Human Rights

Award-winning Tamil poet Jayapalan arrested in Sri Lanka’s North

An acclaimed Tamil writer Shanmugampillai Jayapalan has been arrested and detained by Sri Lankan police on Friday (22) while he was on his way to pay homage to his mother at her graveyard in the former war-zone of Wanni.

Reports from Jaffna say that the 69-year old Tamil scholar, who is now a Norwegian citizen, has visited Jaffna during the second week of November after seven long years. As a Tamil literary stalwart, he was interviewed by Tamil newspapers in Jaffna and was warmly welcomed by his community. Photographs of him, addressing the media in Jaffna on his latest work in the field of literature, art and South Indian Kollywood film industry, appeared in many local media and social media websites.

Since he could not attend his mother’s funeral in November 2006 due to war, he wanted to pay homage to her at her graveyard located near his ancestral home in Vattakkadu, Mankulam in the Wanni. He was arrested by the police at Vannivilankulam while he was on his way to his mother’s graveyard and was brought Vavuniya for detention.

'Causing communal unrest'

Sri Lanka’s police spokesman, Ajith Rohana has told the media that Jayapalan has been arrested and detained for “violating visa regulation” and “holding seminars in Jaffna”.  He also accused him “to have taken part in gatherings aimed at causing communal unrest”.

According to a latest report, Jayapalan has been brought to Colombo today (23)  from Vavuniya by officers attached to notorious Terrorist Investigation Department (TID).

Commenting on his arrest, a senior lecturer attached to the Art Faculty of the University of Jaffna said that the arrest “was part of the ongoing campaign of witch-hunt against Tamils journalists, university students and academics”.

“The military and police intelligence operatives are closely monitoring every movement on a daily basis. The level of their activities and interruption in routine life under heavy-military presence in the peninsula are unprecedented and unbearable, especially after the visit to Jaffna by British Prime Minister David Cameron,” the lecturer told the JDS via phone strictly on condition of anonymity.

Writer & Actor

Well-known as VIS Jayapalan in the Tamil literary world, he was born in Uduvil, Jaffna and began his writing in the 70s while studying at the University of Jaffna and published his first anthology in 1986. Since then he has published at least 12 anthologies of poetry and short fiction.

As the war escalated, he fled to Norway in 1988. Since then he has been living in Norway as a Norwegian citizen and was moving back and forth to South Indian state of Tamil Nadu to continue his art and literary work.

His poetry and short novels are among the prescribed text books in many universities and colleges in Tamil Nadu. In 1995, he was awarded as the best immigrant writer by the Norwegian Writers’ Association, with poetry being translated into English, Norwegian as well as to Sinhala. In 2009, some of his poems were translated into English and published as a book in Canada - named 'Wilting Laughter - along with selected poems of R. Cheran and Puthuvai Raththinathurai.

In 2011, Jayapalan received a Special Award at the 58th National Film Award Festival for his role in the South Indian Tamil movie ‘Aadukalam’. Released in January 2011 the film won six awards at the 58 the National Film Award and was also felicitated with 5 awards in the 59 th Filmfare Awards South.

There is no immediate reaction from the Royal Norwegian government or South Indian Film Industry.

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Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

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