Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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The Betrayal of D. Sivaram

by Ajitha Samaranayake, Sunday Observer, April 30, 2006

Except for its downplaying of Sinhala nationalism and laying most of the blame for the current situation on the other side, this article in the government newpaper makes sense. The fate of the Sinhalese and Tamils are intertwined. -- Editor

There is a cruel parallel between the first anniversary of the still unsolved killing of Dharmaratnam Sivaram and the resurgence of LTTE violence because it deflects attention from the enormity of Siva's loss and the terrible void it has left in the political and intellectual life of this country. It will be recalled (however painful it will be to Siva's family) that on his death he was branded as a LTTE propagandist if not a fifth columnist lurking in the political jungle of Colombo and the enclaves of diplomacy.

The new government strategy? (Photo courtesy a recent visitor to Colombo)

Strenuous attempts were made in sections of the racist Sinhala press to even rationalise if not justify his killing. In this context it is tragic a year later that the first anniversary of his death should be beclouded and shrouded by the LTTE's violence directed both at the armed forces as well as Sinhala civilians, its brazen bid to assassinate the Army Commander and its puerile excuses to keep away from the Geneva talks with the Sri Lanka Government.

While whether Siva was a LTTE propagandist or not will now be only of academic interest it was clear that during the last year of his tragically foreshortened life he saw the LTTE as the primary force of Tamil nationalism. He dropped out of the Peradeniya University to join the People's Liberation Movement of Tamil Eelam (PLOT) of which he became the leading theoretician.

The characteristic factor of PLOT whose leader the late Uma Maheswaran had been a surveyor with a wide knowledge of the Sinhala hinterland was that it believed from the very outset that the liberation of the Tamil people was irrevocably linked and interlocked with that of the Sinhala and Muslim people which meant that the liberation of the Tamils would constitute part of the total Sri Lankan socialist revolution. So did the EPRLF and EROS in varying degrees but it was PLOT which was the first to raise the banner of Sinhala-Tamil solidarity.

However with the steady ascendancy of the LTTE and its decimation of the other Tamil groups extremist Tamil nationalism took the upper hand within the Tamil movement and the eclipse of socialism.

This happened to some extent in Sinhala politics as well with even the Left parties pandering to Sinhala nationalist prejudices after they embraced parliamentary politics. It has been for long argued by Gunadasa Amarasekera that socialism failed to take root in Sri Lanka because it did not spring from the emotional matrix of the people and whatever views one might hold about the totality of his Jathika Chinthanaya, this particular strand of thought invites close consideration.

It was this ascendancy of Tamil nationalism whose political force was the LTTE which made Siva a LTTE sympathiser (if he was that at all) but this did not in anyway warp his political judgements. This is why it is particularly tragic that on the first anniversary of his death the country seems to be dangerously close to drifting towards square one.

While it is welcome news that the USA has vowed to organise a global campaign to exert pressure on the LTTE to resume negotiations there will be sections in the country who will be wary about a possible drifting of Sri Lanka into the American orbit.

It is therefore necessary that the strongest pressure should be exerted on the LTTE not only by the international community but also all the political parties in the country and leaders of civil society for the LTTE to return to the negotiating table and for the Sri Lanka government to negotiate with the LTTE with an open mind. If the LTTE turns its back on this that would be the greatest betrayal of the memory of D. Sivaram.

The latest posters...At least they are finally focused on a military target, instead of targeting Tamil civilians.