Journalist Darmaratnam Sivaram known as TARAKI

Sivaram didn’t raise his voice for Tamil nationalism while living in the safety of a foreign country or away from government controlled areas of this island. He didn’t hide away, working secretly or hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet. Neither did he espouse his views only to the Tamil people, in their language; Sivaram also wrote of views in English with unrivalled clarity. “His pen started to undermine the Sinhala chauvinists’ ambitions just as the armed fighters did on the battlefield. That is why government terror was unleashed upon him.

“Sinhala chauvinism has fantasies of crushing the Tamils’ struggle for self-determination by destroying individuals like Kumar Ponnampalam or Dharmaratnam Sivaram. But such a struggle will not be defeated by these acts but will only gain in strength. Sivaram has shown through his work how the liberation struggle can be strengthened through journalism. He will always remain an inspiration to Tamil journalists with love for the nation and their people. And that is the truth.”

Killings of this calibre are nothing new in the island. Prominent Lawyer Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam, veteran journalists Mylvaganam Nirmalarajan, Aiyathurai Nadesan, Richard de Zoysa and many others have been killed in the past. Until today none of these killings have been properly investigated nor have the culprits been brought to justice.

In a statement issued on the murder of Sivaram on 28 April, the world-wide press freedom organisation “Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontieres – RSF)”, wrote that “In several reports, it had shown that the government, headed by Chandrika Kumaratunga, has protected killers of journalists, particularly Tamil militia of the EPDP and PLOTE, elements in the presidential guard .

Statement of Mark Whitaker :Sivaram Dharmeratnam, A Journalist´s life Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of South Carolina, Aiken, U.S.A

By the early 1990s Sivaram‘s Taraki column had become a must read for anyone interested in Sri Lanka. In 1991 fans of his writing among the Tamil community in France published a collection of his work entitled The Eluding Peace (An Insider´s analysis of the Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka). As a free-lance journalist, Sivaram, eventually wrote for many newspapers including The Island, The Sunday Times, The Tamil Times (London), The Daily Mirror, and Veerakesari. In 1997 Sivaram helped reorganize itself into a Tamil news agency with its own string of reporters, and remained a senior editor there until his death. He filed his last story for at 7:30 PM on the night he was murdered.

Sivaram´s work was not limited to journalism. Sivaram´s grasp of Tamil politics and literature and Sri Lankas complex history made him a magnate for scholars. Hence, Sivaram collaborated and argued with historians, political scientists, anthropologists, policy experts, and geographers from many of Sri Lanka´s universities and think tanks, as well as with foreign and foreign-based scholars from (among other schools around the world) the University of Colorado, the University of South Carolina, and Clark University. As recently as April 2005, Sivaram provided a purely scholarly introduction to the Mattakkalappu Poorva Sariththiram (Ancient History of Batticaloa), a recently released definitive edition of an ancient Mattakalappu (Batticaloa) palm leaf manuscript.

Beyond this, in the mid-1990s many governments and Human Rights NGOs turned to Sivaram for advice on political and military matters. He soon became widely traveled in Europe, Asia, and North America and equally well known to governments, the diplomatic community, and human rights activists. Indeed, his death arrived just ahead of a scheduled trip to Japan to consult with the Japanese government.

The Statement of Hon.V.Pirapaharan – National Leader of Tamileelam and the  Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam

Sivaram has been bestowed with the Most Eminent Person (Mamanithar) award by the Liberation Tigers’ leadership. ” The Tamil people have lost today a highly principled man who deeply loved them and the Tamil Nation. A voice that echoed the freedom of the Tamil people and their homeland, Tamileelam had been silenced today. An eminent Tamil journalist had fallen victim to the enemy’s act of cowardice. Humble and honest, Mr.Dharmaratnam Sivaram is a unique person. He is knowledgeable and is an expert in the field of journalism. As an internationally renowned journalist, Sivaram does not need any introduction. Through his writings, he brought out the Tamil National question in the international arena with clarity and cohesion.

Diligently and cleverly, he exposed to the international and diplomatic community, the false propaganda undertaken by the Sinhala regime. Positioning him in the Sinhala stronghold, Sivaram forthrightly told the outer world the injustices and the atrocities perpetrated by the Sinhala ruling elite on the Tamil Nation. Although facing danger and threats, Sivaram fought against injustice fearlessly with courage. Above all, he relentlessly worked to keep the Tamil people politically vigilant. The yeoman service rendered by him is eternally praiseworthy. Respecting his love of the Nation and his love for freedom, I am proud to confer posthumously on Mr.Dharmaratnam Sivaram, the noble National Award of “Great Man”. Death never destroys great men who have lived for lofty ideals. They have an everlasting place in the history of our Nation.

