27 September, 2020

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Mangala Was Certainly Better Than GL Pieris

By Rajiva Wijesinha –

Prof Rajiva Wijesinha

In Parliament yesterday I told Dr Jayalath Jayawardena, who is a master manipulator, that instead of making insidious use of the government’s misfortunes, he should be constructive, and move a motion to suggest that Prof Pieris be replaced as Foreign Minister by Dr Dayan Jayatilleka. He told me, characteristically, that he would be happy to suggest me instead, but I assured him that I knew my limitations. I had no doubt that I would do a better job than Prof Pieris, but so would almost anyone in this room – but there was no need to think of simply improving on what we have, when there is available a man who understands international relations thoroughly, and whose track record is one of great success.

I was reminded then of what Mangala Samaraweera – yet another Foreign Minister who was certainly better than the incumbent – had said a couple of years back, when he accused me of being responsible for all the ills from which he thought the country was suffering. When I asked for an explanation he expanded this to include Dayan as well, claiming that it was because of the victory in Geneva in 2009 that the government thought it had leeway to do whatever it liked.

Though I was involved at the time with Dayan, I cannot take credit for the triumph he architected. Although the size of the victory led idiots in Colombo to assume that any idiot could achieve such a victory – which perhaps explains the failure to register the intellectual weaknesses of his immediate successor – in fact what he achieved was carefully crafted, in terms of the principles that he and Tamara Kunanayakam expressed so eloquently at the discussion on Foreign Policy that the Liberal Party organized earlier this week.

Dayan pointed out that the thin, i.e. bare bones, notion of sovereignty we assert needs to be thickened through a sincere commitment to pluralism that encompasses all within the bounds of that sovereignty. Tamara noted the importance of strengthening our bargaining power through alliance building and genuine cooperation, not just asking for votes at a time of crisis. Our failure to work on these lines was apparent in perhaps the most worrying element of the vote on Thursday, which was Brazil voting against us.

Instead of getting upset with Brazil about this, we should try to understand why a country that voted with us in 2009 now votes against. Does it have something to do with our failure to engage with them, as exemplified by the manner in which the Ministry of External Affairs sabotaged the decision of the President to send Tamara as a sort of roving ambassador to South America? Does it have something to do with the fact that, when she had begun the process of winning back the support in Geneva that her predecessor had squandered (as was exemplified by the manner in which, in September 2011, she ensured that the effort of the Canadians to put us on the agenda was resisted), she too was dismissed.

But there will be no sensible analysis of this result, just as last year there were only clarion calls to follow the West blindly, while simultaneously claiming that we had gained a great victory since the total of those who voted against the resolution and those who abstained was almost equal to those who voted for. This year even that cold comfort is not available, but the pronouncements we read suggest that we can be satisfied since, if we doubled the number of those who voted against the resolution, we would have more votes than those in favour.

Very simply, there is no capacity any more amongst decision makers in the Foreign Ministry to either think or analyse, and the bright youngsters who could do better are crushed, transferred whenever they do something sensible – as happened not only to Dayan and Tamara but also to Tamil officers in London and Chennai, and to the intelligent Deputy High Commissioner who tried to prevent the fiasco of the President’s visit to Oxford in 2010 (which started the slippery slide downward), to name just a few.

I do not propose to consider who is responsible for this self-destructive behaviour, since it should be obvious. Rather we should think about who benefits from this. And in this regard, while we read in the pontifications of our more destructive patriots attacks on countries that supported the resolution, we see little consideration of the points Dayan made, relating to the efforts of the United States in the last few years to undermine us. The passage he quoted from Wikileaks makes it clear, contrary to what I believed at the time, that the United States was solidly behind the 2009 resolution too, and the very positive behaviour of some of its diplomats here was combined with ruthless Realpolitik on the part of Hillary Clinton.

But going beyond the change of heart of the American administration in 2009, we can see also what I might term fundamental prejudice in the description by Robert Blake in 2007 of Dayan as a ‘Sinhala hardliner’. Given the continuing attacks on him by those who think of Sri Lanka as belonging to Sinhalese alone, this is bizarre. I would like to think it was simply ignorance on the part of Robert Blake, who was comparatively a decent man.

But it is also related to the relentless ‘othering’ the West engages in – as explained so eloquently by the great Indian thinker Nirmal Verma – so that anyone who was in favour of the destruction of Tiger terrorism had to be a hardliner. And perhaps it is naïve to think of such ‘othering’ as springing only from ignorance, because it can also precipitate the polarizing it affects to deplore.

