‘Taraki died defending the Tamil cause’- paper

[TamilNet, Thursday, 05 May 2005, 03:26 GMT]
Condemning the abduction and murder last week of political columnist and military analyst Dharmeratnam Sivaram, the Tamil Guardian newspaper this week reproached those who sought to rationalise his killing on the basis of his support for the Tamil struggle. “Yes, he was a Tamil patriot. [But] in a field laden with hyperbole and zeal, Taraki’s writing compelled prevailing understandings to be questioned rather than simply foist his own views on readers. His death will sadden those on all sides prepared to listen to rational, even if contrary, arguments,” the paper said.

The full text of the paper’s editorial comment on the Mr. Sivaram’s killing, titled ‘Fallen Fighter,’ follows:

“Even those inured to Sri Lanka’s brutal political violence and vicious ethnic conflict would have been shocked by the murder last week of Dharmeratnam Sivaram (Taraki). The political columnist and military analyst was arguably one of Sri Lanka’s best known media figures. His brazen abduction and execution, as CPJ quite rightly put it, must surely challenge the self-delusive optimism of those who believe that Sri Lanka can be reformed into a pluralist democracy. There can be no doubt Sri Lankan military intelligence is responsible for the murder, even if hairs are split as to whether the trigger was pulled by a Sinhala trooper or a Tamil paramilitary. The question is not simply whether anyone at the top of the state authorised the killing, but where in the machinery is the logic that will ensure Taraki’s extra-judicial killing will not be the last and, like that of every single murdered journalist - not to mention tens of thousands of other unknown individuals, will never be investigated or punished.

“Why was Taraki killed? For many, the answer seems obvious: he was a Tamil Tiger supporter. Yes, he was a Tamil patriot. He carried a rifle for the freedom struggle before he picked up a pen. But he was not always a backer of the Tigers. Indeed he once stood opposed to the LTTE, before he subsequently came to see it as the most viable vehicle for his beloved cause (not least given his military insight). But was it something he wrote or something he did that made him a marked man? Had he broken any of Sri Lanka’s repressive laws, the state wouldn’t have hesitated to put him in the dock. He earned its ire differently.

“As many have pointed out, it was his writing that did much to promote the Tamil struggle. (Shamefully, some writers in the south have sought to rationalise his murder on the basis of his boldly sympathetic writing for the Tamil cause - they ought to ask themselves what it says of Sri Lanka that this is sufficient rationale for abduction and execution). Fluent and articulate in English and Tamil, Taraki was one of Sri Lanka’s most influential columnists. In a field laden with hyperbole and zeal, Taraki’s writing compelled prevailing understandings to be questioned rather than simply foist his own views on readers. That is why his column was eagerly awaited by all sides of Sri Lanka’s political divides. Caught up in an activist mentality, the plethora of writing on Sri Lanka’s conflict has, over the years, consistently failed to explain the escalation of violence or growth of the Tamil independence struggle. In particular, amid the nationalist fervour with which much of Sri Lanka’s Sinhala-dominated media hailed the military onslaughts of the 90’s against the Tigers, Taraki mockingly questioned the reality they presented with counterarguments that came, no doubt without design, given who his publishers were, to boost Tamil morale at critical lows. He earned the widespread respect he came to receive. Through his columns and, perhaps most tellingly, through the TamilNet website, Taraki drove home another point: accuracy is more important for credible media than objectivity. All of us, after all, have valid opinions. His death will sadden those on all sides prepared to listen to rational, even if contrary, arguments. Our feelings over his killing are reflected in Taraki’s own words, penned fifteen years ago, after his close friend, Richard de Soyza, was almost identically abducted, tortured and murdered:

“I salute a friend and fellow journalist most gruesomely murdered by those who dare not show their faces nor advance or protect their interests as honourable and brave men do. In the land where people were proud of the Sinhala lion, desperate jackals roam, seeking out their defenceless prey. Richard and many more have been brutally murdered; who or what is to be blamed? The collective psyche of the Sinhala people? Enough of this silent impotence. The terrorists have to be resisted. Extreme cowardice and a gnawing lack of self esteem as usual seem to be at the source of this faceless terrorism. Therefore it should be collectively resisted before it starts to knock on every door looking for victims to torture and kill, thereby to reassure itself of its existence.”



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