25 October, 2020

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The Azad Salley Affair

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

If Azad Salley is a terrorist in the making, a terrorist who has to be pre-empted by recourse to detention under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, or a promoter of fanatical, fundamentalist ethno-religious hatred, he comes with the strangest of profiles.

Far from being born into and raised in anything like a backward, fundamentalist, religiously fanatical background, his father was a Communist (as comrade DEW Gunasekara could confirm) who later became a Maoist (or ‘Marxist-Leninist’). ‘Communist Salley’ as he was known, didn’t seem to have an ethno-religious bone in his body.

Azad’s father wasn’t only a communist, he was a journalist; and he wasn’t a journalist for a Saudi fundamentalist Wahhabi newssheet. He was a long time employee of Reuters. I was introduced to the slim, be-spectacled ‘Communist Salley’ by Mervyn de Silva, my father, at the tele-printer at the Reuters office.

My father had also introduced me to George Rajapaksa, his classmate and Cabinet Minister of the Sirimavo Bandaranaike administration, at the latter’s house down Flower Road. George Rajapaksa was of course the uncle of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brothers.

It is a tale so redolent of Sri Lanka’s ironic, often absurdist trajectory and travails, that the son of one of those (leftwing) personalities introduced to me by my father, has been detained under the administration of the nephew of another albeit better known (progressive) personality, doubtless by yet another nephew of that personality.

When Azad and I ran into each other, it was at former Mayor Sirisena Cooray’s house. Azad was a vibrant, jocular, spirited young UNP politician who attended every Premadasa commemoration that I was at (the last being 1999). We lost track of each other since, but I was not surprised that he had joined Mahinda Rajapaksa. I was even less surprised to hear that he had debated the BBS spokesperson on television in Sinhala, and from what I gathered, got the better of the polemical exchange.

Of course Azad is something of a firebrand, just as Mahinda Rajapaksa, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Dinesh Gunawardena and Mavai Senadirajah were at the same age (and stage of their politics). His rhetoric was certainly no more militant than that of Cabinet Ministers Wimal Weerawansa and Champika Ranawaka.

Azad did punch back rhetorically when Islamophobia was recently unleashed in our public domain. He was a spirited young man and may have felt compelled to speak out by the conspicuous silence and pusillanimity of more established Muslim politicians. Never has the absence of Ashraff been felt more acutely. Salley may also have spotted a political opening. Since when is that a crime?

If Azad had to be arrested for incitement, what of the far more explicitly hostile, antagonistic and hateful speech at public rallies and street agitations by allegedly Buddhist organisations, all of which have gone global on YouTube? Who is investigating the leaflets bearing violent , threatening graphics of swords and leaping swordsmen, and which advertise events explicitly as ‘rebellions’ or ‘uprisings’?

Surely, even-handedness requires a crackdown on fundamentalist incitement of a majoritarian variety, just as on those emanating from minority sources? In the absence of such balance, even-handedness and natural justice, what does the arrest of Azad Salley and the conditions of his detention make this government and more importantly the Sri Lankan state look like in the eyes of the world?

Was Azad arrested because he dared to talk back, to debate? Is it that he was an uppity nigger who needed to be taught a lesson; an articulate and upfront young Muslim who had to be locked up as an example to the minorities and as a sacrifice at the altar of Sinhala supremacism; a sop to a Sinhala Cerberus?

If I were a human rights activist or diplomat campaigning in Geneva on Sri Lanka, the arrest of Azad Salley would make my day. Conversely, if I were still the Sri Lankan Ambassador/Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, I would face an acute diplomatic and moral-ethical difficulty.

Of the 13 member states that voted for us in Geneva this year, 7 were from the OIC. It was the Muslim (maybe I should say ‘halal’) Bala Sena that saved Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese and the Sinhalese Buddhists from a humiliating defeat in Geneva this time. We would have been down to 6 votes without that support; fewer than the votes obtained by Syria at the UNHRC, and even Libya before the intervention. While it voted in our favour, the OIC has also made a demarche in Jeddah about anti-Muslim coercion and threats in Sri Lanka, while the OIC Ambassadors based in Colombo have met the President. How will the OIC vote go in March 2014?

