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Great Thoughts from Great Men

Posted on 10 August 2016 by admin

In 2005, almost fifty years after he left Oxford , Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar's portrait was unveiled at the Oxford Union. This was a great honour bestowed by the Oxford Union on only 15 others in its 183 year history.

Mr Kadirgamar had this to say about that event:

'……I would like to, if I may, to assume that I could share the honour with the people of my country, Sri Lanka . I had my schooling there, my first university was there, I went to Law College there and by the time I came to Oxford as a postgraduate student, well, I was relatively a matured person. Oxford was the icing on the cake … but the cake was baked at home ……(applause) .'

He made history in Oxford getting elected as President of the Oxford Union. Four Sri Lankans have been Presidents. They are Kadirgamar (Trinity) Lalith Athulathmudali (Royal) Noordeen (STC) and Jeyasundharie Wilson (Methodist). Jeya Wilson the only woman President from Sri Lanka is a niece of the late Prof. AJ Wilson. In later years Kadirgamar divorced his first wife. He married again in 1996. He married Suganthi Wijeysuriya a lawyer and senior partner at the law firm FJ and G de Saram. Their wedding was a private one with Chandrika Kumaratunga and Gamani Corea
being the attesting witnesses.


Lakshman Kadirgamar

Sri Lankabhimanya Lakshman Kadirgamar PC ((April 12, 1932 – August 12, 2005) was a Sri Lankan diplomat, politician and a lawyer. He served as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka from 1994 to 2001 and again from April 2004 until his assassination in August 2005. He achieved international prominence in this position due to his wide ranging condemnation of the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) and his efforts to have them banned internationally. A distinguished lawyer and international humanitarian, he was assassinated by an LTTE sniper in August 2005.

Lakshman Kadirgamar was born in Manipay, Jaffna. He hailed from a distinguished Tamil family; his father was Sam J.C.Kadirgamar Sr, JP, UM a Proctor, who was the President of the Colombo Proctor's Association and the founder President of the Law Society of Ceylon. He had three elder brothers; S.J.C.Kadirgamar Jr., QC was a eminent lawyer in commercial law, Rear Admiral Rajan Kadiragamar former head of the Royal Ceylon Navy and Selvanathan "Bai" Kadirgamar was a Major in the Ceylon Army.

Educated at the Trinity College, Kandy, he captained the college first eleven cricket team in 1950 while also competing in the college athletic and rugby teams. He played in the annual Bradby Shield Encounter. He was the winner of the Senior Batting Prize in 1948, a Rugger Coloursman in 1948 and 1949, Athletics Lion in 1949, and winner of the first Duncan White Challenge Cup for Athletics in 1948. In recognition of his all round performance in academic and extra-curricular spheres, he was awarded the prestigious Ryde Gold medal for the best all round student of 1950. He was also the Senior Prefect of Trinity College.

Kadirgamar went on to study law at the University of Ceylon, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) (Honors) degree in 1953. Kadirgamar was the holder of the All India Inter University Hurdles Record both at Ahmedabad and Allahabad. He was the top student in the First Class at the Advocates Intermediate Examination in 1953 of the Ceylon Law College. In 1954 he won the scholarship for the candidate placed first in the First Class at the Advocates Final Examination of the Ceylon Law College and was awarded prizes for the Law of Evidence and the Law of Persons and Property. In 1955 he took oaths as Advocate of the Supreme Court of Ceylon.

Thereafter he won a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford, where he received his BLitt degree from the University of Oxford. Kadirgamar, like several other Sri Lankans, was elected to serve as President of the Oxford Union. He was an Oxford University Cricket Blue.

Going on to become a international civil servant, Kadiragamar held many positions in numerous international organizations including the International Labour Organisation (ILO), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) and South Asia Foundation (SAF). In 1963, he was the Special Commissioner of Amnesty International to investigate Buddhist-Catholic clashes in Vietnam. He was the founder Director of the United Nations Intellectual Property Organisation where he acted as advisor to 36 Governments. He was made a President's Counsel in the 1980's. Kadirgamar was the author of a number of scholarly articles published in international legal journals such as the Modern Law Review, The South African Law Journal and The Conveyancer and Property Lawyer.

Although he had never been actively involved in politics before, and had never even addressed a political rally, he was selected as national list MP in 1994 on the People's Alliance (PA) list for the General Elections. Following the victory of the PA, he was appointed Foreign Minister in the PA government of President Chandrika Kumaratunga. he held the post till 2001, playing a significant role in having the LTTE banned internationally. The United States and the United Kingdom banned the LTTE in the late 1990's depriving them of their primary source of funding.

After the defeat of the government in 2001, he became special adviser on Foreign Affairs to the President. Despite being a Tamil, he strongly supported the Bandaranaike government's policy of not negotiating with the Tamil Tigers insurgents in northern Sri Lanka after failed peace talks in 1995. He has also been critical of the Norwegian mediators in the period 2001 to 2004, claiming they have been biased toward the Tamil Tigers.

On 20 November 2003, Kadirgamar declared his candidacy for the position of Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations. He stood with the support of South Africa, which was critical of incumbent Don McKinnon's opposition to Zimbabwean involvement in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2003, at which Zimbabwe withdrew from the organisation. In doing so, Kadirgamar broke the convention of not challenging incumbents for the position, which is usually appointed by consensus.[5] However, at the vote, held in early December, he was defeated by the New Zealander, with 11 members voting for him against 40 for McKinnon.

Following the victory of the United People's Freedom Alliance in the April 2, 2004 Sri Lankan legislative elections, he was mentioned as a possible candidate for Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, but on April 6 President Kumaratunga appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa to the post. Four days later, however, he was appointed foreign minister again in the new cabinet.

Kadirgamar was born to a Christian family but he brought a proposal to the UN to make the Buddhist holy day, Vesak Day an international celebration day.

During a BBC interview he was asked if he thought he was a traitor to the Tamil people since he was a minister in a Sinhalese-dominated government.

He said "People who live in Sri Lanka are first and foremost Sri Lankans, then we have our race and religion, which is something given to us at birth". "We have to live in Sri Lanka as Sri Lankans tolerating all races and religion".

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