al Qaeda, were major achievements of our two groups. He lamented the chair timing him out with 30 more seconds, as he had much more to tell the audience.

Daya Hettiarachchi a senior member of SLUNA who was instrumental in bringing a group of concerned Sri Lankans together after the events of July ’83 and the negative media reports about his homeland, spoke of the role he played and introduced his associates who were present at the meeting. He has provided a list of names of persons who had come together in 1983 to defend Sri Lanka’s interests in the special souvenir.

With only 15 minutes left for handing over of the auditorium by 6.00 p.m., the chair decided to cancel the planned Panel Discussion on ‘Re-building Sri Lanka’ to the disappointment of many due to the lack of time, skip over Asoka Weerasinghe’s ‘Toast to SLUNA’, and give the stage to the talented young children who performed two lovely dances in the ‘Mini-Cultural Show’ scheduled in the agenda.

First, we had a dance innovated and trained by Nadeeja Wijesekera based on traditional Raban Pada very energetically performed by four young girls, followed by the Gajaga Vannama performed by a troupe of six girls trained by Mrs. Latha Dissanayake of the Sarasavi Dance School, which were well received by the audience.

Irangani de Silva, Past President of SLUNA presented a cheque for $600.00 from SLUNA to Mr. Bandula Jayasekera, Consul General, as our contribution to the Education Scholarship Trust set up for the benefit of the two sons aged 12 and 6 years, of the late Mrs. Priyani Ranasinghe, who lost her life in the bombing of the passenger train carried out by the LTTE terrorists at Dehiwela on May 26, 2008.

Dr. Palitha Kohona presented a Silver Tray with local gems as a gift from the President of Sri Lanka to the President of the Sri Lanka United National Association of Canada. Misses Avanti de Zoysa, Theja Gunasekera and Lakmini Pinnaduwage presented token gifts on behalf of SLUNA to our special guests from Sri Lanka, namely, Mr. V. Anandasangaree, Mrs. Suganthie Wijayasuriya Kadirgamar and Dr. Palitha Kohona respectively.

Due to lack of time, the Vote of Thanks by our Secretary, Prathap Perera too was not delivered. The meeting concluded with the singing of the National Anthems of Sri Lanka and Canada led by Lionel Dissanayake and music provided by Vajira Sarathchandra on the keyboard. The meeting terminated at 6.00 p.m. sharp with the President thanking all the participation and bidding everyone a pleasant evening.

- Asian Tribune -

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