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Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Last updated
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Note by tamilnation.org - "Jeyam Thamotheram passed way on  27 October 2005. He was an unceasing, committed and influential  worker for the Tamil  struggle for justice. He will be remembered with affection by many in the Tamil diaspora."

Tribute from Colombo at Funeral in London - S. Sivanayagam, 4 November 2005
Brian Senewiratne on The Thamotheram Funeral, 8 November 2005
C.J.T.Thamotheram - An Appreciation by Ivan Pedropillai, 6 November 2005
Jeyam Thamotheram: An untiring servant of the cause of freedom for his people - Rev. Dr. S.J. Emmanuel, Germany, 5 November 2005
C.J.T. Thamotheram: an End of an Era - Brian Senewiratne, 1 November 2005
Jeyam Thamotheram - Doyen of Thamil Diaspora - Editorial of Eelam Nation, 4 November 2005
Thamotheram, social activist, passes away - TamilNet, 1 November 2005

One Hundred Tamils of the 20th Century

C.J.T.Thamotheram

19 September 1919 - 27 October 2005

[ A Website has been opened to celebrate the life of Charles Jeyam Thamotheram
 - please visit http://www.thamotheram.co.uk ]


S. Sivanayagam, Colombo - Tribute from Colombo at Funeral, 4 November 2005
Dear Friends, This is no ordinary occasion for which you have met today. This is not like any other internment. This is not like any other funereal gathering. In marking the passing away of one individual, you are today marking the end of an epoch in the history of Tamils in this country. It is not one Thamotheram whom we have lost, but by his loss we are in danger of losing a part of our identity as a Tamil people.

It is my great regret that I am not physically present in your midst, to share the feeling of tremendous loss that you all feel – you the many mourners and friends of Mr.Thamotheram, whom I count as my friends as well. Like many things in life which become richer by sharing, even grief becomes tolerable by sharing. Unfortunately, here in Colombo I grieve for him in isolation. That itself makes it hard.

My sense of gratitude to Mr.Thamotheram, my indebtedness to him in many ways, is something very personal to me. That naturally makes his loss more heart-rending. But then Mr.Thamotheram was a public person. He was my patron and friend, but he was also leader of a whole community in this country. He belonged to all of you. If he was an institution in himself, many are the institutions that he had founded – the first English-language journal, the first Tamil school, the first think-tank, International Tamil Foundation, and in his eighty sixth year his mind was active enough to think of another first – a Writers’ Guild to propagate the Tamil point of view. But alas, before he could breathe more life into his latest foundling, he has gone.

Three days before I left England for good and flew to Sri Lanka, I called on Mr. and Mrs.Thamotheram at their home in Ealing along with my friend Bala. We had a long, long chat. It was really my farewell visit to him. That was the last I saw him in person. I sent him a card on his 87th birthday on the 19th last month, which he told me he liked very much. Parted physically did not mean the end of our association, or the end of his personal affection and concern for me.

In a letter he wrote to me on the 7th July, which he dictated to his brother Edgar, he said (Quote) “My dear Siva, this is a letter that I had wanted to write to you for the past two months, but illness and other distractions had come in the way….First of all, do tell me how you spend the day in Colombo. I know you must be concerned about your illness, but I understand you have already begun treatment under an oncologist. What is his prognosis? Are you eating well and also able to sleep in that hot weather…I do miss the almost daily telephone conversations I had with you when you stayed with your daughter in New Malden” (Unquote)

Friends, here is a man who had the largeness of heart to be so concerned about another’s health , another’s welfare, when he himself had begun to struggle with his own bodily ailments. In the same letter he was expressing his great worry about the deteriorating physical condition of another mutual friend, Adrian Wijemanne.

His concern for his fellow men apart, Mr.Thamotheram’s thoughts to the last remained with the Tamil people he loved and the Tamil cause to which he was wedded. In his letter to me, he wrote – (Quote) “The Tamil community here lacks leadership. We are fast losing our Tamilness, unlike the Jews who maintained their Jewishness whether they lived in Moscow or Morocco, New York or Norway. I am astounded by the number of marriages taking place between Tamils, mostly professionals, and the host community.” (Unquote).

Friends, it is distressing to say that, but I cannot help feeling that we, as a people, and as a community have failed Mr.Thamotheram, failed him in sharing his deep values, and failed to reciprocate by our own actions what he stood for, and what he strived for. It is part of human fallibility to take a person for granted when he is alive. It is only when he departs from us, we suddenly realize how empty the world around has become.

