By Rajiva Wijesinha –
Politics certainly makes strange bedfellows, as exemplified recently by the allegation made by Shenali Waduge against Dayan Jayatilleka. I see Shenali Waduge as an aggressively writer, a description I am sure she would relish. Yet the charge she levels against Dayan is precisely that which was made a few weeks back by Tissa Jayatilaka, whose agenda now seems to be wholly that of the Americans whose Fulbright Commission he now heads.
Shenali’s criticism of Dayan occurs in the midst of a massive diatribe against G L Peiris, with which I must confess I have some sympathy. Yet I think Shenali has missed the point, because she thinks GL has a perspective which is opposed to her own, whereas the reality is that GL has no perspectives at all. Dayan on the contrary does, but Shenali is totally wrong to say that the 2009 vote in our favour in Geneva was because Dayan ‘secretly inserted a clause stating Sri Lanka would implement the 13th amendment’. This is of a piece with Tissa Jayatilaka’s claim that the victory in 2009 was a disaster because the draft contained pledges which have now come back to haunt us.
In both cases I fear that dislike of Dayan has led to falsification. I can also understand why neither will accept that the draft was discussed at length with the President’s Office before it was finalized. Tissa would hate to think that the President was positive about such pledges, given his demonic view of President Rajapaksa as an extremist. Shenali on the contrary cannot accept that the President was positive about the 13th amendment, and has therefore completely forgotten the fact that he pledged more than once to implement it, and indeed to go further.
In their haste to attack Dayan, both miss out on the fact that the particular clause to which Sri Lanka subscribed, which was used to build up a case against us, was signed by the President in Kandy, with Dayan nowhere near. I remember that, as I saw it, I said I thought it was inappropriately expressed, but I was assured by a leading light in the Foreign Ministry that it was not a problem. Dayan too, as he saw it, expressed surprise, whereas the rest of our delegation had not noticed the potential difficulties. The need of the hour was reconciliation and looking forward, so it was a mistake to dwell too much on the past.
Much later, when I told Palitha Kohona that he should have advised the President against accepting such a formulation, he told me that he had indeed done so, but the President was impatient at the delay in reaching an agreement, and authorized signing the document as it stood. However, I can see that that clause, for which the President was responsible, helped with a couple of votes to swell Dayan’s majority, and I believe we would have had no problems had the President acted promptly on his pledge and appointed the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission straight away.
Unfortunately, in accordance with the advice he received from everyone else except, as he told me, the Secretary of Defence and myself (proof to me that he has few others around him that put him and the country first, as opposed to ensuring general electoral success), he went ahead with a premature Presidential election. The way that played out through him off balance, given that the machinations of those who did not like him played straight into the hands of the hardliners – because of whom indeed they claim not to like him.
I appreciate Shenali’s sterling support for the President, but I think she has got it wrong in assuming that it is people like GL who are undermining him, and whom she dismisses as traitors. The man may be ineffective, and incapable of either telling the President what is really going on, or advising him how to deal with problems, but he is certainly not a traitor (though I have no doubt that, were the plans of those who want regime change successful, GL would be a Minister in the next government too – but that is pragmatics, and would not be because of subtle planning).
Rather, it is those who Shenali would think of as sterling patriots who are more likely to undermine the President, though I hasten to add that I am sure this is not intended. In the first place, while we certainly should not allow other countries to dictate to us, we are in danger of having this forced upon us, precisely because we did not take a few swift measures to satisfy commitments we made voluntarily as well as our obligations to our own people.
Thus, while I believe we can confidently dismiss most of the charges made in the Darusman Report (though government certainly has made a hash of responding, and continues to ignore the sterling efforts of those such as Michael Roberts), we have accepted, in the LLRC Report, that there is need to investigate allegations regarding the treatment of some surrendees. Similarly, we ought long ago to have publicized the Udalagama Report and issued indictments – as the former Attorney General promised me he would do – with regard to the killing of the five students in Trincomalee.
Sadly, as occurred with J R Jayewardene in the eighties, we seem to be doing too little, and that too only under pressure, too late. We all know what happened to Jayewardene, and how, because he sabotaged the District Councils he had set up, which would have assuaged many of the problems the Tamils had, he was forced to concede, not only Provincial Councils, but a pernicious merger, which he went ahead with even though the conditions in the Indo-Lankan Accord had not been met.
But memories are short. So both Tissa and Shenali will get away with distortions – since scoring points against those they dislike is more important than moving forward.