26 was the 49th Anniversary of the Moncada Attack
Cuba: The quality of courage
By Dayan Jayatilleka
"...And mine is the
sling of David" - Jose Marti
The fall of the Cuban revolution
was deemed imminent soon after the collapse
of the mighty Soviet superpower in 1991. It is over a decade since,
and Socialist Cuba is still standing defiant. As Castro has often
said, Cuba did not ask for anyone's permission to make its revolution;
Cuba did not consult anyone as to how and when to make its revolution;
Cuba did not make a single one of its strategic decisions at the
dictates of the Soviet Union . Therefore its will to resist and
defend its revolution and its socialist option has not been weakened
by the collapse of the USSR - indeed it has been strengthened by
the knowledge that its situation is singular and unique: it is alone,
the last incarnation and perhaps even the last defender of the socialist
idea and ideal. Defence Minister Raul Castro likened the situation
of Cuba to that of the
three hundred Spartans who defended to the last man, the pass at
Thermopylae against the overwhelmingly superior forces of the Persian
There was a
brief and welcome thaw in relations between Cuba and its Northern
neighbour during the Clinton administration. As the Elian Gonzales
case dragged on, public opinion polls showed that a majority of
Americans supported the return of the boy to his father in Cuba,
and the US Justice Department under Attorney General Janet Reno
went head-to-head with the rightwing Cuban mobs in Miami. But that
thaw is over. Despite opinion polls which show a majority of American
citizens (and US corporations) support the lifting of sanctions,
the Bush administration has lately ratcheted up the rhetoric against
the Cuban revolution and its leadership.
Why does the administration of a country so obviously rich,
powerful and successful as the United States - and at the apogee
of its success - hate and loathe Cuba? Could it be due to the war
on terrorism? Castro unequivocally denounced the September 11 outrage,
Al-Quaeda and terrorism. Moreover, there has never been a single
act of terrorism in the United States sponsored by Cuba, though
a great many terrorist actions against Cuba have originated on the
soil of its neighbour. Could it be because Cuba has a 'despotism'?
Why then no squeeze on Saudi Arabia to democratise? Is it because
Cuba has a one-party system and that party is a Communist party?
What then of the ties between the USA and Communist party-ruled
and nuclear-armed China, which has 'most favoured nation' status?
Is it the influence, specially within the Republican party in Florida,
and therefore on the Bush administration, of the wealthy anti-Castro
Cubans, a group that has sponsored as many acts of bloody carnage
(blowing up airlines, killing athletes) and drug-trafficking as
has any terrorist outfit anywhere in the world? Or is it because
Cuba, a little country, an island ninety miles from Florida, sets
a bad example by refusing to accept hegemony and maintains complete
sovereignty and independence? Is it that Cuba gives offence by refusing
to get with the programme and subordinate everything to the marketplace
and the private profit motivation? Is Cuba's abiding sin, protecting
a system that has given it far better social indicators than the
countries which have adopted the policies urged by the World Bank
and the International Monetary Fund - and in some sectors such as
public health, better social indicators than the US itself? Is it
that Cuba commits an unpardonable crime by speaking out against
injustice, aggression, terrorism from all quarters, and double standards?
Is it that Cuba cannot be tolerated because Cuba's is "the
sling of David", and Castro's words are argumentative and analytical
stones that hurt the rulers of the world?
can be arm-twisted into sponsoring resolutions against Cuba at the
Human Rights sessions in Geneva, countries that have incomparably
worse records (Mexico slaughtered hundreds of demonstrating students
on the eve of the Olympics in 1968), and can be bought or bribed
or threatened. Yet in the UN General Assembly, the blockade against
Cuba has been voted against by record majorities, majorities that
have never been seen in the UN's history (over a hundred something
to three), in two consecutive years including last year when the
world was fully supportive of the US after the outrage of September
of the under-dog
In defending the Cuban revolution and its leader at this particular
time, one is merely attempting two things. Firstly to repay a bit
of the debt that we owe Cuba. Cuba has never charged a single dollar
for its volunteers, be they doctors, soldiers or teachers - or for
its blood shed on foreign soil in support of others' struggles,
which they embraced as their own.
While we owe
the metropolitan countries many millions of dollars which we repay
at great cost, we of the global South owe Cuba a debt in moral terms,
a debt that is greater because of its non-monetary, non-quantifiable
nature; the debt of being a tribune and a fighter, a gladiator for
us all in the international arena.
of Cuba stems from another reason.
