Category Archives: authoritarian regimes

Thomas Meaney, A Review Article, courtesy of the Author and the London Review of Books,… with emphasis by highlights added by The Editor, Thuppahi … SEE www.lrb.co.uk

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Rescued from the Nation: Anagarika Dharmapala and the Buddhist World by Steven Kemper, Chicago, 480 pp, £31.50, January 2015, ISBN 978 0 226 19907

Tamil: A Biography by David Shulman, Harvard, 416 pp, £25.00, September 2016, ISBN 978 0 674 05992 4

The Seasons of Trouble: Life amid the Ruins of Sri Lanka’s Civil War by Rohini Mohan, Verso, 368 pp, £16.99, October 2015, ISBN 978 1 78168 883 0

Independence was handed to Ceylon’s elite on a platter. ‘Think of Ceylon as a little bit of England,’ Oliver Ernest Goonetilleke, the first native governor-general, said. This was a point of pride. Don Stephen Senanayake, the country’s first prime minister, remarked: ‘There has been no rebellion in Ceylon, no non-cooperation movement and no fifth column. We were among the peoples who gave full collaboration while Britain was hard-pressed.’ After independence in 1948, Ceylon alone among the former colonies not only retained but promoted the monarchy: the Union Jack flew alongside the Ceylon flag; a new constitution was drafted by a former LSE professor, Ivor Jennings; Colombo debutantes were presented at Buckingham Palace; and, thanks to some genealogical ingenuity, George VI was recognised as the latest monarch in the ancient line of Kandyan kings. While the rest of the empire in Asia smouldered – in India there was Partition, in Malaya the Emergency, in Burma the civil war – Ceylon became Whitehall’s model for the transfer of colonial power. ‘There was no fight for that freedom which involved a fight for principles, policies and programmes,’ Solomon Ridgeway Bandaranaike, the anti-colonial head of state who took power in 1956, said when he reviewed the transition a decade later. ‘It just came overnight. We just woke up one day and were told: “You are a dominion now.”[1] Continue reading

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February 10, 2017 · 1:03 pm

Talaivar Pirapāharan embodied in Notebooks: One Mark of the LTTE’s Remarkable Propaganda Machinery

Michael Roberts

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These three images adorn the cover of little notebooks, each 4 inches in height and 2.7 inches breadth, in my possession. They were purchased by me at Kilinochchi on 27th November 2004 when I visited the administrative capital of the state of Thamilīlam[1] during the ceasefire. The tale is recounted below as entry-point to a portrait of the LTTE’s remarkable innovations.

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Revelations of Afghanistan as A War Zone: Andrew Quilty’s Photo-Journalism

A series of striking images for the Year 2016 in the local Advertiser newspaper include one by Andrew Quilty which had the caption, ”Shock: a dead patient on an operating table at Afghanistan’s MSF Trauma Center after an attack by an American gunship on the hospital.” I am still searching for this particular image but found a veritable treasure trove in the Andrew Quilty site. I present selections for the benefit of those readers who bask in the comforts of relatively peaceful sites and landscapes. For many Sri Lankans of all ethnicities, of course, these pictures will evoke memories of traumatic times, albeit within landscapes that differ from the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan. For bio-data on Quilty, see http://andrewquilty.com/about/

quilty-33 DAY 17: Sunday 21 August 2016: “I was up early this morning to meet the friend and fixer that Sune, Danielle and I often work with in Helmand, on the outskirts of Kabul. Although Helmand is his home, Rauf is in self-imposed exile at the moment. As an Afghan that worked for several years as an interpreter for the British army (not to mention foreign journalists), had the province fallen to the Taliban as was recently feared, he’d have been a marked man. (Rauf has been waiting more than 18 months for his UK visa to be finalised.)We were waiting to speak with the local commander at a police checkpoint toward the southern outskirts of Kabul when a taxi pulled to a stop. Its boot was open and a pair of bloodied, lifeless feet hung over the tailgate. Inside, a middle-aged man lay on a stretcher. Several bandages barely hid stab wounds – inflicted during what we were told was a family dispute. A younger man held a clear bag of IV fluid to the roof. His hand was rusty with dried blood.” Continue reading

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Sinhalaness in the Middle Period and in Wars Against Colonial Intrusions

Chris Speldewinde, in the The Australian Journal of Anthropology, vol. r19, No. 1, 2008, reviewing  Michael Roberts. Sinhala Consciousness in the Kandyan Period 1590s to 1815. Colombo 4, Sri Lanka: Vijitha Yapa Publications. 2004. Pp.xx +274, bibliog., index. US$60.00 (He), ISBN 955-8095-31-1.

