Neelan Tiruchelvam

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Neelan Tiruchelvam

நீலன் திருச்செல்வம்
Neelan Tiruchelvam.jpg
Member of the Sri Lankan Parliament
for Vaddukoddai
In office
Preceded byT. Thirunavukarasu
Member of the Sri Lankan Parliament
for National List
In office
Succeeded byMavai Senathirajah
Personal details
Born(1944-01-31)31 January 1944
Died29 July 1999(1999-07-29) (aged 55)
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Political partyTamil United Liberation Front
Alma materUniversity of Ceylon, Colombo
Harvard Law School
ProfessionLawyer, academic
EthnicitySri Lankan Tamil

Neelakandan Tiruchelvam (Tamil: நீலகண்டன் திருச்செல்வம்; 31 January 1944 – 29 July 1999) was a Sri Lankan Tamil lawyer, academic, politician and Member of Parliament.

Early life and family[edit]

Tiruchelvam was born on 31 January 1944.[1][2] He was the son of M. Tiruchelvam, a leading lawyer, and Punithavathy.[3] He was educated at Royal College, Colombo.[4] After school he joined the Department of Law at the University of Ceylon, Colombo, graduating with a LL.B. degree.[4][5] He then proceeded to Harvard Law School from where he received M.A. and J.S.D. degrees.[4][5][6]

Tiruchelvam married Sithie.[7][8] They had two sons (Nirgunan and Mithran).[9][10]


Tiruchelvam was called to the bar as an advocate in 1968.[4] He took over his father's law firm Tiruchelvam Associates.[4][5] He was a member of the Law Commission.[4] He was made a President's Counsel in February 1998.[11]

Tiruchelvam held several academic positions in Sri Lanka and the USA.[5] He was Fulbright Fellow (1969–71) and fellow in law and modernization at Yale Law School (1972–74).[5][6] He was then reader at the Faculty of Law, University of Sri Lanka Colombo campus and Edward Smith Visiting Fellow and Lecturer at Harvard Law School.[6][12]

Tiruchelvam was director of the Colombo-based International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES).[5] He became a member of the London-based Minority Rights Group International (MRG) in 1994 and was elected its chair in 1999.[5] He had been an international observer in several countries, including Pakistan, Chile, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, South Africa and Nigeria.[5]

On 1 August 1982 T. Thirunavukarasu, the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) MP for Vaddukoddai, died and on 14 October 1982 the TULF nominated Kuttimani (Selvarajah Yogachandran), a leading member of the militant Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO), to be his replacement.[13] Kuttimani was at that time in prison awaiting trial on charges related to the Neervely bank robbery.[13] There was dispute as to whether Kuttimani was eligible to be an MP and on 24 January 1983 Kuttimani "resigned" from Parliament, never having taken oath.[13] The TULF subsequently nominated Tiruchelvam to be Thirunavukarasu's replacement.[14] Tiruchelvam took his oath in on 8 March 1983.[13] Tiruchelvam and all other TULF MPs boycotted Parliament from the middle of 1983 for a number of reasons: they were under pressure from Sri Lankan Tamil militants not to stay in Parliament beyond their normal six-year term; the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka required them to swear an oath unconditionally renouncing support for a separate state; and the Black July riots in which up to 3,000 Tamils were killed by Sinhalese mobs. After three months of absence, Tiruchelvam forfeited his seat in Parliament on 22 October 1983.[15]

After the Black July riots many TULF leaders went into exile but Tiruchelvam stayed in Colombo.[16] Tiruchelvam was appointed as the TULF's National List MP in Parliament following the 1994 parliamentary election.[17] Tiruchelvam, along with G. L. Peiris, were the lead authors of President Chandrika Kumaratunga's 1995 constitutional reform and devolution plan (also known as the "GL-Neelan Package" or "The New Deal").[5][18] The plan involved turning Sri Lanka from a unitary state into a "union of regions", merging of the Northern and Eastern provinces, expanding the subjects devolved to provincial councils, establishment of a mechanism to resolve disputes between the central and provincial governments and greater recognition of Sri Lanka's many minorities.[18][19][20][21] The plan went beyond the Thirteenth Amendment and was federalism in all but name.[22] The plan, which was released on 3 August 1995, was generally welcomed both in Sri Lanka and abroad but was attacked by Sinhalese nationalists and Tamil militants.[5][19][21][23] The plan was subsequently watered down so much that even the TULF refused to support it and the plan was never implemented.[21]


