21 October, 2020

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‘In The Way Of Resistance’: Mervyn De Silva & The SLFP

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

“In the way of resistance, there were few lonely voices…In the main, though, the foreigner took the Ceylonese upper class by the scruff of its neck…It was a class therefore destined for a rude shock…Meanwhile the masses lay dormant; watching, waiting, resentful.” – (Mervyn de Silva*, “1956: The Cultural Revolution That Shook the Left”, Ceylon Observer Magazine Edition, May 16th 1967)

Radhika Coomaraswamy tellingly observes that Mervyn de Silva was “the greatest journalist that Sri Lanka ever produced.” (Introduction: A Tribute to Mervyn de Silva, Crisis Commentaries: Selected Political Writings of Mervyn de Silva, ICES, Colombo, 2001). In a serendipitous synchronicity, Mervyn de Silva’s birthday, Sept 5th, was separated by only a few days from that of the political party he supported and was identified with but never joined—the SLFP, which was born on September 2nd, though in a different year and decade.

Mervyn and his close friend Haris Hulugalle, son of the distinguished editor and ambassador HAJ Hulugalle, always lamented a peculiar absence in the SLFP: that of a modern, internationalist, supportive intelligentsia. Mervyn observed that the educated elite was divided between the rightwing UNP and the Marxist Left, and that those first rate intellectuals who supported or were actively involved with SLFP-led coalitions came from the Left, beginning with those who supported Philip Gunawardena’s MEP. He was troubled by the absence, unique in Sri Lanka and in sharp contrast to the Congress Party of India and the People’s Party of Pakistan, of a modern intelligentsia to support the moderate nationalist SLFP. He saw this in deeper systemic terms: the Center did not have its own intellectual and policy elite equal to that of the Right and Left. He was doubly concerned that this would diminish the capacity of the moderate center to generate its own ideology as well as state cadre (most especially in the Foreign Service, which he saw as pro-UNP/pro-West dominated), and undermine the ability of the long term, for the center to sustain itself; for the center “to hold” (in the Yeatsian sense).

Mervyn de Silva ( Middle)

Mervyn de Silva ( Middle)

Mervyn’s political discourse can be triangulated within three points of preoccupation: the UNP, the SLFP and the struggle of the Nonaligned/the global South. In his discourse, the first two i.e. the national factors, were situated against the backdrop of the third, i.e. the international.

The point of departure was Mervyn’s definition of and attitude to the Establishment, the Right, represented by the UNP. Mervyn was born into a comfortable, middle class, propertied, conservative, Sinhala Buddhist, pro-UNP family. His stiff, authoritarian father, a Trinitian, was decidedly UNP, rightwing and anti-Left. Only one brother, a doctor, would veer vaguely leftward late in life, and it took a professorial Communist brother-in-law to provide Mervyn an anti-UNP conversational counterpart within his extended family. Interestingly enough, Mervyn had a friendlier, more respectful equation with his colorful father-in-law, his Catholic wife Lakshmi’s Panadura Buddhist father who was a very literate and liberal parent, lay preacher and an active polemicist of L.H. Mettananda’s Bauddha Jathika Balavegaya (BJB), than he did with his own disciplinarian, conservative patriarch.

As Tissa Devendra’s delightful reminiscences of Mervyn in primary school reveal, the latter showed no traces of his Sinhala Buddhist conservative background even that early in life, displaying a precocious, irrepressibly rascally character, shaped by influences –literary, informational, political and even religious– that were global and well outside his family’s consciousness and cultural comfort zone. One cannot trace how early Mervyn’s individualist rebellion against his father began because no one had a memory of a Mervyn who even as a boy, willingly conformed to or hadn’t transcended his familial ethos –which as a father himself, he would dismiss as “dull, dull”–and forged his own consciousness out of “the school library and English literature”. But the rebellion against conformist conservatism never stopped, and his dialectic with the patriarch was a shaping, perhaps determinant, influence on his character, conduct and choices throughout life.

Politics formed part of that rebellion. As a schoolboy Mervyn was a sympathizer of the LSSP and distributed its newspaper on the Udahamulla train, while Gamini Seneviratne confirms recollections of him as an undergraduate, as alienated from Trotskyist punditry and more sympathetic to the ‘Stalinist’ Communists. However, Mervyn’s individualist rebellion against conformism was such that he never fell into the trap of organizational commitment to the Left, and retained his skeptical Western liberal humanistic core till the last, with the books on his bed and desk testimony to his actual, abiding intellectual and temperamental inclinations: Leonard Woolf, Walter Lippmann, and I.F. Stone.

