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Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home  >Tamils - a Trans State Nation > Struggle for Tamil Eelam  > Indictment against Sri Lanka >Censorship, Disinformation & Murder of Journalists   >  Did Karuna personally kill 'Taraki' Sivaram? - D. B. S. Jeyaraj

Censorship, Disinformation & Murder of Journalists

Did Karuna personally kill 'Taraki' Sivaram?
Sunday Leader - D. B. S. Jeyaraj
8 May 2005

" The greater danger is whether Sivaram's murder is actually a strong, single signal or a forerunner of more killings to come. The rumour that a powerful minister in Kumaratunga's cabinet and an influential parliamentarian in government ranks are "connected" to this special intelligence unit and gave the green light for Taraki's murder is frightening. The 'unofficial' sanctioning of 'official' state terror is a development that needs to be deplored strongly. Only international pressure can help to prevent state terror being unleashed again. .."

[see also One Hundred Tamils of 29th Century - Dharmaretnam Sivaram]

The brazen abduction and brutal assassination of the well-known journalist Dharmeratnam Puvirajakeerthi Sivaram who wrote in English and Tamil under the nom de plume Taraki and as D. P. Sivaram is the latest tragedy in an endless cycle of violence affecting the Tamils of Sri Lanka. The right to life is the most important of all human rights. Without life no other rights can be had. This fundamental basis of all other rights has been cruelly denied to many Tamils in the past years. There seems to be no end in sight to this evil spectre that goes on devouring the children of the great "Thamil Thai" (Tamil Mother).

Sivaram known to his friendsby various names such as "SR," "Siva" and "Ram" had been enjoying a good drink in amiable company. His companions at the Bambalapitiya restaurant on that fateful night of April 28th were freelance journalist cum political activist Kusal Perera, health sector trade unionist Ravi Kumudesh and an NGO coordinator, Prasanna Ratnayake. It was 10. 25 p.m. when the quartet came out of the Bamba waterhole.


Ravi and Prasanna bade good bye and walked towards the Kollupitiya side saying they wanted to take a three-wheeler to Borella. Kusal and Siva walked towards the Wellawatte side talking to each other. The idea was to finish their private discussion and then board a bus to go home.

Perera and Sivaram were at a bus stand near De Vos Avenue when the latter received a call on his mobile phone. Speaking in Tamil the 46 year old bi-lingual journalist walked a little ahead while Kusal stayed behind looking out in the opposite direction for a bus. At one point he saw a Pettah - Panadura bus coming and turned to Sivaram to alert him about the bus.

What he saw unnerved Kusal. A silver-grey vehicle was parked on the road near Sivaram. It was a Toyota SUV with the number plate WPG 11. Kusal could not see the other digits properly. Two men were trying to push Sivaram into the vehicle. A third man was standing near the open door. The motor was running with a fourth man at the wheel.Suddenly they gripped Sivaram from behind and began forcing him to get into the vehicle. Sivaram was grappling with his abductors. Though they were in civvies they exuded an aura of 'uniform.'

Kusal Perera says that he saw this scuffle and tried to go near them shouting "Siva" and "Sivaram." The abductors succeeded in pushing Sivaram into the vehicle. Two men gestured menacingly at Kusal and got in themselves. Kusal says that he panicked as the vehicle sped off. The entire abduction occurred right opposite the Bambalapitiya police station. He then went home and alerted a number of people about the incident.

Subsequently it was revealed through eyewitnesses that four men had been loitering outside the restaurant from about 8. 30 p.m onwards. Two men were speaking in Tamil to each other while the other two spoke in Sinhalese. According to an eyewitness one of the men had called someone in Tamil on his mobile and wanted the "Vaahanam" (vehicle) to be sent. With the wisdom of hindsight it was realised that the vehicle called for was the one in which Sivaram was abducted. Since it arrived very quickly it must have been ready and waiting close by.