The Statement of Karen Parker, J.D. International Educational Development – Humanitarian Law Project

To my Sinhala friends I ask you to reflect sincerely on what you gain by supporting policies and persons that seek to annihilate the Tamil people, their culture, their language and voices such as that of Taraki. Many of you work hard, out of love, to save threatened animals, fish and plants from extinction, yet you support policies based on sheer hate towards the humans who share with you the island of Ceylon. If you are unable to embrace the Tamil people as equals and to create a Sri Lanka that truly reflects, in all aspects, the full realization of human rights for both Sinhala and Tamil, then you must let the Tamil people separate themselves from you and go their own way apart. Domination of one people over another has never served anyone. You have lost so many of your children, sent to war to kill your brother and sister Tamils. Why would you do this, when all you receive is more misery. Imagine for a minute what your government could have provided for all of the people of Sri Lanka if it had not spend most of its money on its war machine against the Tamil people.

The Statement of Professor Tom Plate, Director of Asia Pacific Media Network, University of California

This happened in the heart of Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, the island nation of more than 20 million off the southern coast of India. They did not find his body until morning. The martyr for peace, reconciliation and press freedom was found by the side of a marsh, not far from the country’s parliament. At the scene was a spent cartridge from the 9 mm pistol used to kill him and the napkin used to gag him. The anguish felt worldwide perhaps surprised the morally suspect government of President Chandrika Kumaratunga. Her parliamentary coalition includes a right-wing party, some of whose prominent followers include types that might arguably be characterized as little more than thugs – and whose views on the minority Tamils are neither subtle nor secret. Many organizations have filed their official condolences and lodged their heartfelt outrage.

But no one has so far been more eloquent and more direct than the ordinarily self-effacing Akio Suda, the ambassador of the government of Japan, a country so frustrated that its sincere and long-standing efforts to help Sri Lanka escape its murderous past have achieved so relatively little. “I was shocked and extremely disturbed by the news of the abduction and killing….,” he said in a formal diplomatic and media statement. “Whatever be the background of the perpetrators, such a heinous act should not be tolerated. Freedom of speech is the very basic component of a democratic society and should be upheld and respected….This murder…must not be ignored by those who advocate peace and democracy. I vehemently condemn this dastardly act of the murder of Mr. Sivaram….”

Memory of Sivaram Dennis B. McGilvray, PhD Associate Professor of Anthropology University of Colorado at Boulder

Over the years, Sivaram became a personal friend, visiting my family in Colorado several times, and lecturing to my university classes on one occasion. However, the dimension of Sivaram’s life that I would like to emphasize is his passion for history and his fascination with the distinctive cultural and historical traditions of the Batticaloa region. He had a natural aptitude for scholarship and intellectual debate, and I came to think of him as a fellow academic. His death represents not only the painful elimination of a good friend but also the senseless loss of a genuine colleague in the study of  Tamil society.

Sivaram, an articulate intellect Dr. Patricia Lawrence Department of Anthropology University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0233

Sivaram helped me understand the political dimensions of the conflict on the east coast of the island in the beginning of the 1990’s, when I was engaged in PhD research in anthropology during those dark years of mass disappearances and village massacres. He relished scholarly discussion and cherished books. Over the years, I learned that his indefatigable intellect would start our meetings on a dozen research trips to Batticaloa with the question, “Did you bring any good books?” He delved into social theory, ethnographic texts, and historical records, and could remember the page numbers of key points he wished to recall. In Batticaloa District, people could not yet believe what was happening to them at the time when Sivaram’s Mother suggested that we meet and talk about local political conditions and the various gun-carrying groups in the villages where families’ were hosting me. Media censorship and government erasure of violent events on the east coast led Sivaram to establish Tamilnet in the coming years.

Blatant attack on democracyAmbassador of Japan Mr. Akio Suda

“I was shocked and extremely disturbed by the news of the abduction and killing of a senior journalist Mr. Dharmeratnam Sivaram. I express my heartfelt condolences and sympathy to his bereaved family and friends. Whatever be the background of the perpetrators, such a heinous act should not be tolerated. Freedom of speech is the very basic component of a democratic society and should be upheld and respected by one and all. This murder of Mr. Sivaram, a senior journalist is a blatant attack on democracy and the freedom of speech, and must not be ignored by those who advocate peace and democracy. I vehemently condemn this dastardly act of the murder of Mr. Sivaram and wish to state that such despicable acts will not hinder the efforts of promoting the peace process in Sri Lanka.”


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