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Jul-22-2011 17:17printcommentsVideo

M.I.A. - A Beautiful Reflection of the Besieged Tamils of Sri Lanka

"It was about bringing information to the people, I knew something and I had experienced it" - M.I.A.

Tamil entertainer M.I.A.
M.I.A. photo courtesy: mediabistro.com

(SALEM, Oregon) - I am the first to admit that I'm extremely judgmental of entertainers who have the attention of large numbers of people but fail to do the right thing with it. I suppose it is tied to the fact that as a child, I watched music bring an end to the Vietnam War. Few mediums are this powerful.

Singer and actress M.I.A. (Tamil: மாதங்கி 'மாயா' அருள்பிரகாசம், Mātaṅki 'Māyā' Aruḷpirakācam) is the only frontline entertainer today of Tamil heritage and after seeing her talk about the struggle of her people, and by that I mean the recent Tamil Genocide in Sri Lanka, I'm left with the impression that she can be a real force in demanding change and accountability.

Many have seen the film Slumdog Millionaire and are familiar with her presence, and few haven't heard the song Paper Planes which I came to know before ever seeing the film.

In a 2010 interview with 98.7 FM .com Rockerrazzi.com in LA, M.I.A. talked about how living through grueling circumstances and having to flee Sri Lanka as a refugee has a great affect on her writing.

She said in regard to her music, "I think its been ages that I've kind of been doing music but didn't consider myself a musician, when I think about it, I still want to get into the art."

She too hopes that music can be a key to unlocking freedom for human beings. M.I.A. said, "When I feel the pressures or the limitations of the industry, we need to throw the processes out, we need to find different ways to go about it".

The hot U.S. news item at the time was the state of Arizona legislating laws against illegal immigration. Being from a minority population in Sri Lanka, she says it is easy to relate to the plight of the person trying to find their way to the U.S. in order to escape oppression.

When asked what her message to President Barack Obama would be in regard to anti-immigration sentiments in this Southwest border state, M.I.A. said, "I can't even get past the thought that we're moving backward in time"

Tamil Family

Mathangi Arulpragasam's father, Arul Pragasam, is an engineer, writer and activist. He and her mother Kala, are both of Hindu and Sri Lankan Tamil descent.

M.I.A. was born in the UK, but her family moved to the town of Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka was she was six months old. This is where her father became a political activist and founding member of the Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students (EROS), a political Tamil group that worked to establish an independent Tamil Eelam in North Eastern Sri Lanka.

It is this quest for the state of Tamil Eelam in northern Sri Lanka; deemed necessary after the country's Sinhalese Buddhist government started literally outlawing historic Tamil culture; implementing a single language law, etc., that led to the Genocide of possibly more than a hundred thousand Tamil people two years ago.

The 'sin' of the Tamils was to simply defend their lives and culture. Their military defenders were the local government, the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam).

For thirty years this group attempted to resist peacefully, following the teachings of Ghandi, but Sri Lanka kept taking their rights and by 1977 it turned violent.

In the end, the Tamil Tiger resistance fighters were branded 'terrorists' and since that designation was accepted by the US, UN and EU, their ability to politically maneuver was stripped. The Presidential Administration of George W. Bush saw to this, and set the stage for the Genocide carried out by the forces or Sri Lanka President Majinda Rajapaksa.

Talent for a New Century

M.I.A. began her entertainment career in 2000 as a visual artist and designer in West London. She rose to prominence in early 2004 for her singles "Galang" and "Sunshowers", and has been nominated for an Academy Award, two Grammy Awards and the Mercury Prize.

M.I.A. is an amazing, ambitious performer, and the fact that she also raises awareness of human suffering, while highlighting the absurdity of occupation and racism toward minorities, means her talent is put to use in a way that matters. Her attitude is angry, stark and real.

I am intrigued by India and Sri Lanka and we are increasingly integrating with writers, activist groups and other newsmakers in this part of the world to better inform western people of developments and problems taking place that are in many cases, directly tied to U.S. interests.

The United States has an obligation to the world, not just to itself, as has always been the case. Since the U.S. finds the world well suited to exploit, it will need to find itself in a better position of reciprocation that takes into account, a much greater respect for nature.

We carried an exclusive report from Nepal this week: The Himalayas-Once Moaning, now Groaning , by our writer, Arun Shrivastava; detailing the environmental degradation of this mystical region of the world.

