Monday, August 13, 2007

Commemoration Event Honours Life of Kethesh Loganathan

By Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

Late Kethesh Loganathan was a man of action. He showed his humanity. Kethesh was a committed human rights activist. He campaigned for the rights of the Tamils within the framework of an united Sri Lanka. He cared; and was killed.

Kethesh Loganathan was assassinated on August 12th 2006 in his house at night.

A modest event paying tribute to Kethesh Loganathan was organized by Point Pedro Development Institute in association of Bhawani Loganathan on August 12 th 2007 at Ramakrishna Mission Hall at dusk.

An anthology of articles written and published by Kethesh Loganathan entitled "Truthfully Speaking: War, Peace and Human Rights was launched at the end of the event. The event was attended by the peace activists, human rights activists and civil society members.

Dr. Pakiasothy Saravanamuthu the Executive Director of Center for Policy Alternatives delivered the commemoration oration. Bhawani Loganathan garlanded his photo and lit the traditional oil lamp. Deshabandu Jezima Ismail, Vice Chancellor of the South Eastern University and Dr. Devanesan Nesiah, Consultant of the Centre for Policy Alternatives shared their personal thoughts.

A minute of silence was observed at the beginning to pay tribute to Late Kethesh Loganathan.

Speakers paid tribute to the Life of the slain human rights activist.

Dr. Pakiasothy Saravanamuthu the Executive Director of Centre for Policy Alternatives:

"Kethesh was showed love and salutation for Tamils. He showed his stubbornness on humanity and commitment to human rights. He had an unwavering love for people. He was a nationalist. He loved his people, from which he came.

He had the space to pursue of the plight and distress of people. He was an excellent colleague, not because he was an easy one, but because a tough one. He had the moral hope. Kethesh was very determined to human rights, which should be safeguarded.

The Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) was signed between Ranil Wickremasinghe and the LTTE in 2001. We formed a Peace Support Group. Human rights were too dangerous for peace process. Kethesh was a key mover. We produced the first public document. An open letter to the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL), Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Norwegians, and Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM). A return of sanity was insisted, where everyone would be a stakeholder. There is a ground for it. There will be a consensus in a peace process. All Party Representative Committee is in progress.

The Centre for Policy Alternative (CPA) took the case of eviction of Tamils to the courts, and there was an interim order issued by the courts. The eviction of the Tamils was a slap on the face. Kethesh would have been with us on eviction case. In the context of Sri Lankan politics, long hard struggle gets punctured. Kethesh worked tirelessly to change the orthodox. They killed him, above all he cared. How many do care? How many are willing to care to make a little bit of difference?

Kethesh believed in caring. He was killed because; he cared about the Tamil people, within the unity of the country. He worked hard to provide space for its entire people. He despaired; terribly depressed; very angry to do something for the people. Do we care as he did?"

Deshabandu Jezima Ismail, Vice Chancellor of the South Eastern University shared her thoughts:

"Kethesh was so accessible for the inner-seekers. I met him at a symposium for the nuns and widows on conflict transformation, which was held at St. Bridget's Convent. There, I saw the humanitarian side of Kethesh. We spent about five hours as resource persons of the symposium. He had an expression of enough is enough. Kethesh was independent and passionately committed. It bothered me, when he was appointed as the Deputy Secretary General of SCOPP (Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process). Because he was a man who cared for the people.

I was in complete despair, after Tsunami. I was disappointed to see how the Muslim community was treated in post-Tsunami. I was becoming communal, which I did not want. Kethesh, who stretched his hands out, and told me this is natural to feel likewise after a disaster in which a community suffers the most. He was sympathetic at the same time understood the problem of the Muslim community. This was an instant incident. It's an integral part to talk to the people.

Kethesh was loud, when the Muslim community was excluded from the peace process. He mentioned that the Muslim community is an integral part pf the process. Compassion and feelings for the other community has to come form the heart.

The dove seems tired and fatigue. The landscape of violence is on the increase. How does one rebuild the nation even after negotiations? The need is at the moment is security and certainty. The people in the Eastern province are suffering, and their absolute sufferings are unheard. The civil societies have to mobilize its activities. Imply the death; some light on the path we may have to take. Peace means dignity, self- confidence of every being."

She recited a poem, which was written by Dr. Jinna Sheriffdeen. The poem was dedicated to Late Kethesh Loganathan in Tamil.

