27 June, 2022


“Do Not Isolate This Man”

By Dayan Jayatilleka –

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

“I have memories of the future, visions of the past…” – ‘A Cloud in a Glass of Water’ directed by Srinath Samarasinghe

Ernesto Che Guevara famously autographed a copy of his slim volume ‘Guerrilla Warfare’ to Salvador Allende with the line, “to Companero Allende who is trying to reach the same destination through a different path”.  When the tiny band of survivors of Che’s guerrilla column in Bolivia made it across the border, it was Salvador Allende who was there to receive them. Juan Somavia was a comrade-in-arms of Salvador Allende. Having been an academic at the Catholic University of Chile, Somavia was the advisor to the Chilean Foreign Ministry and an ambassador under Allende who would be martyred in a military coup in September 1973.

I had been an admirer of Juan Somavia from my mid-teens, but it would be almost four decades later when we met and worked together. He was the head of the ILO when I finally met him. I had just become the chairperson of the ILO’s governing body. Mahinda Rajapaksa arrived in Geneva to address the ILO barely a fortnight after I had handed my credentials as Ambassador/PR.

After the bloody military coup, Somavia spent decades in exile, doing political and intellectual work, setting up the famous Latin American think tank for the study of the transnational corporations. It was a dangerous business. A fellow ex-ambassador, Orlando Letelier, Allende’s representative in the USA, was murdered in 1976 by a car bomb planted by Chilean secret service agents and a US contractor, in Washington DC itself. It took two decades to bring the killers to justice. It was Juan Somavia who introduced me to Orlando Letelier’s son Juan Pablo, a highly respected (and long-haired) Socialist Party Senator.

Mahinda Rajapaksa was far more at home in the ILO setting than in the UN Human Rights Council. One reason was that he had been Minister of Labour and was familiar with the ILO. The other was perhaps more pertinent. He kept saying that what Sri Lanka needed was the ILO’s model of tripartite (Govt, unions, employers) consultations on the most contentious issues between capital and labor, in which consensus was the house rule, rather than the UN HRC’s intrusive and adversarial ‘name and shame’ model. Chairing the often stormy general assembly of the ILO at which such consensus was negotiated, while I was also a Vice President of the Human Rights Council, I participated in both these models. A significant role in the opening up in Burma/Myanmar was played by the ILO under Juan Somavia in those years. The ILO which was allowed to set up shop in Myanmar engaged in delicate negotiations with the hierarchy of the military junta and the embattled labor organizations, which was one of the channels that led to the process of opening up.

At the head table at ILO dinners Juan Somavia and I would sing songs by Victor Jara, the charismatic Chilean singer and communist, killed by the military junta in the Santiago sports stadium.  First, the soldiers stopped him from playing his guitar by breaking his wrists.

Somavia had played an important part in the struggle against the military junta and for its international isolation, as head of the International Commission of the Democratic Convergence. After democracy made a triumphant return to Chile and a Socialist president re-elected, Somavia was Chile Ambassador/PR to the UN in New York, sat on the Security Council, and most importantly, initiated and chaired the UN Social Summit in Copenhagen. When I chaired the General Conference, Somavia was elected for a third term as ILO boss against US objections (which, as we know from the fates of Boutros-Boutros Ghali and Christie Weeramantry, can be decisive).

In 2013 he resigned in the middle of his third term when Michelle Bachelet made a comeback in Chilean politics and was an advisor in her successful presidential re-election campaign, just as my Geneva colleague and friend from Uruguay, Alejandro Artucio (who had voted for West’s call for the Special session on Sri Lanka in 2009 but solidarised firmly with Sri Lanka and voted with us when the crunch came) resigned and returned to Montevideo when Tupamaro leader and Alejandro’s fellow political prisoner Jose Mujica decided to run for president.

