22 October, 2020

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Machiavelli In Sri Lanka: A Response To Prof Carlo

By Dayan Jayatilleka –

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

In his piece on ‘Government and Ethics’ (The Island Sept 11th), Prof Carlo Fonseka debates Machiavelli with Mr RMB Senanayake. In it he makes a kind if gently remonstrative reference to me as follows:

“I appealed to the most erudite political scientist I know, Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka through the columns of The Island (12 July). If my appeal caught his eye he ignored it perhaps on the (sensible) ground that the political education of an old medical fogey is not one of his priorities. Fortunately, illuminating insights into the problem came from other authorities.”

Prof Fonseka does himself a disservice when he guesses at the reason for my lack of response. I was engaged at the time in serial polemics in the newspapers as part of the debate over devolution. That was however, only one reason. There was and is another, which prevents me from taking the subject seriously. More of that in a moment.

Not only was Machiavelli the founder of modern political science, he was rightly recognised by radical emancipationist thinkers such as Rousseau, Gramsci and Althusser as a republican and a progressive thinker in his era.

The sharp swerve from theology and Christian ethics that Machiavelli undertook, which was a necessary rupture from the dominant thinking of his time, resulted in a lop-sidedness which has long been corrected by theorists and practitioners who have advocated and sought a synthesis of power and virtue, of realism and idealism. I have dealt in a book-length study, with an example of such synthesis in the Jesuit educated revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro. An outstanding contemporary statement of another attempt at synthesis is contained in President Obama’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

My second reason is that the Carlo-RMB debate is in a sense irrelevant. There is no Machiavellianism –defined as the pursuit of enlightened self-interest of the state by the state—in practice in Sri Lankan politics today, either by the regime or the pathetic caricature of leadership provided by the alternative/aspirant.

From a political science perspective, the Machiavellian moment (and I mean that as a compliment) was during the war years and the first term of President Rajapaksa, right up to his re-election. The post-war period and the second term has seen the replacement of that Machiavellian lucidity with neoconservative ultranationalist dogma and delusion.

A Machiavellian perspective would have dictated the holding of Northern Provincial elections in 2009, while the TNA was still reeling and Colombo’s ally the EPDP would have prevailed.

Machiavellianism would have continued a process of negotiation with the TNA in order to co-opt and contain, not broken it off in high dudgeon.

Machiavellianism would not have lost the support of India, Brazil, Uruguay, Malaysia and South Africa, all of which supported Sri Lanka in May 2009.

An authentically Machiavellian perspective would identify and isolate the main enemy while winning over allies and neutralising those could not be won over. It would not engage, as the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence has done, in compiling a proliferating menu of perceived threats, ranging from the West to Tamils, Muslims, Leftists, street demonstrators and websites!

Machiavellianism is hard-nosed realism. It does not confuse Sri Lanka for Israel or Pakistan. It understands that China is too far from Sri Lanka to unfurl a protective umbrella over an island on India’s doorstep.  It does not dabble with atomic energy in collaboration with Pakistan, thus setting itself up as a target of a frame-up with enormously dangerous consequences.

Machiavellianism is relentlessly modern, rational and republican; no one who looks through a parochial, backward ethno-religious prism can be Machiavellian.

Vladmir Putin is Machiavellian. So is Lee Kuan Yew.  A distant and faint Sri Lankan approximation would (arguably) be JR Jayewardene.

The Mickey Mouse Machiavellianism manqué of the rulers and Opposition leadership of post-war Sri Lanka is an insult to Machiavelli. That is the second reason that I had not replied to Prof Fonseka’s kind invitation.

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    Absolutely on the spot. Machiavellianism will cease to exist out of shame if caricatures of monkey politics start laying claim to an undeserved title.Comparisons can never be made of men such as Lee Kuan Yew and Rajapaksa.Kudos to the writer!

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      Anthimantharay,

      Welcome to Colombo Telegraph:
      Be prepared for the commentators here – they can be very witty!