If I may be permitted to believe that I am talking to you Sir, as you lie in that casket, may I say this. Although you have left us, I can always hear your voice whenever I choose to. Your speech at my book launch function is on video tape. I can still see you on that stage, large and life-like. I can yet hear you, when I choose to, loud and clear. Memories of you are too embedded in my consciousness, not to be erased until the time comes fore me too to walk the same path as you and go across to the beyond.

Farewell, dear Sir. You shall always remain part of Tamil memory.

Brian Senewiratne on The Thamotheram Funeral, 8 November 2005

Last week a Sinhalese thought it appropriate to fly half way round the world to attend the funeral of a Tamil, Jeyam Thamoderam, whose funeral took place in the Methodist Church, Hammersmith, London, on 4 November 2005. The Church was packed to capacity but from my perspective the highlights were the tributes paid by two exceptional Sinhalese – Adrian Wijemanne and Neville Jayaweera. The 30-hour flight seemed well worthwhile.

Rev Roger Dunlop detailed the unbelievable achievements of an extraordinary person. The first Tribute was from “Siva”, Subramanium Sivanayagam, the finest Tamil journalist, indeed Journalist of any ethnic group, that Ceylon has ever produced. It was a very personal tribute from a close friend read by Mr Sithamparapillai. I will not focus on Siva’s contribution because I am sure it will be published elsewhere. The next was from the irreplaceable Adrian Wijemanne read by myself, and the third by a relative, Dr.Karuna Alagaratnam.

This was followed by the cremation, attended by just the family. After lunch followed the many tributes from relatives, friends and representatives of the numerous organizations that Jeyam founded. I will deal with just two of these tributes because of the importance of the message which should be heard by all, the Sinhalese in particular.

The Adrian Wijemanne Tribute.

Before I read Adrian’s Tribute, I thanked the Thamoderam family for honouring me by asking me to deliver it. Before I did so, I briefly introduced Adrian, not that he needed an introduction. I described him as a great Sinhalese whose shoelaces I was not worthy to untie. While my contribution to the Tamil struggle for justice, equality and dignity were based on emotion, Adrian’s was based on irrefutable facts, presented and argued with the precision of a brilliant lawyer (which he was not). Here is what he wrote:-

“I met Mr Thamoderam, for the very first time, in June 1994. It was at a meeting of the International Tamil Foundation to which he invited me. Within minutes of meeting, he made me feel as if I had met a long lost friend. He had a gift for friendship. It was a gift that survived the pain and trauma that our two nations were suffering in the throes of war at that time.

Soon our friendship ripened for our concerns were identical – peace and good neighbourliness between our two nations on the island which both of us regarded as our spiritual home in which we had been nurtured and in which the bones of our ancestors lay buried. We got to first name terms very soon – I called him Jayam and we spoke on the ‘phone with each other nearly every day.

Inevitably our perceptions of the future of our two nations differed. Mine more pessimistic and shorter term than his. He had a longer term hope of eventual amity and peace. He was wiser and more humane than I and he had the advantage of moral integrity which the Sinhala people (myself included) had sacrificed to their eternal discredit. These differences did nothing to cloud our friendship which thrived as the years went by. Never a cross word passed between us and our families drew closer together. I had the advantage of knowing at first hand what a cultured, middle class, Tamil gentleman of the early decades of the last century was like. Jayam was its perfect exemplar.

The ravages of time made short work of all our hopes; the future takes dimensions unforeseen. Nevertheless as human beings we project values of eternal relevance however translated into reality of time and tide. Jayam stood steadfastly for the hope some day, even in the very distant future, our two nations would live on the island, in their own political configurations, not only in peace and good neighbourliness but even more importantly in friendship. He knew and personified the healing grace of friendship” Adrian Wijemanne

I could not have possibly delivered it as well as Adrian would have, having had no sleep for some 30 hours did not help. Just 24 hours later, Adrian was admitted to hospital with a severe pain in his back. I fear he has crushed a spinal vertebra from the relentless myeloma which I know he has. I pray for his recovery, it is about as much as is left to do.

The Neville Jayaweera Tribute.

I had not met Mr Jayaweera until I arrived in the Church. Years ago, he had been the G.A (Government Agent) in Jaffna. His address at the funeral was worth travelling 15,000 km to hear. Here is what he said:-

“Madame Malar Thamotheram, members of the Tharmotheram family and friends.

