26 February, 2020

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A Book Of Excellence: Dayan’s Long War, Cold Peace

By Elmo Jayawardena

Capt Elmo Jayawardena

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka has not stopped at merely hitting the nail on the head; he’s gone a lot deeper. The man has taken a Black and Decker and drilled the skull of the reader and carefully pushed in 498 pages of faction and action (shameful and laudable) that relate to our “Long War” of almost three decades.

It is a timely publication too. The International Tambourine Men gathered in Geneva flaunting their lily white innocence in attempts to barbecue us. At least, we the ordinary habitants of this land should know how the cookie crumbled while we suffered the consequences of divisibility for thirty grisly years. Of course the ‘mea culpa’ rests with none other than the leadership. They festered the wound of ethnic divide and titillated political maggots that nearly annihilated us as a nation. We need to know some truths that have been gagged and swept under the carpets by both sides, ably assisted by the good Samaritans who sat on the third seat preaching negotiated peace. ‘Long War, Cold Peace’ is the answer. Dr. Dayan is punching hard, in a ring where he knows the rules, and he is not holding anything back. There is a good possibility that the book may take him to the mouth of a long menacing serpent in the political game of ‘Snakes and Ladders.” But then, with his historically valuable contribution in ‘Long War, Cold Peace’, he will walk tall among people who really matter.

Dr. Dayan opens the batting with the post-Chelvanayagam political squabbles that dominated the racial disharmony before the guns started firing. He details the conflict resolutions, the battles themselves and the half-baked ceasefires that resulted in the deaths of ‘Boys’ and ‘Soldiers’ who fought and died in the jungles, paddy fields and the narrow dusty roads of the North and East.  Then there were the innocent, men women and children, the ones who lost their lives in the cross-fires in the Vanni or got bomb-blasted in trains, buses and city-centres south of the border.  “Long War, Cold Peace’ records them all in ‘as it happened’ mode and the flow and the word play are articulate and smooth. There is no unwanted varnishing here, nor any manipulative tarnishing. In his own words, he certainly has not ‘spray painted the lily.’ The book has a postscript dated 2013, and that takes care of the present situation, the aftermath of the war and the ramifications of searching for peace, both up to date and current as the highlights of Halal and judicial impeachments.

In short, Dr. Dayan has done the ‘Full Monty’ to the conflict with this blockbuster of a book, now published by Vijitha Yapa and available at Rs 1,500 locally or online from the publisher.

We Sri Lankans had the most gruesome experience of a civil war and it continued unabated till the final phase in Nandikadal. Up to now there has not been a comprehensive account published that gives the optimum exposure to all the events that took place. Such a task could only be undertaken by someone who has the ability, the qualification and unquestionable neutrality to make a fervent attempt to place the best possible truth before the reader. A young Dayan did sing ‘saadukin pelenawun dan ithin nagitiyaw’ in his ‘Bolshevik Red’ days.  His ambassadorial positions were amidst the elite of diplomacy, among the Jeremiahs of Geneva. He sure has ‘clinked glasses’ with the prime players of the world games where the ‘Big Boys’ played marbles with Lilliputians like us.  Dr. Dayan held his ground and represented us with remarkable aplomb in the backdrop of a tainted image of Sri Lanka. He’s read for a PhD and his Political Science education gives him the credentials to address an ultra-important issue, the ethnic conflict of Sri Lanka. The question then is whether he is honest in his opinions? You read and judge, as for me I learnt much I did not know. I feel he has done justice in recording the events of the war, from the beginning to the end without picking sides and creating non-existent heroes and making a mockery of history.

Dr. Dayan has praised the praise-worthy and criticised with ample reasoning the ‘decision making donkeys’ (bulls would be more appropriate, to stay with the idiom) who in the thirty years presumed the ethnic war was their personal ‘china shop.’ Feeling infallible in the roles they played as leaders, they lacerated the lives of our youth, which resulted in the dead dying young. Who cared? It was the expendable that got maimed or buried with posthumous promotions. Mahaviru or Ranaviru, they were all cannon fodder, and the blood they shed had nothing to do with the designing of the war. Dr. Dayan gives the details; it is for us to read and understand the shame of it all.

What about us, the bystanders, who stood on the side lines? “Life was dominated, distorted and to some extent determined by the conflict and its cumulative gravitational pull. The greater the number of deaths of those one felt something for, the more difficult it was to walk away from it all.” Weren’t we, the ‘also rans,’ painted by the same brush?