Dr. Devanesan Nesiah, Consultant of the Centre for Policy Alternatives:

"Kethesh and I first met in the home of his cousin who had been one of my closest friends since our days together at the Colombo Campus. At that time I had completed my Masters in Development Economics at Sussex, and he was contemplating enrolling in that course. I had gained much from Sussex, and it transpired from our conversation that Kethesh too would find that course most rewarding. For those interested in Development Studies there was no institution more exciting to be in at that time tan the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex. Kethesh enrolled there and completed his course work, undoubtedly with distinction, but opted to defer formulating and submitting his dissertation till he had relevant work experience in Sri Lanka.

On his return, Kethesh joined the Marga Institute, the at its prime, and was soon deeply immersed in research and analysis of public policies. He got married to Bhawani in 1978. But that did not stop his gradual drift into left wing political activism.- a long standing family tradition. In due course he joined the EPRLF (Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front). Given his inclination towards total commitment to whatever task he undertook or cause he espoused, it is not surprising that his attention progressively diverted from completing his Sussex Masters dissertation. With his intellectual and writing skills, had he taken a month off from his other commitments, that could have been done, but securing a prestigious personal academic milestone was not his priority. He seems to have lost his enthusiasm for the Sussex course but another academic challenge superseded. He did take a year off to enter the Institute of social Studies in Hague, and completed a Masters in Development Studies in 1985 with distinction.

The romantic idealism that took Kethesh into political activism eventually led him to breaking out of the shackles of political institutional affiliation. In due curse he joined the Centre for Policy Alternatives, and contributed much to the growth and prestige of that young institution. Three years ago, when I was looking for an NGO base that would be compatible with my interests and priorities, Kethesh, then Head of the Peace and Conflict Unit of CPA, invited me to join as Consultant. I readily accepted, and was assigned a special responsibility to contribute to a project on Ethnic Violence in Cities as well as other ad hoc assignments. I have very much enjoyed working with Kethesh, who took over as the Deputy Secretary General of the Government Peace Secretariat (SCOPP) with effect from April 1 st 2006.

Kethesh was frequently in the midst of controversy. Among the most controversial of his acts was to join SCOPP. No one better qualified to serve on it, but from the vantage perspective of hindsight, he joined it at the wrong time, If it was some years earlier, he could have made a critical contribution to the peace process. In the event, he joined SCOPP when the peace process had all but died. His hopes of rescuing it did not materialize. The net impact appears to be that his voice was stilled, his civil society activities stopped, the flow of his political journalism dried up, and he became even more vulnerable to assassination. If he lived, the peace process restarted and he was suitably empowered, he undoubtedly had the capacity to make a major contribution, but sadly that is not to be.

This is not the forum to assess the varied achievements of Kethesh in public life as an academic, a civil society leader, a journalist and writer and a political activist. I will not seek to make such an assessment. However, like many others, I would identify the Thimpu Principles, which emerged under his leadership as a Tamil political consensus and which he presented on August 17 th 1985 in Thimpu, as one of his enduring legacies.

Hurriedly drafted in the inhospitable environment of an acrimonious conference, the formulation of those principles contains test of time, and two decades on, retain their political legitimacy and potency. To the best of my knowledge none of the organizations listed by Kethesh ever disclaimed those principles; neither did Kethesh. The fill statement was reproduced in his book of December 1996 tilted " Sri Lanka: Lost Opportunities".

Some refinements in his wordings of the Thimpu Principles are clearly warranted, example to underline the reference to self-determination as referring to internal self-determination and not secession, and to explicitly recognize the multi-ethnic composition of the Tamil speaking people. In fact the Oslo Statement did just that-presented the essence of the Thimpu Principles subject to such refinement. Perhaps it is a tragedy that Kethesh was not in a vantage position in SCOPP at that time-December 2002 to help to build on the foundation laid by the Oslo Statement. In the event it became yet another lost opportunity".

First death anniversary of Late Kethesh Loganathan was commemorated on Aug 12, 2007

Bhawani Loganathan garlanded her late husband's portrait

Traditional oil lamp being lit by Bhawani Loganathan

Mirak Raheem, Senior Researcher of Center for Policy Alternatives welcomed the gathering

Dr. Pakiasothy Saravanamuthu, the Executive Director of Centre for Policy Alternatives

Audience at the commemoration oration

Deshabandu Jezima Ismail, Vice Chancellor of the South Eastern University

Dr. Devanesan Nesiah, Consultant of the Centre for Policy Alternatives

Mrs. Dhanapala with Bhawani Loganathan

An anthology of articles written and published by Kethesh Loganathan entitled "Truthfully Speaking: War, Peace and Human Rights

Bhawani Loganathan with Dr. Devanesan Nesiah