When rap singer M.I.A. (Mathangi Arulpragasam), appointed herself grand marshal of LTTE propaganda and used her Grammy nominee status on PBS’ Tavis Smiley show on January 28 to accuse the Sri Lankan government of ‘genocide,’ many, including top Sri Lankan officials, attributed it to ignorance of Sri Lankan politics. After all, she was not even born in Sri Lanka, had spent only a few years there, and is a British citizen.
A Tamil doctor writing in a local Sri Lankan newspaper even put it down to her ‘lack of education’ -- perhaps, an inevitable conclusion given the number of spelling and grammatical errors on her blogs. (Example: HOPEFULLY THE WORLD IS BEEN TICKING ALONG AND I AINT MISSED MUCH!)
After many Sri Lankans protested, PBS ombudsman Michael Getler published an apology and invited Foreign Secretary Dr. Palitha Kohona to the Smiley show to counter the hip-hopper’s accusations. Kohona graciously attributed her parroting of LTTE canards to ‘misinformation.’
‘M.I.A. is a great artist and we wish her well, but I’m sorry, I think she is misinformed and it´s best that she stay with what she´s good at, which is music - not politics,” he said speaking via satellite from Colombo.
But talk to Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and the extent of M.I.A.’s immersion in LTTE propaganda blitz as much as her downright personal duplicity emerges.
In Los Angeles recently on a private trip, Rajapaksa, the man largely credited with the success of the current military campaign, revealed how he had helped save M.I.A.’s father Arular Arular from the Tamil Tigers. During a visit to Sri Lanka in 2007, Arulpragasam, a founding member of the revolutionary EROS group, fearing for his life at the hands of the LTTE, had sought and received special security protection from the very source of M.I.A.’s genocide bogey – the Sri Lankan government.
“M.I.A.’s father came and met me in my office in Colombo and said he was afraid the Tigers were going to kill him. He wanted protection and I made arrangements to give him a police escort during his stay. How can M.I.A. say there’s genocide when the Sri Lankan government gave special security to her own father, saving him from the LTTE?” he said during a discussion with members of the activist group, Sri Lankan Patriots, at the home of Sri Lanka’s Consul General in Los Angeles Ananda Wickremasinghe, when he visited the US last month.
That favour seems all the more remarkable not only because of his daughter’s pro-LTTE stance, but because Arular himself has been involved in Tiger activities. Trained in Lebanon in the use of explosives, Arular returned to Sri Lanka in 1976 and became an active member of the Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students, (EROS), a group that had connections with the militant Abu Jihad and Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). According to several published sources, in September 1976, he met Prabhakaran and over a period of time passed on to him the explosives-making knowledge he had picked up in Lebanon. After moving to Tamil Nadu in 1978, a hotbed of Eelam activity, Arular continued being involved with the LTTE, which was in its formative stages at the time.
In addition to the allegation of ‘systematic genocide,’ M.I.A.’s rants against Sri Lanka include statements such as ‘Tamils are treated worse than animals’ and “I made it out in the late 80s and so my baby is going to grow up with hospitals, healthcare, food, free education, freedom of speech and religion, a life expectancy of 80-90 years and many of the liberties that we in the democratic world take for granted.”
Such tirades provide a great foil to her father’s actual Sri Lankan experience. In his youth, he was a recipient of a scholarship offered to Sri Lankans by the USSR to study engineering at the Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow – a rare opportunity for any young man. Later in life, even after he turned traitor by helping to form a separatist militant group, chummied up with Pabhakaran, and taught the Tiger supremo the fine art of blowing up buildings and people, Arular was not subjected to the castigation that would accompany such deeds. On the contrary, indulged even further, he was able in 1997 to follow his dream of developing sustainable products by setting up in Trincomalee an organization called the Institute of Sustainability Development.
In contrast, for espousing violence in her lyrics, on two occasions, in 2006 and again in 2007, M.I.A. was denied a visa by the United States, the leader of the ‘democratic world’ M.I.A. ‘take[s] for granted.’
Arular himself is said to have been denied a visa earlier this year when he tried to visit the US to attend the Grammy Awards (at which his very pregnant daughter didn’t win an award but ‘Swagga’d’ wearing an outfit that critics said made her look like a globe).
It is hard not to wonder how Arular would have been treated by the ‘democratic world’ had he taught Islamist militants the use of explosives and hobnobbed with Bin Laden to the extent he did with Vellupillai Prabhakaran. Abu Ghraib and those dousing euphemistically called ‘waterboarding’ come to mind!
Her father is not the only family member giving the lie to M.I.A.’s deceptive claims of ‘systematic genocide’ and that ‘Tamils are treated worse than animals.’ According to Mr. Rajapaksa, her aunt has chosen to live in Sri Lanka throughout these past years of strife, in a predominantly Sinhalese suburb close to Colombo. “She obviously feels very safe living among the Sinhalese although her niece is saying that the Sinhalese are killing Tamils,” Rajapaksa mused.
Even considering M.I.A.’s reported estrangement with her family, and giving some leeway for her ‘lack of education’ as a Tamil compatriot suggested, she must still have some knowledge that her father has been treated with extreme indulgence by Sri Lanka and that thousands of Tamils, including former militants, have fled LTTE brutality for the safety of Sri Lankan government refugee shelters. What then motivates her to echo nonsensical LTTE propaganda other than trying to be a cut above other rappers and the added publicity that comes with the pretense of carrying the imagined burden of saving her people from ‘genocide?’ Some celebrities do it with African adoptions and endless divorce dramas: M.I.A. does it with ‘genocide!’
The utter contrast between M.I.A.’s allegations and her family’s own experience, in addition to the rest of ground reality, present a unique opportunity for Sri Lanka to showcase the pervasiveness of LTTE hogwash. Her celebrity status gives perverse significance to M.I.A.’s crusade against Sri Lanka, making her the GOSL’s perfect poster girl to prove its case about the treatment of Tamils and the extent of the rapper’s deception.
By Hassina Leelarathna ~ Sri Lanka Guardian ~