The last night with Kadir
By Ameen Izzadeen
“Today is a great day of joy for me and for the BCIS. A day of achievement,” Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar told a distinguished gathering at the launch of an international relations journal about four hours before he fell victim to the bullet of a murderous, blood-thirsty, terrorist group.
The 60-odd people who attended the function at the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies never would have imagined it was the last time they were seeing this distinguished Sri Lankan who always thought he was a Sri Lankan first.

Though I did not believe in superstitions, it now appears to me in hindsight that a mishap that happened at the function portended what was to come.
Soon after his address he was invited to launch the BCIS website by clicking the remote mouse which was brought to the head table. Lights were dimmed. The clicking was perfect and the website was full of colour and animation on the giant screen next to the head table. But as soon as the website presentation was over, the auditorium was plunged into darkness. The security officers were helpless as they appeared to wonder what to do. A quick thinking state-TV cameraman then flashed his battery operated camera light and kept the hall lit for few minutes until the fault was detected and attended to.

I was there at the function and now regret my decision to avoid the cocktail Mr. Kadirgamar and the BCIS hosted after the ceremony was over.
The invitation card said the function would begin at 6 p.m. I was five minutes late. I was hoping that the function would not begin on time because I did not want to miss Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar’s speech as his speeches are known to be full of anecdotes and quotable quotes in pristine English. They were indeed a treat to the ears.

Carrying the invitation card that was addressed to The Sunday Times editor, I approached the security table outside the BCIS auditorium in the BMICH premises and produced it on demand. I gave a simple explanation that I was representing my editor. They allowed me in.

Six years ago this month, when I carried my editor’s invitation to a BMICH lecture by Mozambique Foreign Minster Leonardo Santos Simao, who was Mr. Kadirgamar’s special guest, security officers denied me entry. I understood the security concerns and the need to protect the Sri Lankan foreign minister who had become a prime LTTE target for his tireless efforts to get the rebel group declared as a terrorist organization by foreign governments.

But this Friday, they took down my NIC number and allowed me in. The security officer wearing white gloves at the entrance hesitated whether to check me. The checking was done on a pick-and-choose basis. I was subjected to a cursory body-check but I saw some others, who carried their own invitation cards, were allowed in without any body-checks.
I did not mind the discrimination because assassins could come posing as journalists – as in the case of the assassination of Afghan commander Ahmed Shah Masood a day before the 9/11 attacks.

Around 6.20 p.m. the Foreign Minster walked in. Indian High Commissioner Nirupama Rao, who was the guest of honour at the function, had already come. It was unusual for the foreign minister, a man of discipline and principles, to be not punctual.

The ceremony to launch the BCIS’ journal International Relations in a Globalising World (IRGW) — Mr. Kadirgamar’s dream project — began with the security being stationed right round the auditorium.

The journal, the first of such kind in Sri Lanka, filled a lacuna in Sri Lankan academia. The journal, which caters to both local and international readers, now assumes added significance because it would probably be the first and the last which would bear Mr. Kadrigamar’s name as “Editor-in-Chief’.
Addressing the gathering, Foreign Minister Kadirgamar, who is also the chairman of the BCIS board, said he was proud of what the BCIS had done. “It is a great day of joy and achievement.”

He said today the discipline of international relations had expanded to such levels that any conceivable topic had bearing on it. Therefore, he said the BCIS would not confine its area of work strictly to international affairs but reach out to other areas such as environment, medicine and technology. Speaking strictly in his capacity as the editor-in-chief of the journal and BCIS board chairman, Mr. Kadirgamar said the institute was expanding its academic courses and outreach and would launch a youth parliament project next week.
The project, he said would bring youth from all districts, including Jaffna, Vavuniya and Mullaitivu, to Colombo for residential workshops where they would discuss issues of national and international importance.

Mr. Kadirgamar said the BCIS would also set up an India-studies centre, which would be named after former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. He said the setting up of the centre was discussed with Sonia Gandhi when President Kumaratunga was in New Delhi a few months ago.

Mr. Kadirgamar said the journal was his dream and he decided to take a plunge into the deep end when some had raised doubts as to the viability of the project.

He said that when he confessed to Sage Publications, a New-Delhi headquartered world famous publishers, that his institute had no prior experience in journal projects, he expected some kind of assistance but he only received strict guidelines.

“Those guidelines posed a big challenge. Sage was strict that we met their standards. I told the BCIS team either we produce ‘a journal’ or no journal.
“Producing the journal, the kind of which does not exist in Sri Lanka, was a harrowing experience,” Mr. Kadirgamar said.

Guest of honour and Indian High Commissioner Nirupama Rao said she was confident that a journal of such quality would induce fresh impetus to the learning of international relations and widen the scope for north-south dialogue.

She said international relations were going through a revolution fuelled by globalization and the explosive growth in communications technology but stressed on the need to give it an humanitarian facet.

“Globalisation has brought benefits, but it has also unleashed hardships on billions of poor people in developing countries and dealt a devastating blow to cottage and village-based industries,” said Ms. Rao who was presented the first copy of the journal by Mr. Kadirgamar.

The Journal’s editor, Tissa Jayathilake, who is the executive director of the US-Sri Lanka Fulbright Commission said the aim of the journal was to humanize and reform international relations.

He said there existed misconception, mistrust and a big communication gap between the developed world and developing world and a journal such as the IRGW could promote understanding between them by means of dialogue and promote the concept of meaningful globalization to minimise the gap.

The inaugural issue contains articles by eminent Sri Lankan and Indian academics. Saman Kelegama writes on challenges facing Sri Lanka’s garment industry; Laksiri Fernando on ethno-nationalsim and the youth dimension in social conflicts in Sri Lanka; H.L. de Silva on politico-legal aspects of the separatist war; Dayan Jayatilleke on the fall of global socialism, S. D. Muni on human rights, state sovereignty and military intervention; Jasjit Singh on emerging Asia and its challenges; and Sudharshan Seneviraten on race, language and deconstructing the Tamil identity.

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