This became clear in the manner in which Blake explained to an Indian friend the American support for Sarath Fonseka. I cannot vouch for the truth of this story, but it certainly fits the evidence. What he was said to have declared was that the Americans had found the perfect weapon to pressurize Mahinda Rajapaksa into political reform.

Obviously the Americans would have thought this would please India, though thankfully India was too sensible to subscribe to such strategies. But what happened in fact was that, while the support engendered for Sarath Fonseka certainly put the President on the defensive, it led to him relying more on the hardliners who appealed to the same sort of sentiment as Fonseka would have done. I would like to think the Americans did not anticipate this, but in the strange world of polarization in which they live, one can never be sure.

The bottom line is that they, like our hardliners here, simply do not understand synthesis, the moral need to see what we have in common, and work towards mutual understanding and respect, rather than use pressures that can destroy trust and hence cause excessive reactions.

It is with an example of such coming together that I will conclude, in trying to explain how perhaps the most successful defenders of the Sri Lankan strategy back in 2009 were a former Stalinist and a Liberal. I don’t think there will be any challenge to the claim that Dayan and I, though he of course was the senior partner and the strategist, worked together effectively. This was based on two things. First, we had no doubt whatsoever that Sri Lanka was finding a just war and fighting it justly, a position I still stand by, and which I believe I have argued for more thoroughly than anyone else, not least because I granted from the start – and was scolded for my pains by the dogmatic cheerleaders Dayan described earlier – that there had been aberrations that should be investigated.

Second, we also believed passionately that the destruction of terrorism was vital for the emergence of a pluralistic society with equal rights for all its citizens. And I think we were right, in believing that was government policy, as was exemplified by the manner in which we resettled the displaced quicker than in other such theatres of war, and swiftly rehabilitated and sent back to their homes almost all former combatants. We could certainly have done more, in terms of training and reintegration assistance and so on, but by and large we can be proud of that achievement.

And we should note that there are reasons why we have not moved swiftly in all respects. This has to do with the suspicions engendered by ruthlessly opportunistic behaviour on the part of those who resented our triumph over terrorism. They ignored the opposition of the President to efforts to impose an Israel type solution, by increasing the size of the army and engaging in settlements while holding back the displaced. Instead they supported against the President the chief proponent of that strategy, while claiming that they were critical of the government for the sake of the Tamils who had suffered. That obviously made government dubious about their motives, and increased the influence of the hardliners who remained loyal to the government.

I will conclude though with an evocation of political theory, to explain how Dayan and I found ourselves on the same side, even though our political philosophies might have seemed inextricably opposed. I am not as knowledgeable about political theory as Dayan is, but introducing something of the sort seems fitting, in speaking at the launch of a book that contains sharp historical analysis and compelling anecdotes, but fits them within an erudite framework of political theory.

I will rely however not on the many distinguished academic theoreticians Dayan refers to, but rather to the founder of the Liberal Party, Chanaka Amaratunga, who wrote an essay on ‘The Fundamentals of Liberalism’ for a volume entitled Liberal Values for South Asia which we brought out in 1997, shortly after his untimely death (an updated version called Liberal Perspectives for South Asia was published a decade later by Cambridge University Press in Delhi).

Chanaka wrote there, and this is particularly important in a context of increasing extremism which both Dayan and I deplore, that the hallmark of Liberalism is that it is individualist, egalitarian, universalist and meliorist.

He cited the modern Liberal thinker John Gray who wrote that Liberalism is ‘individualist, in that it asserts the moral primacy of the person against the claims of any social collectivity’. That incidentally is the element as to which Dayan and I probably differed most in the past, and I believe he has now moved closer to my Liberal perspective, and understands the value of individualism, as opposed to the Marxist collectivism he celebrated earlier.

Gray went on to say that Liberalism is ‘egalitarian, inasmuch as it confers on all men the same moral status and denies the relevance to legal and political order of differences in moral worth among human beings; universalist, affirming the moral unity of the human species and according a secondary importance to specific historic associations and cultural forms’. These elements need to be considered carefully, in a context in which there are efforts to hijack the Sri Lankan state on behalf of particular interest groups.

