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Centre for Human Rights (TCHR) > The Murder of D.Sivaram
Tamil Centre for Human Rights (TCHR) on
The Murder of D.Sivaram - Killing is a Sport for Every Sri Lanka Government
Ref : AX043/PR/2005 30 April 2005
Killing is a sport for every Sri Lankan government. Victims can be
journalists, lawyers, academics, teachers or others but what is
important for the Sri Lankan government, is that it practices its
This sport is a hobby, for leisure and for their entertainment. People cannot think freely, write independently, speak openly, and publicly demonstrate their views and aspirations in this island. Whoever dares to exercise their right to freely express themselves, runs the risk of facing the death sentence in the form of abduction and murder. Soon after the killing, as usual, the government condemnation and ordering of an immediate investigation will follow. In the meantime government officials and ministers will get ready to justify themselves.
Senior journalist Mr. Dharmaretnam Sivaram, known to everyone by his pen name, "Taraki" could not escape this cruel punishment. He was an articulate analyst on political and military affairs and wrote in English and Tamil for "Daily Mirror", "Virakesari", "Tamilnet" and occasionally contributed to the BBC Tamil service. Mr. Sivaram travelled extensively and participated in many conferences and seminars organised by foreign governments, institutions and NGOs.
Mr. Sivaram was an open critic of the government’s lack of progress in the peace process with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE); the failure to establish a joint mechanism for the tsunami relief distribution, rehabilitation and reconstruction in the NorthEast; the short-sighted view on the proposal submitted by the LTTE on Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA) and on various other matters. For this reason, he was considered by the government, its main coalition partner Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), paramilitary forces working with the government, the military and the police intelligence, as a man to be eliminated.
The BBC stated on 29 April 2005 that, "Mr Sivaram's articles often focused on extreme groups of the Sinhala majority hostile to the Tigers' campaign for self-rule. He faced the death threat in several occasions".
A few days before his assassination, the government’s main coalition partner, the JVP, published an article about Sivaram in their newspaper "Lanka". The article was written to intimidate Sivaram, with his photograph and a Singhalese translation of one of his articles that had appeared in a Tamil newspaper. This exposure alerted many of Sivaram's friends but as usual Sivaram said "the cowards who can't match my pen can do whatever they like. I will not stop writing the truth".
Thursday 28 April was a fateful day. Mr. Sivaram was relaxing with two of his friends in a restaurant which is in the high security zone, in front of the Bambalapitiya Police station in Colombo. On the same evening, he was supposed to meet another journalist in Colombo. When that friend contacted Sivaram via SMS, Sivaram requested him to come to the restaurant. As that friend did not want to meet him there, they made an arrangement via SMS to meet in another location in Bambalapitya at 9:00pm.
While all this was happening, the killers were waiting outside the restaurant for Sivaram. There were four of them. When they saw Sivaram coming out, one of the four used his mobile phone and asked someone to bring the vehicle. Within a few minutes of this telephone call a Pajero jeep arrived at the scene. Sivaram was pushed inside the vehicle by all four men. People at the scene were not actually helpless but thought a wanted person, maybe a criminal, was being dragged into the Pajero by law enforcement personnel in civil.
After waiting for quite some time, the friend who was supposed to meet Sivaram in Bambalapitiya, tried to call him on his mobile and found that it was switched off. When he discovered that Sivaram's mobile stayed switched off for an unusually long time, he alerted his friends in Colombo. But all their efforts to trace Sivaram produced no results. The kidnappers had shot him dead. Sivaram’s body was found on Friday 29 April in the early hours of the morning within a high security zone between the Sri Lankan Parliament and Jayewardenepura hospital in Himbulala in Colombo.
Mr. Dayan Jayatilleka, a Sinhala political analyst has said in an article about the assassination of Sivaram, "if he has been killed as retaliation for the abduction of Inspector Jeyaratnam, it is colossally stupid. Retaliation must contain some element of equivalence: an LTTE operative for a Police counter intelligence operative, not a columnist and editor".
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 29 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, elements in the presidential guard and members of Col. Karuna’s Tamil militia".
Press freedom and the safety of journalists are seriously threatened in Sri Lanka. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – UDHR and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – ICCPR continues to be seriously violated.
We, TCHR, strongly condemn the brutal killing of Mr. Sivaram. TCHR along with many other members of the Civil Society from various countries express our deepest sympathy and condolences to Mr. Sivaram's wife and children, family and friends.
We share our solidarity with the unbiased media and with journalists who are fearlessly reporting the truth in Sri Lanka.