Biography of Lakshman Kadirgamar

Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar Biography

Sri Lankabhimanya Lakshman Kadirgamar PC (April 12, 1932 – August 12, 2005) was a Sri Lankan diplomat, politician and lawyer. After a distinguished career as a lawyer and international humanitarian, he was appointed as foreign minister of Sri Lanka in 1994 by President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

Lakshman Kadirgamar 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.

Lakshman Kadirgamar served until 2001, and then again from April 2004 until his assassination in August 2005, which was carried out by an LTTE sniper. The suspects arrested in his murder case were released after no evidence was found after over two years in custody.

Lakshman Kadirgamar Early Life

Lakshman Kadirgamar came from a Tamil family; his brothers were S.J.C.Kadirgamar Jr QC, Rear Admiral Rajan Kadiragamar and Colonel Bai Kadirgamar. He was born in Manipay, Jaffna, and spent his early childhood in the southern part of the island.

An alumnus of Trinity College, Kandy, he captained the college first eleven cricket team in 1950 while also competing in the college athletic and rugby teams. 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.
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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. He was the top student in the First Class at the Advocates Intermediate Examination in 1953.

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. He was admitted to the Ceylon Bar in 1955.

Later, at Balliol College, Oxford, he received his B.Litt. degree. Kadirgamar, like several other Sri Lankans, was elected to serve as President of the Oxford Union.

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.

An ardent 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 a President’s Counsel.

Lakshman Kadirgamar Political Career

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 Alliance, he was appointed Foreign Minister in the PA government of President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

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.

Lakshman Kadirgamar 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. However, at the vote, held in early December, he was easily defeated by the New Zealander, with only 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 candidate for Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, but on April 6 President Kumaratunga appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa to the post. Four days later, however, he became foreign minister again in the new cabinet.
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Lakshman Kadirgamar Religious Views

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.

Lakshman Kadirgamar Political Views

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”.

Lakshman Kadirgamar Death

On August 12, 2005, around 2300 (UTC+6), Kadirgamar was shot by an LTTE sniper in Colombo as he was getting out of the swimming pool at his private residence in Cinnamon Gardens. Early reports indicate he was shot twice in the head, once in the neck, and once in the body.

Lakshman Kadirgamar  was rushed to the National Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His hospital report indicates that he died as a result of his wounds. It is widely believed around the world that Kadirgamar’s assassins belong to LTTE, a group banned as a Terrorist Organization by a number of countries including the United States, Canada, India and the European Union.

An overwhelming majority of Sri Lankans, who are Sinhalese, hold them responsible due to the fact that Kadirgamar was responsible for getting the US among many countries to classify the LTTE as a terrorist organization.

The Tamil Tigers have denied responsibility for the killing, and have stated that any damage made to their international reputation by Lakshman Kadirgamar was already done, and they would not risk the cease-fire agreement by carrying out this assassination.

Kadirgamar on many occasions mentioned the LTTE’s threats to his life. Speaking to The Hindu, he said “They (LTTE) can get me anytime. I get very serious reports things are hotting up”.

United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signs the Condolence Book for Lakshman Kadirgamar.

According to Asian Tribune, on September 5 Sri Lankan police arrested two Tamils, Muttiah Sahadevan alias Devan (Kadirgamar’s neighbor’s gardener) and Isidor Arokya Nathar alias Babu.

The website alleged that they have confessed to having met Charles of the LTTE intelligence and helping out two alleged assassins. The website further claims that this is seen in some quarters in Sri Lanka as proof that the LTTE was behind his assassination.

International Reaction

Neighboring India condemned what the foreign ministry described as a “terrorist crime” and offered its full support. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who last met Mr Kadirgamar in June, condemned the assassination of Sri Lanka’s foreign minister as a “senseless murder and vicious act of terror” and urged Sri Lankans not to let it lead to resumed civil war.

She praised Kadirgamar as a man of “dignity, honor and integrity, who devoted his life to bringing peace to Sri Lanka”.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said in a statement quoted by the AFP news agency: “Sri Lanka has lost a deeply respected statesman dedicated to peace and national unity.”

Australia’s Foreign Minister Alexander Downer paid tribute to Kadirgamar saying he played a key role in bringing forward the peace process in Sri Lanka. “Lakshman Kadirgamar was an eminent statesman and a distinguished representative of Sri Lanka,” he said.

“He was a man of moderation who sought the path of peace and worked tirelessly for his country.” Peace brokers Norway also condemned the assassination, with Foreign Minister Jan Petersen describing it as “an atrocious crime and a tragedy for Sri Lanka.”

Anecdotes

Kadirgamar was known for his combative and ready wit. When Shane Warne justified Australia’s decision to not play in Colombo during the 1996 Cricket World Cup due to the terrorist threat by saying that he can be targeted by a drive-in bomber while he is shopping, Kadirgamar is reported to have said “Shopping is for sissies.”

Kadirgamar commented later “There was a storm of protest in Australia. A TV interviewer asked me whether I had ever played cricket.

I said I had played before he was born – without helmets and thigh guards, on matting wickets that were full of holes and stones, and I had my share of broken bones to show of it.

My friend the Australian foreign minister was drawn into the fray. He phoned me. We decided to cool things down. When the whole episode was over I sent a bouquet of flowers to my Australian counterpart. Flowers are also for sissies.”