Karunanidhi death: ‘The world of Tamils has lost its leader’

Sri Lankan leader Sampanthan recalls Karunanidhi’s contributions to Tamil language and literature.

DMK chief M. Karunanidhi’s passing has evoked powerful messages of grief and solidarity from several senior Sri Lankan leaders, representing Tamils of the island’s north and east, and the Malayaha Tamils living in the central and southern parts of the country.

Observing that the DMK leader was highly respected as an influential politician in the sub-continent, veteran Sri Lankan Tamil politician and Leader of the Opposition R. Sampanthan said: “Mr. Karunanidhi was closely engaged on Sri Lanka’s Tamil question, and stood in solidarity with our people during the years of the [ethnic] conflict and drew the Indian government’s attention to the plight of Tamils.” The passing of the leader who, “as a rising sun, lit up lives of Tamils all over the world,” is a great, irreparable loss, he said.

Valuable advice

Octogenarian Mr. Sampanthan recalled his long association with Mr. Karunanidhi, when the Sri Lankan leader lived in Tamil Nadu and later too, and pointed to the valuable advice and support that Mr. Karunanidhi extended to his seniors S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, known as the father of the Sri Lankan Tamil movement, A. Amirthalingam, leader of the Tamil United Liberation Front, and to himself.

Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran said Mr. Karunanidhi put in place policies rooted in social justice, and championed reservation for the marginalised. Even as Mr. Karunanidhi challenged the dominance of the Centre, he created Centre-State joint investments. He foresaw the information technology revolution and took major efforts to promote IT, Mr. Wigneswaran noted.

“He moved a resolution at the DMK general council at Chidambaram in 1956 condemning the ‘Sinhala Only’ policy in Sri Lanka, and since then led many protests in support of Sri Lankan Tamils. However, our people still feel that when the war intensified, he could have further pressured the Centre to prevent the massacre in Mullivaikkal,” Mr. Wigneswaran said, referring to what some Sri Lankan Tamils see as Mr. Karunanidhi’s ambivalent position on the Tamil question.

Varatharaja Perumal, who was Chief Minister of the erstwhile North-Eastern Province, in a Facebook post recalled how Mr. Karunanidhi, a Chief Minister for crores of Tamils, magnanimously accorded equal respect to him, when he was a leader for 25 lakh Tamils in the 1980s. “Once he promised to stand by us during difficult times; but when my dear comrades were in danger later, he abandoned them only because I didn’t comply with his order to dissolve the Council. However, my grief about the world of Tamils losing him outweighs that sentiment.”

Mano Ganesan, Cabinet Minister and leader of the Tamil Progressive Alliance, which represents Malayaha Tamils, said in a tweet: “Kalaignar Departs! Tamil world will identify rest of the times/period as after & before MK.”

Ceylon Workers’ Congress Leader Arumugan Thondaman conveyed his condolences on behalf of the hill country Tamils of Sri Lanka.

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