The death of nine spectators during the closing ceremony of the Fourth International Tamil Research Conference ended all the efforts Sirimavo Bandaranaike government had been making in 1973 to pacify the Tamil United Front. The deaths pained the hearts and wounded the feelings of the Tamil people, youths the most.
Militant youths decided to take revenge and they selected Jaffna Mayor and SLFP Jaffna Organizer Alfred Duraiappah as the target. Duraiappah was close to Posts and Telecommunications Minister Chelliah Kumarasuriyar who had played a role in hindering the holding of the conference in Jaffna. Duraiappah aided him and was responsible for the non-availability of the Duraiappah Stadium for the closing ceremony of the conference.
Two militant group leaders, independent of each other, decided to assassinate Duraiappah. One of them was Sivakumaran, son of Ponnuthurai and Annalechuni of Urumpirai, a village famed for Tamil militancy. The other was Pirapaharan, then 19. Sivakumaran considered the police firing at the conference a personal affront. He was a leading member of the Volunteer Force, raised to assist the conduct of the conference of reputed Tamil scholars worldwide. For Pirapaharan, who was in Tamil Nadu when the conference took place, the ugly disruption of the conference and its ill-fated ending was an outrage of the Tamil culture, Tamil pride.
Sivakumaran, born into the family of a passionate Federal Party supporters, had his early schooling at Urumpirai Hindu College and his GCE Advanced Level studies at Jaffna Hindu College. He joined Kokkuvil Junior Technical College for his professional education, but dropped out in two months due to his militant activities. He joined the Tamil Students Union (TSU) in 1971, a year after its formation, but had taken to political violence the previous year when he placed a time bomb in Deputy Minister Somaweera Chandrasiri`s car. Then in 1971 he threw a hand bomb at Duraiappah`s car.
His colleagues and acquaintances speak of him with affection. Says Mavai Senathirajah
He was a very sensitive person. He always spoke about armed struggle. He argued that Federal Party should play the role of an independence movement and it should form an armed wing to carry on an armed struggle.
Sivakumaran`s model for the independence struggle was Bangladesh. There, Mujibur Rehman`s Awamy League took forward the independence struggle and armed groups the armed struggle. Rudhramoorthy Cheran says
He would discuss all night the need for an armed struggle, how it should be conducted and the relationship that needed to be built between the political and armed wings.
Sivakumaran teamed up with the Thangathurai- Kuttimani group for some time, but broke away and set up his own group, known as the Sivakumaran group. He was arrested in February 1972 for throwing the hand bomb at Duraiappah`s car parked along First Cross Street. Duraiappah had walked up to the Jaffna Rest House and was having tea with Jaffna Magistrate Colin Mendis when Sivakumaran threw the bomb. The car was extensively damaged.
Sivakumaran was charged before the Jaffna magistrate, but C. Suntharalingam, his lawyer, objected to the case being heard by the Jaffna magistrate, a friend of Duraiappah. The case was transferred to the Mallakam magistrate who turned down the bail application ruling saying he had no authority to grant bail in such cases. Sivakumaran was released after some months due to lack of evidence. He was tortured during the investigation. It was unbearable, he later told his colleagues. He told them that he had decided not to get caught by the police again.
I would rather die than get caught. It is better to die than betray your colleagues or movement to the police.
Mavai Senathirajah, arrested in 1973, confirmed the severity of the torture. He said
Torture was very severe, unbearable. One night I was taken to an open ground and was beaten till I fainted. The torture team thought I was dead and left me there and went away. I was picked up by an army patrol.
Sivakumaran found a way to escape police torture. He decided that it was better to commit suicide. He decided to carry with him a capsule of instant-killing poison cyanide. Sivakumaran thus originated the cyanide suicide culture.
Sivakumaran played a leading role in the Tamil Research Conference Volunteer Corps. He helped decorate Jaffna city and turn it into a cultural park in just three days. His contemporaries say he was sullen after Tamil Research Conference killings. He was itching for revenge. He told his friends that he would take revenge on two persons- Duraiappah and police officer Chandrasekera. His friends recall him vowing
These rascals who caused the death of nine innocent people should not go unpunished.