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      anthimantharay

      Writes Dayan Jayatilleka,”A distant and faint Sri Lankan approximation would (arguably) be JR Jayewardene.”

      As a result JR got hammered by India, LTTE, JVP, EPRLF, EROS, PLOT, TELO, ultimately by IPKF.

      Brilliant, this is Chanakya Sri Lankan style.

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        where was IPKF hammered SL?

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          sach

          “where was IPKF hammered SL?”

          It was in the North East.

          I take it you don’t consider North East as part of Sri Lanka.

          LTTE has just won over a Sinhala/Buddhist into its Tamil Eelam ideology.

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            IPKF came as a peace keeping force invitde by JR in SL and fought a war with LTTE, the very section that terrorised SL.
            So IPKF was not hammering SL but helping them.

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              sach

              JR was forced to invite IPKF.

              It killed people, raped women and men, looted houses, ………….perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity.

              If these people were not part of Sri Lanka, then why bother keeping them within a unitary state?

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          sach

          “where was IPKF hammered SL?”

          It was in the North East.

          I take it you don’t consider North East as part of Sri Lanka.

          LTTE has just won over a Sinhala/Buddhist to its Tamil Eelam ideology.

  • 0
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    Dayan,

    From your description of Machiavellian-politics,
    you are the present day incarnation of Machiavelli In Sri Lanka.

    All we need is an incarnation of Diogenes the philosopher of cynicism
    to complete the picture: He will be looking for an honest man in Sri Lanka.

  • 0
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    Micky Mouse Mahinda and Micky Mouse Gota became swollen headed after the war victory and now they think they can show the middle finger to India, the UN and the West…but history has shown us that pride (pronounced as megalomania) comes before a fall. Saddam and Gaddafi learnt the hard way…one day these two mice who think they are lions, will learn a similar lesson.

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      I think so too. In Sri Lanka lawlessness is worse than in Iraq and Libya then.

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    I like Dayan’s comment: “Vladmir Putin is Machiavellian. So is Lee Kuan Yew. A distant and faint Sri Lankan approximation would (arguably) be JR Jayewardene….The Mickey Mouse Machiavellianism manqué of the rulers and opposition leadership of post-war Sri Lanka is an insult to Machiavelli”.

    Machiavelli’s Prince was written 500 years ago but his thoughts are still current and applies to intelligent rulers and not to the crude and the cunning. Take Putin for example. Having supplied chemical weapons to Azad of Syria is now engaged in advising him as to how he should get out of the debacle of being accused of using poison gases against the civilians. Bensen

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    A Machiavellian will definitely not run away to Belarus scared to meet Navi.

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    Dayan,

    Enlightenment comes, even if only slowly – and very, very slowly for some, I guess.

    Now you show some spine in your acerbic dismissals, characterizing the President as Mickey Mouse MR and denigrating his leadership as a grossly impotent “mere electoral machine; an industrial strength vacuum-cleaner of votes “. Wow! Two deafening blows just a week apart.

    What a transition from your own accolades of the recent past, to pick a few — “The Best President Sri Lanka could have hoped for” or “the Presidency set to put Sri Lanka on a trajectory just second to China.”

    When will you realize that the damage has already been done – thanks mostly to you?!

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      what an idiot this kumar is……….

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        Dayan,

        I realize you need a mole to cover for you when you are stuck for a resposne. But, it is truly pathetic that this imbecile is the best you could dig up!

        This foul mouthed dim-wit single handedly accounts for the “Sinhalya Modaya” phenomenon. An empty vessel indeed.

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    I think we all tend to look at the situation in SL with cynical eyes. All the theories that are advanced today are about geo-strategic interests and ulterior motives especially on the part of the US. However, there was something touchingly human about Navi Pillai wearing a simple shalwar in an effort to fit in with the northern community. She looked like the quintessential Jaffna Tamil lady. What message does that send to the rabid nationalist wing of the GOSL? I hope the message is that the Tamil people are not without friends. There are people who care about them, and simply will not let the Jaffna Tamil civilization perish from this earth.