In the copy of his book ‘People’s Security: Globalizing Social Progress’, Juan Somavia has inscribed: “to Dayan Jayatilleka, a ‘Companero’ with whom I share values and visions with a shared conviction that ultimately ‘El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido’! With a big abrazo”. The Spanish language phrase is a slogan born in mass demonstrations in Allende’s Chile which has later resonated in revolutions and democratic leftwing triumphs throughout Latin America. It means ‘The People United Will Never Be Defeated!”  Given this shared progressive political conviction, the vast experience that Juan Somavia had with political leaders and heads of state on all continents in his diverse roles over the decades, I asked for his candid political reading of Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sri Lanka’s situation.

Stroking his trademark snowy Santa Claus beard, he mused “I have met and talked with Mahinda several times over the years” and went on to spell out his perspective with great deliberation and emphasis:

“Do not isolate him. And do not let him be isolated. He is instinctively pragmatic, a moderate nationalist, and has a progressive orientation. A prolonged counter terrorist, counter insurgency war such as yours is bound to end with certain structures and the most hardline sectors strengthened.  If you isolate him, he will either be a captive of these factions or a victim of them. Or he will first be one and then the other. There will be less space for civil society, for labor, under those best positioned and most likely to replace him. They will be far worse; far more reactionary, Rightist and militarist. Always engage with him. He must be engaged with by the widest spectrum of forces, nationally and globally, and they must stay engaged whatever happens. Do not isolate this man.”

I have heard much the same view about the Mahinda Rajapaksa presidency from representatives of governments I respect; products of historical processes I have been drawn to. For instance I have heard this view from Prof Miguel Alfonso Martinez, the co-chair of Havana’s Higher Institute of International Studies (and premier school of diplomatic training), who worked with Che at the UN and with Fidel at the Tricontinental and OLAS conferences, and was interviewed by Benecio del Toro before he played the role of Che in Soderbergh’s two movie epic. The late Miguel Alfonso was one of the architects and managers of Cuba’s hugely successful UN resolutions against the US embargo.

As far I can tell, Juan Somavia’s sagacious perspective and prescription has been arrived at independently in Sri Lanka only by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith (if one were to speak of notable public figures). What is sad is that the international democratic community, the domestic democratic Opposition and the liberal and progressive intelligentsia here and overseas have sought to isolate him– and therefore strengthened the domestic hardliners as well as their grip on the President. What is tragic is that not only has President Rajapaksa been isolated by the outside world, he has isolated himself among the neo-isolationists such as his brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa, whose strategy and tactics have, wittingly or unwittingly led to Sri Lanka’s and the President’s further isolation internationally as from the national minorities.

Given the actualities of the balance of forces, it is only President Rajapaksa who stands between us and far darker forces of two sorts—of anarchism and authoritarianism; of ethno-religious militias and a civilian-military junta. At the moment Mahinda Rajapaksa is the best bet for elected civilian governance, the continuation of a multiparty system and democratic space for even the limited expression of dissent. I have travelled to many dictatorships –Nasser’s Egypt, Greece under the Colonels, Saddam’s Iraq, military-run South Korea, the USSR and Eastern Europe during the Cold War. I have been to countries which were just about to lose democracy (Indonesia 1965) and revisited them after they retrieved it decades later (Indonesia 2001). I have had long discussions with chastened revolutionaries who survived the long night of dictatorships of one sort or another (from Chile to Iran), usually in exile. Therefore I value the space we have here in Sri Lanka. It is precious and fragile. If we underestimate it we shall lose it and realize its value only when it—and we—are in lockdown.

