24 October, 2020

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Patriotism, Nationalism & Dayan: Fracturing The Sri Lankan Identity?

By Romesh Hettiarachchi

Romesh Hettiarachchi

Romesh Hettiarachchi

Calls for former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to be appointed as Prime Minister of Sri Lanka continue to grow. One vocal supporter of these calls has been former diplomat and current academic, Dayan Jayatilleka who described this movement as standing for a Sinhala nationalism that forms the core of Sri Lankan nationhood and Sri Lankan patriotism. Dayan elaborates on this stance in his previous article Smart Patriotism and the Marginal Majority (“Smart Patriotism“), asserting that Smart Sri Lankan Patriots must acknowledge the central role of Sinhala nationalism. Any failure to recognize Sinhala nationalism is characterized by Dayan as being ridiculously artificial and dis-organic.

The Duty of the Patriot is to the Country not to Former Elected Officials

Given Dayan’s admitted soft spot for Mahinda Rajapaksa, Dayan’s agreement with Wimal Weerawansa that “Mahinda is not a name, Mahinda is a country!” should not be a surprise. However equating a former elected official with a whole country is hardly the behaviour of a patriot. As United States President Theodore Roosevelt said:

Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.

Characteristics of Nationalist Thought

As astute and intelligent as Dayan may be, Dayans’ writings tend to dwell on the victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations of the past. Such tendencies are described by George Orwell in his essay Notes on Nationalism (full essay here) as being essential for the nationalists quest to secure more power and prestige for “their nation.”:

The nationalist does not go on the principle of simply ganging up with the strongest side. On the contrary, having picked his side, he persuades himself that it is the strongest, and is able to stick to his belief even when the facts are overwhelmingly against him. Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception. Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty, but he is also — since he is conscious of serving something bigger than himself — unshakably certain of being in the right.

The unshakeable certainty of being right is probably one of the more distinguishing characteristics of Dayan’s writings. However given the failure of nationalist thought to evolve over the past seven decades, Orwell’s characteristics of nationalist thought continue to be relevant especially when it comes to Dayan:

  1. Obsession: Like their Tamil counterparts, Sinhala nationalists are near obsessed with the superiority of their own race. In Smart Patriotism, Dayan argues that the ancientness of the Sinhala nation, language, history and civilization confer a central role upon the Sinhala Buddhist people in the Sri Lankan nation. If this is accurate, then it is difficult to see why the same principles should not apply for the Tamil community, considering that the Tamil language is generally recognized to be at least as old as Sinhala, if not older.
  2. Instability: Dayan asserts he stands for a “nationalism that is compatible with internationalism.” This is a nonsensical position: Nationalism is compatible with internationalism insofar as the demands of the international community are superseded by the interests of the nation state i.e. the very definition of nationalism. Perhaps Dayan’s intense nationalism is a byproduct of his intellectual affinity with Marxist Cuba and his historical reservations with the Western states?
  3. Indifference to Reality: Orwell described nationalists as possessing two remarkable capacities. First nationalists have an inability to seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. Smart Patriotism exemplifies this inability splendidly: able to be transformed into an argument for Tamil nationalism simply by reading “Tamil” for every instance of “Sri Lankan”, “Sinhala” and “Sinhalese.” The second remarkable capacity for nationalists is their inability to not only disapprove of atrocities committed by their own side but not being able to hear about them: [For nationalists] a known fact may be so unbearable that it is habitually pushed aside and not allowed to enter into logical processes, or on the other hand it may enter into every calculation and yet never be admitted as a fact, even in one’s own mind… Events which it is felt ought not to have happened are left unmentioned and ultimately denied. Again these capacities are equally demonstrated by Sinhala and Tamil nationalists alike. It appears that when it comes to Sri Lankan and Diaspora politics, acknowledging reality is clearly not a prerequisite to being taken seriously.

Patriotism and Nationalism – an Antiquated Debate that Hurts Sri Lanka?

I am well aware that nationalism and patriotism continue to play significant roles in global politics. However history demonstrates that concepts of patriotism and nationalism have generally been tools for those in power to exclude and marginalize dissenting voices. You need to look no further than the previous regime to see examples of this. It is no wonder why Oscar Wilde called patriotism the “virtue of the vicious” and Samuel Johnson viewed patriotism as “last refuge of a scoundrel.” Similarly it cannot be a surprise that Albert Einstein referred to nationalism as an infantile disease – the “measles of mankind” – while Eric Frohm referred to “nationalism as a form of incest, idolatry and insanity” with patriotism being its cult.