Upon learning of the abduction, Sivaram's wife Yogaranjini, also called Bhavani, contacted her brother living in Mattakkuliya and went with him to the Bambalapitiya police station to lodge a complaint. Sivaram's colleague and friend Rajpal Abeynayake also informed a number of officials including Army Commander Lieutenant General Shantha Kottegoda who promised to issue an alert to all military checkpoints.

No torture

It was about an hour past midnight when the Talangama police station received an anonymous telephone call informing the cops that a body was lying on the bank of Diyawanna Oya alongside the Sri Lanka - Japan Friendship Road. When the police went to the spot near Kimbula - Ela junction about 500 metres behind the Sri Jayewardenepura parliament complex they found a dead body lying amidst the shrubs. It was identified later by friends and family to be that of Sivaram's.

Sivaram was gagged with a dotted serviette and had his hands tied behind his back. He had been hit with a blunt instrument on the back of his head. This seems to have been done to prevent his struggling. The brave fighter that he was, Sivaram would have obviously resisted his abductors valiantly and therefore was made unconscious.

Sivaram seems to have beenshot at point blank range with a 9 mm Browning. One shot had cleanly entered his neck and chest. The second had penetrated his hand and entered the body. Contrary to reports in the Tiger media there were no signs of torture. Two 9 mm empties were found near his body. There was very little blood at the scene.

The body was then taken to the Colombo JMO office fora post mortem. Dr. Jeanne Perera, head of forensic medicine at the Colombo Medical Faculty conducted it. When the media contacted her afterwards she declared "there was no torture or assault. I say that vehemently."

Worldwide condemnation

Continuing, Dr. Perera said "he (Sivaram) had been given one blow on the back of his head and then shot twice on his shoulder blade and neck while he lay on the ground. The killing occurred where the body was found. The swelling on one of his eyes was not the result of a blow but due to the vibration when the bullets pierced the body."

She also placed the time of death at about 12.30 to 1. 00 a.m.

The assassination of "Taraki" Sivaram resulted in severe worldwide condemnation of the cowardly murder. Among those who issued statements were Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) was conspicuously silent on the killing. The JVP, particularly its articulate senior leader Wimal Weerawansa had launched vicious personal attacks on Sivaram in the recent past. He was referred to as a Tiger terrorist.

One top diplomat who issued a statement of condemnation over the killing was the Japanese Ambassador, Akio Suda. One reason for this was that the Tokyo envoy had been interacting closely with Sivaram who was scheduled to visit Japan shortly. He was involved in a project concerning the influence of Japan in South Asia with special emphasis on Sri Lanka. By a coincidence (or deliberate?) his body was dumped near the Lanka - Japan friendship Road.

Four special teams of police sleuths are conducting investigations into the killing under the direction of Senior Superintendent Sarath Lugoda. Over 75 people have been questioned and have had statements recorded. Media reports state that no "breakthrough" has been achieved. Given the fact that he was abducted opposite the Bambalapitiya police station in a vehicle parked in the vicinity and that his body was discovered in the high security area surrounding parliament few people expect the police to be successful in their mission.

It is widely believed that the last call Sivaram received on his cellular phone was from the abductors or someone linked to them. It must have been done to distract Sivaram's attention and also to clearly identify him. Besides, Sivaram had received four calls and made two calls while at the restaurant. The mobile can provide a number of clues about possible abductors. That phone is yet missing.

I have been calling the number 777 - 311 - 380 daily from April 29th onwards. It was off and silent on 29th and 30th. It was on, ringing on May 1st. It was off again on May 2nd and 3rd. It was on again on May 4th and 5th. The ringtone on the mobile plays lines from a hit song in Rajnikanth's latest movie Chandramuhi. It was indeed sad to hear Asha Bhosle sing the lines "Konja neram, konja neram konjip pesa vendamo" (Can we not kiss and talk for a little more time) in a melody set by Vidyasagar in Sri Ranjani raga.

