26 November 2021
Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan Kt CMG KC MLC
Today is the 91st Anniversary of Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan who was referred to as "the greatest Ceylonese of all times" by the then Prime Minister the Hon D S Senanayake. As per Wikipedia
[Ramanathan founded two schools in northern Ceylon – Parameshwara College, Jaffna and Ramanathan College. In 1907 Ramanathan rebuilt the Sri Ponnambala Vaneswara Temple at Sea Street in Kochchikade, founded by his father.]
About University of Jaffna :
[The new campus started functioning on 1 August 1974 at the Parameswara College premises in Thirunelvely some 4 km north of Jaffna city centre. Parameswara College had been founded in 1921 by P. Ramanathan…….
The Faculty of Humanities was renamed Faculty of Arts in 1975. The Ramanathan Academy of Fine Arts, based at Ramanathan College in Maruthanarmadam, was taken over by the Jaffna Campus on 1 December 1975]
Tomorrow Maaveerar Naal will be celebrated by a good proportion of Tamils. As per Wikipedia:
[Maaveerar Naal (Great Heroes' Day; Tamil: மாவீரர் நாள் Māvīrar Nāḷ) is a remembrance day observed by Sri Lankan Tamils to remember the deaths of militants who fought for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). It is held each year on 27 November, the date on which the first LTTE cadre, Lt. Shankar (Sathiyanathan alias Suresh), is said to have died in combat in 1982. Traditionally oil lamps are lit for the three days ending on 27 November and the Tamil Eelam flag is raised at ceremonies. The symbol for Maaveerar Naal is the Gloriosa superba which blooms during November. ]
Not knowing all this, I discovered the above flower at the Flemington Markets here in NSW, Australia. I went to the markets to buy flowers for garlands for the Sathya Sai Baba shrine where devotees gathered regularly. That Centre came in my dream in which Shirdi Sai Baba said to me to ‘help Tamils & Muslims’. I did not understand the message but accepted it. My friend Vijaya Amirthalingam invited me to this Centre to speak on Lady’s day. When I went there I realised that it was the place where I heard the message in my dream. I made the flower garlands, a skill I learnt from my aunt Padma Sanmugarajah. That particular day – after buying the orchids for the garlands and I thought I had completed the task, my eyes went to this handsome flower – I had not seen previously. It was – as per my recollections - Saturday, 02 December 2006. The following day was our elder daughter’s birthday. I bought some of the flowers and took them to the Centre. The detailed account of this is in Appendix – as published by Sri Lanka Guardian when Mr Nilantha Ilangamuwa was the Editor. The title of that article is ‘We have two homes’. The flower has 6 petals . The devotee whose son was with LTTE called it the flower of ‘the boys’. The Indian lady called it Muruga’s flower. I accepted both through different parts of my brain. In terms of helping Tamils & Muslims – I started a petition addressed to then Attorney General – the Honourable Philip Ruddock in relation to the son of a devotee and the son was released. The core message was that we Tamils and Muslims needed to be united to overcome racism in Sri Lanka.
If those of us to whom Education is a priority above military war are alienated including through accusations of casteism and we believe in our ancestors who invested in education as a priority, and we accept it due to fear of alienation – we would turn the hierarchy upside down – with rebels on top. A Tamil Diaspora leader stated:
[Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan was a creature of his time: his background had been such that he fitted into the British ( feudal and post feudal ) culture of perpetuating the CLASS divisions of English society . Late Neville Jayaweera civil servant and government agent , Jaffna wrote a lengthy article in 1957 titled Hinduism & the Tamil caste system: it took 3 full pages of the Daily News ( it appeared on three consecutive days) . I had been maintaining a scrap book from the age of14 and had saved this article; the pogrom of May 1958 caused a displacement of the family & the scrap book got lost in the rush.
Mr. Jayaweera during his sojourn in Jaffna had been interacting with various Saivite scholars in addition to reading the vedas, shrutis , smiththis , the Thiruk Kural in translation as well as various other publications on Hinduism. He had included the bibliographical references too. Jayaweera’s conclusions included , inter alia an important fact: that there had been no truth contained in the ancient Hindu scriptures proving the existence of a caste system. He stated that the irrational caste system had been imposed on the Tamils by the brahmins. At the end of the article he challenged anyone, any researcher of a brahmin scholar to disprove his contentions; he had declared that he was even prepared for an open debate on the subject. There had been no response.