Mervyn’s description of the UNP was clear and consistent, as was his attitude. “The UNP’s policy had been one of timid dependence on the British, a colorless adherence to the status quo.” (South Asian Review, Sussex, January 1973). “The conservative UNP won the island’s first parliamentary elections on the eve of Independence…The UNP, the authentic spokesman of the ‘establishment’, the propertied and the professional elite…” (Times of India, 1989). “The conservative UNP, the strongest party in the island…” (UN University seminar paper 1993).

The exception that Mervyn made also illustrated what he thought was the UNP’s norm: “Premadasa…left for China soon after he became the rightwing UNP’s first ‘man of the people’ candidate…” (Deccan Herald, Sept 22, 1988). Mervyn’s support was evident from the title of his article to the Indian press welcoming Premadasa’s victory: “Dominance of Elite Ends”. (Deccan Herald, Dec 29th, 1988) That support was based not only on decades-long personal acquaintance going back to the 1960s but on the notion that Premadasa had always represented Mervyn’s cherished 1956 ‘revolution’ within the UNP.

While Mervyn was opposed to the UNP because of its ideology and international stance, making sympathetic exception only for Premadasa, he was also respectful of and friendly with President Jayewardene while being acerbically critical of his policies and government. In his writings he treated early 1960s SLFP defector CP de Silva icily as a traitor, and Mervyn’s own career stood in acute jeopardy when Esmond Wickremesinghe engineered the defection of SLFPers and Trotskysists (including Mangala Samaraweera’s father) and split the center-left coalition in late 1964. Friends with UNP liberals Gamini Jayasuriya, ACS Hameed and Gamini Dissanaike, Mervyn had sharply polemical relations with those he saw as cold warriors on the authoritarian Right of the UNP—the far right of a rightwing party– such as Lalith Athulathmudali. Thus his relationship in the 1960s with his boss in Lake House, Esmond Wickremesinghe, father of the present Prime Minister, was that of a very civil Cold War, while his equation in the 1970s as Editor of the Daily News with the present PM’s mother, UNP hawk and Sinhala Buddhist matriarch, was one of barbed confrontation.

Mervyn was no less clear about the SWRD’s dramatic break with the UNP, the nature of the SLFP and what he found valuable about it. It is noteworthy that the definitive, unambiguous paragraph that follows was not from an article to the local papers but to a scholarly British journal:

Then came Mr. Bandaranaike’s departure from the UNP and his founding of a moderate socialist party…he had a ready-made cause in the underprivileged state into which the Sinhalese had sunk under colonialism. The British had as a matter of conscious policy favored the Tamils and the Christians, and in both jobs and representation, the Sinhalese–speaking Buddhist masses were at a great disadvantage. Now the masses were throwing up their middle classes to act as their spokesman, and they had a champion…Mr. Bandaranaike also offered radicalism in economic issues (the immediate nationalization of public transport and the ports, rapid expansion of the state sector, the accent on industry and the new concept of a mixed economy), and an international modernism in foreign policy (nonalignment, Afro-Asianism, the establishment of relations with the Soviet Union, China and other socialist countries, and the closure of British naval and air bases)…” (South Asian Review, Sussex, January 1973).

In the final analysis Mervyn’s antipodal attitudes to the UNP and SLFP were sourced in his world outlook, in the dual sense of his values as well as his stance in the world at large. His internationalism and its underlying values were most strongly defined in a paper presented on Non-Alignment in Baghdad in 1982. He identifies what he regards as the core value of Nonalignment:

Whatever the preoccupations of the movement at any given time or in any definable period, the non-aligned community has held on steadfastly to an aim which we must accept as its central or core value: an end to domination…the ultimate goal of course in this projected path of progress is the total emancipation of our peoples and their liberation in all spheres—political, economic and cultural…anti-colonialism and anti-neocolonialism were the foundations of nonaligned thought…the system against which we are battling has been created by the West and remains West–dominated…

…deeper down, as we touch the domestic power structure, we observe the role of local elites, their self-interest, their ideological outlook, and international linkages….Press, radio, TV, everything is centered in Colombo, the capital, where a privileged English-educated minority stands at the apex of the power structure. In the countryside dwell the millions of Sinhala or Tamil educated poor, at whom the international communications system, controlled and managed by the metropolitan elite, is directed…” (Paper delivered at a seminar titled ‘The Non-Aligned Countries in the 1980s: Results and Perspectives’, Baghdad, Iraq, under the patronage of President Saddam Hussein, 1982)

