Opinion

SBD de Silva & the Flames of ‘Cold War’: A Great Guru, Part 1

Summary

SB’s support for Sri Lanka enacting such rational policies and attempting to rein in the foreign-exchange frauds of private companies, would lead to his banishment from a maha bankuva dedicated to the colonial import-export plantation status quo.

SBD de Silva & the Flames of ‘Cold War’: A Great Guru,

Professor SBD de Silva passed away 2 years ago. We recall his near-40-year-old suppressed classic, The Political Economy of Underdevelopment, and stories from the blog eesrilanka.wordpress.com, dedicated to him.  This series was denied publication by all the media, from the mainstream to the so-called alternative.

‘Cold Wars’ always blaze fiercely hot for us. The open and covert wars, fought by the white world against the socialist countries after 1917, certainly scalded SBD de Silva. Those fires yet tempered his fervent resolve to speak honestly, no matter where it led, and symbolizes our great striving to independence. His classic gives testament to the lengths the import mafia will go to prevent industrialization.

SBD de Silva was responsible for writing a regular survey on industry for the Central Bank journal. The much-acclaimed Gamani Corea, then Director of Economic Research at the Central Bank, once told SB to rewrite one column. corea told him to leave out the fact that the development of industry was inhibited by the dominance of import monopolies. (Later, when Corea had made it in Geneva, however, he told SB, that his articles were “quite good.”)

SB’s sojourn at the Central Bank was certainly slated to be controversial.

A few years after independence, SB was unceremoniously removed as Deputy Director of the Central Bank of SL’s Research Department and transferred to the Employees’ Provident Fund as Deputy Superintendent.

One possible reason behind removing SB from research was his delving into the foreign-exchange racket of the still-dominant English plantation companies and multinational corporations, including the regional Indian merchant family networks, the smuggling of gold, gems and other commodities, and the refusal of these éminences grises to comply with Sri Lankan laws.

Yet SB’s official estrangement from the Central Bank was related to a ‘Cold War’ incident that took place in Australia during SB’s sabbatical from the bank to obtain his MA, while writing his thesis on Long-term Contracts & Bulk Trading.

His thesis at the University of Melbourne is still edifying to recall: England, who introduced rationing during their World War II, conducted the trade of our major export commodities on the basis of long-term bulk contracts with London for almost 10 years after. Centralized state trading was conducted on a government-to-government basis rather than through private trade channels. Bulk contracts enabled stable prices for both producers & consumers; and was a means to control imports, guaranteeing supplies thru efficient storage & transport, and ensure food rations.

SB’s support for Sri Lanka enacting such rational policies and attempting to rein in the foreign-exchange frauds of private companies, would lead to his banishment from a maha bankuva dedicated to the colonial import-export plantation status quo.

University Secret Police – While studying at the University of Melbourne in 1953, SB saw a poster about a meeting against the raging US war on Korea. He attended the meeting, and as the only non-European attending was suddenly asked to speak. The whites were murdering 3 million people in Korea to divide that country, using biochemical and germ warfare; the korean people’s resistance to white invasion fuelled the flames of ‘Cold War’ the world over.

The Australian secret police within the University of Melbourne alerted foreign office (FO) officials about SB’s speech. The AFO then complained to then Central Bank Governor NU Jayawardena, attending a Commonwealth Finance Ministers’ Conference in Melbourne: SB, a Sri Lankan government employee, had dared speak at a ‘communist’ meeting against their war. NU then informed Prime Minister John Kotelawala. The PM, ever the cold warrior, yet made some witty comment that Sri Lanka can’t keep removing officials at other country’s whims.

Nevertheless, an investigation was commenced, and later Central Bank Deputy Governor Douglas Gunasekera (father of English novelist Romesh) was assigned to interrogate SB. SB recalled Gunasekera as a “gentleman, old school” and very courteous.

Yet DG was part of the anti-communist cohort in the CB during the ‘Cold War’. This red-baiting cohort at the Central Bank was led by another deputy director of research, Sydney Edmund Poulier Jansz. Jansz, mimicking the McCarthyite bombast of the hour, had declared “Communism as a type of fascism.”.

When CB officials were once invited for lunch aboard a Polish ship docked at Colombo harbor, and after the meal, Gunasekera quipped, if Sri Lanka improved links with them, “These buggers will pour money into the Communist Party!” SBD de Silva was soon transferred out of Central Bank Research to prevent exposing the control of the multinational, corporate-led import mafia.

(Next SB, China & the Central Bank)

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