So, here, in the meanwhile, is Salley, a mainstream politician, a former Deputy Mayor of Colombo, a man whose photograph with President Rajapaksa shows great mutual cordiality and warmth, who has been detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, without a single weapon or bullet found anywhere near him or a solitary act of violence being associated with him.

The Prevention of Terrorism Act is meant precisely for what it says: the prevention precisely of terrorism. Was Azad Salley a founder, leader, member, supporter or sympathizer of an armed terrorist group? There are no unarmed terrorist groups, it must be said. If they are unarmed, they are not or not yet, terrorist. Was he verifiably planning to organize one? If so which, when and where?

Has any act of violence resulted from anything that Azad Salley has said or done? If so which, what, when and where?

If any offense has been committed by Salley, why has it not been placed in the public domain? Why is it shrouded in secrecy? Why has Salley not been charged under the normal laws of the land? Why has he not been granted unfettered access to counsel, family and visitors?

If this is the treatment meted out in peacetime to an unarmed electoral politician, what might have happened in Welikada? What must have happened in wartime to countless others? What might be happening now, outside of Colombo, in the former conflict zones, to Tamils?

These are the questions that would logically occur to anyone and could be legitimately raised in Geneva and elsewhere.

Let us assume that Azad Salley made some imprudent, even intemperate remarks to a publication and even an audience of activists, in Chennai. The periodical in question, Junior Vikatan, it must be noted, is edited by Cho Ramaswamy, a courageous lonely crusader against the Tigers since the 1980s. Neither he nor the journal can be remotely characterised as subversive or secessionist. Something can be lost in translation though.

No matter. Whatever Azad may have said, it could have been countered by accurate revelation in the mass media, and subsequent critique and open debate. An idea, however erroneous or indefensible, must and can only be countered by another idea, not by arrest and detention for 90 days. That is if you are committed to normal democratic values and practices though.

If however, a government or a state chooses to use the strongest legislation in its armoury to punish the expression or exchange of ideas, however erroneous, that government or state runs the risk of revealing itself or having itself depicted by critics, as undemocratic and authoritarian. Thus it is the repressive action of the regime rather than anything that Azad Salley may have said that brings discredit to Sri Lanka and provides ammunition to those who seek international investigation.

Does the detention of Azad Salley help prevent terrorism or does it contribute to the opposite outcome of radicalisation?

The answer to that question lies in our experience as a society. In 1972, a few dozen young Tamils were detained because they had hoisted black flags in protest against the promulgation of the Republication Constitution, ignoring the written entreaties of the Tamil parliamentary political leadership headed by SJV Chelvanayakam. These young men had not engaged in any violent activities. They were held in detention for five years.

At the time of their arrest there was no armed movement in Jaffna. By the time of their release in 1977, the Tigers had commenced armed operations, while the EROS/GUES had been formed in London and obtained weapons training in Lebanon. Those in doubt may check with Karuna, KP, Suresh, Siddarthan and Douglas.

It was obviously not those in detention who initiated this armed movement, because they couldn’t while behind bars. However, their very presence behind bars for non-violent activism mightily strengthened the argument of those shadowy figures like the teenaged Velupillai Prabhakaran, that there was no space for and no point in anything but armed actions.

Thus, the detention by the state of unarmed political activists in no way acted as a deterrent to armed violence and terrorism, but actually radicalized the tactics and later the strategy itself of the politics of the Tamil minority.

What is the signal that Azad’s treatment sends out to the disaffected youth and the shadowy groups that may exist in the Eastern province? As with Tamils, so also perhaps with Muslims, but is that the insidious intent?

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Latest comments

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    There was a guy who predicted all these in advance. When he was cornered by the international establishments, he didn’t have any other option other than steering this. Although he disappeared in Nandikadal, his agenda is being implemented by Mahendra Percy. This is not the end. Please wait, more to come!

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    In conclusion: If you’re against the Rajapaksa regime, then you’re asking for trouble – if the people like Sarath Fonseka jailed and CJ Shirani ousted, then getting rid of Azad Sally would be like stealing candy from a baby. Gone are the days when justice prevailed.