With these core values it is little wonder that Mervyn scorned the propensity of the Western-oriented elite of Ceylon to “bend obligingly” and would have been alarmed by Sri Lanka’s strategic repositioning today as part of the US pivot to Asia and Washington’s competition with our traditional friend China. He would have seen it as a throwback to two earlier periods when we aligned with the Atlanticist axis, namely pre-’56 (more generally 1947-1956) and the early 1980s:

Ceylon was represented at Bandung by Sir John Kotelawela, a brash anti-communist crusader perfectly attuned to the spirit of the Dullesian era. Ceylon was on the doorstep of CENTO when 1956 rescued our foreign policy from what would have been a disaster…and now we are back in a new cold war, with its new military budgets, new alliances and new bases being established, and the Indian Ocean emerging as the main arena of confrontation and tension.” (‘April Anniversaries: Revolutions and Insurrections’, Teilhard de Chardin seminar, April 1981, Crisis Commentaries, pp.36-52)

Mervyn’s acute concerns today would have been threefold. Firstly, the effacement in the country’s political map, of SWRD’s Middle Path, as the result of the SLFP’s bloc with the UNP—entailing and constituting a shift to the right: “…the feature of Mr. Bandaranaike’s middle path policies (‘middle path’ is a direct adaptation of a central Buddhist concept of virtue)…” (South Asian Review, January 1973) Secondly, the unbalancing and undermining of the stability of the democratic system by dismantling of the two party system through the eviction of the Center-Left from the space of the Parliamentary Opposition. With the SLFP no longer the parliamentary Opposition and the alternative government, who or what will be the alternative to the Rightwing UNP? What will be the fate of the SLFP and the legacy of 1956 –and with what consequences? Thirdly, always conscious of the external and the ‘intermestic’ factors, he’d resurrect the problem he posed decades ago: “If the SLFP “centre” cannot hold…India might find itself like Syria and Israel, with a messy Lebanon on its doorstep.” (Deccan Herald, Dec 29, 1988)

Mervyn and his Lanka Guardian were sharply criticized in Parliament by the present PM when the latter was a young ‘gauleiter’ of the post-1977 UNP junta (as it was dubbed) and its storm-troopers. Mervyn’s voluminous corpus of work leaves little doubt that the target of his contemporary critique would have been the elitist pro-western establishment led by the son of his ideological and institutional foes, and both enabled and camouflaged by a CP de Silva type SLFP defection to the UNP-led coalition. Equally, his discourse leaves little doubt that his current sympathies would have been with the political formation which continues the “anti-neocolonialism” of ’56 and ’70, led by three center-left political personalities he manifested an avuncular warmth towards when they were rebellious young MPs: Mahinda, Dinesh and Vasu. As a young journalist Mervyn had admiringly profiled Dinesh’s father the iconic Philip Gunawardena for a Lake House magazine. Mahinda was Mervyn’s young protégé from the Palestinian solidarity movement and the cousin of Mervyn’s Moscow-leaning buddies from Royal College, 1956 and the Atlanta Club, George and Lakshman Rajapaksa.

Mervyn, if alive, would be at the Orient Club, playing his game of billiards, ticking off the racing sheet, puffing his Havana cigar and nursing his ice-cold Heineken, waiting with semi-cynical certitude for the next 1956 to come, with the ruling elite “blissfully unaware of the gathering storm” and “the socioeconomic forces which would jet-propel the masses into action…with such terrific momentum that it shattered the Right…” (Ceylon Observer Magazine, May 23rd 1967.)

*87th Birth Anniversary- Sept 5th

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Latest comments

  • 9
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    Not to contradict Radhika but names like Charles Lorenz – founder, I think, of the first Ceylonese newspaper – and Armand De Souza also spring to mind when recalling great Sri Lankan journalists. I wish someone would do a history of journalism in this country.

    • 7
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      As usual I did not go to read the current article – but I really dont know considering his behaviour of the day- a son whose focus has been totally the opposite to that of his beloved father – still talking bit do not the least towards the on going reconcilliatory tast in creating sustainable peace in the country.
      May be in the loosing period, Dayan Silva Jayathilaka may make every effort to score telling and animating the people with his fathers polite behavrious.
      See where has DJ been sitting today ? Since Nugegoda Stage, he proved himself to call him Dayan Jayathilaka fits more with his today misbehaviours. Good luck DJ.

      • 12
        1

        Simon De Silva

        His wise father Mervyn De Silva advised my father in the late 60’s to move out of Colombo and settle in Jaffna as he visualised anti-Tamil rage in the South soon.

        Mervyn De Silva’s brother Neviille De Silva showed downright hatred towards Tamils.

