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Tamara Kunanayakam: Fighting for Lanka in Geneva

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Ambassador Tamara Kunanayakam

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Many Sri Lankans watching live proceedings of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on the fateful Thursday of March 22nd 2012 were puzzled by the composition of our representatives when the spotlight was on Sri Lanka in Geneva.

With our learned minister of External Affairs himself being present in Geneva it was but natural to expect that Prof GL Peiris would deliver the official response of Sri Lanka. Instead we saw the Plantations Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe functioning as leader of delegation read out from a prepared text in what was visibly a lack- lustre performance.

A wide view of the High-Level Segment of the 19th session of the Human Rights Council. 27 February 2012. Photo by Jean-Marc Ferré

This was rather strange for at least three reasons. Firstly it is customary for the Minister in charge of External or Foreign affairs to lead the delegation officially when he or she is present. Secondly Mahinda Samarasinghe had already spoken once on behalf of Sri Lanka earlier during the “High level segment”period on February 27th when the 19th session of the UNHRC got officially underway. Thirdly in comparison with Samarasinghe,Prof Peiris would have done the Country proud by rising to the occasion eruditely, eloquently and effectively.

Mahinda Samarasinghe, Minister of Plantation Industries of Sri Lanka addresses before the voting of resolution on Sri Lanka L.2 during the 19th session of the Human Rights Council. 22 March 2012. Photo by Jean-Marc Ferré

Besides Prof.Peiris was not even seated at the side of Samarasinghe when the Plantations minister read out the statement.It was former Attorney-General Mohan Peiris who shared the honour of “frontal prominence” with Samarasinghe and not his Professorial namesake. The External affairs minister was relegated to a seat behind Samarasinghe. Seated alongside Peiris was the self – confessed “half Democrat” and Traditional Industry minister Kathiravely Devananda alias “Douglas”.

That was not all! While almost every country at the UNHRC on that day was represented by their permanent representative or deputy permanent representative to the UN,Sri Lanka’s permanent representative Tamara Kunanayakam and her deputy Manisha Gunasekera seemed to be conspicuous absentees.Both were not visible as the cameras focused on the four gentlemen from Sri Lanka. Where oh where was Tamara Kunanayakam “our woman in Geneva”?


Having read many reports in sections of the Sri Lankan media extolling the virtues of certain personalities while denigrating others I jumped to the conclusion that Ambassador Tamara Kunanayakam had been sidelined by influential members of the Colombo caucus who had invaded Geneva temporarily and were strutting about “dressed briefly in authority”.

I thought then that Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland was being enacted without Alice in a month where individuals as mad as “march hares”leap and bound. But I learnt later that Tamara had indeed been present.

Only, Sri Lankas officially accredited permanent representative to the UN in Geneva could not get a seat among representatives from her mother land and had been compelled to seek occupy a seat vacated by Gambia.After weeks of painstaking spadework our woman in Geneva could not find accommodation with the “big boys” from Colombo.

Ambassador Kunanayakam however had her day on March 23rd when the 19th session of the UNHRC formally concluded. With the ministerial heavy weights departing , the field was clear for Sri Lanka’s permanent representative to make her closing remarks at the end of the session.

“Sri Lanka is proud to have led a battle of convictions by appealing to the conscience of each and every one – for the respect of the principles and values that should unite the international community” Ambassador Kunanayakam said.

“The US resolution against Sri Lanka constitutes a negative precedent that challenges the core values of the Human Rights Council, and reflects a blatant case of politicization that takes the Council hostage to the hidden agendas of the mighty” she pointed out.

Laura Dupuy Lasserre, President Human Rights Council opens session the voting of resolution on Sri Lanka L.2 during the 19th session of the Human Rights Council. 22 March 2012. Photo by Jean-Marc Ferré

Speaking further at the session chaired by the President of the UNHRC, Laura Dupuy Lasserre of Uruguay, the Sri Lankan envoy to the UN in Geneva said –

“Today, one country deems itself the depositary of a mission to dictate to the rest of world its vision of Democracy, of Human Rights, of Development. Is any of us safe from becoming the next target, the object of pressure, even of military aggression, to the detriment of our peoples and their right to life?

It is our duty to unite in the common struggle to defend our sovereignty, our independence, our territorial integrity, and the free choice of our peoples to shape their own societies and their destiny.

Sri Lanka will continue its policy of peace and reconciliation, which is an inclusive process that enjoys not only the support of its own people, but broad international support.

We will also continue to defend the independence and the prerogatives of the Human Rights Council, against any effort to undermine its multilateral principles.

We must heal not hurt; unite not divide ! The victory of one nation over domination is our collective victory, its defeat is our collective defeat!

Sri Lanka pays homage to all those who, in various ways, expressed their support for our common cause!”


After Kunanayakam’s closing remarks a Western Human rights activist who is familiar with the Sri Lankan situation as well as the UN in Geneva observed that it would have been better if she had been allowed to make the statement on behalf of Sri Lanka when the vote was taken on the US sponsored resolution.

“Apart from her intrinsic merit and ability to make an effective presentation it may also have helped Sri Lanka to project a better image as Tamara Kunanayakam happens to be ethnically a Tamil” this HR activist stated in what was strictly a personal opinion.

“At a time when there is so much of criticism against Sri Lanka about alleged discrimination against Tamils and at a time when there was lobbying in Geneva by Tamil groups on those lines, it would have been a good idea to let a Tamil woman represent Sri Lanka” the activist emphasized.

“From what I know about Tamara Kunanayakam, she may be ethnically a Tamil but she does not think of herself as Tamil. Tamara regards herself as Sri Lankan” I replied.

“That may be so but it does not matter.It is the optics that counts. The Tamil groups have been attacking Kunanayakam viciously saying she was a token Tamil appointed by Mahinda Rajapakse to Geneva. So why not play that card to Sri Lanka’s advantage”? was again the query.

I replied that I did not know why it was not so but that I could guess. I also said “In Sri Lanka these things happen all the time”.

Even though I replied the human rights activist in that manner I must say that I too was puzzled to use a mild expression by the inexplicable under utilization of Ambassador Kunanayakam at the UNHRC during”showtime”.

In this I am not referring to exploiting her “Tamilness” alone but also to her background and proficiency that would have served Sri Lanka so well in Geneva.It must however be stressed that her “absence” at showtime does not in any way detract from her overall performance in Geneva at a critical time.

It is indeed unfortunate that a lot of negative publicity has been generated due to the huge number of persons sent by Sri Lanka to Geneva to lobby for the Country. Some “plants” in sections of the media by certain ministers denigrate the performance of some other ministers as well as the officials at our permanent mission in Geneva.

The impression sought to be conveyed is that all effective lobbying was done only at the last stages by our minister studded delegation and that they alone were responsible for garnering support at the UNHRC. It also implies that Sri Lankan officials in Geneva were inefficient and ineffective and that ministers from Colombo had to do all the lobbying and canvassing.This is rather absurd and far,far from the truth.

This inaccurate impression ignores the fact that Ambassador Kunanayakam and loyal members of her staff have been systematically engaged in promoting the Sri Lankan cause and forging vital alliances in a bid to gain wider support for the Country. It also seeks to negate the Important role played by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and External Affairs minister Peiris in enlisting support for Sri Lanka.

Ambassador Tamara Kunanayakam


What is being glossed over or not realized comprehensively is the fact that President Rajapaksa, Minister GL Peiris and Ambassador Kunanayakam are all of the same mind and opinion in formulating and implementing an approach towards US inspired developments in the UNHR. The policy guidelines were laid down by the President himself and executed by the Minister and Ambassador.

The significant feature of this policy was that it was based on principles and not on expediency. The President was prepared to lose rather than compromise on principles. The final outcome of the vote therefore is not perceived as a defeat in war but as the first encounter in a series of battles.

What is more the stance adopted by President Rajapaksa had a very good chance of succeeding at the vote too.That is until India dealt Sri Lanka a diplomatic blow. Had New Delhi not changed course after assuring Colombo of unwavering support , Sri Lanka may have altered its strategy differently. The Indian “inconsistency” gave Sri Lanka very little time to adjust accordingly.

It is against this backdrop that the observations by the human rights activist about the perceived under utilization of Ambassador Kunanayakam assumes relevance. Given her long years of experience with the UN in Geneva,her shared world view and affinity to President Rajapaksa and the reality of her ethnicity, it does make sense to say that better use should have been made of her utilitarian and optic value. But this did not happen to a very great extent and other “invaders” either eroded into or usurped her legitimate authority and functions.

It is all the more puzzling because President Rajapaksa had apparently recognized and appreciated the fact that Tamara Kunanayakam would be an asset to the Presidency and the Country at the UN in Geneva. This is why he recalled Kshenuka Seneviratne from Geneva before her term was over and filled that vacancy with Tamara.Kshenuka was appointed Additional secretary to the ministry in Colombo.

This action was not a slight on Seneviratne but only an illustration of the Presidents acumen in placing the right person at the right time in the right place.Given Tamara Kunanayakam’s credentials there is little doubt that she was indeed a very good choice given President Rajapaksas own attitude and approach towards the issue.

There were basically two schools of thought in this matter.One was the school which thought it could buy time by discussing and compromising. The other school was against giving in through appeasement and wanted to resist with the principle based support of fellow developing and non aligned nations. Mahinda Rajapaksa and Tamara Kunanayakam belonged to the latter school of thought.