There are those who see Mahinda Rajapaksa and the BBS as a single threat, or as two sides of the same coin. Classifying in the same category and taking on at the same time, the country’s most popular democratic political personality, whose interests reside in stability (for continuity), and the violent Sinhala Buddhist lunatic fringe which is engaged in generating instability, is in any rational reading of politics, quite incredibly moronic. Why would Mahinda Rajapaksa encourage Islamophobic terrorism which causes him to lose his external Islamic/Arab support base at a time he is under Western siege and faces Indian disenchantment? The conventional wisdom is that it is to retain the Sinhala Buddhist vote. But retain the Sinhala Buddhist vote in the face of a challenge from precisely whom? Ranil Wickremesinghe? That’s plain corny. The Sinhala Buddhist vote won’t turn from Mahinda Rajapaksa to Ranil Wickremesinghe, so the line that Mahinda Rajapaksa is behind either the BBS or worse still, the Aluthgama attack on the Muslims and the dangerous dynamic of subterranean de-stabilization that is underway, is just plain whacko as an analytical explanation.

Mahinda Rajapaksa is the leader who defeated Prabhakaran and rid us of terrorism. He is also the man who held provincial council elections in the East and the North. The LLRC report and its recommendations exist even as a rod to measure progress or a stick to beat the Govt with, only because he appointed it. Going by my conversations, one younger, progressive Western politician who thinks that Mahinda Rajapaksa retains potential, can still be part of the solution in the search for a stable peace and should not be shut off from constructive engagement is Martin McGuinness of the Sinn Fein.

Certainly President Rajapaksa hasn’t followed through on either the LLRC or the elections to the Northern Provincial Council. He should be encouraged and incentivized to do so by creating the environment – the balance of forces—for him to evolve politically. If anyone should be isolated it is not Sri Lanka, its elected and popular leader or its professional military. It is the hawks, the most hardline elements who are preventing reform, freezing devolution, rolling back reconciliation and providing cover for the BBS, Sihala Ravaya et al, who should be isolated, contained and neutralized, by Sri Lankan democratic opinion and the international system.

Though there should be unremitting (constructive) criticism of him, Mahinda Rajapaksa is not The Enemy or the Other. Thus I defend Mahinda Rajapaksa against unfair criticism from the pro-secessionist Tamil Diaspora, Tamil Nadu, the UN International Inquiry and the dominant elite of the UNP which appeased the LTTE, while I endorse fair criticism of him and his regime that comes from Anura Kumara Dissanayake and the JVP.

There is a case for pushing the regime to reform, but not for pushing Mahinda Rajapaksa over a precipice—not least because civilian democracy may go with him. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s life is also on the line at the hands of the extremists.

In ‘A Cloud in A Glass of Water’ the brilliantly conceived and executed movie by Srinath Samarasinghe, a young French–Sri Lankan director and scriptwriter, screened recently at the National Film Corporation for the French Spring Festival, the lead character (speaking posthumously) says “I have memories of the future”. What memories of Sri Lanka’s future would we have–those of a lost civilian democracy; lost space which we should have valued, protected and preserved?

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Latest comments

  • 8

    God, is there no end to this man’s self promotion and groveling?

    Dayan, you are NOT getting that Geneva post, forget it, move on !

  • 5

    So who has isolated Rajapaksa? The people have not, despite Rajapaksa’s blatant abuse of the Constitution, Legislature, and the Judiciary. They have patiently borne his nonsense despite his racist actions against Tamils and Muslims. They have looked on in aghast as he and his family amassed wealth at their expense. Dayan Jayatilleke, I can see that you are isolating yourself in your thinking.

  • 3

    You cannot reform a fascist.

  • 9

    “At the head table at ILO dinners Juan Somavia and ¬¬I would sing songs by Victor Jara,¬¬ the charismatic Chilean singer and communist, killed by the military junta in the Santiago sports stadium. First, the soldiers stopped him from playing his guitar by breaking his wrists.”

    You never learnt french while you were much freer and ¿que pasa tu no puedo cantar en español y no comprendo!! (you dont speak or understand Spanish)

    odd toed ungulate political scientist are mostly imposters…
    Macrocephalic baboon !…Phylloxera Cannibal !….

    Boorus boasting burva has a couple of generations to go having deflected from his papa’s old school integrity.

