8th May, 2005  Volume 11, Issue 43

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    


From gun to pen: The story of˙Sivaram

By D. B. S. Jeyaraj 

The mortal remains of Dharmeratnam Puvirajakeerthi Sivaram were laid to rest at the family burial grounds of Aalaiadycholai in.....


 More Focus Articals

> Friendship with India: Will the manthram work ? (...World Affairs)

> Always breakdown! (...Serendipity)

> Upholding Paradisian values (...Thelma)

> Siva - a man with rare charisma

From gun to pen: The story of˙Sivaram

Sivaram's coffin on the way to its final resting place in Batticaloa

By D. B. S. Jeyaraj 

The mortal remains of Dharmeratnam Puvirajakeerthi Sivaram were laid to rest at the family burial grounds of Aalaiadycholai in Batticaloa on May 2. Though a Hindu by birth Sivaram was not cremated.

Most Batticaloa Tamils unlike their Jaffna counterparts bury and not cremate their dead. The ancient Tamils of India and Sri Lanka did so till Brahamic rituals of Aryanisation replaced˙Dravidian customs. It is noteworthy that Batticaloa Tamils follow this practice still. It denotes that they are children of that soil with vintage history and roots.

Greatest pleasure

Sivaram loved his home and native land.˙To him the greatest pleasure in life was to stand atop the Puliyantheevy bridge over the Batticaloa lagoon and enjoy the gentle "thendral" (Southern breeze). It was fitting indeed that his family resisted pressures by the Tigers to bury him elsewhere. It was Sivaram's wish that he should be buried at Aalaiyadicholai. It was only last year that he wrote so publicly.

A large crowd of relatives, friends and admirers bade farewell to this brave warrior of the eastern soil. "Taraki" he may be to the English oriented rest of the world. Here in his native soil he was "Kungi" to his relatives and "Essaar" (SR) to his friends. His militancy and journalism may have caused much controversy elsewhere but he was simply a 'homeboy' in Batticaloa. In his life of 46 years, he had accomplished much in the wider world. But for eternal rest he had to come home.

The incredible saga of this ardent eastern Tamil nationalist who never gave up his visionary zeal for Thamil Eelam is a tale that needs to be told. The story of many self-made captains of commerce is a tale of rags to riches. In Sivaram's case, his political evolution was a 'from gun to pen' story.

He was the scion of a family tracing back its roots to more than three centuries. His grandfather was the legendary S. Dharmaratnam known as "Dharmaratnam Vannianaar." He represented the Batticaloa South constituency in the colonial state council from September 17, 1938 to November 20, 1943. The Batticaloa South constituency consisted of all areas in the present Amparai District and the territory south of Batticaloa town. Areas north of Batticaloa town and the present Trincomalee District comprised another electorate.

Dharmaratnam and his brother Rajaratnam, a lawyer by profession owned extensive tracts of land - from Verugal to Pottuvil in the old Batticaloa District. Dharmaratnam's son, Puvirajakeerthi was Sivaram's father. He was one of the earliest Batticaloa Tamils to be educated at Cambridge University. Dharmaratnam Vannianaar was a well-known hunter. It is said that his political opponents poisoned him on a hunting expedition leading to deteriorating health. It was this that led to his resigning from the state council.

Sivaram's mother was Maheswariamma. Her maiden name too was Dharmaratnam. Both she and her sister, Nageswariamma were married. Siva's father was generally called Keerthy or Dharmakeerthy. Sivaram's mother's people had their roots in Point Pedro. One of her brothers was the lawyer Mailvaganam; another brother was the medical practitioner Velupillai. Both made a name for themselves in Batticaloa. Sivaram's father's sister was married to the famous Tamil scholar Prof. Kanapathipillai.

Elitist background

Sivaram was born on August 11, 1959, the fourth in the family. His siblings are Sooriyakumar, Sooriyakumari and Seshakumar. His step sisters and brother are Meena, Parvathy, Arundathi and Neelakandan.˙Sivaram's wife is also of Govinthan Road in Batticaloa. Her name is Yogaranjini but is called Bhavani. They have three children,˙namely Vaishnavi (16) Vaidehi (13) and Seralathan (10). The son was his pride and joy.