In the course of several tributes paid to the memory of Jeyam during the Church service, all speakers have referred to his many and varied endowments and achievements. Therefore, during the few minutes allocated to me to speak from this platform I will not go over that ground again. Rather, as a member of the Sinhala community, I want to dwell on an aspect of Jeyam's life which, for obvious reasons, other speakers preferred not to dwell on.

Like many others seated in this audience, Jeyam was a victim of the injustices heaped on the Tamil people by my own community. When I think of how Jeyam's career, and indeed the lives of thousands of other Tamil brethren, had been thwarted and terminated through discrimination practised against Tamil people over decades, I feel a deep shame and contrition. If Jeyam can hear me from wherever he is now I can only ask him to forgive me as a member of the Sinhala community and indeed to find it in his Christian heart to forgive the whole Sinhala community for the wrongs they have inflicted upon the Tamil people”. (I might add that Neville is a Buddhist)

“As I look around me in this very hall, I can see many other brilliant Tamil mathematicians, engineers, accountants, doctors and other professionals, all of whose services and skills are desperately need back in Sri Lanka. So then, why are they here rather than there? Why is it that a Sri Lanka, a country so desperately in need of skills and talents for nation building, squandering all these precious assets in foreign lands? When will Sri Lanka ever realise, if it ever will, that only the termination of its discriminatory policies will attract these skills and talents back to serve the country of their birth?

Fifty seven years after Independence Sri Lanka is still only a state, a state comprised of two warring nations. When will it be able to transcend the divisions that have plagued it for so long and emerge as a single nation? It was Jeyam's undying hope and prayer that some day it will.

As you have heard many speakers say, Jeyam was a brilliant mathematician, one of a galaxy of brilliant students of mathematics who came out of Hartley College Jaffna, among whom was Prof. C.J. Eliezer who went on the become Professor of Mathematics in the Colombo University, (I might add that he was the youngest Dean the Faculty of Science has ever had and the only Ceylonese I know of. who was invited to work with Einstein), but himself had to pursue his career abroad because of discriminatory policies perpetrated upon his fellow Tamils. Jeyam could have pursued a career in the prestigious Ceylon Civil Service, but instead opted for the far nobler vocation of teaching.

Many leading secondary schools in then Ceylon sought to employ him as their mathematics teacher but, as a practising Methodist Christian, he opted to serve in Ceylon's premier Methodist institution, Wesley College. However, when in the fullness of time it was Jeyam's turn to be appointed Principal, the discriminatory policies which by that time were in full bloom, took toll again and he was denied what was his legitimate right. Those who knew Jeyam and who were acquainted with the rights and wrongs of the situation were aghast and outraged. Jeyam resigned his job as a teacher at Wesley, opted out of the profession, and after a short stint with the British Council (I think) in Colombo, he migrated to the UK.

However, a man so richly endowed by God would not let his many skills and attributes wither on the vine. In the UK, Jeyam went on to pioneer many institutions and activities to improve the prospects and the quality of life of the Tamil diaspora who were by the mid 70s growing into a steady stream. You have already heard several speakers pay tribute to Jeyam's qualities as an institution builder, as a pioneer and as a leader of the Tamil people.

It would not be an exaggeration to say of Jeyam that he was to the Tamil Diaspora, in the UK as well as in other countries, what Martin Luther King had been to the black people in the USA of the 1960s. Jeyam was deeply hurt but was neither embittered nor discouraged. He had felt the searing pains and carried the scars of injustice, but would not allow himself to be deterred from his vision. Like Martin Luther King, Jeyam had caught a larger vision. To the very end he believed that it is still possible for all the communities who comprise the fabric of Sri Lanka, the Sinhala, the Tamils, the Moors and the Burghers and all religions, to live in peace and amity and without recourse to war. He hoped and prayed that the discriminatory policies followed by successive governments of Sri Lanka would be turned around and that wisdom and reason would triumph over injustice, bitterness and conflict.

Whether Jeyam's dream will ever be realised, and whether the Tamil people of Sri Lanka will ever gain the Promised Land, remains an open question. Notwithstanding, it is the measure of Jeyam's greatness and his quality as an exceptional human being, that despite all the evidence to the contrary he continued to the end to believe in his vision.

May his vision be realised in full and may his Soul Rest in Peace.

While condoling with the Tharmotheram family I thank them again for the privilege of allowing me to speak on this platform.”  Neville Jayaweera


I could barely retain my seat, the urge being overwhelming to rise to my feet and applaud. I could then have said that Neville Jayaweera got a ‘standing ovation’ which he richly deserved.