With those who demand tribal ideologies be embedded at the core of a national, multi-ethnic identity like betraying signs of their youth, I would much rather hope a post-conflict society such as the society Sri Lanka aspires to be would adopt the perspective of Martin Luther King Jr.:

Power without love is reckless and abusive.

Love without power is sentimental and anemic.

Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice.

Justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.

Sri Lankan Identity: Fragmented?

Speaking solely as a Diaspora observor, it seems to me that attempts to define the smart/dumb Sri Lankan patriot and by extension Sri Lankan traitors, only serves to exclude those who do not fit these narrow subjective definitions. Indeed, similar asinine intellectual and institutional attempts in Sri Lankan history has resulted in our Sri Lankan communities suffering through decades of violence.

It may well be Sri Lankan identity has fractured as a result of such violence and the ensuing rise of ethnoreligious idiocy. If true, its no wonder that Dayan wants Sinhala Nationalism to fill the cracks in these fractures. Hes simply reverting back to what he knows. With expressions of patriotism and nationalism in post-war Sri Lanka proving to be effective means for activists and politicians to ensure the cycle of conflict continues, it is imperative that those opposing these expressions continue to work together within and across geographic boundaries to find a different “glue” to hold the Sri Lankan identity together.

In the interim, and to conclude, allow me to paraphrase Jon Stewart: Efforts to define the patriotism of Sri Lankans as smart, dumb or delusional isn’t bad as much as its hurting Sri Lanka.

Stop. Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting Sri Lanka.

p.s. Also Dayan, as a fellow fan of The Boss, I hope you recognize Springsteen would never support your brand of politics. Also, give Glory Days a listen. You may find some relevance in the lyrics.

Now I think I’m going down to the well tonight

and I’m going to drink till I get my fill

And I hope when I get old I don’t sit around thinking about it

but I probably will.

 

Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture

a little of the glory of, well time slips away

and leaves you with nothing mister but

boring stories of Glory days.

*Romesh Hettiarachchi is a lawyer and mediator in Toronto, Canada. A former director of Sri Lankans Without Borders, Romesh can be reached @romesh_h. For those interested in continuing these discussions, particularly those in Canada, visit the Kathae Kadai facebook forum.

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Latest comments

  • 19
    27

    Dear Modaya.. Former Director of SL without Borders.. Makes me laugh these coconuts. Thinking they know the pulse of the nation and espically about politics sitting in wintery Canada.. These Coconuts if they care so much then come and live here. Start paying TAx build the economy and contribute. If Not find a canadian Blog and contribute.. These Black Coconut Monkey Nither here or there. Thats is the Tragedy. NO IDENTITY. and talking about Patriotism, Nationalism. Ane bang

    • 11
      11

      I don’t think anyone overseas would like to come and live with the hateful likes of you! You must be like a toad in a well

      • 10
        9

        Lankan . When I wake up Its in sri lankan, When i go to sleep its in sri lanka. I work, live, love, hate and breath in my own nation. I am not a Hlf here, half there. when people like u and romesh come here with those fake accents even the white man’s nation u live and leech in cant understand. we laugh. Its us who stayed here and built what this nation. We are not perfect but we will get there. But we are not loosers like u who cant make it in tough situations and comment as u are more sri lankan than the coconut here. JOKE no.
        Truth must hurt.

        • 5
          1

          Wow..I just feel sorry for you

        • 8
          4

          Ruwan:

          Shame on you Ruwan. I held you in high esteem, as a true patriot but you let me down terribly. You were what I will term as the shining example of someone with both your feet in SL, instead of some who half half here and half there. Shame on you Ruwan – you allowed PM Cameron to slide to the North and scold our beloved president upside down. Even 200,000 soldiers could not stop (or dare to stop him) Cameron giving a dressing down. I am very upset with you for letting down the honour of our nation.

          • 5
            6

            @ jansee .. SHAME YOU DIDN’t DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT AS WELL

            • 6
              0

              Ruwan oh Ruwan, you come up with a patriotism sob story and I reprimanded you for absconding – in displaying abject sorrow in not able to stop Cameron dissecting the regime and your god MR. Are you saying now that I didn’t do anything to stop Cameron? Oh no Ruwan, in fact I was clapping my hands gleefully and there was no reason why I should have stopped him. I welcomed it. Now I also realise that you have washed your brains and hung it out to dry. Hope it works better after this. Good luck.

