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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 June 2006, 14:24 GMT 15:24 UK
Tamil poet's plea for peace
By Saroj Pathirana
BBC Sinhala service, Oslo

Tamil poet Jayapalan
Jayapalan says both sides take the international community for granted
"I am really sad and disappointed," says Tamil poet VIS Jayapalan.

He is visibly frustrated after talks broke down between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger rebels in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, last week.

The rebels refused to meet government representatives face-to-face, saying they would talk only to Norwegian mediators.

"I did not even go to meet the Tigers. I did not want to be seen supporting their walk-out from the talks," he says.

Jayapalan, who is based in Oslo, is a former activist of a Tamil militant organisation.

Well known among Tamils, he has campaigned against human rights abuses in Sri Lanka for decades.

'Hooligans'

"Whatever our grievances are, we have to co-operate with Norwegian facilitators and solve our problems through negotiations," Jayapalan told the BBC.

I appeal to the Tiger leadership and to President Rajapakse to realise the dangers
Tamil poet Jayapalan

Both parties, he says, behaved in Oslo "like arrogant football hooligans".

It is unusual for members of the Tamil diaspora to speak out against the Tamil Tigers. Most support their struggle for Tamil autonomy.

But the poet says criticism is needed to persuade the Tigers to return to negotiations.

A former president of the Jaffna University student union during the troubled early 1970s and a graduate in economics, Jayapalan has long campaigned for federal-style autonomy for Sri Lankan Tamils.

"The Tigers claim themselves to be a state actor. If they are a state actor, they have to behave like a state player in a responsible manner," he says.

Of reports that the mediators might be considering withdrawing from the peace process, he says: "It would be disastrous if Norway pulled out."

Though highly critical of the rebels, the poet believes it is President Mahinda Rajapakse who can make the real breakthrough.

"Tamils are very disappointed by President Rajapakse... he keeps insisting on a unitary state. Unitary state means war."

Tamil Tiger rebels patrol a highway
The Tamil Tigers must negotiate, says Jayapalan

After peace talks in Oslo in December 2002, the Tamil Tigers and the government announced that they had agreed to devolve power within a federal framework.

But Mr Rajapakse has rejected federalism. He pledged to find a solution within a unitary state while campaigning for the presidency last year.

Jayapalan also expressed displeasure at rebel criticism of European truce monitors after the European Union proscribed the Tigers as terrorists in May.

"I personally appeal to the Tigers not to refuse monitors from EU countries," the poet says.

As for the Sinhala community, he says they should not consider the EU ban as being pro-Sinhala.

"Don't forget that the EU has strongly criticised the government over paramilitary activities."

Partition

The poet has been helping Norwegian facilitators in their efforts to bring the parties to the negotiating table.

If war breaks out again, neither party will be able to defend their territory - it will be a vicious circle
Jayapalan

The two sides agreed to stop attacks and disarm armed groups in Geneva in February, but since then violence has worsened.

"I consider both Sri Lankan army soldiers and the Tigers as my children. I don't want to kill my own children... I urge both parties to reconsider their foolish stand," Jayapalan says.

The polarisation of Sri Lankan society has destroyed political trust between the two major communities, he says.

"Most of us have become part of the partition."

Jayapalan has also used his poetry to fight for the rights of Sri Lanka's Muslim community, a minority among the Tamil minority.

The poet believes the Sudanese model, where parties agreed a five-year interim period before calling for a referendum on devolution of power for southern Sudan, is an ideal example for Sri Lanka.

"I think the parties and the Norwegian facilitators should work on a Sudanese-style power-sharing based on the Oslo accord."

"If war breaks out again, neither party will be able to defend their territory. So the Tigers will bring the war to the south and vice-versa. It is going to be a vicious circle similar to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

"I appeal to the Tiger leadership and to President Rajapakse to realise the dangers."


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