When it was my turn to speak, I could say nothing, it had all been said much moré eloquently by Siva, Adrian and Neville. All I could do was to say that I was proud to identify myself as a Sinhalese at a time when there is little to be proud of in being one. I feel much less isolated to know that people of integrity and honour such as Adrian and Neville who had not sacrificed their ‘moral integrity’, as Adrian so accurately stated.

In my heart I have always had a yearning to do what Neville had just done so touchingly – to say “Sorry” to the Tamil people. As I said in one of my earliest publications on Sri Lanka The July 1983 Massacre. Unanswered Questions which was quoted by Sivanayagam in his recent monumental work Sri Lanka:Witness to History,

“It would be too revolting and unprofitable to recount details of the acts of barbarism committed by Sinhalese mobs. All that the author, a full-blooded Sinhalese, can say is that for the first time he has felt ashamed to be a Sinhalese. It is not that one identifies oneself with the hooligan mobs, but there inevitably is a collective responsibility for the behaviour of one’s countrymen – hooligan, barbarian or civilized. He who watches while a fellow human being has his limbs cut off, belly slit open, petrol poured on and burnt to death, is only marginally less guilty than he who does it. In the General Hospital, Colombo, desperately ill Tamil patients had their intravenous infusions disconnected and were thrown out of wards because they were Tamils. Tamil doctors had to take refuge in toilets to avoid assault”. What I said so long ago (1983) it is what Adrian Wijemanne refers to when he speaks of the Sinhala people sacrificing their moral integrity to their eternal discredit.

In a covering letter I have just received from Ivan Pedropillai who was the ‘Master of Ceremonies’ in the post-lunch presentations , he says

“ Neville Jayaweera's text is concise but also carries a resounding message to his misguided compatriots that unity and prosperity in a modern State can only be built on equality under the law without distinction of race, caste or creed.

Take the United Kingdom, where the Scots represent about 10% of the population and yet hold many of the senior Cabinet portfolios as well as senior positions in industry. This is not an issue here at all as it works on meritocracy. The West is able to make these strides in economic and social development because a man's race, tribe or religion is just private and personal and he is not judged by it.

When the electorate in Sri Lanka is mature enough to leave religion and race
out of politics and when there are multi-ethnic secular parties in the country shorn of corruption, we shall again have a prosperous land. As long as the Sinhalese, the Tamils and the Muslims have their own parties, and when rabble-rousers can play on the baser emotions of the unsophisticated electors, there will continue to be the bane and the stain of racial politics in the country. Brave people like you and Neville have to run the gauntlet of vicious racists on all sides to restrain the country from continuing with its grim slide into the fate of Hades”.

I am so very glad I decided to go all the way to the UK, not only to farewell an incredible gentleman but because I was also able to meet and hear some extraordinary human beings who give me hope that there is a future, contrary to what it appears to be.

An Appreciation: Mr.C.J.T. Thamotheram by Ivan Pedropillai, BSc., M.Sc., FCCA, FCMA, President Tamil Writers Guild, UK. , 6th November 2005
A leading light of the Tamil Community has been extinguished but his memory will live on in our hearts forever.

The mortal remains of Jeyam Thamotheram were laid to rest in London, England on 4th November 2005. He passed away on 27th October at 87 years of age after a lifetime of service to the Tamil community. He was loving a husband, a father, a grandfather, a brother, an uncle, a friend, a counsellor and above all the conscience and the motivating force that unceasingly mustered and rallied the intellectual and professional classes of expatriate Tamils to uphold and advance the cause of the oppressed Tamils of Sri Lanka in their struggle for freedom. The institutions he created and the network of friends that he made by his immense capacity of persuasiveness and his infectious energy will remain as edifices to his selfless devotion to the cause of justice and self-determination for Tamils in the northeast of Sri Lanka.

But before we paint a picture of a man who fought for justice and liberation for his own people, we must thank God for creating in him a man endowed with great moral and intellectual courage and an unwavering love of his homeland. The hallmarks of his character were formed in childhood in a family in which his father, Mr C. P. Thamotheram, was the eminent Principal of Hartley College, Point Pedro; a leading Christian College in the country which has established a reputation for producing brilliant scholars especially in mathematics.

Jeyam Thamotheram went on to study in other leading Christian Colleges, such as St John's College, Jaffna and St Joseph’s College, Colombo. He was an outstanding student and entered the University College, Colombo on an illustrious exhibition award. He obtained a First class honours degree in mathematics from University College and went back to teach in his old school, Hartley College, from 1939 to 1942. Although he left teaching for a short period of two years to join the Ceylon Government Supplies Department, his love of teaching saw him return as a teacher to St Patrick's College, Jaffna for a couple of years and from there he left to join Wesley College, Colombo where he taught for over 10 years.

