14 December, 2017

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The Legacy Of Dayan Jayatilleka

By Uditha Devapriya

Uditha Devapriya

In politics there are degrees of expedience, of imperative, of loyalty, of friendships that sour and enmities that are forgotten. Nothing is cast in stone, which is why no one can be counted on as a permanent ally or foe. Picking on parties and individuals has naturally become a political necessity. Not just a necessity, but a necessary frill.

The truth is that Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, whose critique of Gotabaya Rajapaksa while the latter was in power years ago has resurfaced on social media, has changed. The truth is that he’s not the only commentator bearing similar credentials and beliefs who has changed. The Joint Opposition is chock-a-bloc with those who affirm Sinhala Buddhist monoliths, multicultural monoliths, federalism, and chauvinism. These faces were different while the man they support was in power. They were different then because when the man you support is in power, you tend to push for your beliefs and diverge from his. Now that he is not in power, they have skewed those beliefs, or set them aside, until directly or through a proxy he does return to power.

My point is that both the government and the Joint Opposition are operating on flawed premises. The government has made itself out as an anti-racist, anti-majoritarian coalition. The Joint Opposition has made itself out as the obverse of it. The tragedy here is that these stances (some laudable, others not) are being denied by their own representatives. So you have a policy of anti-racism by the government being subverted by the alleged racism of some of those who head that same government.

No less a figure than our president, let’s not forget, was touted as the panacea for the primitive traditionalism of the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime. That this was only make-believe transpired much later. It transpired when the president condemned the organisers of a concert with the threat of a rather archaic punishment. It transpired when he openly condemned those who were investigating members of the armed forces. And it transpired when those who headed the many outfits formed prior and consequent to his election (to mention just one of them, Sarath Wijesuriya) began clashing with the same majoritarianism they had combated in the previous regime.

Dayan Jayatilleka is the ideological counterpoint to the majoritarianism echoed by the Joint Opposition. He is to it what the likes of Sarath Wijesuriya are to the government, with a caveat: the government is essentially two-faced, maintaining one in front of the people (reminding them that the armed forces will not be witch-hunted) and another in front of the international community (reminding them that certain elements in those forces will be tried in court). The Joint Opposition, on the other hand, is chauvinist, by which I am not condemning them: after all there are degrees of chauvinism, and when compared to certain individuals who condemn them, those who house the JO are saints. Which, incidentally, is what makes Dayan’s dilemma even more poignant.

The ideological founders of the movement that birthed Mahinda Rajapaksa were, if I may put it, Nalin de Silva and Gunadasa Amarasekera. They were combating Tamil chauvinism in the seventies and eighties when the likes of Dayan were condemning Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism. They were behind the Jathika Chinthanaya, which tried to find a figure to continue Anagarika Dharmapala’s national revivalist program. Dharmapala had been succeeded, rather paradoxically and incompletely, by S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike. The Jathika Chinthanaya’s attempts to legitimise a more cohesive successor in that respect culminated, I believe, in 2005, when Chandrika Kumaratunga was ousted and Mahinda Rajapaksa became president. But I’m digressing here.

Chandrika Kumaratunga in a speech on S. J. V. Chelvanayakam argued that Dayan’s current position(s) on power sharing couldn’t be squared with his appointment as a minister in the Vadarajah Perumal North-East Provincial Council. That is true. (Not that she was any better at sticking to rhetoric, of course.) But this is only half the story: the other half, I believe, can be gleaned from perusing his background.

Dayan Jayatilleka was born to a largely cosmopolitan society and intelligentsia. His father, one of the finest prose stylists of his time, had attended what the son later pointed out as the three most powerful ideological apparatuses of modern Sri Lanka: Royal College, Peradeniya University, and Lake House. One of Dayan’s most enduring qualities is his penchant for types as opposed to absolutes, a legacy of his education in political science, which led him to describe his upbringing as follows:

My parents read Grimm’s Fairy Tales out to me at bedtime, but my maternal grandmother from Moratuwa told me stories in Sinhala and was the only one to do so. She related Martin Wickramasinghe’s story “Rohini” to me. It is a romantic martial tale set within the Dutugemunu saga. She couldn’t have been a Sinhala Buddhist chauvinist. She was a Catholic, originally from Nuwara Eliya, married to a highly literate Buddhist from Panadura.

At a time when lesser intellectuals were making the waves lambasting Sinhala Buddhism and affirming Tamil separatism, he stood out by opposing both. He made his political presence known to us most vividly in the eighties, and, for better or worse, his subsequent political stints have been measured against what he did back then. He was active at a time when Gorbachev was preaching the gospel of glasnost, when Castro was moving away from the Soviet Union, and when Communism was collapsing everywhere. It was a period of change. Change at all costs.