Thus when Tamara Kunanayakam was appointed to Geneva it was welcomed by those knowledgeable about the actual stakes involved.It was felt that multiple factors rendered her the suitable choice in the current environment to be our woman in Geneva. She was ideally equipped to lead Sri Lanka’s diplomatic campaign at the Geneva UNHRC front. A fellow Sri Lankan diplomat gushed “If Tamara was not for real we will have to invent her”.

Who then is Tamara Kunanayakam ,Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in Geneva and Sri Lankan Ambassador to the Holy See at Vatican? Why is it felt by many that she is most suitable and best equipped to battle for Sri Lanka in Geneva at this critical juncture?What sort of person is this dusky woman with a husky voice who valiantly defends her country and President against the sole super power on the one hand while charges of “traitor” and “stooge” are levelled against her by vocal warriors on the other?


Tamara Manimekhalai Kunanayakam was born in Colombo to a Father of Jaffna Tamil origin and a Mother of Indian Tamil descent. Her father was a Tamil Anglican from Chundikuli while her mother was from a Tamil Hindu family in Badulla.Both families were against the union.

Tamara’s father was a leftist and member of the Trotskyite Lanka Sama Samaja Party(LSSP) He was in the Clerical service and in the vanguard of the Trade Union movement, playing a prominent role in the Govt Clerical Services Union (GCSU) strike of 1947 in which comrade Kandaswamy was killed.

Her maternal Grandfather Gnanapandithan was a businessman in Badulla with leanings towards the Indian freedom struggle and National Congress. Many prominent Indian leaders visiting Badulla during British rule have stayed at their residence. Chief among them were Mahatma Gandhi and Jawarhalal Nehru.

Tamara studied in the Tamil medium at Ladies College in Colombo. For a brief period she studied at Vembaddy Girls High School in Jaffna also where she was known by her middle name Manimekhalai.The name is derived from the classical Tamil epic “Manimekhalai” in which the protagonist bearing the titular name is a Tamil Buddhist nun.

Growing up in Colombo ,Tamara acquired proficiency in Tamil,Sinhala and English.One of her brothers was a musician who played the Guitar for Jet liners. Tamara had a cosmopolitan upbringing and grew up in what could be termed a secular ethos.

Endowed with a spirit of adventure Tamara left the shores of Sri Lanka in 1972 with scarce cash resources. The 19 year old teen –ager travelled overland by bus to Europe. Her original destination was the Netherlands but fate willed otherwise and she ended up in Switzerland.

After spending some years in Geneva where she held a series of jobs ,Tamara went to Germany. She enrolled at the University of Heidelberg and obtained a Bachelors degree in Economics and International relations.

Tamara then returned to Geneva where she got a Masters degree from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies at the University of Geneva in public international law, international organizations ,diplomatic history and International financial and trade relations.


Apart from academic accomplishments , Tamara also gained further linguistic fluency. She mastered French, Spanish and German thus achieving linguistic competence in six languages. In addition to English Tamara has written extensively in French and Spanish too.

In 1982 Tamara joined the United Nations Development Program in Geneva. She also served as a Consultant and policy adviser to the Lutheran World Federation from 1983-84 and also 1986 -88. It was then that she her “name gained fame” in Sri Lanka.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) Conference was in progress at Vancouver in Canada when the anti –Tamil violence erupted in Sri Lanka in July 1983.Upon a request by Lutheran church delegates, Kunanayakam sent a fax to Vancouver outlining the information she had acquired then about the violence. This fax was leaked to the media and several news agencies quoted her by name.

Shortly after that ,Arne Fjortoft the Norwegian who had served in Sri Lanka for many years on World Vision International led a delegation to Sri Lanka. Arne requested and obtained some particulars of the July violence from Tamara. She presented all the diverse information she had obtained from different sources. It was aimed at providing a wider picture of the situation.

When Fjortoft met then President Junius Richard Jayewardena he gave JR some copies of documents sent by Tamara Kunanayakam. Jayewardena was irritated and went public accusing a person called Tamara Kunanayakam who had supplied wrong information because she was a terrorist agent. No one who knew Tamara believed the charge levelled unfairly by JR Jayewardena.

That publicity though negative had a silver lining to it. It was through this episode that two Sinhala political leaders in their forties became aware of a person called Tamara Kunanayakam in Geneva. One was Vasudeva Nanayakkara.The other was Mahinda Rajapaksa. Both were not in Parliament at that time.They took steps to establish contacts with her.

Meanwhile Tamara undertook different stints at different places acquiring expertise and experience like a wandering bee gathering more honey.She held research positions at the Peace Research Institute in Oslo(1984 -85, Antenna International(1985-86) and Institute for Interdisciplinary research on Conflict and Violence(1991).

'If Tamara was not for real we will have to invent her'

Kunanayakam also served as a consultant for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for Sub-Saharan Africa in 1985 and as researcher for the International Labour Organization (ILO) from 1991-93. From 1993 to 1994 she was head of the development of policy dept at the “Bread for All” in Berne,Switzerland.


Tamara Kunanayakam was essentially an economist interested in development issues who specialised in research,policy formulation and consultancy. Serving in different capacities she has travelled extensively in the developing world and written several papers and reports on development issues.She is also the author of the book “Quel developpement?Quelle cooperation internationale?

Tamara Kunanayakam began evolving politically too. Her father’s Trade Union activism and the anti-colonial nationalism of her mother’s family had imbued her with basic anti – imperialistic, pro- left leanings. This tendency was nurtured and nourished further by reading vast amounts of socialist and communist literature and through interaction with European leftists and Latin American marxists.

Tamara was fascinated by Che Guevara and Fidel Castro and the Sandinistas. She was now very much a “leftist” with great admiration for Marxism as a tool of analysis. Her views on religion too transformed radically.Despite her Christian –Hindu parentage and links with Christian organizations she regards herself as a humanist subscribing to the religion of humanism.

While being primarily interested in development issues Tamara was equally concerned about human rights issues too and often worked in association with human rights activists on a voluntary basis.Her primary area of concern was involuntary disappearances. She also worked in an official capacity at the UN in this sphere.

Her interest in Human Rights issues led to her working as a Human Rights officer for the United Nations Centre for Human Rights from 1989 to 1990. She also worked for many years at the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. She served from 1994 to 2005 in the unit on disappearances at the Special procedures branch in the UN Human Rights Commissioner’s office.

It was this interest and concern for the issue of enforced disappearances that brought Tamara Kunanayakam and President Mahinda Rajapaksa together.It was during the dark days of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna(JVP) campaign where the United National Party(UNP) Governments of JR Jayewardena and Ranasinghe Premadasa cracked down ruthlessly on perceived “enemies of the state”.

This was the time when thousands and thousands of Sinhala youths mainly from the socially backward communities in the South kept on disappearing. This was the time when mothers in the South realised and shared the sorrow and anguish of mothers in the North and East who had lost their children too.

Vasudeva Nanayakkara

It was in these troubled times that opposition politicians like Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Mangala Samaraweera challenged the power of the all powerful state in their bid to achieve accountability and justice. It was realised then with ample justification that one way of combating the power of state terror was to seek International attention and support.

Human Rights

It was the UN in Geneva that the opposition politicians thought of in their fight for human rights against the almighty state. Both Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Mahinda Rajapaksa then resolved to go to Geneva and spotlight the prevailing human rights abuses and disappearances there. It was a gigantic task then because very few people were courageous enough to confront the powerful UNP regime. Vasu and Mahinda had very few people to draw support from in their principled battle.

When Vasu and Mahinda went to Geneva to raise awareness at the UN and to enlist support from the global human rights community they got no help from the Sinhala people living in Geneva.In fact they had to face opposition from some die hard UNP supporters. But they had a friend in need who was a friend indeed!That was Tamara Kunanayakam.!!

Palais des Nations & Ariana Park-UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferre

Tamara was already in contact with Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Mahinda Rajapaksa. Now she was to play host, friend, guide and comrade to both in Geneva.Tamara’s widowed mother and her brothers too had moved to Geneva after 1983.While the family lived elsewhere, she stayed alone in a small studio apartment near her workplace at the “Palais des Nations”(Palace of Nations)housing the UNO.

When Vasu and Mahinda arrived in Geneva they had very little financial support. There were no “Mudalalis” and “capitalist entrepreneurs” to support “apey Mahinda” then. They could not afford to stay in Hotels or eat at restaurants.

So Tamara gave up her studio apartment temporarily for both to stay and went to live with her mother. Vasu slept on the single bed while the younger Mahinda lay on the couch. Meals were cooked by Mrs.Kunanayakam and sent regularly to them. Tamaras brother drove both in his car to the places they needed to go.

Tamara herself devoted her time, energy and knowledge to the project. She helped to plan and devise reports and letters. She made innumerable telephone calls on their behalf. She put then in contact with relevant officials,representatives,activists and media personnel.She set up appointments and accompanied them to act as interpreter where required.She went with them to the “palace” and helped them get better acquainted with the UN corridors of power and influence.

