7 July, 2022


On Dayan’s “Project Gotabaya”, Gunaratnam & Moral Hypocrisy

By Hafeel Farisz

Hafeel Farisz

“This is a debate about the future of Sri Lanka; our future; our fate. Which side are you on? Pick one”, Dr. Jayatilleka’s Facebook page screams right above his response to my critique. I agree. In his response he calls for non-digression, although such diversion is what his response is all about. None of the issues brought to light were addressed, instead he conflates on the theoretical paradigm of the international vs the national, with Gotabaya’s practical sensibilities. This is after insisting that this isn’t about theory.

However, let us play on the turf prepared by him.

The crux of the issue is not the call for a Gotabaya presidency. Given the direction the country is headed both economically and politically, such a call is inevitable. Five years after the death of Mugabe, you would find people speaking of the ‘Good old days’. Egyptians admit Mubarak’s authoritarianism was better than Sisi’s dictatorship. The day Netanyahu leaves office, Israel’s liberals, leave alone the Far Right, would be singing praises of his iron grip. The Black community in the USA insists on Clinton being the first ‘Black President’- despite the disastrous crime bill and the crimes he committed in the name of ‘freedom and democracy’. Heck, the neo-nazis still believe Hitler to be a hero and the Eelamists believe the same of Prabakharan.

The call for Gotabaya is therefore not surprising or unusual. What is at moot however, is the hypocrisy of Dr. Jayatilleka and his band of intellectuals. Let us not digress from it.

The thrust therefore, is one of ideology. What does Gotabaya stand for, and how has he proven himself in light of it, is the question. The practical sensibilities are secondary, for the masses don’t make political identification on practical sensibilities. Political identification-when it comes to the level of national direction-is formed through ideology. As much as ‘Colombo is beautiful because of Gotabaya’ being a component of the justification, the justification itself lies far deeper. A few layers through the conversation, you would find that beneath the ideal of ‘Colombo’s beauty’ there lies some ideological identification. Similarly, Gotabaya leading the war effort falls within the ‘practical’ or the ‘pragmatic’ realm- but the ideology lies much deeper. You won’t find people singing hosannas about Ranjan Wijerathne or Premadasa for killing scores of JVPers now, would you? When was the last time we heard a person insist that Wijerathne or Premadasa was a national hero for bumping off Wijeweera and for the brutal crackdown of the JVP? Similarly, the atrocities against the JVP are not featured in the Eelamists’ call for ‘human rights’ or in the narrative of “Sinhala state repression”. Nor are they featured in any of the international players agendas. Why?

We don’t know anything of Gunarathnam’s practical sensibilities or of that of the Left in general. But there is an ideological connection which draws or dissuades people, over and above the fact that Gunarathnam or the Left have not proven themselves. Political identification runs far deeper and the side that needs to ‘picked on’ would and should be based on ideology.

Let me take the liberty of conflating Dr. Jayatilleka’s ill-founded justification for the ‘Gotabaya vanguard’ with the Gotabaya we know. For unlike Gunarathnam or the left, we have the benefit of hindsight. The Gotabaya we know represents an ideology which was not willing to concede any or all the provisions of the 13th amendment to the constitution. As soon as Mahinda’s pragmatism took over and the Northern Provincial Council election was held, Gotabaya’s ideology prevailed. A Military officer was appointed governor despite the continuous calls from the North against it. Now this was not a do-or-die concession. To not appoint a military officer? S.L. Gunasekara or Gunadasa Amarasekara could have been appointed instead, for the call was for a civilian.

But militarist authoritarianism prevailed. How such symbolic concession was too much to bear is only representative of a deep-rooted nativist, militaristic and authoritarian ideology. This does not mean Gunasekara or Amarasekara would have been better governors. Yet, the point is that he didn’t concede. How could such a supremacist and nativist ideology prevent the call for a new constitution, worse yet, a call of victimization by the minorities and a recognition of the need for secession by the international community, are questions he needs to be asking.

