comrade P.A. Subramanian received his secondary education at the Jaffna Hindu College, and thereafter graduated from the then University of Ceylon, Faculty of Engineering in 1963. he was my senior and belonged to the group which led us in to Marxism leaving the faculty he worked for the Public Works Department and the State Development and Construction Corporation specialising in highways and bridges. He undertook graduate studies at the University of Birmingham leading to a Master’s degree in Engineering.
He worked overseas in Nigeria for several years and spent over ten years with international consultants Freeman Fox & Partners, first in UAE and then Vietnam, as a valued professional, before setting down in Perth, Australia with his family. Fondly nick named “short sleeve” in the work places, he was always hard working, popular and won the hearts of his fellow engineers and site workers.
PA’s great virtues were his “simplicity and pure intellectualism”. Growing up in Jaffna during the early post-colonial period, he was attracted to Marxist explanations of society and approaches to get rid of economic inequalities, caste or race based discriminations and sufferings within Sri Lanka and especially the Jaffna society. As a serious student of Marxism and politics, he gained an in depth knowledge of both the theory and practice of conflicts between man, nature, classes and the state, and the dictates of local, regional and international entities. The outcome was there for us to see and be guided by. For the last five decades, until his untimely demise on October 4, 2012, PA stood out among his people for his intense opposition to all forms of human exploitation and oppression –both within and outside Sri Lanka.
Even before he completed his studies at the University of Ceylon, he had become a front line worker with the socialist movement in the South, continuing his active involvement throughout the 1960s and 1970s. rejecting coalition politics he worked closely with Marxist currents in Lanka . He was very close to us and he contributed regularly to our party fund. PA said it clearly: "For me oppression (Whether it is violent or non-violent, armed or unarmed) is terrorism. Opposing oppression in any form is not terrorism and I am always at home to be on the side of resistance, whether enlightened by Marxism or not.” He stood for the right of Self-Determination of nationalities in Lanka while seeking out solutions to conflicts within a single country.
At a personal level, PA was totally devoted to his family. Both PA and his beloved wife Rani always provided the best for their children Nakkeran and Kavitha,both are today successful physicians in Australia.
Always genial in his dealings, trusted by all PA was a pleasant person to keep company with in times of personal stress. PA made us laugh by his sharpwitted comments pertaining to any event or entity, generating a joyous mix of sarcasm, cynicism, pun, allegory or simile. “PA had genuine feelings for his fellow men and women and worked hard to alleviate their problems”. An intellectual from Jaffna with an innate orientation to social commitment, he will be recalled among the likes of A.Vaithilingam, Vice chancellor K.Kailasapathy, Professor K.Sivathamby, ‘Taraki’ Sivaram and others.
The interpreters of Bhagavad Gita extol the virtues of worldly men dutiful and devoted to their families, and, yet, detached sufficiently in time and spirit to care for and serve ordinary suffering people. The Gita locates these humans into the class of sattvic beings destined for the heavens.
But he will remain in the hearts of the suffering people. As Buddha said he also was subjected to the supreme law of the universe - uthpatha thithi banga- negetion of the negation. he is no more but his praxis will remain with us.
Dr. S GANESAN