On this day sixty years ago a host of plenipotentiaries of governments at the Diplomatic Conference in Geneva agreed to the Convention for the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Today also marks the fourth death anniversary of a great Sri Lankan assassinated by a terrorist outfit under the cover of a ceasefire forced on this country by a group of nations extolling the Geneva Conventions, democracy and human rights. Lakshman Kadirgamar was his name.
Well-heeled and internationally known, Kadir could have led an opulent life either here or abroad but he took to politics for the love of this country. As Foreign Minister he was faced with the daunting task of repairing Sri Lanka`s irreparably damaged image. He pitted himself against the well-oiled LTTE propaganda machine successfully and prevented Sri Lanka`s isolation internationally. A brilliant scholar, orator and lawyer, he presented a strong case for eliminating separatist terrorism in Sri Lanka. The world listened. He was also instrumental in furthering d tente between Sri Lanka and India, which had turned hostile towards her neighbour owing to foreign policy bungling by the JRJ and Premadasa regimes.
Only a few Sri Lankans were capable of seeing through the LTTE strategy of laying siege to the Trincomalee harbour gradually and severing the supply routes to Jaffna on the pretext of making peace and doing political work under a bogus ceasefire. Kadir was one of them. He briefed India on the danger of the LTTE`s grand plan which posed a threat not only to Sri Lanka but also to India. And the reward he got from the then UNF government for services rendered was a veiled threat to strip him of his security and to throw him out of his official residence, as ruling party politicians of the day given to appeasement at any cost were wary of antagonising the LTTE.
But for Kadir`s timely warning which galvanised the then President Chandrika Kumaratunga into action, the LTTE would have been able to destroy the Trinco harbour and the Palali airstrip with heavy artillery fire and ground attacks simultaneously thus forcing the troops in the peninsula to be evacuated.
Later the Kumaratunga government showed its gratitude to Kadir in its characteristic style. It sought to have him politically destroyed for being outspoken. A few weeks before his assassination, the government propaganda hirelings had been ordered to target him. This newspaper in its small way rose in his defence but he requested us to sheath our swords as he did not want the government embarrassed. We are aware that a government newspaper had to remove an article against Kadir in view of his assassination!
When Kadir was brutally felled, the sinister foreign powers that are trying to press war crime charges against Sri Lanka did not care two hoots about his human rights or those of other victims of the LTTE. Their knee-jerk reaction was to urge the Kumaratunga government to adhere to the fragile `ceasefire` which the LTTE had violated thousands of times by that time regardless of that dastardly crime. By doing so they sent the wrong message to Prabhakaran: He was free to continue his killing spree and the ceasefire would hold. It was on August 12, 2005 that the ceasefire favourable to the LTTE should have been abrogated. But, President Kumaratunga was convinced otherwise. She wanted to be in the good books of the international community for reasons best known to her. (The first statement issued by her government on Kadir s assassination blamed it on anti-government forces which could have been anyone!)
The loss of Kadir is felt more than ever. He would have defended this country during war on the international front far more effectively and neutralised hostile western forces in the post-war period. That was why the LTTE destroyed Sri Lanka`s precious asset that was Kadir before resuming hostilities.
The country`s victory over terrorism would not have been possible without the groundwork people like Kadir had laid. But, sadly, not even the present government has cared to appreciate his services posthumously. Although President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremenayake and the whole caboodle of ministers are busy unveiling hurriedly put up war memorials even in schools, the Kadirgamar statue is still lying in a crate exposed to the elements in the backyard of the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute. What a shame!