22 September, 2020

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The Maroon & The Blue: My Empathy With & Fears For The SLFP

By Dayan Jayatilleka –

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

I was born at a particular moment, 1956, into a center-left familial universe and culture. In 1956, Mervyn, aged 26, was introduced to SWRD Bandaranaike by his senior at university, Nimal Karunatilleke, a former Communist who had joined the MEP, the winning coalition of 1956, and whose victory in Matale, beating the feudal UNP candidate, was the first result that came in on Radio Ceylon, heralding the Silent Revolution.

SWRD Bandaranaike promptly instructed Mervyn to take over as the foreign affairs commentator of Radio Ceylon, in place of the Britisher the UNP had typically kept in that sensitive post. When Mervyn protested that he knew nothing of the subject, his proper province, including on the airwaves, being English literature and literary criticism, Bandaranaike had walked into his library, returned with an armful of books and dumped them into Mervyn’s lap. “Atoms for Peace” was the title of one, Mervyn recalled decades later.

From 1956, Mervyn was firmly of the pro-SLFP center-left in political terms while remaining temperamentally and intellectually the left-liberal he had always been. His firmest friends in 1956 were the Rajapaksas, Lakshman and George. My father was an SLFP and Bandaranaike loyalist, who was buddies with the Rajapaksas and quite fond of Mahinda. Mahinda Rajapaksa wrote in the Daily News shortly after my father’s death in 1999 that:

“Whenever I met him, which happened to be at least twice a month during the last 25 years, I always made it a point to have a serious chat even for a minute…First I came to know Mr.de Silva through my cousin the late Mr. Lakshman Rajapaksa. Both of them were regulars at the Orient Club. Being a Royalist he was also very close to late Mr. George Rajapaksa, his fellow alumni. Being only a student of politics, I remained a passive participant at the meetings Mr.de Silva had with my cousin, Lakshman and George, gathering valuable points. However I came still closer to him after I became a Member of Parliament in 1970. The frequency of meetings grew after the formation of the Sri Lanka Committee for Solidarity with Palestine, when the journalists who launched this organization elected me as its President. Mr. Mervyn de Silva was one of the Patrons.”

Mervyn was recruited to Lake House by Esmond Wickremesinghe, the present PM’s father. In a heated exchange in Parliament in 1978 over the journal Lanka Guardian which my father had founded that year, Ranil Wickremesinghe and Anura Bandaranaike hurled at each other the accusation that Mervyn had been the “blue-eyed boy” of each of their fathers! They were both right, only at different times and in different spheres of endeavor—journalism in the former case, and politics, especially international politics, in the latter.

Of course Mervyn and the present PM’s mother Nalini did not have the ambivalent relationship that Esmond and Mervyn had. She was an ideological hardliner and cold warrior, and Mervyn as Editor Daily News and she as Director and the founder’s daughter, fought out the Cold War in Lake House, much to the bemused horror of her brother and Mervyn’s boss, the Chairman of Lake House, Ranjit Wijewardene, a cultured and charming man (whose classmate my uncle had been at St. Thomas’s and whose wife had been a student of my mother’s).

My mother taught Sunethra and Chandrika at St. Bridget’s Convent and clearly urged me from her hospital bed in 1999, after my father had died, to support Chandrika against Ranil at the Presidential election late that year because she “is not a dangerous person and wouldn’t intentionally harm anyone”.

I have never taken my political or intellectual cue from my parents but the older I get the more aware I am of the influences that shaped me and the heritage I carry. Where I am at is shaped by where I am coming from.

I have tried to be loyal to what I learned from President Premadasa by warning the UNP against precisely that erroneous path that Premadasa warned his party against and the consequences of which he rescued it from against all odds. It was this disastrous path he took his party away from. The UNP has since returned to it and is determined to stay on it, though it had, very recently, the chance to turn in the correct direction. I am not going to waste my time on attempting to rectify the UNP’s political choices which stem from the very mentality that Premadasa strove to liberate it from.

My positive experience with the UNP was episodic: the last year of President Jayewardene and the turbulent, progressive years of President Premadasa, and a few post-Premadasa years with his Segundo, Sirisena Cooray (the first to be double-crossed by Ranil Wickremesinghe who owes the latter much of his modest political achievement). Throughout the rest of my decades-long engagement with politics, my relationship with the UNP, especially in government, has been adversarial, as has that of my father (despite his friendly, respectful yet sharply critical association with President Jayewardene, of whom he was a longtime neighbor).