In 1944 he married Florence Thiviamalar Nalliah. She too comes from a leading Christian family, in which her father - Rev N. K. Nalliah was a prominent pastor in Jaffna. They were to have six children, three boys and three girls who have themselves gone on to become well-qualified and upright persons of whom Jeyam and Florence can be rightly proud. Jeyam was a loving husband and a caring father, and in turn the devotion of the children to their parents is a joy to behold. It has been a very moving experience for me to see how they have looked after him in his illness and have worked together with their own children to organise the final valediction for him.

While teaching at Wesley College he won a Fulbright scholarship for one year to the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, after which he again returned to Wesley College to teach. His interest in serving the rights of teachers as a profession was to come to the fore at about this time. In 1954-55 he took on the mantle of President of the Colombo Teachers Association and led them ably to become a force for good in the teaching profession. He was also starting to prove his keenness in expanding the interests of teachers by founding the Ceylon Teachers Travel Club.

From Wesley College, he joined the British Council in Colombo as the First Administrative Assistant in 1959 and afterwards in 1961 he arrived in the UK to teach at a school in Luton. However, his longest service as a teacher was from 1965 to 1983 at Latymer Upper School, Hammersmith - one of the leading public schools in London.

He was a man of phenomenal vision and capability and took on the tasks of building the different pillars that would form an infrastructure for the Tamils in the UK . While teaching at Latymer, he also inaugurated the Association of Commonwealth Teachers (1966); founded the Tamil Times (1977); founded the West London Tamil School (1978); and founded the International Tamil Foundation (1988).

We could have thought that Jeyam would rest on his laurels after creating these organisations. But, even in his advancing age and with his failing health, he felt strongly that there existed another void amongst us, which was to represent the Tamil cause with intellectual vigour in the English media. Towards this goal, he was inspired again, in March this year to enlist with his customary tenacity some of us as writers to found the Tamil Writers’ Guild of which I am the first President. In his declining months, with both his legs giving way, he still came to our meetings as our Patron and contributed with his wisdom and experience to get TWG functioning. This was his swan song and we wish to invite more of you to join it as a lasting memorial to his irrepressible and indomitable spirit.

It would have been impossible for anyone else to start even one or two of these organisations and involve so many leading Tamil academic and professional figures in them. The vibrancy and growth of some of these organisations even to this day is a testimony to Jeyam Thamotheram's powers of persuasion, dedication, organisation and intellectual ability. He would be on the telephone from morning to evening, calling people and exhorting them or cajoling them to do something for the good of the Tamil people and their cause. Countless are the times that Jeyam has worked the telephones relentlessly to raise substantial monies to save Tamil newspapers and journals from financial insolvency.

He was respected and loved by the people that he knew - and there were many of them - and they trusted him and gave willingly for the causes that he sponsored. He was a true friend and a soul mate to a number of people and would instantly rally to their support in their illnesses and in their hour of need. He was truly a great man, a giant among men for he thought not of himself but of the community and others who were more in need. He was an old-fashioned gentleman, courteous and well mannered but also doughty and courageous and prepared to stand firm for his principles. We are all better for having known him.

Throughout his life he embraced students and people of all religions and backgrounds and he did this from the strength of his own Christian upbringing and values. Some of these friendships that were formed as a teacher in the 1950s have lasted for over 50 years and even to this day there are some of his former students and associates who have maintained their close friendship with him. Their love for him and his love for them has been undiminished over these many long years.

He was one of the founders of the London Tamil Christian Congregational church in Putney and in the moving service of prayer and thanksgiving in that very church on 4th November 2005 attended by many hundreds, our prayers have joined those of his family to wish him our fondest farewell when we know he has gone to join his loving God and creator in heaven. We wish to convey our love and deepest sympathy to his sorrowing wife and children and their families and pray that the good Lord will grant them peace of mind and his blessings. We grieve the loss of this colossus among us but we also celebrate the life of one so special and touched by God. May his soul rest in peace.

“Atque in perpetuum, frater, ave atque vale” - (and forever, brother, hail and farewell).

Jeyam Thamotheram: An untiring servant of the cause of freedom for his people - Rev. Dr. S.J. Emmanuel, Germany
I came in contact with Mr.C.J.T.Thamotheram during the last ten years of my engagement with the Tamil cause. Being a Christian believer and a respected senior Tamil citizen with a passion for truth and justice, he was a valuable advisor and an encouraging friend for me. I regret my inability to be present at the Thanksgiving Service in his honour of him in London.

