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Opinion: From M.I.A. to George Galloway – How the West Encourages Silence

April 5, 2009

by Gogol G.

Am I afraid to talk about Sri Lanka in public, to reveal my thoughts?  To brave the logical dichotomy of “you’re with us, or against us”?

Yes.

Do I feel afraid to speak out if I my perspective is more nuanced than strident Tiger-bashing?

Yes.

Cannot I defend the rights of Tamils who are living and dying as we speak, in the Tamil-speaking Northeast, and give a nuanced explanation that includes the fact that the LTTE exists and is very much a part of the equation?

No.

Why?

Let’s take a look…

Many of us accept the label “terrorism” as an appellation of something bad.  As for me, I see it as an appellation only, hollow in meaning, but the effects of the label are profound.

While in Sri Lanka, as the Sri Lankan government (GOSL) attempts to crush the LTTE, it also tries to isolate them by singing the refrain, “Tamils do not support the LTTE”.  This is far from the truth.

Meanwhile, in the Diaspora, people, who are also supportive of the government (or at least severely anti-Tiger), are saying that 99% of Tamils support the LTTE; this “fact” is exaggerated and absurd.  How do we resolve the contradiction in propaganda that, simultaneously, all Tamils are against the LTTE and all Tamils are actually with the LTTE?

In particular, why do government supporters say that the Diaspora are all diehard LTTE supporters?  For one, it forces us to repudiate the LTTE or face the consequences.  Any humanitarian concerns  — including those of our relatives — can be dismissed as echoing what the terrorists also say.   Therefore, it’s terrorist propaganda! (Note: In such cases, the  GOSL disowns Tamils as Sri Lankans.)  At a time when the GOSL is running 27% inflation for the past 3 years and on the verge of bankruptcy, the government wants to prevent the Diaspora from financing the LTTE in hard foreign currencies.  Never mind media statements like “99.9% of Tamils” support the LTTE — such cash flows are simultaneously deemed coerced terrorist extortion.  The GOSL, it seems, breathes contradiction.

Now, given all this, why can’t I speak out?  Well, I’m a nobody.  Let’s take a look at what happened when more prominent people than me tried:

M.I.A. Denied a Visa to the U.S. (2005)

http://www.nme.com/news/mia/23110
http://www.asiansinmedia.org/news/article.php/music/1321

From Asians in Media magazine, 15 May 2006:

Rapper MIA denied entry into USA
15th May, 2006

London rapper M.I.A. has been denied a visa to visit or work in the USA by immigration officials, AIM magazine has learnt.

Sources close to the British Sri-Lankan MC said that her lawyers are frantically trying to resolve the situation. No one from her record company had returned messages to comment at the time of publication.

But she has confirmed the situation on her Myspace website with a blog entry posted on 7th April titled: ‘They Try Shut My Door!’.

It states: “Roger roger do you here me over!!!! the U.S immigration wont let me in!!!!! i was mennu work with timber startin this week, but now im doin a Akon “im locked out they wont let me in” im locked out! they wont let me in! Now Im strictly making my album outside the borders!!!!

“so il see you all one day, for now ill keep reportin from the sidelines. to my people who walk wiv me in the America, dont forget we got the internet! Spread the word! or come get me!!!!!! ill be in my bird flu lab in china! liming and drinkin tiger beer with my pet turtel.

“I love everyone for the support, now i need it more. ill stay up spread out else where.”

It is unclear exactly why the artist, real name Maya Arulpragasam, who rose to stardom with her debut album Arular, is being denied entry into America. Sources close to the rapper told AIM it may have something to do with her lyrics.

She attracted controversy with her song lyrics, particularly of Sunshowers, because it allegedly expresses vague support for the terrorist organisation LTTE, which is banned in the USA. MTV USA refused to play the video without a disclaimer against the lyrics.

She has said in previous interviews that her father was involved in Sri Lankan politics.

Maya came to the UK aged 11 when her family fled war-torn Sri Lanka, later gaining a place at the prestigious Central St Martin’s College of Art and Design in London. She became involved in the music scene while doing CD front covers.

Despite her strong London links, she has become so popular in the United States that last year Interscope Records signed her up. She even featured on Missy Elliot’s album and other Hip-hop artists including Kanye West were said to be queuing up to work with her.

She is hoping to get back to the USA as soon as US immigration will allow for a collaboration with producer Timbaland on her next album.

Mano Ganesan, Sri Lankan Tamil MP (Aug. – Nov. 2008)

Mano Ganesan is a Tamil MP in Sri Lanka, and the leader of the Western People’s front political party.  Along with Tamil MP Raviraj, who was assassinated in Nov. 2006, Mano Ganesan co-founded the Civil Monitoring Commission, a human rights organization.  The Civil Monitoring Commisison does work like inquiring about the whereabouts of “disappeared” Tamil civilians who often never reappear.  He received an award for this work from the US government in Nov. 2007.

