Anandasangaree honoured as UNESCO Laureate in France

November 18th, 2006

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) President Veerasingham Anandasangaree was awarded the prestigious 2006 UNESCO – Madanjeet Singh prize for the promotion of Tolerance and Non – Violence on Thursday November 16th.

The prize – giving ceremony at the UNESCO house in Paris was held as usual on Nov 16th observed annually as International day for tolerance .

UNESCO Deputy – Director General Marcio Barbosa handed over the prize comprising a sculpture, certificate and cheque for US $ 100,000 as honorarium to Anandasangaree amidst thunderous applause.

“I will cherish this moment as long as I live” said the TULF leader.

Loyal TULF supporters, family members and well – wishers from different European countries and Canada were in France to be present at the function where the 73 year old veteran Tamil Politician was honoured.

The award ceremony was attended by diplomats, officials, UN staff, media, civil society representatives and the Sri Lankan community in France. .

Speaking after accepting the award Anandasangaree said “it is the spread of exclusion and intolerance that has resulted in the rise of racist ideologies that separate people and create barriers”.

He said that education for peace is education for life and urged UNESCO, as the lead agency in education, to make use of this immense opportunity, to focus and promote worldwide concepts such as peace, human rights and respect for the environment, which are the very foundations of tolerance and non violence.
Only then he said, would future generations be inculcated with the values that would ensure democracy, good governance, tolerance, human rights, freedom of expression and justice for all.

“The other may not speak the same language or practice a different religion or have a skin of a different colour. It is this lack of understanding of the other that has been the root cause of many , all around the globe”, he noted.

There is literally no corner in the world where human is not arrayed against human, where brother is not pitted against brother where violence is not absent. “When a child grows, we teach him to be aggressive and competitive instead of showing them how life can be more beautiful, we teach them how material wealth, monetary success and power are essential he said . Life is a supermarket where there are shelves full of goodies, all of them meant for us, provided we have the necessary cash to buy them”. The aim of life is to have as much money as we can, so as to have maximum happiness. In the process, if we have to bend some rules or trample over some friends, it is all a part of the game, he explained.

“They would have no compunction towards you, so you need have none towards them. Therefore, we have to learn that “the world has enough for everyone’s need, but it can never have enough for everyone’s greed”, he pointed out.

“The same applies to the game of power. We have to realise that life is not meant for exploitation, but to share. We must learn to live together as friends, as members of a family, as citizens of a country and as children of the earth”, Anandasangaree noted.

Most upheavals have as the source of origin violation of human rights, injustice, discrimination, exploitation and intolerance. However legitimate the causes may be to fight for one’s rights, it is an accepted fact thatviolence begets violence. Once begun, it becomes a long struggle, not only because there is growth of hatred, but also, because of growing mistrust and lack of confidence in one another. Added to that the armed groups also become very powerful and they come to a stage, where turning back becomes very difficult, having got used to power and rule by the gun and doing business as usual, he said.

They deal with networks, peddling with arms,drugs and diaspora contributions, to keep their outfits going. And then it becomes business, which is difficult to give up. This is the case in Sri Lanka, where whilst most of us who are moderate activists, striving to achieve our legitimate rights through peaceful and democratic means, an armed group, calling themselves the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) who do not represent the majority view of the Tamil population in Sri Lanka, is holding us Tamils hostage, in the areas under their control and to an extent even the country as a whole, by the use of terror, he said.

He urged the Tamil diaspora “to ensure that no funds and support are provided to a terrorist outfit, who will never be able to achieve the aspirations of the Tamil people living in Sri Lanka by the use of terror and violence”.

Ananda Sangaree appealed to the international community to help liberate the Tamil people the Tamil people from the clutches of the ruthless LTTE and their continuing wanton terrorism, that has brought nothing but misery to Sri Lanka and the Tamil population in the country as a whole.

Following the ceremony, the Embassy of Sri Lanka organised Sri Lankan artistes to perform Baharathanatyam, Kandyan and folk dances. A reception was hosted by the Sri Lankan Ambassador on November 17 to felicitate Anandasangaree

The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura had designated Anandasangaree as the laureate of the 2006 UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence some months ago. The decision to award Anandasangaree the prize was made on the recommendation of an international jury.

The members of the jury were: Andrés Pastrana Arango, former President of Colombia; Bahia Hariri, President of the Commission for Education, Science and Culture of the Lebanese Parliament; Inder Kumar Gujral, former Prime Minister of India; Sergei Markarov and Manu Dibango, both UNESCO Artists for Peace.

