Will Sri Lankan politics overshadow India's Oscar night?

The Bollywood royalty who show up to Colombo, Sri Lanka for the 11th annual Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards on June 3 should expect more than just shiny hardware -- they should brace themselves for boycotts from their showbiz colleagues, too. 

In order to promote Indian cinema throughout the world, the IIFA selects a different country to host the old awards ceremony each year.  Past venues included Singapore, South Africa, and England. The selection of Sri Lanka as this year's venue was deliberately intended to give the South Asian nation a ‘coming out' opportunity after twenty-five years of violent civil war.  And ‘come out' Sri Lanka will, as it gears up for its moment in the spotlight with reconstruction, remodeling, and landscaping to boot.

But the decision to hold the awards in Colombo is also deeply controversial. U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay recently called for investigations into war crimes that may have transpired in the recent decades, and allegations of continued discrimination against ethnic Tamils abound; meanwhile, Sri Lankan officials reportedly began the creation of an internal Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission earlier this month, dismissing any international interference as a hindrance to their own pursuit of justice.

The South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce used the award show to make a resounding political statement: "Boycott IIFA Awards in Colombo or face the music down south," seemingly warning that any attending actors would face a backlash in heavily Tamil Southern India.

The chamber has followed through on the threat, refusing to screen films of stars who attend the awards and advocating for a venue change, even with the awards only days away.  Furthermore, the Indian public reinforces their message: several famous Bollywood stars known to be likely attending the awards have woken up to angry moviegoers -- including Tamil groups in India- - picketing outside their homes.

The debacle raises the question of how much political clout major players in the entertainment industry hold on the international stage.  Could a successfully boycotted major event in Sri Lanka open the floodgates for international criticism and precipitate a U.N.-sponsored war crimes tribunal? Of (almost) equal concern: will the diplomatic drama overshadow even the theatrics of Bollywood at this year's IIFA awards?

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Yukio, we hardly knew ye

Should Americans feel sorry for Yukio Hatoyama?

After just eight lousy months on the job, Japan's prime minister has resigned, joining the ranks of such ignominious predecessors as Shinzo Abe, Yasuo Fukuda, and Taro Aso, all of whom similarly stepped down after less than a year in office.

Hatoyama's resignation follows a string of spectacularly bad political moves, most notably his months-long dithering over the fate of a hugely controversial plan to relocate a U.S. Marine air base within Okinawa ... followed by a sudden announcement last month that he would go along with the 2006 agreement between the United States and Japan after all.

As Japan expert Tobias Harris puts it, "In the nine months since he took office, he has failed as a manager of his cabinet, as the head of the DPJ, and as the leader of his country. Unable to make up his mind, he groped from blunder to blunder, before finally making a controversial decision on Futenma without doing any of the work to convince a skeptical public of its merits." Ouch.

U.S. officials likely won't be shedding any tears. Al Kamen, the consummate Washington insider, channeled the view of many in a biting April column when he described Hatoyama as "loopy" -- prompting a rather sad protest from the Japanese cabinet secretary (and a failed attempt at self-deprecating humor by the PM himself).

Still, one has to wonder at the treatment of a major U.S. ally. Not only was there continual anonymous sniping at Hatoyama in the press, but President Obama himself notably snubbed Japan during the April nuclear security summit -- denying the prime minister a bilateral meeting in favor of the likes of Armenia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, and South Africa.

Then there was Defense Secretary Bob Gates's October trip to Tokyo, when he exhibited zero flexibility on the Futenma issue, or even any willingness to offer Hatoyama any political cover. "They're really, as far as we're concerned, are no alternatives to the arrangement that was negotiated," he told reporters on the plane ride from Haiwaii. The Japanese media savaged Gates, who showed little patience with Hatoyama's loose talk of reconsidering the strategic paradigm in Asia.

I understand why U.S. diplomats weren't enthused about Hatoyama. He was clearly not ready for prime time. But long after he's been forgotten, I imagine many in Japan will still resent their country being treated like a colony of the United States.