World Tamil Research Conference Massacre 1974
The 4th International World Tamil Research Conference was held in Yaalppanam from 4 to 10 January 1974. The Sirimavo Bandaranaike local government was actively involved in disrupting the conference. Initially, the Sirimavo government insisted that the conference be held in Colombo and not in Jaffna and imposed several restrictions. It stated that the Sri Lankan government would only provide financial support if the conference was held in Colombo. However, the Sri Lankan branch of the World Tamil Research Forum insisted that holding the conference in Yaalppanam, on the soil of the Tamil people, would bring more glory and win the united support of the Tamil community.
At this point Justice H.W. Thambiah, the chairman of the Ilankai branch (Ceylon), withdrew from the conference as he did not want it to be held in Yaalppanam. As a result, the late Prof S Vithyanandan took over as the chairman of the Ceylon branch and decided to hold the conference in Yaalppanam. This decision was supported by many Tamil scholars, including the late Tamil Ambassador Thaninayagam Adigalar. Following the decision to hold the conference in Yaalppanam, the Sri Lankan government intensified its efforts to disrupt the conference despite the support of respected Tamil scholars. It denied entry to foreign Tamil scholars who wanted to attend the conference and even sent back a Tamil scholar from the United States after his arrival in Colombo. In addition, various individuals, including the then Mayor Alfred Duraiyappah of Yaalppanam, former Nallur MP Arulambalam and A. Thyagarajah, as well as communist and so-called progressive writers, frequently sent telegrams urging Sirimavo to ban the conference. Through delegations and personal meetings, they spread misinformation about the conference, while some Tamils petitioned Minister Kumarasuriya demanding a ban.
Despite these challenges, thanks to the efforts of the Tamil scholars, the conference was inaugurated at the Veerasingham Mandapam in Yaalppanam. The exhibition was held at the Vembadi Women’s College and cultural programmes were held at the open-air theatre in Yaalppanam, creating a festive atmosphere. However, on the last day of the conference, 10 January 1974, Mayor Alfred Duraiappah tried to disrupt the event. He instructed A.S.P. Chandrasekhara, a Sri Lankan police officer in Yaalppanam, to send a police battalion to disrupt the award ceremony at the Yaalppanam Weerasingham Hall and the foreign scholars’ event. Tragically, nine Tamils lost their lives outside the Veerasingham Mandapam due to the brutality of the Sinhala police who shot at the crowd and cut the power lines, forcing more than 10,000 people to flee.
Despite the tragedy, the Sri Lankan government disregarded the recommendations of retired Justice Cruster’s commission appointed by the people of Yaalppanam to investigate the conference tragedies. A.S.P. Chandrasekara, the officer who led the actions, was promoted and commended. Witnessing these events, Urumpirai Sivakumaran became a freedom fighter and Colonel Kittu was also an eyewitness to the tragedy. Mayor Alfred Duraiyappa, who is considered the main perpetrator of the killings, was sentenced to death in Ponnalai under the leadership of national leader V. Prabhakaran. In 1975, the Sri Lankan police destroyed a memorial in Yaalppanam that had been erected in memory of those murdered at the World Tamil Research Conference.
Later, in 1976, the rebuilt memorial was again destroyed by the Sri Lankan police. The same police later burnt down the Yaalppanam library in 1981. Finally, in 1985, Colonel Kittu, a senior commander of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTT), completely destroyed the Jaffna police office and captured a policeman.