THE VOICE OF THE VOICELESS
Anton Stanislaus Balasingham (March 4, 1938 – December 14, 2006) was the chief political strategist and chief negotiator of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. He was a British citizen of minority Tamil origin from Sri Lanka.
He was a blend of many strands. His father was from the East and Mother from the North. His mother was a Christian and father a Hindu. His parents were also of different castes.Though raised as a Catholic Balasingham soon became a rationalist and agnostic. Yet he was deeply moved and inspired by the teachings of Lord Buddha. Balasingham’s first wife was a Jaffna Tamil protestant. His second wife was an Australian lady of anglo – saxon extraction. He was a British citizen but yearned for his homeland – Tamil Eelam – which he believed was a state in formation.
After his graduation from school in Jaffna, he worked as a journalist in a Colombo newspaper and as a translator at the British High Commission in Colombo. Balasingham was initially married to a Sri Lankan Tamil. After she died due to the complications of chronic renal failure, he married Adele Ann Wilby in London, UK, in 1978. Adele, an Australian citizen and a nurse by professional training, became a prominent member of the women’s wing of the LTTE.
In the past, Adele herself has been involved in the peace talks, as the secretary of the LTTE delegation. In April 2002 , Anton Balasingaham appeared alongside LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran in a rare press conference in the LTTE held town of Kilinochchi in Sri Lanka.
From the Thimphu talks in 1985 to the first round of the Geneva talks held on February 22-23, 2006 Balasingham was the head of the LTTE delegation in all the peace negotiations with the government of Sri Lanka. However, he could not participate in an October round because of ill health, and in November 2006, Balasingham was diagnosed with cancer. He suffered from diabetes, Motor Neurone Disease, a degenerative disease of the nervous system, and possibly medicine-induced bile duct cancer.
Balasingham’s grandfather was a “saiva kurukkal” (non – brahmin priest) from Mandur in Batticaloa district. His father was an electrical foreman at the Batticaloa hospital. Bala annai’s mother was from Jaffna town and a former resident of Martins road. She was a midwife by profession and was working at the Batticaloa hospital when she met. loved and married Bala annai’s father.
She was later separated and then widowed at an early age. Balasingham along with mother and elder sister moved to the North as a child. They settled down at Karaveddy in the Vadamaratchy sector. Bala Annai’s mother worked as midwife at the “Ambam clinic” in Karaveddy near the Athulu water tank. They rented out a house near the clinic which belonged to former Palaly Training College Principal , Kandasamy.
In his childhood and early youth Balasingham was known as AB Stanislaus. He attended Sacred Heart College in Karaveddy and Nelliaddy Central College (later MMV) in Nelliaddy. Karaveddy – Nelliaddy was a leftist bastion those days. The legendary Pon. Kandiah and many other “communists” hailed from there.Young Stanny as he was known then was also subscribed to leftist ideologies. Another of his favourite pastimes was to sip tea and play cards at the tea boutique at Nelliaddy junction run by “Sangunni” who was a Malayalee from India.
One man who profoundly influenced Stanislaus those days was the doyen of Tamil cartoonists Sivagnanasundaram who ran the reputed magazine “Sirithiran”later. Cartoonist “Sundar” as he was known was famous for his “Savari Thambar”strip. He too was from Karaveddy.It was due to Sivagnasundaram’s efforts that Stanislaus was apponted sub – editor at the Colombo Tamil newspaper “Virakesari” in the early sixties.
Stanny stayed in a grandpass chummery close to the “Virakesari” those days.Former colleagues at the “Virakesari” speak of him as a man engrossed in reading most of the time. He was not concerned about his appearance and not very particular about clothes. Meals too were not at regular times. At the “Virakesari” Stanislaus was soon put in charge of foreign news. This entailed translation of Reuters copy and other articles on foreign affairs. Balasingham however was keenly interested in philosophy and psychology. He also dabbled in hypnotism.Ex – colleagues descrbehim as Spiritual but not religious.
Things changed soon as Stanislaus got a job as Translator at the British High Commission. There was a transformation in his appearance as he opted for smart clothes now. This was not entirely due to the new job alone. Cupid too had struck. He was enamoured of a beautiful Tamil woman at the Britiish Council adjacent then to the HC. There was a romance . They married .
But their happiness was short – lived test when his first wife became extremely ill requiring advanced treatment abroad. British authorities were very sympathetic and generous . Both were allowed to go to England. Balasingham continued his higher education in England. But his wife’s condition deteriorated. She had chronic renal failure, ending with her requiring life sustaining haemodialysis. Balasingham discovered in London that he too had diabetes.
It was a life of hardship and sacrifice then with Balasingham having to work, study and care for his ailing wife. After six years she died. By this time Balasingham had become acquainted with a trained hospital staff nurse who also a “stranger” in Britain as she was from Australia. A second romance flourished between the young widower Anton and the nurse Adele Anne. They married very simply at the registrar’s office in Brixton , South London on Sep 1st 1978.
Balasingham’s MA dissertation at the South Bank London Polytechnic was on the psychology of marxism. Later he began reading for his PhD on alienation under John Taylor.He never completed his Ph D. But the media generally refer to him as “Dr” Balasingham.Why did he not complete his Ph D? Adele says in her book “The will to Freedom”.thus -” But the demands of the revolutionary politics of the national liberation struggle of his(Balasingham’s) people constantly intervened in his research and teaching. A time came when he was compelled to choose between an academic life and revolutionary politics. He chose the latter for he viewed the cause of his people as just and to serve that cause was meaningful”.
Both Adele and Anton Balasingham served the Tamil people to the best of their ability. While he was called Bala annai she was called “Anty” (Aunty)/ In her book Adele speaks of her life with Anton in the following manner -
“…It all began when I married a Tamil man, Anton Balasingham, from the island of Sri Lanka, in 1978. In that union, I married the collective consciousness and history of a people: a man who embodied the Tamil psyche with all its strengths and weaknesses. greatness and failings. That history took me to live in the society and culture of one of the world’s oldest Eastern civilisations: in the land of the ancient historical origins of his people, Tamil Nadu, the Southern Dravidian state of India.
Thirukkural திருக்குறள் Holykural
Kural குறள் - 533
பொருட்பால் - பொச்சாவாமை
எப்பால் நூலோர்க்கும் துணிவு.
'To self-oblivious men no praise'; this rule Decisive wisdom sums of every school.
Thoughtlessness will never acquire fame; and this tenet is upheld by all treatises in the world.
Translation by Rev. Dr. G. U. Pope, Rev W. H. Drew,Rev. John Lazarus and Mr F. W. Ellis