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Who can replace Dayan in Geneva ?

"Dayan was resented mainly by Bogollagama, who looks more like a bovinetailor’s foppish dummy, with a red handkerchief spilling over his top pocket -- hardly the stuff that is likely to impress any except his family flying around with him at tax-payers expense! On a calculation of cost benefit ratio, it can be argued that Dayan’s contribution at the HRC, just by sitting there, has yielded far greater profits than the millions spent on Bogollagama’s junketing abroad. He, of course, couldn’t hold a candle to Dayan when it comes to performance."

By H. L. D. Mahindapala

(July 23, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) Dayan Jayatilleka has been, and will continue to be, one of the most controversial public intellectuals of our time. My gut feeling is that if the founding fathers of Marxism in Sri Lanka – Dr. N. M. Perera, Dr. Colvin R. de Silva, Philip Gunawardena, et al – were living today he would be clashing with them too. The force of his personality is such that he leaves no option but to either like him or hate him. The latest controversy over his role at the Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva explains the fiendish loyalties he attracts to both sides of his personality.

Oddly enough, Dayan and I have fought on common causes but from two ends of the same political spectrum. We both backed to the hilt two of the great political icons of our time – Presidents Ranasinghe Premadasa and Mahinda Rajapaksa. He backed both presidents from the left wing and I backed both from the centre-right. That is to say, we backed both presidents for different reasons and, as the French say, vive la difference!

I disagree with Dayan on some of his fundamental ideological positions. I disagree with his near religio-Marxist interpretations of Castro where he attempts to introduce ethical content into political violence as a justification for the au thoritarian regime in Cuba . (I must confess I have not read the book yet. I’m basing my comments on peer reviews).

The theme of “ethics of violence” has its own contradictions. It poses the question as to whether there can be any ethics in violence if the end result would be death and destruction. Dayan’s theme is to reconcile the necessity of violence in a revolution, and in a post-revolutionary state, with humane considerations and objectives. It is a theme that comes within the Augustinian framework of “just wars” which, in its modern manifestation, has got refined in the UN Charter, international conventions and in political theorists, the latest being Michael Walzer, the American philosopher. Though the ethical content in his thesis is confined to managing violence in revolutionary and post-revolutionary situations, I find it difficult to understand how Dayan could justify the hidden violence of all shades and degrees inherent in running a one-man rule in Cuba.

I also disagree with him on the origins and the c au ses of the Jaffna Tamil separatist movement. Though I agree with his penetrating analysis of the Pol Potist fascism, exercised brutally in Tamil Tiger violence, I disagree totally with the over-exaggerated emphasis he places on the role of the Sinhala-Buddhists who reacted to the confrontational politics engineered by the mono-ethnic extremists. The aggressive and the ever-increasing demands of the power elite of Jaffna (“little now and more later”, said S. J.V. Chelvanayakam) stands in utter contrast to the leaders of the other communities who achieved their goals incrementally without resorting to violence inherent in separatist politics. He ignores the north-south dialectics where the extreme communal demands of the north – jumping from 50-50 to separatism in the forties long before Bandaranaike had ever thought of breaking away from the UNP – provoked a defensive backlash which confronted only the north and not the other communities.

Clearly, the primary agents of violence in the 33-year-old war have been the Vellahla elite who brazenly declared war on the rest of the nation on May 14, 1976 when they passed the Vadukoddai Resolution. It was they who went for the military solution. The Sri Lankan state was forced to respond militarily to end the militarism of the Jaffna jingoists. They asked for it and they got it. They can’t blame the Sinhala-Buddhists for their colossal political stupidity.

Furthermore, I disagree with his stipulation of the full implementation of the 13th Amendment as a necessary condition for peaceful co-existence in a multicultural democracy. Dayan assures me that he is not for 13 + but only for “full implementation” because it is already inscribed in the statute book. But “full implementation of 13th Amendment” is open to a variety of rubbery interpretations that can be stretched to include 13 +.and even beyond. The devil is in the details and unless and until the small print is clarified “full implementation” can go through the roof into outer space.

Leaving these ideological differences aside, I write this to deal with the injustice done to him. I have no hesitation in defending him against the machinations of the Foreign Ministry which sacked him long before his contract term was over. President Mahinda Rajapaksa had extended his term till the end of May 2010. So where is the justification to replace him with an unknown mediocrity? If by any chance this was done to a Tamil diplomat there would have been a huge hue and cry with accusations of discrimination on a race basis flying round the NGO circuit.

All in all, it appears that the dirty tricks wing of the Foreign Ministry is behind this move. The antipathy of the Foreign Minister, Rohitha Bogollagama, towards Dayan is public knowledge. In a sense, the clash was inevitable bec au se Dayan took up the assignment in Geneva on the unwritten condition that he would operate under the President and not under the Foreign Ministry. This riled even panjandrums of the Foreign Office. Dayan then went further. He went out on a limb to express his private views on public affairs.

This had repercussions both in political and administrative circles. It was seen as Dayan asserting his au thority over everybody except the President. The silent consent given to his writings for so long gave credence to the notion that he had the blessings of someone at the top. More than this being an unprecedented act for a public servant it is the irritant of “a hidden power” that got under the skins of the Minister and the careerists in the Foreign Office.

Dayan was resented mainly by Bogollagama, who looks more like a bovinetailor’s foppish dummy, with a red handkerchief spilling over his top pocket -- hardly the stuff that is likely to impress any except his family flying around with him at tax-payers expense! On a calculation of cost benefit ratio, it can be argued that Dayan’s contribution at the HRC, just by sitting there, has yielded far greater profits than the millions spent on Bogollagama’s junketing abroad. He, of course, couldn’t hold a candle to Dayan when it comes to performance. It is the brilliant performance of Dayan that earned the wrath of the Bogollagama. Dayan’s capacity to outshine the Minister is a bone that sticks in the throat of the fop.

