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Monsoon Journal, Shunpiking publish Black History supplement

HALIFAX (8 February 2007) - THE Monsoon Journal, a new community tabloid published in Toronto, has teamed up with Nova Scotia's Shunpiking Magazine to publish a special Black History Supplement.

he Monsoon Journal is an attractive, multicoloured, many-paged monthly. Its February edition is 48 pages.

The 12-page supplement was recently released as part of Monsoon Journal's February edition on the occasion of Black History Month and the Bicentenary of the abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade. 25 March 2007 marks 200 years to the day that a Parliamentary Bill was passed to abolish the slave trade in the then British Empire.

Publisher Logan Velumailum said there is widespread interest in the content of the initiative, especially by families and student youth. People are looking for informative material on the real history of the Canadian people, he said.

The Tamil population is Toronto numbers some 250,000 people, the largest in the Tamil Diaspora outside of Sri Lanka. Like African Canadians and other minorities, they are treated as second-class citizens and face discrimination in employment, housing, education and other spheres such as racial profiling by the police.

In an editorial note introducing the Supplement, Monsoon Journal states that it "considers it very important to highlight the key dates, events and themes that mark the people's struggle against discrimination in all its forms. Tamils know full well the old colonial 'divide-and-rule' policy and the politics of marginalization, both in our homeland and in our new country. Such politics, based on disinformation and ignorance, are aimed at blocking the unity of people to solve any problem.

"Black History Month provides an opportunity to think about the need to fight against racism, its devastating effects on our sisters and brothers of African ancestry, and all of us. We hope that reading the following texts will help you reflect on this major issue and encourage you to discuss these issues in your family, classrooms and work place."

Africa, Ceylon and India; from slavery to indentured servitude

The formal abolition of slavery by the British Parliament in 1833 - replacing chattel slavery with the "apprentice" system of indentured labour in the colonies - also constitutes a significant historic watershed for the people of Sri Lanka as well as India.

Like Africa, Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon) was colonized in succession by the Portugese, Dutch and British colonialists. It was only the British, however, who were able to conquer the Kandyan kingdom which functioned independently in the central mountainous region.

Unlike the Portugese and the Dutch, who were chiefly interested in the spice trade (cinnamon, pepper), the English had their eyes on the strategic harbour of Trincomalee which served them as an excellent naval base to defend their possessions in India and the Far East. In 1802 it passed control over Sri Lanka from the notorious East India Company to the Colonial Office, making the island a crown colony. All land other than for which clear titles existed was expropriated by the British crown and sold to its cronies for a song.

"The revolts of the Negro slaves in the West Indies," writes S. Nadeson in "A History of the Up-Country Tamil People in Sri Lanka (1993: Nandala Publication), "had finally led to the abolition of slavery in the British colonies in 1833, and so there was no possibility of bringing in African labour. The recruitment of Chinese labour was considered but was considered impracticable. In this gloomy situation, India was the one country that came to fulfill the labour requirements of the plantations in Sri Lanka."

And it was precisely in that same year - 1833 - that the British colonialists introduced the Colebrook-Cameroon reforms that formed the juridico-political framwork for capitalist agricultural development in Ceylon through a disguised form of slavery - indentured servitude.

The "new" system facilitated the large-scale importation by British planters of indentured labourers from India, called the Kangany system, in a long, perilous journey to clear the virgin jungles with their bare hands and plant the highlands with coffee for estates.
By the 1850s British planters had recruited over 250,000 Indians of Tamil origin, mainly to the highlands, which they fertilized with their sweat and blood.

The plunder and undisguised looting of India as "the jewel" of the British crown, the systematic destruction of Indian society and agrarian economy, and the dispossession of the Indian peasantry led to the creation of a gigantic labour market, next in importance only to Africa, and the migration of millions of her peoples to the various colonies of the British Empire. Today we find peoples of Indian origin comprising a significant section of the population not only of Sri Lanka but also British Guyana, Trinidad, South Africa, Mauritius, Malaysia and Fiji.

Independent media collaboration

Tony Seed, editor and publisher of shunpiking, in an-email to the Logan Velumailum of Monsoon Journal, wrote, "In these difficult times, people face massive disinformation facilitated by giant media conglomerates which deliberately foster ignorance and keep us in the dark.

"None of the four daily newspapers in Toronto publish Black History supplements, they have a systematic strategy of denying the existence of racism and racist attacks as a policy of the state, and their racist media coverage has been well documented and is well known."

Isaac Saney, editor of the Black History Supplement, commented, "That the Tamils, the people who are under siege, are popularizing Black History is heart warming and shows a genuine spirit of fraternity, internationalism and enlightenment."

The publishers of the two periodicals hope that their collaboration will contribute to activating Canadians to oppose disinformation, racial profiling and discrimination, and learning the truth about the historical and the contemporary reality for themselves.

The website of Monsoon Journal is www.monsoonjournal.com ( and the website of Shunpiking Magazine is www.shunpiking.org

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