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Bollywood’s dance on the Tamil Graveyard : IIFA 2010 awards , Colombo.

Statement issued by the 'May17 Movement'

(May 28, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) The International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards will be held this year at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium in Colombo from July 2 to July 4. And the world is going to watch charismatic actors like Sharuk Khan, Amitabh Bachan, Aiswarya rai are going to perform in the stages of Colombo to cheer the nation and the world to say loud that this country is an innocent country. Three day Bollywood extravaganza known as one of the biggest and powerful event of its kind s going to be performed in a country known for all wrong reasons. There is more to concern for such an event to happen in the island nation where civilized society upholding human values is trying its best to earn a justice for the Tamil war crime victims and crimes against humanity. It is very important and critical for us to understand the idea behind conducting such an event in Colombo and why India went out of its way to favor its unfriendly partner, Sri lanka. India has a history to save an unethical racist regime for decades who in the past never been a trust worthy partner and an undemocratic unitary state.

Rajapaksa government is limping with shots from UN’s recent decision on setting up a panel on Srilanka, especially the commitment is coming from Mr.Ban Ki Moon. UK’s move towards recognizing Tamils struggle and recognition of LTTE’s political wing and allowing the wing to register itself in UK soil put the Sri lankan Govt in the back foot. Among all these developments, the proposal to withdraw EU’s GSP+ created a kind of silent panic in the underbelly of the GoSL as it may cripple the export revenues and job losses to a great extent. Sri lanka is now widely read globally for all wrong reasons. Good news about srilanka is hard to found in recent times. Facing strong criticism from UN high commissioner for human rights (Navanethem Pillay judge of the International Criminal Court and President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda), Amnesty, HRW and other leading human rights groups srilanka struggling to keep up its image as a secular and peaceful country that is not racist, autocratic and anti-democratic. Among all, the Channel 4’s footage on execution of tamil youths by Sri lankan army in point blank range is hard to erase from people’s memory. Sri lankan government did all the tricks to portray it as a managed video till they heard from UN that it is an authentic non-doctored video.

The recent verdict from the Permanent people’s tribunal held in Dublin broke the hopes of GoSL (Government of Sri Lanka) to revive its image in the West and North America. In the recent past the Asian community in the EU and North America has receiving not so positive reports about Sri lanka and hesitating to invest in a country that is branded as a war criminal. Having the most powerful opposition leader who garnered more than 40% vote from lankans, Mr Sarath Fonseka former military general, behind the bars without a appropriate charges, rampant arrest and disappearances of the journalists who are critical to the Rajapaksa’s govt, hesitation to withdraw emergency status of the country even after the war was over for nearly 10 months, non rehabilitating tamil civilians of the north and east, portrayed Srilanka a country that is slipping into an autocratic rule and a failed state.

GoSL’s heavy budget for Public relations firms, paid journalisms, hiring of media houses didn’t paid well even in India. GoSL’s trusted media partner The Hindu (India’s national news paper) is loosing its credibility in covering international affairs especially about South Asia . China and Tibet hurt the Rajapaksa to a great extent. The paid PR in business journals such as Fortune , paid little. (Srilanka hired Bell Pottinger is a UK-based public relations firm has clients including amongst many others including General Augusto Pinochet who was tried for his crimes against humanity... The British oil company Trafigura was also a key client, yet despite this was named and shamed in the media for uncontrolled dumping of hundreds of tonnes of highly toxic oil waste around Abidjan, the capital of Ivory Coast, in August 2006. Though contested, there are media reports that suggest Bell Pottinger is also involved in lobbying the EU on behalf of the Sri Lankan government, perhaps primarily on the issue of the GSP+ extension. Bell Pottinger hired Qorvis Communications as a subcontractor for its work with the government of Sri Lanka, starting December 1, according to a filing with the US Department of Justice. Qorvis is providing media relations and monitoring, crisis communications planning, and stakeholder representation in the US. The budget is approximately $483,000.

For any country the image is its investment in terms of economy to attract investments or for tourism. For this reason Srilanka couldn’t sign many businesses. Srilanka is in deep image crisis and it is too difficult to portray it to be an interesting country. It critically require an image building exercise that can save them from further image damage and win businesses for them. Indian officials those who supported Sri lanka for its criminal acts are working hard to save their eternal friend from this image crisis. It is very important for them, as because if Srilanka loses its image and economy and seen as a failed state then the international community’s finger will turn automatically towards Indian bureaucracy’s role in safe guarding Sri Lanka for its actions. Indian officials and political leaders offered more than INR1000 crores post may 2009 Tamil genocide Sri Lanka and half of the money was offered within a week from the new congress Sonia Govt took over in Delhi. During the days after May 2009 Indian government helped Lanka to earn the IMF loan which would have otherwise not reached to Colombo unless Indian bureaucracy intervened and used their influences in US Govt.

While Srilanka found that it has lost all weapons in winning the hearts and confidence of its own people and people abroad, Indian Govt came in handy to pull Srilanka out of its crisis.

