I avoid poetry as a survival instinct. There are a few poets that make the exception. Bukowski for one. Green Tea diaries is another. The first is dead. The second is not as prolific as she used to be. Thankfully there’s the latest member of the trinity “Life that Demands to be Noticed”. I’ve blogged briefly about her but that hardly does any justice. She’s hitting her stride of late. The latest, titled “Invisible” is quite the gem. A long slow intelligent twist on internet selfie fame. “Your love” packs similar power but on a different theme (not what you think it is). Its not the kind of stuff you can neatly categorise and file away. As you glide down each poem, interesting things happen. The weak become strong in non stereotypical ways. Simple helplessness becomes complicated. A lot more happens. Don’t take my clumsy words for it. Check it out yourself at spacedoutbookworm.blogspot.com
This is day what ever of my Twitter fast. Which began when I deleted the Twitter app on my phone sometime last week. The result feels odd.
The most obvious is the lack of social media “snacking”. How to fill those odd idle minute or two? The ones too long for stillness yet not enough for any task however short. Twitter was the only social media platform I have been active on. Two blog posts a month isn’t “active”. So I’ve resorted to tinkering with whatever I’ve been writing. A sentence here. A word there. Not too different from the way I’ve been writing (or trying to).
On the positive side, I feel happier. Because I’m now totally cut off from the news. I gave up TV a while back. Newspapers even earlier. The radio was long ago abandoned to audio books. Twitter was the last bridge between me and tales of sorrow from the outside world (the news).
The news is an incident centric medium. Bad news (preferably tragic and therefore urgent) is the only viable thing that fits into its 24 hour cycle. The thing that makes people look up and see the advertising. Burning this last bridge cuts my attention from the misery of the world. Which I’m too stupid and powerless to change. I’m not longer the most informed of the latest viral, hash tagged bang. But the silence lets me focus on the positive closer at hand.
There is a downside. I avoided dealing with for as many paragraphs as possible. I feel cut off from the wit of a certain social crowd. Most or at least some who find the odd things I say worth retweeting. A group outside my real life social circle of “sensible people”. If good, “sensible”, “normal” people who if they heard my muttering about Cthulhu or cynical utterances about the inner workings of the Pro @himalkk Faction… Never mind. I’d rather not think about that.
It’s being cut off from a part of my social world that will get me back on Twitter. It won’t be via the phone. I’ll have to decide how uninformed I want to be of the latest viral insanity. Tweeted news tends to have a depressing focus that I’m increasing unable to handle. Not to mention the madness into which the politics of the U.S is descending. It’s not I what I want to deal with on a my phone. If all else fails and I go back to phone based Tweeting, at least I got a blog post out of this.
Until this book came out, Sri Lanka’s spy services were vague words in defence communiques. Specifics didn’t go beyond convoluted speculations of columnists on slow news days. That era is over. All due to this book.
Which flings the unseen world of Sri Lanka’s spies into the hard glare of the public stage. Confronts unhealed wounds of recent history. Humiliates military heroes with the facts of their costly debacles. Yet the most dangerous message in this book lurks between its words.
The book itself is not the fruit of a clever “cyber” hack. Or a daring journalistic scoop. Just the rage of a spurned, trusted spy. In hindsight it seems inevitable.
The war’s end saw a brutal behind the scenes restructuring of the entire defence establishment. Long serving personnel were retired early. Some for the failings of less capable superiors. Others for having the wrong associations with those who fell out of favour with the highest levels of government.
The author had the misfortune to suffer from both. Yet he refused to go quietly into the night. Instead, from the relative safety of a “free” country, he vented his rage in 632 pages. 786 if you count the indexes, appendices and bibliography.
In a way it’s a heart breaking read. Here is the clever trilingual son of a humble dry zone farmer. He devotes his life in the service of his country. Makes hard choices and terrible sacrifices. Toils away as a clever field agent. Survives to rise as a skilled case officer. Then shines as a sharp analyst. Finally oversees major intelligence coups as a brilliant deputy operations chief. The reward for these years of faith, loyalty and dedication is cruel. He is scapegoated, disowned and discarded in the afterglow of final victory.