    What use is all the power and wealth the US has accumulated if they cannot pick their friends? They don’t need to provide an explanation to anyone as to why they have chosen to help the Tamil people. We can’t underestimate the human element in all of this. Maybe there were people at the Pentagon (and the Whitehouse) who looked at the channel 4 video and said “that guy on his knees, bound and naked… that’s my friend… that’s my ally…”

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      Patriot,

      You picked up an important point about civilizations an civilized behavior Nations ought to follow.

      Brutes don’t understand that human civilization is brought about by the efforts of creative peoples throughout human history in different centers of civilization.

      Civilized Sinhalese will respect that Tamils, Muslims and Christians belong to great civilizations and history. They simply cannot be treated like dirt.

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    Dr. DJ’s response to Prof Carlo Fonseka is another best. Diamond cuts diamond.

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    Dayan
    you seems to have missed the point. the debate between RMB and Carlo is not about Machciavilly but about Machciavillian ethics in politics
    i thought you would come out with your pet subject Fidel Castro and his ethics of violance.but I was rather disappointed.
    Why Dayan?

  • 0
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    Dayan says that ” Machiavellianism [is] –defined as the pursuit of enlightened self-interest of the state by the state.”

    Does the state mean something like the Rajapakse regime?

    What Dayan is giving is a sophisticated reading of Machiavelli.

    There is also a vulgar reading of Machiavelli in circulation which believes that any type of manipulation to retain power in politics is being Machiavellian. There is a story that President Rajapakse is a strong believer in Machiavelli and he keeps a copy of a Sinhala translation of The Prince as his handbook. Was it Dayan who introduced President Rajapakse to Machiavelli? Even if Dayan did that one cannot blame Dayan for all President Rajapakse’s machiavellian strategies. One might say that Rajapakse is the vulgar machiavelli incarnate.

    Dayan also says,

    “The sharp swerve from theology and Christian ethics that Machiavelli undertook, which was a necessary rupture from the dominant thinking of his time, resulted in a lop-sidedness which has long been corrected by theorists and practitioners who have advocated and sought a synthesis of power and virtue, of realism and idealism.”

    It would be good for Dayan to explain why Machiavelli’s thinking resulted in a lop sidedness.

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    A clarification about US Foreign policy – They do not have friends, just acquaintances. They only care about their interests and those who serve their interests. Its open, simple and they do not apologize for it!

    The problem with the rest of the world is that we hate them, and also like what they have! That is not their problem. Its ours!

    As long as they know what we want, they will play us for idiots, no matter how smart we think we are.

    Anyone wondered to find out how many of our security establishments’ higher echelons have green cards and have children who were educated in the US? The answer will shock you…I promise!

    That is how they buy power and influence. Refuse what they have to offer, then you can talk about power. Otherwise, you do not know what you are writing about.

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    It is a shame Cesare Borgia never wrote anything about political science. Now there was the real master.

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    All the ‘pandithayas’ and ‘pothe guras’ trying to glorify and discuss Machiavelli as if they knew the guy personally is laughable.

    Get a life. this is the 21st century. Machiavelli is outdated .

    We need our own, modern-day solutions to our problems and we need to stop talking about some guy who lived hundreds of years ago as the one who had eternal solutions to all political problems of the world.

    Only goes to show the bankruptcy of the so called “Sri Lankan intelligentsia” who keep harping like parrots about the greatness of others.

    Political science is junk science where anyone can come up with any crazy theory anytime. Does not need any “experimental proof” like real science. Where is the proof that Machiavelli tested any of his so called theories.

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      American Mama,
      You maybe right.
      Those unable to study science, study so-called political ‘science’.
      Politics is not a science.
      It is cut throat opportunism.
      Those who survive become “leaders”.
      eg. sri lanka.

