A good person died. A person who had years of productive contributions left in her died.
Death is final. All we can do is grieve and celebrate the life that has ended.
Sithie Tiruchelvam passed away while I was out of the country. Her role in Sri Lankan society was too large for one person to fully describe. I can write only of the small parts that I knew.
Sithie added credibility to LIRNEasia when we needed it most, by agreeing to join the board at inception. She need not have. She, together with her late husband Neelan, had been involved in setting up and sustaining several research and advocacy entities. An overlap of function, a potential competition for resources could have been imagined by one less broad minded. She could have just said no. Compared to what then existed, LIRNEasia at the start was nothing. This was a generosity of spirit worth celebrating and emulating.
As I reflect on her many contributions, I realize that her forte was problem solving behind the scenes. For that reason, her contributions will be under-celebrated. I will speak to one, hopefully not violating confidences. The crisis following the “right-to-protect” lecture at the International Center for Ethnic Studies would not have been resolved if not for Sithie’s intervention, as she said, based on basic legal principles.
After Neelan’s irreplaceable loss, his birth and death anniversaries were celebrated every year. These events were windows to new ideas and the culture of our larger region. Many people contributed to these events, but I believe Sithie was critical to their success. One can only hope that they will endure now as celebrations of the team Sithie and Neelan were.
When Neelan was assassinated, their children were young. She not only ensured the institutions Neelan and she built survived, she also made sure the family flourished. Her children, daughters in law and grandchildren are among her great achievements.
Thank you, Sithie.