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The Quintessential Bond and the Quintessential Scot A Tribute

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SIR SEAN CONNERY

by Anura Gunasekera

As a teen my introduction to James Bond was “Casino Royale”, a tattered paperback copy bought second-hand, for a few rupees, from the Bethel Book shop in Dehiwala. The cover image depicted the full figure of a curvy female in distress, overshadowed by the head and shoulders of a cruelly handsome, steely-eyed male, hair artfully disheveled, forelock falling across the forehead, and the Walther PPK ready for action. With an uncanny prescience, the cover designer had captured the key ingredients that subsequently built the film franchise.

Many years later, by when I had read all the Bond novels published up to that time, viewing the film “Dr. No” as soon as it hit our local cinemas, I immediately juxtaposed my mental image of the Casino Royale cover page with the James Bond of Sean Connery. That is the picture I have retained of him, till today, Connery the reality and Bond the fiction, seamlessly becoming one.

No actor of any generation personified, as Connery did, the complex combination of cruel good looks, a hairy –chested male animalism and the sophistication and the exquisitely groomed exterior, just a veneer for the menace about to be unleashed. It was the studied understatement which lent profile and clarity to the attributes. It was the ultimate cinema, male cool, shaken but not stirred. For women, a man to fall in love with but, perhaps, not to marry. For star-struck teenage males like the writer was then, a super-male icon, who erased the baddie with clinical precision accompanied by a wintry smile and, occasionally, a quip, made the world safe for democracy and drove away with the beautiful girl, in a souped-up Aston Martin, custom tailored.

All the others who inherited the mantle, relentlessly compared with the original, have been discounted for one reason or another. When finally Connery abandoned Bond, years of searching for a replacement unearthed a plethora of good actors, but Connery the First will forever be the perfect Bond. Though others will continue to play it, the role belongs to Connery because he made it his own.

Connery played Bond in six films, after the first ” Dr. No” had both set the standard and created the 007 icon, launching one of the most successful movie franchises in the history of the cinema. It was followed by ” From Russia With Love”, “Goldfinger”, “Thunderball”, “You Only Live Twice”, “Diamonds are Forever”, and after a decade long absence, ” Never Say Never Again”, all starring Connery who, from all accounts, ,was struggling escape the role by that time, for fear of becoming typecast and permanently shackled to the image he created.

He was followed by Roger Moore, who, tongue-in-cheek most of the time, spoofed his way through a few of the films, never hiding the fact that he was Simon Templar pretending to be Sean Connery. George Lazenby was forgotten after just one role; pretty Pierce Brosnan, a relatively limp-wristed 007, who repeated the immortal lines, ” The name is Bond, James Bond”, with the hint of a lisp and more recently, Daniel Craig, a tightly muscled bruiser with a battered face, more the Mafia hitman than the urbane civil servant, On Her Majesty’s Service, but with the license to kill.

Not many actors had the charisma and presence that was Connery. Whether it was playing Bond, or a medieval Franciscan friar, the captain of a Russian nuclear submarine, or as the white-bearded father of Harrison Ford on a desert expedition, a sergeant in a British military prison, a Berber brigand, an over-the -hill Irish cop, or the mythical English king cuckolded by his first knight, Connery commanded the screen in a way which had as much to do with persona as with acting ability. It was a combination of purely personal attributes, first show-cased in Dr.NO and refined over the years, which enabled him to effortlessly steal both the screen and the scene, away from colleagues with greater acting skills.

He always seemed taller and broader than the others on the screen with him; his deep voice delivering perfectly articulated lines, the Scottish burr smoothened over by voice lessons but the rough, native grain still very much in evidence, irrespective of the role, the piercing eyes below beetling eyebrows and a hardness of expression which age did not diminish; voted by “People” magazine in 1989 as the Sexiest Man Alive- at age 59, irrespective of the role, he remained a man’s man.

James Bond was born Thomas Sean Connery, in August 1930, to Joe Connery, a rubber mill worker and his wife, Euphamia, in a tenement in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh. It was a cold water flat, not far from the “Royal Mile” but still a million miles away. The mother cleaned grand houses of the rich and titled in Edinburgh. The family lived on the fifth floor and shared a bathroom located four floors down. His paternal grandfather, Thomas, worked as a bookie’s runner and used to be occasionally arrested for plying an illegal trade. His maternal grandfather was Neil Maclean, a stonemason who eventually became a foreman and, therefore, slightly better positioned socially and economically. Apparently, the Macleans looked down upon and were a bit embarrassed by the Connery’s, rag-and-bone people who went around the streets with a horse and cart.

