|Sunday, 8 May 2005|
Sivaram's murder never took place!
"The Hostage has taken the place of the warrior. He has become the principal actor, the simulcast protagonist, or rather in his pure inaction, the protagoniser of non war". - Jean Baudrillard
by Harinda Ranura Vidanage
Dharmeratnam Sivaram was physically laid to rest a few days back, but as a man who pioneered the internet to build an online community linking a transnational Diaspora; his assassins should realise that Sivaram's death never took place.
In a society where media technologies have destroyed the living other of all humans, where simulation have become the engine of life, Siva lives in his own world beyond the physical contours in the virtual galaxy.
What the killers have only silenced are the physical movements of a being who lived in two worlds. Physical home, family, secret meetings, political gatherings, restaurants and pubs was his first world. Siva lived in a broader world rather a universe where he surfed the waves of the information galaxy transforming it into a powerful symbolic existence of a virtual life.
This is the power of the virtual Siva who was the icon for Tamils globally of a cyborg Diaspora, thus a bullet is a harmless projectile in this fluid world that the net has built. When one enters the realm of studying the configuration and architecture of the world beyond ours we enter the rewired parallel universe of our own existence.
What Siva built online was not his tomb but his life through eternity; these made him fearless and live a courageous life among all hostilities never taking refuge in physical bunkers as he had discovered the power of the force which he had harnessed. As a researcher on cyber culture, communities and strategic cyber engagement this is my initial impression of reports of his physical transcendence to the virtual life or the so-called death of Taraki.
I only knew Siva (Dharmeratnam Sivaram) for less than two years and may have met him less than five times. Does this give me the right to comment about a man who is no more and with a multitude of articles written by people whom he knew, associated with and led his political life for years.
This is an alternative view of a man who revolutionised the web based media solutions sector in Sri Lanka from serious researcher on the cyber frontier and its impact on the Sri Lankan polity.
I first met Siva at a local pub. My meeting with him was mediated by a fellow journalist and a good friend of Siva but whose ideology was totally opposite to what Siva wrote and stood for, but who always accepted that the democratic space for journalism cannot be colonised by one single entity. This was the time when I was freelancing for a leading national weekly.
As a student completing his research thesis in cyber conflicts and cyber communities for my undergraduate research thesis I sought Siva's help. In this first meeting I perceived it as a primary data collection excursion. What was built on from that meeting was a humble respect for a man whose intellectual capacity and the sublime temperament exceeded that of the so-called academics of this state.
This engagement led to the build up of a discussion with Siva which spanned to the date of his tragic murder. The core contents of it were the intensive discussions, debates on the life on net and the amazing dynamics cyber space created within the Sri Lankan context of ethnic conflict, peace process and reconstruction of the nation.
Siva understood the trends of cyber culture remarkably. He used to discuss in length the growth of this phenomenon and what potential we can harness from it. His operationability on the net displayed the strategic use of web based news services.
His expertise was sought in many states both by the civil society and state on success of www.Tamilnet.com. Siva more than anybody else understood the emergence of a transnational Tamil Diaspora and the vacuum that was created by the lack of a solid network. The LTTE already had a huge network going from the eighties but I would identify Tamilnet as an alternative network which gave voice to the voiceless, while always standing up for the Tamil cause.
All the Tigers may have had access to the Tamilnet but all Tamilnet surfers are not Tigers, thus in this context Siva exploited the ICT revolution to the maximum. This made him a very valuable asset to the Tamil interests and this took him closer to the LTTE. While Sinhala extremists perceived him to be a tiger claw in the Lions den, Tigers wanted his strategic insight and mastery of web-editing to benefit their own agenda. This man I felt sometimes may have been under huge stress because of this matter but later on the dysfunctional politics of the nation took a greater toll on him, His eastern origin, breaking away with Karuna, soft spot to the Wanni, vociferous and hurting attacks on the Sinhala chauvinists.
The writer's whole argument is that Siva may have transcended physical life and will definitely live through in the virtual frontier.
As mentioned earlier he always existed in two worlds, the assassins only took away his existence in one but may have ensured his deification in the other. The bullet may have silenced citizen Siva but may have woken up a Charismatic cyber Siva. As in virtual reality it becomes difficult to define where the boundary of the body is. We all have witnessed a simulation of a murder. The spirit, voice and passion of Siva lives safely on the NET.
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