His most virulent critic, who happens to be a mentor of sorts to me, was at one point Malinda Seneviratne. Like Dayan’s father, Malinda was nurtured in those aforementioned three institutions. Like Dayan’s father, Malinda rejected the right-wing, elitist ethos of those institutions, and became a nationalist. But there’s never just one kind of nationalism: there are nationalisms, so soon enough we saw Dayan and Malinda fighting via newspaper columns despite the fact that both were opposed to the government over its handling of the war. Consequently, no one batted or bowled for them: the “intellectuals” were opposed to both since they were “nationalists”, so they enjoyed the fires they were igniting against each other.

Today Malinda and Dayan are on the same plane, though only barely. But I think it’s a mistake to vilify the latter with the same criterion the “intellectuals” use to vilify the former. Malinda never batted for anyone. People despised him because he had the guts to call out those opposed to Rajapaksa without supporting him explicitly, something he does even today. Dayan, on the other hand, is despised because he believes in the lesser of the two evils, an argument Malinda does not subscribe to at all, and because, for him, Gotabaya Rajapaksa is that lesser evil today.

The values those who hedge their bets on Gotabaya stand for are patently Dayan’s as well. Dayan is against any intrusions made by external players on our country’s sovereignty. He is also a moderate federalist, one who believes in the ideals, but not the substance, of the arguments of those who bat for the 13th Amendment. To hardcore nationalists, particularly to those responsible for Mahinda Rajapaksa’s political ascent, he is an outsider. Despite this, however, I believe their idealisation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa is not too different to Dayan’s: both see in him an administrator who can save us. At the end of the day, the success or failure of Project Gotabaya will depend on how these two camps come together by 2020. And I think much of the task to convince the two of Gotabaya’s political veracity has been left to Dayan.

It’s no surprise that in his support for Rajapaksa, Dayan attracts more flak than Malinda, Nalin de Silva, and Gunadasa Amarasekera. That’s to be expected: all these people have been attracting flak ever since they went active, even from Dayan. The latter’s support of a political figure that is incongruent with his wider political beliefs, however, is recent. In politics the recent always sells, more than the old. So Dayan, who I daresay has become the most significant political commentator of our time in Sri Lanka (something none of those intellectuals who rail against him can equal), will be at the receiving end of even more anger as the days and months progress.

He therefore remains a lone wolf. But then, we all are. Perhaps that is enough to cut him some slack. I wouldn’t know. All I know, and all that everyone who rails against him knows, is that the man can prevail. “Dayan wins battles but loses wars” was how someone summed him up. Maybe the battle hasn’t ended. Maybe the war is yet to come. Again, I wouldn’t know. And I wouldn’t want to know. At least, not yet.

*The writer can be contacted at Udakdew1@gmail.com

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Latest comments

  • 15
    1

    What has this young Writter been bubbling, has this man a legacy ? Is he a man who has done somthing to the nation ? Instead, he has all along been making and taking every chance to rabblerouse the nation.
    For him, RW is the person to attack whatever it is.
    I have no doubt, the simple simon who has been collecting garbage in the city has done lot more to this country than this estranged pseudo maxist- DJ but [Edited out] of Rajapakshe.

    • 3
      0

      “and intelligentsia” …………………….. In the Lankan context, has intelligence got anything to do with it? ……….. Or is it just a mode of behaviour?

    • 6
      1

      Leel -you are absolutely right. These three (Dayan, Mahinda & Uditha) so called commentators via curved balls at each other are propping up their image in the media. These guys have done nothing at to the country and nation. Just rabble rousers pouncing at every calamity in Sri Lanka to gain prominence. If there is any validity to Trumps fake news these three are main peddlers.

    • 12
      1

      Dear author before singing praise to Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka and claiming he has been critical of the Rajapaksas can you tell me what he has said about the White Vans run by Gota!?
      What has he said about all the stolen money!?
      What has he said about the murder or the Rugby player!?

      Please analyzes the work of an individual carefully before praising him.

      He is busy trying to promote Gota who is busy polishing and repainting and choosing a new color for his Vans…

      • 0
        0

        Uditha Devapriya, why don’t you write about Gotabhaya Rajapaksas White Vans and what you think about that and why such a man should be made President of our country!?

        Would make and interesting read for sure…

        Would be interesting to see why people admire murders to a point of making them rulers!!

    • 5
      1

      You are right. This man has more venom than most blood thirsty racists like Mahinda, Wimal, Ganarasa, Gotapaya etc. What was his legacy is that he translated the meaning of nationalism into Buddhist Sinhalese brutalism, racism & fundamentalism. Nationalism is about citizens, equality, law and order & justice to all. Nationalism does give special concessions to Buddhist Sinhalese to oppress Tamils and Muslims or Christians, Hindus and Islamists. Nationalism does not provide special right to kill and not to face justice to Buddhist Sinhalese. The law and justice should be equal to Pirabharan and Gotapaya.

