By H. L. D. Mahindapala –
Mr. Izeth Hussein’s tendency to brag about his insignificant – and fictitious — glories has not ended with the claim of being one of the five great diplomats of the world. He has now extended his boasting to over-rating his writing skills and intellectual prowess which seems to exist only in his imagination. He even tries to imitate my penchant for playing with words. I trivialise names to poke fun. Twisting the phonetics and the meanings of names helps me to effectively target my quarry. Mr.Hussein tries to imitate me by calling me “Tuan Mahindapalan” but fails to achieve any witty play on my name. His best effort has ended in casting a plain racist slur. After all his “intellectual” endeavours he has gone only to far end crude racism. It is the crudity of his Talibanist racism that exposes him as a third-rate hack who lacks the ability to come up with a word play to target me intelligently,or with any degree of sophistication. It is his type of barbaric racism that paved the path to the destruction of the Bamian Buddhas who stood as enlightened sentinels of the ancient routes to civilisation.
The irony is that this pseudo-intellectual was the first to object to any jocular reference to Muslims. In high dudgeon he has branded even pop ditties as a mark of anti-Muslim racism. The pop baila that referred to the shape of the thoppiya of the Thumbiyas. (“Thumbigay thoppiya bum-buwa-wagay”) was condemned by him as a manifestation of Sinhala racist extremism. But he has no qualms in dragging a fictitious Malay identity of my father and the identity of my Tamil wife – two issues which have no relevance to any sane discussion on the core question of the erosion of national sovereignty – to cast aspersions on my Sinhaleseness. Mr. Hussein’s decision to go down this canine (balu) path demonstrates that cheap racism has become the last refuge of intellectually bankrupt humbugs. “I am told” (to use his excuse) that this tendency to go down to low racist levels has been caused by the quirky decision of the operator who circumcised the tip end of Hussein’s brain when he could not find his pygmy prepuce. Only a half-wit like him, with a tip-cut brain, would condemn racism against the Muslims and then, in the same breath, downgrade me by equating me with Malays and Tamils in a manner that is degrading to the Malays and Tamils.
I am, of course, indifferent to him calling me “Tuan Mahindapalan.” A rose by another name smells the same. But, as seen in the comments of readers attached to his article, it is he who is he facing the flak of the Tamils and Malays. He thought he was smart in targeting me with his racist attacks but his racism has offended the sensitive Malays and Tamils. His racist remarks and the reaction to it by the readers question both his writing skills and his intellect. I make no apologies for defending the much-maligned Sinhala-Buddhists. I am noted for being in the forefront of debunking mytho-maniacs like Mr. Hussein, who have been vilifying and denigrating Sinhala-Buddhists like the way he belittles the Malays and Tamils. When there are racist Neanderthals like Hussein demeaning Malay-Muslims is it surprising to see Tamil barbarians like Prabhakaran going on the rampage slaughtering innocent Muslims at prayers in the East?
I suppose the fault is mine for expecting too much from a tip-cut brain. Instead of arguing with me on core issues Mr. Hussein and his anti-Sinhala-Buddhist gang have diverted attention to mendacious and irrelevant concoctions attributed to my identity. Despite his boasts of being a writer and an intellectual (like the way he claimed to be one of the five great diplomats of the world) he has demonstrated amply that his circumcised brain is totally incapable of holding two thoughts together to produce some sense and coherence to his utterances. I shall deal with this aspect later. But for the moment consider his claim that I “specializes in personal scurrility” and then proceeds to state that I am a “schizophrenic” Sinhala-Buddhist because my father is a Malay and my wife is a Tamil. Now who is wallowing in “personal scurrility”? And who will accept, except his claque, that casting racist slurs explains my commitment to defend vilified Sinhala-Buddhism unjustly? In plain language, he lacks the capacity to wield the English “kaduwa” effectively, or play with words, to cross swords with me. Resorting to low racist remarks, dragging my father and my wife, is an obvious sign of his pathetic attempt to punch over his pin-head weight.
