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Churchill’s Brains Saved the Civilized World from Disaster – The Cleverest Military Strategist of the 20th Century

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75TH ANNIVERSARY

BY JAYANTHA GUNASEKERA, PRESIDENT’S COUNSEL

Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born to a highly respectable family. He was the son of Lord Randolph Churchill and was born at Blenheim Palace on 30th Nov, 1874. How he got into Harrow is a mystery, for he showed no scholastic ability beyond a remarkable capacity for memorizing poetry. He never mastered Latin and did not rise above the Junior School. He had no University Education. After two failures, he was squeezed into the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. There he suddenly matured. Not only did he do brilliantly in his military studies, but he began to take a keen interest in his father’s political career. His father, Lord Randolf died of a questionable ailment.

Leaving Sandhurst in 1894, Winston was gazetted to the Fourth Hussars in 1896. In 1896 he went out with his Regiment, to India. He was a War Correspondent for the Daily Telegraph and the Allahabad Pioneer. Four years later he fought in Sudan under Kitchener to crush the rebel Dervishes.

Back in England, Winston wrote the tale of the “River War” which brought him high praise and profits. He decided to give up the Army and enter Politics. In 1899, he fought and lost a bi-election at Old Ham. The Boer War started in the Autumn, and he served as the Chief War Correspondent of the Morning Post. Whilst he was in an Armoured Train venturing into Boer Territory, the train was ambushed and he was taken prisoner, to Pretoria. He escaped to Durban. The Boers had offered a reward of 25 Pounds for his capture – Dead or Alive. In the 1900 election, he was elected to Old Ham, and soon made his mark in Parliament as a brilliant speaker. In 1902 he opposed Joseph Chamberlain’s Tariff Reform Campaign and he crossed the floor of the House to join his friend, Lloyd George in the Liberal Party.

In the 1906 Elections, Churchill was returned as a Liberal for North West Manchester. He was then appointed Undersecretary for the Colonies and piloted giving Transvaal self-government. During this period, he met Ms. Clementine Hozier, a granddaughter of the Countess of Airlie. They got married and in Winston’s own words, “lived happily ever after”.

In 1911 he took over the Admiralty from McKenna and equipped the country with battleships. As Lord of the Admiralty, sensing danger he arranged a big naval rally and retained the fleet on an Active Service footing, without Cabinet authority. When the First World War broke out in 1914, the British Navy thanks to Churchill was ready. In the first few months, the Oceans were swept clear of German Vessels and every hostile warship was either sunk or bottled up in enemy harbours.

War was Churchill’s native air, and he plunged joyously into the struggle. He organized the Royal Naval Air Service to defend Britain’s Coasts, and directed the unsuccessful defence of Antwerp. He launched an amphibious attack on Turkey through the Dardenelles, but Kitchener would not spare the men and they failed. Churchill got the blame. When the First Coalition was set up, the Tories insisted on driving away Churchill from the Admiralty into the ineffective post of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

In 1917 Prime Minister Lloyd George made Churchill the Minister of Munitions, and at the end of the War, he took over the War Office, to superintend demobilization. In 1924, the Tories won the election, and Churchill became Chancellor of the Exchequer.

At the 1929 elections the government fell and Labour again took office. Churchill made no secret of his opinion of Ramsay MacDonald . He also quarreled with Stanley Baldwin about the issue of Indian Self government. In 1931, with the financial depression, Churchill was left out of government. During this period he wrote books, and painted pictures. His history of the First World War and life at Marlborough are treasured by the reading public.

When King Edward the 8th ascended the throne , the Prime Minister was Stanley Baldwin. The King ordered the Prime Minister to better the lot of miners. Baldwin said that Britain had no money , as they were recovering from the financial depression of 1931. The King also sought approval to marry the twice married divorcee American, Wallis Simpson. Baldwin declared to the King that it will be done only over his dead body. The King abdicated , married Simpson and became the Duke of Windsor.