Tam, as he was known to family and friends, qualified at age twelve for a place in Boroughmuir High School but, instead, opted for Darroch Secondary, for the simple reason that the latter prominently featured Soccer, Connery’s passion in to adulthood, till affluence replaced it with Golf. He was introduced to work early, delivering milk for Kennedy’s dairy from the age of nine. At fourteen he had dropped out of school, to become a barrow worker at the Corstorphine Dairy, for twenty one shillings a week. An early promotion resulted in Connery being given his own horse and cart at age fifteen.

At age seventeen Connery signed up with the Royal Navy for a twelve year stint but was discharged quickly on medical grounds. Thereafter he took on a bewildering series of odd-jobs, commencing with polishing coffins, going on to semi-nude modelling, as a life-guard at an outdoor swimming pool, a music hall bouncer and as a professional soccer player, in the Scottish Junior League. As a body-building enthusiast, he also entered the Mr. Universe Contest in London, possibly in 1953, being completely marginalized in the Tall Man Class by the eventual winner, Bill Pearl, a genuine professional in the sport.

It was during this period that Connery was introduced to acting, securing a part in the ” South Pacific” ensemble on a two year national tour. Robert Henderson, a leading actor in the production, encouraged Connery to make a career of acting with the assurance of personal help, on the understanding that Connery would take lessons to soften his near impenetrable Scottish burr, and also improve his literacy by some serious reading. Connery did both and the rest is cinematic history.

In his semi-autobiographical book, ” Being a Scott”, which is also Connery’s tribute to “Scottishness”, co-authored with Murray Grigor, Connery describes how important this phase was in his development, as he ploughed his way through both classics and contemporary writing, ranging from plays by Ibsen, novels by James Joyce, Hemingway, Turgenev and Tolstoy and the works of Shakespeare, Dickens and Proust.

After playing bit parts in several films, Connery played the lead role in the play, “Requiem for a Heavyweight” , an immediate hit in which, according to “The Times”, Connery displayed a “shambling and inarticulate charm”. Macbeth, Anna Christie and many other vehicles followed, a diverse range of plays, films, TV series, flops interspersed with hits, with Connery playing a bafflingly varied range of roles, the only common thread being the “heavy burr”, deliberately retained by the stubborn Scotsman. To quote Connery (in “Being a Scott”),…. ” I never wanted to imitate that staccato precision of perfection achieved by such masters of the articulated vowel as the incomparable John Gielgud……or proclaim like Dylan Thomas’s men from the BBC, who speak as though they had the Elgin Marbles in their mouths.”

Then came the Broccoli and Saltzman duo, having purchased the first Bond vehicle, looking for the best driver. A star-studded candidate list, ranging from Roger Moore, Richard Johnson, Richard Burton, Peter Finch, David Niven, James Stewart, Michael Redgrave, Trevor Howard, James Mason, Patrick McGoogan, Cary Grant, and stuntman Bob Simmons, were all considered and discarded for one reason or another.

Around this time, Broccoli and his wife Diana, saw Connery in the Walt Disney film, ” Darby O’Gill and the Little People”. Diana, identifying with a woman’s unerring instinct, the combination of male charisma and sex appeal which spelled star quality, said, “that is your Bond”. Subsequently, the relatively unknown Ursula Andress trumped already famous Julie Christie, simply because the latter’s bust did not meet Broccoli’s demanding expectations for Honeychile Rider. A deeply tanned Andress, a Nereid emerging from the Jamaican sea foam, wearing a skimpy white bikini and a hunting knife, set the bench mark for the Bond girls that followed.

Saltzmann describes Connery’s attitude in his first interview with Connery, in his office, along with Broccoli..” Take me whole or forget the deal…we had never seen a surer guy or a more arrogant s.o.b”( Sean Connery by Andrew Yule).

During the filming of Dr. NO, on location in Kingston Jamaica, Connery met Fleming for the first time and the two had connected well, though, reportedly, Fleming had once said that ” Connery was a labourer playing Commander Bond”. The common-born, working class Scot with no formal education and the upper class Englishman, son of a Conservative Member of Parliament, educated at Eton, the universities of Munich and Geneva and trained at Sandhurst, subsequently a banker and a stockbroker and a member of British Naval Intelligence, had also established a tenuous connection; Connery had delivered milk at the exclusive Edinburgh Fettes College, from which the young Fleming had been expelled.

