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Rapacity as the driving force of colonialism and capitalism

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Book Review

Title – Savage Beasts
Author- Rani Selvarajah

Publisher – One More Chapter; a division of HarperCollinsPublishers

Within the pages of this memorable novel, ‘Savage Beasts’, by Sri Lankan-origin Rani Selvarajah, a University of Cambridge product, living and working in Great Britain, is an exhilarating narrative of the rapacious greed that drove the British colonial project in its early centuries. Essentially, it is a creative writer’s account of how the global South or East came to be pillaged and reduced to penury by its colonial overlords, although it is presented to us in the form of a gripping story.

As could have been expected, we don’t have in the novel a detailed, prosaic historical account of how parts of the ‘Third World’ came to be subjugated by the Western colonial powers, such as the Dutch and the British, in the mid-eighteenth century; for that is the century in focus. Rather, what we have narrated very engagingly in ‘Savage Beasts’, is an amorous tie that descends into mutual animosity between a Calcutta-based Indian Princess and a handsome young British sailor, with strong blood connections to the ruling hierarchy of the invading British East India Company (VOC), the precursor of full-blown British rule in the East. The relationship starts with a heart-warming romance and ends in betrayal, deceit, thievery, murder and destitution.

The central action in the novel traverses India, Ceylon, South Africa and Britain. The princess, Meena, is duped by the sailor, James, into running away with him from her kingdom in Bengal where her father, the Nawab of Bengal was the ruling despot, to Ceylon, South Africa and lastly Britain, where James’ cruel machinations to use Meena to achieve his material and power ambitions are laid bare.

It is finally revealed that James was mainly interested in wresting from Meena, the Nawab’s military plans to defend his kingdom against the invading British, and to sell these secrets to the British East India Company, which was headed by James’ uncle, the coldly calculating Sir Peter Chilcot, who becomes a symbol of imperial rule in the East in all its harshness and exploitative greed.

Although a ruthless ruler, whose fixation too was power, we are compelled to agree with the Nawab in his assessment of James, when he tells Meena at page 104, early in the story: ‘That man is a charlatan. You may not be able to see it, but he is. All of them are. They come here, treating us like fools, taking what they can at the point of a gun. Traders, merchants. They like to call themselves businessmen when they’re just pirates who think they can make demands of kings.’

The Meena-James relationship at the heart of ‘Savage Beasts’, therefore, becomes an ‘objective correlative’, as it were, if we are to borrow a concept from renowned English poet and literary critic T.S. Eliot, for the central theme in the novel, which is the ruination and impoverishment of its colonies by the British colonizer. That is, the romance and its gradual degeneration into a relationship of mutual hate between the main protagonists becomes a tangible symbol of the novel’s main theme.

The ruination of India by the British colonizer does not take the form of only the physical subjugation and economic exploitation of the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of the British monarch. It takes the form also of the brazen robbing and pillaging of everything of cultural and spiritual importance to India, including, of course, its dignity.

The episode that bears this out in the novel arrives in its closing chapters when Meena, who is inveigled by James into accompanying him to England, finds to her horror that all the important cultural treasures in her father’s palace had been robbed and stowed away in James’ uncle’s mansion, that is, the VOC chief’s residence. Prior to such pillaging, the Nawab had been savaged by the invaders and left to die on a Calcutta street, we are given to understand.

‘Savage Beasts’ ends on the tragic note of Meena being rendered homeless and destitute. However, she enjoys the satisfaction of exacting ‘blood revenge’ from James, by killing the influential English woman he intended to marry after deserting her. Meena, however, is deeply comforted by the fact that she retains possession of the son, her liaison with James yielded. The enduring mother-son bond, we could say, is the ‘universal in the particular.’

Besides its thematic substance, ‘Savage Beasts’ is also notable for its smoothly flowing and gripping story line. Bolstering its literary merit further is its dramatic and evocative prose style. It is a novel that calls for close and sustained literary appraisal.

– Lynn Ockersz



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Pan Asia Bank posts steady performance during FY 2023 –

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Aravinda Perera- Chairman & Naleen Edirisinghe - Director CEO of Pan Asia Bank

Profit before Tax increases by 258% amidst external challenges

Pan Asia Banking Corporation PLC reflected a steady performance amidst multitude of adversities emerging from challenging macro-economic conditions as the Bank reported its financial performance during 2023, which showed judicious portfolio management and prudency exercised in dealing with possible fallout on its asset quality in challenging times.

The Bank reported a Pre-tax Profit of Rs. 2,328 Mn for the year ended 31st December 2023, which is 258% increase compared to corresponding period last year, supported by improved net interest income, increased trading gains from government securities and reduced exchange losses.