Placards featuring President Mahinda Rajapaksa, held at protests agianst UNHRC Resolution across the country-Feb 27, 2012-Pic Courtesy of: VikalpaSL

It was the help and support of the Kunanayakam family in general and Tamara in particular that aided Vasu and Mahinda then to focus UN attention to the Sri Lankan human rights situation. Subsequently Mahinda followed this up with vigour and determination. It may be recalled how Mahinda was stopped at the Katunayake Airport on the way to Geneva and was relieved of the affidavits and other documents in his possession.

It has been said of Mahinda Rajapaksa that he never forgets those who help him in times of trouble and remains grateful. This was so in the case of Tamara Kunanayakam too.Mahinda Rajapaksa was appreciative of the enormous help given by Tamara and her family in dark, desperate times.That he never forgot and was ready to acknowledge it publicly was demonstrated clearly years later.

The 17 year rule of the UNP was over and Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga became President in 1994. Mahinda himself was minister of Labour and later Fisheries in her Government. He came to Geneva for an International Labour conference in his capacity as Sri Lankan Labour minister.

The Sri Lankan association comprising mainly of Sinhala residents of Geneva gave “ Minister” Mahinda a grand welcome and reception. When it was time for him to speak Mahinda Rajapaksa was nostalgic. He revived memories about his earlier visit to Geneva to spotlight the human rights violations perpetrated by the UNP regime of Ranasingha Premadasa.

“There was no welcome reception like this then. There was no Sinhala person in Geneva to help me then.Many people avoided me. Only one family – a Tamil family – helped me then. That was the Kunanayakam family” stated Mahinda Rajapaksa openly to a preponderantly Sinhala audience To Be Continued

DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at djeyaraj2005@yahoo.com

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  1. Thank you DBS you have highlighted a number of issues which are useful to enlighten the people of Sri Lanka. One matter that could be considered very important is the information the the present President himself sought the intervention of the UNHRC on the alleged human rights abuses of the Premadasa Govt. Did not he then realize that he is seeking international intrusion into the sovereignty of Sri Lanka. The other is whether despite all the good work that Ms. Tamara Kumaranayakan has done, why was she sidelined at the very important situation. Did not the thinking that why should a Tamil be allowed to earn a name played an important part in the minds of the powers which may be.

  2. Fighting for the one with power..
    Fighting for the privileges.
    fighting for kill more discriminated…
    fighting for more ruthlessness…
    god please shoe them the way !

  3. Good to know all the detailed information about ambassador Tamara from you DBS. I realise now that she is very capable and is a good selection by Mahinda.I may be wrong but I think she is the only Tamil ambassador in service now

  4. Assigning Tamara Kunanayakam as SL Ambassador was a big/costly mistake made by Mahinda. First, she is tamil and regardless of her achievements and learnings, she is tamil first.

  5. Hats off Jayaraj for ery fie article about Madam Tamara Kunanayakm.

    I had lots of admiration for her as a brave fighter for country against USA and LTTE diaspora. After reading this article my respect for her goes up very much high

    Madam Tamara, We salute you as a patriot. Sri Lanka is very proud of you

  6. Wonderful post DBS. Ambassador Tamara Kunanayakam is a great Sri Lankan. Hope she continues to stay in her current role and serve the country.

  7. Thank you for a very very interesting article Mr.Jeyaraj. Very glad to read a full length article by after many days

    Ms.Kunanayakam seems to be an efficient lady with several accomplishments. I would not have known about these if not for you

    In fact I was under the impression that she was a career diplomat till I read this article

  8. All these days I had very bad image of Tamara Gunanayagam as a Tamil traitor who got this job by licking govt feet.After reading DBS article by DBS my idea about her has changed. My best wishes to her

  9. niromi de soyza and Tamara Kunanayakam- Both jaffnna TAmil Hindu mother and Malayaha Christian father
    Both very diffrent paths- interesting

    Yes I also noted a similiarity between both. But You’ve mixed things up a bit.The father’s are Jaffna Tamil Christians and the Mothers Up Country Tamil Hindus

  10. Tamara Kunanayakam and Dayan Jayatilake – both leftist backgrounds gone to support higly exclusive nationalistic ideologies.. interesting

  11. Apart from the story of Tamara Kunanayakam which was nice to learn, another truth from this article is that any government would try to suppress armed violent struggles with deadly cruelty. It happened in USA too during the time of one of its greatest President Abraham Lincoln – the civil war. India keep doing it in J&K. We see it in Syria now. As far as I know, the Singhalese youths disappeared or killed by the Security forces were far more in number than the Tamil youths killed by them during the time of UNP government. What still bothers me is that the so-called international community did not bother about it at that time or even after that. Is it because the UNP was always pro-western and those youths killed /disappeared were allegedly aligned with a leftist movement? As far as the Tamil issue is concerned, it is always easy to paint it as genocide. And it is always helps political businessmen to gain vain glory as well as personal benefits. For big powers, ‘ oor irandu paddaal koothaadikku kondaaddam’ ( Divide and Rule).

  12. I am pretty sure that thanks to the incompetence,insensitivity towards peoples woes, greediness for power of rajapassa regime, rudrakumaran and the lot would definitely achieve what prabhakaran failed to achieve .

  13. Tamara Gunanayagam is no Tamil. She is a full blooded Sri Lankan.

    I only hope and pray that she and her likes would one day hold the highest office in Sri Lanka by
    working with all Sri Lankans and protecting MotherLanka from the foreign vultures.

    Take a bow, ma’am. You make me feel proud.

  14. Thank you DBSJ for revealing who this modern Manimekalai is what her background is and how she rose up with determination through her own effort to get a job with UN before joing the diplomatic service of GOSL under the current leadership.

    Also another big thank you for you in throwing more light on the happenings at the UNHRC meet and revealing more which the SL media or South Asian media did not reveal.

    When I read Prof Rajiva Wijesinha’s ” ‘In the Face of such Overwhelming Pressures it is still Impressive that we Secured 15 votes’( ref given below ) I came to the conclusion that Prof Rajiva was praising DJ and him and was not giving enough credit to Tamara and making her as a scape goat.

    But ever our own perceptions may be, the issue here is not the capabilities of Late Lakshaman Kadigamar or Tamara Kunanayagam, but since the elimination of LTTE what has been the action plans and implementations by the GOSL with regards to accountability , reconcilliation and devolution of political powers.

    For me out of Vasudeva, MR, and Mangala Samaraweera, only Mangal still keep to his principles when it comes to the political rights of all the citizens regardless of which province they come from or what their race or religion are.


    ‘In the Face of such Overwhelming Pressures it is still Impressive that we Secured 15 votes’

    24 March 2012, 6:36 pm

    By Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha

    Our ambassador in Geneva, Tamara Kunanayakam had laid out a good program for us that included two side bars, which had not happened before with lots of opportunities for questions in a cordial framework. I was sorry about this, for this had been one of the staples which Dayan Jayatilleka introduced when he was our representative.

    Kunanayakam, who operates on similar principles, had not however been able to make changes on the scale that was needed. In fact, the open engagement Jayatilleka had facilitated seemed to have been forgotten.

  15. So far so good …. a bright young lady aligning herself with 2 highly principled human rights crusaders in Geneva to make the world a better place – typical behavior of people are driven by high moral fortitude and committed to serving their godly purpose on this earth … but then what happened? … shall await continuation

  16. DBSJ I like this article, particularly the last few paragraphs and the nostalgic recalling of the President Mahinda Rajapaksa in recalling the help given to him by Tamara.

    It shows his character. Salute to you Mr. President for this. You have also said the same words about The Hindu Ram.


    MR went to Geneva to highlight the plight of the JR to save the Sinhalese from the abuses.

    Now it is he who is sought to be hauled there.

    The Tamils feel that this is the only way that some accountability and reconciliation would be brought into the island nation.

    They may not be wrong because the attitude of the MR when he was in the opposition was also the same, then.

    MR said that he will give military solution to those who want it and political solution to those who want it.

    I want to fulfil his words and enable the Tamils live as equal citizens there.

  17. Malinga Bandara, I dont think you realize this, but you’re an out-and-out racist! (And any bet, you will even deny it to yourself!) 🙂

  18. I would definitely have preferred Tamara instead of Mahinda Samarasinghe whose utterance of so called “Zero casualty” policy might well have been reminded by the international community during his speech. They may have also wondered what business does the Plantations Minister of a country have in UNHRC especially given the presence of External Affairs minister himself. As far as I am concerned, Mr Lakshman Kadirgamar was the best ambassodor produced by Sri Lanka. Prof. G. L. Pieris has the qualifications but he lacks that charisma.

  19. I used to read Tamil websites and thought Tamara Gunanayagam was like Douglas and Karuna..Now I am knowing the true story thanks to DBS

  20. Well done DBSJ for giving us great insight into the politician and the person, Ms Kunanayagam.
    I am proud to see a fellow Sri Lankan and a woman of this high calibre rising to the top, I’m also saddened to see that the typical Sri Lankan characteristics of racism, chauvinism and misogyny displayed by the delegation to Geneva who even denied her a seat.
    I was amazed to read that MR had gone to lobby in Geneva in the 1980s against Human Rights Violations by then UNP government. I had to laugh out loud at the irony of it in 2012!!

    Please DBSJ we want part 2 of your incredible piece ASAP. You bring us facts and insights like no other!