Dr. Jayatilleka and I are yet to see a draft of the new constitution but what we do know is Gotabaya and the ideology he represents, which was a usurpation of Mahinda and his ideology, directly supportive of the 18th amendment. An amendment to which parallels are only seen in countries in which dictatorships are in place. Erdogan’s Turkey is its new member, which was why I could hardly disagree with the categorization put forth by Dr. Jayatilleka himself. This is the Gotabaya we know.

The discerning amongst us should use the above to negate the proposition that a Gotabaya presidency would result in the North conceding to the Gotabaya ideology. The actions of the Northern Province Chief Minister are taking place under what the Ultra-Right Sinhala nationalists claim- a government of the minorities pandering to the Eelamist ideal. Gotabaya taking over would only fester that wound and the calls will be louder, only further justified by the fact that the Presidency is in the hands of a nativist. To think it would be the reverse is naiveté.

The ideology that Gotabaya represents, justified by Dr. Jayatilleka, extends further. Inherent within the nativism is also the militarist dictatorialism. The Weliveriya, Chilaw and Katunayake murders are but a minute fraction of the practical realities of this ideology. I was on the ground covering the Rathupaswela murders. A 19-year-old only boy living with his mother and grandmother was murdered, among others. For no reason. The Army shut off the electricity in the entire area that night and went on a rampage. The Church premises weren’t spared. The Army stormed into the Church and mercilessly beat those who sought safety from their rampage within it. Rathupaswala is an hour’s drive at most from Colombo and all of this and more would be attested to by the priest at the Church and the villagers. “Sinhala apita mehemanam, apita hithaganna puluwan Yaapane mun monawa karanna athda kiyala”( If this is how they treated us Sinhalese, we can only imagine how they must have treated those in Jaffna) was the villagers’ cry at the boys funeral, on record. The newspapers were barred from publishing the full story, because Gotabaya’s long arm extended that far. Dr. Jayatilleka would not know this, or pretends not to.

Dr. Jayatilleka asserts that the “battle swirls around three interconnected projects, namely the new Constitution, the new Geneva resolution and the new economic policy direction” and says that it is in this context that his ‘Gotabaya project’ is being proposed. The above negates that Gotabaya is in fact the solution. If at all, the ideology that Gotabaya represents would provide fodder to the issue’s escalation. To think that the reverse would happen is an assumption rife with ignorance. Would the international community suddenly heed the calls of nativism and say “fine, you will be left alone because you have an alpha male at the helm”? Would the diaspora and Eelamists call for secession shrink, because suddenly you have a militarist dictator running the country? Would the fair-minded people in the country actually believe that Gotabaya has the economic wherewithal to take the country away from the neo-liberal agenda, which in fact was a key component of the Rajapaksa administration?

The admission of Gotabaya to the abduction of Gunarathnam and Attygalle has been conveniently left out. The breakdown of the events of which I have listed down in the critique appeared on Friday. But to iterate, the fact that Dr. Jayatilleka tells the reader that this is a man fit for presidency should ring alarm bells. The assumptions that I made in tandem with the fact of his admission also seem too much to bear. But the polity must know that the ideology reeks with regression. An ideology that we are told is the best we have.

Yes, it is time the country picked sides.The side we are told to pick by Dr. Jayatilleka is a side which this country has experienced. “Back to the glory of the past” is a phrase fundamentalists use all along. That glory of the past was non-existent. It was a fallacy. A creation of the mind, an utopia of sorts. It could be imagined due to the stark realities of the present and hysteria over the future but that does not mean such imagination is true. It remains a fallacy.

To get back to the crux, Dr. Jayatilleka and his band cannot pretend to wish for a world in which Gunarathnam’s ideology triumphs and yet call for the victory of Gotabaya’s ideology. We don’t live in a world of fiction, where Marquez or Camus could create and recreate ideology and character. The future will be a result of the present. The world Gunarathnam calls for is a world of inclusivity and equality. Of liberty and progress. It is a world in which the North would not feel alienated and where calls for separation would cede. The Eelamist project could not extend beyond the people’s mandate and if the people of the North feel represented and at home, Wigneswaran and in extension, the Eelamist ideology would be defeated. Gunarathnam represents an ideology of a world in which the South has the same opportunities as that of those living in Colombo. That is what ideology represents.

