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Sunday February 25th, 2024

Sri Lanka’s ‘big match’ fever is healing

ECONOMYNEXT – The season of big-matches is upon us. These cricket encounters are big for the respective schools, not for others. In fact as far as the particular schools are concerned they are huge. It’s THE event of the year.

Today there are big-matches in all parts of Sri Lanka, so many that few can escape them for the spectacle is not contained by the walls of the schools. It not only spills over to the streets but climb over the walls of other schools as well. Well, the girls’ schools at least.

For history and spectacle, however, it can be argued that no match comes even close to the Royal-Thomian encounter. Royal College and St Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia have played this annual encounter for over 140 consecutive years. That’s including the war years and the period of Covid-19 related lockdowns.

All good fun for the most part. And so, over the years we have come to expect phrases such as ‘Big Match Fever,’ and ‘Mad March Days.’

Today, several decades after leaving St Thomas’ I feel that it’s not a disease; the Big Match, the Battle of the Blues that is, is a healer. There’s nothing ‘mad’ about March; the Big Match provides sanity in a world of routine and grind marked by chaos, uncertainty and drudgery.

For me, like for countless Royalists and Thomians, the Roy-Tho is not only the oldest continuously played cricket series in the world but an extraordinary carnival that adds value to comradeship and friendship.

It’s all about memories, traditions, sportsmanship and life in general. It is a holiday unlike any other.

We walk into the SSC, where the big match has been played for decades except for the last two years when the venue was shifted to Suriyawewa due to containment protocols related to Covid-19, and we are suddenly in this incredible space where we just don’t have to guard our tongues or worry about perceptions being wrecked.

We can be frank, open and basically ourselves without having to think twice before saying or doing anything. It’s not a shut up and sit down event but a get up and speak up one where everyone is equal.

We all have school memories. Among them, those associated with the Royal-Thomian are the most precious. The truth is, as schoolboys we never thought about memories. We just had fun. Incredible fun. Little did we know that we were in fact creating memories that would stay with us and keep us warm when we are battered by the harsh and freezing winds of life.

It’s not just students and old boys. It’s everyone associated with the two schools including teachers, non-teaching staff, parents, friends, girlfriends and others who identify with each School for as simple a reason as living close by!

I still vividly remember the 1990 Big Match. Naresh Adikaram, the Thomian captain, lost his father a few days before the Roy-Tho. He attended the funeral, and a few hours later was at the SSC, leading his boys. He scored over 70 runs in that match. Such courage, such composure! I am sure it was appreciated and applauded by both Thomians and Royalists.

Of course, what happens in the middle of the ground is hardly what makes the Royal-Thomian so special. The carnival, so to speak, unfolds outside, in the stands, among friends, in the back-and-forth of reminiscences by old men whose firm belief they’ve not aged is a product of the amount of alcohol consumed, the papare bands, dancing in the tents, the supporters affirming yet once again that the only tune they can hold is that of the school song, and the occasions pitch-invasion.

It was not uncommon even back then for some of the most colourful personalities of our generation, from Varuna Botejue, Charya De Saram or Prasad Wimalasekara, to spend weeks before the Royal Thomian planning for the event. I remember being aghast, as a senior student, seeing my younger brother Nishantha running into the field, the college flag in hand. He was just about eight years old then.

Such interruptions are expected, cheered or jeered, and looked back upon with a smile that says, ‘we were so much younger then, and we can only be as young again on the three days in March when we attend the Royal Thomian.’

And we graduated from the boys’ tent to the Stallions, the Colts, the Mustangs and other horse-enclosures that don’t have anything to do with age but nevertheless celebrate merry-making to the maximum, such as the Stables, set up by Krishan Perera and his team 19 years ago.

On the Thomian side, I still remember how seriously cricket legends like Michael Tissera and Anura Tennakoon would come and invest so much of their time and energy helping to advise, support and mentor our team. All this while the late Warden Neville De Alwis and Sub Warden former Bishop Duleep De Chickera would be warning the ‘yakos’ such as myself to kindly refrain from assaulting prefects during the match.