On 26th March 2010, there came the announcement 11th International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards is going to be held in Colombo. Mumbai based IIFA endeavors to promote Indian cinema and showcase its talent globally. Its founder-directors are Andre Timmins, Viraf Sarkari, and Sabbas Joseph. Its Advisory Board boasts of big Bollywood names: Amitabh Bachchan (brand ambassador), David Dhawan, JP Dutta, Jaya Bachchan, Karan Johar, Manmohan Shetty, Pahlaj Nihalani, Ramesh Sippy, Shyam Shroff and Vinod Khanna. People who knows best about the IIFA awards and its money spindling event will wonder how Colombo had won such an event without much effort. IIFA is Bollywood’s Oscars. A big and successful event in the globe after Oscars. In its first event at London in 2000 IIFA proved the world that it is worthy and profitable event to bet as it created huge income and publicity to the hosting city. Countries like Canada, South Korea, Ireland and many more developed countries tried their best to earn an event for them.

If we look closely at IIFA one can find why this event is interesting to many countries and the importance of being scheduled in a country that is declared as war criminal.

Prime minister office of UK invited IIFA to conduct its event for second time, when it was recovering from its bombing. They felt that IIFA can be the best bet to create goodwill among the communities (Speaking at the launch of IIFA Macau June11,2009, IIFA Director Joseph did not name the country, but it could easily be deduced that he was referring to Britain, where the IIFA Awards have been held twice. “There was a time when we were invited by the office of a Prime Minister of a particular country, a developed country, to host the IIFA awards there,” Joseph told IANS afterwards, refusing to divulge the name of the country.

Bernice Paolozzi, the Irish businesswoman behind Ireland’s bid to host the ceremony, said: “This is not just about money, it’s about a movement to bring awareness of Ireland to India. There are huge business opportunities opening up in India now, yet many of the people I have been speaking to there have never even considered Ireland as a business location.” Shefali Munshi, associate vice-president of the IIFA told, while short listing Ireland for IIFA awards 2010 , “…A representative of Tourism Ireland attended this year’s awards in Bangkok as an observer and reported favorably on the event and its potential as a showcase for a tourism destination such as Ireland in bringing a brand message to Indian communities,” he said. One can easily derive the capability of IIFA in building the brand of the host nation into Indian community. It has valid data to support these claims.

The IIFA awards attract more viewers, according to their report it roughly touches 450 millions through televisions that was four years back. And the 2005 Amsterdam event earned of about 17.38 million USD worth of public relations (otherwise image building exercise).Announcing such an event in Yorkshire earned 4.8 million USD worth of publicity in the first week of IIFA official announcement to Yorkshire. For the weekend publicity for Dubai touched USD25 million in 2005. (link) One who understands the importance and impact of public relations and image building will never underestimate the importance such events. So is the reason the host countries were ready to pay 7million pounds to conduct IIFA event in their towns.
Besides Bollywood stars dancing, IIFA has a business understanding with India’s business lobby firm FICCI. The IIFA-FICCI takes care of the business deals, opportunities and other related trade affairs in the sidelines of the IIFA event. In the Yarkshire event of IIFA-FICCI many MOUs were signed including a MOU between Ambika Sharma (Asst Secretery General FICCI) Mr.Tom Riodom CEO Yorkshire Forward in the presence of Civil Aviation minister for India MR.Praful Patel among nearly 500 UK and Indian delegates. (http://www.docstoc.com/docs/10235028/Sir-Martin-Sorell-CEO-WPP-Worldwide-Receives-FICCI-IIFA-Global )

If we look at the statistics about the direct business benefits it can show how IIFA has become a lucrative event. The Ireland event in Dublin was expected 800 million business revenues, if happened. Shefali Munshi, associate vice-president of the IIFA told about event in Dublin , “It’s not just about the film awards, there are about 20 other events which take place also, …..There will be a lot of fringe activities and it would be a great opportunity for local Irish communities …” (“…We are looking for an exotic beautiful country, but also one that has the necessary logistics to host the awards,” said Shefali Munshi, associate vice-president of the IIFA. “We thought Dublin was breathtaking, a really beautiful city with lots of culture and lots to offer. It also has great hotels, good transport links and it has the O2 theatre for the actual awards.”

Direct economic benefit for Dubai is 19 Million USD and 400 million viewership for Dubai. With about 25,000 extra foreign visitors visited the city in that week end with has a viewer ship of 400 million people with 30% increase in tourism for that week. Singapore in 2004 had about 16,000 visitors with 11 million as direct revenues. Revenues from Bollywood start from the moment the host city was announced. Over 100 days of shooting happened in Dubai around IIFA Dubai and 150 days of shoot happened for Yorkshire. So is the reason for Seoul, Canada, Ireland and many more countries were queued to get their city listed for IIFA awards ceremony.

This kind of extravaganza is happening in Colombo without much pain from the Sri Lankan govt to earn it. For the 2010 year IIFA awards ceremony many leading countries were competing hard to earn the show. Ireland was in the forefront till late last year and is trying to earn the event from year 2008 .

