Category Archives: working class conditions

The SBS: Marine Commandos of the Sri Lankan Navy

Michael Roberts

A recent article by Dishan Joseph (see below) has marked the role of a commando outfit known as the SBS, or Special Boat Service, that was developed within the Sri Lankan Navy (SLN) during the Eelam Wars.  The story is complex and demands an elaborate ‘companion piece’ that is attentive to time, combat locations, initiatives and the lessons derived from a remarkable and formidable enemy, namely, the Sea Tigers. In war one becomes like one’s opponent in order to survive. The innovativeness of the LTTE was monumental and its sea-faring capacities were one reason why it outdid-and-outbid the other Tamil militant organisations in the fight to lead the claim for independence for Thamililam during the 1980s/1990s.

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Fidel Castro’s Visit to Harlem New York: The Political Ramfications Deciphered

Thomas Meaney, in London Review of Books, Vol. 43 No. 3 · 4 February 2021: reviewing book by Simon Hall entitled Ten Days in Harlem: Fidel Castro and the Making of the 1960s, September 2020, 
Faber, 276 pp., £17.99, 978 0 571 35306 4

It would hardly​ be possible, Eric Hobsbawm once said, to imagine rebels better designed to appeal to the New Left than Castro and his comrades. Despite occasional sneers from Third World elders (Nasser dismissed them as ‘a bunch of Errol Flynns’), Western liberals were just as infatuated as radicals. The New York Times published an admiring three-part profile of Castro from his hideout in the Sierra Maestra in 1957, when he was still a revolutionary newt. Two years later, after his forces swept through the lowland cities, triggering a series of popularly assisted uprisings that shattered the sclerotic regime of Fulgencio Batista, adulation came from all quarters: letters of congratulation from US congressmen, rights requests from Hollywood, invitations to ‘Dr Castro’ to address Ivy League undergraduates. ‘My staff and I were all Fidelistas,’ the Cuba desk officer of the CIA recalled.

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About the Kāberi in Colonial Ceilao and the Fort of Galle

Michael Roberts

Writing in the Daily News in March 2019 and deploying the affirmation of a South African diplomat, Jeevan Thiagarajah has lamented the alleged fact that the VOC Black African used slave labour to build the imposing Fort of Galle – even asserting that “an estimated 15,000 Africans brought from Portuguese and Dutch colonies” worked on this project.[1] Thiagarajah is a political scientist and not a historian. His essay is clearly riding on the back of the movement “Black Lives Matter.” But in this populist move to earn kudos (as I speculate), he displays abysmal historical background and has failed to consult the many personnel next door to him in Colombo who would have served up solid data on the topic – notably Ashley De Vos (who has subsequently, albeit briefly, questioned Jeevan’s claim).

The Fort of Galle in the late 19th century

Storming of Galle fort in 1640

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The Ramifications behind Philanthropy in Colombo

Kalinga Tudor Silva, ** whose original title reads thus: “Ethnicity and Religion as – beinga chapyDrivers of Charity and Philanthropy in Colombo: Implications for Social Harmony in Sri Lanka” – being achapter in Taejong Kim and Anthea Malakala (eds.): Social Mobility: Experiences and Lessons from Asia. Seoul: Asia Foundation and Korean Development Institute, 2015. pp. 151-174.

(http://asiafoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/KDI-TAF-2014Social-Mobility-Experiences-and-Lessons-from-Asia.pdf)

1 — Introduction: Charity and philanthropy act as important welfare mechanisms in all societies. Charity is defined as the impulse toward disinterested private giving (Bornstein 2009), while organized philanthropy reflects notions such as corporate social responsibility, humanitarian values, and concerns about the efficacy of assistance (Fontaine 2007). Both charity and philanthropy (CP) complement and supplement the welfare services of the state, mobilizing the reservoir of goodwill and mutual caring in society. While both may involve universal human values and emotions, such as compassion and sympathy towards those in distress, research has highlighted ethnicity and religion as important drivers of CP in various societies (Bornstein 2007, 2009; Korf 2006).

