Read more, and MIA is still spreading outright falsehoods in interviews. And I don’t mean that I disagree with her argument, I mean that many of the basic facts are wrong. Again, full respect for her and her music, and I do think there is a case for greater autonomy and rights for the Tamil people. However, if MIA wants to comment on the world stage she needs to take some accountability for her words, and to try and tell the truth. And I understand that a lot of this stuff is debatable, but some of it is just obvious. Sri Lanka is not ‘out and out Nazi Germany’, there is no campaign for ethnic cleansing, civilians are trapped behind frontlines by the LTTE, Tamil people are not banned from the press, international press are not shot, Tamil people are not banned from doing the census, and ‘as a Tamil’ she’s not banned from entering the country. Oh my God.
I’ll go through these point by point. This is from an interview in the Daily Beast with some guy Toure from BET.
â€œThe situation is systematic genocide, ethnic cleansing,â€
Ethnic cleansing is removing one ethnic group by killing or kicking them out. The LTTE did something similar to Muslims and Sinhalese living in the North and East. Sri Lanka is not killing or kicking out Tamils, they’re trying to eliminate the LTTE. This in response to literally hundreds of suicide bombings, assassinations (including, recently the Tamil Foreign Minister Kadirgamar), etc. There are very few people here of any race or political orientation who actually support the LTTE, they’ve disgusted and pissed off almost everyone.
There is a lot of ‘collateral damage’ which I think should be minimized, but it is not a genocide. Even throughout LTTE control hospitals and schools were still run by the Sri Lankan government. Tamils live throughout Sri Lanka, I think now about 50% outside of the North and East, and they are not being rounded up and killed and deported. It simply isn’t happening. The people caught in Mullativu are trapped largely because of the LTTE. Recently, the LTTE has been condemned for exploding a suicide bomber at a crossing and shooting and grenading people trying to get out (UN).
On the tiny island just south of India thereâ€™s been a 25-year struggle between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority. (not her quote, from the writer, Toure)
This is nitpicky, but the island isn’t tiny, it’s a bit smaller than Ireland and bigger than Taiwan (islands by area). The civil war has been going on since 83, but the struggle has been going on pretty much since independence.
But 350,000 Tamil civilians are trapped behind the front lines and M.I.A., whose family is Tamil, says theyâ€™re in a virtual concentration camp. â€œTheyâ€™re treated like animals. They donâ€™t have food or shelter and theyâ€™ve just been hit by a cyclone and the government hasnâ€™t sent them any aid. Itâ€™s just out and out Nazi Germany.
This betrays no understanding of either the current situation or Nazi Germany. The Nazi’s marked and rounded up Jews and put them in concentration camps, systematically and mechanically working them to death and killing them by gas, shooting, starvation and worse. It is a very serious thing, not an epithet to hurl. Calling people Nazis is just a sign of weak argument.
Somewhere between 100-350,000 civilians are stuck in Mullativu largely because the LTTE is using them as human shields and won’t let them out. They were not put there by the Sri Lankan government, the Sri Lankan government is trying to bring those areas back under democratic control. At great human cost, and yes with warlike disregard for their welfare. They’re not getting enough aid, but what aid they’re getting is from the government and the Red Cross.
There are real arguments that we need to do more for the people trapped in this tsunami type disaster area, but simply calling the Sri Lankan government Nazis isn’t one of them. It’s just a cheap shot with no correlation to reality.
â€œTamil people are banned from the press,â€ M.I.A. says, â€œand thereâ€™s no international media allowed into the country. They get shot.
Again, what? There are countless Tamil papers and Tamil writers and Tamil TV stations and radio, web, etc. There are people like Tissanayagam who are in jail (I think unjustly) and I think being Tamil media here is a harrowing and unfair situation. However, they are not banned. Again, MIA takes what may be a legitimate point and destroys it through exaggeration and outright lies. International media is allowed in the country, and they do operate here. This includes BBC, Al Jazeera, etc. Foreign and local media were even in Kilinochchi (in the North) after the area was recaptured. And while Sri Lanka has some of the worst media freedom in the world, and while coverage in the north and east is difficult to impossible, what she says at best exaggeration and worst lies. Tamil people are not banned from the press. No international media have been shot.
M.I.A. says the government has also erased people from existence. â€œTamil people were banned from doing the Census report,â€ she says. â€œWhich means that you could wipe them out and no one would know. You canâ€™t account for how many there are.â€
Wtf? And does no one in the western media fact check these things? The Sri Lankan census does count Tamils, however we haven’t been able to do a proper census in years, because of the war. The last one did undercount Tamils because they were in areas under LTTE control. If you read the Organizations and Procedures of the Census Department, you’ll see that all the uncounted areas are in LTTE control. Because they prevent people from being counted. Just like the prevented people from voting in the last election. There is no government conspiracy here. Keeping people out of the census and electoral process is clear LTTE policy.
Sheâ€™s pained that her child may never see Sri Lankaâ€”as a Tamil sheâ€™s barred from entering the country. (Toure)
OK, I don’t even know where to start. If you’re Tamil you can fly in and out of Sri Lanka. My Tamil friend just came in from Singapore to get married and flew back out. I went to the wedding. There was no meat or booze but it was fun. There is no Tamils only line at the airport. I’m pretty sure MIA can come back here if she wants. Certainly her being Tamil would have nothing to do with it.
Again, I’m pretty vehemently opposed to most government policy including much of the conduct of this war. I, however, consider myself constrained by facts, and I believe that there are facts to support the case of the civilians trapped in Mullativu and Tamils screwed over by this war. What MIA is saying isn’t fact though, it’s falsehood, and it discredits everyone here trying to do something reality based to change and improve our situation. Perhaps these are the conspiracy theories running around the diaspora, but if MIA wants to comment internationally she should take some time to just Google some of these things. Because they’re that plainly false. Genocide is a word that has meaning and that meaning doesn’t really apply here. Most Tamils are not even in the warzone, and those there are largely held by the LTTE. This is not Nazi Germany. There are no gas chambers or rounding up of Tamils, I live and work with Tamils everyday. Calling people Nazis or Hitler is generally the last refuge of the factless. Tamil people are not banned from the media, nor are international media shot (though locals are). And finally, Tamils are not banned from entering the country.
Oh my God. I can’t believe this stuff is even out there. It’s disprovable with a simple Google. Please, MIA, I respect what you’ve done and have listened to every album since the first mix tape. If you want to enter the debate about this country, however, please be responsible and look a few things up. There is a difference you can make, but it should be based on fact, not hyperbole and outright lies.