Karuna's involvement

The Tiger website "Nitharsanam" known for its scurrilous attacks on perceived opponents came out with a startling disclosure. It reported that Iniyabharathy, a senior deputy of former LTTE Eastern Commander, Vinayagamoorthy Muraleetharan alias "Col." Karuna was one of the abductors. Within 24 hours Iniyabharathy and a Muslim companion, M. M. Fowzer were arrested "accidently" at a check post in Amparai. A random check had found a 9mm Browning and 16 ammunition rounds in the vehicle. They were produced in courts and remanded till the 14th. Since they belonged to the Karuna faction they are detained for reasons of safety at the Moneragala prison.

If the sleuths are to make any effective breakthrough it is imperative that they interrogate this Iniyabharathy intensively. His name has already transpired in many violent incidents in the Batticaloa - Polonnaruwa District border areas. If the Kumaratunga regime is indeed serious about finding Sivaram's killers and also about the intra-Tamil violence in the east then this well known lieutenant of Karuna has to be questioned further. If conducted genuinely such an investigation would be more productive than a commission of inquiry.

Unanswered questions

The three companions at Sivaram's last drink also need to be questioned more intensively along with other patrons and employees at the restaurant at the time. It is obvious that the abductors knew Sivaram was at the restaurant and were waiting outside for nearly two hours. How and why?They need not have waited that long if their quarry had come out early. Apparently Siva and the rest had called for their first bill at about 9 p.m. But as is customary on these occasions a decision was taken to prolong the session. If they had come out after the first bill was settled the abduction need not have been delayed. Now did the abductors have prior knowledge that the tipplers were going to wind up around 9 p.m.? is a question needing answers. Another puzzle is why Kusal Perera did not go to the police station right opposite immediately and complain about the incident?

What is disturbing about the incident is the deliberate efforts of the killers to convey a strong signal. The Tamil media has highlighted two facts. One is that the abduction took place opposite the Bambalapitiya cop shop and that the abductors had been hanging around the vicinity without a problem for hours. The second is that the body was dumped in the high security area around the Kotte parliament where even a chief and supreme person could not enjoy a romantic tryst without being noticed. These facts are cited as proof of alleged state complicity and responsibility.

Deliberate 'clues'

The point missed however is that these facts were not unintended mistakes but deliberately designed clues. It was an unstated message delivered to those Tamils supportive of the LTTE in general and Tamil media circles in particular. The manner in which the exercise was done creates an impression that agents of the state were responsible. This exactly is the objective of the perpetrators who want to drive home a point to the country at large and the Tamil people in particular. The symbolism of parliament, the seat of power in this supposedly "Sinhala - Buddhist" state is unmistakable.

A perplexing point is about Sivaram being abducted and killed within two hours. There were no signs of intensive questioning or torture. If the intention was merely to kill Sivaram quickly then why take the trouble to abduct him? The killers could have simply shot him dead at Bambalapitiya.

Shot and dumped

Instead he was taken somewhere and shot. He was then dumped elsewhere. There was very little blood at the spot where he was found. This could mean that he wasshot elsewhere and brought here in a dying state. Though he died by the banks of Diyawanna Oya the fatal wounds that oozed the life out of him could have been caused elsewhere. The 9mm empties could have been dropped near the body to show that he was killed here. The technical expertise available to forensics in Sri Lanka may not be state of the art.But if it was, a scientific probe may have established that no shots were fired at the spot.

This then raises the question again - Where was Sivaram taken to be killed? The simple answer is to the place where his killer was waiting. Who then was the killer? The answer is someone who could not take the risk of a field trip to kill and had to get his target delivered safely to his fortress or hideyhole. The Eastern Tamil grapevine is buzzing with the rumour that Sivaram was killed personally by none other than Karuna himself. The essence of this version is something like this.

