Sivakumaran’s Supreme Sacrifice

Of his life was a turning point in the history of Tamil Eelam liberation struggle!

by M.K. Eelaventhan, June 14, 2018

Related image     This article is based on two of my talks; one is given at the Trans-national government of Tamil Eelam office at 5210 Finch Ave. Unit 24, Scarborough (Middlefield and Finch) on 5th of June, 2018 and the other talk is on 10th of June, 2018 at Urumpirai citizen’s meeting held at the Baba banquet hall.

In these talks, I quoted Mr.S. Sivanayagam’s book Srilanka: Witness to History, pages 169 & 170 “Events were beginning to move rapidly thereafter.  Young violence was met with police crackdown and a wave of arrest leaning in turn to popular unrest.  Some of the activists like Kuttimani and Sathyaseelan were already behind bars.  Policemen and pro-government politicians became targets of attack. Banks were robbed to fund armed militancy.  On June 5, 1974 young Sivakumaran swallowed cyanide and died when surrounded by police.  His was to be the first of many such cyanide deaths.  He was given a hero’s funeral accompanied by an outpouring of popular emotion.  Prime Minister Mrs. Bandaranike who with no expense to the government converted Parameshwara College, a secondary school founded by Sir.P.Ramanathan, into a university campus, thought she was gifting Jaffna with a university and sallied forth the opening ceremony. A new wave of violence greeted her visit. Bombs were thrown at a police jeep and in Jaffna town and an attempt were made on the life of Alfred Durayappa who organized the Prime Minister’s visit.

     A defiant Durayappa was however to meet his fate the following year. On July 27, 1975, a Catholic as he was, he went to the Varadaraja Perumal temple at Ponnalai as was his habit, but unknown to him, four youths, one of whom was Pirabakaran were waiting for him. Even as he got off his car, one of them opened fire and shot him at point blank range. Leaving him dead, all four escaped in the very car in which he had come. That was the first political assassination in the history of Tamil militancy and the precursor of many such political assassinations that were to follow during the next twenty odd years. It was the beginning of new explosive phase in Tamil militancy. At the age of 21, Velupillai Pirabakaran had formally marked his arrival. He followed it up by leading a raid on the People’s Bank at Puttur on March 5, 1976, and escaping with half a million rupees. On May 5, 1976, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was born, reconstituted from its earlier name “Tamil New Tigers”. Interesting enough, the Tamil political elders, chasing behind events, made “liberation” their credo as well. What was known as the Tamil United Front (TUF) became the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF). Meeting at Pannakam, the birthplace of Appapillai Amirthalingam in the Vaddukoddai constituency, they passed what was believed to be the historic resolution resolving “to restore and reconstitute the state of Tamil Eelam”. Later that year when Chelvanayakam was asked by a journalist how they hoped to achieve their goal, he was stated to have said: “We would make such a nuisance of ourselves that they (the Sinhalese) would throw us out”! (Quoted by A.J.Wilson in his political biography of Chelvanayakam p.129)

In this context it is not out of place to quote what Mr. Chelvanayakam told me over the swallowing of the cyanide by Sivakumaran, I was with him on June 5, 1974 at his residency, Colombo, when Sivakumaran swallowed the cyanide. Chelvanayakam told me that I am sad over the event. He said “My concept of nonviolence may not carry weight with the Singhalese and the Singhalese leadership, I am afraid that much against my wish it’s only the language of the gun.”

I was also the witness to an interesting conversation that took place between Mr. Amirthalingam, the Tamil leader, and Sivakumaran at the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi office (a Tamil Political Party), Jaffna. Immediately after the release of Sivakumaran from Anuradhapura prison, Mr.Amirthalingam pleaded with Sivakumaran that he should give up his armed struggle and asked him to join the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi. With an unforgettable smile, Sivakumaran said, “You go your way but I will not deviate from my path.

Sivakumaran was born in the village Urumpirai, Jaffna on September 26, 1950. September has its significance as regard to the birth and death of great Tamil personalities. To start with Father Thani Nayagam (a priest) who died on September 1, 1980 and in between many Tamils scholars, politicians and heroes also were born and died. The hero Thiliben [Thileepan] died on September 26, 1987. Sivakumaran was the fourth child in his family. Likewise Prabhakaran was also the fourth child in his family. Sivakumaran’s  father Ponnuthurai was a principal of Urumpirai Hindu Tamil Vidyasalai and his mother Annalakshmi who carried Sivakumaran in her womb and the entire family was infused by Chelvanayakam’s political thinking. In 1969, he was militant supporter of Thangathurai, Kuttimani and Pirabhakaran. The student movement was lead by Ponnuthurai Sathiyaseelan.

Sivakumaran was out to fight against the cultural affairs minister Somaweera Chandrasri who was a Sinhalese extremist. Sivakumaran placed a time bomb under Chandrasri’s car but when the bomb exploded no one was in the car.  In February 1971, Sivakumaran tried to assainated Duraippah by throwing a hand grenade; it too failed.

Sivakumaran statue after it was ‘accidentally’ knocked down by an Army truck, 1979 –Pic by Raghubir Singh

In January 1974 nine civilians were massacred by the police at the World Tamil Conference held at Jaffna. Though Tamil militants blamed the government and the post telecommunication minister Chellih Kumarasuriar for the massacre but Sivakumaran blamed Duraippah, the Mayor of Jaffna and S.K. Chandraseka for the massacre and sought vengeance. On June 4, 1974 Tamil militants including Sivakumaran attempted to rob People’s Bank in Kopay. Here too he failed and swallowed a vial of cyanide instantly. Sivakumaran became the first Tamil militant to die in such a manner and is considered as the first Tamil martyr. The crowd that attended his funeral was unprecedented in the history of Eelam Tamils. Prabhakaran openly declared that Sivakumaran’s death was the inspiration for LTTE cadres carrying the cyanide capsules as standard equipment. A bronze statue that was built for Sivakumaran was destroyed three times and it’s the fourth statue that is standing there now.

Sivakumaran died at the age of 24 and 44 years have rolled down but his memory is enshrined in all our hearts. His supreme sacrifice is unique. Future generations will remember him with deep gratitude and history will record as an unforgettable chapter in the Tamil Eelam liberation struggle.

The best way to remember him is to live for his ideal and the sacrifices he made for our liberation struggle.

Aravindo, the freedom fighter and spiritual leader of India, he once said “You must fight for what you believe in, but the present circumstances may not be in your favor but future event will shape in the way you want”. Let this Mantra be our guide to liberate Tamil Eelam.



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