/ 22 August 2005

An ethnic Tamil opposed to Tamil separatism

Sri Lanka’s slain minister of foreign affairs Lakshman Kadirgamar, a Tamil himself, was a fierce foe of Tamil Tiger rebels.

Snipers gunned down Kadirgamar, whom the rebels dubbed a traitor to their cause of seeking a separate homeland, at his home late on Friday. Authorities named the Tigers as the top suspects but the rebels denied involvement and said the government must look ”inwards” for the killers.

Kadirgamar (73) was an Oxford-educated lawyer who was a director of the World Intellectual Property Organisation in Geneva from 1976 to 1988 and became foreign minister under President Chandrika Kumaratunga in 1994.

The outspoken Kadirgamar was briefly in opposition from 2001 to 2004 but was recalled as foreign minister when his party won re-election.

The minister was a native of Sri Lanka’s Tamil heartland of Jaffna, but he strongly opposed the campaign for separation led by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Although President Kumaratunga formally invited Norway to broker peace in the island in 2000, Kadirgamar remained critical of Oslo’s role.

Tiger rebels saw him as a traitor to their cause. But he was highly regarded by the majority Sinhalese, especially hard-line nationalistic elements who supported his anti-Tiger stance.

The main Marxist party, the JVP, had wanted Kadirgamar promoted to prime minister in April 2004 when Kumaratunga’s party narrowly won a parliamentary poll.

Last month, he questioned the impartiality of peace-broker Norway and asked it to quit if it was unable to ensure democracy in rebel-held areas.

He said Norway, which was invited by Sri Lanka to be a ”facilitator” to bring Tamil Tigers to the table, must be seen as ”impartial”.

The minister had earlier accused Norwegian-led truce monitors in the island of trying to jeopardise Sri Lanka’s national security and managed to get the head of the truce monitoring team recalled to Norway on a charge of partiality.

Kadirgamar had maintained that Sri Lanka’s three-decade-old conflict must be resolved peacefully. But in March, he told foreign correspondents that an early resumption of talks to end the conflict was not in sight.

”A formal resumption of the peace process is very much on the backburner,” he said. — AFP