Bogollagama even rushed to the President recently and cried asking: “How can the ambassador be greater than the Foreign Minister?” The answer is simple: “Bec au se the Ambassador is better than the Minister!”

Anyone who has watched the recorded performance of Dayan at the HRC on YOUTUBE will agree that there is hardly another professional in the Ministry who can match his brilliance, eloquence and panache. H. M. G. S. Palihakkara, Ambassador to UN, is the exception but his diplomatic style and strategies are not so public. He keeps a low-profile preferring backdoor deals than open confrontations. Both styles worked in their different ways to serve the national interests. Dayan, however, has that touch of theatricality to dramatize and drive his point home impressively to achieve results. He argued for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and non-interference by the Western interlopers with a passion and conviction that is rather rare in that august hall.

Contrary to the general perceptions, he comes out as a committed patriot defending the rights of Sri Lanka against all comers. No one can deny that. Dayan was fortunate in being at the right stage at the right time to display his confrontational skills. He was, of course, reflecting the new power of the Mahinda Rajapakse regime. He could not have spoken with such confidence and assertiveness, challenging the big powers, if the domestic situation had not changed dramatically to reverse the dependence of Sri Lanka on foreign powers. The other star performers in international diplomacy were not required to fulfill the tasks assigned to Dayan and Pali. For instance, Shirley Amerasinghe (law of the sea) and Jayantha Dhanapala (nuclear armaments) are two outstanding diplomats in their own way who earned their spurs as experts in their specialties. Their services were to the international community at large. But Dayan and Pali excelled in serving the nation.

The other advantage with Dayan is that he possesses the right ideological bent to take on the West. He also had the intellectual capacity to translate that ideology into logic and reason to defend the nation. Dayan’s performance that will be remembered most for its political significance, coming, as it did, at a time when Sri Lanka was under siege by the West. To turn tables on them, refusing to accept their resolution and imposing one of his own, went a long way not only to save the day for Sri Lanka but also to enhance his image. What is also memorable is the style with which he articulated and defended Sri Lanka’s honour, integrity and independence. It is time that we stood up to be counted and Dayan did it in style. His voice that rang so assertively in the HRC assembly in Geneva , sent a clear message to the global community that we are not a push over for big bullies playing self-serving games of power politics. And it paid off.

To remove Dayan from his seat in HRC at this moment is to leave a vacuum. According to those who keep their ear to the ground the worst is yet to come. They say that Bogollagama has plans to plant one of his “catchers”. This is the bane of Sri Lankan politics. Planting “catchers” is not the need of the hour. Despite his ideological fixations, Dayan is an asset that must be kept in Geneva with some restraints, no doubt. He must also learn to keep his private views to himself until he leaves Geneva . He must also be told that quid pro quo statements condemning Israel – however valid it may be – is not in the best of Sri Lanka . Instead of recalling him, the Foreign Ministry should send him a new pair of ballet shoes and train him to tip-toe on the high wire of diplomacy, balancing national interests with sensitive multilateral issues..
-Sri Lanka Guardian


Sybil said...

Couldn't agree more. Dr. Jayatilleke can do a lot more for Sri Lanka and I'd be surprised if the Govt. can find anyone else who can hold a candle to Dr. D.J. As, HLDM suggests, perhaps the way forward is to let DJ work under a well defined role description - which must exclude his love for publishing personal views!

Mandawala said...

I would like to add a few words to the informative article of Mr Mahindapala.
“The Sinhala chauvinism”,the hackneyed words are used now against the replacement of Dayan Jayathilleke.
Everybody know that the West, as a whole is unhappy about his incomparable role in the UN. But he is ousted by Israel influence. This fact is not openly mentioned and discussed. Dayan was very vociferous against HR violations perpetrated by Jewish Regime. This paved the way for his sacking. Even great leaders in the world like François Mitterand and Jacques Chirac were afraid of talking against Israel. In this context, Dayan made a “big mistake” by voicing against the killings of Palestinians done by Israel!
Bhikkhu Mandawala Pannawansa

jean-pierre said...

How did does mahindapala conclude that Dyan from his Marxist end supported Premadasa? This is sheer nonsense.
Dyan is a dubious character - a Dr. Jekyll and Hyde who is basically a Marxists for whom the end justifies the means. The means could even be working with RAW to install an Indian regime in the merged NorthEast that could be later transformed (so the Maxists dream) into a Cuban style one-man Dictatorship of the Proletariat. The residual rump of the left, the Wikramabahus and Kumar Davids also have similar dreams.
DJ and other leftist's approach has NOT been helpful to the Tamils. Their actions have lengthened the agony of the tamils and gave a longer lease to the LTTE. It was only when Dyan J got his appointment in Geneva that he really changed the tune and became anti LTTE.
But he continued to support the LTTE via Tissaranee Gunasekera who wrote column after column demanding that Mahinda R stop the war against the LTTE.
Dyan Jayatilleke's role as a useful diplomat has been squandered by Jayatileke himself. IT IS PERFECT TIMING ON THE PART OF MAHINDA R to remove Dyan J. Dyan J could NOT have been removed purely by Bogollagama (as speculated by Mahindapala) and it surely needed the sanction of Rajapaksa. Now Rajapaksa should put a diplomat who can mend fences with the west.

A diplomat who has antagonized the west HAS TO GO. His so called brilliance is merely the bullshitting brilliance that dazzles the uselff, unproductive chattering classes.

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