A martyr Sri Lanka has forgottenJune 5, 2006
Fifty nine years ago June 5, 1947, eight months before Sri Lanka became independent as a dominion from the status of a crown colony of the British colonial empire, a young man from Vaddukoddai, NP fell dead, a martyred victim of state terror.
He was Velupillai Kandasamy, a gentle peace-loving young man, the bread-winner for his family of elderly parents, a brother and five sisters. His crime was to have demonstrated along with hundreds of his colleagues for better terms and conditions for the workers of the General Clerical Services. He was at that time employed in the Department of Medical and Sanitary Services.
While the demonstrators led by their union leaders were marching with slogans demanding certain rights that they considered appropriate, the police were ordered to break up the strike if necessary by force. And the police opened fire killing an amiable and friendly young man who had like hundreds of Tamils sought employment away from their province.
This was their plight because all development was highly centralized in Colombo. It was a time of White Hall being the masters and the local leaders were highly tuned to British interests and served them as their “obedient servants.”
Kandasamy became the first Sri Lankan martyr of recent times. The whole country was appalled by his killing and the various unions reacted by erecting a memorial monument to him near the Fort Railway Station in Colombo. And June 5 was declared a national event to be remembered with gratitude and was called Kandasamy Day.
Velupillai Kandasamy is now among the forgotten martyrs and even his monument was destroyed by racist hooligans and thugs during the anti-Tamil riots of 1958.
It is a pity no government had thought it fit not even the government in which Dr N M Perera, Dr Colvin R de Silva and Leslie Goonewardene were ministers had thought it fit to appropriately commemorate this day; not even a stamp was published in he memory of this martyr. It should be noted that one of his striking colleagues, T B Illangaratne became a minister and served in the Bandaranaike cabinets for several years. -By Satchi Sithananthan