By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
In his article published in the Colombo Telegraph of the 2nd of July Dayan Jayatilleka (DJ) states as follows: “In a newspaper interview, Secretary of Defense Gotabaya Rajapakse denies allegations of any links with the BBS. He may be telling the truth.”
This assertion is a modifying statement that DJ makes after a limp, lukewarm and covered attack on the President and the Defense establishment over the running tragic soap opera that is the BBS. This kind of writing strategy typically shows up Dayan Jayatilleka’s ambivalence toward the Rajapaksa government. Politically literate persons already know that there is enough evidence to lay the blame on the President and his brother, the Defense Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa. They are not stupid. In fact DJ himself earlier in his piece makes some points that implicate the regime over this sordid affair. Example, how the President and Defense Secretary did not lift a finger over the whole last year when this mob went on the rampage trampling other peoples’ human rights and grossly violating the law. Even after Aluthgama, we still have to see whether any investigation will take place. Two weeks have elapsed but nothing of the sort has happened. DJ admits Gotabaya had refrained from condemning the BBS in his recent statement. We also know that Gota was present at the BBS AGM in Galle. A few days ago, Gotabaya is reported to have said that there is nothing he can do about the BBS. If the man in charge of Defense, aided by Duminda Silva the official Ministry advisor, cannot do anything over a serious violation of the law we need not have to tell them to resign and make way for someone else who can do that. And, mind you, Gota is the official war hero who won what was regarded as the unwinnable war against terrorism; not the fearless and decisive Sarath Fonseka who was dragged and put to jail under the most barbaric and inhumane manner. All these bits of circumstantial evidence are ample to make any morally conscious and sensitive writer to feel a worm when asserting that “Gotabaya may be telling the truth.”
On the other hand, like a cat spotting a more important quarry, DJ goes out of the frame of discourse at a tangent and censures Ranil Wickremesinghe (RW), the regime’s most important contender, shifting to the subject of RW’s and the UNP’s winning capacity at elections. The tepidity, timidity, and caution that DJ shows toward the ruling regime just evaporate from him when he takes his routine bite on RW. Here is DJ waving his sword on all sides like Don Quixote. Here is another hero!
As to the matter of the UNP and RW winning, DJ predicts that the UNP will never win. Here, DJ transcends the boundary of a credible journalist and enters the superstitious arena of astrology, which he should not do. He has to back his prediction with facts and figures. On the other hand, looking at past electoral figures the UNP has in the worst of times achieved a 30-35 per cent island-wide vote. At the last PC elections in MR‘s stronghold it won 29 per cent and lost Tissamaharama although Namal canvassed there. This is a solid start off for any party. No other opposition party has that track record. At a Presidential election the voting dynamics would be vastly different as we saw when MR and RW contested first. RW lost by a mere 2 lakhs and that, too, because the LTTE got Tamils to boycott the election. At that election UPFA did whip up nationalist sentiments against RW but that hardly worked as the results make clear. DJ mentions the JVP, which lost all its seats at the last PC elections and SF who is now on a diminishing return curve. To DJ the UNP is of no consequence. Then why keep running that party down?
DJ’s strategy is in line with government campaign strategy and that is to flay RW and call him a loser. If RW is such a certain loser then why bother hitting him? One fails to see the logic. My belief is that his attack on RW is also to appease the government, although some attribute it to a failed personal relationship.
It is more helpful to discuss the issue raised in the caption line of DJ’s article. DJ believes that the BBS phenomenon is a case of “saffron fascism,” meaning that it is an exhibition of Buddhist monks trying to assert their power over non-sectarian leaders. According to this hypothesis the monks concerned are the prime movers in these untoward criminal episodes. Given the writer’s own implied admission that the ruling regime is behind these outbursts is it logical to come to such a conclusion? I don’t think so. The secular leadership of the regime undeniably constitute the prime movers; the monks are the latter’s agents. Probably, the government is building up another paramilitary body composed of monks. They might be used to set upon UNP and Opposition meetings, come election time. The anti-Muslim agenda may be a preliminary sideshow done to persuade the public how ‘nationalist-minded’ these BBS mobs are. If this is so, DJ may be said to have failed in his analysis due inattention to logic.