But the choice went to Seoul by Jan 2010.As per report came on 25th Jan of 2010 “…Korea has been chosen to IIFA festivals this year, a Korean presidential body said Monday during President Lee Myung-bak’s state visit here…” Andre Timmins, a member of the organizing committee for the International Indian Film Academy Awards, attended the Korea Night Event held here on Sunday and said Seoul was selected to host the annual IIFA Awards in June 2010, according to the Presidential Council on Nation Branding. Here too we are seeing that IIFA is largely used for image building for the nations .

Colombo was never in the list of probable till February 27, 2010, but Colombo did earned an event surprises everyone. The country’s Minister for Tourism, Achala Jagoda, revealed that several countries had competed to host the event, but Sri Lanka finally got the nod. Mr. Jagoda described it as an international achievement, and added that several events such as an Indian business meeting would be held on the event’s sidelines. IIFA awards will be held this year at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium in Colombo from July 2 to July 4.

Amitabh bachan is the brand ambassador of the event and first time sharuk khan is appearing in the show. Other notable event will be screening of the much awaited Maniratnam’s “Ravana” trilingual movie. And Since Kamal Hassan is the Chairman of FICCI’s Media and Entertainment Business, Tamil community fighting for the eelam tamil’s justice would may be interested to know his contribution in business and image building supports to Colombo.

If this event will be happening as scheduled, it will be a drawback to the activists and Tamil Diaspora. It will be a humiliating act to the tamilnadu people as they lost more than 400 fishermen to the Sri Lankan navy. Most of the fishermen were killed inside Indian territorial waters. India is yet to recognize their plight and still arguing in the High Court of Madras stating ‘India will not take responsibility of Fishermen who were killed , even if the crime is happened inside the Indian waters’. If India can go out of way to please Srilankan government and help them, it is anyone’s wonder that they never employ their basic obligation to protect its own citizens. Will Bollywood or Indian Bureaucracy tolerate if Tamil Film Industry award celebration takes place in Karachi or Islamabad, forgetting the horrors of Mumbai attack. Will it be a civilized act to bollywood stars to dance in the country tainted with blood of innocent tamils.

We are curious and anxious to see how north Indian civil society, activists, intellectuals are going to react to this. Will they broke their silence unlike they did during the days of Genocide. Can Tamil community in Tamilnadu expect a supporting voice from the north? We sincerely hope this would happen. Any society cannot afford to allow a criminal to win. The massacre in the Vanni beaches during middle of May 2009, and the subsequent suppression of the freedom movement strengthen the state terrorism. And we are watching similar situation is happening in central India in the name of Green Hunt.

Tamils cannot afford to have the event happen in Colombo, as it will assist srilanka to come out of its war criminal tag. Genocide will comfortably put into the back burner and the culprits save their faces while they posing along with ‘Khans’ and ’Bachans’. North Indias business moguls and corporate will successfully replace the Tamilnadu- Lankan business relations that survived thousands of years. And our fishermen die everyday at the hands of Lankan Navy supported by the Indian government’s negligence.

May Seventeen movement call upon all the youths and activists cutting across the political and social lines would join their hands to break this conspiracy. We invite fellow organizations be it left, Tamil nationalist, Marxist-Leninist, Periyarists, Dalit movements, human rights organizations and others to jointly take forward the struggle for justice and stop IIFA event from happening in Colombo.

It is high time for all of us to realize that we are in the battle field with imperialists, fascists and racist elements. It’s our unity, will for justice; commitment to retrieve our land from these forces can lead us to victory. Write to your friends, Discuss with your peer groups; take the message all over, spread the news, declare protests and stop the IIFA. Our reactions should speak and IIFA should be rescheduled to a newer location outside Srilanka.

It is worth to note Malcom X’s speech to his Black People of US

"This government has failed us; the government itself has failed us. The white liberals, who have been posing as our friends, have failed us. Once we see that all these other sources to which we've turned have failed, we stop turning to them and turn to ourselves. We need a self-help program, a do it yourself philosophy, a do it right now philosophy, and it's already too late philosophy. This is what you and I need to get with... Black Nationalism is a self-help philosophy... this is a philosophy that eliminates the necessity for division and argument."
We must win.

Links :

Dublin Tribunal finds against Sri Lanka on charges of War Crimes
http://www.ifpsl.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=24&Itemid=1

Experts to advise Ban Ki Moon on Sri Lanka's alleged war-crimes
http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=31310

Permanent People’s Tribunal report
http://www.ifpsl.org/images/files/peoples_tribunal_on_srilanka.pdf

Authenticated Video Recording of an
Extra-judicial Execution of Unarmed Prisoners
http://www.tamilnet.com/img/publish/2010/01/TAG-PPT-Extra-judicial_Executions-V3.pdf

Satellite Imagery Evidence Showing Sri Lanka Military “Purposely or
Intentionally” Targeted PTK Hospital
http://www.tamilsagainstgenocide.org/Docs/DublinTribunal/TAG-PPT-PTK-Hospital-Satellite-Final.pdf

Colombo's cluster bomb attack on civilians in Vanni challenges international norms
http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=27625

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