              • 0
                3

                @jansee ha ha ha ha Num nuts

                we invited PM Cameron to the CWG, so why would we want to stop him? thats was one of the conditions. i am just treating u like the monkey u are. coconut. and hey jansee.. I can say i am a TRUE Sri Lankan.. unlike people like u. What are u or even ur nationality??? who are u??

                • 1
                  0

                  Same way you invited the American Powell and the UN during the Tsunami with youe begging bowl but did you not refuse them
                  Mr `Booo`ta `Boo`ts?

                • 2
                  0

                  Ruwan:

                  What a dumbwit you are? Has Colombo Telegraph given you a certificate that you are a true SL for you to comment here? Or that those not residing in SL cannot comment in here? You can call me by whatever name, but I am happy to note that you do eat humble pie in tacitly admitting your abdsconding your PATRIOT claim in defying the entire regime when he (Cameron) was in SL. It even gave me the impression that it was he who the President/PM of SL. What a shame you dumbwit.

      • 3
        6

        Lanka.. Ramesh says ‘The Duty of the Patriot is to the Country’

        ask the monkey which country he is loyal to First?? I canada i bet he shows how canadian he is and in sri lanka he is more lankan than the coconut trees.. Nither here or there. Thats is the Tragedy. NO IDENTITY. So please spare this Quoted from other SOurces writing. This Fake Foreign Passoprt holding lecture about Patriotism, Nationalism Lankan Identity

        • 6
          0

          Ruwan:

          You are one very bitter person. I can feel the pulse and I feel sorry for you that guys like Ramesh are not appreciating the patriot you. By the way Ruwan, SL has received billions and billions of alms from all these “non-patriots” they send home to keep SL afloat. Shame on you again that you don’t feel even a little remorse how this money has helped the country in ways you couldn’t it. What do you call that – being ungrateful.

          • 0
            4

            @jansee .. SL has received Billion and Billions.. Ha ha ha aha ha ah what from the Likes of Black coconuts like u.. During the Tsunami black coconut monkey like u sent Outdated Tin food and moth eaten winter jackets. Yes people like u and ur Billions. Ane Banda. The middle east bound house maids cannot be compared to Black coconut monkey like u lot. Please dont insult. People like u jansee are paracites. I feel sorry for those host nations. U monkeys are not here or there in limbo.. Billion what a joke.

            • 2
              0

              Ruwan:

              Who is jumping like a dumbwit monkey now? Your uncle MR swindled almost everything and passed to you the outdated tin food and moth eaten winter jackets. Perhaps, he thought the dumbwit you are, that was what you rightly deserved. You seem to be very cosy with monkeys? Could be your upstairs works like one. Better get early treatment before you turned into a real one.

    • 7
      0

      Jeez! Ruwan, a bit over the top no ? Why attack the person ? Attack his policies will you. As I see it, the writer a member of the Srilankan Diaspora has made a case.
      Btw, we had Gotabaya, Basil, Sarath Fonseka et al with USA residency / citizenship doing politics and more in SL. Surely it’s good for Romesh to say his piece.
      Now take it easy will you.

    • 4
      2

      It is just Dayan lost his face- with his predictions made on ELECTION VICTORY for MR ending up with all defeat now he has become DIWI MAKULUWA or PANA PANA KANA NAYA towards the Ranil current regime. For him no matter Mahinda and his ktih and kin have looted and abused the billions of poor man s funds.

    • 3
      0

      Ruwan you are the modaya.

  • 15
    3

    Dayan is a mutt educated beyond his brain capacity confusing Sinhala ethno chauvanism with Nationalism.

  • 22
    2

    Excellent deconstruction of DJ’s fake Sinhala Patriotism. Dayan’s brand of virulent

    Sinhala nationalism is a virus that has consumed Sinhala Modayas and the Lankan body politic for too long!

    Mahinda Jarapassa concealed his CORRUPTION and looting of the public wealth behind a Sinhala Nationalism facade.

    DJ who is a dangerous pseudo intellectual has lost the plot.

    • 13
      2

      Dayan has not lost the plot. He is in the plot.

      finally he had discarded his diplomatic pseudo intellectual presence , thrown that coat off put on his amudo and has jumped into the Sinhala Chavanist cess pit to stir it till it releases enough methane gas to ignite into a racist orgy.

      A modern day Cyril Mathew The Sinhala Modaya who drove the Nation into the pit.

    • 3
      1

      Dayan is 100% selfish character. For personal vendetta he would do anything being against to Ranil W.
      That any dummy would get but not NFF or the like extremists.
      WHo thought Dayan would sing baila being with those low lives.
      Anyway, today we many in the country have no faith in Dayan. Nor have the people faith on Wimal Buruwanse the like ilk

  • 17
    3

    At last , a sober thought from a sinhala expatriate.