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    Azath Salley is a bankrupt politician who was hunting for an opportunity. Had he been appointed at least as the leader of opposition in the CMC, he would have now been saluting MR and his people. I remembered Vadivelu pleading with police to arrest him when he first told about CID visiting his house. Now he got the good opportunity to say that he is also a politician in Sri Lanka.

    Sadly, DJ, you are a bankrupt diplomad. After serving in Geneva and Paris under this very same regime, now you are finding faults with the government. Had you been given a posting in Rome after Paris, you will be defending the arrest through your vicious pen. So, you are not better than Azath Salley in that sense.

    Since you like logical arguments, I just ask you, in your article you are implicitly telling that the arrest of Azath Salley would create Muslim militants in the East within three months and OIC would withdraw support to SL. By saying so, aren’t you promoting terrorism in SL and deserve arrest? You are lucky to escape!

    By the way, Cho is the editor of Thuklak, is he editing JV also?

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      No, Cho Ramaswamy doesn’t edit JV.

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    I don’t see effective corelation between UNHRC voting and Buddhist religious fundamentalism/ill treatment of Muslims in Sri lanka, there could be few countries may abstain but no country will vote for motion. DJ a former diplomat knows very well than any body else. Hate speech from any side must be condemned.

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    People like Dr. Dayan must come to the front to save our nation, where only privileged few enjoy life while a good majority are suffering due to high level of corruption, cost of living and absence of law and order and so on.

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      Then, who will save the citizens and NGOs from people like DJ?

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    If any body understand simple politics in Sri Lankan ever-never an invited to Dayan J to ‘come to save the nation’.DJ is heterogeneous political heretical person. His heteronomy version of ideology and analysis political science has been unable realized by ordinary e persons in our an Island.
    He created odious ideology between society and person, target on personal gain as well as power and position what ever ruling political party in power. That is his political game plan.

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    Dear Dr DJ,

    Thanks for this article. Surely you have raised some valid points !

    Cho Ramaswamy is the editor of Tuglaq and not Junior Vikatan. And for your information, JV is well known for its pro-LTTE, Pro-Eelam and anti-Sri Lankan stand. Azad doesn’t speak good Tamil and is not at all good at communicating things clearly in Tamil. Given the pro-LTTE and anti-Sri Lankan stance of JV, chances are VERY high for JV to have misquoted Sally or to have twisted the stuff Sally said in his poor Tamil, to their own advantage (I strongly feel it’s the latter as I know the standards of reporting of JV. They are experts in lying through their teeth and sensationalizing stuff, specially when it comes to Sri Lanka) They will be least bothered about Sally’s arrest or the repercussions. All they want is some spicy stuff to advocate and endorse their pro-LTTE pro-Eelam and anti-Sri Lankan propaganda. People should use their brains before agreeing to give interviews to such third grade magazines whose sole motive is to fuel anti-Sri Lankan sentiments. Even now JV has not apologised for misquoting Sally (if at all he was misquoted) but they have just published Sally’s clarification. I do not think it’s going to help much.

    Having said that, BBS thugs have spoken and indulged themselves in much serious stuff than this. Arresting Sally based on an interview to a third grade magazine like JV who is well know for its anti-Sri Lankan sentiments, doesn’t make any sense at all. It’s only used as an excuse for political motives. Anyway, I do not have much regards for any politicians in SL. Sally is yet another politician and this arrest has made him a hero among some Muslims, which is sad. This shows how such events can be used to mislead the emotionally driven crowd. Most people are vulnerable and they would easily succumb to such things. I saw some people calling him ‘our King’ in one of the websites. Sally will score quite a lot from such people and I dont think he will be losing anything. And he will be taken care of well inside the prison. MR will ensure that. Once he comes out, we will see him happily smiling and shaking hands with the Rajapakses.

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    Later I will comment about Azad Salley’s affair.

    Dayan, I need your answer for a question which I asked you previously.

    Are you denying that India was not behind the May 2009 resolution?

    If you are not answering this question, you admit that all your claim that you were the hero of the May 2009, is an exaggeration and a great lie.

