the wounds of the tear-drop nation [Sri Lanka]

I have never known a world without Sri Lanka tearing itself apart in civil war.  I was born in Colombo in 1984 to a Sinhalese family, but I was raised on values that sought nothing but peace between the warring parties.

My father often tells me the story of how he went to the house of his Tamil friend to to collect toys they had to leave behind when they fled (they eventually settled in Canada, and I visited them when I was on exchange in Toronto).   My younger brother’s BFF is a Tamil Sri Lankan he met at his Perth kindergarten after we migrated here (we call the two of them Romeo and Juliet).  The little girl I sponsor through World Vision is Tamil, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I know that the actions of the Sri Lankan government has never been perfect (I personally believe they were behind the killing of newspaper editor Lasantha Wickramatunga earlier this year), but the news that the Tamil Tigers, the terrorist organisation said to have pioneered the tactic of suicide bombing and had for months kept thousands of the people it claims to be fighting for trapped has human shields, have been defeated by the Sri Lankan military is heartening.

However, some of the events surrounding the escalation and (I hope) end of this war leave me more worried for the future.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on the end of the war.  Given the decades of conflict, this is understandable. There has been so much pain; so much loss.  The alleged sectarian violence in Sydney over the weekend is a strong warning that tensions left behind by this decades-old conflict are still hot.

But a lot of the opinions are not helping.

Of particular noteworthiness are the condescending (and hypocritical) opinions from the spokespeople of developed countries who, even a few months ago, acted as if they didn’t know Sri Lanka existed.

The civil war has raged for three decades. The estimates of the casualties are unfathomable to me. But aside from Norway in the early Naughties, most countries have barely batted an eyelid over the (then) ongoing conflict.

Then when things got more newsworthy over the last few months, every next post-colonial hack semed to have something to say.

ABC News reported that British Foreign Minister David Milliband wants greater scrutiny placed on Sri Lanka’s military and its conduct of the war:

“The position of the UK is always that serious and credible reports of war crimes should be investigated,” he said. “Serious and credible allegations have been made against both sides, and they should indeed by investigated.”

And so they should be. But will “serious and credible reports of war crimes” made against the Coalition of the Willing in the War On Terror/Iraq be investigated?

In short: Un-effing-likely.

I’m not saying that this is a Little Red Hen situation — that no one’s bothered to help before, so shut up and put up.  But misinformed drivel that merely repeats age-old and debunked propaganda does nothing more than inflame the ignorance and hurt that has kept this conflict burning for longer than I have been alive.

There is a lot to be done from this point onwards to heal the wounds this conflict has caused Sri Lanka.   But I know there’s so much partisan hurt among so many (particularly diaspora) that I worry the hate won’t go away as quickly as the end of the war came.

But for now, I suppose, I guess I should be happy the war is over.

And so this is Xmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
And so happy Xmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let’s stop all the fight
— John Lennon

A film review in sepia vision [Slumdog Millionaire]

As an immigrant from the Subcontinent (I was born in Sri Lanka but am now an Australian citizen), I think a little part of me has always wished I was Indian rather than Sri Lankan.  The former always seemed so much more glamorous and full of culture.  Eight of my Top-10 books are Indian (or India-centric) and Bollywood movies have always captured my heart.

Then when Bend It Like Beckham, Monsoon Wedding and The Namesake brought The Subcontinent and the migrant experience into the mainstream, I was more than excited.

While lots of the little girls I grew up with could (if they wanted) dream of being a movie star, I never grew up with pretty, brown girls to idolise or could put posters of cute, chocolate boys on Dolly posters up in my room (I had Mulder and Scully; my white boyfriend is probably grateful of this).

But, since those all the aforementioned developments in Hollywood, I know that my children can (if they want to) dream of playing doctors on ER or House, and that’s very comforting.

And now, with Slumdog Millionaire getting Best Picture at the Golden Globes and being up for a bunch of Academy Awards in a couple of weeks, my little brown babies might even be able to dream about getting all dressed up and going to the Oscars(™)!! YAY!!