        The very son of Mervin is Dayan Jayatillake. Does he reflect his father’s esteemed qualities? I wonder whether he is the replica of his uncle Neville.

        • 13
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          he is in for the 3 humbugs of buddhism- wealth, fame, and power.

          his journo. essays are built on this nucleus – crusader like what he learnt at church school

        • 1
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          R.J.

          “His wise father Mervyn De Silva advised my father in the late 60’s to move out of Colombo and settle in Jaffna as he visualised anti-Tamil rage in the South soon.”

          Don’t you see that his son is being as prophetic as his father and passing you the same advice by indicating that the present leadership is “blissfully unaware of the gathering storm.”

          Soma

          • 0
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            [Edited out]

          • 2
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            Soma,

            The difference between father and son is that the former had a ‘Forbording’ of what was to come and the son is ‘Actively Seeding’ the events he ‘Wants’ to transpire.

            Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

        • 10
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          Anyways, it is too late to go for fatherood testing (DNA tests) which the analysts are used to carry out.

          • 6
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            The idiom ‘mothers character and fathers intuition’ has failed with Dayan Jayatillake.

            Leave aside the father’s intuition not inhibiting him, even the surname De Silva is dumped to gain a remote Jayatillake name.

            It is all screwed up.

      • 0
        7

        Reconciliation in Full mode:

        Only thing was Mahinda Rajapakse who made the Sungod float in the muddy lagoon whent there.

        “Buddhist monk assaulted at anti-Rajapaksa protest (09/03/16)

        Chief monk of Sentul temple punched and kicked, NGO leader Elangovan apologises and agrees religious places should be open to everyone “

        SL High Commissioner in Malaysia assaulted. Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Malaysia and the Second Secretary were reported to have been mobbed by a group of protesters at Kuala Lampur airport in Malaysia today when they arrived at the airport to send off MP Dinesh Gunawardena who was on a visit to the country with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

        Former Minister Johnston Fernando said the attack was carried out by a group of LTTE sympathizers, who were protesting against Mr. Rajapaksa.

    • 9
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      Can anybody please tell me -This particular selfproclaimed big man DJ has been calling himself ” Dayana Jayathilaka” but his has been Mervin De Silva… why the idiosyncratic man has not taken the surname of his father ? Why ?Is that becasue the boy had then been found in a home for children or what ? Or may be he had adapted by his parents…. if he can twist entire world to support MR et al, why cant he open up these pvt issues to the readers ? Please add your thoughts -thanks.

    • 3
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      Actually what DJ has been doing is more or less same devious agendas of his Guru Mahinda Rajakashe, why not he joined him to Malaysia ?At least that could please DJ after a long since return from France.

      I believe all these men that see only their selfish issues, will have no ground in lanken politics anymore.

      Yesterday, there had been no DANSAL like gigantic parties, but was a celebrative issue…. that has left enough examples to Joint Donkey opposition. They thought Kurunegala would NOT be visited by SLFP party men as was spread by Gonthadipila and Wimal Buruwa – finally they had to seal of their both ends not being able to see the ground reality. Everything ended up for ruling SLFPers with harmony.

  • 11
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    What would your children write about you? You being a claver bigot that you attempted to mask your bigotry with the term a smart patriot!

    • 5
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      Great question (you should have stopped at the question and avoided writing the second sentence).

      Yet I hope DJ will reflect on this.

    • 9
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      “”the term a smart patriot! “”

      like a blacksmith at home but without a hammer.
      Presently, he is seen sleeping with the crusader muslims now that he has run away from church having gorged all its possible resources like his erstwhile friend Tamara Kunanayagam.

      Patriotism means equipped forces and a prepared citizenry.
      He got booted out of it by the very enthusiastic forces of Mara and
      above all Gota won’t have any of his bullshit.

    • 10
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      He is a mutation. He does not and canthave children. If you mean the youth of the nation – there, only message he can give is to become more selfish as he has been. DJ is the best example to have been that selfish in lanken issues. He can even fish on muddy waters if his selffish agendas would meet well. Else we cant know why he furtehr support to bring MR et al the like most abusive men that have fallen in deep in extrements caused by ownself.

  • 5
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    You have made it clear whether in the past or at present, whether a leftist or rightist if he or she is a Sinhalese they definitely view everything Tamil with an undeniably malicious sting of racism with your reference to Mervyn especially “The British had as a matter of conscious policy favored the Tamils and the Christians, and in both jobs and representation, the Sinhalese–speaking Buddhist masses were at a great disadvantage. Now the masses were throwing up their middle classes to act as their spokesman, and they had a champion…”. “that follows was not from an article to the local papers but to a scholarly British journal:” is shows the mentality towards ‘local’ and the scholarly British journalism. These people with corrupt minds are preaching to others.

