The response by a critical mass of Sri Lanka’s artist community to the protests by South Indian artistes to the fighting in the North of Sri Lanka will be noted down as a shameful moment by future generations of creative Sri Lankans.
While war lobbies have often recruited artistes to manipulate and revise the impact of war, it is sad that Sri Lanka’s artist community unites only to re-enforce military engagement. There have been many peace vigils during the recent years. Most of these only attract a handful of people, usually the usual suspects who tirelessly repeat their position of peace ahead of war, human rights ahead of murder. Where are the artistes, dressed in white, defending peace and human rights?
An article in the Daily Mirror (14 Nov 2008) quotes actress Geetha Kumarasinghe saying “We want to send a message to these Indian artistes this evening and that message is that their allegations are simply not true. And furthermore, all Sri Lankans, regardless of race or religion, will stand as one united force, against inequality, and support our troops”.
Thanks Geetha, for representing me, without my permission.
Firstly, how do you, Geetha, know that the Indian artistes allegations are not accurate. Sri Lankans and the whole world are starved of information from the battle zone. We simply have no idea what is going on there. The Military Government (and that’s what it is) has successfully censored and created an environment of self-censorship in our media, and now, they seem to have successfully seduced you and your fellow artistes to their version of the war and their fanciful tale that they can win the war. They may win the land, but they won’t win the war. To truly win the war that will unite us takes people like you, creative people, to imagine a better world for all of us. But I suspect you are simply imagining a better world for yourself.
As artistes, you and other creative people such as Ravindra Randeniya and Malini Fonseka, should not be so easily manipulated. Perhaps its all an act to for short-term career benefit. I don’t know. But in my book, artistes are the radicals – they are the people who push the boundaries and challenge the authorities through their creative abilities. They don’t bow down to a president and an army commander (and that’s what you are doing) and say “yes sir”. Artistes are at the forefront of change – they are the vanguard. There’s nothing radical about supporting the Military Government and claiming to unite for war – which is the message of your expression.
Let the world know each and all of your names. And let the world know that you support war. If you support the troops, you would be gathering together, pooling your talents, in order to save the troops – not to send especially young men, some of whom have no idea they are going to the front, to their deaths.
And where are you all when your fellow artistes have their works banned by the Military Government? Vimukthi Jayasundara’s “Sulanga Enu Pinisa” (Foresaken Land) and Asoka Handagama’s “Aksharaya” (Letter of Fire) come to mind.
How many soldiers are being killed on a daily basis? How many are injured every day? Of course, it may not be possible to make peace with the LTTE, and they do need to be militarily defeated. But this war is being carried out by a Military Government that is killing Sri Lanka. It is being carried out by people who are not fit to defend the idea of Sri Lanka. You, as artistes, must know that this wonderful island is being destroyed by ignorant politicians and a brotherhood that may have charisma but lacks the wise leadership that’s required to make this island what it once was.
Some of your faces look familiar. I know you, but I have lost my respect for you. I may still work with you – but I will no longer consider you to be an artiste. I know deep in your hearts you know that you are disposable also to the Military Government you seem to unquestioningly serve.
The sparkle in your eyes faded a long time ago.
The person who produced this response wishes to remain anonymous because in Sri Lanka, there is a growing culture that encourages Sri Lankans to kill their compatriots.