OF THIS SECTION
- "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
Jeyam Thamotheram - Doyen of Thamil
Diaspora - Editorial of Eelam Nation, 4 November 2005
Thamotheram, social activist, passes away - TamilNet, 1
One Hundred Tamils
of the 20th Century
19 September 1919 - 27 October 2005
[ A Website has been opened to celebrate the life of Charles
- please visit
- 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
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”
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,
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
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
“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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Without his courageous initiatives and enduring efforts
Many would have still stood behind their fences without any contribution to the
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
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
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
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.
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
1956, and more so
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
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
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
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
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
Family requests not to send flowers but encourages making donations made payable
to 'White Pigeon', (Registered Charity) to the Henry Paul address.