However, the Sri Lankan government tried to prevent and harass Ganesan when he visited Canada in Nov. 2008.  Somehow, the report on this, blasting Mano Ganesan as a Tiger agent, found its way onto the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence website.  Ganesan blamed the Sri Lankan Consul-General for Toronto for the attempt.  Prior to this episode, Ganesan was scheduled to speak in Canada on September 14, 2008 at an event co-sponsored by several church groups and equity groups.  Mano Ganesan and Dr. Vickramabahu Karunarathne, leader of the NSSP party, were the top-listed speakers for the event, which was announced weeks in advance.  A revised speakers list was sent out the day before (Sept. 13) that did not include either speaker, and it is at least known that Ganesan did not attend because the Canadian authorities did not allow him into Canada at that time.

Brian Senawiratne (cousin of former Pres. Kumaratunga) (Mar. 27, 2009)

Brian Senawiratne is a doctor in Australia.  He is an articulate, colorful man who speaks out about the injustices facing Tamils in Sri Lanka.  But, as he says, his adamant insistence on justice was a trait of his at an early age.  He first began to question the injustice meted out to Tamils at the age of 14.  He is the 1st-cousin of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, former president of SL (1994-2005).  Kumaratunga is the daughter of SWRD Bandaranaike (SL Prime Minister, 1956-1959) and Sirimavo Bandaranaike (SL Prime Minister 1960-1965, 1970-1977) — which means they are Senawiratne’s uncle and aunt.  Brian Senawiratne, although Sinhalese, calls what is happening to the Tamil people in Sri Lanka as a slow, subtle, sophisticated genocide .

Senawiratne recently spoke in Canada, in Toronto and at the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa.  In the email below, he describes the attempts of the Sri Lankan Consul-General for Toronto to prevent Senawiratne from speaking at his well-publicized events.  The Consul-General, a journalist by training, is known to have carried his emotive opinions and style of speech from his days as editor of nationalist newspapers with him to his posting in Canada, as exemplified by his editorial of support for China’s human rights record at the time of the Beijing Olympics (“Well done, China”, National Post, 7 August 2008).  Senawiratne also describes the deportation he faced in Malaysia when going to deliver the same talks in Malaysia and Singapore.

This email is dated Sun, 29 Mar 2009 17:08:28 +1000.

Please see an email to a friend in the UK whose daughters wedding I was to attend but cannot

You can circulate this info anywhere

“Yes you can circulate this to anyone, and I’d appreciate it if you do and do widely I was invited to attend an contribute to a VERY  important meeting in France in 10 days time. I accepted the invitation but have just had to review this and have decided to cancel my trip At a personal level, it is with deep saddnes that I will not be able to attend your daughters great day (which I had intended to, and thank God that I had not paid for the ticket which I was about to do just before I left for Canada, but could not for lack of time and thank God for that) Kamalini will represent me If you are circulating what I sent, I should tell you why I went to Canada. An international group “Canadians for Genocide Education” which is an umbrella orgaisationwith some 46 Member Associatins annually picks ONE country of greatest concern re Genocide. The country picked in 2008 was Sri Lanka, and I was picked as the “Distinguished Speaker” and given an award (which I will photograph and send you when I have fully woken up. The plaque reads


“Canadians for Genocide Education EDUCATORS AWARD

2009

Presented on March 25, 2009 to:

Dr Brian Senewiratne

In recognition of his dedication to inclusivity and equity in genocide education”


I was invited to come to Canada and receive the award My presentation was titled Peace with Justice in Sri Lanka Genocide of Sri Lankan Tamils. Its Causes & Solution .

It was held in the University of Toronto before a distinguishe audience of academics, polcy makers etc The hall was packed to capapcity The flyer describing me was way over the top (as it usually is). Ill copy it and send it. Part of it might be on the net at


http://www.uofttix.ca/view.php?id=459

Contact James Kafieh

Executive Secretary

JK_CGE@hotmail.com


The SL Govt coote Bandula Jayasekere, or to use his official title, His Excellency The Hon Bandula etc tried their best to block this but failed. Then they got their stooges eg Asoka Weerasinghe (patriot) to write scrullilous articles, o publishe in the Mirror ?in Sri Lanka, to the Cnadian Foreign Minister asking whether he had taken leave of his senses to allow me into the country.