Sivaram hailed from an eastern Tamil elitist background. The land reforms of the '70s impoverished the family to some extent. Their family home at Lady Manning Drive was a place where all friends of the children were made welcome. Siva's mother Maheswari was a cultured and gracious lady. She was both modern and progressive while retaining old world values of hospitality and family affiliations.

She was enlightened enough to know that true knowledge and wisdom came not from educational qualifications but through the school of life. Thus she allowed Sivaram to charter his own course in an unconventional way. One thing however was her encouraging him to read widely and voraciously. She would give him money to buy any book he desired. It was this reading that helped Sivaram acquire much learning that was denied many of his contemporaries.

He was eclectic in his intellectual appetite - Marx, Shaw, Shakespeare, Machiavelli, Kautilya, Sun Tsu, Clausewitz, Jomini, Omar Khayyam, John Donne, Auvaiyaar, Thirumoolar and the various Sithar Padalgal etc. were devoured and digested at a relatively early age. It was this affinity for reading that led Sivaram to pioneer the Vasagar Vaddam or Readers Circle in 1980. He was scheduled to go on Friday to Batticaloa as chief guest for the silver jubilee ceremony. Fate decreed otherwise.

Political work

He was educated at St. Michaels College, Batticaloa and at Pembroke and Aquinas in Colombo. He entered Peradeniya University in 1982. After studying English, Tamil and Philosophy for the GAQ he focused on English thereafter. He never completed his degree. The 1983 July violence saw him being a displaced undergraduate to Jaffna. He dropped out in 1984 and took to full time guerilla warfare. His nom de guerre in the movement too was SR. Even while at Peradeniya he would suddenly disappear from lectures for extended periods to do his 'political' work.

Sivaram's fascination for armed struggle began much earlier. Even during his school days he had a distaste for the non-violent student politics of the day. According to his former schoolmates, Sivaram had felt at a very early age that only force would work with the Sinhala state and that 'ahimsa' tactics were a waste of time. This however did not prevent his volunteering with the Gandhiyam movement and helping resettle refugees in the early '80s.

Sivaram was originally a home-grown militant. A group of young men in Batticaloa town and Kallady formed their own indigenous Batticaloa group. The livewire of this was a lad called Suresh. This was in 1983. This group had no name. Almost at the same time another Batticaloa group called the 'Nagapadai' or 'Cobra force' also emerged in the east. It is erroneously believed that Sivaram belonged to the Cobras because many of its members were subsequently absorbed into the People's Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The group to which Sivaram belonged accomplished two operations. It botched up a third bank robbery. Its primary success was the robbery of more than 350 guns from the Batticaloa kachcheri arsenal. The young militant group had one firearm with which they held up the guards. This gun belonged to Sivaram's family. The stolen guns were hoarded at Kalladi and Kaluthawalai. These originally belonged to Batticaloa farmers and had been confiscated by the authorities due to the security situation.

A second operation was the robbery at the Highways Department. A lot of equipment including an exploder were taken. These robberies irked the security apparatus that launched an intensive search. The 11 members belonging to the group scattered and went underground. Sivaram went away from Batticaloa. The LTTE also took note of this indigenous eastern militancy. A Tiger cadre named Ram came to Batticaloa, made contact and recruited seven of the 11 into the LTTE. The Tigers and PLOTE also absorbed most of the cobra force members.

Sivaram being away from Batticaloa was left out. He was extremely disappointed. By this time Sivaram had reached a decision that he should join the LTTE. SR was essentially a man of action. To him the continuous pattern of guerilla attacks by the Tigers was appealing. He also had deep admiration for Velupillai Pirapaharan, a self-made guerilla. His friends say that he went to the Jaffna university to study the militant movements and make his choice. While in Jaffna he also joined groups of undergraduates collecting money for refugees. He travelled extensively in Jaffna and the Wanni.

Sivaram decided that he should join the LTTE. An appointment with Mahendrarajah alias Mahaththaya was arranged through a friend then known as Kandiah Amman. Sivaram had read up well on theory of guerilla warfare and tried to impress Mahaththaya with his knowledge. Siva also said that he would conduct political classes for recruits. Mahaththaya was not receptive. He may have even felt threatened by this eager, young man's earnestness. Mahaththaya refused to take him into the LTTE. Sivaram tried his luck again with Krishnakumar alias Kittu. He too declined asking Sivaram to concentrate on his studies and help them in writing tracts and pamphlets.


