Tribute by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan

Following is the text of the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan -– which was delivered on his behalf by Francesc Vendrell — at the memorial for Neelan Tiruchelvam, held in January 2000 in Colombo, Sri Lanka:


I am honoured to join my voice to those who have assembled in Colombo today to celebrate the life of Neelan Tiruchelvam.

First and foremost, let me express my deepest sympathies to Mr. Tiruchelvam’s family, especially to his wife Sithie and his sons Nirgunan and Mithran.

Neelan Tiruchelvam was a peacemaker in the truest sense of the word. His life was devoted to the pursuit of justice and freedom, but always, and exclusively, by peaceful means.

He was a tireless fighter for the rule of law and the promotion of human rights — especially in his own country, Sri Lanka, but also worldwide. He had friends and admirers throughout the world, among whom I was proud to count myself. His murder came as a terrible shock to all of us — not only because it deprived us of such an irreplaceable friend, but also because it symbolized the very opposite of what Neelan Tiruchelvam was trying to achieve: a peaceful and prosperous life for all people on this beautiful island.

Alas, the quest for a political solution to the conflict in Sri Lanka, to which Neelan Tiruchelvam gave his life, has not yet been crowned with success. The best tribute any of us can pay to his memory is to commit ourselves, in turn, to achieving that goal. The senseless violence in Neelan’s long-suffering homeland must be stopped without further delay.

I am encouraged by the stated intention of President Kumaratunga and other political leaders in Sri Lanka to move forward in the spirit of Neelan Tiruchelvam. The United Nations stands ready to support any peace effort that can bring about a genuine political solution, based on the principles for which he stood.

31st January 2000