I’m aware that the posit is an assumption of the future for which we have no guarantees. We don’t know the practical realities of a Gunarathman ideology at the helm. Dr. Jayatilleka is guilty of the same assumptions. However, the difference being that we have the benefit of hindsight- the benefit of knowledge of the hysteria, supremacy and an iron fist which is unashamedly willing to admit that they abducted people for the crime of engaging in politics.

It was a past in which Gotabaya’s ideology was at its helm. The return of that ideology will result in the abduction of Gunarathnam’s ideology. Plain and simple. The lessons from those ‘glory halcyon days’ of Gotabaya at the helm are but a reminder that Sri Lanka could and should not fall back to it.

Yes, Dr. Jayatilleka needs to pick a side. He can’t wish for a future with a ‘fair and just society’, while calling for its exact opposite for the present. He can’t wish for Gunarathnam’s world, while telling us that it is Gotabaya’s side we need to be on. This moral hypocrisy should not sit well with him, nor with anyone of us.

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Latest comments

  • 3

    This dialog is good for a handful of English educated people living in Colombo. If not for Gota MR would have been the President today. Its the minorities who voted out MR due to Gotas short sighted policies. Muslims voted en block against MR. The electoral map of Srilanka has changed permanently. Any party coming forward with the ethnic vote in their bag comes with 30% plus. 70% of the voters won’t know Dayan and Hafeel and have no access to this debate. Even if they read this UNP and SLFP block vote of around 30 percent will vote for their parties even if the price of coconut goes up to Rs. 200. This debate is utter waste of time as far as king making is concerned.

    • 1

      If this debate is a waste of time why are you joining it? Please dont feel compelled to respond. :-)

  • 4

    In short, Dr. J’s moral hypocrisy betrays basic intelligence. That is it.

  • 4

    It is blatantly clear that while DJ keeps ‘firing in all directions’ without a clear line of argument, Hafeel Farisz is able to stick to the point and argue a case logically to its conclusion. HF demolishes DJ’s pseudo intellectualism and name-brandishing with ease and exposes his duplicity and incoherence with great skill.

  • 5

    The Anti-minority Sinhala-Buddhists hero Gotabaya Rajapakshe is a Sinhala-Buddhist Ultra-Nationalist Racist and is well-known dictator. After winning the war against LTTE and after Mahinda Rajapakshe won the presidential election and the general election with a two third majority, it was Not Mahinda Rajapakshe but Gotabaya Rajapakshe who behaved like he was the owner of Sri Lanka, he took all the powers into their hands and Mahinda Rajapakshe became a victim and finally lost the election. It was Gotabaya who made Mahinda unpopular among the minorities. After the war ended, Gotabaya did not allow his brother Mahinda to solve the National problem, instead of taking a moderate path, he selected the option of following the path of a few Sinhala-Buddhist Ultra-Nationalist Racists and Pseudo-Patriots, thinking that by whipping up Ultra-Nationalism and Sinhala Patriotism among the majority Sinhala-Buddhists, and by intimidating and further suppressing the Minorities (Tamils and Muslims) he can rule the country for ever as the hero of the Majority (Sinhala-Buddhists). He used the armed forces in the North to control the civilians, a military rule. He created the grease devils and then the BBS to threaten and suppress the Muslims. He used white vans to abduct and disappear those who acted against the government. The main person who made Mahinda Rajapakshe lose the election was none other than Gotabaya Rajapakshe. If he becomes the next president, it will be like a military rule and BBS will be his personal advisers. Another Pol Pot in the making. Most of the members in the joint opposition also do not like Gotabaya, they know very well how much a dictator he will become and all of them will be made his slaves. Now, if he contest the next Presidential election, not a single minority (Tamils & Muslims) will vote for him and the Sinhala-Buddhists are divided among UNP and SLFP. He can never win the election. It is only Dayan J de Silva’s dream and his dream will never come true.