A deeply disappointed Sivaram now tried his chances with PLOTE. An eastern Tamil, Yogan Kannamuthu helped him join the PLOTE. Another Tamil from Batticaloa, Ramalingam Vasudeva was also a high ranking member of the PLOTE now. Sivaram had worked closely with him in the Gandhiyam. Subsequently Sivaram was to become a close relative. Vasudeva's wife's sister was proposed in marriage to Siva. He agreed and got engaged. Unfortunately Vasudeva was killed by the LTTE in 1987. Nevertheless Sivaram got married in 1988.

After joining PLOTE, Sivaram underwent military training in Oratha Naadu. But he was used for politics and was very much in demand conducting political and military theory classes for PLOTE recruits. Besides the PLOTE never undertook major military operations. There was a time when the PLOTE had the largest number of cadres.

Sivaram conducted classes in India and the north-east. At one point he was placed in charge of the military section in Batticaloa. It was during this stint that Sivaram ordered the execution of two suspected PLOTE dissidents, Ahilan and Selvan. This led to a disciplinary inquiry in which SR was exonerated. His detractors however continue to rake up this matter to denigrate him. This is happening even after death.

Later on Sivaram supported the Eeswaran faction of the PLOTE, which criticised Umamaheswaran's leadership. This opposition by Eeswaran and the faction led by Paranthan Rajan led to the famous conference after which the PLOTE split. Sivaram however changed his stance in a controversial twist and supported Umamaheswaran. It is said that Vasudeva played a role in shifting his allegiance to Umamaheswaran. Consequently Sivaram was elevated to the PLOTE Central Committee.

Contacts in the south

Sivaram travelled about in the south and Colombo during the 1983-87 period. He made a lot of contacts and friends during that period. Among these were Vijaya Kumaratunga and Ossie Abeygoonesekara. He also established links with the JVP then. Former JVP Secretary, Upatissa Gamanayake and PLOTE Military Commander, Manickam Thasan were first cousins. Their mothers were sisters. This connection was used for political purposes. Interestingly Sivaram was also close to the strongly anti-JVP alternate group 'Vikalpa Kandayama' members.

The Indo-Lanka accord of July 29, 1987 saw the PLOTE accept it with some reservations. The accord paved the way for the PLOTE to relocate officially to the south and make a transition from armed struggle to democratic politics. The PLOTE formed a political party, the Democratic People's Liberation Front (DPLF). Its first president was Dharmalingam Siddharthan. Its first secretary was none other than Dharmeratnam Sivaram. A new phase in Sivaram's life was beginning. This flirtation with post-accord politics was the forerunner to Sivaram's transition from gun to pen.

Upholding Paradisian values   

Dearest Satty, 

Awards are familiar stuff for the likes of me darling but its not often I see the likes of you tilting forward and stretching out your paws eagerly to receive one. But receive one you did, not 10 days ago. By whom I know not, the institution does not readily come to mind. And for what exactly, eludes me for the moment... but wait, it will all come back to me... oh yes... for being a python... No that's not it, right... was it iPod?... No. I remember now, an icon. Yes 'indeedy,' a National Youth Icon. A sort of fuzzy religious image on a totem pole popular with the young set. But the grand prize was not only for this darling if I recall. It was also for being the epitome, the fount, the bedrock, the embodiment, the bosom of Sri Lankan values... or words to that effect.

An Icon eh? What was that chap smiling like a vanishing Cheshire really presenting you with, hmmm? Were they trying to say that you were a painting on a small wooden panel used by the early Christians or were they merely attempting to call you an object of devotion? Take your pick or take mine. To be quite candid m'dear, sooooo many variations to this Greek word. Are these award givers alluding to the fact that you may be called from time to time an Iconoclast? A wench who makes it her mission to destroy established beliefs or institutions? Or God forbid could they have been addressing their minds to things vigesimal, and referring quite subtly to you being somewhat of an icosahedron? You know doll. A polyhedron with 20 faces!