  • 8
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    Authentic, but written with a twist only a son has licence to carry-off.

    All the usual suspects are present; from the erudite to the self-servers. Non of them, alas, came even close to steering the nation away from the trip wires of ’58, ’77 and ’83 and the debacle that followed and engulfed this country for nearly thirty years.

    • 1
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      That 30 years should have continued and Pabakaran should have allowed to stay alive until the problem is solved.

  • 14
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    Does anyone know who the smiley face next to Mrs B is? Ah Mrs Bee… I am reminded of a piece here a year ago, referring to her a Queen Bee: https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-story-of-the-failure-of-separatism/
    What a mess she made with her measures of protectionism and economic restrictions but getting her children educated overseas.

    • 5
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      Sepala

      “What a mess she made with her measures of protectionism and economic restrictions but getting her children educated overseas.”

      And voting for his son who was an UNP candidate.

      • 7
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        //And voting for his son who was an UNP candidate.//

        The son was a spoilt brat. But as far as bringing up children goes, hers was no worse a performance than one of Sri Lanka’s finest journalists, wouldn’t you say?

  • 7
    2

    Profession Ambulance Chaser:
    “”Radhika Coomaraswamy tellingly observes that Mervyn de Silva was “the greatest journalist that Sri Lanka ever produced.”2

    English as a second language of Sri Lanka for government servants specialising in `chits ` for schooling, campus and posh positions
    extra special back scratching.

    The Hindu at Tamil Nadu (Nadu has the first English daily) always shone therefore Nehru always maintained English as an official language unlike the low class workers who squandered independance. Even his great grandson knows the consequences that borrowed languages bring about.

  • 4
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    A fine tribute to Mervyn de Silva by his son Dayan Jayatilleke describing Mervyn’s intellectual honesty and journalistic probity– despite his unfair nick name at the university– and above all his consistency in advocating for the liberal cause.
    This proves beyond any doubt that these qualities are not carried through to the second generation!

    • 1
      0

      Be careful, sir, there are many a son of a national leader in parliament today!

  • 2
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    How about DJ writing soon a piece titled Lakhsman Kadirgamar & SLFP Vs MaRa & SLFP and concluding with which one of the above two is closer to Mervyn in character & behaviour ?

    Hope DJ touches on Malaysia drama staged by MaRa & gang.

    • 4
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      No Dear he will never focus on the topics that we are very much interested in.

      Like the current one, that could perhaps bring him some credit are his focus. [Edited out]

  • 3
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    Mervyn de Silva may be the greatest journalist that Sri Lanka had ever produced.

    But, Why should it was left to the son to write a tribute about his father?

    In actual life the off springs are often mute and be only silent observers during such occasions.

    But in this case, the son would have jump the gun to shine in the reflected glory of his father

    What a father and What a son?

    • 4
      0

      “But, Why should it was left to the son to write a tribute about his father?”

      “In actual life the off springs are often mute and be only silent observers during such occasions”.

      MODESTY was NEVER one of Dayan Silva’s strong points.

  • 1
    2

    I used to enjoy reading the Lanka Guardian. The first and only quality journal. I learnt a lot even as a kid by reading the quality articles in itm I don’t know anything about the son, but Mervyn was an intellectual giant amongst a lot of obsequious sycophantic clowns masquerading as journalists.

    Wonder what happened to that journal? It was sad to see the new regime throwing its lot totally with the US camp. I wonder if the policy makers are aware of how many nations the US has destabilizated and how many nations had military coups specially in Central and S.America with the US fingerprint? Honduras in recent years where Manuel Zelaya was toppled, of course the chaos in Libya and the crisis that led to Russia annexing Crimea? A direct result of US led defacto coup in Kiev. They openly encouraged violence. Sure the democratically elected pro Russian president was corrupt but the reason to overthrow him wasn’t corruption.
    .

    Having said that, I reckon survival now depends on toeing the US-Indian partnership and jump when they say jump and bendover when they say bend. What other options are there? UNP owes the US.

    • 3
      2

      “” I reckon survival now depends on toeing the US-Indian “”

      Socialist/Communist bosses Russia/China are frozen without trade.

      When Xi saw how Obama (US doesn’t have a stronger partner than UK in the world.’) reacted to May he never discussed the Hinkley Point.

      there is nothing the ratwatte party can do but talk shop about poverty, ethnic violence that only socialist/communist create.