In 1939, the Second World War broke out. Holland surrendered to the Germans, and Belgium surrendered two weeks later. In the first speech to the House of Commons, Churchill said, “I have nothing to offer but blood, tears, toil and sweat”. He spoke to the heart of the British people who welcomed his tone of grim and unyielding defiance. Then followed the miracle of Dunkirk. Churchill voiced the spirit of the Nation in a broadcast, conveying it’s unconquerable determination , “we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets”.

Britain stood all alone, for Mussolini had joined Hitler. Now came the Battle of Britain. The Nazi aircraft of the Luftwaffe, swarmed across the Channel to begin a German Invasion. They were brought down by the far smaller RAF fighter force. Churchill, in thanking the few heroic British pilots said, “never in the field of human conflict, was so much owed by so many, to so few”. He kept the morale of the British Forces and the Nation, by his electrifying speeches, more than with weapons.

He met Roosevelt the President of the USA. He also met Russia’s Stalin, laying aside his antagonism to Bolshevism promising support to the Soviets. He signed the Atlantic Charter with Roosevelt . The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour soon thereafter, and the USA found herself drawn into the War. This is just what Churchill wanted, because the USA all this time only spoon fed Britain, and did not come out openly to the War.

In 1942, he placed Alexander and Montgomery in charge of the North African campaign. Rommel and his Italo-Germans were sent flying , and the Germans were in retreat. In June 1944 was the Normandy Invasion. British and America troops steamed across, and in April 1945, the German forces surrendered. It was on May 8, 1945 that the War in Europe was over. Wildly enthusiastic crowds were cheering Churchill as their hero. Had Britain lost the War, Churchill would have been blown to smithereens by the Germans.

Though Germany and Italy surrendered, their ally Japan was ordered by Emperor Hirohito to keep fighting. He told his subjects, “I am not interested in my allies Germany and Italy surrendering, we will continue to fight”. By that time the USA had perfected the Atom Bomb. They had no choice but to order Capt Tibbets to drop these bombs from his aircraft “Enola Grey”, on Hiroshima and a little later on Nagasaki. Nearly one million Japanese people died.

It is very strange that Emperor Hirohito was not tried at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, though he too was guilty of the carnage where millions died. The Japanese Military Commanders were as inhuman as the German Commanders.

At the very next elections after the War, Churchill lost, and Clement Attlee became Prime Minister. Churchill was in the Opposition for six long years, and was elected Prime Minister in 1951. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, the present Queen of Britain.

Whatever the vicissitudes as Party Leader in domestic politics , Britain has known no greater leader in time of war. Sir Winston Churchill will go down in history as a soldier-citizen, whose courage and eloquence sustained and inspired the people of his motherland Great Britain, in their Darkest Hour, and whose many sided genius brought them through to victory.



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VIOLENT NIGHT —Santa Claus goes Die-Hard this Christmas

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David Harbour as Santa Claus

By Tharishi Hewavithanagamage.

Tis’ the season to be jolly and binge watch Christmas movie classics like ‘Home Alone’, but in a twisted turn of events Director Tommy Wirkola has other plans for audiences. With a screenplay by Pat Casey and Josh Miller, Director Wirkola and his team flips the table on the Christmas movie stereotype and gives audiences a scintillating and gut-churning tale starring the beloved Santa Claus. The movie stars, David Harbour, John Leguizamo, Leah Brady, Beverly D’Angelo and Alex Hassell among others.

The film starts with a boozy opening featuring a not-so-jolly, drunk, self-loathing Santa Claus complaining about how children these days are greedy and are ungrateful. The story then shifts it focus on to the über-wealthy but awfully dysfunctional Lightstone family, who have gathered to celebrate Christmas. Siblings Alva and Jason have brought their families to spend time with their mother Gertrude. Alva, her son Bertrude and actor boyfriend Morgan Steele, plan to gain financial benefits from Gertrude, while Jason his ex-wife Linda attempt to fix their marriage for the sake of their daughter Trudy. The ‘holy night’ becomes a more ‘gory night’ as the Lightstone family are taken hostage by a group of mercenaries led by ‘Mr. Scrooge’, who are looking to steal $300 million locked away in a massive vault within the compound. Santa who had arrived to deliver his gifts is unwillingly caught up in the unfolding mayhem, having fallen asleep mid-cookie/booze binge. Santa Claus is soon forced to pull himself together for young Trudy, and deliver more than just ‘lumps of coal’ to the bad guys.