    Don’t quote other magazines to say that you read all those. Don’ be selective.

    There are news papers and magazines say that India was fully behind the May 2009 resolution.

    Can you deny this?

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      I too have raised the same question there? He did not answer.

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        well perumal and manisekaran,

        the trick was to start the prayer with “all praise be to Dayan the great and Dayan is a man of good” and to end with a nice closure, you will get your response. it usually works like a give and take or you scratch my back i scratch yours :)

        btw, perumal is the same …perumal i think you are?

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          What happend Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, great son of the soil.

          He gave his reply to many, except Manisekaran and Perumal.

          Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, now accepts that he was not the hero of May 2009 resolution.

          He accepts Perumal’s claim that he is a coward and a liar.

          Hero of may 2009 resolution has today become zero.

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            Why you guys are trying to attack him ? … those who have watched that Video, listening to his brave speeches, that alone give you guys an evidence… his rebuttal did help in paining a totally different picture about the war end related issues against tamil millitants. Unfortunately the picture has not been the truth yet.. since numbers went missing among civilians is yet to come to surface.

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              Not attacking him, simply to reveal that how he boasts himself in media.. do you think just for the sake this person Russia, China and India grouped together to protect srilanka? The actual truth, being close neighbor and developing country, the all three together protected Srilanka and also expected Srilanka to do meaningful constructive work, but GOSL took it as advantage to it and further harassed war victims, which led to their downfall in 2012 in UNHRC. He writes as if he made a rocket with all his strategy and thinking foreign affair ministry of those countries are fools. They supported Srilanka for a reason, they learnt later that srilanka misuses the support given to it.

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              yes we watch dayan video appearances very eagerly, while doing so we don’t miss to listen to his interviews to groundviews in english and derena in sinhala too :)

              we are campaigning for absolute justice, not playing political/ diplomatic games, hence we are teh public enemies that hide behind pseudonyms. anyway we don’t have books to sell, right? :D

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    he was only countering the vituperative allegations of extremists.how about those who made the allegations originally.

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    Muslim community is without a Genunine Political Leader at present and this is what MR wants. The so called, self declared leaders of this community are without back bone. After the debate with BBS Sally was gaining some popularity among muslims. it is not because of his political Wisdom! it is because, he was the only muslim politician who had the guts to challange BBS (which is aided and abited by GR & MR) without fearing the consequences. This led the brothers to feel guilty. They never thought a response of this nature from any muslim politicians who are ready to eat a Ship Load of Human Waste for money. So, this is a form of revenge to cover the shame!

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    Well expressed Dayan, although I still can’t figure out your earlier defenses of this same regime. Surely you must have known the ‘quality’ of these guys???!!!

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      Java,

      He did not merely come to their defences – but rather promoted and celebrated the regime.

      He wrote a whole article proclaimng that Rajapaksas were the best rulers the couintry could have! And he did that promptly after confirmation of re-appointment to Paris, after a short left-alone-to-rot period, having been booted out from NY.

      If that is the best foresight of an academic just three years ago – what is that degree worth?

      I think Dayan has lost his credibility completely among thiose who have followed his writings.

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    Just to put Sumanasakera’s concerns to rest.
    ‘Speaking to this writer prior to the habeas corpus writ being filed Mr.Sumanthiran said that he would be leading the legal team appearing for Azath Salley after the writ of habeas corpus was filed at the appeal courts. He would be supporting it when taken up in courts in a day or two, Mr. Sumanthiran said

    Attorney at law Shiraz Noordeen who is Azath Salley’s counsel would be coordinating the legal defence of the detained political leader.

    Mr. Sumanthiran also said that a fundamental rights petition too would be filed at the Supreme Court on behalf of Mr. Azath Salley in due course.The lawyer said he would argue in support of the petition if and when the Supreme Court granted leave to proceed further.”

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    I really don’t understand what is the fuss about Sally’s arrest. As if the country keeps maintaining rule of law, everyone gives different views. If someone thinks that there is rule of law in the country please answer to these:

    Some junior Tiger cadres who performed non- combatant duties are still detained without trial. Okay they are terrorist suspects. So how the law treats the special commander of LTTE for Batticaloa and Ampara districts? How does it treat the multi million dollor armed smuggler? The answer is the first one is treated with honorary ministerial position and the latter with a farmland in Kilinochchi.