Karuna was angry with Siva for what he termed as "betrayal" by a Batticaloa Tamil. There was a time when Sivaram was very close to Karuna and encouraged him to establish greater autonomy for Batticaloa - Amparai within an overall LTTE structure. Sivaram however did not want the LTTE to split in any way as he felt that would only weaken Tamil nationalism. When Karuna revolted and insisted on going his separate way Sivaram opposed the move. He threw in his lot with the mainstream LTTE.

Defied Karuna

At a time when most Eastern Tamils were tacitly sympathetic to Karuna it was Sivaram who courageously defied Karuna. This counterpoint to regionalism coming from an authentic Batticaloa Tamil whose territorial credentials were exemplary came as a boon to the beleaguered LTTE. Sivaram systematically exposed, criticised, ridiculed and challenged Karuna. It was Sivaram who revealed the fact that Karuna had floated a company in his wife's and father in law's name with a capital of Rs. 25 million on March 8th, exactly five days after his "open" rebellion. Karuna was exposed clearly as a charlatan.

When Karuna withdrew from Batticaloa, Sivaram mocked him comparing him to Ravana retreating from the battlefield. Sivaram also stated publicly that he was roaming about Batticaloa without fear from Valaichchenai to Thuraineelavanai. He said that people were warning him about Karuna but that he was unafraid. Siva said proudly that he was not going to be chased by anyone from his native land and practically dared Karuna to come and get him. Sivaram's involvement in Tamilnet which reported the Kottawa massacre even before the police knew about it was also a controversial point.

According to knowledgeable eastern Tamil sources, Karuna had made a vow that Sivaram was his mortal enemy and that he himself will kill him personally. Karuna apparently asked his minions in Batticaloa not to harm Sivaram as"Taraki" had to die "endai Kaiyaale" (by my hand). Karuna had returned to Sri Lanka after leaving his family abroad safely. He remained protected in the south and directed operations in the east. Despite denials it is known that he was being "looked after" by a special wing of the Sri Lankan intelligence establishment.

Karuna's handlers had denied permission for the killing of Sivaram in Colombo for a long time. Had it been done earlier the task would have been easy as Sivaram travelled about openly in buses. In a sense he was unafraid of death, being ready to face Yaman at any time. Karuna's opportunity came when police intelligence specialist, inspector Jeyaratnam went "missing." It was suspected that the Tigers were responsible. There was much resentment within the rank and file leading to a situation where a demonstration was held in Colombo.

The powers that be decided that some "symbolic" action had to be taken to contain this simmering discontent. Sivaram already maligned by the likes of Wimal Weerawansa as a "Tiger in Colombo" became the selected target. There was a willing catspaw - Karuna. It was decided that the killing should be done by Karuna and company with logistical support by the "intelligence." Karuna's only condition could have been that he be allowed to kill Sivaram personally and fulfil his vow. This could have been adhered to and Sivaram instead of being killed at Bambalapitiya was abducted and brought to Karuna to be killed.

'Open secret'

It appears that the LTTE is to some extent aware of this. The Tigers have accused the state intelligence and some Tamil groups of having collaborated in the assassination. If the police sleuths are serious then this is the line of inquiry they should follow. Realistically that does not seem possible and it is only a matter of time before this murder too is added to the ever increasing list of unsolved murders.

As far as the Tamil people are concerned the story of Karuna killing Sivaram personally will become an 'open secret.' The LTTE will not say so publicly for fear of demoralising the Tamil media and giving Karuna negative credit. Karuna and company will not claim it openly as it would cause revulsion among supporters .

The greater danger is whether Sivaram's murder is actually a strong, single signal or a forerunner of more killings to come. The rumour that a powerful minister in Kumaratunga's cabinet and an influential parliamentarian in government ranks are "connected" to this special intelligence unit and gave the green light for Taraki's murder is frightening. The 'unofficial' sanctioning of 'official' state terror is a development that needs to be deplored strongly. Only international pressure can help to prevent state terror being unleashed again.  



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