That article and others like it bring to light the need to focus on real change in the direction of business practices; first and foremost, while there is still a planet to work with.

Right next to the U.S. in the pack of sharks is the U.K. and much of where Sri Lanka and India stand today, is a result of so many years of British occupation. It is not to say that there were not positive influences and kind Britons, but let's face it, Hanoi has beautiful buildings but really little to thank the French for. Same in India, people who were not so controlled would have had a different destiny.

As it is, one can easily gather by watching the above referenced movie, there is rampant poverty. 'Third World Democracy' which M.I.A. references is not something most people on this side of the world understand. I learned a little about it in Afghanistan, particularly during an interview with then-Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski who came over to Kabul to visit Oregon National Guard soldiers. He talked about how democracy can indeed exist in the east, but it is never going to be a Jeffersonian style democracy.

Now, as the future of the U.S. hangs in the balance with an overriding debt crisis and increasing pieces of America being bought up by everyone from China to the Mexican Los Zeta cartel, it seems fair to wonder how long this style of democracy can last.

In my opinion, the dumbing down of the public through lackadaisical media sources and even worse, ones that are possibly blatantly criminal in their actions; ala Murcoch's News of the World, are at the root of the problem.

Even if they were biased and off track, my childhood memories of American broadcasting include lots of news from far away places; Vietnam, Central and South America, etc., in fact that is one of the reasons I entered the business in the first place. But we Americans in particular have lost our connection with the world and today those without a passport can't even go to Canada or Mexico for the day. This, as NAFTA laws keep the large shipments of meth flowing up from Mexico.

People in third world countries who have to scratch and claw to survive, live among the results of western colonialism. They are people I respect and I hope and pray for. I hope that a better day can come for the impoverished and needy, deprived and exploited children and adults of this world. I have to wonder if the imprint of that poverty is so intense, that the line "Bona fide hustler, making my name" is inevitable. If so, our goal as human beings is to ensure that people someday get past the point of feeling like their success only equates to a negative, unavoidable guilt.

M.I.A.: Paper Planes Lyrics Songwriters: Paul Gustave Simonon; Michael Geoffrey Jones; Thomas Pentz; Joe Strummer; Mathangi Arulpragasam; Topper Headon

I fly like paper, get high like planes
If you catch me at the border I got visas in my name
If you come around here, I make them all day
I get one down in a second if you wait

Sometimes I feel sitting on trains
Every stop I get to I'm clocking that game
Everyone's a winner now we're making our fame
Bona fide hustler, making my name

All I want to do is BANG BANG BANG BANG!
And KA-CHING!
And take your money

Pirate skulls and bones
Sticks and stones and weed and bombs
Running when we hit them
Lethal poison through their system

No one on the corner has swagger like us
Hit me on my banner, prepaid wireless
We pack and deliver like UPS trucks
Already going to hell just pumping that gas

All I want to do is BANG BANG BANG BANG!
And KA-CHING!
And take your money

M.I.A.
Third world democracy
Yeah, I got more records than the K.G.B.
So, uh, no funny business
Some, some, some I, some I murder
Some, I some I let go
Some, some, some I, some I murder
Some, I some I let go

All I want to do is BANG BANG BANG BANG!
And KA-CHING!
And take your money...

The world is crippled and the true narrative dark, tragic and grisly. People are in general, totally fooled. As a rule human beings either know far too much, or far too little about what is taking place in the dark hollows.

Those governments that have security and peace become quite possessive of it and the military industrial complex that takes or gives that security is vastly out of balance.

Because that complex is so well funded and institutionalized, it is a hard one to fight. That is why I am particularly moved by M.I.A. and all other rappers and hip-hop artists from parts of the world that are in turmoil. It is an expressive type of music that reaches minds and changes hearts, and if the lyrics involving murder are troubling, then be disturbed, because that is how it shakes out.

People who are egregiously massacred and who live every day with the knowledge that their childhood friends, their family members, their communities and schools, have been tortured, murdered, degraded and destroyed.

