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Tamil MPs and civil society mourn the untimely demise of Santhan

The untimely demise of T Suthendraraja alias Santhan (55), one of the seven freed convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case  has shocked many in the Tamil homeland who were anticipating his return. 

Tamil members of parliament and civil society shared their condolences and sympathy adding that the yearning of Santhan’s mother who had waited over 30 years to see her son is symbolic of the struggles of many mothers and fathers in the homeland, who are yet to even find out if their loved ones are among the living. 

The leader of the Tamil National People's Front and member of parliament Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam faulted the Sri Lankan and Indian governments for detaining Santhan for over a year, even after he was freed from all charges. 

Posting on X (formerly Twitter), “The news of his passing has brought about unbearable grief. No words can console the grief his mother and his family members are experiencing after having waited 30 years to see him,” he said. 

Ponnambalam said that thousands of people have been detained, have disappeared, and detained in camps, in Sri Lanka, India, and in other countries due to the genocide. “Today Santhan’s mother’s plight is a symbol of the plight of mothers in Eelam homeland who are also searching for their loved ones,” he said. “At the very least, release those who have been detained and disappeared. Justice delayed is justice denied.”

33 வருடம் இந்திய மண்ணில், தனிமை சிறையில், போதிய மருத்துவ வசதிகள் அடைக்கப்பட்டிருந்த திரு சாந்தன் அவர்கள், நீதிமன்றால் விடுவிக்கப்பட்ட பின்னரும் இந்திய சிறிலங்க அரசுகளின் மெத்தனப்போக்கால் ஒன்றரை வருடம் அடைத்துவைக்கப்பட்டிருந்த நிலையில்…. (1) pic.twitter.com/C4ApORHPbb

— Gajen Ponnambalam MP (@GGPonnambalam) February 28, 2024

Meanwhile, leader of the leader of the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK), Sivagnanam Shritharan referred to Santhan’s name as another sacrifice that was made in honour of Eelam.

“We cannot come to terms with the fact that Santhan who was to return to the arms of his mother, after being imprisoned at the age of 20, would one-day amount to nothing,” he said in a statement. “All efforts to help Santhan return home in this one and half year has been futile because he returns as a lifeless body.”

Shritharan lamented that “what should not have happened during these last few days, eventually did and the dream of a mother who waited half her life to see her son has been dashed.”

Shritharan revealed that he too had spoken on behalf of Santhan and his family to secure his release back home, in both his capacity as a member of parliament and to the extent possible personally. He added that all arrangements had been made for Santhan to be reunited with his family within a matter of days.

Referring to the untimely demise of Santhan, Shritharan said that the unequal treatment, the powerlessness of the people of Eelam, and the insensitivity of the rulers who negate the feelings of a common citizen are glaringly visible. He offered his condolences and wished the family strength to endure this difficult period.

Meanwhile, M. Komagan, the head of Voice of the Voiceless, said the Indian and Sri Lankan governments should be held responsible for Santhan's death. Speaking to reporters at a press conference at the Jaffna Press Club, he questioned how Indian fisherfolk can be released overnight based on reconciliation but it was not possible to secure Santhan’s return as swiftly. He said steps must be taken to release other political prisoners currently detained in Sri Lankan prisons.

Santhan one of the seven freed convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, passed away at a hospital in Chennai, just days before he was finally due to return to Eelam and see his family for the first time in decades. According to Indian press reports, he passed away after having suffered a cardiac arrest.

His death brings to an end a 30-year-long yearning to be reunited with his mother and his family who remain in Jaffna. His family, particularly his mother intensified her pleas to have her son brought home after it was announced that Santhan was also ailing from liver failure and his health was deteriorating fast. 

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