A heartfelt farewell: Eleanor Gnanathurai standing near her husband’s casket during the funeral service in Kuala Lumpur.
KUALA LUMPUR: The family of economist Dr Gnanathurai Nagarajah is still struggling to come to terms with his abrupt death.
They held a traditional funeral and cremation ceremony yesterday where the entire family – some of whom had flown in from the United States and Britain – paid their last respects to the 66-year-old, who was killed in a suicide attack at a restaurant in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Jan 17.
Premnath Nagarajah, who is based in Boston, fought back tears as he spoke of his brother, describing him as “a great man with so much love to give”.
He said he had last seen his brother last month when Dr Gnanathurai flew to Boston to visit him.
“Everyone knows that Afghanistan is a dangerous place to be. We did tell him that, but it was what he wanted to do,” said Premnath on his brother’s work in Afghanistan.
Dr Gnanathurai was working as the Budget Policy and Reform Adviser of the London-based Adam Smith International to help reform the national budget process for Afghanistan.
It was reported that a militant detonated his suicide vest at the fortified entrance of the restaurant after which two others stormed inside and opened fire.
At the funeral yesterday, Dr Gnanathurai’s two eldest sons performed the funeral rites. His eldest son, businessman Vachher Gnanathurai, who is based in the United States, remembered his father as a “great storyteller”.
“He could make any story come to life. Charity work was also a very big part of his life. He would take us to orphanages when we were young, just to show us what life was about,” said the 35-year-old.
Dr Gnanathurai, who was from Kuala Lumpur, obtained his PhD in Economics from Boston University and had also worked at the Economic Planning Unit.
He later worked with the Asian Development Bank and was subsequently posted to Uzbekistan before joining the IMF in Cambodia and Adam Smith International as its adviser in Kabul.
Dr Gnanathurai’s sister, Selvarani Navaratnam, 63, said she was still in a state of shock.
“He was a generous man. The entire family is still unable to accept his sudden departure,” she said.
Afghanistan embassy counsellor Maria Akhtari, who attended the funeral, said Dr Gnanathurai had done a lot for her country.