Because if Obama’s election win means just one thing, it’s that stereotype breakers don’t just break stereotypes — they smash them for all who will come hereafter!  Or maybe not.

Anyway. I very much hope that film wins lots of Oscars, too.  I saw it just after Christmas and I LOVED IT.  It is exciting, poignant, funny, and has a love story in it even though some scenes will break your heart and make your stomach turn — can I call it a tragic romantic action-thriller comedy?

Aside from it being a great movie, I was really impressed by the way it brought the dark side of India (the child slave/sex/beggar trade, poverty and development, race and religious violence, gender relations, corruption and human rights, etc) out into the bright lights of Hollywood.

But reading some of the post-Globes write ups, I could not agree more with this post from Cinemablend.com:

It’s one of the year’s best reviewed films and the reviewers who have praised it justify their love of the film by calling it “upbeat and colorful“, “inspiring“, “a feel good” movie, a “delightful spectacle“, “a rousing celebration of life, love, and hope“, a “fairytale“, and my favorite “joyous“. That’s just a tiny sampling of the intense hyperbole being thrown at the film. You’d think this was Hoosiers with saris. But I’d like to throw another word into the mix. Here it is: Exploitation. …

The movie being described by these critics is not the film that I saw several weeks ago in a darkened movie theater. Instead what I saw was a cynical collection of third-world clichés sold with pretty colors and an uplifting soundtrack.

Almost the exact same adjectives can be found in the Daily Telegraph‘s review.

It seems to me that, just as the mainstream culture-munchers simply Do. Not. Get. the ironic package that is M.I.A., the daughter-of-a-terrorist rapper who was recently listed on Esquire magazine’s “most influential” list, the serious issues at the core of Slumdog have been completely overlooked by the goras seeing this movie through rose-coloured glasses.

Yes, there are bright colours and upbeat music (by the by, I picked up on at least 2 M.I.A. tracks), but, you guys, this movie is dark.  This movie presents a horrible underbelly of India (I cannot say how accurate it really is; that is just the representation I saw).  This movie is not a Disney animation (circa 1930-1990?), as the reviews might suggest.

Regardless of whether the book, or its source, Vikas Swarup’s Q & A, was supposed to be a lighthearted-romp through Mumbai’s slums, I wonder whether any such project is possible without looking at the world from which the text emerged.

And while aspects of the film may be “third-world clichés”, I would be inclined to believe most of it is fair in the sense it’s a fictional, dramatized depiction of what really happens in the so-called “developing-world”.  I can’t claim to be an expert, but I’ve seen some horrible stuff during my trips back to “the motherland”.  You don’t just make this stuff up.

And from those who do live in India, the response is the same: less-than-impressed. While the film is yet to be released there, Mondy Thapar of the Hindustan Times has one question before India’s elite become angered over the depiction of “stereotypes” in the film:

Is someone making a mountain out of a molehill about poverty in this country? … The question is a fair one, except for the fact that slums and poor people for a fictional depiction aren’t concocted out of thin air.

Thapar’s other question is whether Slumdog is just another example of “the West’s voyeuristic obsession with joy amid poverty, vitality among the super-poor”?

If all this critical and commerical success opens “The West’s” mind to the realities of Slumdog‘s world and propels a call to action, that would be one thing.  But from the looks of it, movie-goers and reviewers are happy to leave sorting out that mess to some kind fairy godmother and her magic wand.

Another one about Sri Lanka: civil war, or genocide? [war]

So Sri Lanka’s been in this big civil war for longer than I’ve been alive.  It’s such a lovely place, but it’s been tormented for so long.

My mum’s gone to Sri Lanka for a my cousin’s wedding.  The last time she was there, there was an air raid on the air force base next to the airport.  My mother was actually on board a plane that was taxiing on the runway at the time.  The time before that, there was that tsunami thing.  Right now, the fighting between government forces and the Tamil Tiger rebels has escalated to some of the worst combat I can remember.