It's all very puzzling. Specially those 20 faces of yours. But I'm dying to jot down a list of your most celebrated values darling. Let me see now. Katai pittu you said of Ranil, a man who confuses you to such an extent you say that you don't even know from which bodily orifice he speaks. Well my darling unless he has recently swallowed your denchers, it seems pretty obvious. And some might even have cause to comment that he speaks from the same one you speak from. Tch! Tch! darling, what torrid images you help conjure up in the minds of the martyred proletariat. They have enough drunken abuse and incestual imagery in their bally mud huts without you adding to it.

But mocking the physical appearances of your opponents is common stuff for the common man and the common leader. And we know you are a woman of the people.

Another common chap, the red-faced Weevil has this same habit also. The other day he happened rather testily to castigate some national peace council chappie for wearing bottle-bottomed glasses.

Then again take the CEB and the CPC. Not too long ago when the Greens were scurrying about trying to restructure the bally places, you and your red henchaiyyas screamed slogans on the streets waggling your fingers and wagging your tongues protesting they were selling off the Paradisian boodhalaya, what! Serves you right. Now you see the end result? You in hot soup. Manipulation of the masses for cheap short term personal gain is I know a value not only you, but also your dear daddy holds close to your bosoms.

How can we forget your brave words last week strategically uttered just two weeks before the donor forum, that you don't care if you lose your presidency or others lose their ministries but you will sign the joint mechanism. Darling, I said it then and I say it now. It is easy to give something up at the tail end of it. Of course you don't care about the presidency. In a few months you have to pack up your toothbrush and tootle off anyway. As for not caring about others that is just another treasured trait in the fabric of Paradisian culture.

Neither can one forget your eloquence darling. Like the common or garden Paradisian and or even the common or garden Amunugama you randomly call people kaalakanni , sarpayo ,hivallu, golubello, ballo, etcetera, etcetera. You incite the common man to riot and call upon them to hit and kill. Gahuwath gahanawa, Maruwoth maranawa, you say. And you say it because you know it is the language of the common man. The Red Weevil who used to chop off heads will tell you that in the south many a drunk is found in the bushes with a knife in his stomach.

No sir, no due process, no democracy, no court houses for you. And who can blame you when you think the whole judiciary is corrupt. Like the common man with the kasippu bothale in one hand and the end of his sarong in the other, you too talk like a loose cannon, stampede like a hippopotamus in heat, butt like a enraged bull and hit below the belt. No siree, no alien values for you. What was it you said the other day? Oh yes, the constitution must be burnt, you said. Darling surely! You don't mean the very one from which you derive all this heady power? Foul and forked tongue dear. That's the problem with the Paradisians. And all this time the Indian chiefs thought it was the white man who spoke with forked tongue. Obviously they didn't travel south of the border.

Like the common Paradisian you too think you are a professional without learning a profession. Nobody could handle the tsunami relief in Paradise except you, were your words to the foreign press. Five months on, I applaud your efficiency in dealing with the tsunami dear, none could have done it better.

I am as always subject to correction darling but from my very comfy sofa and through the smoke swirling from my cigarette and the bubbles rising in my Moet and Chandon, all I can see in the Paradisian value system is a violent nature, a foul mouth, loose cannon speeches with no substance, defamatory language, ethnic intolerance, religious intolerance and a lazy outlook.

Anyway come to think of it, I must congratulate not only you, but also the institution that presented you this prestigious award. My darling for upholding Paradisian values to the hilt, you m'dear are the perfect choice. I can scarce forbear to cheer. But be wary darling. The red-faced Weevil is right behind you. Sooner or later I have no doubt he will out do even you as the upholder of Paradisian values.

Toodle oo for now.

Always breakdown! 

It's getting fruitier and nuttier at this time of the year. We are not referring to the mouth watering mangoes such as Karatacolombang drooping down from the trees or the luscious cadju puhulang that birds are beating us to, but Sri Lankan politics. We are referring to long established, solidly based Sri Lankan institutions collapsing, not for any other reason but bad governance.