Lightstone family

As the title itself suggests, the highlight of the movie is the violence and it lives up to its name. Wirkola and the team go all in with the violence, plenty of blood and gore and crude language to top it all off. Blood and guts are the last thing one would expect from Christmas flicks. The movie is packed with very graphic action sequences given to audiences from every camera angle possible, so it may not be for the faint hearted.

The film borrows greatly from the quintessential holiday movies of all time— ‘Home Alone’ and ‘Die-Hard’. Both franchises have always resonated well with audiences over different generations and the two titles, in a similar vein, combine action and violence set during Christmas time. The deadly booby traps that Trudy sets up bring back memories of Kevin McCallister’s assault on the Wet Bandits— Marv and Harry and David Harbour’s Santa is basically the new John McClane. Both Die-Hard and Home Alone have done well with striking a balance between the violence and themes about family, love and bringing people together for the holidays. For Wirkola who is amplifying the violence a thousand times over, it is important to not lose the festive vibes amidst the unbridled carnage. The movie manages to balance the scales just enough that it does not hamper the thrill. Wildly entertaining as it may be, the short and rather simple storyline affects the pace of the film. The storyline does not ponder too much over who lives and dies and barely goes into detail about the characters, and fails to give the film solid ground.

Leah Brady as Trudy

The star that truly shines is David Harbour, who is known best for his work as Jim Hopper on the Stranger Things series. He delivers a very natural performance, almost as if he was destined to play the role of a not-so-Saint Nick. He brings his A-game into the violent aspects of the role, while simultaneously delivering heart-warming scenes. Adding his own input into developing the character in the early stages of production, Harbour surely enjoyed this new rendition of Santa Claus. Adding more layers and elements to the character, the movie refers to and expands on the many cultural iterations of Saint Nicholas. ‘Violent Night’ gives audiences a glimpse into Santa’s history with a Viking-style backstory. Going by Nicomund the Red, he topped the naughty list as a warrior who pillaged and killed with his reliable hammer, Skullcrusher. Obviously in this scenario his former lifestyle gives him a greater advantage over the bad guys. Harbour brings great energy and inventively switches with ease between the hard and soft elements that complete the character.

Santa Claus and Mr. Scrooge

Leah Brady’s character Trudy plays a key role alongside Harbour’s Santa, as it’s their relationship that keeps the story running. Trudy depicts the essence of Christmas and is the epitome of everything that is good in the world. She is the emotional core of the tale— a little girl who needs something to believe in. A classic Christmas trope but one that is necessary to push the story forward. Trudy’s character reminds Santa that goodness and kindness is still there, in a world driven by greed and selfishness. The character dynamic helps strike an important balance between the violence and sentimental aspects of the holiday season. The rest of the cast are given ample screen time to work with their characters but don’t necessarily stand out, due to the lack of a solid storyline.

‘Violent Night’ is a simple tale that puts a fresh spin (and brutal murders) on the usual holiday flicks. Home Alone and Die-Hard were violent in their own way, but Wirkola is intensifying the bloodbath and catering to largely adult audiences. It’s not every day that audiences get to see a foul-mouthed, drunk Santa Claus who surprisingly turns out to be very good at crushing skulls and delivering nut-cracking blows with a sledgehammer, save the day. David Harbour’s rendition of Santa can sit at the top with the likes of Deadpool and John Wick based solely off the gruesome and highly graphic action sequences it offers. For audiences looking to catch the film Wirkola’s magic guarantees a bloody good time.

‘Violent Night’ is currently screening at Scope Cinemas.

