|Sivaram decided that he should join the LTTE. An appointment with
Mahendrarajah alias Mahattaya was arranged through a friend then known
as Kandiah Amman. Sivaram had read up well on theory of guerrilla
warfare and tried to impress Mahathaya with his knowledge. Siva also said
that he would conduct political classes for recruits. Mahathaya was not
receptive. He may have even felt threatened by this eager young mans
earnestness. Mahathaya refused to take him into the LTTE. Sivaram tried
his luck again with Krishnakumar alias Kittu. He too declined asking
Sivaram to concentrate on his studies and help them in writing tracts and
pamphlets. A deeply disappointed Sivaram now tried his chances with the
From Gun to Pen - I
The Story of Sivaram
By D.B.S. Jeyaraj
The mortal remains of Dharmeratnam Puvirajakeerthi Sivaram were laid to rest at the family
burial grounds of Aalaiadycholai in Batticaloa on May 2nd.Though a Hindu by birth Sivaram
was not cremated. Most Batticaloa Tamils unlike their Jaffna counterparts bury and not cremate
their dead. The ancient Tamils of India and Sri Lanka did so till Brahminic rituals of Aryanisation
replaced Dravidian customs . It is noteworthy that Batticaloa Tamils follow this practice still. It
denotes that they are children of that soil with vintage history and roots.
Sivaram loved his home and native land. To him the greatest pleasure in life was to stand atop
the Puliyantheevy bridge over the Batticaloa lagoon and enjoy the gentle "thendral" (Southern
breeze) . It was fitting indeed that his family resisted pressures by the tigers to bury him
elsewhere.It was Sivarams wish that he could be buried at Aalaiyadicholai. It was only last year
that he wrote so publicly.
A large crowd of relatives, friends and admirers bade farewell to this brave warrior of the
Eastern soil. Taraki he may be to the English oriented rest of the world. Here in his native soil
he was "Kungi" to his relatives and "Essaar" (SR) to his friends. His militancy and journalism
may have caused much controversy elsewhere but he was simply a "homeboy" in Batticaloa. In
his life of 46 years he had accomplished much in the wider world. But for eternal rest he had to
The incredible saga of this ardent Eastern Tamil nationalist who never gave up his visionary
zeal for Thamil Eelam is a tale that needs to be told. The story of many self - made captains of
commerce is a tale of rags to riches. In Sivarams case his political evolution was a "from gun to
He was the scion of a family tracing back its roots to more than three centuries. Hs grandfather
was the legendary S. Dharmaratnam known as "Dharmaratnam Vannianaar". He represented
the Batticaloa South Constituency in the Colonial State Council from Sep 17th 1938 to Nov
20th 1943. The Batticaloa South Constituency consisted of all areas in the present Amparai
district and the territory south of Batticaloa town. Areas north of Batticaloa town and the
present Trincomalee district comprised another electorate.
Dharmaratnam and his brother Rajaratnam a lawyer by profession owned extensive tracts of
land - from Verugal to Pottuvil - in the old Batticaloa district. Dharmaratnams son
Puvirajakeerthi was Sivarams father. He was one of the earliest Batticaloa Tamils to be
educated at Cambridge University. Dharmaratnam Vannianaar was a well - known hunter. It is
said that his political opponents poisoned him on a hunting expedition leading to deteriorating
health. It was this that led to his resigning from the State Council.
Sivarams mother was Maheswariamma. Her maiden name too was Dharmaratnam. Both she
and her sister Nageswariamma were married Sivas father generally called Keerthy or
Dharmakeerthy. Sivarams mothers people had their roots in Point Pedro. One of her brothers
was the lawyer Mailvaganam; another brother was the medical practitioner Velupillai. Both
made a name for themselves in Batticaloa. Sivarams fathers sister was married to the famous
Tamil scholar Prof. Kanapathipillai.
Sivaram was born on August 11th 1959 the fourth in the family. His siblings are Sooriyakumar,
Sooriyakumari and Seshakumar. His step sisters and brother are Meena, Parvathy, Arundathi
and Neelakandan. Sivarams wife is also of Govinthan road in Batticaloa. Her name is
Yogaranjini but is called Bhavani. They have three children namely Vaishnavi (16) Vaidehi
(13) and Seralathan (10). The son was his pride and joy.
Sivaram hailed from an Eastern Tamil elitist background. The land reforms of the seventies
impoverished the family to some extent. Their family home at Lady Manning Drive was a place
where all friends of the children were made welcome. Sivas mother Maheswari was a cultured
and gracious lady. She was both modern and progressive while retaining old world values of
hospitality and family affiliations.
She was enlightened enough to know that true knowledge and wisdom came not from
educational qualifications but through the shool of life. Thus she allowed Sivaram to charter his
own course in an unconventional way. One thing however was her encouraging him to read
widely and voraciously. She would give him money to buy any book he desired. It was this
reading that helped Sivaram acquire much learning that was denied many of his
He was eclectic in his intellectual appetite - Marx, Shaw, Shakespeare, Machiavelli, Kautilya,
Sun Tsu, Clausewitz, Jomini, Omar Khayyam, John Donne. Auvaiyaar, Thirumoolar and the
various Sithar Padalgal etc were devoured and digested at a relatively early age.It was this
affinity for reading that led Sivaram to pioneer the Vasagar Vaddam or Readers Circle in 1980.
He was scheduled to go on Friday to Batticaloa as Chief guest for the silver jubilee ceremony.
Fate decreed otherwise.