Though I had young Mr.C.J.T.Thamotheram as my teacher at Patrick’s College, Jaffna and later Prof. C.J. Eliezer as my professor at Ceylon University, both these men of Hartley College, Vadamaradchy impressed me, not so much by their teaching of mathematics, but by their mature understanding of the Tamil Struggle and by their devotion to the noble cause of freedom.

Without a Chelvanayagam and a Thaninayagam, or an Ambalavanar and an Eliezer, the contribution of Christian leaders to the Tamil struggle would have been minimal. Similarly, without the initiatives and endurance of Jeyam Thamotheram among the UK Tamils during the last two decades, the Tamil Struggle would have suffered without the support of the English-educated Tamils in London. Jeyam was a humble instrument of God in connecting people by his telephone calls, bringing them together towards a consensual vision and moving them into action.

Mr. Jeyam Thamotheram, though migrating to the UK long before the Black July of 1983, sensed early the lack of true patriotism, self-respect and solidarity among the Tamils in the UK. Living in England meant for most of the expatriates imitating, if not apeing, the British way of life and giving up their love for their homeland and their mother-tongue.

Admiration of white values and lack of self-respect were still part of the post-colonial mentality inhibiting many of the English-educated. To arrest these tendencies, which go against the Tamil struggle, Jeyam quickly founded the first Tamil school and went on to bring together senior Tamils of divergent or no political views towards a common vision of the Tamil liberation struggle.

Living among a community that is very self-conscious about intellectual and professional achievements and material wealth, Jeyam succeeded only because of his humble approach and enduring efforts in bringing together the largest gathering of senior Tamils. He was thus instrumental in lessening the gap between generations and in enabling a better understanding of the militant struggle.

Based on his Christian conviction of seeing all human beings as his brothers and sisters, his social engagement for the welfare of teachers in Ceylon and in the UK, as well as his political engagement to serve the cause of justice and freedom, knew no barriers of race or religion. In fact, by his amiable and sincere ways, he persuaded many talented Sinhalese and Englishmen to defend the Tamil cause.

God, Lord of Life and Giver of gifts!
We thank you for the gift of a long life to our brother Jeyam.
With the gifts of faith, courage and endurance
He has served the cause of Truth, Justice and Freedom.
Thank you, Lord, for planting him at this critical junction of our history,
And among the expatriate intellectuals and professionals with a mission to serve.
Without his courageous initiatives and enduring efforts
Many would have still stood behind their fences without any contribution to the struggle.

For a people dreaming of an identity and a homeland,
Lord, you have given not only a Chelvanayagam and a Thaninayagam
An Ambalavanar and an Eliezer
But also a Jeyam to guide them in their vision and move them on their journey.

Lord in your Mercy, raise among us men and women, with a prophetic courage
To stand up for the Truth of history and for the values of justice and freedom.
Bring all those who are still lukewarm and reluctant to come to the fore
And do their mite in lessening the agony and hastening the liberation of our people.

Jeyam was instrumental in encouraging the less courageous
to take up more responsibility on behalf of the weak and the oppressed.
He stood neither on the stage nor sat in the front rows of gatherings,
but stood “tele-connected” to all parts of the world and worked behind the curtains.
Jeyam has fulfilled his mission with a Christian vision.

Among the dispersed and discordant Diaspora
He was an instrument of unity and a point of convergence
He kept us all rightly motivated to serve the cause of freedom.
His initiatives and services were varied and enduring
With patience and endurance he kept us all moving
With phone calls and letters he pleaded and reconciled.
He left no stone unturned to serve the supreme cause of liberation.

Lord now you have taken this faithful Servant Jeyam from among our midst.
We are poorer by his absence, but made richer by the spirit he has bequeathed to us.
His memory will enliven us. His spirit will move us forward.
You only grant us the grace to be loyal to his memory and his mission.

Brian Senewiratne  on C.J.T.Thamotheram: an End of an Era, 1 November 2005

This is not an obituary, since I am not qualified to write one. It is just a note of thanks from a Sinhalese to a great Tamil for all he has done for the Tamil cause over a very long time. He is one of the unsung heroes of the Tamil struggle. It is a struggle for justice and freedom from Sinhala oppression which has gone on for such a long time and at a terrible cost to Tamil lives, property and the complete destruction of the Tamil areas. What is unrecognized is the damage done to the much-treasured and closely knit family unit which means so much to people of Jeyam’s generation. People of that generation (and even later ones) have paid a terrible, but unrecognized, price in terms of social disruption, indeed ‘social decimation’, as a result of the violence unleashed on the Tamils by a succession of Sinhala Governments since 1956, and more so since 1983.