The relationship with the SLFP and the center-left is a thicker one. Of course I had rebelled against the SLFP administration of Sirimavo Bandaranaike, and the first time I was taken for questioning was in the mid-1970s, as a teenage high school student awaiting entrance to university and member of a revolutionary left group, Mitipahara, comprising of ex-JVP and ex-Communist Party elements, and of which Rohan Samarajiva and Asoka Pieris were also members as university students.

However, because of the milieu I came from, a milieu created primarily by my father, the SLFP and the larger center-left was for the most part seen as an ally, a rearguard, a friend—unlike the UNP, which was for the most part an enemy, or The Enemy (with Premadasa an exception for Mervyn, well before he became President).      

Right now, I am in a somewhat complex situation because my heritage as it were, has split. The problem is not that the daughter of SWRD Bandaranaike has gone one way, into alliance with the UNP, while the sons of DA Rajapaksa, the cousins of my father’s friends George and Lakshman, have gone another. Clearly the anti-UNP, anti-imperialist banner is with the Rajapaksa sons and not the Bandaranaike daughters.

I have no dilemmas whatsoever in that department and am confirmed in my choices when I have my weekly telephone call from LA from Auntie Roma, daughter of a founder member of the SLFP and SWRD’s aristocratic Finance Minister Stanley de Zoysa and his private secretary in the 1956 administration. Her brusque rejection of the Western ambassadors’ apprehensions about a Rajapaksa return (“none of their business”) and her instinctive aversion to the UNP-TNA bloc, overcome any attachment to the official SLFP. Her loyalty is to the founding idea of the SLFP established by SWRD and her father and their friends (she has the signed copies of the founding draft and owns the table on which the document was signed), rather than to what the SLFP has now become. Stanley de Zoysa’s secretary-daughter’s clear, unambiguous identification is with Mahinda and Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the new political formation, in which she sees the reincarnation of the original SLFP’s moderate nationalist and progressive anti-UNP project. She is delighted by its rapid electoral success.   

So my problem is not there. I am happy that the new party (‘Pohottuwa’) was founded and indeed had suggested it publicly and privately in 2015, once resulting in a dispute at ex-President Rajapaksa’s temporary residence in Mirihana in August 2015 in the presence of the whole JO leadership, with Minister Susil Premajayanth, an intelligent man I rather like and have a positive view of. My position remains that which it did from, and in, 2015. Mine was a Leninist-Gramscian position based on Gramsci’s approving invocation of Lenin’s tersely dialectical advice to Italian Communists: “Separate yourselves from Turati and then form an alliance with him”. In short, split and ally; split from, and then ally with. I strongly felt that the populist Rajapaksa project should secede from the SLFP and launch a new formation, while reuniting with it not as a single or ‘unitary’ party but as federation or confederation i.e. a united front.

Today, that united front can either be in a Transitional Government (with the JO supporting a non-UNP dominated government or an SLFP government while remaining in Opposition), or in the Opposition. The SLFP need not organizationally unite with the JO under the leadership of Mahinda Rajapaksa if it chooses not to. It can remain a social democratic or liberal nationalist party of the moderate center, while the SLPP-JO remains progressive, patriotic and populist. But the SLFP must establish a relationship with Mahinda Rajapaksa and his 45% vote base, by recognizing him as the pre-eminent leader of the anti-UNP forces.

The longer the SLFP stays in this government with Ranil as PM, the more of its 13% vote share it loses. If it remains in this government it must be provisionally, and must alter the balance of forces in the government through the impending Cabinet reshuffle, wresting away the commanding heights of the system from the UNP.

The SLFP is facing electoral extinction just as and for the same reasons that the proud LSSP and CPSL did in 1977. The possible, probable, fade out of the blue banner which my father identified with more than with any other color in the political spectrum, saddens me somewhat. 1956 was tale of two shawls: blue (SWRD) and ‘kurakkan’ maroon (DA Rajapaksa). Towards the end of her second Presidential term, Chandrika broke the Bandaranaike alliance with the Rajapaksas of the Ruhuna, by allying instead with Mangala, the son of defector to the UNP, Mahanama Samaraweera. In 2015 she followed it up by crossing the barricades and relocating the blue banner alongside the green. She literally returned to the UNP headquarters, which her father and Mahinda’s had left, firmly shutting the door behind them.