While it means
a jeopardising of individual interest, it is an act very much in
the tradition of the Cuban revolution and its leader, since the
socialist state of Cuba has many times sacrificed its own interests,
has sacrificed the material rewards and opportunities it may have
enjoyed, because of its principles on internationalism, of solidarity
with causes and with the struggles of peoples. It has set an example.
It is not that
Cuba has practised an abstract internationalism. Cuba presents in
fact the finest example rooting socialism and the revolution on
its own soil, in its rich and fertile tradition of national resistance
to Spanish colonialism and later American dominance. Without nationalist
heroes like Marti and Antonio Maceo, there would have been no Castro
- or rather Castro would not have been the Castro that the world
knows. And without Castro, Che Guevara, described by Jean Paul Sartre
as the most complete man of our time, would have remained Ernesto
Guevara, the brilliant, perceptive, iconoclastic, adventurous Marxist
intellectual and writer. The deep national roots of the Cuban revolution
are not the only reason that it remains undefeated. The Cuban people
know that it is the revolution that has given them prestige, it
is the revolution and its leader that has made Cuba a country known
and respected throughout the world, a country taken into account.
A little country but a country that has a presence and an influence;
a country that stirs emotions throughout the world and has made
its mark in history. The Cuban people know what economic neo-liberalism
has done in Argentina, with its soup kitchens for the impoverished
middle classes, and in Brazil with its police death squads which
executes streetkids. They also know what Cuba was before the revolution
- a neocolonial backwater, a country of extreme inequalities, a
country of racism and wide class cleavages, a country of great rural
poverty and few educational opportunities for the children of the
many. It was a playground of gangsters; of ruthless police repression
and military rule. At that time, no one was concerned about democracy
in Cuba, about human rights and multiparty rule.
It is now,
when Cuba produces more doctors per capita than any developed country,
when Cuban doctors serve as volunteers in the most remote and poverty
striken parts of the world; now, when Cuba has the highest production
of books per capita in the Western Hemisphere (one billion books
printed in the 43 years of the revolution), that the great democracies
are concerned about democracy in Cuba! When an elected president
Arbenz of Guatemala was toppled, when Salvador Allende was removed
by a bloody military coup which installed a Torture State in Chile
for decades, when the Indonesian junta massacred over half-a -million
people and later invaded and annexed EastTimor, when Stroessner
of Paraguay was feeding political opponents to the crocodiles, there
were no sanctions imposed on them; no economic blockades, no Project
Varelas and Radio Martis!
have received rewards if it did not send its fighters to resist
apartheid South Africa's forces when they invaded Angola in 1975.
Cuba could have had the pressure on her ease-up if she did not fight
against the South african invaders once again in 1988-89 in the
battle of Cuito Cuenevale on the Namibian border - a battle that
was won, expediting negotiations for Namibian independence and Nelson
Mandela's release from prison , because as Mandela said, it was
the news that the invincible South African army had been militarily
beaten by Cuban forces that shattered the morale of the white supremacist
regime of Pretoria. This is only a small part of the debt that the
world owes Cuba.
identified with Cuba, taking one's stand alongside it, is a risky,
costly business. Cuba is controversial and will always remain so,
however knowledgeable, rational, responsible and irrefutable the
arguments of Castro in global forums. Cuba has the most powerful
by refusing to bend the knee and tug the forelock, by its proud
and outspoken behaviour, by the guerrilla war of arguments and opinions
it ceaselessly wages, by its continuing nonconformism and permanent
rebelliousness and resistance, Cuba shows that there is another
- higher - way of being in the world; a way of being whereby a small,
poor third world country with a relatively small population can
live and work and produce and fight and experiment and study and
dance and create and exist with self-esteem, honour, dignity. This
then is the deeper debt that we owe Cuba's Castro and Fidel's Cuba.
concise guide to the Anglo-Sri Lankan lexicon Part IX by Richard
Love potions from the loris
There are five primate names recorded in the second editions
of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED2) and Hobson-Jobson (H-J2)
that are exclusively or partly associated with Sri Lanka. However,
the number of species represented is actually four, because the
Sinhala adaptation rillow is an obsolescent variant of rilawa, while
toque monkey is a synonym for rilawa. But then the Sinhala adaptation
wanderoo is a generic term for at least two species. The remaining
name, loris, is of French/Dutch adaptation. Date of first use is
provided in brackets.