 

John Leguizamo as Mr. Scrooge

Director Tommy Wirkola

 

 

 

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South likely to be hit most by West’s price cap on Russian crude oil

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People protesting in China

Months into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it is becoming increasingly clear that the latter’s traumas would not end any time soon. Nor is the invader registering any notable gains from its fatal decision to annex Ukraine by armed means and might. However, it’s abundantly clear that the destabilizing economic consequences for the world from the invasion are likely to increase exponentially.

The recent decision by the G7, EU and Australia to place a price cap of US $ 60 on a barrel of Russian crude oil is further proof of the West’s intention of weakening Russia relentlessly on the economic plane, but as matters stand, it is the global South that is likely to suffer most from this decision.

Observers of the global oil industry were quoted as saying that the world would need to brace for further oil price hikes as a result of the Western decision and that OPEC would likely reduce its oil output in the days to come with the aim of propping-up prices. Needless to say, these developments translate into graver economic hardships for the more vulnerable economies of the South, although destabilizing ripple effects from stepped-up oil prices would be felt worldwide as well.

At the time of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, hunger and famine were already taking hold of parts of Africa. Some African countries with the worst food crises are; Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Somalia. Their condition was further aggravated as a result of food and energy prices escalating, close on the heels of the invasion.

It was only a matter of time before these economic aftershocks made themselves felt in even the West. Right now, the West is very much into a ‘Winter of Discontent’, with rising food and energy prices proving to be doubly distressing. Inflation in the UK, for instance, is said to be notably high.

In the Asian theatre, countries such as Sri Lanka and Afghanistan are virtually begging for survival. If not for the largesse of the international community, it could be truly said that Sri Lanka ‘would not live to see another day’. If its multi-dimensional crisis is not resolved expeditiously, Sri Lanka is likely to be categorized by the world community as one of those countries with the highest levels of hunger in South Asia and Southeast Asia. Some other countries in this category from the regions concerned are: Timor-Leste, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and North Korea.

Accordingly, the mentioned economically-distressed countries and more are unlikely to survive another series of energy and food price shocks and also remain intact, so to speak. However, with the prospects remaining bleak for a negotiated settlement of the Ukraine crisis, the possibility of the international community alleviating the economic hardships of the South in the foreseeable future is remote. The conclusion is inescapable that the South would need to brace for aggravating material hardships and economic disempowerment.

Wise counsel would need to be brought to bear on the Russian political leadership to enable it to see the no-win situation into which it has brought itself in the Ukrainian theatre. President Putin is unlikely to take the path of negotiations in Ukraine if the latter course would incur for him a loss of face and prestige. The negotiated settlement while ensuring Ukraine’s independence and geographical integrity should guard against the possibility of a drastic loss of prestige and credibility for the Russian President in the eyes of his public at home.

However, the world community is quite a distance away from such a win-win outcome, considering the polarities in thinking and the persisting hostile relations between the main sides to the Ukraine crisis. The solution calls for deft diplomacy of the highest order.

It is left to powers, such as China and India, to take up the challenge of bringing about a negotiated political settlement in Ukraine. China has not condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine but is not endorsing it either. Since the Chinese political leadership has entered into what may be called a détente process of sorts with the US, it emerges as a suitable candidate to bring the antagonists in Ukraine to the negotiating table.

President Xi could use the measure of cordiality he established with President Biden before the recent G-20 summit in Indonesia to narrow the differences between the conflicting sides in Ukraine, considering that the West’s staunch support for Ukraine is a vital factor in perpetuating the conflict.

Likewise, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi could use his offices as the head of the G-20 to help to bring the crisis in Ukraine to an end. As is the case with China, India enjoys cordial ties with Russia and being a major democracy, India is likely to see the wisdom of ending the Ukraine conflict by peaceful means, in consideration of the need to serve the best interests of the Ukrainian and Russian publics without further delay.

A moral duty is cast on the world’s foremost democracies, such as India, to attach primacy to the wellbeing of people everywhere and in the current world economic crunch, it is the people who are affected negatively most. It stands to reason if the Ukraine invasion is ended through negotiations, there would be considerable relief for people worldwide.