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      agree totally , I think this is true . what ever said and done this combination of MR GR and BR is one made in heaven each with thier own strengths . GR is is most impressive of the three , the guy who gets anything done ne matters what . MR is the mster politician abd BR is a prerfect ancetidote . but I think one without the other would not have been impressive , that is why they keep winning election after election

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    How could you negotiate with Sambandan, when he was in full on mourning in 2009?.

    He may not have fullfilled your wish list,but the Medumulana Dude has done one heck of an better (incredible) job than any Machiavellian to develop this little Nation. .

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      What kind of development are you talking about? Do you mean establishing seven eleven’s and wall mart in Jaffna? Fantastic development Sumana?

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      really ? WHAT ARE THEY?

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    People like proff Carlo.F and Dr Dayan.J should be more appropriately referred to rationalisers as they are not being a rationalist as such they truly “think as they live” to please their masters for their life style, benefits and perks they must maintain and enjoy quite similar to the VP’s cohorts as they cannot afford due to their genetics’ and mematics that restrains and inhibits them from having or aspiring to having a higher ethical or moral level or fibre to “live and write as they think” mostly to rationalise and justify.

    Does this not remind one of an approximate saying of “What or how does it profit a man or woman to gain the whole world through their learning, erudition and wealth and lose his or her own (figurative) soul”? It will not matter to most of us and much less to them and the secular new wave of atheist in the USA who would enjoy those who oppose them to be bombed into the Stone Age and oblivion.

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    Dr Dyan Jayatilleke has pointed out that MR is not really Machiavellian since he has failed to take advantage of the situation immediately after the end of the war when the Tamil people were demoralized. Yes that certainly was the time to negotiate a political solution. Most victors in a conflict more or less dictate a solution and sign up a peace treaty. But the Government certainly failed to act as Machiavelli would have suggested in such a situation,
    Instead MR launched a massive and costly infrastructure development program which could have been used as a carrot to resolve the political demands of the Tamil people which were more in accordance with the wishes of the Government. The cost of the massive investment will have to be borne by the majority Sinhalese.
    What were the motivations for this investment? Was it a part of reconciliation process? If so it has not been effective. Man does not live by bread alone.Even now the Government should enter into negotiations for a political solution using central government funding as the ultimate carrot,

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      Excuse me sir, what is this idiotic carrot comparison? Do people in North look joke for you? First MR thought with crushing victory things will be buried. Political solution cannot be enforced, it should be won through winning hearts. Learn from India though it crushed Khalistan movement, quick enough to address the concerns of Sikhs.

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        Worth reading, Concerning Mixed Principalities
        Three Years On After The War: Our King And Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’ by Uvindu Kurukulasuriya –
        Did you know that President Mahinda Rajapaksa read the Sinhala translation of “The Prince” which was serialised in the Sunday Lankadeepa, ‘Raja Veediya’ supplement?

        https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/three-years-on-after-the-war-our-king-and-machiavellis-the-prince/

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        manisekaran

        “Do people in North look joke for you?”

        They are much worst than that.

        ” Political solution cannot be enforced”

        Who said MR and the state are enforcing a political solution? They are working on “final solution” with overt/covert support of mother India.

        And as fellow stupid Tamil from neighbouring state what are you going to do about it?

        “Learn from India though it crushed Khalistan movement, quick enough to address the concerns of Sikhs.”

        Now the Khalistanis are after Sonia in the USA.

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        India destroyed Kalistani movement but there are difference between kalistani and eelamists. Two cannot be compared

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          sach

          “India destroyed Kalistani movement but there are difference between kalistani and eelamists. “

          What are the differences?

          “Two cannot be compared”

          Why not?

  • 0
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    Dear Native Vedda.

    This refers to your response to Manisekaran,

    “as fellow stupid Tamil…”

    Does this mean that you not a vedda, but a Tamil like Manisekaran?

  • 0
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    Sri

    Reread my comment.

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