Sinhala Unahapuluva. According to the OED2 it is "A small arboreal
primate of the genus so-called, distinguished by grey or black fur,
large eyes, and thin limbs, and found in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and
southern India; also called slender loris." This name is applied
to the species known as the Slender Loris, Loris tardigradus.
reference given in the OED2 is from Goldsmith's Natural History
(1774:373): "A little four-handed animal of the Island of Ceylon,
which Mr. Buffon calls the lori."
earliest reference from English literature pertaining to Sri Lanka
is by James Emerson Tennent from Ceylon (1859:I.111): "The
only other quadrumanous animal found in Ceylon is the little loris,
which, from its sluggish movements, nocturnal habits, and consequent
inaction during the day, has acquired the name of the 'Ceylon Sloth.'
There are two varieties in the island; one of the ordinary fulvous
brown, and another larger, whose fur is entirely black. A specimen
of the former was sent to me from Chilaw, on the western coast,
and lived for some time at Colombo, feeding on rice, fruit, and
vegetables. It was partial to ants and other insects, and always
eager for milk or the bone of a fowl. The naturally slow motion
of its limbs enables the loris to approach its prey so stealthily
that it seizes birds before they can be alarmed by his presence.
The natives assert that it has been known to strangle the pea-fowl
at night, and feast on the brain. During the day the one which I
kept was usually asleep . . . its perch firmly grasped with all
hands, its back curved into a soft ball of fur, and its head hidden
deep between its legs. The singularly large and intense eyes of
the loris have attracted the attention of the Singhalese, who capture
the creature for the purpose of extracting them as charms and love-potions,
and this they are said to effect by holding the little animal to
the fire till its eyeballs burst."
"Zoological Obsolescent [adaptation of Sinhalese rilawa, plural
rilaw] = Rilawa, bonneted rillow, the Bonnet Macaque of Southern
India." Rillow became obsolete with the introduction of the
more authentic form rilawa circa 1840. This name was applied to
the species known as the Toque Monkey, Macaca sinica.
reference is by Robert Knox from An Historical Relation of Ceylon
(1681:26): " . . . This sort of Monkeys have no beards, white
faces, and long hair on the top of their heads, which parteth and
hangeth down like a man's. These are so impudent that they will
come into their Gardens and eat such Fruit as grows there. They
call these Rillowes."
The OED2 gives
two other references from zoological works dated 1792 and 1797,
but does not include the postdating reference by Robert Percival
from An Account of the Island Of Ceylon (1803:290): "The rillow
is a very large species, not less than our larger dogs. It is distinguished
by long parted hair lying flat in its forehead. This species is
extremely numerous, and a great annoyance to the corn fields and
gardens, which they rob in the face of the owner, while they deride
him by antick gestures."
"Zoological [Sinhalese rilawa c.f. RILLOW] The Toque Macaque
(Macacus pileatus) of Sri Lanka (Ceylon). This name is applied to
the species known as the Toque Monkey, Macaca sinica.
reference given is by Tennent (1859:I.129): "The little graceful
grimacing rilawa is the universal pet and favourite of both natives
is an earlier or antedating reference by Major Forbes in Eleven
Years in Ceylon (1840:I.115): "As we proceeded, we fell in
with troops both of the Wandaru and Rilawa monkeys . . . The Rilawas
. . . are of reddish fawn-colour with the hair on the top of their
heads spreading from a centre, and projecting far over their faces;
this causes them to appear as if surmounted with a broad Scotch
bonnet, but their manners do not correspond with their sober aspect
and covenanter-looking head-dress: they are small sized, restless,
wonderfully active, singularly inquisitive, and unconquerably mischievous."
(1840). Sinhala Rilawa. "Also simply toque: the bonnet-monkey
or bonnet-macaque, Macacus pileatus of Ceylon." This name is
applied to the species known as the Toque Monkey, Macaca sinica.
The earliest reference given is from Cuvier's Animal Kingdom (1840:59):
"The Bonnetted Macaque Macacus sinicus and the Toque (M. radiatus)
have the hairs on the top of the head disposed as radii."