On the morning of 29 July 1999 Tiruchelvam was on his way to office at Kynsey Terrace, Colombo when, around 9.10 a.m., a man threw himself onto Tiruchelvam's car near the Kynsey Road-Rosemead Place Junction, detonating an explosive which killed both Tiruchelvam and the assassin.[2][24][25] Thiruchelvam's driver, bodyguard and three policemen in an escort jeep behind the car were also injured.[26] The militant Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was widely blamed for the assassination.[24][26] The assassination received condemnation from around the world.[27][28]

In 2001 Tiruchelvam was posthumously awarded the Law and Society Association first International Prize for "his distinguished scholarship in legal pluralism, human rights, constitutionalism, ethnic conflict, and the capacity of law to contain violence".[29] He has also received posthumous recognition by the Train Foundation's Civil Courage Prize.[30]


  1. ^ "Directory of Past Members: Tiruchelvam, Neelakandan". Parliament of Sri Lanka.
  2. ^ a b Jeyaraj, D. B. S. (1 February 2014). "Neelan Tiruchelvam". The Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka).
  3. ^ Arumugam, S. (1997). Dictionary of Biography of the Tamils of Ceylon. p. 235.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Neelan Tiruchelvam, an internationally respected human rights activist". Daily News (Sri Lanka). 30 July 1999.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Phillips, Alan (31 July 1999). "Obituaries: Neelan Tiruchelvam". The Guardian.
  6. ^ a b c Law and Development: The Future of Law and Development Research. Sweden: International Legal Center, New York. 1974. p. 90. ISBN 91-7106-090-1.
  7. ^ "Sithie Tiruchelvam passes away". The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka). 23 March 2014.
  8. ^ "Death of Sithy Tiruchelvam". Sunday Island (Sri Lanka). 23 March 2014.
  9. ^ "Final journey for pacifist and son of Lanka". The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka). 1 August 1999.
  10. ^ "Neelan Tiruchelvam: Tragic protagonist of moral choice in public life". The Island (Sri Lanka). 27 July 2003.
  11. ^ Altaf, Saleem (6 August 2006). "Neelan Tiruchelvam: Distinguished son of esteemed father". The Island (Sri Lanka).
  12. ^ Ghai, Yash (2000). Autonomy and Ethnicity: Negotiating Competing Claims in Multi-Ethnic States. Cambridge University Press. p. xiii. ISBN 0-521-78642-8.
  13. ^ a b c d Sri Kantha, Sachi (5 June 2013). "Kuttimani Files". Ilankai Tamil Sangam.
  14. ^ "Neelan Tiruchelvam MP" (PDF). Tamil Times. II (5): 4. March 1983.
  15. ^ Wickramasinghe, Wimal (18 January 2008). "Saga of crossovers, expulsions and resignations etc. Referendum for extention [sic] of Parliament". The Island (Sri Lanka).
  16. ^ Jeyaraj, D. B. S. (14 August 1999). "The trails of the Tigers". Frontline. 16 (17).
  17. ^ "No, Mr. Speaker!" (PDF). Tamil Times. XIII (8): 9. 15 August 1994. ISSN 0266-4488.
  18. ^ a b Ahmed, Rashmee (29 July 1999). "Analysis: Sri Lanka's voice of moderation". BBC News.
  19. ^ a b "The Political Package" (PDF). Tamil Times. XIV (8): 3. 15 August 1995. ISSN 0266-4488.
  20. ^ "Govt's Political Package for Solving Ethnic Conflict" (PDF). Tamil Times. XIV (8): 4–6. 15 August 1995. ISSN 0266-4488.
  21. ^ a b c D. B. S. Jeyaraj, D. B. S. Jeyaraj (31 July 1999). "Tiruchelvam, Tigers and the Tamil "Traitor" Tragedy".
  22. ^ "Political Package: Federalism in All But Name" (PDF). Tamil Times. XIV (8): 8–9. 15 August 1995. ISSN 0266-4488.
  23. ^ "Government's Political Package" (PDF). Tamil Times. XIV (8): 11–15. 15 August 1995. ISSN 0266-4488.
  24. ^ a b "Tamil politician assassinated". BBC News. 29 July 1999.
  25. ^ "Mr. Thiruchelvam killed in bomb blast". TamilNet. 29 July 1999.
  26. ^ a b Subramanian, Nirupama (30 July 1999). "Lanka MP blown up by suicide bomber". The Indian Express.
  27. ^ "On Silencing a Gentle Giant of Reason" (PDF). Tamil Times. XVIII (8): 3. 15 August 1999. ISSN 0266-4488.
  28. ^ "Neelan Tiruchelvam". Neelan Tiruchelvam.
  29. ^ "International Prize". Law and Society Association.
  30. ^ "Posthumous Recognition". Civil Courage Prize.

External links[edit]