  21. @Anbu @DBS,
    yes like you, I too noted the similarities between Niromi de Soyza and Tamara Kunanayagam.
    Seeing her socialist communist leanings and admiration of Che Guevara, I wonder if Tamara was born two decades later like Niromi, she might have ended up as a Tigress too!!
    Nevertheless, both are remarkable women in their own right, albeit on the opposite side of the spectrum!
    What a shame that instead of making the most of talented people like these, Sri Lanka remains a country hell-bent on self-sabotage.

  22. And I meant to add that Mr DBS, you are undoubtedly the Best, most talented journalist ever to be born/bred in Sri Lanka.
    The country should be very proud of you, invite you back and honour you if they want to show the world they are serious about reform!


    Thank you for your kind words.

    There have been many,many eminent giants in Journalism in Sri Lanka.Some have passed away,some are retired and some are still active. Compared to them I am nothing .

    Still your words do make me happy.Thank you.

  23. I reproduce below an article published in the pioneer that is trying to imagine/create religious fissures, while also bravely stating some home truths. The reference to Sinhala settlements is rather inaccurate. The paragraph relating to the opinion of war-affected Tamils in Sri Lanka has been articulated for the first time in the international media.

    There have been no Hindu-Christian conflicts in the north and east of Sri Lanka, because the Christians yet retain much of their Tamil-Hindu culture. The senior government officials- Government Agends- are like Tamara Kunanayagam, capable persons, who have earned their positions through ability. Also, what do the lingistic and religious affinities of public servants matter, if they are competent. Lionel Fernando- a Sinhala-Buddhist was one of the best GA’s Jaffna. Many Tamil-Hindu/Christian GA’s have served in the Sinhala areas in the past, competently. Pathinathan is the GA, Moneragala (a predominently Sinhala area) now. Mr.Sambanthan has recently articulated opposition to Sinhala officials serving in predominently Tamil areas. This sort of reggressive thinking from Tamil politicians- especially a senior kike Sambanthan- come in handy for journalists after sensational news and views. This type of sectarian thinking from which ever side it comes from is very dangerous after our collective experiences as peoples of Sri Lanka.

    I am sure many eyes have been opened by DBSJ’s presentation on Tamara Manimekalai Kunanayakam- Tamil and a Christian, who is a product of two starnds of the Tamil society coming together in Sri Lanka. She is a self-made person and should be an example to all Sri Lankans. DBSJ has also revealed a side of Mahinda Rajapakse’s personality- gratitude and loyalty. This loyalty has on several occasions backfired. . It may be a very good trait in an individual’s personal life, but may be misplaced in politics. Mahinda Rajapakse has also a humane side to him as revealed by DBSJ, although he had to lead the effort to win a brutal and tragic war. In this instance he allowed his head as the President of Sri Lanka to rule, rather than his heart as an individual. I doubt any other person as president would have done as much as he has done to rehabilitate the war-affected persons and rebuild war-affected areas. Some may think what has been done is not enough. However, that is matter of perceptions- half-full or half-empty!

    Another lesson from DBSJ’s article- work with Mahinda Rajapakse to solve the most important issues facing the Tamils in Sri Lanka and implement existing constitutional provisions relating to the rights of Tamils as citizens. Whatever, he may be accused of- rightly or wrongly- he is the only person in the horizon who can do the most and help us most now.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    The Pioneer

    31 Mar 2012

    Peninsula’s misreading of an island’s crimes

    Author: BR Haran

    India should not have bowed to the United States’ hectoring at UNHRC and seen through the West’s agenda. Instead of backing empty resolutions New Delhi should address the real concerns of the hapless Tamil minority in Sri Lanka

    While delivering his Victory speech in Parliament on May 19, 2009, President Rajapaksa said in Tamil, “The war against the LTTE is not a war against the Tamil people. Our aim was to liberate our Tamil people from the clutches of the LTTE. Protecting the Tamil speaking people of this country is my responsibility. That is my duty. All the people of this country should live in safety without fear and suspicion. All should live with equal rights. That is my aim. Let us all get together and build up this nation.”

    In the course of his speech, in the pretext of looking back at 2,500 years of history, he specifically addressed the Tamil Kings (Datiya, Pitiya, Palayamara, Siva and Elara) as “invaders” and said that the Buddhist kings (Dutugemunu, Valagamba, Dhatusena and Vijayabahu) defeated them and brought freedom to the Sinhalese.

    Rajapaksa’s track record for the last three years clearly shows that he had not shown any responsibility in fulfilling his commitment to the protection of the rights of the Tamils. Also, the process of rehabilitation of displaced Tamils has been very tardy and not up to the expectation of the world community in general and India in particular.

    So, by voting in favour of the resolution brought by US against Sri Lanka at the Geneva session of the UNHRC, after diluting the resolution making it toothless, India thought it had conveyed a message to Sri Lanka that it could not be taken for granted. Having yielded to pressure exerted by the Tamil Nadu political parties and western nations, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had to practically beg President Rajapaksa to make him accept India’s stance.

    India’s position has not served her interests at all. First, wittingly or unwittingly, it has angered a long time friend and pushed it further close to China. Second, it has shocked the Sri Lankan Tamils and earned their displeasure, dissatisfaction and disappointment. Third, it has failed to anticipate facing similar kind of situations in Kashmir and Northeast.

    Though the first and the third may sound hypothetical, the second is a serious issue that needs to be addressed immediately. In fact, the decimation of the LTTE had brought great relief to the Island Tamils, who have been suffering for more than three decades because of the civil war. They were also terribly upset and even angry and agitated against the diaspora, for they rightly believed that the LTTE would not have survived as the world’s strongest and most dangerous terrorist organisation, but for the support of diaspora. Having lost their health, wealth and livelihood, they have resigned to the fact that the “Eelam” dream could never be realised, and are just yearning for speedy rehabilitation and reconciliation, so that, they can live in peace coexisting with the Sinhala people accepting Sri Lanka as their sovereign mother nation.

    So, in the aftermath of LTTE’s defeat, they looked forward to India for help and support. They wanted India to put pressure on Lanka to speed up the process of rehabilitation. But, the UPA government miserably failed on that account. It neither realised their predicament nor understood their aspirations.

    Rajapaksa on the other hand, was emboldened by the lethargy and indifference shown by the UPA government in Delhi and the DMK regime in Chennai. He conveniently forgot his commitment and started settling Sinhalese people in the northern part with the idea of avoiding the resurgence of any Tamil dominated area.

    Rajapaksa seems to have a soft corner for the Church and Christian NGOs even while exhibiting Sinhala chauvinism through some of his activities. The Sri Lankan polity has always been under Christian domination starting from the times of Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike and Samuel James Velupillai Selvanayakam to the present times of Percy Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose spouse is a Christian. Many officers in his government including district collectors in the Hindu majority northern area are Christians.

    In this kind of a scenario, fortunately for the Sri Lankan Tamils, the various Hindu organisations delivered where the Indian government failed. Ramakrishna Mutt, Chinmaya Mission, Seva Barathi and many other Hindu

    organisations sympathised with the Tamils and tried their best to provide succor to them. As they have been moving close with the Lankan Tamils for years serving their cause, they clearly understood their feelings and aspirations, which were reflected in the press statement issued by RSS just before the Geneva Convention.

    India, which stands isolated from Asia in the aftermath of supporting the resolution brought by the United States against the island nation, must remember three important things which happened recently. One, how the West planned and executed the separation of East Timor from Indonesia and made it a Christian Nation; Two, the total Christianisation of South Korea, and, lastly, the rapid Christianisation of Hindu Nepal, which became “secular” with the advent of the Maoist rule.

    The diaspora, for its part, has not learnt its lessons and continues to peddle its separatist tendencies totally against the wishes of Lankan Tamils. A separate Tamil Eelam will go the East Timor way and may have repercussions in Tamil Nadu too, which will be bad for India.

  24. Unfortunately she had to tow the line of the Govt that she represent …whether Sarath Fonseka is the President she has is obliged to that….I do not think anyone has made bad remarks of her….Tamara is a wasted talent in Sri Lanka….

  25. Unfortunately she had to tow the line of the Govt that she represent …whether Sarath Fonseka is the President she is obliged to that….I do not think anyone has made bad remarks of her….Tamara is a wasted talent in Sri Lanka….

  26. Right up to now I thought Taara was related to Mr Kadirgamer, he had a brother who was supdt In Badulla, any way fine article, thanks

  27. I heard about many HEROES from the GCSU Trade Union movement. Some one who was senior to me by many years mentioned about a Kunanayakam and his leftist inclinations.

    Now I know well who is this lady Tamara. Thanks a lot for writting about a daughter of a comrade.

  28. Great article to get her personal life background. However it is hard for me to comprehend and justify a genuine person can stand for a government with full of blood in their hands and they have not cleaned.

    She can be a personal with achievements. But her value and her stand for a cause tells who is she?

    A person like me value the human rights and UN is trying to bring everyone accountable for. Including the present government, Government agents and the LTTE.

    Once again, thanks DBS for writing quality articles . I am sure you would have been facing a lot of challenges.

    Stallings W

  29. Dear DBSJ,
    I was following your articles and for long time. I admire your journalism…your ability to see through things without discarding others and specially, I do salute you for not encouraging any extremism. Your style of writing can reduce tension between mistrusted communities in SL and promote reconciliation, peace and harmony .