When the name of Anandasangaree was announced as the UNESCO – laureate designate the accompanying press release described the TULF president thus – ” An indefatigable advocate of democracy and peaceful conflict resolution, he has contributed to raising awareness of the Tamil cause in a spirit of dialogue, while seeking to promote non-violent solutions to Sri Lanka and opposing terrorism. ”

The $100,000 UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize was created in 1995 on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the birth of the Mahatma Gandhi, thanks to the generosity of the Indian writer and diplomat Madanjeet Singh, who is also a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.

Dedicated to advancing the spirit of tolerance in the arts, education, culture, science and communication, the Prize is awarded every two years to an individual or an institution for exceptional contributions in the promotion of tolerance and non-violence.

In 2004, the UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence was awarded to the Bangladeshi writer and journalist Taslima Nasreen. Ms Nasrin has received public recognition for her writings against the oppression of women in some Asian countries.Facing death threats from Moslem fundamentalists, she continues fighting in exile for a new civil code, based on gender equality, and for secular education.

In 2002 the award went to Myanmayar (Burma) heroine Aung San Su Kyi who continues to fight an oppressive dictatorial regime through non – violent means. Su Kyi married to an Oxford don could have stayed on in Britain without any problem but chose to sacrifice home and family to return to her homeland and struggle for democracy. Despite her long years of house arrest and indefinite detention of her supporters Aung San Su Kyi and her movement for restoring democracy remain unbowed.

Sangaree as Anandasangaree is generally known in Sri Lanka is not an exile like Taslima or under house arrest like Aung San but certainly his life is under grave threat ever since he started defying the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The LTTE media has constantly attacked and vilified him as a traitor to the Tamils. Yet the danger to his life may not come from the LTTE alone but also from Tamil outfits aligned to the state.

UNESCO goodwill ambassador Madanjeet Singh under whose name the proze for tolerance and non – violence is awarded was also present at the ceremony. In his address Madanjeet Singh said -

It is a great honour and privilege for me to congratulate Mr. V. Anadasangaree, the 2006 Prize laureate of the UNESCO Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-violence, on winning this significant award. A devoted and tireless worker for the cause of peace and democracy, he has consistently opposed terrorism and violence. After working as a teacher and lawyer, he became the President of the Tamil United Liberation Front in 2002. In that capacity, he has been devotedly trying to find a common ground among the people of Sri Lanka to solve the ethnic conflict through dialogue in a spirit of tolerance and non-violence.

The work of Mr. V. Anadasangaree in promoting peace and dialogue is of the utmost importance. This was underlined by the recent assassination of Mr. Nadaraja Raviraj, a prominent representative of the Tamil community and a member of the Sri Lankan parliament. Mr. Raviraj rose to the position of attorney in 1987 and was an indefatigable advocate of the rights of the Tamil community. At the same time he was a popular figure among the Singhalese as he promoted peace and friendship among the two communities. He regularly participated in peace rallies and his last public demonstration took place in front of the UN office in Colombo protesting the civilian killings in Vakarai. “The ethnic problem can be solved only through peaceful means”, he said, “war was mutually destructive to both communities”.

May I also mention that even though a year has passed since the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, the Hon. Lakshman Kadirgamar, was also assassinated, I have yet to get over the tragedy. He was a good friend, whose advice I greatly valued. He was also the first chairman of the Sri Lankan chapter of South Asia Foundation (SAF). His legacy of peace and cooperation has now been entrusted to his eminent wife, Mme Suganthie Kadirgamar, who is a member of the SAF Advisory Board, and has recently established the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies in Colombo. This institution is being set up within the framework of SAF million dollar Institutions of Excellence, like the Madanjeet Singh Institution for the Preservation of Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage which was opened in Kabul on 13 July 2006, in cooperation with UNESCO.

The cardinal objective of South Asia Foundation is to promote regional cooperation and peace through education, cultural interaction and mutual understanding among the people of South Asia. As a citizen of India it makes me proud to belong to the world’s largest democracy with a Hindu majority, a Muslim President, a Sikh Prime Minister and a Christian as the leader of the largest political party. I believe that history is not merely a series of accidents. It is a never-ending struggle between reactionary, divisive warmongers and people striving to realize their dream to live peacefully in cooperation with one another in a society where men and women love reason and reject violence.The work of Mr. Anadasangaree and people like him whose minds are sensitive, whose hearts are generous and spirits free, is of fundamental importance in promoting peace not only in Sri Lanka but in all South Asia.

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