Having spent a considerable period during my undergraduate studies of anthropology concentrating on cultural aspects of Sri Lankan society, I was enthusiastic to have been given the opportunity to read and review this work by Michael Roberts. In this latest addition to his many volumes of work on his native Sri Lanka, Roberts, has provided a rich tapestry of the period pre-dating the formalisation of British colonial rule on the island of Sri Lanka. He examines the forms of reaction of a society affected by migrating Indians from the north and European colonial expansion, beginning with the arrival of the Portuguese in the mid-sixteenth century and later, the Dutch and the British. This book provides a considerable amount of both historiographical and ethnographic material, from a wide range of sources to keep the reader engrossed in the development of distinct ethnic identities on this island nation. The use of verbal history passed on through poems and songs from the period is used extensively to substantiate Roberts’ theories of the development of a definitive Sinhalese ethnic identity.

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HRW in Syria and Sri Lanka: Moral Fervour generating Political Blindness and Partisanship

Michael Roberts,  courtesy of Colombo Telegraph where the title is different and reads as “The Political Bankruptcy of the Western Human Rights Lobby: Their Stance in Syria & Sri Lanka in Juxtaposition.” I anticipate lively blog-comments therein –with the usual quota of disparaging ‘assassinations’.  Highlighted emphasis in RED in the version below is my work.

 A friend in Adelaide recently directed me towards an article in a prestigious world media outlet by Kenneth Roth, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch. In this essay entitled “What Trump Should Do in Syria,” Roth contends that Donald Trump needs to pursue “a much tougher approach toward Moscow than he so far envisions” because the Syrian President Bashar Al Assad has been “targeting and indiscriminately firing upon civilians and civilian infrastructure in opposition-held areas” with Russian backing. In his reading the enormous civilian death-toll is the product of the regime’s deliberate strategy, Besides generating an outflow of refugees, he says that the consequence will also produce an escalation of Islamist extremism. 

As an outsider with a limited knowledge of the extremely complex Syrian and Middle-Eastern ground situation, what strikes me about Roth’s declamation is its one-sidedness and its simplifications. It slides over the impact of US and NATO bombing runs. It implies that the extremism of ISIS, Al Qaida and other forces who are challenging the Syrian dictator is an outcome of the latter’s policies and says little about (a) the Sunni-Shia rivalries that are one aspect of the complex politics in Syria and the Middle East and (b) the repercussions flowing from the American dethronement of Saddam via invasion.

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Kumari Jayawardena and her Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World

Meera Srinivasan, courtesy of The Hindu, 1 January 2017, where the title is ‘There was a gap about our part of the world’

The first draft, Kumari Jayawardena remembers, was all jagged. She wrote it on train journeys between The Hague where she was teaching and Brussels where she was living then. It was the early 1980s. As a visiting scholar at the International Institute of Social Studies in the Netherlands, Jayawardena was preparing course material for the women and development programme she co-taught. The short manuscript later became the classic book, Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World. [Verso Books] The work is still considered a primer to understanding feminist movements in Asia and West Asia through specific struggles of women fighting against colonial powers, for education, suffrage and safety, and against poverty and inequality.

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American Killing and Assassination Power

US intelligence and special forces … remain potent weapons that Trump intends to use to the maximum.One senior American officer said he had told the Trump team: “All we need is the presidential authority and the GPS co- ordinates and we can kill anyone in the world within 72 hours.”  = A striking facet within this article in The Times & The Australian … http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/new-sheriff-trump-plans-to-flatten-isis-and-flatter-putin-qf9fxjm90…. and thus a pointer towards the double standards pursued by the so-called “international community” Editor, Thuppahi

‘New sheriff’ Trump plans to flatten Isis and flatter Putin

Donald Trump is to reverse American policy towards Russia and in the Middle East by publicly embracing Vladimir Putin as a trusted ally and repairing US ties with autocratic Sunni Arab regimes alarmed by Barack Obama’s accommodation with Shi’ite Iran. Details of the incoming president’s controversial plans have been revealed to The Sunday Times by senior members of his foreign policy team, who promised a “night and day” difference with the policies of the outgoing administration. Trump would usher in a “new era of American leadership” and launch a series of “high-profile military actions” against Isis to telegraph to Islamic radicals that there was a “new sheriff in town” after what he described as eight years of weakness, vacillation and mixed signals, one adviser said.

Trump with key policy aide Michael FlynnGeorge Frey/Getty

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