      • 3
        1

        “Nationalism does give special concessions to Buddhist Sinhalese to oppress Tamils and Muslims or Christians, Hindus and Islamists. Nationalism does not provide special right to kill and not to face justice to Buddhist Sinhalese”.

        Apologies: The above para should read as:

        “Nationalism does not give special concessions to Buddhist Sinhalese to oppress Tamils and Muslims or Christians, Hindus and Islamists. Nationalism does not provide special right to kill and not to face justice to Buddhist Sinhalese”

  • 13
    1

    “The Legacy Of Dayan Jayatilleka”>>>>is this an obituary?>>>>did I miss thews

    • 12
      1

      A man who has been on and on self-proclaiming to have been coming from a background …. etc.. but to behave other way around sitting with dogs like Wimal Buruwanse, just because he just wants to take revenge on Ranil Wickramasinghe.
      For me the kind of men are the worst in lanken society.

      Besides, this man deserves to have a legacy in this country, why the bugger has not claimed a professorship yet ? To me no doubt that there are good Uni dons that have done their job to the top than this DJ.

      His self proclaimations have made him a clown in this low island. I hate Sirasa to bring this man s to that level all these few months.

      No worth even to add more about the bugger, I am so fed up of when even looking at him on a picture.

    • 11
      1

      No Rajash, like or not, you have to wait longer to read his obituary.

      [Edited out] His writings have done lot more divisions rather than helping people to get together and live peacefully.
      So I dont think the kind of men ever deserves to be called as LEGACY.
      This nail biting boy has got it fully wrong. Anyways, we can also understand the boy may have believed everything what DJ has put to lanken SIRASA TV and Nugegodastages.

      • 6
        1

        This you man has yet to learn and see the true side of Dayan Jayatilleka so let’s cut him some slack.

        • 2
          0

          He is punchi kolupatiyek.. let him bubble years and get it.

          DAYAN JAYTHILAKA deserves a legacy if any other ultra racists too deserve it.
          Else, I would rather leave it to the CT readership:

          I would prefer my DOG Hinniappu to have a better legacy, since he treats everyone so equal, but unfortunately, he is a dog.

    • 2
      1

      correction did I miss the news?

  • 2
    9

    While I thank Uditha for this searching critique, and must express my belief that he may yet develop into a successor of Ajith Samaranayake, I must correct him on three factual issues:

    1. He writes that “Like Dayan’s father, Malinda rejected the right-wing, elitist ethos of those institutions, and became a nationalist.”

    That is incorrect. Mervyn was an internationalist and a Third Worldist who was sympathetic to nationalism but never a nationalist. In that sense he was much closer to Godfrey Gunatilleke, Gamini Corea, Neville Jayaweera, Izzeth Hussein and AJ Gunawardena than to Malinda’s father who was of course a contemporary and friend of his, and whose writings he enthusiastically published in the Lanka Guardian. Appropriately enough as a “golden lad” of that most intellectual of generations, it is Godfrey Gunatilleke who has analyzed Mervyn’s ideology and consciousness most definitively, and rightly defines him as committed to humanism and universalism; to a “universalist humanism”.

    2. Uditha also writes: ” But there’s never just one kind of nationalism: there are nationalisms, so soon enough we saw Dayan and Malinda fighting via newspaper columns despite the fact that both were opposed to the government over its handling of the war…the “intellectuals” were opposed to both since they were “nationalists”…”

    Here too, the facts are the same as in the case of Mervyn de Silva and Gamini Seneviratne. Malinda was a member of Champika’s JHU and NMAT. Unlike Malinda, I have never been a nationalist nor am I one today, despite my alignment with, support for and sympathy with nationalists and nationalism. I am not ontologically a nationalist. My support for nationalism is neither unconditional nor unqualified. I am however, a patriot who is also an internationalist and a universalist. To put it provocatively, I admire Puran Appu and Jose Marti, but not Anagaraika Dharmapala– because no sectarian ethnoreligious particularism ever resonates with me.

    3. The third error that Uditha makes is to say that “He [DJ] is also a moderate federalist”. It is because I come from the Marxist tradition that I have never been a federalist, moderate or otherwise. I have always been for equal rights as well as for devolution/regional autonomy. As the Chinese Constitution makes clear, it is perfectly possible and is often the case that those ( especially those from a Leftist political culture) who are for regional autonomy are also staunch supporters of a unitary state…with regional autonomy/devolution.

    • 6
      0

      you are still live spitting>>>>too early to brand you as a legacy

    • 3
      0

      you are still live and kicking>>>too early to write you off as legacy

      • 4
        0

        Rajash———-However it is not too late to burn his effigy. Is it worth the time and effort?