  • 2

    Gotabaya Rajapaksa who threw Dayan Jaythilake from his Diplomatic chair is laying a TRAP to catch Gotabaya R for the crimes World Tamil Forum is trying so hard to catch GR for what happened during the last two weeks of the annihilation of this terror outfit LTTE. On November 11 2009 Gotabaya managed to send then Army Commander on a trip to China saying he needs a break and to check the weapons ordered from China . On the same day he managed to send his brother President Mahinda Rajapaksa to Iran. Before SF left to China MR wanted him to pull the troops out and not to proceed. But SF refused to do so and gave an ultimatum to MR, if he pulled out the troops they will turn the guns on us. When both left GR arrange Mithreepala Sirisena to act as the Minister of Defence(a name sake position as GR WANs running the show with Palitha Fernando andKapila Hendawitharana did order them. DJ knows all this and for him to trap GR is to get close to him. I give this advice to GR I knew how DJ operates and who is GR. If GR goes with DJ he will end up at Welikada and not in thr Presidents chair.

  • 0

    I have been a bit puzzled for some time about Gunaratnam. For a progressive Sri Lankan he seems to be the ideal sort of leader campaigning for equality and fairness and a more even distribution of wealth. However for some years I have had a suspicion if he could somehow be colluding with Gotabaya. I have listed the reasons for these suspicions below.

    1. I would expect a man of his persuasion to be a strong critic of Rajapakse rule but his criticisms were always mild and watered while the Rajapakses were in power. At meetings during the Rajapakse rule he seemed to downplay the expectations of the more radical views of his audience. I would even go so far as to say his speeches were actively aimed at demoralising his audience. The general thrust was “…The Sri Lanka left has been dealt a crushing blow by the Capitalist neo-liberal forces. We should recognise this and the fact that the majority of the country are not ready for a revolution today. We must therefore accept our limitations and instead of bringing drastic change try to win a few small battles. Campaigning for individual human rights, fairness before the law. etc. etc….” The impression I got was that he didnt want to rock the boat too much. Perhaps… he wanted to nominally define him self as opposed to the Rajapakses but was at the same time discouraging his supporters from fighting back.

    2. The election was then an interesting time for Gunaratnam watchers. He changed his softly softly approach and started going on the offensive. Just a little bit that is. He criticised the Rajapakses but the strongest attacks were reserved for the former JVP (Anura Kumara put in a strong performance if you remember) and the Yaha Palanaya team. Was he acting under orders from Gotabhaya to persuade anti Rajapakse voters to abstain? … I wonder.

    3. Since the govt changed, the criticism of the new regime has become more strident. Much more vocal than what he ever was of the Rajapakses that is. I have seen FB posts by one of his sidekicks trying to mobilise the Sinhala hardliners against this govt with posts that are borderline racist. It made me wonder if Sinhala Nationalism and the JVP rump (FSP) were finding themselves in bed with each other for the second time.

    4. The university students are being mobilised again. His own former comrades are asking the question why the anti SAITM campaign was not bugun when it was set up during Rajapakse rule. Why did they wait until now?

    All food for thought. Have to wait and see.

  • 0

    And the most important question..

    Gunaratnam broke away from the JVP unhappy that the JVP had joined an alliance of which Sarath Fonseka was a member of. The reason he cited was that the JVP should not align itself with a man who was involved in abuses such as killings an abductions. If this was true, are they now making an exception for Gotabaya when joining hands with him?

    I think during one of his many detentions in Army and Police custody he was turned and co-opted by the regime. He is now being used to break up the opposition. The benefits for Gotabhaya are clear. What is not quite clear is what Gunaratnam has gained from all this. To think it is just money is a bit too simplistic.

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