Monday, March 16, 2009

M.I.A. and the Bogey of Genocide in Sri Lanka (part 3)

mY reflections on MIA's interview:

I think that MIA is just expressing her views that she's fully entitled to. Regarding most of the facts regarding the conflict I believe she is either misinformed or aware of the incorrect information that she is providing for a political reason. The first of my posts (Part 1) was a transcript of an article published in the Sunday Leader by Dr Muttukrishna Sarvananthan which clearly outlines the error or lies in some of these statements. I feel Dr Muttukrishna gives a very balanced and factual account of some of the innacuracies of MIA's interview here.

With this post I would cover three themes that MIA talks about in her interview which have caused me to further delve into and reflect upon, and give my own commentry:-
1) the situation in Sri Lanka right now is dire
2) "Tamil equals Tamil civilians first, and the Tamil Tiger is a separate thing"

3) "I wanted to become a musician and help, like, some sort of change was also used for social change"

1) the situation in Sri Lanka right now is dire

This is the truth from my perspective - but not for the reason that M.I.A. states.

There is no Genocide against the Sri Lankan Tamils (this is my opinion, but also the opinion of others).

However, for the group of civillians caught in the conflict (likely to be 100,000 - 150,000) the situation is dire, and has been dire for months. There is no nice way to dress this up - war is war, something that I am not in favour of (regardless of the situation see - )

The reason the situation is dire is because of the war between the Government and the LTTE, ie the ongoing attacks and LTTE targeted shelling that is occuring. However, the dire situation is largely because the LTTE are using the civilians as human shields and will not let them cross over to government safe zones.
In addition to this the LTTE have been opening fire on the very civilians they claim to represent ( I know this for a fact because I work in Anuradhpura and the Civilians who have been shot at are treated at Anuradhpura hospital. Often the care of these civilians necessitates the transfer of Army casualties to other centres. Clearly the Army would not be shooting at the very people who are then going to displaced their fellow soldiers in hospital beds. However the important fact is often glossed over by pro-ltte propaganda.

There have been many appeals made to the LTTE to release civilians they are using as shields such as this letter by V Anandasangaree the TULF (Tamil United Liberation Front) leader in the Sri Lankan government on March 14th ( )

The situation is dire also because of the huge number of IDPs (internally displaced persons)

The pro LTTE reports talks about the civilians being raped and murdered in the IDP camps as reasons for civilians not crossing to the goverment, yet what is shown on TV is army soldier looking after Civilians and giving them food etc. I do not believe that this is simply acting for the camera's

I know from my contact with doctors who have been part of public health assesment teams that have visited such camps that the conditions of sanitation and health meet international standards presently. However they did mention the problem was that the residents couldn't move freely in and out of the camps (which has been covered by other media sources ). This is largely because of the risk of LTTE infilitration, but nevertheless a terrible situation.

Other reports say there is shortage of food and medicine, and I am currently trying to make donations of milk powder to help out with this shortage - so a situation of food shortage is a reality for at least part of the IDP population. However non governmental agencies are in operation to fill in the shortfall. This may not be as efficiently as one would hope for, but from the comments of one lady who is in charge of organising a charity mission to deliver food items to the Wanni - the response from the Sri Lankan communities in Colombo and elsewhere is very favourable. Her email (included below) shows what I have been observing for the last 3 years whilst living here that a large nubmer of SRI LANKANS CARE SINCERELY about the plight of Thamil citizens and the particularly the Thamil people currently caught in the crossfire or the IDP camps. This information is again contrary to the pro-LTTE propaganda which wants to create an image of Sri Lanka being a genocidal nation against the Thamil population)

excerpt from the email from a independant person organising a charity drop off of food to the civilians caught in the conflict :-
"Hi - Since this last mail to you, we have got approval from the government to ship this stuff out to the people in Mullaitivu. Please see attached the approval letter. Thank you to those of you who responded and brought in your contributions. The response was truly amazing. As you know we need quite a lot of milk powder so please continue to pass this on to your friends and their fiends because that is how we have managed to get so many contributions.

The revised list is as follows:

Lactogen – under 6 months
Cerelac 6 months – 1 year
Anchor + 1 – 3 years."

Large Number of IDPs

Because of the huge numbers of IDPs that have resulted from this conflict - the demand has outstripped the ability to provide. This is why there I believe there must be truth to many of the reports about the conditions of the IDPs.

The government is putting large resources into services that will ensure that these IDPs are looked after. Many cry that the government is doign this to hood wink the media - but as far as I can see - hoodwink or not they are "organising services", and rapidly doing so.

I was due to conduct a workshop in Padaviya Hospital (a provincial hospital at the northern boarder of the North Central Province) in a weeks time yet will probably have to cancel because the doctors and nurses are expected to be overwhelmed with the IDPs who are comming from the north to be treated starting tomorrow. They are transferring 400 IDPs to be treated at a time. So we have experienced a lag in service to what the demand was. This situation as terrible as is it is for the civillians has been manipulated by the LTTE propaganda movement to try and show that Sri Lankan government doesn't care about the Tamil Civilians which is not the case.

2) "Tamil equals Tamil civilians first, and the Tamil Tiger is a separate thing"

This is the second point that i have picked from MIA's interview which struck a chord with me. Living most of my life off the shores of Sri Lanka - I have always felt bad as to how Tamil Sri Lankans are constantly being with the Tamil Tigers (ie the LTTE) by default which is incorrect. I have always made it a point to correct non-Sri Lankan people when they just substitute the phrase "the Tamil Tigers" or "Tamils" (insinuating that they are referring to the Tamil Tigers) by telling them that they are two separate entities which may coincide in certain cases where Sri Lankan Tamils support the LTTE movement and their methods.