The names and the events that played on the 30 year old stage are now fading from our memory. The book brings them back to the forefront, carefully re-locating them in places they occupied and the roles they played.  Sivakumaran, the first cyanide victim, Uma Maheswaran of PLOTE, Pathmanabha of EPRLF, Mahendraraj alias Mahaththaya, Praba’s trusted disciple who was killed by Prabakaran’s order. Kittu, Raghavan, LTTE’s co-founder, Thamil Selvam, Anton Balasingham, they all re-enter the stage and strut around to kindle our memories. Dr. Dayan makes them come alive in distinct detail. The events too are clearly recorded; such as why the LTTE roasted TELO youth on Jaffna streets and gunned down sixty EPRLF soldiers locked inside two rooms? The author sure has done his homework. The other side of the coin comes with even greater clarity. The government leaders, their national plans and the peace proposals are all here. JRJ, Premadasa, Chandrika, Ranil, Gamini, Lalith, Mangala and Anurudha Ratwatte are prominent in the pages. The second string too is eminently addressed, luminous as ever, litmus at times, as some changed allegiances to stay afloat in the political mire.  ‘Prime Time’ is given to the Military Brass, the men who led their forces and fought battles, sometimes with their hands chained with political padlocks. The knell of the death bell rang, 60,000 or 100,000 times, who knows? What would the relevance be of numbers when the entire script was so very tragic and meaningless?

What about the unanswered questions? Dr. Dayan bares it all. Who gave arms to the LTTE to fight the IPKF? How did the State versus the LTTE battle get twisted and become a Sinhala Tamil war? Did the paradigm shift occur with the Black July of ‘83 and the possible reciprocation of the Anuradhapura massacre in ‘85? How did Prabakaran get the better of the much glamorised and mythicized Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, General Krishnaswamy Sunderji?  What was the truth behind the Karuna story? Who really was General Fonseka? How effective was his leadership? And how did the current President and the Defence Secretary create the political will to win the war?  All these are detailed including Babu’s complicity in killing President Premadasa and JRJ refusing to talk at a round table conference with Prabakaran, saying in jest that ‘Praba’ will ask for a ‘separate table.’

Amidst all this Dr. Dayan quotes Simon and Garfunkel too, in the poetic lyrics of ‘Boxer’ and adds ‘that a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest, Lai la lai lai lai lai la, ’ sure at peace talks they only heard what they wanted to hear and the repetitive ’Lie’ part fitted the peace talks  perfectly . Tongues twisted whenever they sat to talk peace between the two factions. The Ceasefire Agreements, Thimpu Talks, Indian interventions where Prabakaran flew to Delhi, the Bangalore meeting in ‘86, Norwegian connection, P-TOMS after the tsunami, all ended in broken promises and more frustrations for the people and more coffins among the fighting cadres of both sides. The innocent died while the leaders talked and shook hands and went away with promises that were never meant to be kept.

Then came the final battle, the government resolution hampered by the international infringements and the defeat of the Tigers. Who did what in the last days that led to Kilinochchi and the Nandikadal Lagoon is logically recorded by the author with careful considerations. Whatever picture I had in mind as to how the ethnic war ended became clearer after reading the book.

The war was over, so began the Cold Peace.

Ours is a story of unfulfilled promise, of a front runner who fell behind, took the wrong fork and got lost in the maze of his/her own conflicted character”  says Dr. Dayan. He goes on to add ‘Both Sinhala and Tamil sides have resolutely remained prisoners of the past. What we need is to analyse the situation from a problem solving perspective, one that is finally policy-prescriptive.”

What I liked most was his simple expression “We had failed to become us.” That said it all Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka, I salute you for a book of excellence.

This sure is a ‘must read’ and a ‘must keep’ book for any Sri Lankan, local or diasporic. It was our ‘to hell and back’ of thirty-plus years. ‘Long War, Cold Peace’ will give us the enlightenment, lest we forget how terrible the carnage was and how and why it all happened and most importantly, who pontificated from pedestals whilst being nothing more than whitened sepulchres.