Ananda College, a long established and indigenous school, is one such institution, Sri Lankans, whether they have studied there or not, could be proud of. It came up during colonial times as a school of the Buddhist Theosophical Society against tremendous odds and on its own strength turned out to be one of the best schools in the country. On its roll are many outstanding professionals, sportsmen and political leaders. It has been among the leading schools consistently producing the best results at the GCE O/L and A/L examinations. Last week, it was temporarily shut down by the Education Ministry in the manner failed state universities are being periodically closed down.

Over to the courts

We say the situation appears to be getting nuttier because now the Public Service Commission has decided to take the Education Ministry to courts over the closure of the schools and the suspension of Ananda's school principal.

Not only Ananda, but many other leading schools appear to be in line for similar treatment by the Education Ministry.

A state ministry under the overall direction of the Executive President of the country is being taken to courts by the Public Service Commission that is also appointed by this all powerful Executive President! Could anything be fruitier and nuttier?

In the field of sports, we see the same kind of stupidity: cannibalisation of national sports governing bodies.

Cricket was one game we Sri Lankans were justly proud of. In a short time after entering the international arena, we became the World Champions. But we see the barbarians have entered the gates and are in the process of decimating this game in Sri Lanka, This week we had a front page picture of some sturdy individuals entering the headquarters of the Sri Lanka Cricket Board. They were not cricketers or distinguished visitors to Sri Lanka Cricket headquarters, but officials of the Criminal Investigations Department entering to wrest control for the Sports Ministry. This is one of the many examples of the government of President Kumaratunga doing the right thing in the wrong way.

SLC pantomime

Driving out bookies who have entered the board rooms of cricket at a time when the ICC is attempting to keep out bookies is the right thing. But what is happening right now is making Sri Lanka cricket look like a pantomime.

Many other sports bodies are heading for disaster. Take rugby which was administered by the crŠme- de- la crŠme of the country. Run by individuals such as Supreme Court Judge E.F.N. Gratien and directors of sterling companies operating here at that time, its administration was flawless and above board. It was then said to be a 'rowdies game played by gentlemen.' Now the gentlemen part of the game is all gone.

There are many other national games on the 'production' line of destruction.

The government has overall control of the administration of all sports at the national level under the Sports Ministry. But what is Minister Jeevan Kumaratunga, nephew of  Vijaya Kumaratunga, and President Kumaratunga's ˙nominee whose only qualification appears to be film acting, doing in this world of sports? As the Sinhala saying goes, 'he is playing pandu'.

The situation within the ruling UPFA is even more hilarious. The JVP partner in the coalition is locking horns with the SLFP now on almost all vital issues and asking the SLFP to leave if they cannot stick to the original agreement that brought them together. But no one seems to be departing. Co- existence for mutual survival to enjoy the perks of office as long as possible, is the name of the game.

There are serious issues that divide them: Privatisation of the Ceylon Electricity Board and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation are just two - and now the so called 'joint mechanism' for the distribution of tsunami aid. Sri Lanka has become the laughing stock of the world by being unable to distribute tsunami aid worth millions or even billions of dollars donated by foreign organisations and countries. Could there be a better instance of bad governance or non-governance?

What is most hilarious is the issue of the 'joint mechanism' for distribution of tsunami assistance by the government and the LTTE. A foreigner asked us: "What is this joint mechanism that has resulted in the entire country threatening to kill one another?" And we did not have answers and there appear to be none - or is it only a handful who know the detailed plans of this joint mechanism?

stupid governance

The closure of Ananda College is a typical example of stupid governance. For well over a decade it has been known that school principals and other leading officials of schools, including those of private schools, were pocketing money for admissions to big schools both in Colombo and the provinces. The pressure of entry is so great now that bribes are being demanded for admission to even small schools that have been hitherto unheard of. Obviously something had to be done. But the way in which the government or the president went ahead to tackle the problem was obviously wrong.

President Kumaratunga and some in her government may think that teams from the Presidential Secretariat or Presidential commissions are wonderful and are acceptable to the people. They are not. Under the present constitution, the president is the most partial of politicians and all presidents have unabashedly used their executive powers for political gain. During her first term in office, deployment of the Presidential Security Division for various purposes such as the prevention of public demonstrations by the media, resulted in tremendous uproars. Thus, investigation by a Presidential unit into the alleged acts of the principal of Ananda College and the act of suspending him from office was obviously the wrong thing to do when the issue is viewed from any perspective.