    To copy others is necessary, but to copy oneself is pathetic,-Pablo Picasso


  • 8

    Dayan, you really surpassed yourself this time. I never imagined that coksuking can be upgraded from excellent to super excellent. You are not merely a Master, but a maestro. Bravo.

  • 3

    Dayan is isolating himself violently. Refusing to get along with the mass. Saakiravan Marunthu kudiyaan(The dying one won’t drink the medicine). No point of forcing. That is his fate.

    IC Community has considered the question of whether to isolate Lanka or not many time. So that is not something new for them. Neither they are looking for Dayan’s advocacy or clarification on that. But, Dayan’s advocacy of not to isolate the King will not be welcomed by IC. LTTE fought for Tamils’ freedom. Some in the diplomats service, for the corrupted Royal Government’s wine and women, missed their duty to the Lankan citizens and spread lies. Hakeem is learning his lesson for lying at Geneva.

    Further Dayan’s petty attempts to fool will not please King. If he survive the current troubles, he will come back and start to weed again with the white van. Dayan will not be able to apply for exemption. All white van visas are compulsory. Dayan will be forced to swallow it.

  • 2

    “Do not isolate this man”

    Which man you are talking about Dr.Dayan by saying “Do not isolate this man”………
    The man who isolated and fired you and other top Sri Lankan UN staff who made us win 2009 UNHRC vote.

    The man who impeached CJ Shirani Bandaranayake who then helped him to pass his 18th Amendment.

    The man who imprissioned Gen.Sarath Fonseka who won the 30 year long LTTE war in Sri Lanka…..

    The man who kicked out Madam Chandrika Bandaranaike and her brother from the SLFP party who nominated him to be the Presidential 2005 candidate.

    Also Dr.Dayan says….

    “Mahinda Rajapaksa is the leader who defeated Prabhakaran and rid us of terrorism. He is also the man who held provincial council elections in the East and the North”.

    Well if you are a historian, go back and re-read to check whether it is only the Pres.Rajapakse who defeated Prabhakaran. How about all the other previous presidents, prime ministers, army commanders, all living and dead soldiers etc,etc. Didn’t they also contributed to defeat Prabhakaran. Listen to Rev.Dambara Amila Thero in youtube to find what Pres.Rajapakse did during the war.

    Also Pres.Rajapakse held NE PC elections mainly due to pressure from UNHRC and from CHOGM and not just on his own.

    Therefore it is not we who have isolated Pres.Rajapakse, but he himself have isolated himself and Sri Lanka from the international community.

    This is very grave situation for our country and you your self have to advise him on these issues and not be a mere mouth piece. He could take the country into abyss unless you all get together and advise him.It is your duty. Not ours.

  • 3

    Isolate this man DJ; no point beating a dead horse

  • 4

    has MR offered DJ a diplomatic posting?? if not here’s a few reasons why MR should be isolated despite what some latino friend of your’s had to say abt MR
    1.he (MR)changed the constitution to prolong his grip on power long enough to hand over the baton to his eldest son/brother
    2.impeached the CJ and appoint a “yes man”
    3.murdering lasantha and other journalists
    4.being the most corrupt president in the history of SL and turning politics/governance into a family business
    5.ruination of the economy and turning SL into a massive debt trap
    6.it is MR with his foreign policies (rather the lack of it)who has isolated himself from the IC
    7.for being a racist and his refusal to condemn the aluthgama/beruwala attacks and arrest those responsible
    8.fostering racists groups like BBS,and not taking any action against them despite the hate speech and attacks on minorities ( ofcourse MR wouldn’t,he’s a racist)
    9.for shrinking SL’s democratic space. and DJ please do not interpret the little space available as a a gift of MR

  • 3

    MR is NOT isoloated nor is he isolating himself. He has only isolated Sri lanka from the world community.He does this by protecting the extremists inclusiding his sibling, kicking aside the rule of Law, suppresiing opposition and of course creating a fear phsycosis among ordinary Sinhala Buddhists that there is an international consipiracy to harm “our great civilisation”. So Mr J you are on a wrong track altogether. We need NOT isolate MR, we have to throw him and his family OUT. Or Mr J are you so naive as to believe that MR is infact a modertae but now caught in a twist by Gota & Co who are hell bent on retaining power at any cost and we therefore need to strengthen his hand for democracy ? What more naive can one become?