Sri Lanka has acted at high levels of shameful murderous superiority, and their crimes are really against each and every one of us alive today. Because political bargaining is paramount, the ability to negotiate is imperative. The branding of the LTTE as terrorists, just as in the case of Hamas, is simply wrong. It is the western world's way of keeping their enemies from the negotiating table, and countries like Israel and Sri Lanka find almost infinite power through their 'friendly' relations with countries like the United States, it sure hasn't done the Tamil population much good.

And those just learning about this need to know that Tamils are very prominent in neighboring India. In fact Salem, India is in the state of Tamilnadu, India. Facts like this keep pressure on the Rajapaksa regime, and mounting numbers of agencies and individuals remain more determined than ever to see the Sri Lanka government taken to The Hague to stand trial for war crimes. What they did, based on the evidence, is well beyond reprehensible.

_________________________________________________________

Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines.

Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Silver Spoke Award by the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (2011), Excellence in Journalism Award by the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs (2010), Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), First-place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Tim has several years of experience in network affiliate news TV stations, having worked as a reporter and photographer at NBC, ABC and FOX stations in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Tim was a member of the National Press Photographer's Association for several years and is a current member of the Orange County Press Club.

Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. As News Editor, Tim among other things, is responsible for publishing the original content of 82 Salem-News.com writers. He reminds viewers that emails are easily missed and urges those trying to reach him, to please send a second email if the first goes unanswered. You can write to Tim at this address: newsroom@salem-news.com


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Ravi August 1, 2011 8:25 am (Pacific time)

Thanks Tim, you have been doing a fabulous job to bring all the atrocities done by srilankan government.


tmorgan July 29, 2011 8:40 pm (Pacific time)

Dear Editor,

First I'll point out an error: "India is in the state of Tamilnadu, India." I think you intended "The majority of the world's Tamils are in the state of Tamilnadu, India."

Second, the Sri Lankan state has been advised by other nations to follow such examples such as English Canada's handling of French Canadians and the province of Quebec. A seperate state wasn't the only solution that Tamils sought over the decades but all they ever got were disingenuous promises at best ...

Lastly since you mentioned Channel-4's "Sri Lanka's Killing Fields" I would like to point out that the translation of a Sinhalese soldiers remark about mutilation of a Tamil female captive confirmed my opinion that sex crimes are encouraged by special forces trainers in south asia. The Tamil Tigers were nasty suicide bimbers but never stooped to such depraved lows as the Sri Lankan and Indian state's defense forces.


Editor: Thank you so much.

http://www.lankanewspapers.com/news/2010/12/62687_space.html


http://kurungabaa.net/2011/06/30/tragic-ghosts-and-surfing-sri-lanka/


T.Morgan July 28, 2011 11:37 am (Pacific time)

Mr.Tim.King, Thank you for your report on Srilanka the real perspective of what is taking place in Srilanka.We appreciate your efferts to bring real truth of happening that country instead of false propaganda bythe Govt. of Srilanka


Anonymous July 25, 2011 6:31 pm (Pacific time)

I try my best to keep up on current events in the world, but with all the chaos in the middle east, the economy etc, I guess I cant catch everything. I knew about Sri Lanka a bit, but thanks SO much to salem-news, and even MORE thanks to those who posted that I can learn more. Thank you all..


Nathan July 24, 2011 11:50 pm (Pacific time)

Tim firstly a big thank you for providing a forum to the long persecuted Elam Tamils fighting to restore their land, quagmire in the international game of geopolitics. Global powers must proclaim the ideals of world democracy by giving the Elam Tamils ownership of their own land. the recently concluded election demonstrate beyond doubt their endorsement of the TNA/LTTE as to their wishes. Almost the entirety of the Tamil diaspora go along with this result. It is now the moral duty of the International community now to arrange for a referendum so that Elam Tamils could determine their own future as an independent nation as a confederation with Sinhala Srilanka or as a protectorate of The US(preferably) or India.


peacelover July 24, 2011 9:28 pm (Pacific time)

Dear Tim King,
Your are one of the few journalist in USA far beyond and average journalist fighting for freedom to world citizens, mainly in third world coutries, which are created by western world.

I wish you all the best for your dreams to come true.

You brought my memories back about John Lennon, another beautiful human being.

"Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace..."

Tim King: Very humbling, no question few understand this well, though I am constantly moved by the people who read the stories and take the time to offer support, thank you again


peacelover July 24, 2011 8:50 pm (Pacific time)

Dear Editor,
Even there are thamils from Srilanka cannot put it in perspective as you respond to Sahana Smapth.

