There seems to be no end to victory celebrations. Real warriors as well cardboard heroes who jumped the bandwagon recently after their attempts to scuttle the country`s war effort failed are going places. One may ask whether there is anything wrong with people celebrating for thirty days the defeat of terrorism which plagued them for thirty years. (One may also say that some of those who are opposing victory celebrations so vehemently did not make a whimper of protest against the dastardly crimes that terrorists committed let alone demand that terrorism be eliminated.) That argument sounds tenable but the daunting task of rehabilitation, resettlement and rebuilding the battered economy warrants our urgent attention without being distracted by protracted ceremonies.
While felicitations are on and the air reverberates with hosannas, a true national hero has been relegated to a dark corner. It does not seem to have occurred to the government at all that without that great man`s contribution to repairing the image of this country at a time it was being projected as a land of cannibals preying on ethnic minorities, we would never have been able to turn the tables on terrorists equipped with an efficient propaganda mill capable of churning out diabolical lies and disseminating them across the globe at the speed of lightning. That unsung hero countered all terrorist propaganda almost single-handed and eloquently presented a strong case for removing the scourge of terrorism from Sri Lanka`s soil. He fought many a battle at international fora and in Parliament at home to defend the country`s war effort as well as PA/UPFA governments. And finally he made the supreme sacrifice for the national cause. Lakshman Kadirgamar was his name the best foreign minister this country has ever produced.
Nearly four years have elapsed since the assassination of that illustrious Sri Lankan leader. The government has rightly erected memorials for war heroes who richly deserve such recognition. It is the sacred responsibility of this country to look after the dependents of those fallen troops and the disabled personnel. However nothing will help this country pay back its debt.
Similarly, no one should grudge President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Commanders of the armed forces, Defence Secretary and other key government leaders a tribute for their selfless service to the nation. It is thanks to them that this country is today free for all of us to live without fear of bombs and massacres.
But, we must be ashamed as a nation for having forgotten Kadirgamar. His statue that was to be erected at the Kadirgamar Institute a long time ago is still lying in a crate. We have spent reams of newsprint and barrels of ink on the government`s failure to honour Kadir by putting up that statue.
Sometime ago, it was reported that President Rajapaksa had ordered that the Kadirgamar statue be put up as planned. But, that order has not yet been carried out! There seems to be someone more powerful than the President in his government! It is mind-boggling why the President, who had the courage to force open the Mavil Aru sluice gates that Prabhakaran was stupid enough to close and to defeat terrorism militarily resisting as he did unbearable pressure from many quarters, has failed to accomplish the simple task of erecting a statue! Is it a case of the President proposing and his foreign minister disposing?
Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama is believed to be blocking the erection of his predecessor`s statue at the Kadirgamar Institute. Minister Bogollagama would be justified in doing so, if that place were his grandmother`s estate. But, we reckon it is State property.
President Rajapaksa keeps saying that he is not the owner of this country but only the custodian. Then, how come Minister Bogollagama is acting as if he were the undisputed owner of the Foreign Ministry and the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute? It couldn`t have been for nothing that Minister Bogollagama put up a huge cut-out in Kotte recently with his picture several times bigger than that of President Rajapaksa, as was seen in a photograph in this newspaper. How can the foreign minister be bigger than the President?
If Kadirgamar`s portrait is fit enough to be at Oxford, how come his statue is not good enough to be at a local institute named after him? The busts of the Bandaranaikes are at the BMICH: So how could it be argued that Kadirgamar`s bust should not be placed at the Kadirgamar Institute? Or, is it that Minister Bogollagama wants his statue erected there instead of Kadirgamar`s?
The best place for Bogollagama`s statue, we suppose, is the Katunayake Airport which he has used more than anyone else in this country! Travel is said to broaden mind but Minister Bogollagama has disproved that bromide by stooping to the level of blocking the erection of his predecessor`s statue where it deserves to be. There is no reason why any politician should be wary of honouring Kadir. He is dead!
The government is bursting at the seams with a bunch of patriots of all sorts. But, none of them has ever asked why the Foreign Ministry is insulting Lakshman Kadirgamar posthumously by keeping his statue in a wooden box in the backyard of the Kadirgamar Institute. Shame on them!
President Rajapaksa will be failing in his duty if he does not step in to have the Kadirgamar statue erected at the Kadirgamar Institute and nowhere else according to the wishes of those who were near and dear to the late leader as a mark of the nation`s respect for him. And fast!