It’s a pilgrimage as holy as any other. This is why Royalists and Thomians time their visit to the ‘mother-country’ so that they can go to the Big Match. It’s a temple where there’s community worship of things that matter: friendship, camaraderie and memories that just don’t age.

The Sane March Days are here again. Let the Big Match healing begin!

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  1. Udaya says:

    Waste of space for writing, this should not be in a business website.

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  1. Udaya says:

    Waste of space for writing, this should not be in a business website.

Sri Lanka could get US$500mn from ADB in 2024

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka could receive 500 million US dollars in support from the Asian Development Bank in 2024 based on the progress of policy reforms, Country Director of the Manila-based lender, Takafumi Kadono said.

The ADB expect to go to its Board around March or April with a 100 million US dollar power sector loan subject to the cabinet of ministers of approving a revised electricity reform bill.

A 100 million dollar loan to support SMEs could also be approved in the early part of the year. Sri Lanka is setting up a credit guarantee agency to support credit for small firms.

A 200 million dollar credit for financial sector was also slated for the year. The ADB gave the first tranche of the financial sector policy loan late last year.

A $100mn for the water sector could also be approved later in the year.

Sri Lanka could get around 200 to 300 million US dollars a year at the lowest rate, or concessional ordinary capital resources (COL) rate of 2 percent.

The balance of would come at the ordinary capital resource rate linked to SOFR.

The ADB has also started work on a ‘Country Partnership Strategy’ for Sri Lanka covering the 2024-2028 period, Kadodo said. (Colombo/Feb25/2024)

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Sri Lanka’s multi-aligned foreign policy based on friendship: Min

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s multi-aligned foreign policy is based on friendship to all and enmity to none, its Minister of Foreign Affairs has said.

“Non-alignment means not becoming a bystander. Non-alignment means you are not forced or coerced into a camp to take sovereign decisions… you make your own choices. Whether it is commercial, security, regional or otherwise,” M U M Ali Sabry said on X (twitter).

“I have repeatedly stressed that sovereignty is the right to have your own opinion on what’s right and wrong, and to stand by your principles. Our multi-aligned foreign policy is based on friendship to all and enmity to none,” Sabry was quoting from his speech at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKI) Foreign Policy Forum, on the theme ‘Reassessing Non-Alignment in a Polarised World’.

Sri Lanka is one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement.

The strategically located island has been increasingly walking a fine line between opposing global factions as it seeks to come out of a financial crisis. (Colombo/Feb24/2024)

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Sri Lanka’s Commercial Bank Dec net down on tax provisions

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Commercial Bank of Ceylon reported profits of 6.9 billion rupees from the December 2023 quarter down 21 percent, despite an improvement in net interest income and lower provisions, amid a change in tax provisions.

Pre-tax profits were 8.89 billion rupees up from 2.4 billion rupees. There was a 6.4 billion tax reversal last year compared to a 1.7 billion rupee tax charge this year.

Commercial Bank reported earnings of 5.26 rupees for the quarter. For the year to December 2023 earnings were 16.07 rupees per share on total profits of 21.1 billion rupees, down 11.3 percent.

Net fee and commission income was down 1.2 percent to 6.1 billion rupees.

Net interest income went up 16.8 percent to 25.5 billion rupees, with interest income rising marginally by 1.3 percent to 73.0 billion rupees and interest expense falling 5.45 percent to 47.5 billion rupees.

Loans and advances to customers grew 4.06 percent to 1.17 billion rupees in the year to December. Debt and other financial instruments fell 10.5 percent to 649 billion rupees.

Financial assets measured and fair value through other comprehensive income was at 287 billion rupees, up from 117 billion rupees.

Impairment charges were 13.1 billion rupees, down from 19.6 billion rupees last year.

Gross assets were up 6.45 percent to 2.36 billion rupees. Net assets were up 5.51 percent to 214 billion rupees. (Colombo/Feb24/2024)

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