Unacceptable modus operandi

The first is the acceptability and credibility of the report of the investigation conducted by this Presidential Investigative Unit. The second is the act of suspending the principal from office on this questionable report. An acceptable course of action would have been an investigation conducted by those such as reputed impartial citizens, perhaps including alumni of the school or the Bribery Commission. Even if the Presidential Unit's report was to be considered, it should have been presented to an impartial body of investigators before a decision was taken.

The summary decision taken against this principal was apparently taken by those who are unaware of the deep loyalties and commitments - former alumni of the school numbering thousands of respected citizens, present students and even the Buddhist public, including monks- have for the school.

Public outcry

To all these persons, Ananda is something special. And to suspend a principal for alleged acceptance of bribes is not simply an insult to the principal, but to the school as well. There are many loyalists of Ananda who believe that there are conspiracies directed against the school by those alumni of non-Buddhist leading schools. These may be figments of their imagination, but acts such as that against the principal taken in the full glare of media publicity gives credence to such beliefs.

There has been an outcry against heads of private schools as well for long years on the same charge. But they are being left out. It could be that since they are not of the government they have been ignored, but those who have been smitten by the acts of the PIU will not be consoled by that.

No doubt there are others concerned as well, such as parents of children who had their brood admitted to schools on false and forged documents. Public investigations could expose these hitherto respectable ladies and gentlemen. But this has been a system that has prevailed for long years.

The decision to crackdown on crooked principals is a right decision but implemented the wrong way. It is simply bad governance as has been the case with the proposals for the privatisation of CEB and the Petroleum Corporation, actions taken against the Cricket Board, other sports organisations and many other issues such as the 100 metre rule on buildings by the beach, and now the joint mechanism for tsunami aid.

The hallmark of the Chandrika Kumaratunga mode of governance is: 'I don't give a damn for any kind of criticism.'

Little wonder it is 'always breakdown.'

Friendship with India: Will the manthram work ?

The joint communiqu‚ issued following the visit of Indian Foreign Secretary Sham Saran and his talks with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse, Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar and Foreign Secretary S. Palihakkara indicated the growth of stronger economic ties between the two countries. But a significant omission was the proposed Indo-Lanka Defence Agreement which was expected to have been signed at the time of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe before President Chandrika Kumaratunga seized three ministries including that of defence and staged a virtual coup.

Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Lakshman Kadirgamar

The fact that not a word has been mentioned about it in the joint communiqu‚˙by the Foreign Secretaries of India and Sri Lanka is indicative that this all important agreement has been put on the shelf for reasons that have not been disclosed by either side.

What form the agreement would have taken we are not aware of, but since India has been reiterating ever so often that it 'stands for the unity, integrity and sovereignty of a united Sri Lanka' would have led to the presumption that in case of dire threats on these aspects to Sri Lanka, Indian help would be forthcoming. But that would not have been necessarily so, because when Sri Lanka was indeed threatened by the LTTE during the Elephant Pass debacle, India's assistance was not as forthcoming whereas countries such as Pakistan made positive contributions.

It was reported that the Indians, in the proposed defence agreement had suggested that the use of the Palaly Airport would have been solely for the use of the Sri Lankan and Indian security forces about which Sri Lanka had hemmed and hawed. But whatever the provisions of the agreement may have been, it was viewed as having potential for˙a positive contribution to the defence of this island against the threat of separation. And it would have been beneficial to India as well because of the LTTE threats such as the Interim Self Government Authority proposals that had a provision for a separate maritime zone extending into the territorial waters of India. No doubt, India could have countered such threats any time, but it did give indications of the ambitions of the LTTE leader. There have been no official pronouncements on this defence agreement but it does appear to have been shelved.

LTTE pressure

The last issue of The Sunday Leader in its column Pot Shots bared the reasons. The report said that while Ranil Wickremesinghe had believed in carrying forward the peace process with an international security net in place, he considered India as the trump card because of its military strength and geographical proximity. Wickremesinghe, it was contended, hoped to safeguard Sri Lanka from another terrorist attack while also keeping the LTTE on the peace track with this defence agreement.

