By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
Dayan Jayatilleka (DJ) baffles me so often, making me wonder what really goes on in his head. I am not just employing a rhetorical pose to devalue the man. Let’s face it, there is not a week that passes where he doesn’t write against Ranil Wickremesinghe, our Prime Minister, on one ground or another. I get copies of loads of email written by him where a negative reference to Ranil is almost always on the cards.
I am aware that Ranil Wickremesinghe has been demon to quite a lot of persons on the Rajapaksa side of the divide. The simple reason is that the single-most effective obstruction to their power goal has been and is Ranil Wickremesinghe. That this political leader has been single-mindedly able to defend himself and his side from a myriad of conspiracies over the last decade is eloquent testimony to his unique ability.
Dayan Jayatilleka is often careless with the facts and careless with the contextual side of quotes that seems to flow out of his pen in abandon. He only wants to get on with the job of bashing Ranil. When DJ’s blemishes are pointed out, he self-inflicts an amnesia and proceeds with the next episode of Ranil- bashing.
Take the latest: Writing to the Colombo Telegraph of 15th April under the rubric, “Ranil’s Real Agenda Revealed,” DJ makes reference to a piece written by Ranil Wickremesinghe under the caption, ”Winning Sri Lanka’s Peace,” published on the 8th of April in The Japan Times. DJ starts off with an absolute lie when he states that Ranil in this particular article “uses the phrase ‘…resetting our strategic position in the world.’ I read that issue in the Japan Times and nowhere found such an assertion by Ranil.
In all probability DJ wanted to paint a black picture of the Prime Minister and imported this phrase from somewhere else where Ranil had probably uttered it, in order to link it by association with the rest of his misinterpretation of Ranil’s piece.
Before he does the linking, DJ attempts to evoke in the minds of the reader some apprehension and fear about what Ranil really meant. DJ fails here, too, as any literate reader can see no harm in the use of the phrase, “resetting our strategic position in the world.”
DJ states, “Note that Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, a shrewd man, is not talking about ‘re-balancing’, of ‘course correction’; of a shift in emphasis from the ham-fisted external relations of the second Rajapaksa term. He is not talking about tactics, but about strategic positioning; about re-setting our strategic position in the world. This is a fundamental shift from Sri Lanka’s traditional positioning deriving from the island’s history, geography and abiding sense of collective identity (what Dr. Kissinger calls “the character of nations”).”
Citing Kissinger here is typical of Dayan Jayatilleka’s usage of quotes in inappropriate context. Also, having failed to explain what precisely the Prime Minister’s planned change in strategy is and how that is frightening DJ jumps to another conclusion, namely that the PM is going to change our ‘traditional character.’ What is that traditional character? What is the evidence that the Prime Minister is proposing to change such a ‘traditional character”? Besides, what is necessarily wrong in changing a traditional character if there be one like that? There is nothing called a national character, in the first place. If there is, can DJ name one without raising controversy?
Let’s return to the offending phrase. Does anybody know the difference between ‘re-balancing,’ ‘course correction’ and ‘shift in strategy,’ which, according to DJ, Ranil announces? What is frightening about shifting strategy? Any given shift in strategy necessarily includes perhaps a re-balancing and definitely a course correction. A shift in strategy is essentially a change in course. Again, DJ does not give details of the proposed ‘shift in strategy,’ that he is alarmed about. One would have expected him to do just that but DJ shirks that responsibility. One can imply that DJ really has nothing serious to say about the proposal to shift strategy. New governments shift strategy in various areas of governance. For instance, the new Maitri-Ranil government has already shifted strategy from authoritarian rule towards democratic rule. Unless DJ spells out what this ‘fearful’ thing Ranil is about to do he is nowhere and talks nonsense.
In his article in Japan Times, Ranil tells the world about the democratic turn that Sri Lanka has taken under the new government. For instance, he mentions how the judiciary is now able to give verdicts without fear or fervor. Most recently, this became evident over the 19th Amendment. We saw how under former President Mahinda Rajapaksa the CJ was impeached violating all requirements of the very Constitution that he had agreed on oath to uphold. It is a great and visible lift in the political game now and Sri Lanka is better off for that.
Telling the world about the changes under way was the first point in the piece by the Prime Minister. The second and only point was that the democracies of the world must come to the help of Sri Lanka at a juncture like this. Ranil Wickremesinghe made no other points in his piece in the Japan Times. He ends by stating, “But we cannot fully turn the page on authoritarian rule, restore the full range of democratic freedoms and rebuild our economy in an inclusive way on our own. Too much of our country’s wealth has been damaged by war, taken flight abroad or been siphoned off through corruption. We simply lack the resources to undertake the great task of reconstruction without assistance. So we need the world’s democracies to stand with us and support us, lest our people become discouraged and be tempted by the autocratic forces waiting in the wings to return to power in the coming parliamentary election.”
DJ does a joyful dance at this particular statement of the Prime Minister noting that Ranil is reacting with a scare of the possibility of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s re-entry. In doing so, Ranil presumably wanted to draw world attention to the possibility of return to autocratic rule in Lanka. This assertion is necessary if his call for global help to rebuild Lanka was to have any impact.
DJ reads more meaning to that reference than is warranted by the context. He is, of course, resonating to Nugegoda where (according to him) he had been “honoured” by the organizers who had spotted him seated in front and beckoned him to come up to the stage. In an email that DJ sent off he had gone into euphoria about this gesture and expressed that that was a gracious act. DJ wrote then, also to the Colombo Telegraph, suggesting that a counter revolution was, surely, on the way. “People are rising,” DJ cried.
But the crowds at the next rally in Kandy were far less and the one after that even less. It is diminishing returns.
By the way, we have not heard of the chief organizer Wimal Weerawansa after Ratnapura. White Vans don’t operate now. Where, then, is Wimal whom DJ described with much enthusiasm as a rare breed of ‘Jacobian orator’?
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