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telling it like I think it is: sunili’s blog

Posts Tagged ‘Sri Lanka

Excuse me, Esquire

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As well as their 75 Books thing, Esquire did a feature on the”The 75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century“.

Now, DAME Magazine pointed out, only 8.5 entries on the list were women, but aside from that lameness, I have a bone to pick with contributor David Chang (or the relevant editor) about a couple of things mentioned in the entry for M.I.A. —

The first and only major artist in world music, 33. Everywhere

Earlier this year, Sri Lankan-British rapper M.I.A. announced she was giving up music for clothing design. Maybe it was the exhaustion talking, but get to know her story and the first thing that becomes apparent is that she’s not one for staying in one place for very long. Here, a country-by-country guide to her transnational life, which directly informs her unclassifiable and revolutionary music.

ENGLAND: Born in London.

SRI LANKA: Her father, Arul, a Tamil revolutionary, cofounded a militant Tamil group. Her debut album is named Arular after him. Album art features images of tanks, bombs, and tigers.

INDIA: Childhood residence, age six to nine. The song “Jimmy” is based on an early-’80s Bollywood disco hit. “Bamboo Banga” samples Indian Tamil film composer Ilaiyaraaja. “Birdflu” features Indian dhol drums.

AUSTRALIA: Recording location for the album Kala. Features a didgeridoo and the Wilcannia Mob, a gang of aboriginal child beat-boxers, in “Mango Pickle Down River.”

LIBERIA:Kala location. “Do you know the cost of AK’s up in Africa / $20 ain’t shit to you but that’s how much they are” (“20 Dollar”).

JAMAICA:Kala location. Dance-hall rhythms, steel drums. “Boyz” video features Kingston “rudies.”

NEW YORK: Resident since 2005. In the video for “Paper Planes,” she sings from inside a New York lunch truck. Modeled for a Marc Jacobs spring/summer 2008 campaign. Announced that she will launch a clothing line.

I agree her work makes her pretty influential. (From what I can gather, the hipsters these days totes heart her.) I have no qualms about most of the things about her in that piece. But that one particular section about her time in Sri Lanka, and, more specifically, her father?

Um.

I could just say it was a Choice of Words FAIL, but, you know, I am not known for brevity, and as much as I may try, I need to say a bit more.

My letter to the Editors of Esquire was as follows:

I write to express some concern about David Chang’s choice of words in his piece on M.I.A. in the “The 75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century” feature.

I question the description of M.I.A’s father as “Tamil revolutionary, [who] cofounded a militant Tamil group”.

That Tamil group is not just a militant group, but has been listed as a banned terrorist organisation  under your country’s Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002.

That group pioneered the use of suicide bombing, has assassinated two heads of state, and has been linked to providing training and funding to Al Queda.

This information bulletin from the FBI provides even more details: http://www.fbi.gov/page2/jan08/tamil_tigers011008.html

M.I.A.’s father, the name sake of both her albums, is not a “revolutionary”, but a terrorist, and a lot of her lyrics have been suggested to support the work of the terrorist organisation he belongs to.

The cover-art for “Arular”, which, as noted in your publication, “features images of tanks, bombs, and tigers” links directly to that terrorist organisation.

I would suggest doing some research so as to make sure you call a spade a spade when writing about these people you describe as “influential”.

Sincerely
Sunili …

There are reports that a suicide bomber from the Tamil Tigers killed 22 people today.

When the FBI describes a group as “needless to say … among the most dangerous and deadly extremists in the world”, there is little room for the terrorist/freedom fighter debate.

By the way. M.I.A. has intrigued me for some time, and I have been planning to do a bit of research (you know, more than googling) to write a proper piece about her for a little while.  So watch this space.

(Pic via her MySpace page. Which makes my eyes bleed. Consider that a pre-click warning.)

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Written by Sunili

6 October 2008 at 7:57 pm

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blogging war

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Sure, this isn’t quite Anne Frank, but it is rather interesting:

Screen cap from Georgia Ministry of Foreign Affairs blog, taken 12 August 2008 12:37pm (GMT +8). Click through for the post.

http://georgiamfa.blogspot.com/ just contains press-releases from the government spokesministry, but it’s still cool that online public platforms like Blogger and gmail are being used by a government involved in an armed conflict.

Quick warning, though, there are pics too; those are rather confronting.

War in the cyberage could, on one hand, result in increased proliferation of propaganda, but blogging also provides another (quicker, direct) way of analysing and commenting on said propaganda.

We looked at the influence of bloggers and “new media” on political developments when I did a unit on Politics & the Media back in 2004 (that study was actually the impetus for me to start blogging).  The US election was the main case study back then, and four years later we can repeat that analysis, but the Georgia/South Ossetia conflict adds a whole new dimension to it.

I should probably dig around in my own Motherland‘s cyber backyard before I say this is groundbreaking (I know there’s a lot of pro Tamil Tigers stuff on the interwebs already), but, hey, it’s more the case of this being so fresh (and they’re white? Oh SNAP!) that it’s hot.