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The LANKA COURIER takes off …

https://www.lankacourier.com/

Sri Lanka’s Neutral Foreign Policy

LANKA COURIER   FEB 08, 2021

 The following article has been adapted from the address by the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the general debate of the 75th Session of the United…

Features  ….. Foreign Relations of Sri Lanka

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Servitude in Lanka: “Boi Kollo” in Middle Class Households

Elmo Jayawardena, in The Island, 1 February 2021, where the chosen title is “Boi Kollo –An Almost Forgotten Tragedy”

He first went to work at the very tender age of six, just a little kid, that much Yoga re-called. He had attended a village school for two days and quit – said he could not understand anything the teacher taught. That was good enough a reason for Yoga to obliterate any form of education from his entire life and become illiterate. They lived in the Southerland Estate, a remnant of the British Colonial system.   Estate labourers’ ‘line-shacks’ had limited room for the family. The little boy was an inconvenience that needed to be sorted out. Of course, he was an ill-affordable extra mouth to feed in the already over-crowded one-roomed hovel they called home. That is how Yoga left his Southerland Mansion to commence his lifetime career of servitude as a Boi Kolla (BK) to run and fetch at the beck and call of whoever gave him a meal and shelter.

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Muslim-Sinhala Relations in Kandy: An Ethnographic Note

Gerald Peiris in Kandy, in Email Note dated 25th January 2021:**

“Yes, Michael, ……………… I agree. There is a lot of overlap between what I have been trying to convey [in public and/or govt forums] and what young Shukra is supposed to have said (though I didn’t see her perform).

You are probably aware that downtown Kandy has a fairly large Muslim presence. I got to know some of them in the course of my fieldwork for ‘Planning for the Future of Kandy’ (2019). They were very cordial and cooperative, and fluent in Sinhala. A few of them are grandchildren (now in middle age) of my contemporaries at Kingswood in the ‘50s. Their clientele consists almost entirely of Sinhalese.

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The British in Ceylon: The Camera as Power

In 2011 Godfrey and Amar Gunatilleke sponsored the presentation of a pictorial history entitled Potency. Power & People in Groups, (Colombo, Marga Institute, 2011, ISBN 978-955-582 129-2.

Kotahena Riots 1883

This work was, albeit partially, the presentation of items gathered by Ismeth Raheem and myself for inclusion in the coffee-table book that appeared in the year 200o as Images of British Ceylon (Singapore, Times Edition) — items within segments that were excluded because of financial constraints. Such constraints also meant that the pictures in this booklet were not produced in coffee-table quality. The emphasis was on the interpretations attached to the photographs read in context.  While the booklet is still available at relatively low cost, the opportunity is taken here to widen the readership via the reproduction of sections — itself a project inspired by Anura Hettiarachchi’s translation of the work into Sinhala.[a]

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Galle Fort built on the Backs of African Slave Labour

Jeevan Thiagarajah in Daily News, 25 March 2019with this title“Slaves built Galle Fort” … …. with highlighting emphasis imposed by The Editor, Thuppahi

The topic of the piece today was triggered by a conversation with the current High Commissioner in Colombo from South Africa, Ruby Marks, who has also posted on her Facebook page this passage, “Calvin Gilfillan, Head of Die Kasteel, affirmed what we suspected-the Dutch conceptualized and supervised, but it was the labour of an estimated 15,000 Africans brought from Portuguese and Dutch colonies, that did the back breaking work of actually building the Fort and the other ones scattered across Sri Lanka. I was shocked by how little was known in Sri Lanka about this. I visited the cramped quarters where the slaves were kept, the dungeons where they were imprisoned, and the cemetery-now a car park where they were buried. And my heart wept.

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Locals and Environmentalists Challenge An Aussie Sand-Mining Project in Mannar

ABC Science  environment reporter Nick Kilvert and Jane Lee for Science Friction

As a small child, Shreen Abdul Saroor remembers getting up before dawn with her father to spy on the masses of migratory birds that would visit her island. The birds were on their way down the Central Asian flyway — a migration path that crosses 30 countries from Siberia to the Indian Ocean. “We would hide somewhere and … we don’t make any noise,” Ms Saroor recalls. “[Then we’d watch] them coming and landing in the causeway areas and then catching fish and taking off as a huge group covering the entire sky.”

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