I really like MIA. Congrats on all her Grammy/Oscar exposure, and the new baby. However, as a commentator on Sri Lanka (Via PBS), she’s pretty out of touch and plain lazy with the facts. Note that I do not think she’s LTTE or a terrorist, but I don’t think she’s the ‘only voice for the Tamil people’ as she says. She’s a transnational person and while she may feel the obligation to comment on Sri Lanka, she doesn’t take the time to even Google simple facts. My main issue is not with her thesis, but that she a) levels the word genocide without seeming to know what that is b) says there are two races in Sri Lanka when there are many c) says that the ‘Sinhalese’ army is 1 million strong when it’s really about 230,000. She has a platform now internationally and it’s OK for her to speak. Unfortunately the facts she uses are plain wrong, and it makes her entire authority suspect.
Above is a video reading some of her quotes at the House Party Open Mic. I start reading some of Paper Planes, but that gets cut off. Note that I make a mistake saying that a 1 million army would mean 1 in 10 Sri Lankans is there, it’s really 1 in 20.
I like her music, but I think she has zero credibility as a representative of the Tamil people or a commentator on Sri Lanka. Not that she’s not Tamil, and not that diaspora isn’t included, but that she simply doesn’t put the work in to get her facts right. Especially if you’re going to leverage a charge like genocide, you might want to make sure that you don’t get most of the other facts in your rant wrong.
On the genocide charge, I think the only genocidal forces in Sri Lanka have been the insurrection JVP and the LTTE (as per Kill Romeo’s thoughts). Sri Lanka can obviously do better by its Tamil citizens, but there is no systematic campaign to kill them. There is a terrorist group occupying land, conscripting children, executing and torturing other Tamil groups, killing other Tamil leaders like Neela and Kadirgamar, and generally exploding and messing with everyone around. In the process the Sinhala right-wing is embolden and there are racist words and actions that come out of the state, but it is by no means genocide.
That’s a heavy word and if MIA might want to spend at least a few minutes on Google before going on TV. This is something that matters to a lot of people. It’s easy for diaspora to spout off sometimes, but I live here. It’s not easy to speak and it’s not easy to live, and it’s important that we think before we do.