      “UNP owes the US. “
      it is a left wing in practice. sinhala buddhist can never be right wing
      Ask the Indians. only the insertion of sanskrit has drawn lanka closer to indian government. not the punjabi, malabari, time servers.
      They like ranil the man who stays a fool all day and leaves the rest to the gods. how long will he fool when Trump takes seat?

      • 0
        2

        A big non-sequtir. What exactly are you trying to convey Tsylana with a mix of words and ad hominem attacks on Dayan and the fact that the UNP does owe it to the USA for coming back into power? Eelam will happen if Hillary wins. Trump has no chance yet of winning.

        • 2
          0

          Saffron

          “Eelam will happen if Hillary wins”

          You mean Eelam is in her hand bag and she can manifest/make it happen any time she wants to by waving her hand inside her bag?

          She must the greatest magician of all time. Must be fun watching her.

  • 0
    0

    [Edited out]

  • 6
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    “Mervyn, if alive, would be at the Orient Club, playing his game of billiards, ticking off the racing sheet, puffing his Havana cigar and nursing his ice-cold Heineken, waiting with semi-cynical certitude for the next 1956 to come, with the ruling elite “blissfully unaware of the gathering storm” and “the socioeconomic forces which would jet-propel the masses into action…with such terrific momentum that it shattered the Right…” “

    The only thing reasonably ‘national’ (or localized) in that sentence is the name of the club. Any other pretensions to be an ‘apey miniha’ are steeped in the hypocrisy that appears to have been more pronounced in the son.

    • 5
      0

      Bagehot, absolutely well observed and well said.

      The father hid the hypocrisy well. The son given his ego and loud mouth – simply cannot.

  • 0
    3

    hyou are right Dayan. Here is some proof. LTTE TAMIL TERRORIST THUGS did this.

    Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Malaysia and the Second Secretary were reported to have been mobbed by a group of protesters at Kuala Lampur airport in Malaysia today when they arrived at the airport to send off MP Dinesh Gunawardena who was on a visit to the country with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Former Minister Johnston Fernando said the attack was carried out by a group of LTTE sympathizers, who were protesting against Mr. Rajapaksa. The Sri Lankan High Commissioner who sustained head injuries and the Second Secretary, who was also injured, are currently being treated at a hospital in Kuala Lampur. According to former minister Fernando, the protesters had asked whereabouts of Former President Rajapaksa from the High Commissioner and he had told to the protesters contact the Police and inquire about it. The protesters who were irritated by his response had ‘critically’ attacked the ambassador until he bled from his forehead, Mr. Fernando said. However, it is reported that when the Police arrived in the scene, the High Commissioner had already been beaten up. He said none of the delegation of Mr. Rajapaksa had faced attacks. The Former President and Kurunegala District MP Mahinda Rajapaksa is scheduled to return to Sri Lanka tomorrow morning with his delegation comprising his Private Secretary Uditha Lokubandara, Former Minister Johnston Fernando and Former Western Provincial Minister Upali Kodikara.

  • 1
    1

    Dear Sir Dayan

    Thank you for your article, through which I glimpse our former civilized glory of an innocent young nation, with its gentleman politicians that our parents tell us about – perhaps the reports of gentlemanly politicians of the former era have been greatly exaggerated?

    • 1
      0

      No Vanguard, politics was much better before the media was brought under government control in the 70s. Mervyn sucked up to Mrs B when she started destroying media freedom. Dayan is trying to glorify his father, just like his father glorified Mrs B.

      • 1
        0

        De Poorten puts it this way (Sunday Leader)

        “There is no longer any real difference in political philosophy among any of the players on Sri Lanka’s political field. Principled conduct of any description is conspicuous by its absence. It will take a re-birth of the Socialist or Social Democratic Left to bring at least a glimmer of hope to the vast majority of Sri Lanka’s citizens.”

  • 1
    1

    DOUGLAS

    This Rajasingham Jayadevan seems to have some fixation. Besides being a master of irrelevance he has an obsession. Whenever he comments on Dayan Jayatilleke or Mervyn de Silva he drags in the name of Mervyn’s brother or Dayan’s uncle.
    Would he ever be like his brother Dr Nagendran and try to be sensible and civilised without being a classic case study for psychiatric students

  • 1
    0

    How come the son is not a de Silva.He does not want the world to know that he is a KEULA. Both are the same.