I was glad to see that MIA clearly expressed the same view.

When i first came to Sri Lankan in 2006 January, i was really interested in the the level of genuine support there was amongt the Thamil community for the LTTE. It is an increadible difficult thing to gauge, because there is support and non-support at so many different levels. For example one might align with the view that there are legitimate Tamil Grievances that the LTTE originally brought to the limelight with some vigour and they support the LTTe in this way, discounting the rest of what they stand for. They may support in the sense that one of their family members was a supporter or received some help, education or other support for a period of time. They may be fully aligned and active in all their causes, or perhaps (which is a situation I commonly come across) - they have been out of Sri Lanka for such a long time, after a very traumatic departure for terrible crimes against the Tamil Sri Lankans as a group committed by a minority of sinhala extremists (such as in the 1983 riots) that they clearly distrust the Sri Lankan government and will support the LTTE by default no matter what means they use to achive their objective of Eelam or a separate state.

I think question of how widespread and how firm the allegience of the Thamil Sri Lankans as a group is still a very important question (as I expressed recenty i a Ground views discussion on "Calling a spade a spade: Michael Roberts' 'moral relativism'") I was very frustrated with the way that sweeping statements about people allegiences are often made in disucssion forums where there is no firm evidence to back up their own strongly held beleifs. (I would like to make a point that anything i write here I am willing to be enlightened and educated to the contrary)

previous statement in Ground views discussion:-

“I am no admirer of the LTTE or of its ideological and military tactics, but I do not hesitate to recognise that it does represent a sizeable proportion of Tamil political spectrum and aspiration."

"bishan said,

March 7, 2009 @ 7:49 am

I have been reading these articles with interest. Thanks for all your viewpoints and perspectives.

There seems to be a simple difference of opinion her as to what the majority of the Tamil population feel with regards to the LTTE. Surely a more scientific answer to this question would be the best solution.

"but I do not hesitate to recognise that it does represent a sizeable proportion of Tamil political spectrum and aspiration."

Perhaps this is true, but please define "sizeable" and please let me know how you make this judgment? What is the sample you used to survey opinion of Sri Lankan Tamils? (please send a link to the study and methodology if it is available) Without a systematized well designed survey we are often left with "convenience sample" - ie people we move with, and not the people who we don't generally associate with - and we assume that this judgment is generalizable.

Agreed, that such a survey would be difficult to carry out, especially given that LTTE is a proscribed terrorist organisation in most countries and now Sri Lanka also. However, with a little ingenuity and if it were recognised to be important, I think a more scientific answer to the question of Tamils Sri Lankan's allegiance with the LTTE and or their views would be possible.

Otherwise the crux of this argument consists of largely speculation and opinion


So again back to MIA - i think she clearly expressed her feeling that she did not like to be automatically associated with the LTTE

"So human beings around the world have to be taught to go Tamil equals Tamil civilians first, and the Tamil Tiger is a separate thing. And both of those groups are different. It's like a square and a circle."
This adds just a little bit more information to that important question of what do Sri Lankan Tamils think of the LTTE, or what does anybody think of the LTTE for that matter, as we are all affected by their activities (often negatively, with their associated extortion and crime) in any part of the world.

Just so there is no confusion this Aljezeera clip is a must see for any person who lives overseas and supports the LTTE. It illustrates the extortion that is going from the very people who they claim to be representing (LTTE terrorising UK Tamils Part 1-3)

3) "I wanted to become a musician and help, like, some sort of change was also used for social change"

Finally, this is the element of the MIA interview really appeals to me - despite what she has incorrectly stated. All things said and done, i feel she is standing up for what she believes is correct, and is not afraid to express her views. There is great potential to be used for peace here.

I belive every post about the conflict in Sri Lanka should really end with a suggestions for peaceful solutions to this mess that we live in. Here i use the plural because I believe it will take more than just one solution to really make a difference.

I think music and the arts are key, and as MIA states - i think the music medium is powerful. I myself am a musician and have dreams of creating songs that will tie together our similarities rather than our differences in opinion.

Basicially we are all part of the human race, right? We live on the same planet - so we've got to share it.

It doesn't matter to me whehter you are Tamil or Sinhalese, Palastinean or Isreali, Afrikkaans or Black - we are all on bound by our desire for for peace and love, only we don't realise it.

MIA's message in the interview was political I feel, and many argue so is her music. This will naturally encourage a counter argument to be expressed

De Lon a westcoast rapper who is an ethnic Sinhalese Sri Lankan American makes this point is a "diss rap" of MIA's paper plane. Here he hightlights some very important facts about the LTTE atrocities ( M.I.A. Paper Planes Diss By DeLon - Nb there is some gruesome footage of LTTE suicide bombing in his video so please don't watch if you are not willing to see this)

I feel that De Lon has done well with this video, and I commend him for expressing his opinion musically, and effectively.

However, watching this video (as with MIA's original video) somehow did not make me happy, as there is still the bitter tast of conflict in the tune.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if Delon and MIA could actually meet - have a meaningful dialog - and actually talk about peceived misconceptions and create a kick ass rap together about peace in the future - about how if we really put our hearts together, embrace compassion for humanity and "forgiveness of all sides", instead of hate of one another we can overcome this conflict ?? - now that would be something to really rave about?

True peace will only happen when we all fight for like it's the oxygen we need to breath.

I guess that's all from me

Peace out

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