MIA Drops the G Word

February 16, 2009

MIA on the Tavis Smiley show
MIA on the Tavis Smiley show

In an interview on the Tavis Smiley show, British born musician MIA likened the Sri Lanka government’s targeting of its Tamil minority to be genocide. She said:

there’s been a systematic genocide which has quiet thing because no one knows where Sri Lanka is. And now it’s just escalated to the point there’s 350,000 people who are stuck in a battle zone and can’t get out, and aid’s banned and humanitarian organizations are banned, journalists are banned from telling the story.

In the interview, MIA said that one of the reasons for the global inaction on Sri Lanka was the underreporting of the crisis in Sri Lanka, something the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon echoed comments as well.

MIA said:

You don’t know more about it because due to the propaganda — when you think Tamil, you automatically thing tiger, and that is completely disproportionate. So human beings around the world have to be taught to go Tamil equals Tamil civilians first, and the Tamil Tiger is a separate thing.

But in a story in the NY Times, published the day after MIA performed at the Grammy’s on her pregnancy due date, the Times raised questions that MIA might be a supporter of the Tamil Tigers. “Frankly, she’s very lucky to get away with supporting, even indirectly, perhaps the most ruthless terrorist outfit in the world,” the Times quoted a Sinhalese musician as saying. (The Sinhalese comprise the majority in Sri Lanka as well as the government; many alledge that Tamils–which comprise a minority of the population–have been targeted unfairly in lopsided violence and attacks.)

However in numerous interviews, MIA has denied her links to Tamil Tigers and decried the manner in which all Sri Lankan Tamils are accused of being Tiger supporters if they are critical of the Sinhalese government.

But despite efforts to accuse her of being a terrorist sympathizer, MIA continues to speak up against the violence that displaced her family and continues to displace so many others right now. She says,

…we’re managing to wipe out the whole Tamil population, the civilians, and that is why you don’t hear about it, because the propaganda in the media, because if you’re a terrorist organization, you don’t have the right to speak, that is passed on to the Tamil civilians. The Tamil civilians don’t have the right to speak or right to live, they don’t have any liberties.

So that’s been the key thing, that when you think al Qaeda, you’re not thinking Afghanistan. That if you want to go and fight and kill al Qaeda, then you can, but you can’t wipe out Afghanistan. And that’s what’s happening in Sri Lanka, and I think it’s really important for America to understand that, because they set the precedent on how you fight terrorism around the world.

And it’s really important that just that sort of throwaway comment, “Oh, Tamil, she must be a Tamil Tiger,” actually, the repercussions of that is killing people back home.