He was educated at St. Michaels College . Batticaloa and at Pembroke and Aquinas in
Colombo. He entered Peradeniya University in 1982. After studying English, Tamil and
Philosophy for the GAQ he focused on English thereafter. He never completed his degree. The
1983 July violence saw him being a displaced undergraduate to Jaffna. He dropped out in 1984
and took to full time guerrilla warfare. His nom de guerre in the movement too was SR. Even
while at Peradeniya he would suddenly disappear from lectures for extended periods to do his
Sivarams fascination for armed struggle began much earlier. Even during his schooldays he
had a distaste for the non - violent student politics of the day. According to his former
schoolmates Sivaram had felt at a verey early age that only force would work with the Sinhala
state and that "ahimsa" tactics were a waste of time. This however did not prevent his
volunteering with the Gandhiyam movement and helping resettle refugees in the early eighties.
Sivaram was originally a home - grown militant. A group of young men in Batticaloa town and
Kallady formed their own indigenous Batticaloa group. The live wire of this was a lad called
Suresh. This was in 1983. This group had no name. Almost at the same time another Batticaloa
group called the "Nagapadai" or "Cobra force" also emerged in the East. It is erroneously
believed that Sivaram belonged to the Cobras because many of its members were
subsequently absorbed into the Peoples Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
The group to which Sivaram belonged accomplished two operations. It botched up a third bank
robbery. Its primary success was the robbery of more than 350 guns from the Batticaloa
Kacheri arsenal. The young militant group had one firearm with which they held up the guards.
This gun belonged to Sivarams family. The stolen guns were hoarded at Kalladi and
Kaluthawalai. These originally belonged to Batticaloa farmers and had been confiscated by the
authorities due to the security situation.
A second operation was the robbery at the Highways department. A lot of equipment including
an exploder were taken. These robberies irked the security apparatus that launched an
intensive search. The eleven members belonging to the group scattered and went
underground. Sivaram went away from Batticaloa. The LTTE also took note of this indigenous
Eastern militancy. A tiger cadre named Ram came to Batticaloa, made contact and recruited
seven of the eleven into the LTTE. The tigers and PLOTE also absorbed most of the cobra
Sivaram being away from Batticaloa was left out. He was extremely disappointed. By this time
Sivaram had reached a decision that he should join the LTTE. SR was essentially a man of
action. To him the continuous pattern of guerrilla attacks by the tigers was appealing. He also
had deep admiration for Velupillai Pirapakaran a self - made guerrilla. His friends say that he
went to the Jaffna university was to study the militant movements and make his choice. While in
Jaffna he also joined groups of undergraduates collecting money for refugees, He travelled
extensively in Jaffna and the Wanni.
Sivaram decided that he should join the LTTE. An appointment with Mahendrarajah alias
Mahattaya was arranged through a friend then known as Kandiah Amman. Sivaram had read
up well on theory of guerilla warfare and tried to impress Mahathaya with his knowledge. Siva
also said that he would conduct political classes for recruits. Mahathaya was not receptive. He
may have even felt threatened by this eager young mans earnestness. Mahathaya refused to
take him into the LTTE. Sivaram tried his luck again with Krishnakumar alias Kittu. He too
declined asking Sivaram to concentrate on his studies and help them in writing tracts and
A deeply disappointed Sivaram now tried his chances with the PLOTE. An Eastern Tamil Yogan
Kannamuthu helped him join the PLOTE. Another Tamil from Batticalkoa Ramalingam
Vasudeva was also a high ranking member of the PLOTE now. Sivaram had worked closely
with him in the Gandhiyam. Subsequently Sivaram was to become a close relative. Vasudevas
wife's sister was proposed in marriage to Siva. He agreed and got engaged. Unfortunately
Vasudeva was killed by the LTTE in 1987. Nevertheless Sivaram got married in 1988.
After joining the PLOTE Sivaram underwent military training in Oratha Naadu. But he was used
for politics and was very much in demand conducting political and military theory classes for
PLOTE recruits. Besides the PLOTE never undertook major military operations. There was a
time when the PLOTE had the largest number of cadres.
Sivaram conducted classes in India and the North - East. At one point he was placed in charge
of the military section in Batticaloa. It was during this stint that Sivaram ordered the execution of
two suspected PLOTE dissidents Ahilan and Selvan. This led to a disciplinary inquiry in which
SR was exonerated. His detractors however continue to rake up this matter to denigrate him.
This is happening even after death.
Later on Sivaram supported the Eeswaran faction of the PLOTE which criticised
Umamaheswarans leadership. This opposition by Eeswaran and the faction led by Paranthan
Rajan led to the famous conference after which the PLOTE split. Sivaram however changed his
stance in a controversial twist and supported Umamaheswaran. It is said that Vasudeva played
a role in shifting his allegiance to Umamaheswaran. Consequently Sivaram was elevated to the
PLOTE Central Committee.
Sivaram travelled about in the South and Colombo during the 1983 - 87 period. He made a lot
of contacts and friends during that period. Among these were Vijaya Kumaranatunga and
Ossie Abeygoonesekara. He also established links with the JVP then. Former JVP Secretary
Upatissa Gamanayake and PLOTE military commander Manickam Thasan were first cousins.
Their mothers were sisters. This connection was used for political purposes. Interestingly
Sivaram also was close to the strongly anti - JVP alternate group "Vikalpa Kandayama"
The Indo - Lanka accord of July 29th 1987 saw the PLOTE accept it with some reservations.
The accord paved the way for the PLOTE to relocate officially to the South and make a
transition from armed struggle to democratic politics. The PLOTE formed a political party the
Democratic Peoples Liberation Front (DPLF). Its first president was Dharmalingam
Siddharthan, Its first secretary was none other than Dharmeratnam Sivaram. A new phase in
Sivaram's life was begining. This flirtation with Post - Accord politics was the forerunner to
Sivaram's transition from gun to pen. [To be Continued]