By Pearl Thevanayagam –
“First they came for journalists, then they came for human rights activists; then they swooped down on university students and political dissenters and lately poets are taboo from attending meetings and seminars”. – (Apologies to Lasantha Wickrematunge for pilfering his final editorial he wrote before he was gunned down on January 08, 2009 by the government)
All V.I.S Jayapalan wanted was to visit his mother’s grave since he could not visist her when died in 2008 due to the then prevailing conditions of military offensive against the LTTE. I met him in Oslo in a Tamil shop in October 2004 and he carried a satchel bag. Little did I know he had acted in Indian films and wrote scores of poetry.
It was T. Manivannan, the Head of BBC Tamil Service, who enlightened me on this person’s achievements in the world cinema and poetry.
He is a thespian to boot and an unassuming character who hid his talents and to passer-by he would be just another refugee at the mercy of Norwegian Government. Jayapalan never craved publicity and he was simply a thespian in his own right. For him were there no accolades since Tamils did not take him seriously. Yet India and the US awarded him many accolades. It is a pity his own people of Jaffna never appreciated his talent and it was left to foreigners to give him his dues as a talented actor/poet.
In a world which counts wealth and materialism as its mantra, there is no place for genuine talent or honesty. Even Kambar and Samuel Johnson – the Chola King and Lord Chesterfield – reneged on their promises to commission their works Ramayana and the English Dictionary respectively.
Johnson wrote to Lord Chesterfield, “Is not a patron, my lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labours, had it been early, had been kind: but it has been delayed till I am indifferent and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary and cannot impart it; till I am known and do not want it.”
Jayapalan is more a Yarlpadi – the blind musician who was shunned since he did not earn a living wage but immersed himself in music on the verandhah despite his total blindness and whose wife constantly chided him for being a never-do-well – until he recited his Yarl before the king who awarded him with Yarlpanam, present day Jaffna.
Beneath his veneer of a simple wanderer, there exists in him, a worth of talent which goes un-noticed. Now he is incarcerated within the Immigration detention centre charged with attending meetings while he was on a tourist visa. News that he would be deported by the Immigration authorities comes as a shock and it is up to his sympathisers to exonerate him since his roots in Jaffna should enable him to return to his birthplace which is his inalienable right.
For crying out loud, why should the military suspect this innocent man of conspiring against the government by attending meetings and seminars? He is now seventy years old and suffering from ageing illnesses such as asthma and bronchitis.
Poet and actor Jayapalan’s arrest should be on the list of human rights violations post war against the LTTE and added to the government’s list of crimes to be presented to the UNHRC.