  • 1
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    In the 70s, Mervyn de Silva glorified Mrs B (the first Sri Lankan PM to undermine democracy) to high heavens while she was going berserk spreading her chit culture and destroying media freedom. To her own detriment, Mrs B believed the praises that were sung by Mervyn. She ultimately paid the price. Reduced to 8 seats in parliament not enough even to become the Leader of the Opposition. Popular vote UNP: 3179221; SLFP: 1855331 (Wikipedia).

    The demise of free press in Sri Lanka started with Mrs B making Lake House her propaganda headquarters, a dastardly deed, happily continued by all our leaders who followed her. Mervyn was a traitor to press freedom in Sri Lanka because he supported that crime when it was first committed.

    Mervyn is one of those who prostituted his media skills for personal gain. He must bear some responsibility for the sad state our media is in.

    • 1
      0

      Above the Rest, few will remember what you have stated, but it is a perfectly true account of the mayhem created by Mrs B during those grim years from 1970-77.

      I am also convinced there were far better and more intellectually honest journalists than Mervyn de Silva who unfortunately don’t get a mention. It is up to the older readers to set the record straight. You cant expect Dayan J to do it.

  • 2
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    Above the Rest is also above the truth. He/she is either ignorant of the history of media in Ceylon/Sri Lanka is not beyond twisting the truth to serve is distortion of history.Lake House was a pro-UNP institution and used the slogan of press freedom to pursue a political agenda.It was Ranil Wickremesinghe’s father C.E.L Wickremesinghe who engineered the defection of 13-I think-SLFP MPs to defeat Mrs Bandranaike’s government and caused her to hold the first of the two elections in 1965 that eventually brought Dudley Senanayake to power. The post-independence history of Lake House which then was the biggest newspaper publisher was one of pro-UNP and anti-Left and anti-SLFP political agendas.It is best that those who do not know the role of Lake House in political manipulation learn their history lessons even now.

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      Jamis Appuhamy, you mention some pretty interesting aspects in your posting above.

      “Lake House was a pro-UNP institution and used the slogan of press freedom to pursue a political agenda.”

      One of the reasons why some of our best scribes left the country (before 1965) was the gradually receding freedom of the press. Tarzie Vittachi for example. I have read this somewhere in the introductions of one of his many books.

      “Lake House was a pro-UNP institution and used the slogan of press freedom to pursue a political agenda.It was Ranil Wickremesinghe’s father C.E.L Wickremesinghe who engineered the defection of 13-I think-SLFP MPs to defeat Mrs Bandranaike’s government and caused her to hold the first of the two elections in 1965 that eventually brought Dudley Senanayake to power.”

      Prey tell me Mr Appuhamy, what became of the Lake House in the period 1970-77, and of course thereafter? What’s the difference?

      Which is better or which exemplifies political freedom better? – A newspaper with a political leaning of its own OR, a newspaper TAKEN OVER by a government and used as its main political organ to espouse the governmental propaganda thereafter?

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      Jamis Appuhamy,

      A newspaper being pro-UNP or pro-SLFP is an aspect of press freedom. There is nothing wrong with a newspaper being pro-UNP or pro-SLFP. But bringing a newspaper under the control of the government and making it a propaganda tool of the government is against press freedom.

      You are trying to justify the destruction of a free media organisation and bringing it under government control, by citing Esmond Wickramasinghe’s covert political activities. You are ignorant of the fact that Lake House today (and between 1977 & 1994) is/was a propaganda tool of a UNP-led government, thanks to Mrs B’s idiotic politics. That is why I say that Mervyn is a traitor to press freedom in Sri Lanka. He supported Mrs B when she destroyed free media in Sri Lanka. Lake House has become a tool of the government whichever party is in power, thanks to Mrs B and the likes of Mervyn.

      You are ignorant of another fact: that not only Lake House but Dawasa which was at times pro-SLFP and at times pro-UNP was banned by Mrs B, and Mervyn glorified her when she was doing it. And do you know what she did to the Times? If you were born after 1977, go and ask your parents about those days.

      There is no free newspaper anywhere in the world that doesn’t have its own favourite political party. A media organisation’s support of a specific political party is not an excuse to suppress media freedom.

      Sri Lanka is cursed today because its mainstream media, newspapers, radio and TV, are all controlled by the government. The curse began in the early 70s under Mrs B’s rule and with the collaboration of traitors like Mervyn.

      I wish Dayan has the guts to write frankly about those events.

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    If Dankotuwe Manike imbibed less of the Dankotuwe illicit brew it is possible, though I would not bet my last ten rupees on it, that we might elicit some sense out of her (surely a he pretending and spoiling the respected sinhala name) rather than the fumes of illicit brew. If anybody is screwed up it is our Dankotuwe Manike the morning after the night before.