Written by Sunili

12 August 2008 at 1:09 pm

stop the traffick

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Matt and I visited Cambodia early this year. We were there just a week, and we wish we had more time to get to know the people there a bit better. Visiting the ancient temples in Angkor was an amazing experience (hello, Angelina had been there!), but what impacted us the most on that part of our trip was the people there. Or, more accurately, the striking determination of people who were recovering from fresh wounds of the Khmer Rouge period and still dealing with getting their families and their country back on its feet… but still manage to smile and get on with it.

On one of the nights, we had dinner at the home of the guide took us through Phnom Penh’s infamous S 21 prison, which is now converted into the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. His wife cooked us the most amazing meal (plus we tried fried tarantulas), and he told us his family’s story. His parents died in the KR years. More shockingly — he’d been in the work camps himself.

This guy doesn’t have much, but we were amazed by what he gave back to his local community. He taught himself English while driving a tuk-tuk around the city, and now hires a local teacher to teach neighbourhood kids in the space underneath his humble stilt home. Before the meal, we had the chance to practice English conversation and play games with the kids, and it was a highlight of my entire trip.

Laine, a lovely lassie I know though Young Labor (WA), gave up lawyering and moved to Cambodia last year to work for an NGO called Healthcare Centre for Children. Yeah. I know. Inspiring.

The HCC’s current project is called stop.traffick — a campaign which aims to deal with the massive problem of human trafficking in Cambodia with a very proactive yet grass roots approach:

Essentially, the objective of the project is “to tangibly improve the lives of former-slaves in Cambodia by creating sustainable income generating opportunities, contemporaneously raising awareness of the human trafficking endemic globally”.

HCC will do this by empowering and skilling former-slaves to become economically self-sufficient and act as global change-makers advocating against human trafficking and fighting injustice by launching stop.traffick product range.

I did my Arts (Politics) honours on the impact that small income-generating programs can have on the lives of really poor communities in Sri Lanka. Trafficking isn’t as big a problem over there, so I didn’t deal with that aspect of the HCC’s campaign, but I know for sure that this project has lots of potential in terms of economic empowerment.

The high incidence of trafficking in Cambodia does nothing to support its people’s struggle to heal their country’s wounds, and I believe that the HCC’s innovative approach is a fantastic proposal aimed at reducing and preventing the abuse and exploitation that results from the horrible and selfish trade in humanity.

I saw some of the worst aspects of that trade on the streets of Phnom Penh and Siam Reap. Some people may only be trying to earn a living, but small children should not be selling trinkets (or themselves) to tourists — they should be in school. The training programs offered by this project are a valuable means of supporting survivors of trafficking to get their lives back on track in a country that is so heartbreakingly beautiful.

While Laine’s project focuses on the issue of trafficking on a more local scale, there’s a global campaign called STOP THE TRAFFIC that aims to unlock freedom and prevent fellow human beings from being treated as commodities to be bought, sold, and enslaved. There’s a Facebook app which I encourage all of you to join — or sign the declaration online. The STT blog includes news about the campaign, too.

STOP THE TRAFFIK

It would be awesome to see the power of the interwebs make a real impact with this big project, and I hope some of you might even consider joining me in offering Laine whatever assistance we can provide for her’s.

Written by Sunili

17 June 2008 at 2:26 pm

The Editorial That UNDA Banned

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So this is what They didn’t want anyone to read…

Dear All

Welcome to the first issue of Quasimodo for 2007! It’s been several weeks in the making, but we’re really excited to finally have it out. Hurrah! We think the celebrations are warranted because it is so important to have Quasimodo at Notre Dame.

A vibrant student paper is one the hallmarks of a vibrant student community. It promotes a sense of belonging among the students, encourages debate on important issues, lets us put analytical skills we learn in the classroom into practice, allows us to vent about things that upset us and also gives us a laugh despite our increasingly stressful lives.

And, most importantly, it’s not like they can put the Cocktail Party photos in SLO Mail the same way we do!

Over the last few years, Quasi has come a long way. There have been ups, several downs, and more than its fair share of controversy. I hope that this issue signals a turning point in the history of our little magazine. I hope that everyone, from the students and staff to the Administrators of this fine educational establishment, can appreciate, enjoy and be proud of what we’ve put together.

This issue features a lot more uni-focussed material than we’ve had in the recent past. We’ve got stories from inbound and outbound study-abroad students, info on how you can join up to new clubs, an interview with Keith McNaught, who was recently awarded the Student Association’s prestigious Lecturer of the Year award for 2006, updates from our Sports Rep and the Physio Students Society, as well as regular faves such as the discounts directory (which is bigger and better than ever!) dnd a super-sized, bumper social photos spread.

Because we had to miss an issue this semester to due to reasons beyond our control, we’ve got photos from O-Day, Commencement, the fantastic Back to Uni Traffic Light Party and the Annual NDSA Cocktail Party. How fine and dandy, cotton candy!

What cannot be sugar coated, however, are serious social and political issues in the world around us. In addition to an article from a student who suffered horrific injuries in a high-speed car crash, we’ve also introduced what may be a regular ‘world issues’ section. This edition, we have articles from students and Dr Rob Imre from the

School of Arts and Sciences. Let us know what you think about it, if you’d like to see it continue and especially if you’d like to write about something which matters to you.

