Thursday, June 30, 2005

Talking of Sivaram

A few days ago it was 2 months since journalist Sivaram Dharmeratnam a.k.a. Taraki was abducted and murdered. The Police have arrested several former PLOTE members in connection with this killing but there is general concern that the investigation is being 'killed' to protect certain interests close to the Government who have seen Sivaram and his work as a threat. This concern stems from the fact that there was a distinct group within the politico-military powerstructure of the Sri Lanka Government who continually plagued Sivaram's life.

A small activity, a resurgence of sorts, was planned for the night of the 27th, to remind people of this tragedy but due to organisational problems nothing was done. We hope that something will happen this weekend.

For now I have something Yaaro wrote and contributed, to remind us of another time, another person a similar tragedy.

(The only editing I have done is to break it into paragraphs to make it more readable)
Talking of Sivaram

I know very little about this guy and his articles. From what I’ve read, it
looks like he was clearly an outspoken Tamil who wasn’t afraid of being hunted
down as he was quite open about his support for the LTTE. Perhaps someone I no
more about is Richard De Soysa. An unbiased journalist and dramatist. The day
after he wrote an article, voicing a different opinion to the government’s,
someone came knocking on his door the very next morning. His mom, Dr.Manorani
Saravanamuttu (fondly known as 'Babia Mami' to my family) said that she first
refused to open the door without identification but was forced when a gun was
pointed at her. When she opened the door , ‘thugs’ came barging into their
house. Well, not quite ‘thugs’, they were CID officials + cops (in uniform of
course) , and asked for Richard.

He came downstairs to see who was at the door and realised immediately that
something was wrong. In a situation like this, what would you do? Call up the
Police. You guessed right but he was (un)lucky because they were right there in
front of him! Immediately 'Babia Mami' got in front of him and hugged him as
tight as she could she said because she knew they were there to take him. They
dragged him out of her arms and that was all she saw of her son. Her whole life
falling apart right in front of her eyes and she couldn’t do anything but watch
it crumble into pieces.

His body was found in Lunawa beach the following morning. I was a kid when
this happened and little did I know about the sinhala-tamil divide at the time.
Lots of people didn’t turn up at the funeral because they were afraid that they
would be recorded and handed over to the CID. One thing I know was that Richard
wasn’t for either the LTTE or the Gov.

I read some of his articles when I was older. Despite his relative youth,
he knew all the top Sri Lankan politicians personally -- even President
Premadasa. He was employed fulltime as a corresondant of the Rome-based Inter
Press Service, an international news agency focused on a Third World market. But
he was also an outspoken and respected actor and a fixture in Colombo's artistic

He couldn’t speak a word of Tamil if I remember well. But it struck me one
day. . .the day I went to see 'Babia Mami' on her deathbed. My mom said that she
had been like this for some time. Apparently she slipped into it after long
after Richard’s death. long after fighting for justice. She didn’t give up
easily though. She filed a case. Against who? The police? I think she knew she
didn’t stand a chance. Everyone knew who did the job, they even had names( a job
well done indeed) and she still couldn’t convince them. B**t**ds! I would have
finished off by saying ‘Yet another mother who sacrificed her son to this ill

But it wasn’t the war in her case.

It was politics.

P.S: Did I mention that Richard was her only child

I'd like to leave you with this . . .the second half of an article from the
LA Times

The word was out that De Zoysa had helped produce a satirical play that was
savagely critical of Premadasa, who has been so sensitive to personal criticism
that he has barred at least two foreign journalists from Sri Lanka simply for
writing about his low-caste roots.

The contraversial play was called "Who is He and What is He Doing?" But the
curtain never went up. The night before its February debut, producer Lakshman
Perera, an openly critical member of Premadasa's ruling party, disappeared and
is now believed to have been murdered.

It was the next morning that the armed men appeared at De Zoysa's mother's
fornt door, demanding to see her son."I'm not a fool," Saravanamuttu, a
prominent physician and daughter of a former Sri Lankan diplomat, told The Times
in an interview this week. "I'm a doctor. I've lived for a long time. I've
worked with police on investigations."[One] man was in full police uniform, but
I demanded to see some identification. He said, 'I.D. cards aren't necessary. If
you don't let us in, we'll shoot you.' I had no choice, and minutes later, they
took Richard away."

Saravanamuttu said that she, her houseboy and neighbors gave detailed
descriptions of at least two of the men to police, and the houseboy gave the
license number of the jeep used to take De Zoysa away. But she and her lawyer,
Weerakoon, charge that police have done nothing to trace them.

"They just want to cover this whole thing up," Weerakoon said. "It's right
from the top."Police Supt. Gamini Perera, Colombo's chief of detectives and the
head of the De Soysa investigation, insists that his men are trying to find the
killers, although he denies that the witnesses gave police any physical

Asked whether he has been under political pressure in the case, Perera
declared: "Absolutely not.

"President Premadasa, who has been the focus of popular speculation about
the case, has cast himself as a friend and sympathizer of the De Zoysa's

Saravanamuttu said she will keep pressing. "I'm just not going to give this
thing up without a fight," she vowed, saying that she will countinue her court
battle to push the police investigation "no matter where it leads.

"Then her anger subsided for a moment, and she added, "There is another
side to this, you know. I am really very lucky."In fact, I feel I'm the luckiest
mother in Sri Lanka, because at least I got my son's body back. I could give
Richard a decent funeral and, as hard as this sounds, at least I know he's
really dead. "There are thousands of other mothers out there who jsut don't
know, who are still simply sitting there and waiting."

Doesn't compare to what happened to Sivaram. If the people who took Sivaram
justify their cause by saying that he encouraged 'terrorists' what should
Richard's abductors' excuse be? You tell me

Footnote: Richard's mother identified one of her son's abductors on TV. The suspect Ronnie Gunasinha was a bodyguard of President Premadasa and was one of those killed in the explosion that killed the President on 1st of May 1993.

No one else has ever been arrested for Richard's murder. Like Yaaro, I too was very small when Richard was abducted and killed. All I know about him is what I have found out later, from people who knew him and from reading some of his material. I still have a T-Shirt with Richard on it that says 'Freedom from Fear'. I was very small when I first wore it, but I wore it with pride.

Here's what I wrote about the Richard and other murdered Sri Lankan journalists for DesiMediaBitch to celebrate World Press Freedom day this year, a few days after Sivaram's murder.

am getting spine-chills and goose-bumps reading this... despite the heat and humidity.
It's nasty to say that this sort of thing still happens ... especially within todays govt.
Leaders today are lost in their own vendetta's. they forget all about what the people require in order to sustain and develop a good quality of life.
And when criticized come out fuming!

the world today is beautiful within your own self... take that out to the rest of the world.
A good place to start would be at your neighbors.

Dejan de Zoysa.
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