Thank you for your efforts and your dedication to True Journalism, which is a hertbeat of democracy.

Pls continue to do so until Eezham Thamils in Srilanka, enjoy peace with dignity and equal rights as every other citizen in that county.

As Jaysinghe responded here Thamils struggle started in early 1930s and continued till this day.

Tim King:I am touched by your comment, thank you so much.


peacelover July 24, 2011 8:39 pm (Pacific time)

Tim King, You are dong excellent job as a journalist, bringing the truth out. This is one of the several you wrote, with UK Channel 4's telecast, I hope Eezham Thamils in Srilanka soon will enjoy peace with equal rights and dignity. AGAIN! THANK YOU ON BEHALF OF VOICELESS THAMILS IN SRILANKA.


tamil July 24, 2011 6:08 am (Pacific time)

the US govt, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other international organizations have all called investigations into War Crimes by the Govt(/Military) of Sri Lanka(Sinhalese). It is a well-known fact that thousands of innocent Tamils were murdered by the Sri Lanka govt/military. So the Sinhalese who post comments on this site denying this are wasting their time. “International legal systems have so far failed to bring the Sri Lankan War Criminals to justice. It is time for the average Joe, an ethical shopper to say No to “Holiday Packages to Sri Lanka”, No to “Sri Lankan Airlines”, No to “Sri Lankan Cricket”, No to “Ceylon Tea”, No to “Garments or any other products made in Sri Lanka” and No to any “Organisations having commercial interests in Sri Lanka” until Sri Lanka stop the killings of the innocents with it's death squads, until the last person is set free from the death camps of Sri Lanka, until the people of Sri Lanka start to live without the fear of abductions, torture, rape and murder by the Sri Lankan State and its armed forces, Until Sri Lanka starts to treat all its citizens equally with dignity and give them the rights they deserve” “Money goes into the hands of Sri Lanka are now used to destroy individuals, families and communities therefore, it is rational, ethical, sensible and right to stop supporting a country that is determined continue with its genocide agenda, despite calls from the international community” Death and destruction in a Terror Island Fifty thousand innocent men, women and children were brutally murdered on the sandy beaches and in the jungles of Sri Lanka, by the Sri Lankan Military while the whole world stood back and watched. (Thanks Tim King for a great article.)


Agron Belica July 23, 2011 1:24 pm (Pacific time)

@Canaga: Two thumbs up!!!


Agron Belica July 23, 2011 1:19 pm (Pacific time)

@Sahana Sampath: Don't hate!!!


Douglas Benson July 23, 2011 9:24 am (Pacific time)

Terrorism ; the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce for political purposes . Who are the real terrorist's ? Just because you fight back doesnt make you a terrorist .Fight and risk your life or just submit I know what my choice would be,I've had to make it. Most of us live in such a shelterd environment its hard to understand what it means to live in predatory one . These people rap about what they have lived, whether thats in the projects or in another country where life is cheap and violence rules the day. Peace


jo July 23, 2011 9:07 am (Pacific time)

@@@"Please do not judge all Sri Lankans by this woman who obviously is trying to keep a terrorist dream alive." may be you can judge many Sri Lankans by the Government of Sri Lanka which obviously runs STATE TERRORISM alive in a daily basis.


jaysinghe July 23, 2011 2:26 am (Pacific time)

The persecution of tamils, fuelled by the budhist Sangha and othre Sinhala extremists began in the 1930s. Hostility and genocide has gone on long before 2009 but the massive undocumented slaughter of Tamil civilians to the tune of 0ver 150000 c took place at the culmination of the so called war on terror. Actually it was a planned genocide , this time using the excuse of war against terror. There is no way that Tamils and Sinhalese could coexist. A seperate independant Tamil Elam , like in East Timor, South Sudan, Montenegro Kosova and other recenly liberated countries, is the only just solution


Canaga July 23, 2011 2:04 am (Pacific time)

Tim, well written.
Sahana Sampath is probably living in a world of his own, with eyes and ears closed.
He does not realise why LTTE came into being - it is only after all peaceful negotiations failed. The Tamils were beaten up and killed, burnt in cars locked up, their library, including old irreplaceable literature burnt under the direction of the two ministers of the time, when finally, the peaceful means failed.
Only a corrupt racial government could do such mass murders and bombing of hospitals.
unfortunately an idiotic minded president can only declare LTTE a terrorist organisation, but killed many many thousands of Iraqis and Afghans. Such a person is worse than the worst terrorist.
The Tamils had very little option but to fight.
Thanks also to Maya for her very lively music and action to help the Tamils under distress.