The endless stream of messages following Sir Sean Connery’s passing, moving, complimentary and expressing regret, from co-stars, peers in his profession, and countless others from different walks of life and different disciplines, underline the measure of both the actor and the man. The stature was well earned. Despite his reputation for an in-your-face honesty, a fondness for litigation, and a not infrequent irascibility, the common thread was love and respect.

The Scottish nation will now have to look elsewhere to bestow the title of ” The Greatest Living Scott”, a search that may, actually, be easier than finding the second best Bond.



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Port City Bill Requires Referendum

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by Dr Jayampathy Wickramaratne,PC

The Colombo Port Economic Commission Bill was presented in Parliament on 08 April 2021, while the country was getting ready to celebrate the traditional New Year. With the intervening weekend and public holidays, citizens had just two working days to retain lawyers, many of whom were on vacation, and file applications challenging the constitutionality of the Bill in the Supreme Court within the one-week period stipulated in the Constitution. One wonders whether the timing was deliberate.

Special economic zones are common. They are created mainly to attract foreign investments. In return, investors are offered various concessions so that their products are competitive in the global market. Several negative effects of such zones have also been highlighted. The sole purpose of this article, however, is a discussion on the constitutionality of the Bill.

The Bill seeks to establish a high-powered Commission entrusted with the administration, regulation and control of all matters connected with businesses and other operations in and from the Colombo Port City. It may lease land situated in the Colombo Port City area and even transfer freehold ownership of condominium parcels. It operates as a Single Window Investment Facilitator for proposed investments into the Port City. It would exercise the powers and functions of any applicable regulatory authority under any written law and obtain the concurrence of the relevant regulatory authority, which shall, as a matter of priority, provide such concurrence to the Commission. The discretion and powers of such other authorities under the various laws shall thus stand removed.

The Commission consists of five members who need not be Sri Lankan citizens, quite unlike the Urban Development Authority, the Board of Management of which must comprise Sri Lankan citizens only. One issue that arises is that the vesting of such powers upon persons with loyalties to other countries, especially superpowers, would undermine the free, sovereign, and independent status of Sri Lanka guaranteed by Article 1 of our Constitution. It would also impinge on the sovereignty of the People of Sri Lanka guaranteed by Article 3 read with Article 4.

The removal of the discretionary powers of the various regulatory authorities is arbitrary and violative of the right to equal protection of the law guaranteed by Article 12 (1).

Under Clause 25, only persons authorized by the Commission can engage in business in the Port City. Clause 27 requires that all investments be in foreign currency only. What is worse is that even foreign currency deposited in an account in a Sri Lankan bank cannot be used for investment. Thus, Sri Lankans cannot invest in the Port City using Sri Lankan rupees; neither can they use foreign currency that they legally have in Sri Lanka. The above provisions are clearly arbitrary and discriminatory of Sri Lankans and violate equality and non-discrimination guaranteed by Article 12. They also violate the fundamental right to engage in business guaranteed by Article 14 (1) (g).

Under clause 35, any person, whether a resident or a non-resident, may be employed within the Port City and such employee shall be remunerated in a designated foreign currency, other than in Sri Lanka rupees. Such employment income shall be exempt from income tax. Clause 36 provides that Sri Lankan rupees accepted within the Port City can be converted to foreign currency. Under clause 40, Sri Lankans may pay for goods, services, and facilities in Sri Lankan rupees but would be required to pay a levy for goods taken out of the Port City, as if s/he were returning from another country! The mere repetition of phrases such as ‘in the interests of the national economy’ throughout the Bill like a ‘mantra’ does not bring such restrictions within permissible restrictions set out in Article 15.

Clause 62 requires that all disputes involving the Commission be resolved through arbitration. The jurisdiction of Sri Lankan courts is thus ousted.

In any legal proceedings instituted on civil and commercial matters, where the cause of action has arisen within the Port City or in relation to any business carried on in or from the Port City, Clause 63 requires Sri Lankan courts to give such cases priority and hear them speedily on a day-to-day basis to ensure their expeditious disposal.

The inability of an Attorney-at-Law to appear before the court even for personal reasons, such as sickness, shall not be a ground for postponement. These provisions are arbitrary and violate Article 12.

Clause 73 provides that several Sri Lankan laws listed in Schedule III would have no application within the Port City. Such laws include the Urban Development Authority Act, Municipal Councils Ordinance, and the Town and Country Planning Ordinance. Under Clauses 52 and 53, exemptions may be granted by the Commission from several laws of Sri Lanka, including the Inland Revenue Act, Betting and Gaming Levy Act, Foreign Exchange Act, and the Customs Ordinance.