My view is that the Tamil caste system had influenced the Buddhist Sinhalese here. Since early Buddhism did not have monks stressing on caste or class. Later the conservative Buddhist Sinhalese could have stressed on caste superiority to preserve their vested interests. After all , in most communities the world over, the ‘aristocracy’ & the upper middle classes ( in capitalist societies especially ) have been known for doing their utmost to prevent “the lower classes” from infringing on their exclusive preserves. The Muslims do not have a caste system ( of course differences in the treatment of the rich and the poor have been there - like in most societies ) .The Christians do not have a caste system . However a good Roman Catholic ( Tamil) friend of mine said that in their churches in Jaffna until the seventies, the front pews had been allocated to the higher castes while the rear pews had been allocated to the ‘lower’ castes!
PS. Mr. Neville Jayaweera , a born Buddhist converted to Catholicism a few years before he passed away .]
Whether it is caste, race, gender or age they are all subjective and naturally work against Democracy. But those who genuinely believe in their respective elders – including LTTE leader for those who rely on military pathway – and carry that respect as an invisible Energy -would carry their investments exponentially. Such is the way of Sovereign power. Yesterday it was on this basis that I believe I was able to invoke the duty consciousness of the GS of Sangarathai-Thunaivi. The lady called and said that it was their duty to honor me as their patron and promised to fall in line with our stated Due Processes. This happened because of my display of wisdom in Public Service recently.
University of Jaffna was damaged due to the war led by LTTE on the Tamil side. This damage has been made exponential due to celebration of Maaveerar day under the pretext of celebrating Lord Muruga’s Karthigai Theepam. Many senior Tamils who use their professional qualifications for a living – including in retirement are traitors to the Education system through which we became Equal Opposition in 1977 due to Vaddukoddai Resolution 1976, and in 2015 due to some of us declaring openly that we believed in ourselves as Sri Lankans. The above picture of Nallur Murugan with the Karthigai flower at His Feet was published under the title ‘Multicultural Tamil Community’ on 05 January 2015. The Presidential Elections that led to the defeat of Mr Rajapaksa which paved the way for TNA to become leading Opposition in Parliamentary elections 2015, happened on 08 January 2015. I was in Colombo at that time – sharing my Sri Lankan positive karma.
The more we value our invisible ancestors the stronger our common belief. When we celebrate military leaders and sideline those who developed our educational heritage – we confirm that we are moving towards two homelands – one Sri Lankan led by Democracy and the other Tamil Eelam led by military dictatorship.
Ms Radhika Coomaraswamy wrote in her recent article:
[As the afternoon faded, Lord Skanda, dressed in green, would be taken back to his abode, dancing on the shoulders of his followers. These scenes from my childhood have always associated music and dance with the sacred and the divine.]
That is the picture at the top.
My mother advised me that when we fast during the festival and yearn and ask Lord Muruga in Green – our boon is granted. We were part of the masses and would take the pushing and shoving to get at least one Marikolunthu petal from Swami in confirmation. This has so far worked for me. My mother often prayed for young ladies towards getting married and it was often granted. My belief is my submission of Maaveerar to Lord Muruga to redeem their divinity from their Asura side. Radhika got the UN and I got caste driven Vaddukoddai – Resolution and all. Our Ancestors never fail us.
We have two homes
In 2003, I worked with the LTTE
Administration in Vanni under a UNDP agreement to improve their Public
Administration. My work did not get past the local group (who did appreciate me
very much) and as I do here in Australia, I did submit my reports both to the
UNDP as well as the LTTE Administration – including some to the Leader – as
recommended by Colonel Karuna whom I met during the course of my work. But
there was no response at all from the LTTE Administration. Additionally, I was
never intimated about the Karthigai Poo, even though I myself had sacrificed
much for self governance here in Australia and I am a Tamil.
But Tamil Karthikeyan (Lord Muruga due to His birth in November / Karthigai), sure did recognize my work. A few years after working in Vanni – I happened to join the Carlingford Sai Center – here in New South Wales – at the invitation of Mrs. Vijaya Amirthalingam. Gradually, I started making the garlands for the Shrine on Sundays. I bought the flowers from Flemington markets usually on Saturday mornings. One day I saw a nice looking flower and I bought it because I was attracted to it. I knew I could not make garlands with it but I was specially attracted to that flower. I bought a bunch – for $6. There were 6 flowers in the bunch. The following morning, along with the garlands I took these flowers also to the Carlingford Shrine. There, Mrs. Sivarajah, mother of LTTE activist Yathavan spontaneously said ‘That is the Boys’ flower’. Mrs. Sivarajah went on to explain to me about the Botany of the flower. I was happy that someone was happy and continued to pray. After the prayer session – Mrs. Ganga Sundaram came over to us and said ‘That is Murugan’s flower. It has six petals. In India it usually blooms in November’. That made me very happy because I am so very devoted to Lord Muruga. Many in our group wondered as to how come I had bought it here in Sydney?
