Biography of Neelan Tiruchelvam

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Member of the Sri Lanka Parliament Neelan Tiruchelvam Biography
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Neelan Tiruchelvam (sometimes spelled Neelan Thiruchelvam) (January 31, 1944 – July 29, 1999) was a Sri Lankan Tamil politician and an internationally respected academic. He was assassinated by an LTTE suicide bomber in July 1999.

Neelan Tiruchelvam was a scholar, an international activist and a legislator, as well as a practicing lawyer, social scientist and politician. Dr. Tiruchelvam was assassinated on July 29, 1999.

Before his assassination, he had worked with his childhood friend, President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Prof. G. L. Peiris on a devolution package which he hoped would address the historical demands of the Tamils.

As a peacemaker, he worked to resolve the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka through non-violent political means, including consensus building, negotiation and constitutional reform.

Dr. Tiruchelvam was the founder and Director of the International Centre for Ethnic Studies and the founder and Director of the The Law and Society Trust: two of Sri Lanka’s leading research and policy organisations.

In his career as a public intellectual, Dr. Tiruchelvam built bridges and sought common ground in a deeply divided society through scholarship, activism and politics. His thoughts and actions were animated by a personal philosophy of humanism, peace and non-violence.
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Firmly committed to change and reform for resolving deep-rooted problems of the Sri Lankan society, he sought to spearhead transformation through dialogue, tolerance and deliberation.

Tiruchelvam was a member of the Tamil United Liberation Front which advocated a negotiated settlement to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. He was a regular critic of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam for their repeated violations of human rights and reluctance to enter into serious negotiations.

Because of this, the LTTE are believed to have been behind his assassination.
International condemnation of the assassination and praise for the work that Neelan had done were swift, with prominent persons like U.S. President Bill Clinton expressing his sadness at the death.

In July 2001 scholars from 53 countries voted to award Dr Neelan Tiruchelvam posthumously with the first Law & Society Association International Prize. The prize is “in recognition of scholarship that has contributed significantly to the advancement of knowledge in the field of law and society”.

Neelan Tiruchelvam Sources

•    Human Rights Collections (includes photo)

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