The Commission being empowered to grant exemptions from Sri Lankan laws undermines the legislative power of the People and of Parliament and violates Articles 3 and Article 4 (c) of the Constitution.

Several matters dealt with by the Bill come under the Provincial Councils List. They include local government, physical planning, and betting and gaming. Article 154G (3) requires that such a Bill be referred to Provincial Councils for their views. As Provincial Councils are not currently constituted, passage by a two-thirds majority will be necessary in the absence of the consent of the Provincial Councils.

The exclusion of the Municipal Councils Ordinance from the Port City area is not possible under the Constitution. When the Greater Colombo Economic Commission was sought to be established in 1978 under the 1972 Constitution, a similar exclusion was held by the Constitutional Court not to be arbitrary. Since then, under the Thirteenth Amendment under the 1978 Constitution, local government has been given constitutional recognition and included under the Provincial Council List. Under the present constitutional provisions, therefore, the Port City cannot be excluded from laws on local government.

The writer submits that in the above circumstances, the Colombo Port Economic Commission Bill requires to be passed by a two-thirds majority in Parliament and approved by the People at a Referendum. Quite apart from the constitutional issues that arise, such an important piece of proposed legislation needs to be widely discussed. It is best that the Bill is referred to a Parliamentary Committee before which the public, as well as citizens’ organizations and experts in the related fields, could make their submissions.

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Investigative Journalism?

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I usually end up totally exhausted when I finish reading the local newspapers from the Pearl. There are so many burning questions and so much is written about them but there are no conclusions and definitely no answers. For example, we seem to have three burning issues right now and this is not in order of importance.

We have a lengthy report that has been published on the Easter Sunday carnage. Everybody knows what I am talking about. However, no one, be it an editor, a paid journalist or a single one of the many amateurs who write to the papers, has reached a conclusion or even expressed an opinion as to who was responsible. At least not a believable one! Surely there are energetic and committed young people in the field of journalism today who, if asked, or directed properly will go out and find a source that would give them at least a credible hypothesis? Or do conclusions exist and has no one the courage to publish them?

At least interview the authors or should I use the word perpetrators of that report. If they refuse to be interviewed ask them why and publish an item every day asking them why! Once you get a hold of them, cross-examine them, trap them into admissions and have no mercy. It is usually geriatrics who write these reports in the Pearl and surely a bright young journalist can catch them out with a smart question or two, or at least show us that they tried? The future of the country depends on it!

We have allegations of contaminated coconut oil been imported. These are very serious allegations and could lead to much harm to the general populace. Do you really believe that no one can find out who the importers are and what brands they sell their products under? In this the Pearl, where everyone has a price, you mean to say that if a keen young journalist was given the correct ammunition (and I don’t mean 45 calibres) and sent out on a specific message, he or she couldn’t get the information required?

We are told that a massive amount of money has been printed over the last few months. There is only speculation as to the sums involved and even more speculation as to what this means to the people of the Pearl. Surely, there are records, probably guarded by extremely lowly paid government servants. I am not condoning bribery but there is nothing left to condone, is there? There are peons in government ministries who will gladly slip you the details if you are committed enough and if you are sent there to get it by a boss who will stand by you and refuse to disclose his sources.

I put it to you, dear readers, that we do not have enough professional, committed and adequately funded news organisations in the country. We can straightaway discount the government-owned joints. We can also largely discount those being run by magnates for personal gain and on personal agendas. As far as the Internet goes, we can forget about those that specialise in speculative and sensationalist untruths, what are we left with O denizens of the Pearl? Are there enough sources of news that you would consider willing to investigate a matter and risk of life and limb and expose the culprits for the greater good of society? Can they be counted even on the fingers of one hand?

In this era when we have useless political leaders, when law and order are non-existent when the police force is a joke, it is time the fourth estate stepped up to the mark! I am sure we have the personnel; it is the commitment from the top and by this, I mean funding and the willingness to risk life and limb, that we lack. Governments over the last few decades have done their best to intimidate the press and systematically destroy any news outlet that tried to buck the usual sycophantic behaviour that is expected from them by those holding absolute power.

Do you think Richard Nixon would ever have been impeached if not for the Watergate reporting? Donald Trump partially owes his defeat to the unrelenting campaign carried out against him by the “fake news” outlets that he tried to denigrate. Trump took on too much. The fourth estate of America is too strong and too powerful to destroy in a head-to-head battle and even the most powerful man in the world, lost. Let’s not go into the merits and demerits of the victor as this is open to debate.