After Group Prayers at Carlingford Shrine, my husband and I went to see a nephew and took two of the Karthigai flowers with us – one for us and one for the young couple. Our nephew said that he had purchased the plastic version at Tamil Heroes day celebrations but that he had never seen the real one before that. Our nephew has lived most of his life in Vaddukoddai. While we were there, there was a call from a friend of theirs – in relation to Dr, Gowripalan of the University of NSW wanting to contact me regarding a financial proposal to help needy Tamils. That friend said that Dr.Gowripalan had been very appreciative of my stand against unjust discrimination at the University of NSW. That was the first time a Tamil of independent standing showed appreciation for my work and sacrifices towards Eliminating Racial Discrimination at higher levels of Australian Public Administration. I felt a connection between the Karthigai Flower and all this but did not know how to translate it.
Now years later, I admired the flower when your email came, because of my faith in Lord Muruga. Then when I looked at the message – I was not so sure whether the Flower was being used appropriately. Some Tamils have given negative feedback. One was strongly worded as follows: “The 27th cannot be a day of mourning for all Tamils, because it does not include the more than thousand - literally thousand - Tamils killed by the LTTE. Neither does it acknowledge the grave crime committed by the Tamils on their own community by turning its own children into soldiers - In doing so, I think, the Tamil community failed in the very fundamental moral duty that that every community has towards its children”
I responded as follows “to me - Nature just happens and we need to 'learn' from it. ……. I have worked closely with the Tamil Tigers and continue to associate closely with their
current supporters. Many in the areas that I work are/were supporters. Hence in those environments I have to not separate myself from them - but become part of them and remove the negatives. I believe I have enough positives to more than make up for the negatives and move forwards. The points I have raised re the significance of 27th - is the essence of what
those Tamils would have said. If we did have an alternate day of Community mourning - that would have been the better way - given that 27th is VP birthday. As I have said - to me it is about Tamils who are seeking independence. Within the community, in terms of feelings - I express on behalf of those who would be influenced by strong leaders promising Independence. I seek to protect them from separation pain and loss and no more. They / we
need to preserve their contribution - active as well as passive - towards self-governance.”
Having written that, I decided yesterday, to write to you. Then this morning I was distracted with other house work and changed my mind – saying it was not important. Then I saw at the following address this lovely Karthigai Flower with the following excerpt from my response to Ms Pearl Thevanayagam: (Link)
‘People are more important than money and Institutional values are more important than approval of individuals. Money, People and Ownership make up the total value of our work. This is my personal discovery which helps me to keep going – despite disturbances and attempts to deviate us from the core purpose.’
When I saw the Karthigai Flower – I felt mesmerized – as if I was looking at Nallur Murugan Himself. I knew then that I had to write to you. Donald Gnanakone also published my response through Tamil Daily News and while I was writing this letter to you, Donald sent me the following response from Ms Thevanayam. (External Link):
“There is something called truth which eludes us when we are blinded by nationalism and patriotism. True, we have been cheated by many Tamil leaders who overtly championed Tamil causes but covertly had their own selfish interests. We have been fooled for nigh on six decades. It is now time to shed our inferiority complex and align with our majority Sinhalese who with all their Buddhist credentials are still an accommodating lot. It would do the Tamil minority good if only we can reconcile that we are Sri Lankans first and Tamils second. India will never come to our rescue nor will the West.”
Whilst I do not agree with the logic of the above – I do identify with Ms Thevanayagam’s feelings in wanting to end the fighting. To me is it about diffusing the conflict by elevating the issue to the higher and wider global level – towards continuity of our efforts in seeking Independence. One way is to elevate our work to higher intellectual level and diffuse our borders is to become global.Towards this I urge you to please Remember on 11 November – at least from next year onwards. Lord Muruga signifying Karthigai Flower is the Lord of Tamils. His silent message would lead us to Independence including from our own desires for hasty local victories.
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Miss G.Navaratnam is well known to me and I can testify to the excellence of her character. As a pupil in our Collegiate School she showed a high degree of intelligence and industry. Remarkable mathematical ability, easy command of both English and Tamil and enthusiastic participation in extra-curricular activities contributed to her brilliant school career. I have known her to be always cheerful, sociable and ready to be of service. Upright and dependable she is capable of giving her best to the task entrusted to her. I have no hesitation in recommending her to any post of responsibility.
(Mrs.) M. Saverimutu
Holy Family Convent Collegiate School – Jaffna
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