The Thamotherams have made a major contribution to education in Jaffna. Jeyam’s father was the Principal of a very famous school, Hartley College, a Methodist mission school founded in 1838 and was, in fact the first non-white Principal of any school in Jaffna. Among the many famous people coming out of that school was the brilliant Prof.C.J.Eliezer who actually worked with Albert Einstein! Later Jeyam himself joined the staff of that school, making a significant contribution to education in Jaffna.

He emigrated to Britain many years ago. Unlike so many of his vintage who, having left Sri Lanka, have sat on their hands doing nothing other than hallucinating about the future, Jeyam acted in his own inimitable way. He made an enormous contribution which is largely unrecognized because of the nature of the man. A quiet unassuming, self-effacing man, modest almost to a fault, Jeyam had a vision of what expatriate Tamils could do in a positive way.

He founded, among other things, the first Tamil School in the UK, the Tamil Times and the International Tamil Foundation. A few years ago he telephoned me in the early hours of the morning (!) in Australia, to say that he thought it important to get together a group if international writers to highlight the problems faced by the Tamils, would I join the group? That was typically Jeyam, his mind ever active, thinking what more he could do to further the Tamil cause. I gather that he also had the largest list of Tamils in the UK and their addresses. It was the Sri Lankan concept of an ‘extended family’ being applied on an international scale!

In October 1981 he founded the monthly Tamil Times which was to be the voice of the Tamil expatriate community. This is the only journal run by Tamils that has been published uninterrupted since its inception more than two decades ago. It is most unfortunate that the founder of this journal had to distance himself from his brain-child. As another great Tamil, S.Sivanayagam, put it in his recently published monumental work, Sri Lanka: Witness to History, the Tamil Times “changed hands midway and subsequently changed direction as well….. it was thought to be, by a wide spectrum of Tamil expatriates, no longer capable of speaking up for an oppressed Tamil nation with any conviction or courage”. When I discussed this with Jeyam at our last meeting a couple of years ago, I could see his eyes brimming with tears and could sense his disappointment and sadness.

I first met this extraordinary man in 1984 when I was campaigning to draw international attention to the genocidal massacre of Tamil civilians in the Sri Lankan South whose only crime was that they were where they were. They had every right to be where they were since they and generations of their ancestors had made a major contribution to the development and prosperity of the Sinhala South, Colombo in particular. Jeyam had extensive contacts with British parliamentarians, especially in the House of Lords, and kept them informed of what the Tamils in Ceylon were going through. Among them were Dame Judith Hart and Lord Avebury, the latter being the author of the first of a series of damming Amnesty International Reports on human rights violations in Ceylon that first drew international attention to the magnitude of the problem in that country. These are not people whom you can readily see. When I went to London to lobby them and ask for their help to apprise the international community of what went on behind the censored doors of the Sri Lankan Government, all I had to do was to mention that I was “a friend of Jeyam Thamotheram”.

In 1991 I had a call from the International Tamil Foundation inviting me as their guest speaker to address their annual sessions on The Abuse of Democracy in Sri Lanka. I thought it was completely crazy to go more than 15,000 km for a luncheon meeting. I was then told that Mr Thamotheram had specifically asked that I be invited. I was on my way.

In the packed hall, the man who was responsible for the ITF itself and should have been on the podium, unobtrusively sat in the corridor. That was the nature of the man. I am sure that the scores of people who passed him had no idea of who he was and what he had done for the Tamil cause.

After the meeting he suggested that we drive up to Cambridge to see a man who makes me proud to call myself a Sinhalese – Jeyam’s long-standing friend Adrian Wijemanne who has made such a major contribution to the struggle of the Tamil people. The next day we were on our way to see Adrian, who was too ill to come down to London for the meeting. The historic photograph of that meeting is in Sivanayagam’s book.

I met C.J.T once more 2 years later, also at the annual ITF meeting, this one addressed by Gajan Ponnambalam MP. I was there as a visitor who had just ‘dropped in’. Jeyam would have none of it. He insisted that I take a place on the podium and make a contribution to the meeting. That was typically Jeyam.

When I heard that he had passed away, I said that I was going for his funeral? What, all the way to England? “Yes”, I said, “I want to say that I was there”. He will be cremated in London on 4.11.05, the end of an extraordinary life.