Now, do we have anything like that in the Pearl? Surely, with 20 million-plus “literate” people, we should? We should have over 70 years of independence built up the Fourth Estate to be proud of. One that would, if it stood strong and didn’t waver and collapse under pressure from the rulers, have ensured a better situation for our land. Here is Aotearoa with just five million people, we have journalists who keep holding the government to account. They are well-funded by newspapers and TV networks with audiences that are only a fraction of what is available in the Pearl. Some of the matters they highlight often bring a smirk of derision to my face for such matters wouldn’t even warrant one single line of newsprint, should they happen in the Pearl.

Talking of intimidation from the rulers, most of us are familiar with the nationalisation of the press, the murder and torture of journalists, the burning of presses to insidious laws been passed to curtail the activities of Journalism. These things have happened in other countries, too, but the people and press have been stronger, and they have prevailed. We are at a watershed, an absolutely crucial time. It is now that our last few credible news sources should lift their game. Give us carefully researched and accurate reports with specific conclusions, not generalisations. Refuse to disclose your sources as is your right, especially now that the myopic eye of the UNHCR is turned in our direction.

All other ways and means of saving our beloved motherland, be it government, religion, sources of law and order and even civil society leadership seems to have lapsed into the realm of theory and rhetoric. Our last chance lies with the Fourth Esate and all it stands for. I call for, nay BEG for, a favourable reaction from those decision-makers in that field, who have enough credibility left in society, DON’T LET US DOWN NOW!

 

 

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The world sees ugly side of our beauty pageants

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Yes, it’s still the talk-of-the-town…not only here, but the world over – the fracas that took place at a recently held beauty pageant, in Colombo.

It’s not surprising that the local beauty scene has hit a new low because, in the past, there have been many unpleasant happenings taking place at these so-called beauty pageants.

On several occasions I have, in my articles, mentioned that the state, or some responsible authority, should step in and monitor these events – lay down rules and guidelines, and make sure that everything is above board.

My suggestions, obviously, have fallen on deaf ears, and this is the end result – our beauty pageants have become the laughing stock the world over; talk show hosts are creating scenes, connected with the recent incidents, to amuse their audience.

Australians had the opportunity of enjoying this scenario, so did folks in Canada – via talk show hosts, discussing our issue, and bringing a lot of fun, and laughter, into their discussions!

Many believe that some of these pageants are put together, by individuals…solely to project their image, or to make money, or to have fun with the participants.

And, there are also pageants, I’m told, where the winner is picked in advance…for various reasons, and the finals are just a camouflage. Yes, and rigging, too, takes place.

I was witnessed to one such incident where I was invited to be a judge for the Talent section of a beauty contest.

There were three judges, including me, and while we were engrossed in what we were assigned to do, I suddenly realised that one of the contestants was known to me…as a good dancer.

But, here’s the catch! Her number didn’t tally with the name on the scoresheet, given to the judges.

When I brought this to the notice of the organiser, her sheepish reply was that these contestants would have switched numbers in the dressing room.

Come on, they are no babes!

On another occasion, an organiser collected money from the mother of a contestant, promising to send her daughter for the finals, in the Philippines.

It never happened and she had lots of excuses not to return the money, until a police entry was made.

Still another episode occurred, at one of these so-called pageants, where the organiser promised to make a certain contestant the winner…for obvious reasons.

The judges smelt something fishy and made certain that their scoresheets were not tampered with, and their choice was crowned the winner.

The contestant, who was promised the crown, went onto a frenzy, with the organiser being manhandled.

I’m also told there are organisers who promise contestants the crown if they could part with a very high fee (Rs.500,000 and above!), and also pay for their air ticket.

Some even ask would-be contestants to check out sponsors, on behalf of the organisers. One wonders what that would entail!

Right now, in spite of the pandemic, that is crippling the whole world, we are going ahead with beauty pageants…for whose benefit!

Are the organisers adhering to the Covid-19 health guidelines? No way. Every rule is disregarded.

The recently-held contest saw the contestants, on the move, for workshops, etc., with no face masks, and no social distancing.

They were even seen in an open double-decker bus, checking out the city of Colombo…with NO FACE MASKS.

Perhaps, the instructions given by Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana, and Army Commander, General Shavendra Silva, mean nothing to the organisers of these beauty pageants…in this pandemic setting.

My sincere advice to those who are keen to participate in such events is to check, and double check. Or else, you will end up being deceived…wasting your money, time, and energy.

For the record, when it comes to international beauty pageants for women, Miss World, Miss Universe, Miss Earth and Miss International are the four titles which reign supreme.

In pageantry, these competitions are referred to as the ‘Big Four.’

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