I am delighted at the success of the Pohottuwa. My problem lies with the fate of the SLFP. I cannot regard President Sirisena as I do the UNP, as an enemy. And I cannot but be saddened at the self-destruction of the SLFP. I wish to see the blue banner flying in its rightful place next to the maroon, on the opposite side of the barricades as the green, someday soon. In 1956, the maroon was the ally and adjunct of the blue, but this time around, in the 21st century, the roles will have to be reversed.

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Latest comments

  • 6
    5

    Dayan,
    You are fallen into the deep mud that is filled with poisonous creatures and you cannot escape from that mud. Almost all the opportunistic power hungry left is now inside the mud along with those venomous creatures. It is true that Mahinda Family destroyed the SLFP with the fear mongering venomous tactics of Eelam Lie. This is the beauty of Buddhist Fundamentalism. Lies & Threat are the weapons they use and you use that as well. It won’t work all the time. We cannot foget the murder of Lasantha and other Journalists. We cannot forget the murder attempt of Sirisena? We cannot forget about the Oil Ghost around the country? We cannot forget about the White van? We cannot forget about the removal of the Chief Justice? We cannot forget about the billions they pocketed?

  • 5
    4

    Dayan,
    Too sad, MaRa – the so called Buddy despised and dumped you after your short job in Geneva. Aren’t you ashamed of going after and begging this Buddy moron and his brother GoTa again for a job. [Edited out]

    • 0
      0

      Give the Great Liberator and his trusted adviser credit for withdrawing Dr DJ after the first lie. They couldn’t rely on him to perform a second trick.

      This little piece is all about me, me, me. Simple bloody self-preening and name dropping.

      DJ might have summarised it all with “You don’t understand! I could’a had class. I could’a been a contender. I could’a been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am”

      And you know what, most of us would’ve replied “frankly me dear, I couldn’t give a dam”.
      .

  • 1
    3

    So my problem is not there. I am happy that the new party (‘Pohottuwa’) was founded and indeed had suggested it publicly and privately in 2015, once resulting in a dispute at ex-President Rajapaksa’s temporary residence in Mirihana in August 2015 in the presence of the whole JO leadership, with Minister Susil Premajayanth, an intelligent man I rather like and have a positive view of. My position remains that which it did from, and in, 2015.
    ……………….
    ………………
    split from, and then ally with. I strongly felt that the populist Rajapaksa project should secede from the SLFP and launch a new formation, while reuniting with it not as a single or ‘unitary’ party but as federation or confederation i.e. a united front.

    A Lion, an Ass, and a Fox were hunting in company, and caught a large quantity of game. The Ass was asked to divide the spoil. This he did very fairly, giving each an equal share.

    The Fox was well satisfied, but the Lion flew into a great rage over it, and with one stroke of his huge paw, he added the Ass to the pile of slain. The Lion told to the fox to share. Fox gave almost the whole meat to lion.

    “Who taught you to divide so fairly?” he asked pleasantly.

    “I learned a lesson from the Ass,”

    If the fox had died fist, one may think the ass may too have learned. But the ass doesn’t learn.
    Old Royals have to come out of their den and tell what their plan is. The advice to split from SLFP was unwanted. After seeing New King is bad, a child may only say “I cannot see him with Ranil”.
    If the tick (SLFP) with the cow (UNP) it sucks the cow. It is with dog (Slap Party) it sucks the dog. If SLFP is with Slap Party, in the next election, the 13% comes from there.

  • 4
    0

    Dayan.

    Interesting observations/confessions. “My positive experience with the UNP was episodic” ; “I am in a somewhat complex situation because my heritage as it were, has split”; “I have never taken my political or intellectual cue from my parents… Where I am at is shaped by where I am coming from”

    Your episodic positive (as well as negative) seems not limited to UNP. Else, can you explain why MR would, in Al Jazeera’s globally broadcast interview, choose to pointedly attack your personal dignity, the basic dignity of the boy of the “blue-eyed boy” for whom MR had such great respect and affection? That is a hell of a come-down, don’t you think?.

  • 5
    4

    DAYAN..
    YOUR political career is finished now..
    So ..
    DO NOT worry about SLFP.
    You will never get a job as soon as M&S and Ranil in power

  • 5
    3

    Dayan,
    1) Turn to writing fiction. You are highly readable.
    2) Premadasa in spite of your admiration, beefed up the LTTE by providing arms which they used against the SL forces including wiping out surrendered cops
    3) As you are a product of Peradeniya, you will understand if someone says that you are writing and thinking like a pissu huththek! Jaya

  • 4
    4

    Dear Dayan
    If you support or joined with any political party all of them were vanish. Examples;
    Mitipahara Movement, EPRLF, Sri Lanka Mahajana Party, Independent Movement (Colombo Campus)
    R.Premadasa, Mahinda Rajapaksa (2015). Next will be SLPP.