Tim King: Canaga, thanks so much.


Sarojini July 23, 2011 12:30 am (Pacific time)

I beg Sahana Sampath to go down the memory lane to consider the post independent political moves of the successive governments all of which were all dominated by the Sinhala-Buddhist leaders. I give just a few legislations that were meant to discriminate and oppress the minorities. Citizenship Act of 1948 that disenfranchised one million upcountry Tamils (had Barack Obama born in Sri Lanka he wouldn’t have had the right to vote in any election let along contesting one), government sponsored Sinhalese settlements in Tamil speaking areas to alter the ratio of ethnic groups in favour of the Sinhalese, Sinhala Only Act of 1956 (still not repealed) and standardisation of university admissions based on linguistic groups. Casualties in any war are normal, but targeting the citizens of a country by its rulers cannot go unaccounted and verified. Even after the crushing of Tamil Tigers and elimination of 'terrorism' the militarisation of Tamil speaking areas enslaves and subjugates Tamils. You have to experience their tormented life by living among them. The author of this article was turned back at Omanthai check point when he tried to visit the north to get a first hand experience of how the civilians exist there. This is obvious that the government wants to hide something, what is that? That is the atrocities of the military and paramilitaries. Sure there are many good and fair minded Sinhalese but they are silenced and some exiled. There is no terrorism in the north and east except the human rights violations of the army and paramilitaries. There is no need for a mono-ethnic army to be deployed in Tamil areas. Devolution of power to minorities will not hurt or harm the majority community but pave way for a peaceful multi-ethnic community to live and prosper side by side.


Saro July 22, 2011 11:57 pm (Pacific time)

Tim King and M.I.A. or appropriately Arulprakasam highlight the atrocities committed by the racist governments on their pitiful minorities, though, both come from contrasting background. They both face the wrath of powerful governments and establishments but as they stand for justice and fairness they are sure to succeed.


Sahana Sampath July 22, 2011 10:54 pm (Pacific time)

Came across your story accidently. Please do not judge all Sri Lankans by this woman who obviously is trying to keep a terrorist dream alive. What Al-Qaeda did to the US, the LTTE did to Sri Lanka. They taught the world the art of suicide bombs. I don't hold a candle for the SL Govt but pl keep in mind that except for a few, the majority of the Sri Lankan Army were disciplined soldiers who fought the deadliest terrorists of the 21st century and won the war. Having been a marine, you should understand what fighting terrorism is all about. Having said that, I must also add that war crimes can and will happen in a war, just like Iraq and elsewhere and the culprits must be held to task. But please remember that the majority of Sri Lankans are multi-religious, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Moslems living together, Tamils and Sinhalese. There are problems that need solutions like everywhere else. Please do not judge Sri Lanka by a woman who long fled her country, never returned to help her so called brothers but from the safety net of the west, is trying to exploit the former conflict to her gain. Please read about Sri Lanka before you tout this woman and her terrible sounding music. Thank you.

Editor: We have been following the Genocide and related developments closely and M.I.A. isn't really going far with allegations in comparison to the recent Channel-4 documentary, surely you appreciate her obligation to speak out over the atrocities.  I sense that you are a reasonable person but I suggest you spend more time with the evidence.  Yes, of course there are many good soldiers in Sri Lanka, there are always good people in every group, but to say the Tamils weren't first persecuted and then singled out does not seem at all reasonable.  Again, perhaps I have spent a great deal more time with the UN investigation, the endless photos and video, and a great deal more in terms of evidence.  In Iraq war crimes have taken place and I in no way dismiss this, but that is not the subject of this story.  Sri Lanka is a Sinhalese government and the elimination of the Tamil culture, and the government's objection to the creation of the state of Tamil Eelam is what brought this about.


Agron Belica July 22, 2011 6:11 pm (Pacific time)

Great article! Thanks for sharing

Tim King: Thanks Agron!

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©2018 Salem-News.com. All opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Salem-News.com.


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