Marking 15 years since the killing of Tamil journalist Dharmeratnam Sivaram, popularly known as ‘Taraki’, we have reproduced his final written piece.
The article, written in Tamil for the Colombo-based Virakesari newspaper, was published on Sunday April 24, 2005 - just days before Sivaram was murdered.
Written during the time of negotiations between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Sri Lankan government, Sivaram criticises an international “smokescreen” and highlights the grim reality that the Tamil homeland continued to face. He calls for Tamil media outlets and political actors not to create "false expectations" until "concrete" developments had taken place.
Read the full text of the piece below.
Norway’s Special Peace Envoy Eric Solheim often comes here. There is excitement in Tamil media circles whenever this happens. This in turn creates expectations amongst the public that something might come of his visits. But Mr Solheim then returns, whereupon all the excitement then fades and life returns to normal. On each occasion Solheim tells us that a change for the good is about to happen soon.
Just before he arrived here on his last visit, Mr. Solheim told a foreign news organisation the joint mechanism for post-tsunami rehabilitation would be in place in a few weeks. After meeting the LTTE’s Special Commander for Batticaloa-Amparai Mr Solheim stressed that the Liberation Tigers and Sri Lanka government were very keen to set up that mechanism. … But the joint mechanism is unattainable today. And, just in case anyone had the slightest doubt, the JVP told US representative Christina Rocca that they would exit the government if anything of that sort were given. … Mr. Solheim is optimistic, but a peace envoy cannot be otherwise. But it up to us to decide if we want to get caught up in all the excitement that he generates.
Many foreign governments, including the USA that has banned the LTTE, are putting pressure on the government of Sri Lanka to set up a joint mechanism with the Liberation Tigers. Some are even inclined to help the Tigers directly if such a mechanism doesn’t come about. The government of Sri Lanka has no obvious counter-argument to this. Therefore it says that it is also keen for such a mechanism to be established. By claiming just a few issues need to be ironed out before something actually comes into place, the Sri Lanka government seeks to waste time in the hope that the donor nations, the Liberation Tigers and Tamil people would eventually forget all about it.
Some might remember the structure in the name of SIHRN that was put in place in the north and east to attend to the immediate humanitarian needs there. The government Sri Lanka did just this same trick to fool everyone then. Then also Solheim came and went and made various statements about the two sides nearing an agreement. Media organisations, including TamilNet, fell over each other giving prominence to his claims. But nothing happened.
Some basic truths that people should know tend to get blown aside in the excitement Solheim’s visits create. This serves the interests of the Sinhala chauvinists. Why? Lets take the joint mechanism. This has to do with the destruction of homes, displacement and refugees. The six rounds of talks between the Liberation Tigers and the government of Sri Lanka sought to resolves issues around these. But what happened? Nothing! The first thing needed to address the destruction of dwellings and to resettle refugees is land, then money. Both of these remain in the firm hold of the government of Sri Lanka. Its constitution prevents the dissemination of its executive powers on these matters to any other body. That is why the former government and the Liberation Tigers failed to create any meaningful body to reconstruct the Tamil areas devastated by war or to resettle displaced civilians. Sinhala legal experts pointed out then that any such body would contravene the constitution of Sri Lanka and some chauvinists even threatened to ask the Supreme Court to render it invalid. These were convenient excuses for the Ranil-led government to hide behind.
The joint mechanism in relation to the Tsunami damage also relates to the destruction of dwellings, displacement and refugees. Therefore no one can prevent the same basic stumbling blocks appearing again. The Tsunami joint-mechanism is not just to do with receiving funds. It is also concerned with land. It further concerns the provision of facilities such as electricity and water for the resettling people. The Tsunami joint mechanism especially concerns the power do these things. That is why the government of Sri Lanka is astutely wasting time on this matter - Solheim’s visits and statements contribute to this smokescreen.
Many fail to note a grave danger contained within this delaying tactic. We had many reasons to decide in 1976 that an independent Tamil Eelam is the only solution to our problems. But today, 29 years later, we have many more reasons. But the political unity, patriotism and fervour that existed among our people are becoming blunted today. Why, even the political unity and fervour of our people at the time the ceasefire agreement was signed has become blunted. There are many reasons for this. One of these is the expectation created from time to time that a solution will be reached soon.
The struggle for liberation sharpened only because the people realised that they were being taken for a ride. Those same realisations helped keep our struggle on track. If these are to be blunted we will become a race prepared to give up its ideals in return for concessions. It is inevitable that frictions will rise when a government tries to fool an intelligent and politically united community. When these frictions rise, a certain level these governments employ several techniques to prevent the friction transforming into a struggle against them. One such technique is the creation of phantom enemies.
Sri Lanka forces’ excesses in the east in the name of Karuna gang are on the rise. People of the north and east remain without economic growth or jobs. Scars of the war remain. Thousands of people who have lost their homes, land and whole villages to the Sri Lanka armed forces still live in desperation. The neglect of Tamil language continues. Many ills likes this can be listed. The Tsunami has caused great damage in addition to these difficulties. But there is no solution in sight for any of these. These, however, haven’t created much political disquiet amongst our people. They have not protested in anger that solutions have not been forthcoming. They have the fervour for liberation yet it is not to the extent that they will mass together for political reasons.
Solheim’s visits, his meetings with the Liberation Tigers and the portrayed cordial nature of it all creates a psychological impression in the minds of the people. These scenes create the expectation that a solution will be upon us soon. The feeling that ‘some political solution will be reached, so lets do nothing in the meantime,’ has started to envelope our people, and the result is the spread of political apathy.
If the political aspirations of our people are not to be blunted amongst our people it is pertinent that we do a few things to that end. Firstly, we must at least reduce the excitement we in the media show towards a possible solution until something concrete is actually reached. Reports that create false expectations amongst our people should be avoided as much as possible. But, above all, we should ram home the truth that the Sri Lanka government will never give us anything meaningful. We should tell this truth especially whenever Solheim visits.