    • 2
      2

      Your comment made me laugh but isn’t that little too harsh?
      :D :D :D Next will be SLPP. Very true. :D :D :D (Sorry Dr. DJ).

    • 3
      1

      I wish that above is wrong :) DJ we want you to be with SLPP for ever., you are the new Anura B. (always in the wrong side) thanks God for mother Lanka we have AB’s replacement now.

  • 3
    1

    Dayan jayathilake is making a confession, some self aggrandicement as well as some revelations about the HORA GROPUP #1. Now it is two groups – SLPP and JACKAL OPPOSITON. Mahinda Rajapaske tried every thing in the book to take control of SLFP. Now, he wants to become part of SLFP. What he is trying to bring Namal Rajapakse to the Stage. SLFP is HORA Group #3. Maithripala showeed his arrogance and ridicuing of the democracy by brining useledd national list MPS some of who have again questionable acts of currptions. Some are just useless. why he is keeping those. did you ask a cabinet position from MY3 and failed in it. Because you are aligned with MR.(you may become a Spy)

  • 3
    1

    What is this Dr. DJ, a confession? What happened?
    Some buds appear but fail to open. Hotu Pohottuwa is also one such bud.
    About SLFP. Everybody said 99% of SLFPers are with Mahinda and Maithree has only 1 vote (his vote.). I also said that in 2015. So it was like 99:1. From where did that 13% come? Now 99% have come down to 86%. How did that happen?
    I thought Mahinda was happy with SLPP and that he will start a new journey with the new party. Why do he and all JOkers lament about SLFP after such a “huge” victory?
    Maithree gave a solo fight and stole 13% from Mahinda, didn’t he? That is a big victory as SLPP couldn’t attract any new votes. SLPP only provided a symbol for Mahinda’s internally displaced voters. It is not a political party. It is only a temporary shelter for homeless voters. If Hotu Pohottuwa cannot make Mahinda feel at home with the new party, how could it make others feel at home? What are Mahinda’s options? Why should I tell?

    • 0
      0

      Oh, I read my comment for the second time now. My apologies to former President and Wimal both. My comment above was in no way to undermine their victory or discourage them. I am happy for them but there are things that I don’t like in JO. So sometimes my anger comes out like this. Anyways, my comment is an analysis on the true situation from my point of view which is queer sometimes.. President Sirisena protected the country single-handed for the last 3 years. Though I didn’t vote him, I admire his fortitude.. So no prejudice to anybody. The year ahead will be more difficult than that of the previous. I don’t hesitate in giving some encouragement and strength to the Executive Presidency when and where necessary. By the way, Mr. former President, you have some options. So don’t worry.

  • 2
    1

    Dayan Jayatilleka has been in every political party in SL from the Eelam Peoples’ Revolutionary Liberation Front through to…………you name it! Here he tries to say how close he was to Mahinda Rajapaksa.
    He is trying to live off the laurels of his father Mervyn and looks absolutely pathetic. Evidently Mahinda Rajapaksa wrote in the Daily News shortly after Dayan’s father’s death in 1999 that: “Whenever I met him, which happened to be at least twice a month during the last 25 years, I always made it a point to have a serious chat even for a minute………..”.
    What can one ‘seriously chat’ for a minute? Was it simply a wink wink wink?
    .
    Dayan: U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein has indicated that he will not seek a second term. Why not put your name forward?

    • 3
      1

      K. Pillai – You are asking the public racist and warmonger to put forward his name as a replacement for Zeid Al-Hussein. If this materializes MaRa has to get Wimal Boruwansa or Geneva Loss Pe is to wash his loin cloth!

  • 4
    0

    Is there a non-racist, patriotic political party?If so I wi vote for that party.Unfortunately for Sri Lanka there is none.All parties are racist-one against the other.

  • 7
    2

    I never met or read much about Mervyn de Silva though heard he was a brilliant scribe as much as Tarzie Vittachi etc.,
    Now reading this., I have lost all that respect I had for Mervyn in considering he had twice months discussions with Tsunami Hora and fake lawyer.

