By Dayan Jayatilleka –
It is by no means a lack of (Christian) charity, but rather a simple lack of academic and professional competence that makes me unable to help alleviate the four afflictions that Sarath de Alwis so clearly manifests–afflictions that may themselves be symptoms of a deeper malaise– incomprehension, illogic, blind prejudice and partiality, and literary apoplexy.
He commences by attempting to challenge and contradict my statement that I have never opposed globalization, by quoting a sentence from me which does not even contain the word globalization! I fail to understand how a sentence which does not contain the word “globalization” could be proof of my objection or opposition to globalization!
He then proceeds to quote from my Introduction to Dr. Pulsara Liyanage’s significant and marvelously written recent book ‘Holding Out’, and extracts a sentence in which I speak of Jayewardene administration’s arrogant authoritarian attempt to impose the economic model of East Asia during the Cold war. Again fail to see how this can be a smoking gun. If it is one, it is a smoking gun of Sarath’s inability to comprehend. Let’s unpack this shall we?
I was the first accused among 23 persons, including K. Pathmanabha, Dayapala Tiranagama, Ram Manikkalingam and Pulsara Liyanage, indicted on 14 counts under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Emergency Regulations. None of the charges were of “vilification” of JR Jayewardene, but rather of “conspiracy to overthrow the state through violence” and 13 other charges relating to acts in pursuance of that objective.
The introduction to Pulsara Liyanage’s book from which Sarath quotes, lists the motivating factors that made us, many of whom came from a privileged backgrounds and/or possessed solid academic achievements and prospects, opt for armed rebellion. Of the factors listed, the attempt to arrogantly impose the East Asian Cold War economic model was only one, and was indeed the last named. In and of itself, it wouldn’t have triggered such a response either from the JVP, the Tamil Left (EPRLF, PLOT, EROS, NLFT, and PLFT) or from us. It was the politics that was the radicalizing factor.
But let us not stop at that, and zoom in instead on the economic factor itself. I refer to the attempt to arrogantly impose the model. If there wasn’t such an attempt, the model itself may not have been that polarizing a factor, but that too is not my main point. As Sarath’s quote from my introduction to Pulsara’s book shows, I specifically refer to the East Asian Cold war model. Now how on earth is that relevant to, or a contradiction of, what I am saying today?
The East Asian model I refer to in the context of the JRJ administration, is specifically that of the Cold War, that is to say, the model that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremsinghe’s parents, Esmond and Nalini, tried to impose in 1965-1970 together with, and through, Minister of State and Tourism and the UNP’s Deputy leader JR Jayewardene and was stiffly resisted by Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake, head of Planning Dr. Gamani Corea and his able deputy Godfrey Gunatilleke. This was at the heart of the famous Dudley-JR battle in the late 1960s, which was also played out in the corridors of Lake House.
All this may have escaped Sarath de Alwis, but not me, because my father was the leading English language journalist of left-liberal, anti-UNP, anti-imperialist persuasion in Lake House, writing article after article in support of Non Alignment, the Vietnamese liberation movement, the May ’68 student uprisings in Europe (we were there at the time), Che Guevara etc., and was persecuted by the Esmond-Nalini duo, in an ideological battle that continued when he was Editor Daily News and Editor-in-Chief of ANCL in the early 1970s.
During the 1965-1970 UNP administration, Esmond Wickremesinghe and his foreign economic advisors advocated Taiwan and post-coup/post-Sukarno Indonesia as models. This economic model arose in East Asia as a counterrevolutionary response to the revolutionary model of Communist China under Mao and Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh. It was precisely during the days of the Vietnam War and the US-led SEATO, which Esmond Wickremesinghe was attempting to orient the UNP and Ceylon towards. (In a published lecture Mervyn de Silva argued that the Bandaranaike victory of 1956 barely prevented the UNP’s attempt to join SEATO).
It is Esmond’s East Asia Cold War model and project that made Wijeweera’s fledgling JVP begin to collect arms because he feared that as in East Asia, the imposition of the model would mean that no election would be held on schedule in 1970, and that Prime Minister Dudley Senanayaka may himself be deposed in a CIA-backed putsch.
Now, is the alternative model of globalization I advocate today, the same as that which I opposed in the early 1980s, which in turn has some (but not all) of its roots back in the Esmond Wickremesinghe model of 1965-1970? How could that even be the case? The model I opposed in the 1980s was the East Asia Cold War model, and the one I advocate today is primarily the Chinese alternative of (NOT alternative TO) globalization —which is precisely a post-Cold war model pioneered by Deng Hsiao Peng, and is on a continuum with the East Asian model of the post-Cold war era, specifically the Mahathir model and his conduct in 1997 in the face of the East Asia crisis.
We now move on to a painful issue of logic and reason. When I criticize B in relation to A, and term it very different from and far worse that A, only an irrational person could think that I see no faults in A or that A is my ideal type. I simply prefer A to B, if those are the only choices. When I said that Mangala’s model was very different from and far worse than JRJ’s, I did not mean that the latter was my idea of what was best for the country then or now. Plainly, what I mean is that it was infinitely better than what Mangala is seeking to introduce today.
As for preferential options it can hardly be a secret that my strong, settled view, is that the best development model for Sri Lanka is not that of JRJ but that variant of a globalized Open Economy strategy as fashioned by Premadasa as President, the roots of which run through his years as PM, Cabinet Minister, Opposition MP and Municipal Councilor (he wrote a book after visiting Russia and China in 1957) right back to his time as the teenage founder of the Sucharitha Movement. It is the Premadasa model that I find most congruent with/on a continuum with the Chinese alternative model of globalization.
That said, I also argue that the JR Jayewardene model, or more accurately the JR-Ronnie model of the Open Economy, which I find inferior to the Premadasa model but have always found far superior to the Sirimavo-NM model of the closed economy, is also infinitely superior to the Ranil-Mangala economic model which Sarath de Alwis prefers and supports.
I argue that the Mangala model, while infinitely inferior to the Premadasa model of the Open Economy, is also qualitatively inferior to the JR-Ronnie model, and is a throwback to the Esmond Wickremesinghe economic model of the 1960s, just as the Ranil-Mangala foreign policy is infinitely inferior to that of both Premadasa and JRJ, and is a throwback to Esmond and Sir John’s Bandung 1955 model, where Esmond’s departure from the Afro-Asian consensus and his pro-Dullesian advice earned Sir John the domestic appellation of ‘Bandung Booruwa’. Mangala’s Geneva 2015 is Esmond-Sir John’s Bandung 1955.
In economic policy, Prof. Razeen Sally, member of the Mont Pelerin society, is Mangala’s John Exter, whose advice to JRJ as Finance Minister triggered the Hartal of August 1953.
Still for all, JRJ’s economic model was vastly different from and infinitely superior to the current Ranil-Mangala model. The most authoritative evidence comes in a recent interview given by Pradip Jayewardene, who was very close to his grandfather. He makes a damning indictment that “the core values of the UNP are eroding”. I shall end with this quote:
“My grandfather was of the view that State control had to be maintained in the liberalization process, of the economy, to guarantee a social safety net…There is no argument that private sector should run business, but State control and regulation of key areas is vital…”
Conclusive, I should think?