  30. She is not first or the last. Look at the Kathirkamar (was not given Prime minister Post), Muthiah Muralitharan (Wasn’t given Captaincy) and lot of other people sidelined because their name is Tamil. God Bless Srilanka

  31. Pingback: If Mahinda Rajapaksa doesn’t heal the wounds of the Sri Lankan Tamils, another Prabhakaran will rise « UKTamilNews.com

  32. ‘other “invaders” either eroded into or usurped her legitimate authority and functions.’


    Now who send these ‘invaders’ to UNHRC? Why there was no proper planning? If the president , GLP and Tamara was of the same views, and they were capable to do the job, WHY was the ‘invaders’ wasting the public money?


    I salute Tamara for her professionalism which is very rare in SL public service these days.

    She is a woman with courage, intelligence and a vision for her motherland. I hope many more capable intelligent men and women take up key positions in external affairs and in public service.

    The last few paras were very interesting.

  33. She did the job assigned to her and that doesn’t make her traitor.

    “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely” MR is a living example.

    Even if Tamara got the opportunity to speak at the UNHRC, the end result is likely to be the same.

    The article is informative, as usual! Thank you.

  34. thanks DBSJ. Journalism at it’s pure best

    What an extraordinary lady. I sincerely hope her talents are recognised and she is destined for greater things than being wasted washing our dirty laundry in the UN.

    Really fascinating insight into MR too. Sometimes I cannot figure the President out. How come the same man who associates with the personification of graciousness and intelligence (Tamara Kunanayakam) associate with the personification of barbarity and ignorance(Mervin Silva).. Rajapakse – saint or sinner?

    I just dont get it. Perhaps the common thread is the presidents loyalty (at cost to himself in Vermins case) for those who have helped him.

    Either way, great article.

  35. Indeed an interesting article and very much needed.

    I have had the opportunity of interating with the Labour Minister Mahinda Rajapaksha. I found him to be a good human being and a ‘politician’. He was always mindfull that he is a poloitician first and then a good human!

    I suppose that is the reason why good people do not become politicians.

  36. TAMARA!!!
    It should have been like
    “It is our duty to unite in the common struggle to defend our (peoples Tamils and Sinhala Not the sovereignty of ruling family) sovereignty, our independence, our territorial integrity, and the free choice of our peoples to shape their own societies and their destiny.”

    It is our duty to unite in the common struggle to defend our sovereignty, our independence, our territorial integrity, and the free choice of our peoples to shape their own societies and their destiny.
    Tamara have you thought about it madam??

  37. Tamara is a self-made Tamil woman who makes all Tamils proud. I am unhappy she is with Govt now but respect her for her principles

  38. There are many Tamara’s and true Sri Lankan ‘families’ who wants to be another Kunanayam-family. It is just thinking beyond politics for future of Sri Lankans.

    It is a pitty, why the President has choose to make his cabinet and officials a bunch of circus comedians.

  39. The country’s reputation, its people’s reputation and wellbeing are now in danger, because of the few on the top who cannot see the Tamils as equals. All these years they got away with murder, but now time has come to acept the Tsamils as equals and treat them as equals.

    It is a case of using a person’s own hands to hurt his eyes, the way the US is using GOSL’s own LLRC report, which was errected with the sole purpose to ward off foreign intervention. This UNHCR is just the beginning as a tap on the shoulder, and if the GOSL does not comply there will be more to come. What we all know about the GOSL from the past is that they are good at writing agreements and setting up commissions, but not good at implementing them. So I suspect another commission to be formed to study the UNHCR resolution and provide recommendations with the hope that the UNHCR will forget about it after a while.

  40. Interesting article.

    I’m a Tamil and before I’m vindicated, I want to make it clear that I despised the LTTE and Tamil extremism.

    Nevertheless, I was all for the US Resolution.

    Where was Tamara’s morales knowing the Sri Lankan Government was trying their level best to hide all the war crimes.

  41. Malinga Bandara. When people like you make divisive statements (she is a Tamil first) how can we go forward as a one nation ?. Even if she says “I am a Sri Lankan”, Malinga keep saying “No you are a Tamil”. One cannot win in this situation. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    Thank you DBSJ for your great article as always.

  42. Thanks for the above article. I wish every Sri Lankan should read this article and history of Sri Lanka, Then every Sri Lankan will know the reality and fairness.

  43. “Really, if I starve the Tamils, the Sinhala people will be happy.” President Junius Richard Jayewardene was quoted in the Daily Telegraph in 1983.

  44. Not all conflict is violent. Conflict is normal when there is change. Some people want change, but others disagree. If their disagreement or their conflict is managed peacefully, it can be a positive process. But when conflict is not managed properly, it becomes violent. In violent conflict, people fear for their safety and survival. When we say conflict, we are usually referring to violent conflict (Ross Howard

  45. A story to read about the past, not nice to see what she is defending at the present. Her left ideas gone to dusbin like other leftist in SL who now have to hang on with some governments. During the dark days when singhala youths were hunted Tamils helped them to move aroun in SL. Osiya did and now Vasu and Dayan doing the same thing betraying their leftist ideas. I am not concerned about LTTE and how they were eliminated, but why are you keeping quiet and cover up the killings of innocent civilians. If you accept all are SL then why not go open to protect those innocent lives.
    Do not try to protect those criminals, without accountability there will be no reconciliation. surely people like Thamara will know that

  46. Tamera’s personal achievement & her journey out side Srilanka ( good part of her life) to get where she wants to be very interesting. It would have been harder for anyone to defend indefensible, anyway she was hired to do a job like any state job, no place for morality.

  47. “We must heal not hurt; unite not divide !”

    If Sri Lanka has followed the above principle, there would not have been any need to go through all this “expensive process” of parading in Geneva. If they had simply healed and rehabilitated, resettled, re-united war torn families, there was no need for Tamara Kunanayakam, or Peiris, or Douglas Devananda to visit Geneva and Peiris to “Globe trot” to bribe countries to vote for the Terrorist State.

  48. Pingback: Thoughts on the US-backed UNHRC resolution against Sri Lanka « Agnos' arguments

  49. Well at any point in time will Ambassador Kunanayakam write a memoir? Will she compare and contrast in her own words the then Mahinda Rajapaksa championing violations of international himanitarian law by the UNP regime to Today’s Appe Mahinda justifiying the breaking of international law?

  50. It’s ironic that Tamara was part of the Sri Lankan government’s delegation as Sri Lanka was censured by a UN body for the first time in 25 years. The last time Sri Lanka was censured – at the 43rd session of the UN Commission in Human Rights held in February/March 1987 – Tamara was also present. But on that occasion she wasn’t batting for the Sri Lankan government, she was batting for the opposition.

    In 1987 she was speaking on behalf of the World Student Christian Movement. In a hard hitting intervention during the discussion, she spoke at length about the torture, enforced disappearances and summary executions prevalent in Sri Lanka at that time. She concluded “no longer can the government of Sri Lanka divert the attention of those genuinely concerned by the human rights situation in that country by references to separatism and terrorism. It must…address itself to the root causes that have given rise to violence and violations that characterise Sri Lankan society today.” How times have changed.


    All things change!

    People change.

    Circumstances change.

    Philosophically the only unchanging thing is change!

    Govts change and are changed.

    Saumiyamoorthy Thondaman joined the UNP govt that deprived Up Country Tamils of their citizenship and franchise.

    The UNP Govt of 1987 that brought the PTA in 1979 in Sri Lanka changed in 1994.

    The apostle of peace Chandrika elected on a peace mandate had to wage a war for peace.

    Mahinda and Vasu who sought out help from the UN in Geneva then are now battling against a resolution in the same forum

    The nature and course and goal of the Tamil struggle changed.The LTTE changed. Other militant groups changed.

    India changed.

    Tamil Nadu changed Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa both changed in their attitudes towards Sri Lankan Tamils

    The west that aided and abetted the war against LTTE has now changed and wants to hold Govt accountable

    The pro-LTTE diaspora that supported the human rights violations of the LTTE without murmur and even endorsed it is now “transformed” into human rights defenders and seekers of justice

    So all things change.

    As the weeping philosopher Heraclitus reportedly said –

    “Ever-newer waters flow on those who step into the same rivers .”

    “All entities move and nothing remains still”

    “Everything changes and nothing remains still… and… you cannot step twice into the same stream”

    “We both step and do not step in the same rivers. We are and are not.”

  51. When she was helping Mahinda when he was not in power what she did was morally right as she was fighting for the human rights of the poor Sri Lankan masses.

    This time around helping Mahinda when he is in power what she does it morolly wrong as she is fighting against the human rights of the poor Sri Lankan masses.

    That speaks for itself. Period.

  52. The battle in Geneva is not over. Don’t under Estimate Mahinda Rajapaksha. He is not parachuted into politics. He learned the trade by engaging. He bite his time until time comes. Tamara Kunanayakam was not sidelined. GL pappa was the one side lined. Tamara Kunanayakam will be recalled to Sri Lanka. She will be appointed to Parliament under party system. She is the next Foreign Minister in the calibre of Kadirgamer. Wait for it. Global Tamil Forum will get hammered. Yes Sri lankan army Under General Fonseka defeated LTTE. But it is Karuna and his LTTE turncoats delivered first lethal blows to LTTE. That’s why Karuna is so powerful still.
    Tamara will deliver lethal blows to the GTF and Rudrakumaran as Karuna and gang did to Prabhakaran. We have a saying in Sinhalese. “kale gakak nasanne kale gahakinmai”. You kill a tree in the jungle from a tree in a jungle. Prabhkaran knew that very well. That’s why he killed almost all Tamil opponents first. But he did not realised second in command would betray him for whatever the reason. All the best Jeyaraj. Waiting for the second instalment.