    It looks like Mervyn did associated 3rd class rogues in that period of time as DJ now sleep with chain snatchers (Abey of Kalutara), Weerasangili Pannikiya (8th grade passport cheat), the Great Tsunami Hora or Helping Hambantota fame, Aluthgamage etc.,)

  • 5
    1

    With due respect to the writer’s contribution to political thought, more particularly international affairs, one would wonder how many are interested about his pedigree. Besides, this is not the time for his occational fantasiful ideas about himself. The personalities he referes to as belonging to the aspirants of the socio culturel revolution of 1956 seems utterly misplaced.

  • 9
    1

    What a bum sucking article ! This guy is a typical Sri Lanka attempting to show family connections to powerful people. I did not think he was such a pathetic sucker until I read this.

    What has all this got to do with anything ? SWRD was a failure and a political fraud. Esmond Wickramasinghe was a unscrupulous womanizer and financial wheeler dealer who even bribed MPs to vote this way or that way.

    That an ambitious journalist met these corrupt Third World exploiters in order to get appointments to various positions means nothing. I think Mervyn was called Undaya( cunning rascal) by those who knew him well.

    If this is how Dayan wants to get legitimacy I can only feel sorry for the present day Rajapakses who probably depend on him for writing letters in English.By the way,that letter written supposed to be written by Mahinda Rajapakse about Andaya ( Mervyn)- was it really written by him in that language ?
    Dayan what do you think ?

  • 4
    1

    dear dayan
    lets have the whole truth and nothing but the truth
    why was mervyn called andaya throughout his career
    after he got sacked from lake house and was down on his uppers it was ranil who got his friends to help him
    when he tried to be mrs B’s foreign policy advisor he failed miserably
    that is why he attacks ranil and chandrika
    why were you not given a lectureship at peradeniya-because you were a loose cannon
    lets hope your support for rajapaksa will put you out of your misery in 2020

  • 4
    1

    Dayan Jayathilake is suffering from a psychological illness – non stop promotion of his late father. By doing so, he lies and exaggerates.

    We are tired Dayan. Your every piece is an attempt to glamarise your late father.

    Since of late you have tried to glamarise your late mother as well!

    Mervin De Silva was a mediocre journalist who said ‘Sir’ to almost every politician that came his pathway. His Lanka Guradian, well, no one read it.

    How can Dayan say his father was JRJ’s neighbor. We all know who lived around 66 Ward Place, Colombo 7; there was no Mervin De Silva living in that area. Mervin De Silva used to spend most of his evenings at the Press Club in Fort. His friend was the bottle.

    • 2
      1

      Dont worry about Dayan has to say. For the last few years, the man like a poisonous snake has been strengthening the hand of all the high criminals and their fraction.
      Whoever his father has been, everyone is becoming clear that DJ the like men are the past.
      I think not knowing what to do next, DJ has been made a puppet by some media institution for their selfish gains.
      If this bugger would have been owning a brain the size of a musdard seed, he should long have been clear all these. However, some that addicted to be in SPOT LIGHT, would not be easy to be away from the press. That is what MANY feel that look at his low level performances currently in lanken abusive media flows.

  • 2
    1

    Maroon + Blue = Purple
    This explains the ponsy-purple shirt Dayan sports frequently!

  • 2
    0

    Dayan, exactly, successful political parties are branded and have a brand appeal to a certain demography, SLFP because of MY3 became the Volkswagen (its ’50-’60s brand popularity ruined by cheating on its emission data), one should let it be a hanger on while focusing on the Pohottuwa (a Tesla), SLFP has become a grandfather’s party while SLPP is here and now. You may ask what UNP is then, perhaps an old faithful Mercedes in need of a new engine.

    • 1
      0

      wannihami

      ” SLFP has become a grandfather’s party while SLPP is here and now.”

      There isn’t much difference between the two, packaging and re-branding, …… bit more spin/lies are not substitute for the real thing. Its like Vadei, Idly and Dosai, …. the basic ingredient are almost the same. You should visit a dosai kade and see the difference for yourself.

      Will you now cease the opportunity re-brand, repackage … with lot more lies and spin the JVP to the winning line?

      I want to see JVP’s socialist millionaires soon after their victory.

  • 0
    0

    mrs sylvia k
    i agee with you
    as i said before he should see a psychiatrist
    ct readers dont want to read his bogus life story in a series of articles
    he should put it all together in a biography rather than make us suffer.
    papa was probably given an annexe in jr’s garage or more likely he stayed in some rooms at the press club where he could booze to his cares away

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