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    Justice and Fairplay.

    I wish you had added Truth also to the name you write under.
    Because you hide the truth and reveal only a part of it. Of course once a government lays hands on the media, the media loses whatever freedom it had. Remember that in the early days Lake House was the biggest publishing house and had a virtual monopoly on ‘information’. So Lake House was able to dominate the news agenda. Not only did it rail against the SLFP it had done the same to the Left movement. But it was not only the opposition that bore the brunt of Lake House propaganda. Read the history of the times and you will see that Lake House even deprived Sir John of the premiership by a last minute story in the Observer saying the majority of the UNP Parliamentary Group was going to vote for Dudley Senanayake. This story was in circulation just before the group met. MPs were influenced by it and actually supported Dudley. That is how Lake House fixed politics inside the very party it supported.
    If the UNP was so concerned about media freedom why did it not do anything about Lake House after JR won his massive majrity in 1977? It could have divested itself of the majority shares and sold it to the public as the Lake House Act called for? In fact JR went further and took over the Times Group under the business acquisition act. How many editors at Lake House and the Times did the JRJ government sack? And why is today’s yahapalanaya government that shouts from the roof tops about media freedom does not follow through with the Lake House Act and divest itself of the shares it clings to so that it can control Lake House?
    The fact that Mrs B- pushed by the Left parties in her government-took over Lake House does not absolve the UNP of continuing in the same vein and throttling the media and threatening to do so as Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has done a couple of times in recent months. So you want to know the difference. Well it is quite simple. Those who preach freedom of the press should practice it when in power not follow the bad examples of the past.

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    Jamis Appuhamy, thank you for your explanation.

    Without going into details, let me assure you I am neither a party hack or spokesperson for the UNP. There were many wrongs they committed after 1977 and thereafter, as indeed there are now, under various guises. The chances are, they will not be righted. The take over of the Lake House was wrong, but this wrong was not righted by the UNP in 1977 as it was a convenient tool for the ruling party, who abused it, no end. The more some things change, the more they remain just the same.

    What I am interested in however is, is to recognize that the worst of this present government to-date is considerably better than the best of the Rajapaksa reign. This is why I will continue to give it the benefit of the doubt until the day arrives when they would have proven beyond doubt that they are no better than the ones we saw out. From that day on; the protests from me would be loud and clear; trust me.

    The ‘truth’ My dear Sir, – in matters such as this – is relative. What you see as the ‘truth’ may not be seen as the ‘truth’ by me or many others and that is the truth of the matter. This is the reason why I will continue to give this present lot, the benefit of the doubt and watch and wait until the day arrives when they prove to all, they are no different to the previous lot. From then on, my condemnation of this government will be without reservation.

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    Jamis Appuhamy thanks for very interesting comments,

    But, you will agree, that the Lake house had a near monopoly before 1970, Yet it could not prevent massive electoral victory of SLKP and allies in 1956,July 1960 and May 1970.

    Near full control control of the media by SLFP could not any way avert the debacle of 1977!

    You might suggest other courses,yet the role of media during elections and in between elections is a mystery.

    Propaganda is always counterproductive.

    My comment is only for points to ponder and to provoke wide and active discussion

    This in no way diminishes the importance and role of independent and vibrant media in the interest of democracy and good governance.

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    Here he goes again! Every now and then Dayan Jaythilake writes an article to glorify his drunkard father. Now he says Mervyn is the best journalist every produced by Sri Lanka. My foot!!! Dayan we know you are suffering from a paranoia to glorify your father and thereby to gain respect to yourself. T his is cunning tactics of a wolf. We know you are desperate for publicity; go and see a doctor

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    Lake House was monopoly of that operated by right-wing Esmond.W….of Christen and Gomes at that time. By and large Lake House was mouth piece of Old UNP politics of right wing democracy more or less USA, UK and several other EU countries’ and their masters voices.

    That is why Mrs S.R.D. Banadarnakes of govt. of SLFP that compelled to an appoint looking after activities of political involvement Lake House Group by Edmond Wickramasinghe and Gomes who are the son-in laws of D.R Wijawearadan’s of another right wing journalist and owner of Lake House.

    Mervin Silva was leading Editors of Lake House groups of news papers at that time. He(Mervin ) carry out vision and mission of UNP politics and was not that support progressive camp at that time.

    Mervin may be good Journalist, but he was not that camp of progressive line of politics at all. Randomly he has been approach by personal soft corner for the certain leftist politics. That has nothing to do with , Mervin S…. journalism which has noting to do with Left-wing politics.

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