  53. Someone by the name of “Malinga Bandara” has made some mischievous comments above. Though he is using a sinhala name, his comments about Tamara is similar to that of a Tamil separatist trying desperately to arouse anger amongst Tamils supporting a united SriLanka. I hope Tamara Kunanaykam and the vast majority of Tamils in SriLanka who are battling for a united SriLanka, will not fall into this trap of hostile people trying to create racial hatred.

  54. It is Mahinda Samarasinghe,Kshenuka Seneviratne and Sajin Vaas Gunawardena who sidelined Tamara and GL. If Professor had a spine he could have stopped it.Now the three jokers will poison Mahindas mind against GL and Tamara and make them the scapegoats for Geneva defeat


  55. Tamara is another Kadirgamar to Sri Lanka, however the happenings at the
    UN as told here indicates that the lankan “condom theory” will be applied!

    DJ stated before the Voting that she was capable of success, but “Politicos”
    did their job!!

  56. Dear Malinga Can you explain the basis of your argument?
    So what you think of Mr Laxman Kadhirgaamar? Do you aware of Mr Ananda Kumaraswamy?
    Have you ever heard of Mrs Rajinee Thiranagama,Mr Mano Ranjan & Mr Neelan Thiruchelvam?
    Dear Ganapathy – Nothing but the truth.I Salute you.

  57. hello everyone,

    even though i am a sinhalese i am afraid despite all her qualifications

    experience,language skills she is doing a big damage to tamils more over to humanity!

    only god can save the tamils if the best betray the their own people!

  58. As always, DBS has come out with a gem of and article and an excellent analysis of events.Thank you and keep going !!.
    Those who have expressed racist type comments ( such as Malinga Bandara and tamil4ever)your slip is showing; this forum is meant for sensible people and true human beings, so you DO NOT belong here.
    Bravo Lady Tamara, you are a heroine and a daughter of United Mother Sri Lanka; I bow my head to you and we need more of you be it Tamil, Muslim, Sinhalese or whatever.

  59. Tamara Kunanayakam is another fallen leftist like Tissa, Dew,Vasu&dayan now defending Rajapaksa regime

  60. I knew her father well. We worked together at the Met dept and also in GCSU trade union activity

    He was gem of a person. The daughter is like her father

  61. I knew Tamara, the true patriotic Sri Lankan girl, a long ago. Thanks David for giving more details of her education & background.
    Tamara, the whole country is proud of you. Keep flag flying.

  62. The reality in Sri Lankan politics is when one gets absolute power he should not be expected to conduct himself in the manner he behaved or preached previously.

    In 1966 when the Dudley Senanayake government was criticised for fatally wounding Dambarawe Ratanasara Thera at the rally held against Tamil Language Special Provisions Bill, JR stood in parliament and said “They (police/army) are not museum pieces” and defended the police shooting. In July 1983 consequent to the LTTE ambush of 13 soldiers, one of my seniors in Colombo who had the bitter memories of 1958 riots got terrified of the army revenge acts started on the very same day in Jaffna. I assured him although JR was biased against Tamils he is a man of law and order and never allow a 58 to repeat and I reminded him of JR’s 1966 parliamentary speech. But unfortunately what I assured did not happen. JR allowed the unexpected and Army and Police stood as museum pieces in the streets of Colombo.

    No one could doubt the cleverness of President MR in utilising the ability and the good names of leftist ideologists like Ambassador Tamara Kunanayagam, Dr. Dayan Jayatillke, Prof. Tissa Vitharane, Hon.D.E.W.Gunasekara and so on. But the question is whether they would not regret at the end as to why they accepted their positions and allowed their image get tarnished.

    Unlike A.C.S. Hameed in JR government and Lakshman Kadirgamar in Chandrika Kumaratunge government, GLP as Foreign Minister was not allowed professional independence. He was always on leash. An unfit was allowed to monitor his ministry. More than 2 or 3 allowed answerable for a single subject of external affairs.

  63. This is a respectful comment (and not a rebuttal) to DBSJ’s response about “change” to Andy’s comment.

    True, the Universe itself is in constant flux and the impermanency of everything within it is a concept that Buddha talked about and advocated.

    And it is a fact that even the deepest beliefs, values, morals and principles of men are also in flux and subject to change. And perhaps it is a healthy attitude for us to maintain a sense of flexibility so as to allow new ideas to influence our deepest principles so that they can in fact be changed and enhanced for the benefit of ourselves and others.

    Truly principled men change their principles only upon critical analysis and conviction. Regrettably, most change their principles for much lesser motives: often for personal power, ego, visibility, and material gain. In Sri Lanka there have been many – once principled men – who have changed their beliefs according to the winds.

  64. DBSJ Anna,

    You need to write an article about leftist in Sri Lanka and how most of them have changed.

    Tamara seems like a smart person (well educated with good morales), so why is she backing a rogue regime?

  65. Unfortunately, talents are are wasted & misplaced- this is the story of my old country. I come across so many talented, extremely qualified individuals with srilankan roots , helping other countries proud & prosper.
    Are we really proud of what lead to UNHCR discussion or any individual took part in it. Is it some scientific, mathematical or achievement of humanity to be proud of. What a misplacement & waste. We travelled on a wrong path to get where we are now.

  66. MSivanathan says, “I heard abossut many HEROES from the GCSU Trade Union movement. Some one who was senior to me by many years mentioned about a Kunanayakam and his leftist inclinations. Now I know well who is this lady Tamara. Thanks a lot for writting about a daughter of a comrade.”

    But, we should not overlook what GCSU didn’t do. One of the oldest and largest trade unions, GCSU refused to raise its voice against the Sinhala Only passed by SWRD’s government, and the requirements on the government employees. The government employees were required to pass Sinhala to keep their positions, and any promotion was not possible without Sinhala qualification. The Tamil clerks were very disappointed and voted with their feet. A new Trade Union, Arasanga Eluthuvinagnar Sangam (AES), was formed. AES was the first trade union to have broken along the language lines. GCSU was supposed to be an LSSP movement with a lot of CP members

    If I remember right, Mr. Sellaiah Kodeeswaran was the President of the AES. Obviously, he took a stand that he would not sit for the Sinhala examination and filed a case against the Government.

    AES received a very strong support from Ilangai Thamil Arasuk Kadchi, particularly Mr. SJV Selvanayagam and Mr. M Thiruchelvam. Insiders know that although Mr. Kodeeswaran put his name to the case and received all the poor treatment from the government, a number of AES top guys were not happy with Kodees.

    GCSU called itself Arasanga Lihithar Sevaich Sangam (or A.LI.SE.SA) in Tamil. AES had a member publication called Eluchchi (I thought Suthanthiran Press printed that paper). They always referred to GCSU as Ali Sangam. In Tamil Ali refers to transgender people, typically not a man, not a woman, and somewhat confused between.

    In the 1970s and 1980s, AES had two General Secretaries, Mr. Balasubramaniyam and Mr. Perinbanayagam, who served for three years or so. Mr. Perinbanayagam later became the Secretary for the Leader of Opposition (to Mr. Amirthalingam).

  67. The world knows that indivuduals excel in different domains from each community. It is fact SL Tamil community produce such personals little bit more percentage than others compared to thier population.

    Victories will come by confusing the audience but it won’t last forever. The audince will never be same to listen the old recordings. Today, the audience know the matter and nobody can not fool anybody.

    Knowledgeable Tamara might have choosen a better position than being an ambasaador to SL…..

  68. Tamara supported MR when he was a human rights advocate during JR/WP years but why now when he is the right opposite. It does not make sense.

  69. What a beautiful word “half Democrat” Douglas.Kathiravely means……. Now we know who is Douglas.Thanks DBS.

  70. Aiyo Jeyaraj. Maru article on Tamara no? all my friends are talking about it.Only now we know who this fighter for Lanka in Geneva is.Thanks to you aney. Hari shok article. You must be getting lots of fan mail no?

    Aau Aau Aau………….

    What are you going to write in part two, tell will you aney?


    Aahaa Nelum!

    After a long time no Kella?

    Aney kohedha giye nelum? Tell will you aney?

    Must be a special place.Aau Aau Aau…

    I am glad you and your friends like article aney. When you like it I get a hari shok feeling appa!

    What fan mail Nelum? One comment from you equals 99 fan mail no Kella?

    So wait and read next will you? Cant tell now no Kella! You know no ?Nelum.

  71. There are thousands of Tamil girls and boys, who are much more capable than Tamara Kunanayakam nowadays!!

    But the fact remains that no one could have helped Sri Lanka this time. Mahinda cannot hood wink the international community, particularly India, all the time. Sri Lanka wasted three years doing nothing to improve the situation of the IDPs. The other thing which would have made a bad impression of Sri Lanka is the behaviour of the Sri Lankan delegates in Geneva!! This would have made it clear to them, the kind of people who are in power in Sri Lanka!!