    When a jounalist was found that he wrote an article supporting terrorists and got 100, 000 rupees from them .. He was sentenced to 29 years imprisonment. Later an American diplomat pressure for his release, he was set freed.

    From the above cases, it is clear that the more you do wrong, you will have more chances to escape from the rule of law in Sri Lanka.

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    Sally is not the only person who is arrested for spreading racism.There are some Sinhalese too. But it was not famous because they are Sinhalese and Sinhalese don’t betray country for their racial benefits. Even they did so UN wouldn’t takes any action and any English media will not report it.I m not a government supporter but I appreciate government’s this action. Muslims spread racism by hiding behind human rights allegations against Sri Lanka. All racists should be expelled out from the country.

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    The immediate reason for the arrest and detention of Azath Salley under the PTA, according to the CID, is the statement made by him in ‘Tamil’ to Junior Viketan. The exact words he uttered have not yet been established beyond doubt.

    Then as reported in the Daily Neww of 7th May the a Centre for National Security Director General Lakshman Hulugalle says @…… there were many complaints against Salley, concerning speeches inciting religious and ethnic discord and about financial fraud.

    The same report says “…………….. is also being investigated for several cases of financial fraud, Police Spokesman SP P M H B Siriwardene said.

    SP Siriwardene said both Salley and his sister have 16 complaints of financial fraud against them.,

    Not a single hint has been given as to what these frauds are. Also Salleys sister, who is also cited, has not so far has been even questioned on the matter.

    Does these not make it clear that the arrest was made without having an iota of evidence and that the CID is not itself sure whether it made
    the arrest based on the statement made or on fraud.

    Does it not mean that the Govt. wanted to arrest and detain Salley under some pretext? And that the CID is looking for evidence to support the arrest.

    It cannot be also forgotten that when Salley was confronting the anti-Muslim campaign of BBS, its spokesmen repeatedly insisted on the Govt. to arrest Salley.

    So all added-up does it not indicate that what has been done is an act of revenge on Salley for his stand against the BBS to teach him a lesson. He could be kept in detention as long as he is mentally tortured and demoralised. Then released being made incapable of being a strong man what he has.

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    while enjoying all the perks under a corrupt government, after defending a despot all over europe this pseudo expert on politics, foreign affairs, social issues, azad sally’s psychology etc etc is now trying yet another angel.
    When murderous Sarath fonseka was arrested he said it was a big blunder. When the corrupt CJ was removed he said it was a blunder. Now he says azad sally should be allowed to spresd mayham.
    Thank god no one listens to this unprincipled big mouth with a huge ego and very
    little integrity.

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      Azath Salley stood-up to confront and expose the BBS that was spreading mayham and threatening peace and harmony in the country, which is nothing other than an act of terrorism. And Dr. J’s stance in this instance should be welcomed.

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      clinton perera,

      murderous sarath fonseka —- noble gotabhaya Rajapakse!
      corrupt CJ —- clean government and royal family!
      salley, a mayhem — gnanasara, a protector of buddhism!

      whose payroll are you on sir?

    • 0
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      There are dogs who roam aroung the dinner table waiting to throw away a soup bone to chew.

      Please go to Araliya Gaha to get your share of ox bones to chew.

      You scumbugs are no better than those Duminda Silva free “Choon Pan Banis” buns given to Rajapakse fake actors to sell their soul.

      Remember there are still more respectable people in Sri Lanka than you Maharaja Rajapakse bone lickers.

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    Dayan Jayatilleka is a genuine personalty and not like Luxman Hulugalle who betrayed his own master !!!

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    I am not the supporter of the Azad Sally or SLMC. Muslim political leadership must go to professional, uncorrupted & who is working with the area majority communities& majority party.MR act will create cheap politicians in all communities. Its not good for united motherland. The time is Dr.DJ to represent the parliament. These intellectuals will stay outside & comments no use to country. if represented house at least voice will come to book.

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