The Sri Lankan Government's War with M.I.A. Continues

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Now that the majority Sinhalese government has nearly finished off a long-running civil war, confining the Tamil Tiger opposition to an ever shrinking parcel of land rife with a citizen population who've been dying in huge, indiscriminate numbers alongside militarized Tiger forces, Sri Lanka's government is turning its attention back to its newest antagonist: M.I.A.

In February, the country's Foreign Secretary, Dr. Palitha Kohona, appeared on the Tavis Smiley show to remind M.I.A. to "stay with what she's good at, which is music, not politics"--a rejoinder to M.I.A.'s earlier claim that his government was perpetrated genocide against the country's ethnic Tail minority, also made on Smiley's show. Now, as the Human Rights Watch reports ongoing and widespread shelling of civilians, and as the group continues to call on both the government and the Tiger faction to allow innocents to escape from what is essentially a war zone, the government has seemingly promised to prevent any outside aid--including a specific ship M.I.A. is apparently sponsoring--from reaching the Vanni.

According to a report on The Quietus:

    M.I.A. has had the dubious honour of appearing on the website of the Sri Lanka Army after controversially backing a campaign to send aid into citizens trapped in the Wanni warzone.

    The campaign, launched in Britain last week, aims to send a boat loaded with food and medical supplies on a 'Mercy Mission' to those innocently caught up in fighting between the Sri Lanka Government and militant group the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

    However, the Sri Lanka Navy says it has been alerted by authorities of a boat - due to sail from Britain under the guise of civilian aid - whose cargo of over 2000 metric tonnes of food is actually destined for the LTTE.

    The Navy say they will open fire on any unauthorised vessel to enter Sri Lankan waters.

    M.I.A., real name Mathangi Arulpragasam, has urged the government to let the ship through.

The so-called "Mercy Mission to Vanni" began as a British fundraiser, the money from which was then spent putting together food and supplies destined for Sri Lanka. M.I.A. didn't even attend, but she did publicly back the effort, writing:

    "I just had a baby last month, that's why I can't be there today, but I want to give my support and thanks to the launch of the chartered humanitarian ship Mercy Mission launching March 31, 2009.

    I made it out in the late 80's 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 democratic world take for granted.

    A baby born in the Vanni Region today is getting no access to hospitals (they bombed the last one and it's run out of supplies.) There is limited food because the government banned the aid agencies and there is no education because the trapped civilians only have one option and that is to make it to the government-run internment camps where they only enforce the language and ideas of the government. The Tamils have less rights than the animals in Sri Lanka.

To which the government in Sri Lanka has now responded that they'll fire on any ship that enters their waters, M.I.A. co-sign or no. The official government position is that they believe the ship is meant as succor for the LTTE fighters in the region, a position that M.I.A. does, to be fair, only bolster by eliding the current difference in the country between Tamil civilians and LTTE. Plus she seems to blame the government for keeping civilians trapped, when in fact it seems like there is a lot of confusion as to whether either side is at all interested in letting anyone out of that area, combatant or otherwise. And the news stories seem to be alleging that the Sri Lankan government called out M.I.A. by name, which does not in fact seem to have happened, though M.I.A. has directly addressed the SL government.

Either way, one hopes the New York Times, say, might actually write a story about this, clearing up the counter-allegations and perhaps using some of its vaunted access to inquire as to why the government won't let aid through. Instead of taking another set of chintzy, ad-hominem allegations and basically out-and-out calling the human rights-inclined pop artist a terrorist. [h/t Daily Swarm]

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