Chanaka pointed out that, paradoxically perhaps, Marxism cannot claim to be egalitarian, or indeed universal, since it sets up ‘a structure which does not recognize the real possibility of rival conceptions of the good. They believe that a particular group, be it the working class, a specific racial group… have a special status that confers moral excellence and is worth protection’. Now it would seem that the privileging of the working class to the exclusion of others is no longer a danger (and perhaps the opposite perspective, that sees no reason to ensure a level playing field through increasing opportunities for the disadvantaged, is now again the greater social threat). But the privileging of particular groups continues apace, and it is no coincidence that Dayan and I feel the same about the need to resist this in favour of a pluralist outlook, because not to do so would nullify the moral impact of the triumph over terrorism in 2009.

Finally Gray noted that Liberalism is ‘meliorist in its affirmation of the corrigibility and improvability of all social institutions and political arrangements’. This element, which used to strike me as less important than the others, is perhaps of particular significance now as we pursue, to quote Lord Macaulay, ‘reform, more reform, constant reform’.

Macaulay went on to say that ‘we desire more reform in order to preserve not to destroy’. That needs to be our watchword as we try to build on the victory of 2009. The manner in which, ignoring the principles enunciated by Dayan and Tamara, the Ministry of External Affairs conducts itself reminds me rather of what Lenin said: We shall destroy everything and on the ruins we shall build our temple’. But, unlike Lenin, the decision makers seem to be concerned only with a temple to themselves, with no understanding of the issues at stake.

Dayan shows graphically, as Tamara argued forcefully earlier this week, that the Resolution in Geneva sprang not from concern for human rights but from a political agenda, that saw Sri Lanka simply as a means to domination, for strategic reasons as also for ideological reasons. But they also pointed out that such an agenda needs allies to succeed, and those allies are often idealistic. Countries like India and Brazil and Japan and South Korea, as well as those who voted for us, dislike the replacement of a multilateral United Nations by instruments beholden to just one perspective. But they are also concerned with Human Rights and equity, and we need to work on ensuring these for all our citizens. If we do not do so actively and convincingly, those countries may well decide that the possible threat of Western domination is a small price to pay, especially because they would see themselves as never offering pretexts of the sort we seem to be doing.

I do not think they will be safe since, once some countries are brought under supervision, it is easier to do the same with others. But we need to help others to help us, and our failure to do this, to study and understand and put in practice the principles this book lays down, will surely cost us even dearer in the future.

*Remarks by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha at the launch on Saturday March 23, at COLOMBOSCOPE, of Dayan Jayatilleka’s ‘Long War, Cold Peace’ (Vijitha Yapa Publishers, 2013)

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  • 0
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    I am happy to see that Prof. Rajiva Wijesinghe has stopped singing for his supper. Unfortunately, the Foreign Minister G L Peiris and the rest of the Cabinet Ministers do not have this luxury. It is necessary to make use of the intellectuals like Dyan and Tamara in the Foreign Service and get rid of the political misfits.

    As for the Geneva, I accept the US explanation that it is meant to give us a chance to restore Good Governance. We need to repeal the 18th Amendment, if necessary allowing a President to contest three times and restore the essence of the 17th Amendment. In addition, a multi-disciplinary team should be appointed to prepare a strategy to meet this threat and implement it to meet the deadlines.

    “Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory:

    1 He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
    2 He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
    3 He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.
    4 He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.
    5 He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.” -Sun Tzu, The Art of War

  • 0
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    What passes for Sovereignity is Ethno Religous Facism with a thin veneer of Nationalism. Nationalism in the sense that Sri Lanka is a Sinhala Buddhist Nation as enunciated by the Unofficial Police operating under the patronage of the Secretary Of Defence Ven Gotabhaya Rajapakse. Minorities can live here but like Shrubs under the shade of the Rubber Trees is the analogy proposed by BBS.

    The President says something otherwise which is not clear, but has not directly contradicted the stand of BBS or his Sibling. So Sovereignity for minorities is to live in the shade and enjoy the nuts falling on their heads. Also enjoy some of the water trickling of the bark of the trees. Get cut with the wisikaththa whenever some one wants to construct a road, temple or army camp etc.

    GLP has now entered dotage and senility. He is like a puppet on a string dancing to earn his supper.

  • 0
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    Who care if mangala or your ass was better than GL. All you politicians are from whatever party are a bunch of morons, thugs, goons, fools, criminals and yes lets not forget the geriatric leftists..
    You politicians of the Diyawenna parliament are a bunch of blood suckers whether SLFP, UNP, or any other who are looting the people and living the high life while the citizens suffer and toil to make ends meet.
    Get lost Rajiva and stop your silly prating!