An article I’d been meaning to write, but which we didn’t have space for due to the extra photos and such, relates to current political happenings in Sri Lanka, the country where I was born. I may still call Australia home, but I ruefully admit that I cheered for the blue and gold in the Cricket World Cup (Gilly, love ya mate, but squash is just not cricket…)!

A couple of years ago, I wrote in these pages about my heartbreak at witnessing the coastal parts of the island nation six months after the tsunami of 2004. A current issue which now worries me is a political aspect of the brutal civil war between the majority Singhalese (of which I was born a part) and the minority Tamil insurgents, who are seeking an independent homeland.

In February of this year, the Sinhalese government arrested a Tamil journalist and the Singhalese publisher of the Sunday Standard and Sinhala-language Mawbima newspapers. They were not charged but remained imprisoned for weeks under anti-terrorist legislation, which allows for lengthy detention without trial.

The papers’ editors and the NGO Committee to Protect Journalists were disturbed that these arrests occurred after the papers published articles which criticised the Sri Lankan government and army for human rights violations. The journalist and publisher were finally released when the Supreme Court declared there was no evidence against the pair.

Subsequently, the Government froze the papers’ bank ccounts, forcing them to suspend publication and effectively silencing their criticisms. Journalists in Sri Lanka have told the Committee to Protect Journalists that coverage of political and defence matters has become increasingly difficult after the anti-terrorist laws were reactivated last year and that self-censorship is now a common occurrence.

As a writer, an editor and a student of politics and law, it is again heartbreaking to see something so fundamental as freedom of speech being violated by those with power and authority in a place which is such an important part of my life.

So there’s just something to ponder as your peruse these pages. Aside from the heavy stuff, which is supposed to get you thinking, I hope you enjoy! Please write to us at quasimodo@nd.edu.au so that next issue we can bring back the much loved “Dear Quasi” pages!

Finally, I would like to thank the Student Association Committee for understanding that this publication is one of the core services the NDSA provides and kudos sspecially El Presidente James and Pubs Rep Cara for all their hard work in helping to keep Quasi alive.

I would also like to express gratitude to previous editorial committees, including Sean Redden, Carita Kazakoff, Rob Corr, Tim Kennedy, Lauren Burwood, Laura Broadbent, Chris Bailey and Patt Vagg, for all their moral support in recent weeks and for bringing Quasi to where it is now. I really hope that Patt’s fears and worries for his baby are sufficiently quelled with this issue and those to come this year.

Cheers and best wishes
Sunili x

Now c’mon Was that really a thinly-veiled attack on the way the Vice Chancellor and his cronies who had tried to stop Quasimodo from critiquing the university administration by witholding funding from the Student Association?

*shrug*

Written by Sunili

17 April 2008 at 10:33 am

Counting Blessings

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I spoke to my Mum in Sri Lanka this morning, and she is safe-safe-safe. Everyone in my family is safe, and there’s just property damage to deal with. I cannot believe our luck…

My Mum and my Aunt from the US had wanted to drive down the South Coast (the worst affected areas) on a pilgrimge to a temple of Hindu god (Kataragama) (in whom Buddhists believe in/pray to too) this weekend, but all the holtels were booked so they went to another Aunt’s house in Awissawella, which is inland. They didn’t actually hear anything ’til after it had all happened.

Yesterday morning they had planned to drive down to visit my Grandma, who lives in Morragulla, Beruwalla–on the West Coast of Sri Lanka. The planned early-morning journey was interrupted when a water main burst in the street near my Aunt’s place and my Uncle had to get in touch with the authorities to sort that out. It was a Sunday and a public holiday (Sri Lanka observes Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian holidays–another excellent reason as to why we should embrace true multiculturalism) so it took ages to organise maintenance… while they were waiting they got call from a relative of a relative asking if they had any news. It was apparently a “what news?” moment. The TV went on and they weren’t going anywhere.

The first wave had come up to my Grandma’s front fence. She spoke to my Mum and said everything was fine, the water’s receded quickly. Silly old lady! The second wave was worse, and her place, which is actually raised about a metre off the ground, was flooded up to her chest. Her neighbours carried her to the second storey of the house across the street. My Uncle who lives nearby (the one with the new bub) owns a restaurant and a small guesthouse which did not get touched.

My second Uncle’s house in the South was destroyed, but the family is safe, and a second cousin was playing cricket on the beach on the East Coast and he got sucked out to sea twice, but he’s a national junior swimmer or something and he is ok.

Again, thank you everyone who called/messaged/got in touch with me, it means so much to know that you guys care, and thank you thank you thank you for your prayers/good karma… if you can, please keep it coming; my family is ok but thousands, maybe millions, more aren’t doing so well.

If anyone is able to, the Red Cross/Red Crescent is taking donations…

P.S: My brother’s in the US at the moment and he and my cousin drove to Canada this weekend… apparently there’s a bitch of a blizzard out there right now. Is this a test, Mother Nature? I promise I will recycle even more…

Written by Sunili

27 December 2004 at 11:04 am

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