Saturday, January 27, 2007

Politicos 2.0

Using the internet for political activism is nothing new, it is used almost extensively in many so called ‘developed’ world, where it truly makes sense as where there is a significant internet population.

Recently there seems to have been a surge in politicians using the net for PR. John Edwards announced he’s running for president on YouTube, and if successful (god forbid) he will be America’s first YouTube President. Others have followed suit with people like Barrak Obama teaming up with Brightcove to announce his presidential bid. The 2.0 politicians are not limited to the US, it is said that Iranian president Ahmednejad maintains a blog, recently the Indian president Dr Abdul Kalam posted a question on Yahoo Answers, and there are reports of a Minister in Britain now starting her own blog.

In the US, there is an estimated 210 Million internet users (68% of the population) and as the 2008 presidential election gets closer people are wondering whether then net can be used not merely as a tool for fundraising or a campaigning tool for politicians to further strengthen the top-down campaigning but whether the netroots movements can in fact change the playing field. Sri Lankan situation, as always remains starkly different.

Political commentaries are common on the Sri Lankan Webosphere but there doesn’t seem to be any concentrated effort by politicians or political parties to encapsulate the power of the web. The last presidential election saw both candidates having a reasonable web presence, there were no space for donations or any of the sort but at least it figured somewhere in the election strategy, Sri Lankans Bloggers got into the act with almost all backing the loosing candidate.

As of now, the Presidents site still seems to update, albeit somewhat unwillingly. The JVP can boast a decent web presence which has been consistently updated for quite some time. The UNP site is now, perhaps like the actual party is now defunct. Online, It can only claim to a supporters group in Hi5 with a reasonable membership.

Sri Lanka can officially claim to about 300,000 internet users (2005 Est.), I presume that number to have grown up to about half a million by now. Come next election, presumably in 2010, there could well be a significant amount of people online which could be exploited especially by Colombo politicians.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Stripping Sherawat

I recently discovered that some dude in India has sued Mallika Sherawat for an apparent show of obscenity; she pulled down some guy’s trousers at a New Year’s Eve party. Rediff covers it here [Mallika will strip all men], a clip from the dance is on YouTube, photos are here.

I would understand if the person whose trousers got pulled off sued Ms. Sherawat, after all dancing without your trousers in public can’t be all that fun (or is it?). Especially if you are sporting a hard-on which is a definite possibility with Sherawat shaking-it about.

But why would a total stranger unconnected to the whole episode, wants to sue Sherawat?

A similar incident Happened to Anarkalli Akarsha when some government official accused Ranjan Ramanayake of forcing Anarkalli to strip down during the shooting of One Shot. Now everyone likes Anarkali, her long list of admirers includes the president, his sons, the foreign minister, and apparently business tycoons. Hell, even I don’t mind her as long as she doesn’t speak. That’s one part of her that hasn’t developed much from her preteens or even earlier. Now Anarkalli is apparently suing a certain newspaper who came up with the story.

What would it take for subcontinent creatures to mind their own business I will never know.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Bus Bombs

I guess we are back where we started, even worse off. The LTTE have abandoned their targeted attacks and moved on to civilian killing mode. Perhaps this is because of their military set backs, or because their ‘targeted’ killings have miserably failed in recent times, perhaps it’s a case of GoSL and the so called International Community has simply run out of ‘carrots’ to tame the tigers. LTTE is already a banned organization in many countries of influence and they don’t have a whole lot to loose by doing basically anything.

There can be no justification for these things, there’s no doubt that the current administration has a poor human rights record, and the situation in the NE is unspeakably bad. But to say this was a reprisal attack on behalf of the Vahari Tamils is a bloody joke. LTTE uses the Vahari civilians to provoke attacks from the GoSL for International propaganda, and probably great pictures to extort diaspora cash.

Due to the mental instability of prabhakarn and the extensive intake of Viagra by Mahinda the situation in the country is a bit fucked up. Getting on a bus in Colombo is now that much more dangerous, I take comfort in the fact that statistically I still have a better chance of getting run over by some drunk IOM chief driver rather than getting blown up.

The ID-checking on buses was intensified yesterday; they check whether you are Sinhalese. I am, so it’s all good. To be honest though, they check whether you are from NE and if you’re Tamil, then you got to explain what the fuck you are doing here, for how long, and what your father does for a living. Some Army buggers are not disrespectful, they just do their job. Others try to mock; Police seems to be worse in this department. Of course the law-abiding Tamils are supposed to understand, some of them seem to, but if I was subjected to the same treatment, I’d be pretty pissed, I know they are too. It tends to be a vicious circle.

The great tragedy in all this is that the government doesn’t seem to have a coherent strategy to bring about progress in the resolution of this conflict, Sarath Fonseka and the Mihin-government seems to think they can win this war, and ‘liberate’ first the east and then the rest of the country. I hope for the sake of everyone, that their optimism is based on facts on the ground rather than advice of venerable war-monks and the red-clan.

I, as always have my doubts.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Brith, Death and the resurrection of Saddam

It is said that President Bush is hailed by some as kind of a messiah, and it is alleged by some that ‘America’ likes to play god. They could be right, at least in the case of Saddam Hussein. When Saddam was handed down the death penalty I thought he, or the persona of ‘Saddam Hussein’ had been dead for a long time, the once majestic dictator appeared out of a rat hole looking like, to put kindly, a rather deprived Arabic version of Santa clause. After that incident those were the images that one associated Saddam Hussein, but not anymore. After his televised and youtubed hanging, Saddam has been proclaimed as a martyr.

The ‘America’ who created Saddam and who killed him has now, it seems have aided in his resurrection. His persona is now heroically celebrated all over the Sunni-Muslim world including here in Sri Lanka. The very event is hailed here as a moment of unity of all political parties, historic perhaps in its own right. The JVP has put out posters in support of this great man, and the likes of Asaad Sally are organizing bush-bashing, flag burning exercises in front of the U.S. Embassy. All’s well, freedom of expression (despite the Rajapakse administration) is still a constitutional right.

But perhaps everybody needs a reality check.

Saddam Hussein was a brute, a murderer and a ruthless dictator. He was no hero. This so called partisan unity on the issue is not coming from genuine sensitivity to Muslim sentiments here, but rather out of sheer necessity and a range of other ulterior motives. For the JVP, it’s a chance to poke at the Americans and play ‘hero’ after a while, for the UNP it’s a necessity, Muslims are its most consistent vote base, for the P.A. and the rest of them - well they got to be in the show somehow.

Lot of people, not just the Sri Lankan politicians seems to be using the Saddam hanging as an excuse to attack the U.S. and the opposition sometimes seems to stem from the general opposition to the Iraqi war. I think there are more genuine reasons to oppose the hanging, one is that Saddam never faced trial for all the crimes he committed, another is the trial process was flawed (although it’s difficult to see how he could not be found guilty had the trial been fair), and thirdly it would, as it has done now, would induce further sectarian divide Iraq.

Apart from that personally my opposition to the hanging also stems from my fundamental opposition to the death penalty but perhaps the real shocker for me was the fact that it was televised. That was just atrocious, any man, brute or not, deserved better treatment than that. Strangely enough, none of the newly united Sri Lankan politicos gave prominence to the video, that’s hardly surprising since we all remember how Wimal Weerawansa used his mobile phone camera to record Mervin Silva crunching the JHU monks’ testicles in parliament.