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Last Updated: Friday, 29 April, 2005, 17:34 GMT 18:34 UK
Murdered editor champion of Tamil cause

Body of Dharmaretnam Sivaram on a Colombo roadside
Mr Sivaram's killing showed once again Colombo's security problems
Thirumalai Manivannan of the BBC Tamil service looks at the significance of the murder in the Sri Lankan capital of journalist Dharmaretnam Sivaram.

Dharmaretnam Sivaram was an active champion of Tamil nationalism, both prolific and controversial.

He turned full time to journalism after quitting the People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam, a Tamil rebel outfit led by the charismatic left winger, Uma Maheswaran.

He was the driving force behind Tamilnet, the pro-Tamil Tiger website that has become a useful instrument over the past few years for accessing Tiger views and news.

He also contributed to the Colombo-based English-language Daily Mirror and wrote columns in the Tamil media, including to the large-circulation Tamil daily, Virakesari. His work also appeared under the pseudonym Taraki.

Regular analyst

Mr Sivaram's past as a member of an armed Tamil group helped him gain an invaluable insight into militant movements and the armed conflict in Sri Lanka.

For journalists this killing is another sharp reminder of the perils of their profession

He was also known to have contacts with elements of the Sri Lankan army.

His views and analysis were in regular demand from members of the diplomatic community in Colombo.

He gave interviews to many media outlets, including the BBC's Tamil service, at the height of Sri Lanka's armed conflict.

In the past year, Mr Sivaram took a strong line over the split in the Tamil Tigers.

Eastern commander Vinayagamoorthy Muraleetharan, alias Col Karuna, broke away in March last year, accusing the Tiger leadership of ignoring the grievances of Tamils in the east of the island.

But Mr Sivaram, himself an easterner, took a pan-Tamil nationalistic line and criticised Col Karuna for raising "regionalistic arguments" he felt would weaken the Tamil cause.

Hardline position

Mr Sivaram created many enemies.

Dharmaretnam Sivaram
Mr Sivaram had strong views on the split in the Tamil Tigers

Some Tamil observers feel he may have incurred the displeasure of Col Karuna because of the tone of an open letter he penned in the Tamil daily, Virakesari, following the rebel split.

Sri Lankan media-watchers also point out that Mr Sivaram's hardline position on the ethnic conflict has not endeared him to the hardliners of the Sinhala majority.

Despite his connections to the Sri Lankan establishment, his house in Colombo was searched by security forces last year, allegedly for weapons.

The killing of Mr Sivaram comes at a time when Sri Lanka's ceasefire has been coming under increasing strain. But it is not clear how much of an impact on the peace process his death will have.

Colombo insecurity

Whatever the motive for the killing or the identity of the killers, the murder has once more shown Colombo's security situation to be a shambles.

Mr Sivaram was abducted in the centre of the capital, close to a police station.

His body was found very close to the parliament complex.

Over the past three years, the capital, despite seeming tight security, has witnessed several attacks blamed on rival Tamil militant groups.

And for journalists this killing is another sharp reminder of the perils of their profession.

Many have been killed and injured in a conflict that has accounted for nearly 65,000 lives.

Ayyadurai Nadesan, a prominent eastern journalist who worked for the London-based International Broadcasting Corporation and for Virakesari, was shot dead in the eastern town of Batticaloa in May last year.

Then in August, Chinna Bala, alias Bala Nadarajah Iyer, editor of Dina Murasu, an organ of the anti-Tiger Eelam Peoples Democratic Party, was killed outside his home in Colombo.

Few attacks have been properly investigated.

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