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The house that became the Uthayan office

Traditional Jaffna houses are built around a courtyard with beautifully carved, wooden pillars. One such house, known as 'Kasthuriar Valavu,' remains intact in the heart of Jaffna, despite the heavy artillery and aerial bombardments that had destroyed many other well-built traditional houses in the Peninsula during the time of the conflict that lasted nearly three decades. The occupants of many of these houses were forced to seek refuge in underground bunkers they had built to escape the intensity of the airborne attacks.

Ceylontoday, 2013-04-23 02:00:00

The house that became the Uthayan office

By Maneckshaw

Traditional Jaffna houses are built around a courtyard with beautifully carved, wooden pillars. One such house, known as 'Kasthuriar Valavu,' remains intact in the heart of Jaffna, despite the heavy artillery and aerial bombardments that had destroyed many other well-built traditional houses in the Peninsula during the time of the conflict that lasted nearly three decades. The occupants of many of these houses were forced to seek refuge in underground bunkers they had built to escape the intensity of the airborne attacks.

The front verandas' of 'Kasthuriar Valavu' was a favourite place of rest and relaxation for Yogar Swami, the spiritual guardian of a large number of people of Jaffna. Many in Jaffna worshipped Yogar Swami as a saint. However, the spiritualist being a person of few words, didn't like the constant clamour by the people to be close to him, preferring instead to keep those who tried to make offerings to him or get close to him at arm's length.

The saint, who lived in a small thatched-roof hut in Colombuthurai Road on the outskirts of Jaffna, walked around the city and the suburban areas in the daytime, and would walk into the houses of the devotees he liked, and request them to serve him with anything to drink or eat.

The 'Kasthuriar Valavu' on Kasthuriar Road, Jaffna, was one of the few places that Yogar Swami, who passed away in the mid-60s, relaxed in.

Viscount Soulbury – Shantha Swami

One of the ardent devotee's of Yogar Swami was Viscount Soulbury, the son of the former Governor General of Sri Lanka, Lord Soulbury. Viscount Soulbury, being an English aristocrat, had come in contact with Yogar Swami through some of the sage's followers in the then Ceylon Civil Service, and had led a spiritual life, denouncing his English lifestyle. He lived in a monastery called Siva Thondan Nilayam in Chenkaladi, Batticaloa, and went by the name, Shantha Swami, given to him by the sage,

The English disciple of Yogar Swami lived in Batticaloa until the civil strife worsened and forced his return to the UK in the late 80s.

The 'Kasthuriar Valavu' which had been blessed by Yogar Swami, is the birthplace of Siva Pasupathy, the son of one of the prominent medical practitioners in Jaffna, late Dr. V.T. Pasupathy, who went on to become the Attorney General of Sri Lanka.

Siva, who is an Old Boy of Hindu College, Jaffna, became an eminent figure in the Attorney General's Department while his other brothers also excelled in their chosen careers in medicine and accountancy.

However, with the escalation of strife in Jaffna, Siva, after his retirement in the late 80s, migrated to Australia and became domiciled in Sydney.

Coincidence

It is interesting that 'Kasthuriar Valavu,' the favoured resting place of Yogar Swami and the birthplace of Siva should not only become the office of the Uthayan newspaper, but also be subjected to, and witness, several brutal attacks targeting the newspaper in recent years. It is also interesting that most of the attacks were carried out after the war in the North and East came to an end in May 2009.

The period Siva served as Attorney General of Sri Lanka was a challenging time, with Tamil moderates on the warpath against the government. One of the prominent cases in which he defended the State was against the late Tamil leaders, A. Amirthalingam, M. Sivasithamparam, K.P. Ratnam and K. Thurairatnam, who were accused of defying the Constitution.

When the case was taken up as a Trial-at-Bar hearing before a three-member bench of High Court Judges in June 1976, Siva in his role as the Attorney General, defended the State against nearly 75 lawyers led by legal giants such as S.J.V. Chelvanayagam QC, M. Thiruchelvam QC, G.G. Ponnambalam QC, and H.W. Jayewardene QC, who appeared for Amirthalingam and the others who were the accused.

However, the State lost the case, and Amirthalingam and the three Tamil politicians were acquitted.

During the regime of J.R. Jayewardene, Siva Pasupathy, as the Attorney General, faced a situation of being caught up in the middle of the proverbial 'devil and the deep blue sea,' in that he had to prosecute hundreds of Tamil youths who were taken into custody for their alleged involvement in militancy. These youths were detained in the Boosa and Panagoda camps in their hundreds until a significant number of them were released following the signing of the Indo-Lanka Accord in 1987.

Though as the Attorney General, Siva Pasupathy was responsible for prosecuting Tamil youth, he did an about turn upon his retirement and migration to Australia, when he was personally handpicked by the LTTE supremo, V. Prabhakaran, to be a member in the terror outfit's Constitutional committee, which was formed to negotiate with the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) Government.

Other members of the LTTE's Constitutional committee were V. Rudrakumaran from the USA, P. Ramaswamy from Malaysia and Prof. M. Swarnarajah from Singapore. The latter was the lecturer of External Affairs Minister, Prof. G.L.Peiris, at the University of Colombo.

The LTTE, in creating a committee with eminent personalities such as Siva Pasupathy and Prof. Swarnaraj, had hoped that the talks between the government and the outfit will go in the right direction, with the struggle reaching a meaningful settlement.

But as usual, even the final attempt to reach an amicable settlement between the LTTE and the government involving the former Attorney General collapsed with the LTTE digging its own grave.

The latest attack on the Uthayan newspaper unravels not only the interesting history of a sage but also that of a prominent figure in the legal fraternity, and strange fates that keep the story of the 'Kasthuriar Valavu' alive.

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