Category Archives: immigration

Professional Mourners in Ceylon and Southern India

Michael Roberts

 My interest in the topic of disappearances in Sri Lanka over the past decade and the allegations presented by one “Floyyd” in his comments on my central frontispiece named ”Sinhala Mind-Set” on the 25th November 2013 led me to supplement my posts and inquiries on that topic with a serious question I sent to several friends and personnel on  the 9th December 2016 and the week that followed.  Only a few responded to my inquiry in the course of that month. It is of some significance that most of those whose information is presented below are of the older generation and, like me, in the age-bracket seventies. For that reason they are calling upon their younger days in supplying ethnographic information that is of considerable value. For this reason I refer to “Ceylon” in my title because the data seems to refer to practices before the name change in 1972. However, this does not mean that the practitioners of mourning and the capacities for lamentation on cue have been totally buried.

oppari-22  Women in oppari lamentation in southern India — cf Balachandran’s note below oppariFrom

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Migrant Crisis ignited West’s Populist Revolt

David Aaronovitch, courtesy of The Times, 17  November 2016 & The Australian, 17  November 2016, with the former bearing the title The West has only itself to blame for populist revolt”

At the time of his death, Alan Kurdi seemed to be a harbinger of something else. Washed up on a Turkish beach last year, his lifeless body symbolised a suffering that could no longer be ignored. This tragic consequence of mass migration, mostly involving Syrians fleeing the civil war, was going to be the moment when a conscience-pricked world would do something to help. No more – Alan has an altogether different significance now. The insurgencies that gave us Brexit and the Trump presidency have gestated over many years. But the proximate cause of both, I believe, was not economics or wage inequalities but the events of 2015.

migrant-dead A Turkish paramilitary police officer carries the body of Alan Kurdi, 3. Picture: AP

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Reflections on Trump’s Victory: How Come and What Follows

S W R de A Samarasinghe,  of Tulane University, Washington DC, courtesy of The Island, 11 November 2016, with the title   What Trump’s victory means for US and rest of the world

US President-elect Donald Trump described his presidential campaign as a “Movement” and not the usual party fight between Republicans and Democrats. The poltical pundits did not take him seriously. He broke almost all the rules of the US campaign rulebook and won. Trump and Hillary Clinton each have polled about 59.5 million of the popular vote while Trump has won the 538 Electoral College vote 299.5 to 238.5. Trump’s “Movement” mainly consisted of white blue-collar middle class voters drawn from suburbs, and small towns and rural residents. In contrast Clinton’s support came mainly from a coalition that consisted of more educated and more prosperous white middle class suburbs, and racial minorities mostly from the big cities.


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European Mayhem in World War Two and Their Refugees in the Middle East

Ishaan Tharoor, in The Washington Post, where the chosen title is “The forgotten story of European refugee camps in the Middle East”

Tens of thousands of refugees fled a war. They journeyed across the Eastern Mediterranean, a trip filled with peril. But the promise of sanctuary on the other side was too great. No, this is not the plight faced by Syrian refugees, desperate to escape the desolation of their homeland and find a safer, better life in Europe. Rather, it’s the curious and now mostly forgotten case of thousands of people from Eastern Europe and the Balkans who were housed in a series of camps across the Middle East, including in Syria, during World War II.

aa-fs11As the Nazi and Soviet war machines rolled through parts of Eastern Europe and the Balkans, vast civilian populations were displaced in their wake. In areas occupied by fascist troops, Jewish communities and other undesired minorities faced the harshest onslaught, but others, particularly those suspected of backing partisan fighters, also were subject to targeted attacks and forced evacuations. Continue reading

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An August Gathering Addresses Indo-Lanka Issues

Shamindra Ferdinando, in The Island, 22 June 2016, where the title is “Unresolved Indo-Lanka Issues”

One-time head of the Law Faculty, University of Colombo, Dr Nirmala Chandrahasan last Thursday (June 16) called for tangible action on the part of the Sri Lankan government to bring in Sri Lankan refugees, living in India, particularly in the state of Tamil Nadu. Dr Chandrahasan estimated the number of Lankan refugees in India at the peak of the conflict at 200,000. The appeal was made over seven years after the successful conclusion of the war with the annihilation of the LTTE leadership.  The distinguished law academic insisted that special arrangements should be made to facilitate the return of refugees. Dr Chandrahasan was addressing a forum on India-Sri Lanka relations in the 21st century, organised by the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies (BSIS).


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Antony Jesuthasan as “Dheepan” and Shobasakthi

Among the films being shown in Australian cities by the Alliance Francais Film Festival is that entitled DHEEPAN. The Tamil migrant and ex-Tiger fighter who inspired this tale and appears as the principal actor first burst onto the media pages as Shobasakthi …and the author of a book entitled Gorilla. The brief resume of the film is followed by a news item from 2008 .

DHEEPANDheepan is a major film event and the winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes International Film Festival in 2015. This blistering slice of realism, entrenches director Jacques Audiard’s status as one of today’s greatest auteurs, with a unique presentation of the asylum seeker experience that will move audiences profoundly. Three strangers in conflict-ridden northern Sri Lanka band together as a makeshift family in order to flee to the suburbs of Paris: Dheepan, an ex-Tamil Tiger (Antonythasan Jesuthasan, author, activist, and former child soldier); lost young woman Yalini (Kalieaswari Srinivasan); and orphan girl Illayaal (Claudine Vinasithamby). As they struggle to find stability, they are forced to improvise their relationships. Soon they find they must cope with new violence and intolerance in their adopted home.

Based on Antonythasan’s own experience, his journey of self-realisation is a powerful and visceral tale, told with a timeless classicism that marks the finest world cinema. As in A Prophet and Rust and Bone, director Audiard orchestrates creeping menace with an emotional punch and a complex social message. Continue reading

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Tsunami of Asylum Seekers swamps Europe

Christina Lamb, courtesy of The Sunday Times & The Australian, 1 September 2015, where the title is “Europe’s asylum-seekers form a human tide of desperation

tsunami 11

It took perhaps an hour for them to die. The children would have suffocated first: the baby girl of around 18 months, the three boys aged about eight to 10, watched by their anguished mothers, helpless to give them air inside the hot, sealed truck. By the time it crossed the border from Hungary into western Europe where the asylum-seekers must have hoped for a new life, all 71 were dead: 59 men, eight women, four children. The Austrian police who found them said their bodies were piled one on top of the other inside the vehicle as if they had tried to climb up. With four bodies for every square metre, they had been so desperate to get air that the side of the truck was bent out of shape.

tsunami 55 Blankets hide the chicken delivery truck in which 71 people, believed to be Syrian, suffocated in Austria last week. Continue reading

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