  • 0
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    Translation: Everything is now being run by the Brothers. They don’t listen to anyone with experience of foreign relations. The foreign ministry can only do create idiotic outcomes because foreign policy is set by idiots, managed by idiots and implemented by idiots.

    • 0
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      Translation 2 – His Excellency the president is innocent, he wants to have a far reaching negotiated settlement but his advisers and all the others are misleading the president.

      DJ & RW have been singing this song for a very long time, don’t know how many months or years we’ll have to listen to this crap !

  • 0
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    Rajiva, like his twin colleague also now thrust into the dustbin, has regained his wisdom and, hopefully, his sense of fair play as an intellectual as well. Better late than never. When did Tamara K
    get into this exclusive company to be described as intellectual.
    The only common factor between all three is that they are bad diplomats – as their records show = although Rajiva did not hold a diplomatic position, per se.

    Senguttuvan

    • 0
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      Judged by the 2009 UNHRC vote, all three (DJ, RW & TK) are excellent and persuasive diplomats. But neither they nor a million deities can overcome MR’s hubris, triumphalism and broken promises.

  • 0
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    Yeah… lets return mangala – so he can refurbish the Foreign Min, put another new lift, maybe he will think a few more innovative stuff to waste people’s money.

    how long has rajiva been in the govt?

    did he wake up only yeserday to discover GLP was uselsess?

    Do we not all know this?

    someone said glp had even asked norway whether he shud accept the foreign min post – and he say he’s academic?

  • 0
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    RW is Dayan’s cheer-leader in chief.

    RW is still doing his subterranean stuff, but basically continuing to ‘go to the kade`’ for his pal DJ, to try and get him restored to the limelight which both thrive on.

    The anti-thesis of Dracula, Dayan needs the sunlight to drink off the blood of his audience to thrive and survive. Sadly, when he is shrouded in the blanket of darkness (kindly provided by MR) Dayan does the dance of a fish out of water.

    RW also never misses an opportunity to thrust his knife in the back of his ever-haunting nemesis G.L. Peiris, who is anyway universally acknowledged as a Serial Political Scavenger. No point in flogging a dead horse, RW.

    RW, you have to get it into your thick head that the Siblings run the Company as they deem fit. Everyone else in the Company, like you, are kade` going minstrels, who sing for their supper.

    Power and Profit (and rule in perpetuity) are the siblings’ driving force, so subtleties and nuances of international intrigue and power-play as propounded by the likes of Dayan, you and Tamara do not figure in their governance equation.

    All the academic bovine crap thrown at your audiences make good theoretical reading, but it may serve the country better if you and your pal Dayan can only directly convince the Siblings to change their mind-set in order to add the integral quotient of international relations to their equation.

  • 0
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    Rajiva Wijesinghe

    You must be kidding to replace GLP with DayanJ. MahindaR is in big trouble with this GLP and he will be from frying fan to fire with Dayan.

    Do you have any mental capacity to think beyond the Colombo crowd. Your father’s generation thrived with this kind of pillow changing game and Sri Lanka is in a big mess.

    Now people like you and Dayan putting MahindaR in a bigger mess. Somebody like Maliban mudalali should be handing GLP’s job. GLP said His Excellency to that Balasigham!!!Tisaranee G had to use her saree to cover Dayan at Kobbakaduwe’s funeral.

    So you see how realistic these characters?

    • 0
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      Dayan will then stay just a couple of wks with MJ.

      I know Dayan though some what loyal to the govt, because he has to … he as senior academic would not be able to get on with uneducated president.

      So will any others except GLP behave to MR, because it is almost unbearable academics to get on with uneducated rascals. They just react always shooting the messenger, NOT focusing on where they have to concentrate themselves closely. GLP ^s behaviour, nobody would realize easily : may be he wants to become next PM of the country for any price.

      Rajiva W is almost isolated from the gvt and that could be reason him to even write this kind of articles.

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      xxxxxxxxxx

      Dayan will then stay just a couple of wks with MJ.

      I know Dayan though some what loyal to the govt, because he has to … he as senior academic would not be able to get on with uneducated president.

