January 2nd, 2009
09:48 AM ET

Lady Tamil Tiger gives pop culture a bang

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/01/02/srilanka.war/pres.jpg caption="Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa has called on the Tamil Tigers to stop fighting."]

Editor's Note: After the article" Lady Tamil Tiger gives pop culture a bang," was linked on this site, the artist M.I.A chose to write a rebuttal. Here are her comments:

The article “Lady Tamil Tiger gives pop culture a bang,” originally published in The Charleston Mercury News, and linked to on the AC360 blog makes incorrect and misleading statements about me.

To set the record straight, I would like to clarify a few points. First, “Paper Planes” is a song about immigration. In fact, the song has been universally acknowledged by music critics to be about immigration. Any suggestion otherwise is false. Read these articles in the Seattle Times and Entertainment Weekly to learn more:

'First a top hit, now Grammy nod: M.I.A. firmly pop'

'M.I.A., 'Paper Planes,' and coasting to fame on 'Pineapple Express"

Second, I have said on numerous occasions that I do not support terrorist organizations, including the Tamil Tigers.
'M.I.A. Responds to Pro-Terrorism Accusations'

Third, my father had no influence on my political beliefs and to imply otherwise is wrong and irresponsible. In a 2005 interview with the Guardian newspaper I explain how I was raised as though my father was “dead” and that he had no influence of my development.

Fourth, my father was never a member of the Tamil Tigers. Rather, he retired from politics in the 1990’s after he was unable to broker a peace agreement between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers. He currently heads the Britain based Global Sustainability Initiative that addresses issues of globalization.



Will Cathcart
The Charleston Mercury

At present, Israel’s reattempt to “86” Hamas has not been at a loss for coverage. Before that all, eyes were on Pakistan - in the wake of Mumbai. Yet not 20 miles off the tip of southern India, a situation is unfolding in Sri Lanka that will have international repercussions of its own. Sri Lankan government forces are about to wipe out the Tamil Tigers — the guys and gals who invented the suicide vest or “shaheed belt.”

Lady Tiger Thenmuli Rajaratnam first tried it out on Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Ghandi in 1991. Bowing down, she touched his feet and ignited 700gs of Cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine. 16 lives were taken with his. It wasn’t long before the Palestinians caught on.

Since 1983, Sri Lanka’s civil war has pit the ethnic Sinhalese majority against the Tamil minority. Government-sanctioned discriminatory policies towards the Tamil people, who are often treated as second-class citizens, drove certain groups, namely the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (a.k.a. the LTTE or the Tamil Tigers), to seek to establish a separate state in the north of the island. Initially a freedom-fighting movement — LTTE, under the guidance of their leader Velupillai Prabhakaran — has become a terrorist organization that recruits suicide bombers (including more than 200 females) and child soldiers.

Today the LTTE no longer represent the Tamil people they seek to liberate. Many are forced to remain in conflict zones and fight. More than 30 countries, including India, the U.S., the UK and the EU consider the LTTE a terrorist organization — though both sides have committed atrocities. Norwegians, who have an odd history of involvement in the island, brokered a cease-fire in 2002. The war reignited last year. Skewed numbers are provided from both sides, as journalists are not permitted near the conflict zones. Yet by all accounts the government is close to an outright victory.

The Top 40 Tamil Tiger

Ancient Arabs and Persians first called Sri Lanka “Serendib,” from which the word “serendipity” is derived. Today there is nothing serendipitous about the island’s current state, and the irony abounds:

You have India, namely Tamil Nadu, which trained numerous Tamil militant groups and for years feed the LTTE oxygen, now putting pressure on the Sri Lankan government to end the conflict, as a result of the Mumbai attacks. Any day now Kilinochchi, the Tigers’ administrative headquarters, will fall to government forces.

As the shelling continues from three directions and the belts explode, the lyrics of Sri Lankan pop star M.I.A. currently ring from radio stations all across the U.S.:

If you catch me at the border I got visas in my name
If you come around here, I make 'em all day

All I wanna do is (BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG!)
And take your money

Third world democracy
Yeah, I got more records than the K.G.B.

Some, some, some I some I murder
Some I some I let go

This song, “Paper Planes,” reached number four on the U.S. pop charts. Last month her album Kala was nominated for record of the year. M.I.A. or Missing In Action’s real name is Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam. She is the daughter of Tamil revolutionary guerrilla Arul Pragasam, code name “Arular.”

Pragasam founded The Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students (EROS), a militant Tamil liberation group that was eventually absorbed by the LTTE. He graduated from the Peoples' Friendship University of Russia in Moscow and spent three months training in Lebanon with Palestinian militants from the Fatah wing of the PLO. Pragasam is a close friend of LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran. His daughter’s videos portray pictures of war, explosions and tigers. Her song, “Sunshowers,” is banned from MTV because of the following lyrics:

You wanna go?
You wanna win a war?
Like PLO don't surrendo

Semi-9 and snipered him
On that wall they posted him
They cornered him
and then just murdered him

They showed him a picture then
Ain’t that you with the Muslims?

To some, M.I.A. is a peaceful revolutionary artist who has shed light on a desperate situation in Sri Lanka. To others she is a LTTE propagandist rousting international support for a terrorist organization.

The Hazard of Victory

The problem is that a complete government victory and the elimination of the LTTE military institution without any concession to the Tamil people will not constitute peace. It may very well globalize the terrorism of the Tamil Tigers, creating a rogue organization dispersed throughout India, Pakistan and Southeast Asia. If displaced, their national fight for territory may well become an international campaign for identity, and they won’t be at a loss for friends. The LTTE wrote the book for groups like the PLO and Al Qaeda. At present they have an army, a navy called the Sea Tigers, an Air Force called the Air Tigers and an elite, highly trained suicide unit known as the Black Tigers.

Once “defeated,” a feral and extremely advanced LTTE will find refuge with other groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba group, blamed by India for the Mumbai attacks, the same way that Columbian cartels have begun to work with Al-Qaeda and the like. Ties between Venezuela and Iran, for instance, will allow these groups to operate on channels already established by organized crime.

The fundamental problem with fighting a group like the LTTE is that those willing to fight to the death are pitted against those willing to fight with death. Innocent life has been added to the arsenals. The threat is not a technological; it’s conceptual. When two nuclear warheads are aimed at one another, the simplest solution is not to pull the trigger. But two suicide vests do not create a mutual deterrent or cancel the other’s strategic effect. Innocent life is no longer collateral damage but the target. Military action will not be enough to rid Sri Lanka of its war without sending the fight someplace else. Victory will necessitate a combination of competence and accountability as well as force.


Filed under: Global 360°
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. L Griffiths Victoria, Australia

    I never knew what her song Paper planes was about, I thought she was singing about selling drugs.

    Isn't it ironic the drama about euthinasia and the right for terminally ill people to die on their own terms, then suicide bombers where a lonely death is not enough to get to heaven. Maybe these 2 groups should get together, both making their own statements and allowing those that want to live to do so.

    January 2, 2009 at 9:53 pm |
  2. Maria

    Interesting article, I think when conflict is associated with identity, sadly, human will conduct any terrorist act on the name of liberty and the conflict will widen and intensify. Conflicts should not be ignored and should be solved from the root.

    January 2, 2009 at 3:20 pm |