I admit that I swing the English language whichever way I can to expose the contradictions, irrationalities, lies (like that of Jehan (Pacha) Perera), bogus mono-causal theories (like that of H. L. Seneviratne), humbuggery of pretentious intellectuals like Mr.Hussein and their ilk. Mr. Hussein accuses me of “personal scurrility” because he can’t bear the heat of my language. If so he should not step into the kitchen, as they say. I must also confess that I would direct my language aggressively at the writers and not to their parents or wives. This, however, is nothing new to me. Prof. Carlo Fonseka was the first to drag in my wife’s Tamil identity as the source of my commitment to Sinhala-Buddhist cause when I branded him as “Con-seka” instead of Fonseka. That is the difference between my writing and my opponents. I attack them directly and they attack my father and wife. I have also demonstrated amply my ability to poke fun at them by playing with the phonetics and meanings of their name. My punning, or my verbal thrusts, no doubt, gets under their skin. Not having the linguistic ability to get back at me they cast racist slurs, or attack my father and my wife. They retreat into puerile psychobabble because (1) I guess it is easy to divert attention to wives and fathers than to engage at an intellectual level with logical, rational and persuasive arguments and (2) their only defence is to cloud the contested central issues by throwing mud.
However, after reading Mr. Hussein’s latest rant I thought of taking a leaf out of his book and to follow his example uninhibitedly to put him at the receiving end of his own linguistic style. Besides, by dragging my father’s and my wife’s names he has opened the vituperative gates for me to use his racist language with no holds barred. He may not like what is coming but since my “Sinhala-Tuan” father plays an indelible role in his traumatized psyche I must take him back to his past to make him understand his own roots. In reflecting on what made Mr. Hussein go berserk I was wondering how this well-kept secret of my father being a Muslim, as alleged by him, ever got out. It was known only to Hussein’s mother. And I was told that she was convinced of his Malayness only after she had tested and found cocksure proof of his circumcision. In fact, I was also told that my Sinhala-“Tuan” father used to be a frequent visitor at his mother’s place in the night, just nine months before Mr.Hussein was born!.
I hope to reveal further details of my Sinhala-Malay father’s relationship with his Moorish mother when Mr. Hussein returns with his next reply. It is only fair to feed Mr. Hussein tip-cut brain with the details of his mother’s and his wife’s proclivities in instalments as he doesn’t have the mental capacity to digest all of it in one gulp. At this stage I will also desist from revealing anything about his mother’s legal husband, or where he was when my Sinhala-“Tuan” father was visiting his mother late in the nights. I repeat, I am imitating Mr. Hussein reluctantly purely to make him understand that two can play the same game. I hope he likes getting a taste of his own medicine, eh Mr. Hussein?
Mr. Hussein also exhibits unashamedly an egregious ego for writing unsolicited advertisements for himself. He goes on his ego trips while talking of my “undistinguished career” as a journalist. It is not for me to grade my professional qualities. I leave it to others to judge me. Some value my contributions. Some don’t. I can’t win them all. No one can. But he is never backward in coming forward to boast about his literary and diplomatic tid-bits. He cites, for instance, Regi Siriwardena as the critic who had commended his article on Vikram Seth as “brilliant”. But I remember Regi downgrading Jane Austen as a “boring writer” in his public debate with me. Regi accused me of reading Jane Austen in the night and then returning to the editorial office of The Observer in the morning to hammer the daylights out of the political nincompoops of the day. Regi, of course, had distinguished himself as a critic of the arts in the days when he was the leader writer for the Daily News, selling his talents to Esmond Wickremesinghe, (Ranil Wickremesinghe’s father) who was the power behind the UNP throne. Before he sat down to pontificate in his editorials he would sit at the feet of Esmond Wickremesinghe and get the political line of the day. That’s how this pro-Marxist intellectual earned his crust.
Of course, as stated by Karl Mannheim, intellectuals are on sale to the highest bidder and Regi was no exception. But when he wrote that Jane Austen was “boring” he was deliberately lying to get at me. He was riled by my critical evaluation of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park which I consider to be her best creative work. Rather than being dismissed as “boring” her novels have reached the peak of popularity today with practically all her novels turned into successful films and/or plays. Even Bollywood had done an imitation of her classic Pride and Prejudice by producing Bride and Prejudice. Above all, F. R. Leavis, one of highest authorities of the English language, had rated her among the great novelists of English literature. Regi can’t hold a candle to Leavis. No one other than the little frogs in the Sri Lankan wells have heard of him. So to get a certificate from Regi is okay but it is not the crowning glory of English literature. There is nothing in it to crow about. Regi was the kind of critic who used to write scripts for Lester James Peiris’s films and praise them as masterpieces in his reviews – a case of monkey praising his own “tale” (pun intended).