The Sri Lankan economy has experienced some positive signs of gradual economic recovery and a measure of stability in macro-economic factors compared to the previous year, with the appreciation of LKR against USD and the IMF bailout followed by the Domestic Debt Optimization (DDO) announcement. The multiple economic scenario models used regarding collective impairment in 2022 were continued in 2023 to ensure that adequate buffers were in place to absorb any potential credit risk that could arise in the future. The allowance for overlays applied in previous year was continued and maintained during 2023 too. Meanwhile, the Bank managed to end the year with healthy credit quality matrices due to improved credit underwriting standards and concerted collection & recovery efforts despite the contraction in the loan book during 2023 which impacted the Bank’s Stage 3 Loan Ratio adversely.

Furthermore, the Bank increased impairment provision buffers held regarding investments in International Sovereign Bonds of Government of Sri Lanka (SLISBs) further during 2023 with the expectation of possible adverse outcomes of the on-going government External Debt Restructuring (EDR) programme. The Bank recognised an impairment charge of nearly Rs. 2 Bn regarding International Sovereign Bonds during 2023.

The interest income for the year 2023 rose by 39% due to the high interest rates that prevailed during the period under review compared to corresponding period of the last year and the re-pricing effect of facilities in response to the market conditions. Further, the growth in interest income was supported by the increased interest income from Rupee denominated securities of the Government of Sri Lanka (T-Bills & Bonds) due to increased investments and high interest rates offered on such new investments compared to the previous year. Consequently, the net interest income increased by 9% in 2023 compared to the last year. (Pan Asia Bank)

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SLT-MOBITEL celebrates the season of love with exciting giveaways

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SLT-MOBITEL, the National ICT Solutions Provider, celebrated Valentine’s Day with a series of heartwarming promotions and networking activities, spreading love and joy for customers across the country.

Connecting hearts from all around the world on social media, SLT-MOBITEL invited participants to share their loving memories for a chance to win movie tickets. Customers were also given the opportunity to dedicate romantic ringing tones to their loved ones by dialling special codes.

As part of the Valentine’s Day celebrations, SLT-MOBITEL also offered a special promotion, providing a special screening for the glamorous movie ‘Sihinayeki Adarey’, powered by SLT-MOBITEL. Furthermore, customers were treated to a surprise bonus of 10GB of free data upon recharging their SLT-MOBITEL mobile numbers with Rs. 500 or more through any banking app.

Taking love to the hill country, in a special engagement event at the Kandy City Centre, fans were able to participate in activities and interact with the ‘Sihinayeki Adarey’ cast including Hemal Ranasinghe, Sheshadri Priyasad, and many others.

Through these exciting promotions, SLT-MOBITEL helped spread love and joy this season while enhancing the customer experience with exclusive activities.

To discover more of SLT-MOBITEL’s Valentine’s Day promotions, visit https://www.facebook.com/SLTMobitel.

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Call for Proposals: Saman Kelegama Memorial Research Grant 2024

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The Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS) is inviting proposals for the Saman Kelegama Memorial Research Grant 2024. The grant is an annual, merit-based grant awarded to an outstanding undergraduate studying in a Sri Lankan university. It aims to promote policy entrepreneurs among undergraduates by encouraging policy-relevant, rigorous and innovative socio-economic research.

The grant was established in 2018 to honour Dr. Saman Kelegama’s legacy of independent research and public policy engagement in socio-economic development in Sri Lanka and the wider South Asian region. Dr. Kelegama was the Executive Director of the IPS from 1995 to 2017.

Fourth-year undergraduates studying economics or a related subject in a University Grants Commission approved university or higher education institution in Sri Lanka are eligible to apply. Proposals must be written according to the guidelines provided and emailed to tharakam@ips.lk on or before the submission deadline of 30 April 2024.

HOW WILL THE WINNER BE CHOSEN? The quality of the proposals will be judged for its policy relevance, feasibility, originality and creativity. Three finalists will be chosen and invited to present their proposals at the IPS, where the award recipient will be selected.

OUTCOMES OF THE GRANTS – The recipient will be expected to produce a Policy Discussion Brief within six months of receiving the grant. The research report can be written individually or jointly with an IPS senior researcher.

BENEFITS OF THE GRANT – The beneficiary will be awarded a one-time research grant of LKR 200,000 to carry out the proposed research and a three-month internship at the IPS. The recipient will be able to seek guidance from senior researchers and benefit from IPS resources to complete the proposed study during the internship. To enable students from all over Sri Lanka to benefit from this opportunity, the terms of the internship will be flexible. The internship can either be a fully in-house internship at IPS, or it can be an in-house plus online internship. In the case of the second option, the in-house component of the internship should be at least six weeks. To encourage research dissemination, an additional subsidy will be provided for presenting the research findings at local conferences and workshops.

Important Dates

30 April 2024 – Deadline for Submission of Proposals

01 June 2024 – Announcement of Finalists

23 June 2024 – Announcement of the Winner

Further information is available at: https://www.ips.lk/saman-kelegama-memorial-research-grant/

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