But that was not to be. When the SLFP took back the reins of power, the LTTE through its supporters in Tamil Nadu had warned the Indian government that if such a defence agreement was signed with Chandrika Kumaratunga in power, it would be terribly disadvantageous to the Tamils of Sri Lanka. The coalition Congress government of India is very much dependent on the votes of Tamil Nadu parties to stay in power. Tamil Nadu parties such as the DMK, MDMK, PMK and the UPA strongly back the LTTE and their leaders like MDMK Leader Vaiko had met leaders such as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and˙Congress Leader Sonia Gandhi and contended that signing such a defence pact with Kumaratunga could lead to much unrest in Tamil Nadu. It does appear that the Tamil Nadu factor has once again altered Indo-Lanka politics.

Coalition politics are fickle and for the major parties to stay in power, they have to at times be prepared to permit the tail to wag the dog. We see it in our own country. It has happened in Bangladesh too and India is no exception.

Politics of survival

This is also a sobering thought for those who believe in the manthram: 'friendship with India.' Certainly friendship with India is essential for Sri Lanka's welfare, but the repetition of this manthram whenever in difficulty and running to New Delhi is not the ultimate answer.

Sri Lankans should by now be familiar with the vacillating Sri Lanka policy of New Delhi and˙realise that Indian foreign policy is captive to what has been called Tamil Nadu compulsions. It was so in the 1980s and it is the same now. This is an age when principled politics of yore have given into coalition politics - the politics of survival.

 India's Sri Lanka policy, is now viewed by many Sri Lankans as India seeing the LTTE as a separatist force which is a threat to the unity of India and thus would lend support to a Colombo government to defeat the LTTE. Certainly India would counter any threat to its unity and sovereignty but does it consider the LTTE to be such an immediate threat? While Sri Lankans both from the UNP and the SLFP have been going on bended knee to India asking its assistance, India during the past decade has been remaining aloof on most issues concerning Sri Lanka. This is possibly after the IPKF fiasco and the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. But if the LTTE does pose a real threat to the security of India, this will no doubt result in an immediate Indian reaction.

On the other hand, Colombo politicians are presuming that India trusts them beyond doubt, but the entire problem surfaced when the J.R. Jayewardene government adopted a pro-Western foreign policy ditching the earlier Indophile policies of Sirimavo Bandaranaike. The militant groups were the tools of Indian destabilisation of Sri Lanka in the 1980s, when Colombo got too uppity in the eyes of the New Delhi Brahmins.

Indian stance unclear

The world has changed very much since the 1980s when Indira Gandhi went ahead to establish India as the regional power of South Asia. Today, it is said that India wants to be an economic power rather than the predominant power in the poorest region of the world. Yet is India prepared to permit other powers to enter the region and start establishing themselves? There were signs of concern in New Delhi's Foreign Ministry˙last year when Western powers moved into Lanka and commenced playing key roles in the peace process. Whether there has been a change in the thinking in New Delhi since then is not clear.

Sri Lanka, it appears has no choice on the issue of a defence agreement with India. However much we desire for such an agreement, it will be Big Brother's decision. But we have to think of ways and means of keeping our country together. A question to ponder at the very beginning will be: will this manthram chanted by our leaders - UNP and SLFP ever so often - 'friendship with India' ever work?


 Siva - a man with rare charisma

By Gamini Weerakoon 

The expression of grief from most quarters of the Colombo media over the tragic death of Dharmaratnam Sivaram alias Taraki is remarkable in that his political ideology differed very much from that of his Sinhalese sympathisers. Yet, this man of a few words had an indefinable quality that captured the rapt attention and respect of his readers even though some of them did not go along with his thinking, especially on what he wrote in the last few years.

But there was affection and admiration for him, who in his own way, openly backed an anti- Sinhalese, ruthless terrorist organisation while living among the Sinhalese. Whether it was his macho past-a former guerrilla fighter, military commander of PLOTE having opted for democratic politics- his plain sincerity and honesty or his ability to understand a point of view different from his is hard to guess. Siva, the swarthy, bespectacled man of medium stature, certainly had a rare charisma.