Once again I wish to take a leaf from Hussein’s book (quite reluctantly though) to compare my literary record with that Mr. Hussein. Predictably, he downgrades me as a journalist and a writer. It is to expose his lies that I am forced to compare his literary scores with my record. He claims that I attack him because of my “envious hatred” which, according to him, originates from my jealousy of his incomparable writing skills and diplomatic coups. To my knowledge he has an honours degree in English from the Peradeniya University. I have only a basic degree from Melbourne University. He claims that Prof. Carlo Fonseka has commended his “clarity and precision” in writing. This is the extent of Mr. Hussein’s his claim to fame.
On the other hand, my poems have been published in respected literary magazines in UK, Australia and Sri Lanka. The London Magazine, (August 1957, Vol, 4. No.8), the leading literary magazine of post-War England, edited by John Lehmann of the legendary Bloomsbury group, carried my poem along with the writings of literary lions like Roy Campbell, Colin Wilson, Geoffrey Gorer who were some of the best of the best writers of the time. Prof. D.C. R. A. Goonetilleke published my poems in his anthology of Sri Lankan English Literature. Queensland University published another one of my poems in its collection of Ethnic Poetry, along with a critical review for the guidance of students. Journal of South Asian Studies (Vol. XX, 1997) linked to University of New England published one of my articles on Sri Lanka. Any English student/scholar would give their right arm to be published in any one of these publications. Put together, it is certainly worth more than an honours degree from Peradeniya, if I may say so without meaning to boast. I am not aware of Mr. Hussein’s literary achievements other than the bits and pieces of readable bureaucratese presented to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Perhaps, he can point to any leading literary or academic publication in the English-speaking West that has recognised his scholarly or literary abilities?
Writing reports to the Foreign Ministry and reviews here and there doesn’t take him above the local level of a Regi Siriwardene, or a Carlo Fonseka. In the absence of quality creative writing he retires smugly to bask in the glory of bureaucratic reports written to please another set of bureaucrats. That’s his idea of being a great writer. Ego inflated with the back-slapping of his fellow bureaucratic hacks he concludes that it his writings that make me “envious”. What a joker? You envy something which you do not possess. But why should I be “envious” of his skill in writing reports to the Foreign Ministry when my literary works have been recognised in the competitive, peer reviewed literary field of the English-speaking world. Besides, is there any earthly reason for superior beings to be envious of the inferior mediocrities?
So much for the self-proclaimed greatness of Mr. Hussein. Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of some of the core issues of sovereignty which sparked off this correspondence. He says that there has been a steady erosion of sovereignty since 1945. Examples cited by him are: Idi Amin overthrown by Nyerere. And Bokassa overthrown by his former colonial masters, the French.Taking these as examples, where one state invades and overthrows the existing regime, the question can be raised, using the warped logic of Mr. Hussein, to probe whether that the overthrow of King Rajasingha on the pretext of removing the tyranny was “an erosion of sovereignty” or whether it was a naked act of imperialism. At the same time, can it not be argued that the “erosion of sovereignty” began from the time the Tamils across the Palk Straits started invading Sri Lanka in the pre-Christian era? Or when the city states of Greece invaded their neighbouring city states? In any case, is the periodic loss of sovereignty due to foreign conquests is an “erosion of sovereignty” or a total loss of sovereignty? “Erosion of sovereignty” occur when the sovereign state loses some minor aspects of its sovereignty due to the intrusions of economic, legal, or political forces from abroad, leaving the broad structures, bases and institutions of sovereign state power intact. Even in his examples of Uganda and the Central African Republic sovereignty has returned to the people after the removal of the barbaric rulers of both states.
A change of regime does not necessarily mean a loss of sovereignty. But Mr. Hussein’s examples refer only to the overthrow of regimes. That process has been going on ever since the “states” surfaced in the political landscape from the pre-Westphalian era. Pumped up by his false premise, he jumps to the idiotic conclusion that Sri Lanka must surrender to the foreign forces unleashed by the UNHRC because the trend is for sovereignty to erode. Did Cuba lose it sovereignty because the American bully stood over it? And was not the Westphalian concept of the state affirmed when USA was finally forced to recognise Castro’s Cuba? According to Mr.Hussein Cuba should have surrendered to America because Westphalian state had lost its raison d’etre.
(To be continued)