      So will any others except GLP behave to MR, because it is almost unbearable academics to get on with uneducated rascals. They just react always shooting the messenger, NOT focusing on where they have to concentrate themselves closely. GLP ^s behaviour, nobody would realize easily : may be he wants to become next PM of the country for any price.

      Rajiva W is almost isolated from the gvt and that could be reason him to even write this kind of articles.

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    GLP is not only “spineless” but also shameless. A man of his calibre with academic brilliance to his credit dancing to the tunes of a school drop-out, who is not qualified enough even to sweep GLP’s office room, is beyond the comprehension of any reasonable man. Professor Rajiv Wijesinghe’s belief that Managala would be a better Foreign Minister than GLP is debatable. “GLP/Sajin/Amunugama” combination at the External Ministry is a proven disaster to the country. Amunugama is as spineless as GLP. He is on the verge of his retirement and is obviously being manipulated by a corrupt Sajin to break governmental rules and regulations hitherto followed in order for Sajin to achieve his ulterior motives. Amunugama obviously is paving his way for a lucrative posting abroad after his retirement. None of these three has any love for the country and they are ruining the image of the country beyond redemption. Sri Lanka, especially at a time like the present, when allegations of human rights violations are being levelled against us and where our diplomatic service, now comprising more nincompoops than well trained diplomats in international relations at the top levels, cannot counter those allegations, needs a combination of men of the calibre of late Lashman Kadiragamar and Lionel Fernando at the highest level of the External Ministry. During the most difficult period, where Sri Lanka, was labelled as a brutal nation, combination of Kadiragama and Lional Fernando was able to steer the country clear of all those allegations and even was able to get the LTTE proscribed in countries, like USA, UK, India etc. It is high time that HE the President took appropriate steps to rid the External Ministry of the combination of GLP/Sajin/Amunugama and to appoint suitable men/women at the helm of the External Ministry. Failure to do so by HE the Preasident will not only ruin the country but also the image of HE the President.

    • 0
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      “Failure to do so by HE the Preasident will not only ruin the country but also the image of HE the President.”

      Your type of mentality is the root cause of the problem in SL today , remedy is , changing the pillows to protect the image of the HE and SL !
      It’s obvious that GLP is one of the worst FMs we ever had and he is very much akin to Wimal W or Mervin , GLP’s recent outburst at visiting Canadian special envoy is a case in point!
      prior to releasing of the Darusman’s report , GL went on threatning UN , if UNSG released the report that the UN itself on the brink of collapse , then Wimal W hurriedly announced forming of a new UN with like minded countries.
      our short sighted foreign policies are to blame , not the person . currently an ideal stooge( with all the bells & whistles ) is placed as the FM and he has no qualms about any of suicidal policies being carried out to the expected level.GLP has lost all his credibility long time ago . if the king asks to jump , GLP’s response would be ” how high ” not why ?
      it will have no spectacular change if GLP is replaced with another stooge , what SL desperately needed is a u turn in domestic and foreign policies.

      • 0
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        The problem is whether HE Pre has a image ?

        He would change each and everyone from and to without any vision.

        This any right thinking would see it for sure.

        For him, appointing and sacking just easy – that alone proves the image of the HE.

        May be he has an image among the villagers that are only fed with lanken state media. The minority that seem to use the brain would never grasph MR politics.

        Good luck to our nation, country.

    • 0
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      Agree, you have been commenting the truth… all these should be published on other forums too, so that the masses can finally open their eyes.

  • 0
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    It was not the Three Stooges that won the day for us in Geneve in 2009.
    It was India. If “persuasive” ability comes into play they should have first persuaded the Big Boss and his immediate gang to have faith in them. But nix nix.

    Senguttuvan

  • 0
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    In the situation there is NO one else to praise the, Rajiva and Dayan praise each other !
    A little bit of publicity for Dayan won’t hurt esp now with a book out !!!!

  • 0
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    It was India that made 2009 a success and that’s why Hillary clinton”the wicked witch” paid a visit to the TN witch to neuralize the Indian factor in Geneva.

  • 0
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    Somebody please put this poor creature out of his misery and tell him that he is never going to be the foreign ministry of this country. His desperation is now reaching very sad proportions. Once old Sam is gone so would be Rajiva. If not for his old man he would have got the glorious boot already.

    • 0
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      so, how would you describe all the ministers according to you, if you name RW as poor creature – this is questionable and many that seek the qualified to have posted to the posts where qualif are better match.

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