  • 3

    Dj are you out of your wits? No amount of Che Guavera quotes nor that of any other eminent personage that you employ more often to sell off your spurious erudition than actually to contextualize your reasoning on Rajapaksa on many critical issues can fool the intelligent and the discerning masses to the knavery and hypocrisy of such verbiage. You are asking the most corrupt and lawless regime ever in the history of Sri Lankan politics since independence comprising the most nefarious elements of politicians and officials of this monstrous political spectrum known as the common front(UPFA)to stick around its life giving halo of MR for their own survival and for prettier times ahead for another spree of fun making and chocking the country of its remaining frugal resources. Your theory is counter-productive because it can only help MR sink further into trouble carrying so much dead wood or parasites around himself. He can only redeem his lost glory by isolating himself from these trouble makers.

  • 2

    MR DAYAN ,

  • 4

    DJ, man you are totally losing it. Get a drip dude. I don’t even know how to categorize this article. I think we are giving to much credit to your intelligence(lack there of in fact). I never thought you are this dumb diplomatically. Yes, we get it your hob-nobbing with great Spanish socialist, who are smart and in true sense works for the people, unlike you self serving privileged elitist sons who chose stand as guardians of leftist politics as that is the cool thing to do for you entitled sons of anarchy. First half is all about blowing your own trumpet, I don’t even understand why you want to quote the personal acknowledgement by a friend as an testimony. You are insulting the friendship he offered you because, right now you are using that to aggrandize your losing popularity, social gravitas and to pump-up your self image. Who cares. Otherwise dude, what he thinks of you are a friend has no relevance to us facing a debacle in SL current situation government sponsored marginalization of minorities under BBS extremism. How can a Chilean know about MR by just talking to him in few occasions. Apparently he hadn’t known even you to be an opportunist, and a pretend socialist. And why on earth we who have a brain should take your testimony of the MR as we all can see what their regime is up to. There can’t be two interpretations to this. You are just doing your last hurrahs to get back to the good pompous ass life you enjoyed in Geneva, to your Spanish wines, and Singing Jara songs. You do badly miss it don’t you? Oh poor you, it is so evident in your relentless rear end kissing you are doing. NOw you realized you have no political capital with the people and their general consensus, you are telling us, Look not only me most diplomats around the world told me to stand by him,Between line( So that is why I am doing it) and you people are not getting this. Pls leave Anura Kumara alone, You are just trying to have all your bases covered. If your small brain can understand it. You are the one who lambasted RW few days ago saying it is disaster to make him president. Now when people poke fun at you now you say why MR would worry about him because he is not gonna win Sinhalese votes. Why attack Muslims, you ask- because they thought they could get away with it, impress hardliner Modi(by doing so to make him not listen to Waiko and JL-these are GL’s Gonwansa, Ranawaka expert Gon tactics, may be yours too). YOU all thought coming on top it unscathed but it backfired. You made it a pinnata for the IC, and now you are doing rounds to salvage, ruined international images. YOu break it you own it. Brahmadandaya -ISOLATION is a good method even Budda practiced to teach lessons to the undisciplined monks. Why it is not good for crooks. As a result you all are making SL isolated in the world.
    Majority of decent people of SL are(not the political opportunists like you) are not that barbaric or racist like you and your masters are. You cant remove BBS from MR because they are one and the same. MR decided not to address BBS thuggery, and communal threat to the society. This is what happened to SWRD, ask your dad if you are not smart enough to understand that. He should thank the people of SL isolating him faster than he expected because, otherwise his fate too would be decided at the hands buddist monks. either GAB or one of his clan of rabit stupid monks will be the next Budda Rakkhitha and take on their buddist leader for not being hardline enough. And what sessatinist pro-LTTE diaspora couldn’t do is happening thanks to idiot BBS exremist as they are providing enough fodder to UNHCR to portray SL as a barbaric, racist country and they might think that each ethnic go should be given autonomy for each race. Why would MR AND GR should do this at this time. Plain stupidity and arrogance. We give them too much credit for their brains- we think they are smart. But they are not. By handling the Aluthgama incidents the right way, by coming out strong against BBS would have done the trick. His and GRs inaction, and blaming the victims and justifying the cause and the aftermath were not the right thing a leader who envisions a multi-national country would do. or If he didn’t like that yet remained silent, due to political calculation, Still not a good leader. He is an opportunist trying to score political points. The only reason you are behind this stupid diplomatic blunder is, you may have advocated him that it will work for his advantage. And you want to save your neck and trying to say public opinion. And you act like gov mouth piece. When you try to defend one covered with sh..t, you end up stinking too. You elitist sons don’t know how the normal mans heart beat, what make them tick. They wanted to have it all, all for the family for the next 25 yrs to come Being too greedy will be punished dearly according to any religion. Either it is their stupid advisers fault, and his fault in the end for surrounding himself with such stupid advisers. YOu are on the wrong side of the people;s verdict, If sensationalists become successful it is not peoples fault, you guys did it on your own, with your arrogance, sense of entitlement, and for not listening to opposite view. He and his military brother may have won war but they couldn’t win the peace. It is a civilian job. Militarization of every aspect of normal life is not sinking in well with people.