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Latest comments

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    Well said my friend

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      This Elmo Jayawardene, when Sri Lanka was vying for the Commonwealth Games, circulated an e-mail seeking all Patriotic Sri Lankans to back the Rajapaksa move of securing the bid. Now this apologist of Rajapaksa is blowing the trumpet to Dyan, hopefully to gain recognition to be in the limelight once again, having lost on the Commonwealth bid, that cost the tax payers of this country Billions of rupees.

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        Gamini:
        I am glad that someone else remembers this man’s support of the Commonwealth Games and his effort to drum up support for that travesty which ended up, even in failure, costing us millions while providing junkets for a bunch of lackeys and their female “escorts.”
        He is a second rate literary talent and anyone who reads his Gratiaen Prize Winner or anything he’s written since will vouch for his truly monumental abuse of the English language, its grammar and syntax. Awarding that prize, given what it is primarily meant to do, was a travesty and, in addition, gave this man a respectability that his behaviour certainly has not justified.
        Who his current employers are might provide a clue as to his loyalty to the man who is what might pass for the “intellectual in residence” to the current regime!

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          Aney Apochchi

          English just like any other language is only a medium of communication. What people are looking for today is English that is simple and clear to fulfill its function efficiently as the world language. Even the westerners have got over the fixation with perfect grammar and meticulous syntax in the interests of precision and directness. But you seem to be hung up on the colonial adulation of “polished” English because that’s all you seem to have left to flaunt nowadays. Some losers like you even criticised the Man Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy for her grammar. Just grow up and writer your own novel. When Sarath Fonseka becomes the President we will give you the Gratiaen Prize.

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            Outrider:
            Such a wit you are! You say “Just grow up and writer (sic) your own novel.” Yours is clearly the last refuge of the illiterate, justifying any kind of crap, calling it Singlish etc. etc.
            How does it go? “Better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you’re stupid than to open it and confirm the fact.”
            The conduct of people like you who extol the virtues of yet another (airborne) Rajapaksa stooge like Elmo J speak far louder than words!

            Your scale of values is self-evident when you compare this superannuated commercial pilot to someone like Arundhati Roy, particularly given the Indian author’s fierce independence which led to her refusal to attend the Galle Literary Festival and issue a statement in condemnation of the Sri Lankan government. You really should be careful of the names you invoke, you know!

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            So, Anglum Turpisum will win literary awards too…. Mmm great ideals come on us lately.

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      I have listened to Elmo once when he came as the key speaker at a book launching ceremony. The man was totally nuts talking nonsense and nothing about the book he was supposed to introduce to the audience. I saw the poor author wriggling in his seat in shame possibly thinking why he invited Elmo to do the honours for him.

      Elmo being an ex-pilot suffers from the weakness of not having a thorough knowledge of the current local and world affairs. He has traveled a lot, as a part of his profession, but has not learned intelligently what he had seen. So, his vision is biased and possibly he writes this eulogy for Dayan, a great speaker (you have to see how he handled Dilka of Derana’s 360 degrees fame the other day, in Sinhala), a powerful writer and a young intellect, to win favours from him.

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    I think a book worth reading. Hope the powers that be can learn something from a relatively unbiased writer who knows the inside out.

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      unbiased?????? Ah…..he is part of the regime !

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        Relatively unbiased.

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          “Relatively unbiased”
          He has blood on his hands irrespective of race.Not worth a penny.

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            Probably, his name could be in the ASPCA list for striking migratory birds in the air.

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          Safa:
          Relative to what? All this time, I thought you had a brain in your head!

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    I don’t have a copy, must buy

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      So who is holding you from buying one? What a comment and who cares whether you have a copy or not, buy or not? Can imagine the mind set and the intelligence of the Liberals? Trying to be important!

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      Oh! He was one of the puppet characters in Sesame Street.

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    ” ‘Both Sinhala and Tamil sides have resolutely remained prisoners of the past. What we need is to analyse the situation from a problem solving perspective, one that is finally policy-prescriptive.”

    What I liked most was his simple expression “We had failed to become us.” That said it all Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka, I salute you for a book of excellence.”

    Well said!!

    Read this book too:

    Sri Lanka Peace: Thoughts to Share with My Children by Dr.S Premjeyanth

    https://kindle.amazon.com/work/sri-lanka-peace-thoughts-ebook/B00AREGN8W/B00AREGN8W

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    Read it with an open mind BUT since then the ground realities have changed.
    This is the past but in the present context, over to you Mr. “Pol Topee”.

