Tuesday, March 23, 2010

MTV attack: The Akon factor

By Dinidu de Alwis - A soaked poster lying on a bush gave a hint to where and why the stones would have come from. It read “Don’t bring down Akon to Sri Lanka”. Another, lying mere inches away said “Chase away Sirasa who are trying to disrupt the Sangha Saasana”. Nearby on the ground a flowerpot lay shattered. The culprit, a half-brick lay where its base once was.

Capital Maharaja, the head office of MTV/MBC was attacked yesterday afternoon by protesters who arrived at the office suddenly. Eyewitness accounts put the number at two busloads, arriving at the scene in Sri Lanka Transport Service (SLTB) buses. One such bus was seen parked near the Viharamahadevi Park and a group of about 50 men gathered around it soon after the stone throwing was subdued by police riot squads.

“We heard a noise coming from the front of the building, and we saw large crowds gathering in front of our office” a spokesperson for MTV said. The slow moving crowd started pelting stones at the Capital Maharaja Building, and “as an act of self defence” the staff returned the same stones which were thrown at them back to the protesting crowd. MTV staffers also used a firehose to good effect to thwart the mob. the hose lay curled on the side of the building, with shattered glass and stones all around it. It lay like giant snake that had done its job and wanted no more action.

Video footage recorded by the private TV station shows crowds pelting stones at the building, and then making a hasty retreat when Police arrived at the scene. Reports indicate that sixteen protesters were arrested.

The attack, which eyewitness accounts suggest was spurred as a result of opposition to the proposed performance by Senegalese rapper Akon, comes a year after the MTV transmission station in Depanama was besieged by unidentified persons and set on fire.

Sri Lanka previously saw a violent act related to a musical performance in 2004, when a hand grenade that was lobbed at a concert led by Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan killed two including a pregnant woman. The event was attributed to Buddhist fundamentalists, as the performance fell on the one year death anniversary of popular religious figure Ven. Gangodavila Soma Thero.

Perambara previously reported on the growing opposition and the potential for violence against the performance by Akon. The two facebook groups which have grown by more than two thousand members since then, alleged that Akon’s music videos were insulting to Buddhism and that the artist should not be allowed to perform in Sri Lanka.

MTV spokespersons did not link the Akon concert to the attack. Some even suggested that the concert could have been used as a ruse by those who wanted to get back at the station. “There have been threats on the station for some time,” Susil Kidelepitiya, a former Sirasa news director, now candidate for the opposition UNP said.

MTV however is not the only promoter of the Akon concert. Repeated attempts to contact Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, a key partner in organizing the performance has failed.

© Perambara.org

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