Wow, she gets all the fun stuff, huh?

I was surprised hear that SL was the top breaking news story on news.com.au last night (although it was to do with a Australian UN worker who’s trapped in the war-zone, so I guess it’s not that surprising), because for so long the conflict there has been overshadowed by various other goings-on around the world.  There was an article about that trend on New Matilda late last year.

The UN and Red Cross have claimed that over 250,000 civilians are trapped in the conflict zone in the north and east of the island, but Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has told the BBC that those international organisations have got that wrong:

“I’m not saying they are lying but they are exaggerating,” he said.

He also ruled out any ceasefire for humanitarian reasons, saying it would give the Tigers a chance to reorganise.

“The purpose of this offensive is to eradicate them,” he said.

Hrm.  That seems kind mean, doesn’t it?

Well if it does, then this should make you worry:  Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (who is the brother of Mahinda, Sri Lanka’s president; assassinated newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunge claimed the president and the government are responsible for his death) is a US citizen who might be getting indicted for genocide and war crimes in the next couple of weeks.

Yeah. Now that’s Dodgy (with a capital D!).

In news via Twitter, constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein has been preparing a 1,000-page model indictment against G Rajapaksa and army commander Sarath Fonseka for allegedly violating Section 1091 of the United States Criminal Code:

The model indictment is scheduled for publication within two weeks and will be presented to the US Congress, the Department of Justice and the State Department.

The lawyer represents Tamils Against Genocide, a non-profit organization based in the United States, whose mission is to obtain US or international indictments against the two US citizens or green card holders currently serving in the government of Sri Lanka for alleged complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes, including torture and extrajudicial killings, against Sri Lanka’s civilian Tamil population.

Now, Fein is clearly not just some schmuck.  He graduated from Harvard Law School with honours, clerked for a federal judge,  had a bunch of high profile government-law positions and has written for Slate about impeaching Cheney.  I think I like this guy.

The allegations about extrajudicial killings are nothing out of the blue for me.  I’ve heard a bunch of stories about people getting taken away in “white vans” and never returning (and this has happened to both Singhalese and Tamil people) and then there’s the whole war-on-journalism thing.  And Booker Prize-winning author Michael Ondaatje’s 2001 book Anil’s Ghost is the story of an ex-pat Sri Lankan forensic anthropologist who had been sent by an international human rights group to discover the source of the organised campaigns of murder on the island.  Things over there are seriously messed up.

But what is out of the blue, at least for me, is this allegation from an article about Fein’s indictment (from a site called TamilSydney via TamilNet, so I know it needs to be taken with a grain of salt):

Mr. Fein said that Sri Lanka was a unique nation whose history reveals an ongoing cultural genocide, adding, “the myths of the Mahavamsa say that Sri Lanka belongs to no one but the Sinhalese, and the text celebrates kings for slaughtering Tamils. Secondly, the teachings of Dharmapala, celebrate the purity of the Aryan race and establish the idea of racial supremacy. Because Dharmapala is as sacred to the Sinhalese as Jesus to the Christians, the Sinhalese believe and act with the notion of racial supremacy. This legacy is being continued by Sinhalese Buddhist monks and this legacy is used by Buddhists in classrooms in the South, as an instruction in genocide.”

Um, is this true, you guys? Because if it is, I am jumping on a plane right now to go an smack some people in the head.  What atrocious horrendousness, people? Atrocious. Horrendousness.

I am a Singalese Buddhist but my brother’s BFF is Tamil (how Romeo & Juliet) and, dude, I am not racist or biased just because of the family I was born into.  I want all people to be happy and get along and stuff.  The whole thing has upset me for some time. because it never seems like ending and the people in charge (of both sides) have been arrogant douche-bags (or, if they’ve been alright, have been shot or blown up).

So here’s my stance on this thing: I hate the Tamil Tigers, right — they’re terrorists, they pioneered suicide bombers, they make women and children fight.  But gods-damn, I hate bigotry of any description and war and violence at that, so if those government bastards did get involved in war crimes, I want them to rot. Slowly and painfully.

