|Sunday, 1 May 2005|
Emblem and sacrifice of the Tamil struggle
by Ajith Samaranayake
The abduction and killing of D. Sivaram, the Editor of TamilNet and one of the country's most well-informed columnists on national affairs, brings to a brutally abrupt end a life constantly led in tumult.
Difficult as it is to contemplate Siva's cold-blooded killing it also closes a life led in the cycle of the Tamil nationalist struggle. It is tragic that the splintering of the Tamil movement, its fratricidal in-fighting and suicidal blood-letting should have culminated in this anonymous death on a dark night of the wolves and the knives.
For Dharmaratnam Sivaram who wrote under, the pseudonym of 'Taraki' was one of the best products of the contemporaneous Tamil nationalist struggle. Coming from a distinguished family of public men in Batticaloa Siva joined the movement after dropping out of Peradeniya University. Two of his batchmates were the late Ravi John and Qadri Ismail. Siva joined PLOT and rose to be one of the principal lieutenants of Uma Maheswaran. Steeled in the struggle both in India and Jaffna he was one of the few leaders of the Tamil struggle who had a sound grasp of both its theory and practice.
Siva became the General Secretary of the political arm of PLOT when that organisation opted to join the political mainstream after the signing of the Indo-Lanka Accord. Swarthy, mustachioed and gregarious, Siva soon became a byword and fixture in the political circles of Colombo. With his natural bonhomie and relaxed ways he was perhaps the first militant to conquer the enclosed metropolitan world of Sinhala politics. In the course of months he came to know almost all the influential politicians of the late 1980's and early 1990's.
The PLOT political arm soon withered away and Siva drifted into political journalism and analysis. His 'Taraki' column first appeared in the Sunday Island before that newspaper embraced majority chauvinism. At the time of his death Siva used to write to the Daily Mirror. He was also for sometime the Editor of the North-East Herald', a Colombo-based Tamil publication.
The logical evolution of Tamil nationalist politics saw Siva's gravitation to the LTTE which he saw as the principal arm of the Tamil struggle. This is not the time nor the forum to discuss the morality of LTTE politics but suffice it to say that each man is entitled to his opinion. The Siva that I knew was no blind apologist for any cause but it is true that he would have identified certain broad historical currents of the Tamil movement for which he paid the supreme price. But it is also true that certain sections of the rabid Sinhala press and political opinion branded him as a 'Tiger.'
Sivaram as a political analyst was equipped with impressive intellectual resources. His interests were by no means circumscribed by Tamil horizons. History, sociology, military strategy, international affairs - all this he took in his stride. He was not beyond post-modernism either, that devoutly - worshipped demi-god of the demi-monde.
Siva's commitment to the Tamil struggle did not preclude him from his own sound assessments of Sinhala politics. In that sense we are also the poorer for being deprived of the 'insights of this former Tamil militant into the murky world of Sinhala party politics, insights from which we could have gained immeasurably as a society.
Having known Siva intimately as colleague, friend and a former neighbour (once at Ratmalana where he ultimately set up house) I have many reminiscences of happy days with him in Colombo, Jaffna and Batticaloa but this is not the time for self-indulgent memories. The harsh truth is that Siva is dead. It is not for us to point fingers now although ultimately the truth will emerge. For the moment the harsh truth is the death by killing of a colleague, friend, a human being.
And by some deaths we stand condemned.
Produced by Lake House