This history is the opening barrage of the book. The author punches hard with his facts. Nothing is held back. It’s a blood letting with words. There are transcripts of top secret briefings. Details of poor command decisions. The most damaging are the facts behind the war’s last phase. Which the author points out, prolonged its “end game” into the “brutal mess” it became.
He is clear about who is to blame. The caste obsessed old family aristocrats who run the country’s ancient and successful spy service. In the author’s eye’s that success came from entrepreneurial case officers. The foot soldiers of commoner backgrounds who merged into the population and got the facts that mattered. Their work made the near bloodless “liberation” of the island’s southern provinces possible. The accounts of that work (against the hapless Republic of Ceylon) make for riveting reading.
The book’s most important revelations are the intelligence reports prepared for the Sri Lankan military. Shockingly, generals from the aristocrat Kandiyan and Wanni clans choose to ignore the warnings in those reports. They launched an impromptu offensive up the coast to Colombo in a haze of hubris. Equally odd is the passivity of the King and his general staff. Which let the aristocrats charge up the south west coast in a haphazard Blitzkrieg. Intervening only when the feudal regiments were decimated in the siege of Colombo (also know as a the “Trishaw War”).
The reports warn an offensive on the south west would fail. A failure forced by siege of Colombo. A siege that the military could not logistically sustain. Fighting a population suicidally fanatical about their libertarian ideals. Yet that very disaster happened – or according to some – was allowed to happen.
It could have destroyed the Sri Lankan state. In the end it was a close run thing. The precise timing of the king’s intervention saved the day. Timing made possible by situation reports from Sri Lanka’s overstretched spies. The intervention gave the Sri Lankan state a geo political victory.
According to respected defence analyst Golaith White, the book makes many unspoken revelations about that victory. Key among them is the claim that the King let his glory hungry aristocrats destroy themselves. A carefully planned manoeuvre that left the throne with unrivalled financial, political and military clout.
The book’s evidence are the facts of this outcome. A majority of the casualties were suffered by feudal militias controlled of the Wanni and Kandian chiefs. These units consisted of foreign military contractors who regarded the island’s small wars as a lucrative market. Allowing the wealthy Keppetipola-Vairamuthu clan’s war chest to buy an army rivalling the state.
The war destroyed their economic clout and resulting military capability. Politically, they and allied clans had a terminal loss of face and leadership credibility. The decimation of mercenary units soured the global private military conglomerate market from future Sri Lankan conflicts. Debt ridden aristocrats were forced to relinquish their titles and lands in disgrace. Many conveniently chose poison (the traditional way) or a trusted retainer’s bullet in the head over public humiliation. Their families went into quiet exile while followers scrambled to find new patrons.
The throne’s gains from the disaster are obvious. By getting the feudal elites to fund the war, the state coffers were left intact. The aristocracy was militarily defanged. What survived was a solid pro royalist, pro business block of technocratic, regional chiefs. Their loyalty rewarded by the confiscated assets of once powerful superiors.
The king (thus the state) is now the unrivalled military, political and economic power on the island. It has ruthlessly rebuilt a professional national military stripped of previous loyalties. The author was one of its many casualties. It’s this military that will inevitably over run the hapless rump of the Republic of Ceylon. A conflict the book’s author claims is “inevitable”.
Yet the greatest irony is that the book is not banned in Sri Lanka. Book sellers stock it in the “speculative fiction” section where it has climbed it to the best seller list.
The palace has refused to comment on the book due to an ongoing “human resources investigation” about the author. The defence establishment issued documents showing the author as a procurement clark who had “vacated post without notice”. The investigation will prove inconclusive. The author died recently of food poisoning in a rooming house in Kabul. His remains were cremated without an autopsy due to an administrative error before his publisher was informed. The Kabul sanitation department has already closed the case citing “lost records”.
Review of Imagined Books, Peoples’ Republic of Dehiwala
I used to model as a teenager. This photo is the only evidence left of that work. No doubt my best work. Though mistreated by sloppy photography. But that’s ok. I had great fun doing it. My parents and relatives were supportive. Most of my friends didn’t think much of it. I didn’t care. I loved getting lost in the details of the work. Deep down that’s really what modelling is all about.
The more you do it the more obsessive you get with the details. Getting the scale, colours and accessories right become physiological needs. The high of getting it right is beyond words. Yes at this point it’s beyond logic. Just fun.