Unable to block my entry, the next was harassment at Toronto airport ( a 4 hour search of everything, including downloading of every document including my letters to patients and going thru every scrap of paper (hundreds of pageds of hand written notes, articles etc, and photocopying them all) It took about 4 hours and I was kept standing (that was ater a 23 hour flight economy class which at 78 years is no small problem)

What riled the SL govt even more is action by a bunch (of goats) who are exploring putting my name up for a Nobel Prize for Peace. That is of course a nonsense project but with a 1 in a million chance, if it materializes, that would be a major blow for Sri Lanka. My very close association with Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu (I think I sent the photo with his arm round my shoulde) added to the concerns of the GoSL

What also of concern was that at the end of my Oration, the whole jolly audience of some 350, roseto their feet (Ill send the recordeing if/when I get it. This was recorded and sent to the Sri Lankan Ambassador and t the Govt in Colombo. Their blood pressures went trhu the ceiling

I was scheduled to deliver the same award winning address in Malaysia (KL and Penang) and in Singapore, some 48 hours after it was delivered in Toronto.

Urgent action was needed. Someone ?Foreign Minister Bogollagama contacted the FM of Malaysia, who contacted the Minister of Home Affairs who contacted the CID who contacted Immigration asking them to prevent me entering the country stating I was a “Security risk”!!!!!

I said that if a 78 year old senile man was security risk for Malaysia, they should urgently review theirt Security set-up I smiled and asked that arrangements be made for me to get to Singapore. They said “tour ticket os from Penang. Toy cannot get to Penang because you cannot enter Malaysia, so you will have to buy yourself a ticket (which I did). I was then escorted to the plane by 6 police officers and an Immigration fellow.

While waiting for the flight (for 3 hours) I gave the bunch a lengthy talk on HmanRights abuse in Sri Lanka”!!!

At the end, when the flight was called, I went round to shake each one’s hand. One of them, a policeman, grabbed my hand and would not let it go. Sruggling to suppress tears which were welling up, he said “Doctor, all of us are deeply concerned at what we have been asked to do. Please don’t hold it against us or Malaysia.”

I gave him a big hug and said “Of course I will not”

Not prepared to run the risk of a repeat performance in Singapore (where I knew Bogollagam was – having got there to persuade Malaysian Tamils to come to Sri Lanka to invest there!!), I decided to cancel the Singapore meeting and returned to Australia, where the harassment continued at Immigratin here in my native Brisbane airport.

This will be rsed in the Australian Parliament.

Regards and thanks for you effort which is much appreciated
Brian

George Galloway, British MP, Mar. 30, 2009

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/610885
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090330.wgalloway31/BNStory/politics/home

From The Globe and Mail, Mar 30, 2009

British MP says effort to bar him from Canada ‘backfired’
JOSH WINGROVE AND CAMPBELL CLARK

Globe and Mail Update

March 30, 2009 at 11:43 PM EDT

“Do you know what, Mr. Kenney? I think it’s spectacularly backfired. And here’s why: It’s just not credible to call a five-times elected, 23-year Member of British Parliament a terrorist or a security threat.”

Mr. Galloway was told earlier this month the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) wouldn’t allow him into Canada because of his role in leading a recent aid mission to Gaza. Canadian officials considered it aid to the political party Hamas, which Canada classifies as a terrorist group.

Mr. Galloway had previously visited Canada without incident, and his recent ban prompted an outcry. Mr. Kenney, the immigration minister, refused to overturn the border service’s ruling, but nevertheless spoke out against Mr. Galloway’s “support for an illegal terrorist organization” and became soon afterward the target of anti-war speech organizers who had hoped for Mr. Galloway to speak.

Mr. Kenney’s critics, including those anti-war organizers and Canadian opposition MPs, said yesterday the move backfired and served only to spread Mr. Galloway’s message.

Afterword: George Galloway went to the US and had no problems speaking freely there.  From the US, he spoke on March 31 to a national Canadian audience during primetime on a popular Canadian evening TV talk show.

Do you hear my silence?

Many in my predicament want to speak up.

Many Tamils from SL have undergone war, systemic institutional racism, prejudice, fear, hate.  But in the West, they must obey; they must keep silent if they want to have a chance at immigrating and preventing a return to the hellhole they came from.  And even if they are citizens, with the protection of their right to free speech, are they really able to exercise that right?

Who are we kidding here?  My voice is silenced.  I allow myself to be silenced without resistance.  I am no match for the state’s monopoly on violence (police & other agencies), or its ability to enforce its monopoly of adjudication (survey, investigate, arrest, detain), with its legal/executive systems issuing orders to uphold spurious designations and labels (arbitrary terror laws).

I am a coward.

Daily, approximately 100 Tamil civilians are being shelled and killed in a government-declared ‘no-fire zone’ by the very government that claims them as its citizens.

And I am scared to say something. To try to break the silence about this in the place where I live.

And if you don’t recognize the loss of your liberties as something bigger than not being able to talk about “bad things” not meant for polite conversation anyways, if you don’t recognize the loss of your liberties as something more than just the price to pay for people like me to be silenced, then you don’t see where this is headed.  Or maybe you’re a coward, too.  But no one ever said that a few cowards together couldn’t make a difference.

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