"[Adoption of Sinhalese wanduro, monkey, cognate with Hindi
bandar, representing Sanskrit vanara monkey, believed to mean literally
'forest-dweller.' The French form ouanderou (Buffon) is a re-spelling
of the word as given by Knox.] A name properly applied to the langur
monkeys (genus Semnopithecus), inhabiting Sri Lanka, but until recently
almost always misapplied to the Lion-tailed Macaque (Macacus silenus)
of Malabar." This name is applied to two species, the Sri Lanka
Grey Langur, Semnopithecus priam thersites, and the Purple-Faced
Leaf Monkey, Tachypithecus vetulus.
reference is by Knox (1681:25): "Monkeys . . . of which there
are an abundance in the Woods, and of divers sorts, some so large
as our English Spaniel Dogs, of a darkish gray colour, and black
faces, with great white beards round from ear to ear, which makes
them shew just like old men. There is another sort just of the same
bigness, but different in colour, being milk white both in body
and face, having great beards like the others; of this sort of white
ones there is not such plenty. But both these sorts do but little
mischief, keeping in the Woods, eating only leaves and buds of Trees,
but when they are catched, they will eat anything. This sort they
call in their language Wanderows."
The OED2 entry
gives a number of interdating references, primarily from zoological
works, the first of which is dated 1774. The first reference after
Knox from English literature pertaining to Sri Lanka is by Percival
(1803:290): "The wanderow is remarkable for its great white
beard, which stretches quite from ear to ear across its black face,
while the body is of dark grey."
reference from English literature pertaining to Sri Lanka given
in the dictionary is by Maria Graham from Journal of a Residence
in India (1811:97): "As we went through the woods, I
saw one of the large baboons called here Wanderows, on the top of
a coco-nut tree, where he was gathering nuts, with which he ran
along the tops of the trees with surprising agility. I at first
took him to be a man, but I discovered my mistake, when he peeped
at my palankeen through the leaves, by the large grey ruff he has
round his face." William Dalton, writing in Lost in Ceylon
(1861:81), provides a reference from fiction in which a wanderoo
is shot in order to feed a party on a jungle trek: "'Monkeys!'
said I, perceiving some twenty or thirty of the little animals called
wanderoos busily engaged with their morning meal, the seeds of the
sar; good for eat,' said the boy; and before I could reply he had
snatched up my rifle. There was a chattering and screaming as the
little animals, with their young ones in arms and regardless of
height or width, leaped from branch to branch with astonishing accuracy
of aim, and a mother and her young one fell dead at the feet of
writing in A Visit to Ceylon (trans. 1883:263), reveals he was not
averse to shooting primates, even though he was an eminent biologist
and philosopher: "Hunting monkeys was more interesting; their
scolding was to be heard on all sides; and I here shot several fine
specimens of the tawny Rilawa (Macacus sinensis), and of the large
black Wanderoo (Presbytis cephalopterus)."
Cumming writes in Two Happy Years in Ceylon (1892:87): "That
night we anchored beneath a Suriya tree, covered with blossoms.
Vivid sheet-lightning illumined the sky and the forest, even wakening
up the old Wanderoos, who hooted their indignation. These are rather
small, very grave, bearded monkeys, the patriarchs of the race,
of the most venerable appearance, clothed in thick, dark iron-grey
hair, with a rough shaggy white beard, and a thick fringe of white
hair on their head. Some species, however, are grey, with black
beards. They go about in troops of twenty or thirty, swinging from
branch to branch, and carrying their neat little babies. They are
very easily tamed, and some have been taken to visit sacred monkey-shrines
in India, where they are held in special honour because of their
grave demeanour. Their deep-toned sobbing cry, as we so often heard
it resounding through the silent forest stillness of the early dawn,
was most eerie."
reference given in the OED2 is dated 1907. However there are many
later references from English literature pertaining to Sri Lanka.
For example R. L. Spittel writes in Wild Ceylon (1924 :139):
"There is no flesh the Vedda loves more than that of the wanderoo
(grey langur). He will sometimes be seen to halt by a tree and strike
its trunk three resounding blows with his axe-head. This is to discover
the whereabouts of the wanderoo. On hearing the sound these animals,
imagining it to be that of a falling tree or rock, give vent to
the 'a-he-hik' so characteristic of them when startled." There
is a corresponding entry in H-J2 in which Knox is also credited
with the earliest reference.