  72. The GOSL is duplicating the Zionist Israeli policy in the North & East similar to Golan Heights and Gaza Strip being ignorant of the fact that the richest few Jewish families in North America & Europe have a combined wealth of nearly 800 trillion $$$s and growing whilst the US Govt debt has over the past century increased from approx 9 to 15 trillion $$$s after the Iraqi Afghani wars. Only dim wits will equate themselves with the Jews and how can there be two sets of “Chosen People” on Earth??? MR is leading the Lankans to greater blood bath than VP and/or the former JVP. The Govt of India watering down the resolution is going to cost its people more in blood, toil and tears.

  73. Thanks DBSJ

    You continue to fascinate us with such amazing articles.

    My father who hailed from Badulla knew the Gnanapandithan family quite well and used to talk with much nostalgia of their leaning towards the Indian freedom struggle and also hosting Mahatma Gandhi at Gnanapandithan’s residence during his visit to Badulla. Nice to know Tamara’s maternal background.

  74. Hi DBS

    Thank you so much for this really informative article. Expecting the continuation anxiously

  75. I applaud Tamara’s achievements however as many have pointed above, how did someone with such leftist leanings end up serving a hardline nationalist regime like Rajapaksa’s?

    On a side issue, in the history of UNHRC meetings, is Sri Lanka the first country to have a terrorist in its delegation. Who let Dougie into Geneva? seriouslly.

  76. Now I am going to go out on a limb here and speculate.

    There are a lot of comments from Tamil posters questioning Madame Tamara’s stance – working with the government “against” Tamils. Being a child of a marriage between a Jaffna Tamil man and an Indian Tamil woman, did she feel the gulf that existed between the Jaffna Tamil society and the Indian Tamils of Sri Lanka and how Indian Tamils are looked down and denigrated? Born in Colombo and living among the Sinhalese, did she see something beyond the fashionable narrative among the Jaffna Tamil leadership of “Sinhalese genocide” while very conveniently hiding the barbaric caste divisions that exist in Jaffna?

    A number of Tamil friends (of lower caste) have told me that they really understood what a relatively caste-less society means only when they left Jaffna and started to live among Sinhalase and other communities away from the stifling Jaffna society.

  77. DBSJ,

    This is very interesting. You have a knack for bringing up people up,close and personal. After reading this I feel I know Tamara well and understand what makes her tick

  78. As a proud Indian Tamil, I wish we have Tamils of this calibre in India to represent us, still feeling proud to have known about a Tamil with such dexterity in international relations,and this wouldn’t have been possible without having a journalist of your kind with impeccable talent in cracking stories and chronicle the lives of the people and events that matters at this important time of Tamil history.

  79. I think the tiger diaspora that did not utter a word condemning LTTE atrocities has no moral right to criticise Tamara Kunanayakam.

  80. “Tamara thinks of herself as Sri Lankan first”.

    Thank you Tamara, you make me proud to be a Sri Lankan.


  81. Ranjan
    Of course, majority of Sinhalese do not make caste distinction when bombing,shelling,abducting and conducting pogroms against Tamils.

  82. I like the comment of athi!!

    May be I should add that the sinhalese army, navy, police,air force and thugs does not make any distinction between Indian Tamils, Sri lankan Tamils, Indian fishermen Sri Lankan fishermen and the white van people does not make any distinction between these groups either!!! All they want is to harm them and where ever possible grab anything worthwhile from them whether it is their hard earned money, farm land, house, including their life or their loved ones life. etc.

    Further more, the Sinhalese thinks as if they do not have any caste or class issues!! They have an ostrich like mentality.

  83. A previous US delegation leader’s quip that they will get us in March 2012 is a clear indication that they would have passed this resolution regardless.

    US lackeys in Europe and South America would have seen to it.

    Whether Samarasinghe , Peiris or even Kunanayakam wouldn’t have made any difference.

    Although the Diaspora is elated and the TNGTE PM is elevated to the top,this resolution isn’t much chop as far as the great majority of the inhabitants are concerned.

    In fact this great majority are now more determined than ever to safe guard their current freedom and the peaceful environment.

    When double digit deaths on average per month from suicide bombs were taking place in Iraq even in 2011 ,a whole village was wiped out by one irate soldier in Afganistan only a few months ago and now 147 killed and 400 injured in Sebha, Libya. the inhabitants in Lanka are worried what will befall on them, if these Human Rights promoters are permitted to meddle in their affairs.

    They are now in a poswhen it comes to the among them,

  84. To Athi and Sam,
    Yes we Sinhalese have our cast divisions but we do not practice or have a caste system that is apartheid in everything but its name. We do not prevent our so called lower castes from entering places of worship. We do not refuse to drink from the wells that so called “low castes” have taken water from. We do not prevent lower castes from coming to our homes. The list is endless on the differences between our caste system and what barbarity that is practices in Jaffna. Remember, if not for the free education that was supplied equally to you Tamils by the so called genocidal Sinhalese, your lower castes will still be in the grip of the high caste Vellalas of Jaffna even in 21st centuary. In your crop of politicians from the independence in 48 to the raise of LTTE, can you identify the low caste Tamil politicians? Were they allowed to run for office in Jaffna. For me I can identify many from Sinhala side. As for Sinhala army not making any distinctions about the caste, did you even once wonder why the Indian Tamils in the plantations never ever supported you guys in Jaffna?

  85. Krishna,
    I read the link you provided. I think my description of Sri Lanka and India, one a minnow and the other a giant, yet linked at the umbilicus, elsewhere in my comments is more apt. We were both probably part of a much larger land mass (Kumarikandam/ Lemuria) in a time gone by and are now separated in terms of land, but carry the same gifts and burdens from our common past. The ‘Thayum Seyum’ (Mother and Child) metaphor is more of an emotional kind and is manifest in the examples quoted in the article, disregarding the negative role India has played in the Sri Lankan turmoil- training armed cadres and becoming the base for war-related smuggling- from its very beginning. I am reminded of a more appropriate proverb, “Thayum pillayanaalum Vaayum Vahirum werai” (Even if we are mother and child, we have diffrent mouths and stomachs).

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  86. Thanks for this article but the fact is that Tamara seems to be living in a time-warped diaspora world shaped by out-dated Lankan leftism. She uses old leftist post-colonial rhetoric for US bashing rather than recognizing the current reality of militarization and internal colonization of the northeast of Lanka by the Rajapakse regime and taking a nuanced approach. Also, clearly she has not lived in North America and has the the old SL leftist and European prejudices against the US which does not recognize that it is a huge country with many different facets. While I agree that the US policy on Palestine/Israel is abominable, they got it right on Lanka!

    TK talks as if Lanka got independence yesterday from the Brits, and not 63 years ago! Since then, successive governments of Sri Lanka, mainly politicians, have been engaged in its own forms of internal colonialism and relegation of minorities to second class citizens.

    Today MR’s regime is militarizing, occupying and internally colonizing the northeast. TK should get off her high horse in Geneva and visit the northeast of Lanka and see for herself rather than believing MR and that old turncoat Vasu!

    Post-colonial critique of Euro-America is all very well and good, but the time has come for the soc-called anti-colonial nationalists in the global south to wake up and stop blaming the west for all the post-independence violence against minority groups that has given rise to many new wars.

    In the whole of South Asia there is a second wave of post-colonial struggle by minorities and Adivasi communities against highly centralized majoritarian regimes. TK like and also dayan Jayatilleke needs to educate herself on new academic critical trends and stops sounding like a broken down old anti-colonial leftist like Vasu!

  87. Uncle Ranjan,Toronto,

    We dont understand what are blogging. It might been in our parents time and we do not what caste belond to. We only know that we are all from “Ilangaith thamizh” caste.

    It is better to play your cards with our parents and wont work with us.

  88. Jaffna people talk high that they dont see caste. But they look caste when marriage comes. This kind of BOGUS identifications of the Jaffna Tamils always make troubles to the Tamil people in general!

  89. Rohan:
    GCSU is a trade union and fight for the rights of the workers and not for the stupid language ideology of the Tamils.

    LSSP and CP opposed the 1956 Official Language Act which was re-named by Tamil racists as SINHALA ONLY ACT.

    I hope the S.J.V Chelvanayakam and other Tamil racists never distributed copies of the legislation to the public but simply barked against it.

    When the Official Language Act introduced and accepted Sri Lankan government imported 10,000 Tamil type writters from Remington company. Why? The legislation cleaarly mentions the government correspondences must be in Sinhala and Tamil. Try to get a copy and read it.

    Chelvanayakam wanted to politicalize it because he worried his Queen’s language gone for ever. Chelvanayakam never happy that Tamil and Sinhala were elevated to official levels. Tamil leadership always look to serve the WHITES than the nation.

    Jaffna people are real morons and unrespectful. When UNP burned down Jaffna library, they cried it “SINHALA”. Now they crown the UNP morons in Jaffna. But the late SLFP PM Madame Srimavo gave a university to Jaffna and the Jaffna criminal minded slaves of the foreigners never mention her name anywhere. Chelvanayakam gang demonstrated with BLACK flags when Srimavo came to the opening ceremony of the Jaffna University.

    If Jaffna people and the so called HIGH castes want to serve the WHITES, better leave Jaffna and endup in WHITES’ country and do dish washing, toilet cleaning, credit card frauds etc.