When God made Jeyam Thamotheram he must have thrown away the mould. It was my privilege to have been associated with this great man. A fitting tribute to him would be to work towards the goal which Jeyam had devoted the later years of his life – a Tamil homeland where Tamils can live in safety and without discrimination and domination by the brutal and racist regime in Colombo.

Jeyam Thamotheram - Doyen of Thamil Diaspora - Editorial of Eelam Nation, 4 November 2005
CJT is no more. He was in his early nineties when he passed away last week. He did not cease working for the Tamil cause even during his last few days. Truly, the Sri Lankan Thamil nation the world over will miss him. Son of C P Thamotheram, a great educationist and Principal of Hartley College Point Pedro during the early part of the last century, Jeyam graduated with honours in Mathematics from the London University and chose the teaching career which was close to his heart.

He joined Hartley College, Point Pedro and then taught at St Patricks College Jaffna. In the early forties he joined Wesley College Colombo where he taught Advanced Mathematics for nearly twenty years. He was known endearingly to his students as "Thamma" for they held him in great awe and esteem for the manner in which he showed them to solve the most complex of problems with the greatest of ease. His turn to be principal came in 1962 and he was overlooked despite his brilliance and ability. His fault was that he did not belong to the right race. He experienced for the first time the real taste of racism He was forthright and never cringed for favours. His self-effacing nature and his modesty were his strengths as well as his weaknesses...

After serving the British Council in Colombo for a while he left with his family, in the early sixties to take up appointment as a mathematics teacher in Luton in England. Having experienced racism and discrimination first hand he realized its impact on young Thamils in Sri Lanka. While at the British Council he formed a network of Thamil professionals who could be of assistance to Thamil youth to find suitable careers. His sincere and pleasant personality helped him with a very wide circle of friends wherever he lived and worked.

To England he took along with him his fervour to fight for the Thamil cause and to expose the injustices towards the Thamils in Sri Lanka. In this he was a pioneer. He lifted the profile of the Thamil expatriates working for the cause. In England he helped the Tamil expatriates in many ways, in Greenford he founded the first Thamil school and established a Thamil church in Putney. By far his greatest Contribution was the founding of the first journal of the Thamil Diaspora, the Tamil Times run on professional journalistic lines. Although thousands of Thamils the world over read the paper, only a few knew that he was its first editor. In his characteristic manner, he unostentatiously s stayed on the sides guiding his enterprises and rarely pushed himself forward.

He lived a life of a good Christian. A good Christian need not be a "religious" person. He was a socialist at heart. He observed economies and charities for the benefit of those whom he served. He shunned the luxuries of life to serve the cause against injustice. His devotion to the Thamil cause was greater than his devotion to his religion. He was an example to other Christians in showing that one can be a good Christian and still be a part of the Thamil national liberation struggle.

CJT Thamotheram was great person. He was great not because he did great things. He did great things because he was great.

Thamotheram, social activist, passes away - TamilNet, 1 November 2005
Mr C J T Thamotheram, social activist and an expatriate doyen of Tamils in England, passed away on Thursday. Son of Mr CP Thamotheram who was a principal at Hartley College (1915 - 1943), CJT Thamotheram was a student and teacher at Hartley College, Point Pedro, and later teacher at Latymer Upper School in U.K.

Mr Thamotheram devoted his years in U.K working on Tamil issues and developed several initiatives among the Tamil expatriates. He established the first Tamil School at Greenford - the West London Tamil School. He was among those actively involved in the formation of the Standing Committee of Tamils (SCOT) in 1977. In October 1981 he founded the monthly Tamil Times which served as the voice of the Tamil expatriate community for many years. He then set up the League of Friends of the Jaffna University and went on to initiate a think tank - International Tamil Foundation(ITF).

Earlier this year, despite poor health, he launched the Tamil Writers' Guild.

The funeral service takes place on Friday 4th November at 11.00 AM at the Rivercourt Methodist Church, King Street, Hammersmith, London W6 9JT. The funeral will be followed by a private family cremation. Those wishing to pay their final respects could do so at Henry Paul (Funeral Directors), 3 Uxbridge Road, Hanwell, London W7 3PX, on Wednesday 2nd/ Thursday 3rd November between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

He is survived by his widow Florence (Malar), his sons, Vijay, Priya, and Raj, daughters Sunetra, Thiru and Shantini, six grand children and two great grand children.

Family requests not to send flowers but encourages making donations made payable to 'White Pigeon', (Registered Charity) to the Henry Paul address.

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