Mr. Thevathasan Antony, a Tamil nationalist, poet, and humanist affectionately known as “Maampazham Swamy” passed away in New Jersey, USA on December 14. An advocate for peace who highlighted Sri Lanka’s rights violations of Tamils in the NorthEast succumbed to a sudden stroke at the age of 63.
Mr. Thevathasan started his public life as a Catholic priest in Northern Sri Lanka. He was a reformer in bringing down caste barriers in the Tamil Catholic parishes, and instrumental in making the Christian Tamils adopt celebration of the Thai Pongkal festival as the prime Tamil festival for all Tamils.
In 1977 Maampazham Swamy established “Valan Nakar” near his Parish in Mannaar and settled the displaced Tamil plantation workers making them self-sufficient.
Maampazham Swamy’s committed work drew the ire of the Sri Lankan authorities, and he exiled himself, left priesthood, and settled in the United States.
While living in the US Mr. Thevathasan became a prolific writer, poet and lyricist. His writings were based on Tamil heritage, the Tamil freedom struggle and its history. He wrote “Aalam Vizhuthuka’l” and “Maampookka’l” and wrote the lyrics and produced the song “Vedda Vedda Thazhaikkum” in memory of Tsunami victims.
As a testament to the love he had for his people and to their freedom he recently released a CD named "Viduthalaiyin Vaasalil” (at the gateway to freedom) and was in the midst of writing another book at the time of his untimely death.
Mr. Thevathasan returned to the Northeast during the ceasefire and provided psychological counseling to the war affected and Tsunami devastated population. His charismatic personality and sincerity of purpose won him the respect and admiration of the Tamil people he served.
In his last public appearance on December 7th, 2008 at the Tamil Remembrance day event held in New Jersey, he recounted his experiences serving the people in Vanni. Despite the odds he firmly believed they will become free.
A wake in his memory was held in New Jersey, USA on December 17th. The funeral is set to take place in Toronto on Saturday after a vigil on Friday.
Mr. Thevathasan is survived by his wife Mathy and daughters Thevika and Rathika.