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      Machang Saradiel, we will try to read it in present participle tense for a pilot test. Then we can see any Hymenopteras crawl towards our ‘Pol Toppa’.

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    Where can one buy this book and how much is it?

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      That information is in the review, my friend…. you’ll have to read it though, so don’t be lazy!

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        Thank you.The prob is, for a pensioner like me, how to spare Rs.1500.00 when the prices of goods and services are skyrocketing.

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      Download online PDF, free.

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    It is truly amazing that some of the critics here cannot accept the implicitly unbiased accuracy of this book review but choose to carve up both Capt. Jayawardena and Dr Jayatilleke as though they wer common criminals albeit with no capacity, licence nor the imtellect to do so where they seem to be exercising an invererate hatred of these two proud sons of Lanka who are pointing to the salient truth at a crucial time for the Administration to stand up to all adversaries where this book is valid testimony towards upholding the merits of tangibility linked to accurate detail!

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      Suni Perera:
      YOU should have reviewed the book. After all, sycophantic nonsense avoiding where people like Dayan and Elmo have been, where they are are and where they intend to go and the means they use to achieve to reach that destination, seem to be totally irrelevant to people like you.

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        Weren’t you just talking about grammar and literacy? Tsk tsk. What great literary intellectuals you are, hiding behind pseudonyms like dogs in the dark, barking at those who walk in the light. Who really cares what an anonymous idiot on the internet has to say?

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      He “may” have spoken the truth at confession but in his book and this article he has sandwiched it with lies- politics is all they know.

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    A doctorate is a reflection of a persons integrity in addition to his or her refined knowledge of a chosen field. In the recent past we have seen our own politicians with PhD’s degrading this great academic achievement as a result of their pathological craving for political office, disregarding in the process academic erudition and moral rectitude, Dr G L Peiris, Dr Rajiva Wijesinghe are eminent examples. I only wish Dr Dayan Jayatilleke does not become such an unfortunate victim.

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    I have a great respect towards the author and wish to have a read, then only I would like to confirm or discard the niceties shown by this critic.
    Definitely there are a plenty of hidden nooks that need to be daylighted one day, may be by many witnesses.
    Can Matale graves be a piece of the puzzle?

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      David Blacker:
      “Pschycho-phants” like you certainly have no need to use pseudonyms and that is understandable when one considers that the (Tamil female) bodies that you boasted you’d witnessed stacked like firewood can hardly come back to haunt you! And, in case you weren’t aware, there IS a difference between abominable grammar and syntax on one hand and a few “typos” on the other.

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    What is the point in reviewing a review and then making comments on the contents of the book? How many commentators have read the book? If they have read the book, they have right to comment both on the book and the review.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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    Is this what Mr Appochhi calls sycophantic? “It is a timely publication too. The International Tambourine Men gathered in Geneva flaunting their lily white innocence in attempts to barbecue us. At least, we the ordinary habitants of this land should know how the cookie crumbled while we suffered the consequences of divisibility for thirty grisly years. Of course the ‘mea culpa’ rests with none other than the leadership. They festered the wound of ethnic divide and titillated political maggots that nearly annihilated us as a nation. We need to know some truths that have been gagged and swept under the carpets by both sides, ably assisted by the good Samaritans who sat on the third seat preaching negotiated peace. ‘Long War, Cold Peace’ is the answer. Dr. Dayan is punching hard, in a ring where he knows the rules, and he is not holding anything back. There is a good possibility that the book may take him to the mouth of a long menacing serpent in the political game of ‘Snakes and Ladders.” But then, with his historically valuable contribution in ‘Long War, Cold Peace’, he will walk tall among people who really matter”
    Pray tell what’s so sycophantic rather than psycho-pantic with knotted up pants to moot on the interpreteation by some about this single paragraph which truly sums up what the more perceptive in here see as quite relevant and to the point.Don’t just crucify for the sake of incomprehensibility based on the lack of insight! Thank You!

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    My comments certainly have flushed out the Psycho-phantic horde who were either preparing to or in the process of displaying their conversion to a life of ethics or principle! Unfortunately, they seem to resemble rats leaving a sinking ship rather than those seeking to ape Saul/Paul on his famous journey. At least that worthy hardly didn’t indulge in the kind of pompous language that this lot do!

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      Before that Sri Lankan Shakespeare, David Blacker, starts screaming, there is a “hardly” in my previous post that constitutes a typographical error!

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