It was sometime in 1989, that to my surprise, I received a call from Richard De Zoysa, who met with his tragic death in the same way as Siva. He asked me whether The Island would like to have a columnist who was extremely knowledgeable about the north-east conflict. I was surprised because Richard and I were mere acquaintances and had nothing in common, but he cleared my doubts.

He said something like this: "I know you and I will not agree on many things and this columnist too does not go along with your thinking, but we are aware your paper publishes many points of view- even those that go against your editorial views," he said.

We met a few days later at the Art Centre Club. It was about 18 years ago and Siva looked almost a youth. He was not over effusive and canvassing for a job. He was terse and said he could write a weekly column for the Sunday Island on matters concerning the north and east. We spoke about the prevailing situation in the north and east at that time and I was very much impressed by his knowledge and interpretation of events. I offered him the highest payment made for a free-lance contribution at that time by my paper.

He had left it to me to find a nom de plume and since both of us wanted his identity to be kept confidential, I on my own decided on the feminine name of 'Tharakki'. But the best laid plans of editors are blown sky high by sub-editors who want to make their own contributions. When I saw the article in print, the name was Tarraki, the name of the former deposed Afghan dictator! Siva was amused and so we let it be and later it took various forms until the present name of 'Taraki' came to be.

His first article - if I remember right - "Military Strategies of the Tamil National Army" - caused consternation amongst  political, military, diplomatic, journalistic, and NGO circles including  paid informants to some of these organisations. There were many inquiries made including one whom I suspected to be a paid informant to the military who was working in our office. He was not a journalist and was called the 'Colonel Blimp.' He asked me for the columnist's identity and I laughed in his face reminding him about the journalistic practice of keeping identities secret.  He walked off in a huff. But he had enough resources to 'spy' on me and have those who came to my office watched. In a few weeks, he identified Siva who used to come in with his column every week. That was how Taraki's cover was blown, although some with fevered imaginations now have produced their own versions involving themselves.

I had no problems with Siva's column. He obviously read my mind and knew my limitations under the law and my feelings towards the LTTE and the Indian involvement. He, most of the time kept away from writing about ideology and instead wrote on military strategies and operations. This was sailing very close to the law such as the Prevention of Terrorism Act, Official Secrets Act, Public Security Act etc. but I was willing to take that risk. During his entire stay with The Island, I had no problem and I cannot recall a single instance of drastically editing a column of his.

In the few years he was on The Island, Siva came to be regarded as an oracle on north- east affairs. He was much sought after. Siva was offered an IVP travel grant by the American government which he accepted and took off promising to return and write about his American tour. But that was not to be.

After his US tour he crossed over to Canada. One night I received a call from Canada from a former journalist of The Island, D.B.S. Jeyaraj, who had a rendezvous with Siva in Ottawa. They were in high spirits and were deeply appreciative of the good times they had working together with me. I was delighted that they appreciated working together with me - two Tamil colleagues. This was indeed a refreshing change from those namby- pamby, half -baked  Sinhalese  who are still hell bent on calling me a 'chauvinist' because I write in support of all Sri Lankans including the Sinhalese and do not spit on my own people

Siva then went over to London. There I believe he met another Tamil journalist, a very strong LTTE activist working for a British TV organisation.  Siva had introduced this journalist to me in Colombo and this person appeared to have a very strong influence over Siva's political thinking. I believe that Siva, in London, swung over to the LTTE from the neutral stance he had taken earlier towards this organisation.

He came back to Sri Lanka and joined another organisation and his writing by then was positively pro-LTTE. He later edited the North-East Journal and finally Tamilnet.

Siva died poor as it happens almost to every good journalist. The whole nation weeps when journalists die in a tragic manner, but forgets about them the next day. Siva was a free-lance journalist, one who was paid by the article. There was no pension or provident fund for him. He leaves behind only his writings, which surely will become a part of the history of this country and of course the profits he earned for his newspapers to those institutions. But nothing for his family.

 Let those funeral orators and obituarists who wept for him also give a thought to his wife and three children he has left behind.

İLeader Publications (Pvt) Ltd.
98, Ward Place Colombo 7
Tel : +94-75-365891,2 Fax : +94-75-365891
email :