Colombo Telegraph

The Downside Of Smart Patriotism – A Response To Dayan

By Mahendra De Silva

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka in his arrogant rejection of my criticism of Smart Patriotism, questions my understanding of the following passage from his article.

“The smart patriot is constructively critical about his country but is fiercely loyal to it all the same. He will criticize it but will unconditionally defend his country from the hypocritical criticism of foreign powers and institutions responsible for or blind to far worse crimes.”

It is regrettable Dayan did not make an attempt to understand my argument against his Smart Patriotism. In my criticism I have questioned the effectiveness of Smart Patriotism when dealing with a government that does not care public opinion or constructive criticism.

We have plenty of examples from the history that democratically elected leaders becoming autocratic, oppressive, despotic or tyrannical. There are examples even in Sri Lanka where elected leaders had governed.outside the otherwise accepted rule of law and developed a cult of personality for him, close associates and family. They could resort to explore all means to continue in power even by fraud. They could misuse power to bribe the legislature to pass any unfair laws through the Parliament for the ultimate purpose of consolidating power. Most common tactic used by such corrupt leaders is to suppress media and use state propaganda for persuasion and brain wash the ordinary masses. Arousing patriotism would help to rally people behind the cause, but often at the cost of exaggerating, misrepresenting, or even lying about the issues in order to gain that support. They believe in divide and rule and promote racism in the country. In many dictatorships there is no room for such thing as Constructive criticism. The people who offer constructive criticism would be regarded as anti-social or agents of the foreign governments. People would be scared for any type of criticism as it could result in serious repercussions including loss of any privileges presently enjoyed. Very often critics would be harassed or imprisoned under false charges.

Dayan in his response to my criticism claims that he as a Smart Patriot has written many articles condemning some of the actions of the then government. There were many religious leaders, progressive forces who have repeatedly criticised and condemned then government for abuse of power, suppression of media freedom, interference in judiciary and violation of human rights. But they failed to have any impact at all to the hardline policies of the rulers at that time.

When Dayan says that Smart patriots would be fearlessly loyal to country, obviously he means that he would be loyal to the decisions taken by leaders on behalf of the country. It is my belief that a True Patriot should be fearlessly loyal to country. But by country I mean the people of the country and not the rulers who take incorrect decisions based on their self-interest. People of the country need not be the victims of the bad decisions of the rulers. A True patriot would defend its people but not the corrupt leaders.

According to Dayan Smart Patriots defend their country from the hypocritical criticism of foreign powers and institutions. A True Patriot should defend his country not only from foreign powers but also from its own leaders who would abuse power and deny the democratic rights and freedom to the people.   In some countries, governments have typically presented a much greater threat than criminals to the citizen’s life because governments have the control of resources and could   mobilize police and armed forces. North Korea is a typical example of a country where leaders kept its citizens as hostages. Does anyone believe that Smart Patriotism would work in such environment?

Hypocritical criticism of foreign powers Dayan is referring to are the reforms demanded by foreign powers after the war has been ended in 2009. Most of these demands have been made by all progressive forces in our country including religious leaders long before the western criticism. Implementation of at least some of these demands after 2009 would have enhanced the freedom and democratic rights of the people of Sri Lanka. Further it would have restored our status as a free and practicing democracy in the world. Only the Rulers and the loyalists, who wanted the continuity of their dynasty, opposed these demands. It is my view that it is the western pressure that kept the government in check to have at least the minimum levels of freedom and democracy alive in our country today.

I would ask Dayan what type of patriotism he calls if a concerned citizen of the country canvases the support of western countries or International Human right organizations against anti-democratic acts of his own government? Will he call the former President who complained to HRC in 1990, unpatriotic, because he did not limit his actions to” constructive criticism” or because he fearlessly did not defend the Country?

If the present government continues the same suppression of media freedom and human right violations and be deaf and blind to constructive criticism, what alternatives would he suggest to the citizens of our country?

In conclusion I would argue that True patriots would be loyal to the country and unconditionally defend the country by utilizing all the resources possible to ensure justice and fair play when countries’ sovereignty, human rights or democracy are under threat from any forces within or outside the country.

Back to Home page