    Dayan could have advised even Hitler on core nationalism

  • 16
    2

    Romesh,

    Excellent article.

    “Sarath Fonseka says former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was acting like a terrorist during his regime and says he brought more harm to the country than LTTE leader Prabhakaran.” https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/mr-was-like-a-terrorist-sf/

    This is what we have been saying – since independence the past PMs and presidents have caused more problems to the country and to the Tamils.

    Dayan kind of people, who pretend to be patriots poured oil to the fire (not sure about the exact proverb).

  • 17
    3

    Romesh Hettiarachchi,

    Thank you for this erudite rebuttal of the DR DJ’s madness. This man lost all his senses; very sad indeed. Please ensure this article is translated in Sinhala and Tamil and published appropriately

    • 2
      9

      wow Tamil closet racists praise this young sinhala (namesake) canadian…….our educated english speaking Sinhalese love praises from tamils….
      COngrats Romesh

      • 6
        1

        Sach_et Holdall,

        Does not surprise!
        Now that you got your mercenary boots and loot you love yourself and the Canadian dollars but not the Sihala living in Canada.

        My endevour is to make you cannibals courtesy from Buddha origin land.

        keep smiling like drunken buddha.

        • 1
          3

          Is there anyway I can help you?

          • 5
            1

            Sach_et Holdall,

            What’s a nice girl like you doing in a joint like this??

            • 4
              0

              Javi

              “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a joint like this??”

              She is a frustrated lonely spinster, still a virgin. Even her cat had deserted her.

              • 0
                0

                No cats! because Booo`ta crossed the rats in the city!

              • 0
                0

                [Edited out]
                @Navel Pose, you must select one name instead of using;
                Bernigan,
                Ujang Kulon
                Utopawardana
                Boorinath Manjakkad
                WeeWilly
                Navel Pose

      • 5
        2

        such,

        Your friends gathered at Nugagoda; you should have been there to hand hold them! The likes of Wimal Weerawasnsa, Nalin De Silva, the BBS gang, and finally DR DJ; racist galore! Their company is where you belong.

        • 1
          6

          really? If nothing is wrong with GGP, WIgneshwaran, Sampandan company how is Wimal company , BBS bad?

          If you have no problem and if you engage in Tamil racism, what is wrong in others engaging in racism? AS I always ask is it only a tamil privilege?

          Between I challenged you to show me a single sentence of Wimal’s speech that can be called as anti minority?

          I did challenge you which I had no response.

      • 3
        0

        @ sach

        is it Canadian english educated

        Romesh or Ramesh??

        That is the question

  • 3
    18

    Romesh

    True smart patriot loves his country – it is an emotional bond a person develop with his own land – Smart patriot is certainly not a racist – he fearlessly come forward to protect his country from its enemies- he fearlessly come forward to protect the territorial integrity of his land – he do not worship any particular leader – he go by the principal ” I take the side of the leader who protect my country from internal and external enemies –

    I think DJ is arguing to save the country from Tamil racist who are secretly plotting to have their final goal of Eelam in this land – and liberal idiots who are supporting this plot – knowingly or unknowingly

    • 4
      2

      Keep thinking along those lines and you will be fighting paranoia all your life. Why can’t people forget about ethnicity for once. It’s so tiresome. Get a life!

      • 1
        7

        Lankan
        There is a difference between normal tamils and racist tamils – most of the sinhalese do not have issues with normal tamils – who peacefully co-exist with with normal sinhalese everywhere in this country – The problem is with racist tamils – These guys who were mainly from upper class tamils in Jaffna , used racisum to rally round simple minded tamils around them to maintain their superiority in the tamil politics – this was happening for many decades – and gave birth to LTTE extimist terrorist – fortunately now no more LTTE – but the liberal idealogy of RW and the gang is allowing the tamil racisum to raise their dirty head , which may end up by giving birth to another extimist group , So any majority government should be study these development carefully and must take necessary precautions

        Gov.should genuinely address real problems of Tamils which are more economical than political and should take concrete steps to show the world the real face of Tamil racisum

        • 5
          1

          “most of the sinhalese do not have issues with normal tamils “

          Biscuit_Boofer (ask the american of std english not singlish what it means)

          You don’t belong to that category but are just a conceited bull dog defending crime like a member of Mafia with his new found boots.