The fact that there is considerable popular unrest against the political leadership of China and Russia at present should further prompt the respective Presidents of these countries to lose no time in doing their best to end the Ukraine crisis by peaceful means. It ought to be clear that their tenures at the helm of their countries would no longer be peaceful, since their policies, domestic and foreign, have only served to trigger internal dissent and unrest. They may deploy state coercion to get such unrest under control but the possibility is that the people’s animosity towards their regimes will explode time and again.

If Xi and Putin would permit wise counsel to prevail they would redress the grievances of their publics by peaceful means rather than court chronic and continuing dissent against their regimes by seeking to quell their popular uprisings through the use of coercion. Next, they should use the expertise they have acquired locally to heal a ‘running wound’ that is bringing distress to people the world over, such as the Ukraine crisis.

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Christmas with the Calibre Team

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The festive season is certainly brightening up and, going by what I see on social media, there will be plenty of festive activities for everyone, and that’s a good sign, indeed, as we missed out on those Christmassy celebrations, the past two years, mainly due to the pandemic.

Choro Calibre and X-Calibre, two unique bands, with energetic musicians, who are focused and passionate to create choral and acoustic music, in their own style, have released their new Christmas cover song…the ever popular Jose Feliciano festive hit, ‘Feliz Navidad.’

This much loved Christmas pop song has been given an electronic colour, and twist, by the Calibre Team.

For the record, ‘Feliz Navidad’ was written, in 1970, by Puerto Rican singer-songwriter José Feliciano.

With its simple, heartfelt lyrics—the traditional Spanish Christmas and New Year greeting “Feliz Navidad, próspero año y felicidad” means Merry Christmas, a prosperous year and happiness”.

The song has been heard, on the radio, by an estimated 3.8 billion people, according to Billboard, where it remains as one of the top 10 best-performing songs on its Holiday 100 chart.

You can check out the new music video, by the Calibre Team, on YouTube, and download the song on Apple Music and Spotify.

Choro Calibre and X-Calibre became a reality, in 2009, when Shamal De Silva, driven by the passion for music, teamed up with a few of his friends and started a choir, and a band.

Shamal De Silva

Shamal began his music career at the age of just eight, probably the youngest church organist at the time, when he started playing at St. Paul’s Church, in Waragoda. Later, he took over the leadership of the College Choir, in 2008, at his Alma-Mater, St. Joseph’s College, Colombo, and went on to win “The Musician of the Year” award, in 2009, for his multi-disciplined musical contributions. He also excelled in his studies and graduated from the University of Colombo.

Explaining the meaning of ‘Calibre,’ Shamal says Excalibur is the legendary sword of King Arthur and it is believed to be the strongest sword – unbreakable, and powerful. And so, the band is named as X-Calibre, and the choral group as Choro Calibre.

Elaborating further, Shamal indicated that the choral group, Choro Calibre, is an international award-winning commercial choir (won three awards at the Asia Cantate Choir Games, held in Thailand), and they perform at weddings, events, and Christmas carols, while X-Calibre is an acoustic band, also doing weddings, events and private functions.

“With our new outlook, new sound, re-arranged music and melodious harmonies, we’ve got some exciting events and productions lined up. We perform different genres and musical eras, ranging from the sounds of golden oldies to the top club hits of today”, said Shamal.

You could check them out, during the festive season, at the following venues:

• 14th December: 7.00pm – Cafe Ivy

• 16th to 25th December: 4.00pm – Cinnamon Grand

• 17th December: 5.00pm – Gold FM 70s show at Taj North Lawn

• 20th December: 7.00pm – Christmas party at Cinnamon Lakeside

• 21st to 25th December: 7.00pm – Cinnamon Lakeside

• 22nd and 23rd December: 8.00pm – Taj Samudra

• 24th and 25th December: 8.00pm – Hilton Colombo

• 22nd to 24th December: 9.00pm – Galadari Hotel

• 25th December 2022: Galadari Hotel

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