    • 2


      No point trying to explain anything to this [Edited out] because the Araliya Gaha Parrot is calling and begging him daily to write good about him.

      This is the truth and reality of it.

      Therefore this [Edited out] is using CT to spread false information and self praise of his boss parrot to CT readers. Now CT readers know who this crook is.

      We have stopped reading anymore articles of this educated [Edited out] who has now become another GLP.

      Please don’t waste anymore of your time trying to explain the reality to this Dayan [Edited out]. He has become another “Vandi Battaya” for his Maharaja.All his writings are mere crap and still keep writing more crap. He is a notorious crack head among CT readers. Take him easy.

      Good luck.

  • 2

    Dayan: Ever the Loyal and obedient Servant of MR

    Just three observations.

    Mahinda Rajapaksa was far more at home in the ILO setting than in the UN Human Rights Council. One reason was that he had been Minister of Labour and was familiar with the ILO.

    *** MR is far more at home in the ILO not for the reasons you have identified but beacause he behaves like a labourer. UN Human Rights Council is not his natural habitat because it is more like a Criminal attending a Police Station after carrying out a murder.

    *** If anyone should be isolated it is not Sri Lanka, its elected and popular leader or its professional military. It is the hawks, the most hardline elements who are preventing reform, freezing devolution, rolling back reconciliation and providing cover for the BBS, Sihala Ravaya et al, who should be isolated, contained and neutralized, by Sri Lankan democratic opinion and the international system.

    What are you talking about DAYAN. These HAWKS you are taliking about are bedfellows of MR and they are joined together. IF MR is so popular as you claim he can rise above the prejudice of his subjects and lead from the front and I am sure they will listen. But frankly MR is a born Racist and he is prisoner of his own prejudice.

    Sri Lankan democratic opinion is overtly Racist which is inherent and you cant change it. Change cam only come about through international system and that is where the Diaspora plays a crucial part.

    *** Thus I defend Mahinda Rajapaksa against unfair criticism from the pro-secessionist Tamil Diaspora, Tamil Nadu, the UN International Inquiry and the dominant elite of the UNP which appeased the LTTE, while I endorse fair criticism of him and his regime that comes from Anura Kumara Dissanayake and the JVP.

    No one ever had any doubts about your loyalty to MR as you are also a Born Racist just like MR.

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