The photo is of a 1/32 scale Fieseler Fi 156 Storch. A liaison aircraft. Not some fancy fighter. Rommel used to fly one. It was one of the largest I ever modelled. I remember lavishing it with ridiculous dedication. Cutting strips of brown paper to make seat belts. Delicately painting the instrument panel to bring out the incised detail. Topped off by the harrowing process of masking required to paint the frames of the cockpit windows.
This particular bird was special to my modelling “career”. Its the first one that I painted using spray paints. Brought by a kindly relative returning from a trip abroad. Just a few small cans. RLM grey and two greens. That did create some heart ache. I badly wanted to use desert colours to create Rommel’s aircraft. Aside from the colours I didn’t have details of the markings. The historically accurate markings of Rommel’s aircraft is a slippery subject – even with all the info online. I did say details were everything no?
As far as my modelling went, I was interested mainly in air craft. Rare/obscure late WW2 Luftwaffe propeller birds were my passion. I did build a few ship models. At least 1 tank. Yet “diorama” modelling was never my thing.
Looking back, my modelling days are a faint blur of memory. All I have is a faint after glow of being lost in my private world. Away from the pressures of the one around me. My interests have moved on. So is the luxury of time in generous chunks to indulge in such fun. It almost feels like a privilege.
Did/do you model as well? if so – send some links to photos/posts about it.
This is an overview of Sri Lanka’s three busiest non pornographic darknet sites. What they say about the undercurrents of Sri Lankan life I’ll leave up to you.
Possibly the oldest Sri Lankan darknet site. It began life as a dial up BBS (Bulletin Board Service) to coordinate death squads during the second JVP terror in the late 1980s. Now it’s Sri Lanka’s busiest violent services portal site. It’s the digital version of one the 9 essential uncles you need to survive in Sri Lanka .
You can order everything from multi person killings and abductions to minor harassment. There is also a dizzying array of online/social media intimidation and defaming packages. Nearly all of them have skilled Photoshopers to cook up false incriminating photos.
Adding to the complexity of services is the fact that it’s all modular. You can plug in a murder package with a forensic clean up. Yet the most popular offerings are simple physical intimidation and surveillance services. These involve having victims conspicuously followed and latter hounded in social media.
Not all the services are one offs. There is a ongoing membership option. Membership protects you from having anything done to you via the site. Just the thing if you in property disputes. Practically all the minor politicians have signed up.
Services providers are freelancing former or current shady operations types. Hard men to who whom brutality is a casual business act. Yet are smart enough to profit from it. Lately ex LTTE operatives have expand operations to Western Europe. There are two pricing streams. E payments by Bit Coin. Or a cheaper rate if you pay hard currency cash. Prices are quoted in Swedish Kronar*.
It has to be the slickest looking Sri Lankan darknet site. At a practical level it is a secure forum for human rights activists, digital journalists and citizen hacktivists. You can improve your crypto resources. Get tips on secure ITC4D. The meeting room feature is particularly useful for secure virtual ad hoc organisational meets. There’s also a hefty database of scripts and zero day exploits for sneaking into government IT systems (not that you really such things).
There is a certain air of exclusivity about the place. Piss off the wrong people and you’ll be locked out. A tell tale sign is when certain admins start correcting your English on public forums.
CIA Sri Lanka web portal
This is the business end of the tiny CIA station in Colombo. It aims to let locals sell/leak information with “minimal risk exposure”. The key draw is a dollar based reward structure and the dangled promise of a Green Card.
Aside from keeping an eye on Chinese activity, Sri Lanka is a backwater for any ambitious CIA type. The site was started (so the rumour goes) by a former station chief. It enabled her to exponentially increase information gathering at minimal cost. The result: a promotion and a posting to higher things. This precedent is a key motivating factor behind the site’s energetic out reach and user centric approach.
The site recently launched Tamil and Sinhala versions. These are aimed at getting Sri Lankan slaves in the Middle East to pass on information about their Arabian masters. However the actual users of the site are people attached to “domestic service training agencies”. These front organisation are run by local operatives. They train and debrief informers on their vacation visits to Sri Lanka.
The exact details of how it all works is murky. After all this post has gone on long enough. My imagination needs a drink. So I might as well end it here. I leave you with the hope that you are not one of those gullible types who believe everything they read online.