Mathangi Arulpragasam who is popularly known in British pop music circles as M.I.A. received the Royal honour of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) to mark Queen Elizabeth’s annual Birthday honour.
The Duke of Cambridge, Prince William presented the MBE medal for Mathangi’s contribution to music at a glittering event held at Buckingham Palace amidst a distinguished gathering last week (January 14).
The recipient M.I.A Mathangi Arulpragasam was introduced as a daughter of refugee parents who had migrated to the United Kingdom from Jaffna in the seventies.
Mathangi received the Award a month following the death of her father Arulappu Richard Arulpiragasam in Jaffna.
Arulpragasam was popularly known as `Arular’ and was one of the founder members of the Tamil militant outfit – the Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students (EROS) and the first batch of Tamil militants who received arms training in Palestine in the early seventies.
Mathangi’s mother was with her at the Palace when Prince William pinned the MBE medal on her.
Soon after receiving the royal honour, forty-four year old pop singer Mathangi said,”Receiving this medal means so much to me on so many levels. My mother, a working class refugee was given asylum in England in the Eighties. Today, I’m accepting this in honour of my mother who worked for a minimum wage to give us a better life. As a working class first generation immigrant, it’s great to be recognised for my contribution. Having freedom to speak the truth and to do it through music has helped me speak for those who do not have those privileges. I will continue to fight for those who are silenced or persecuted by others through my songs.”
The gathering at Buckingham Palace would have seen M.I.A. Mathangi with her mother in the absence of her father.
Mathangi’s father Arulpragasan alias Arular hailed from Kayts and was an engineer who passed out from the Lumumba University in Moscow, Russia in the early seventies.
Travelled to Palestine
Later Arular went to London and joined hands with EROS founder, E. Ratnasabapathy, he travelled to Palestine where he received arms training.
It was Arular and Ratnasabapathy who were instrumental in attracting several youngsters from Jaffna to receive militant training in Palestine and those young men at that time were Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) leader K.Pathmanabha, former Parliamentarian and present EPRLF leader Suresh K. Premachandran as well as Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) leader and Minister Douglas Devananda.
Returning to Sri Lanka in 1977, Arular established a farm called Kannati in the Wanni on the Vavuniya -Mannar road and operating from there with other EROS members, he had settled Internally Displaced Persons who had come to the Wanni from upcountry due to a communal disturbance in 1977.
Arular too was affected while being in Colombo due to Black July anti Tamil program and he arrived in Jaffna with the Internally Displaced Persons from the capital city to Jaffna in a ship called `Lanka Rani’.
Later he wrote a book titled `Lankan Rani’ on the ethnic crisis and released the book in the mid-nineties.
Establishing his contacts with all Tamil militant outfits including the LTTE, Arular even made attempts to make them enter into the political mainstream after the Indo-Lanka Accord.
In 1987 he even helped the newly-formed North and East Provincial Council on its economic affaiRs Later he stepped down from active involvement in politics and focused on writing books on Lankan Tamil issues.
Due to an acute kidney ailment Arular preferred to stay in Jaffna with his daughter Kalyani, the sister of M.I.A. Mathangi and passed away a month ago.
According to his last wishes his body was buried at Kannati farm in Vavuniya after the religious ceremonies at Madhu Church.
The well-established British pop singer Mathangi who went to London at a tender age became popular with the songs she rendered based on the themes of conflicts and refugees around the world reflecting her father’s ideology.
Some of Mathangi’s songs such as `Paper Planes’,`Born Free’ and `Bad Girls’ were very popular among her fans in Britain.
It is interesting to note that from the time Mathangi’s mother Kala Arulpragasam arrived in Britain as a refugee with her husband Arular and children in the eighties, Mathangi’s mother has stitched the ribbons for the prestigious medals awarded by Buckingham Palace for several years.
Mathangi said the medal pinned on her by Prince William was also made by her mother. A proud achievement indeed.
A large number of Sri Lankan expatriates of all ethnicities live in the United Kingdom. Several of them have been recognised for their professionalism in their respective fields.
However, M.I.A. has won royal recognition for songs she sang from the bottom of her heart on human suffering due to war and conflict.