I don’t know if there’s a solution that doesn’t involve getting all of those bastards in jail first, and then getting decent people to take over and settle this.  But something more has to be done… just don’t know if, during all these economic troubles and Middle East mess and  climate change crises etc etc, if the world has the capacity to deal with this, too.

By the way, a group of Tamil students have started a hunger strike in Sydney’s St Martins Place in an attempt to get the Australian government to take action and they’ve posted YouTube vids of civilian casualties on their blog: http://fastuntoaction.wordpress.com/ (warning: there’s heartwrenching music and horrific images).

Update: The ABC has a news story on the footage, and in good journalistic form, it’s pointed out that the videos haven’t been verified and no one is sure when and where this was taped.

The one about an assassinated editor from Sri Lanka [war on journalism]

Oh no. Oh no, on no, oh no.

There was an article on New Matilda a little while ago about the forgotten war in Sri Lanka that gets missed by the mainstream media.

And it took a story on boingboing.net for me to find out about the murder of a Sri Lankan journalist last week.

This makes me so sad.

Firstly, gah; I am so embarrassed that I had not subscribed to a Sri Lankan news service, after all my pontificating.  This has now been resolved.

Secondly. Oh my gods.

The murder is the worst of what I wrote about in my banned Quasi editorial about the importance of freedom of the press.

Creepily (sadly, really), Lasantha Wickrematunge (who was a lawyer before he became a journalist and editor at the Sunday Leader) wrote an editorial entitled ‘They Came for Me’, which was published on Sunday after his death.  It seems that he knew he would be killed and I assume he’d written it long before it happened.

In the editorial, he outlines the problems facing journalists and media services in Sri Lanka, emphasises the importance of a free media, and presents warnings about the dangers of staying silent:

No other profession calls on its practitioners to lay down their lives for their art save the armed forces and, in Sri Lanka, journalism. In the course of the past few years, the independent media have increasingly come under attack. Electronic and print-media institutions have been burnt, bombed, sealed and coerced. Countless journalists have been harassed, threatened and killed. It has been my honour to belong to all those categories and now especially the last. …

The free media serve as a mirror in which the public can see itself sans mascara and styling gel. From us you learn the state of your nation, and especially its management by the people you elected to give your children a better future. Sometimes the image you see in that mirror is not a pleasant one. But while you may grumble in the privacy of your armchair, the journalists who hold the mirror up to you do so publicly and at great risk to themselves. That is our calling, and we do not shirk it. …

People often ask me why I take such risks and tell me it is a matter of time before I am bumped off. Of course I know that: it is inevitable. But if we do not speak out now, there will be no one left to speak for those who cannot, whether they be ethnic minorities, the disadvantaged or the persecuted. An example that has inspired me throughout my career in journalism has been that of the German theologian, Martin Niem”ller. In his youth he was an anti-Semite and an admirer of Hitler. As Nazism took hold in Germany, however, he saw Nazism for what it was: it was not just the Jews Hitler sought to extirpate, it was just about anyone with an alternate point of view. Niem”ller spoke out, and for his trouble was incarcerated in the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps from 1937 to 1945, and very nearly executed. While incarcerated, Niem”ller wrote a poem that, from the first time I read it in my teenage years, stuck hauntingly in my mind:

First they came for the Jews

and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists

and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists

and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me

and there was no one left to speak out for me.

If people want to know why it’s hard for me to keep my mouth shut some times; why I have issues with accepting authority that shows no good cause for being obeyed; why I question everything and don’t stop hounding until I get a decent answer; and why I don’t care if that gets me in to a bit of trouble — then I would really encourage them to read Wickrematunge’s final editorial.

Update: New Matilda has published another great story on the background to the whole mess.

Excuse me, Esquire

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.)

blogging war

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.

stop the traffick

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.

The Editorial That UNDA Banned

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*

Counting Blessings

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…