  90. Tamari,

    You are better position to enter into Politics like lucy kadiragamar. Please do so. with your background and bit of asjustment from then onwards, I am sure you can achive what Lucy was not able to achive. SL is getting mature however slow it is… Please do with intelegent approch and calculated moves. Who knows you may be the person who will heal the wounds pestering till then,,,.

  91. Thanks for the well informed article – David.
    But. knowing King MA-RA and his ‘comdom theory’ of getting into power at any cost and then throw away those who did the hard work and flush like a condom into a sewer, I doubt its what make MA-RA and TK click.

    Just think about those who gave their utmost to MA-RA and was thrown into the sewer:

    a. Mangala Samaraweera
    b. Tiran Alles
    c. V Prabhakaram
    d. JVP like Somawansa/Tilvin
    e. Bharatha Lakshman

  92. Ranjan is still living in the 18th century!! Continue to scrutinize other peoples blemishes by a microscope, and ignoring your blemishes!!! What about your governments discrimination on the basis of language and ethnicity!!

    Regarding your free education, Jaffna had their own educational institutions long before your govts. free education came into being. Don’t you guys felt jealous of the Tamils capabilities and tried to subjugate them by STATE ORGANISED POGROMS? Are you feeling that killing, burning houses and raping, torturing, disppearing are lesser crimes than “caste discrimination” Correct your communities, flaws before finding fault with other communities!!! By accusing the Tamils of caste discrimination, the war crimes and genocide of your government will not go away.

    If you guys are “griping” about free education, leave the Tamils alone, they can manage their affairs better than the “Back door Lawyer” and a “Seven Eleven assistants” & co.

    Don’t you think that Tamara’s parents marriage, which happened about more than half a century ago, disproves your theory of the Jaffna Tamils, not associating with the “Indian Tamils” I can come up with so many inter caste, inter racial, inter religious marriages and success stories of supposed to be low caste Tamils studying and holding good positions in Sri Lanka and abroad.

    Please concentrate your energy on reforming your community and your government first, rather than pointing fingers at others, if everyone does that Sri Lanka would be a better place to live in!!

  93. Allan putha,

    You say “We only know that we are all from “Ilangaith thamizh” caste.”

    Words are cheap, show it in deeds.

    When we see Tamils of low caste freely allowed to enter kovils and temples in Jaffna,
    When we see Jaffna voting low caste politicians to elected bodies,
    When we see low caste Tamils in positions of authority in education service and civil administration in Jaffna,
    when you accept and treat Tamils of Indian origin as your own,

    Then we will believe what you say.

    I have a chance to observe closely the Tamil community in Toronto. I have never heard anyone say that they are from “Ilangaith thamizh caste”. But I have heard many times Tamils very proudly proclaiming that they are from this caste or that caste and how they would not even enter the home of a low caste person – this is in the 21st century Toronto and not in the 18th century Jaffna.


    I have absolutely no desire to reform your community. I just wanted to bring out in to open some facts that you guys would dearly love to hide and keep hidden because it is not consistent with the narrative of Sinhalese repression and genocide that is whipped up by you guys at every instance. If people looked carefully they will realise very soon that what goes behind the scenes in the name of caste in Jaffna and in Tamil Nadu is something even worse than apartheid that was practised by the Whites of South Africa.

  94. If this lady can be our sri lanaka president as a Sinhalese I will full support her for her intelectual capability. We need people like her, not Velupillei, of course Velu is also could have been Sri Lanka military commander if he was early showed path of Justice and some education to him.

    However I must say we need a tamil prime minister and he/she should be from north and adding to that we need special development task force to work on North and east developments.

    Many Sinhalese like this way.

  95. Thanks for the detail info on Tamara. I thought she was a Sinhala/Tamil mix like Piyasena. Tamara do sounds very talented lady and very impressive personalities. Hope to see the next part soon. What happen to Tamil Tigress, I thought more parts coming, may be I am wrong! As always it is indeed a very interesting and pleasure to read your articles.

    Very confused about the history. MR went to Geneva, got help from Tamil Lady, to bring justice to Sinhala families. Now why MR and Tamara are completely on the other side of the scale? Is it because, it is not Sinhala families affected this time? If Tamara is a human rights activist, why she is defending MR or GOSL? Is it for friendship or there is no war crime at all? Or she thinks, it is not worth or good idea to bring this to UN, need to solve it at home? In that case, does she really believe MR or GOSL going to bring justice to Tamils without any IC pressure? Even if MR is good, Sinhala hardliners would let him do that, as his main vote based is depending on those hardliners. MR couldn’t even able to provide Tamara/Peries/Dayan power to do their job, (need to worry about his powerful parliament allies/colleagues and voting base) how would he come out of the hardliner-ring to provide justice or political solutions to Tamils (without any IC pressure)…

    Or simply what Tamara doing is the Tamil tradition of helping Sinhala leaders from any troubles; (like Sir Ramanathan came to the rescue of the Sinhalese community (or DS Senanayake) against British result of 1915 Sinhalese-Muslim Riots. ) without any selfish motive or thinking of Tamils future, just doing her job perfect as she can?
    Or may be I should wait for the next part!

  96. Several interesting facts and food for thoughts in this article mainly analyzing the individual’s personalities
    and their adopted principles:

    a) Ms. Gunanayagam human right activist and leftist supported to find justice for disappeared JVP cadres and
    their families later changed her stand and supporting a government in Geneva for the same reason she opposed then Srilankan Government in Geneva !!!!!

    b) Then leftist and human right defenders who walked extra mile to protect JVP cadres and their families make U turn in defending thamil civilians and even worse is that they themselves became part of the regime responsible for the disappearance of many civilians and media personnel.

    As I have said many times if academics fail to overcome their heart over their adopted principles based on their analytical mindset, then whatever their achievements are no use for the betterment of the society. His/her academic qualifications have only self-serving purposes. This is the main reason why many so called thamil academics are not in the forefront fighting for the rights of their own people.

    What we call this as smartness? Or Opportunist? Or Selfishness? or anything else?
    Mere educational qualifications let alone be a measuring tool of a person’s qualities and talent. Their willingness to stand on their principles will only keep their names in the hearts and minds of the people.
    I think Ms. Gunanayagam failed as an academic and joined the rank of GLP, Palitha, Dayan, Rajiva, ……the list goes on.

    Ranjan, Toronto, Pls leave the thamils alone. They had enough suffering for the last 63 years and paid extreme heavy price as the worst discriminators ever to discriminate their thamil brethren and sistren.

    Dan says: “Thank you Tamara, you make me proud to be a Sri Lankan.” Dan, there is nothing to be proud about Srilankan as your former President quoting her son “ashamed himself to call as Srilankan.”

    As Dias very well said: ………our deepest principles so that they can in fact be changed and enhanced for the benefit of ourselves and others. Truly principled men change their principles only upon critical analysis and conviction. Regrettably, most change their principles for much lesser motives: often for personal power, ego, visibility, and material gain. In Sri Lanka there have been many – once principled men – who have changed their beliefs according to the winds.

  97. My dream is all tamils to become Thamara Kunanayakams… and fight for injustice regardless of the race, without being undentied in racial tags as I’m too one of them… I would consider me as a sinhalese only if a tamil tries to make him/her a tamil in front of me.

    Hats off to Ms. Tamara Kunanayakam and our President Mahinda Rajapakse….!!! Atleast I love the people’s touch and relationship skills of our president that my current favourite Ranil Wickremasinghe has lots to learn from, without being ignorant like his uncle JR.

  98. @ Modawansa,

    You should realise there’s nothing capable to cross the path of MR’s passion / commitment to his country and people.

  99. @ Ranjan – Toronto,

    Well said Ranjan…. I mean about the barbarity of Jaffna caste system…. There was a time that Jaffna low caste people had to depend on sinhala govt workers staying in Jaffna (as their neighbours) to come and draw water for them from wells as they were prohibited from doing so.

    My father (who used to be a sinhala govt servant in Jaffna then) has told by the time he was going to take some water, there were heaps of people waiting at the well with all kinds of different pots and cans until an ‘eligible person’ comes there and draw water for them. For becoming eligible to draw water from well, he/she needed to be an Upper Caste Tamil or a just Sinhalese or any other non-tamil race person. So, my father had to draw water for those innocent from tamil lower castes first leaving aside why he came for the well.

    This is the sort of society stood against so-called sinhalese discriminations… Vellalas were lucky to turn those days rebels’ guns towards sinhalese which would have otherwise pointed at them first.

  100. If my memory is right, ‘Divaina’ newspaper reported Thamara as one of the LTTE agents working within SL Govt’s diplomats in those days and was mourning and groaning about SL’s incapability to do something about her. Also the same newspaper complained about Kshenuka several times and even recently there was an article somewhere supporting Divaina’s point of view, as to Kshenuka is trying to under-cut Thamara.

    Now I’m really wondering what rubbish these newspapers/websites have been talking of other than arousing ‘racialism’. Their policy is like “when you want to eat, even a Monitor can be made converted to an Iguana” (Kanna ona unaama kabaragoya, Thalagoya weema). Also, they seem to be quite capable of “creating storms in the tea cup”.

  101. Oh DBS,

    You make me soft and tearful for Mahinda!


    What about the time you were soft and tearful for Praba?…………DBSJ


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