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Feb-16-2014 12:55printcomments

Is Tamara Kunnanaykam a Tamil Traitor, Sri Lankan Nationalist or an Opportunist

It now appears Tamara is going back her old UNHRC job.

Sri Lankan UN ambassador, Tamara Kunanayakam
Sri Lankan UN ambassador, Tamara Kunanayakam

(MELBOURNE) - After her failure to win the vote for the Sri Lankan government, Sri Lankan UN ambassador, Tamara Kunanayakam, was demoted from her UN position in Geneva UNHRC for failing to win the vote in favour of SL in March 2012. Tamara, one of the few Sri Lankan ambassadors of Tamil origin, in spite of her objection was reappointed as the envoy to Cuba in July, a post she vacated nine months earlier.

A senior official claimed her transfer back to Cuba was a routine matter and had nothing to do with the UN motion. In a letter to the foreign minister - and in subsequent media interviews - Ms Kunanayaka said she had loyally carried out the instructions of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, but the president had ruled out reappointing her to a previous posting like Cuba as this "would be interpreted as a demotion". Ms Kunanaykam has been a stalwart advocate of the government's position, defending its human rights record.

“Removing one of the very few Tamils heading diplomatic missions abroad will allow questioning of the bona fides of the Government’s commitment to reconciliation, will reinforce extremist elements on all sides, and validate the argument that mine was only a token appointment....We will fall into the hands of those who say there is a conflict between Sinhala and Tamil." she said in her letter dated May 1 2002 addressed to External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris. She expressed displeasure at the move to transfer her to another “punishment station”, and outlined her reasons as to why she should continue to hold the post of Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva. She said it would convey the impression that those loyally carrying out instructions of the President and his Minister of External Affairs are being penalised precisely for this loyalty, whereas those responsible for compromising on principles, creating divisions, and undermining unity were rewarded.


“I believe I have acted consistently with loyalty toward our people and our country, and that I have worked on the basis of principles rather than devious schemes and manoeuvres, pettiness, and mediocrity. Mine is not a personal agenda, and my motivations are not career, fame, or fortune related. I have carried out my duties conscientiously, with the best interests of the Sri Lankan people at heart and to the best of my abilities, placing at their service my long experience and knowledge of the UN System, more than 10 years of which was spent within the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,” she said.

Ron Ridenour gave us a good account of the background of Tamara Kunanayakam. Her mother was an Indian Tamil, a Hindu. Her father was a Eelam Tamil, a Christian and member of the Trotskyist Lanka Sama Samaja Party, which is now part of Rajapaksa's United People’s Freedom Alliance. In the 1980s she defended her Tamil people against pogroms led by Sinhalese Buddhist monks and backed by government politicians, police and army. She spoke against the 1983 pogrom, Black July, in which 3,000 Tamils were murdered, some set on fire alive. Over 50 prisoners were murdered in their cells. She protested as a consultant at the World Council of Churches. The then conservative United National Party (UNP) President J.R. Jayewardene branded her as a “terrorist agent”.

In 1987, T.K. spoke against illegal detentions and torture of Tamils at the then Human Rights Commission, a predecessor to the current Human Rights Council where the converted Tamara now speaks for the Sri Lanka Freedom Party-led Sinhalese government. Before her conversion, she spoke the truth about the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). She said it is an “ugly blot on the statute book of any civilized country”.


The PTA of 1978 provides the police broad powers to search, arrest, and detain “suspects”. It is modelled after the British PTA of 1974 aimed against Irish liberationists. Jayewardene, made the PTA permanent in 1982 and it remains to this day, five years after the end of the civil war.

Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother, Gotabhaya, a US citizen and Minister of Defence advocated “deporting” Colombo based Tamils, such as Kunanayakam’s family, to the LTTE-held territory in the north and east. In fact, at least 500 ethnic Tamils from Colombo were deported. Tamara was by then converted to her new ideology and she didn't utter a word against such Sinhalese madness.

“The forcible deportation of the ethnic Tamils from Colombo to the Northern and Eastern parts is reminiscent of The Holocaust.” stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights. Since the end of the war, apartheid is practised even more in the north and east as Sinhalese military and civilians took over more and more of Tamils’ homes, businesses, even gravesites and places of worship. It appears that Tamara will again be leading the Sri Lankan government’s case at the 25th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), March 3-28.

I want the readers to pass judgement on Tamara's ideology; Is she a Tamil patriot, a Sinhalese nationalist or just a cheap opportunist? Or, could she be classified as a typical politician, who swings like a weather cock from one direction to the other. Earlier her Tamil identity was a liability, depriving her of all opportunities. Later it turned out to be an asset, when she flogged her Tamil-ness to secure a plum position in the diplomatic. service. When the UNHRC resolutions on Mullivaaykkal genocide emerged since March 2012, she, being a Tamil, became an ideal candidate to lead the Sri Lanka in UNHRC Geneva.


Unfortunately, the UNHRC deliberations were not on how many Tamils were holding top posts in Sri Lanka, but on the crimes committed by the SL armed forces and the Sri Lankan government. Try as Tamara could, she could not win the vote at the council. With that her fortunes sank and she was facing transfer to Cuba. What would amaze most of us was that she argued her retention in the UN post, not on her capabilities, but on her Tamil race. What would others say on her demotion; will they not say that she was demoted because she was a Tamil? This argument exposed her true character.

Again in the UNHRC resolution in 2013, when it came for voting, Sri Lanka lost. That would have convinced Rajapaksa that SL lost the vote in 2012, not because of Tamara's incapabilities, but their product SL human rights violations had no marketable value. SL human rights records is so bad that no sane person with a clear conscience would vote for it. If at all they did vote it was for geopolitical compulsions and business.

It now appears Tamara is going back her old UNHRC job. She is not likely to do any better this time. Coming to the point - what is my verdict on her. She is just a cheap opportunist. Whether she is a Tamil or a Sinhalese, she has no moral principles. She is just like the weather cock, swinging in whatever direction her fortune blows

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