  • 1
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 5
    2

    Thanks Native Vedda (February 20, 2015 at 3:14 pm https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/reappearance-of-rajapaksa-cult-at-nugegoda/ ) for the article by DJ http://www.island.lk/2004/10/17/features12.html
    “The good news is that there is an overarching policy consensus. The bad news is that it will never be put into bipartisan practice. President Kumaratunga and the Leader of the Opposition agree that an/the ISGA must fall within the Oslo framework of a federal, united Sri Lanka. In politics as in martial arts it is important to get your stance correct. This is quite the correct negotiating stance for the Sri Lankan state. However, if the two biggest parties, the government and the alternative government, agree on a federal framework, why not simply cooperate in so transforming the state? If a federal system is set up, any ISGA will have to fit into that or the Tigers will have to reject it, thereby exposing to the world that they seek to go beyond federalism and the Oslo accords. The exercise doesn’t have to rely on either the LTTE or the JVP.”

  • 8
    2

    That it is a wee surprising for some to realise and acknowledge that Dayan has always been a Sinhala supremacist. On that fateful day when he bluffed the whole world into believing and getting the UNHRC to pass a resolution that destroyed the true character of SL, it is reasonable to assume that little did he realise the world will catch up with phonies like him. He led the SL regime on a treacherous path that culminated in the passing of the 2014 UNHRC resolution. Since 2009, it is undoubtedly noticeable that he has been shifting his goalposts.

    The bare and naked Dayan had to wait for MR to be defeated to show who he really is. As then, he wants MR to believe that Dayan is the saviour, who has the intellect and ability to lead MR to stardom. The fall from grace has started biting into his (MR) pride and ego that still believes he is the god to be worshiped. The loss has bruised his personality and what remains is his checkered reign but his dreams will not fade away.

    A word of advice to Ranil Wickramasinghe. The lethargic and cosy seat may have given a false belief that he will continue to be the premier after the June elections. Knives are being sharpened by a group that will ensure that he never surfaces again. Whatever happened to all the talk of nabbing the culprits who plundered the country? Wimal Weerawansa still parades as if the wealth he plundered was from god. Well, just hope that Ranil will not sleep in his job and squander the best chance he has got on a silver platter.

  • 5
    1

    Dayan, Weerawansa or for that matter if anyone in the disguise of “Free Speech” instigate communal disharmony, they have to be taken into custody under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Instigating communal disharmony is an offence under this act. When the previous government did not do this we saw what happened to the Muslims. Under Yahya Palanaya this is an important step that has to be taken by the Maithripala-Ranil Government.

    • 1
      8

      Let us start with Wigneswaran.

  • 4
    1

    If this fellow DJ was given a plum post in keeping with his self inflated ego (another Rajiva W)he would be singing praises of MS.

    Now for a few months he will try MR after that tractor gets nowhere he will go to some place and groan,moan and write more painfull articles.

  • 8
    1

    Excellent article Romesh!

    Your rebuttal clearly exposes Dayan’s petty and narrow political objectives. Whilst claiming to be an intellectual, Dayan continues to propagate hatred under the guise of “smart patriotism” to further marginalize the country’s minorities.

    Well done and keep up your great work Romesh!

  • 8
    2

    Romesh,

    Patriot: the person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about- Twain

    Patriotism is easy to understand in America. It means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country

    One word Scoundrels

    Nationalist: Skin head wearing the atta pirikana sevura. Sihal Rump Buddhist babies are forced to lick the feet of nationalist.

    Dayan should have been fixed at Paris for being part and parcel of a murder while he was serving at Paris- diplomatic immunity let him pass the net.

    When will the sihala buruvas fix him??

  • 2
    10

    Dj just read a letter at a political meeting. Many people point at it and insult him…

    Wiggie calls Prabhakaran a hero in North during an election rally. But no one here points at it…Romesh dont write about it, how can he…he cant survive in Canada ne

  • 2
    10

    can this romesh tell me where has sinhala people have said they are superior to others?

    • 6
      1

      Sach_et Holdall,

      Guppying!

      your borrowed feathers speaks for itself

      • 1
        4

        Please see a vet

  • 4
    1

    Collecting Reptiles by Sach Frog

    • 1
      4

      yeah come and jump into the bag….little fella

  • 2
    0

    but this is a creature that can bite your bollocks from the other side of the road.

    your novel incomplete, what are you going to do dumbass??

  • 0
    0

    This has got to be one of the best analyses of Dayan Jayatilleke’s so called political science rantings, which are self serving montages of base racism.

    Well done Romesh.

    Regards
    GTBH

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