    • 1
      0

      DL: “………….because I come from the Marxist tradition that I have never been a federalist, moderate or otherwise………….”.
      Why do you say that Marxist tradition is opposed to federalism? By the way, at least two Indian states had Marxist governments for quite a while. You do not understand what federalism is. Equally it is possible you are aping your masters.

      DL again: “…………….I have never been a nationalist nor am I one today, despite my alignment with, support for and sympathy with nationalists and nationalism……….”.
      You align with, support and sympathize with nationalists but claim you are not one! DL DL DL you are immature alright.

  • 8
    0

    How much space and time does the author waste on critiquing the unfortunate and pathetic life of Ahangamage Mario Silva Jayatilleke – a god father of many a lost cause ?

  • 7
    0

    Uditha, as you indicate, both Dayan J and Malinda S have lots in common in spite of their ‘differences’ (one being their childish ‘fight’ about the qualities of their fathers – “mine is bigger than yours”!!). However, the main thing they have in common is/was their admiration for the controversial Rajapakse family. Both these characters had their heads firmly up the Rajapakse Family’s collective posterior during their heyday.

    Have we, in spite of several statements to the contrary, ever heard either of these guys condemn their erstwhile heroes for their impunity, corruption and utter wasteful spending on what are now confirmed White Elephants, ripping off the country and the polity in the process?

    There are all manner of other examples of their iffy political adventures – DJ’s tryst with the EPRLF and being indicted by the Colombo High Court on 14 counts including conspiracy to overthrow the state through violence (among others) and MS’ political (mis)adventures with the Janatha Mithuro, JHU and his paranoia that the West and Christians were planning to ‘Christianize’ our Buddhist polity. Finally, they both ended up embracing the Rajapakses!

    Both these guys need the services of a good Shrink!

  • 2
    4

    Apologies for the issues of ontology. I firmly believe in a nationalism that is not unquestioned as well. I have no interest in perpetuating anyone’s legacy. This piece has less to do with monolithic figures than with the contention that to blackguard someone like Dr Dayan for his beliefs while being servile to monoliths of one’s own is, simply put, like a pot calling a kettle black. I disagree with some of his beliefs and some of Malinda’s beliefs. Disagreement, however, does not forbid admiration. And judgment.

    • 2
      0

      Uditha?
      I do respect you as a young writer, May be you are in your doctoral studies. You may need to collect exp by writing about prominent figures in the country… but to misinterpret can create lot more harm to the nation.

      YOUNG CHAP, please help me understanding your intentions of publishing this article – thank you.

      I am bit confused of this piece. I asked myself why you came with this title ? I have no doubt, many others too, have gone up and down –not knowing it s at all worth to USE the word ” LEGACY” to a person whose estranged behaviours are public secret.

      Legacy of a person /animal – is connected with EXTRA ORDINARY life achievements such to have invented, discovered things as no other would ever succeed, or became successful having introduced better systems.. But you to come with this for a creature, even today, being servile to Rajapakshe, but behaving within his dream Gramci world in order to belong to pseudo interllectuals. I really dont know what the purpose of this piece ?/b>
      I would commend him, if he would do all estranged behaviours on behalf of masses of this torn nation – unfortunately, his main purpose is to get posted to diplomatic positions, so that he could play his kind of stammerings.

    • 1
      0

      “Disagreement, however, does not forbid admiration. And judgment.”

      So obviously you are an admirer of both Dayan and Malinda, which speaks volumes for your “judgement”, not to mention your values!

  • 5
    1

    This young man should be reading Enid Blyton books.

  • 6
    1

    DJ is a Josephian who just loves to brag and bloviate. He has an useless PhD never having published in top peer reviewed journals globally or nationally. He cites himself and he brags about himself. His anger stems from his childhood and being laughed at at SJC and being called “karadara dias”. He is well informed but that is thanks to his amazing father. But he has a complex about alcohol too. Leave the man be. His sponsors GR or MR cannot win again.

  • 3
    0

    Dayan,

    I thought you are more than a patriot-a smart patriot what ever it meant!

  • 6
    0

    Less said about this turncoat is better. He wouldn’t have forgotten the treatment he got at Lalith Athulathmudali’s funeral at Kanatta.

  • 9
    1

    What a bunch of unmitigated bafflegab to give respectability to two of the most reprehensible characters writing for publication!

    Malinda and Dayan helped, actively, to maintain the most corrupt and violent regime in Sri Lanka’s post-independence history and to seek to give them anything resembling respectability is beyond words.

    This young man would be well-advised to clamber back into his ivory tower and pretend that all’s well, and always has been, in dear old Sri Lanka.

  • 5
    0

    Sounds very much like a copout!

  • 4
    0

    what a misleading title – i bloody wasted my time. why do people write stuff if they have nothing concrete to say???? bloody time wasters.

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