Colombo Telegraph

The Sad Case Of Tuan H.L.D. Mahindapalan

By Izeth Hussain

Izeth Hussain

In his latest lengthy diatribe against me, replete as it is with hysteria, HLDM states in his title that I was getting “hysterical”. He was referring to my rejoinder to his earlier lengthy diatribe, a rejoinder consisting of just a few lines n which I made a few points pointedly. The term “hysterical” seems to me singularly inappropriate for that rejoinder. He seems to be unable to get anything right when he targets me, such is the intensity of his ethnolunacy.

I must explain the title to my present rejoinder. Some years ago a friend told me that HLDM’s father was a Malay who worked in the Fire Brigade, who as a Muslim had sent his son to Zahira College for his education. All that was mentioned in passing and without any denigratory intent, and I must emphasize that I have no such intent either in using the term “Malay”. My point is simply that his incomplete Sinhalese identity could lead through a process of over-compensation to ultra-Sinhalese racism. However he denies his Malay paternity but at the same time he glories in the honorific Tuan. I shall therefore henceforth call him Tuan. As for Mahindapalan, we are told that his wife is Tamil, and that too could surely make him ultra-Sinhala.

I have suspected that the Tuan’s demented hatred and rage against me could be explained by a schizophrenic split in his ethnic identity. But if indeed he has no Malay paternity, the explanation has to be sought elsewhere. However, before attempting that explanation, I must clear up his confusion about the core argument in the article that has provoked his outbursts. The core argument concerns sovereignty, about which I proffered two points. The first is that there has been a steady erosion of state sovereignty since 1945. Anyone who doubts that has to be regarded as an ignoramus on international relations. I will give examples to show that erosion. Idi Amin of Uganda was overthrown through the intervention of Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and like-minded African leaders. No one protested against that. Later Emperor Bokassa of the Central African Empire was overthrown through French intervention and no one protested either. Recently a coup in Burkina Fasso was reversed through the African leaders acting in unison, and by the same process several earlier coups were also reversed, so that today the majority of African countries have democratic governments. It is a fact that the principle of state sovereignty established by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 is no longer sacrosanct.

H. L. D. Mahindapala

There could be several reasons for that erosion, one of which is globalization. But I think the most important is the change in the conception of sovereignty that began in the second half of the Eighteenth century with the American and French Revolutions. The people were established as sovereign over the state. With the spread of the liberal democratic ideology, the notion of the sovereignty of the people is now almost universal. There are therefore two different kinds of sovereignty in the contemporary world: the sovereignty of the State in international relations and the sovereignty of the people in internal relations. Consequently a UNHRC Resolution on human rights can be seen as amounting to an invasion of state sovereignty and at the same time as people-friendly. Actually there is no invasion of state sovereignty because we are answerable to the international community by our having become parties to several Covenants on human rights. Therefore a UNHRC Resolution that faults the Government – in this case the last Government not the present one – over violations of the human rights of the people should be seen as quite categorically people-friendly. That is a sound reason for the present government’s co-sponsorship of the Resolution. There are other reasons but I won’t expound them because I doubt that our Tuan will be able to understand a dam thing about them. I can give him the facts; I can give him the arguments, but I can’t give him the ability to understand them.

I will now deal with the sad case of Tuan Mahindapalan. He has had a long and undistinguished career as a journalist, undistinguished because he is far far indeed from the front rank of journalists such as Tarzie Vittacji, Denzil Peiris, Mervyn de Silva and some others. On the contrary, he has gained wide notoriety as a rabid Sinhala racist and a gutter journalist who specializes in personal scurrility and ad hominem attacks. But, I must acknowledge, that he has gained a unique accolade. I believe that he is the only journalist in the entire history of journalism in Sri Lanka who has been subjected to newspaper attacks, sustained over several weeks, by members of the public. That I believe was sometime in the ‘nineties. I asked Regi Siriwardene about it, and he straightaway declared that he was one of the prime movers behind those concerted attacks. The reason was that President Premadasa’s dictatorship was detested by the people but none dared attack him: he wouldn’t ask questions; he just killed. So our Tuan was chosen as proxy because he had an unsavory reputation as being the kind of journalist who gets going by licking the boots of the powerful. Significantly he now boasts that A.C.S Hameed was like a brother to him.

In his long and undistinguished career our Tuan would have presented many interesting cases, just like other journalists, but far and away the most interesting case he has presented is himself. His is not just a case of extreme ethnolunacy and stinky gutter journalism. What is the explanation for his present outburst of hysterical hatred and mad-dog rage against me? Some years ago he suddenly attacked me, and the exchanges between us went on for months. The hatred and rage directed against me was even worse at that time. It was perplexing because we had met only about two or three times, nothing untoward happened on those occasions, and there was no quarrel or controversy between us at all. He writes that I am under the misapprehension that I am the only person he has attacked, whereas he has attacked far superior intellectuals like Regi Siriwardene and Carlo Fonseka as well as “lesser poseurs” such as Jehan Perera. But I am sure he didn’t attack them with the same hysterical hatred and mad dog rage, at great length, and he didn’t return to the attack after several years.

What’s it all about? The obvious explanation is that as a rabid racist he finds the reputation I have gathered – rightly or wrongly – unbearable. Of the three persons whom he has mentioned as the objects of his attacks, Regi S described my article on Vikram Seth as “brilliant”, Carlo Fonseka wrote positively about the precision and clarity of my writings, and Jehan P in an email referred to my “great article”. (I hope Jehan will forgive my transgression in quoting from his email. It’s in a noble cause). I will limit myself to recent positive responses to my writings. One was from Hermes who I am told had held very high office and acquitted himself very creditably. In the course of the present exchanges with the Tuan, there have been generously positive responses to my writings from Brian Senewiratne and H.L. Seneviratne. BS is eminent for his courageous advocacy of Tamil rights, and HLS is reputed as a scholar and intellectual of the highest caliber. The Sinhalese racist can accept a Muslim who is an outstanding businessman, a drug kingpin, even a successful professional, but a Thumbiya who is regarded – rightly or wrongly – as a writer, a political analyst, an intellectual is an anomaly who should be extirpated from off the face of the earth. Isn’t that it, Tuan?

But there is a special edge to the hatred and rage he has directed against me, unparalleled in attacks by others. He certainly is an oddity. I will provide a convincing example. In the exchanges with him some years ago a point arose about the number of times he and I had met. I recalled that it was two or three times while he thought it was more than that. A point surely of no importance at all to any wholly sane mind, but it assumed such importance for him that he declared in a challenge to me that he was willing to travel any number of miles to swear on the Bible, the Koran, or any text chosen by me, that he had met me x number of times. Unbelievable, but it’s all there in the Sunday paper which published his ethnolunatic ravings. He is not just another rabid racist but an extremely odd one. If the oddity is not due to a schizophrenic identity, there has to be some other explanation that is beyond me. The problem of our poor Tuan Mahindapalan has to be left to the psychiatrists.

I will conclude with a very brief clarification on his main charge against me, which is that I had been going around boasting that I was one of the five best diplomats in the world. It’s a bare-faced lie. Bryan Seneviratne has pointed out that anyone who knows me or my writings will not believe him. Our poor Tuan must surely be quite mad to think that anyone with a modicum of common sense will believe him. What happened was this. In the capacity of the Director of the Non-Aligned Division in the Foreign Ministry, I was in charge of all the political work in connection with the Non-Aligned Summit Conference that was to be held in Colombo in 1976. In that capacity, it was thought that I was the best fitted to chair a press conference on the morning before the opening of the Summit. At its conclusion G.K.Reddy, a famous Indian journalist of that time, said that I was one of the five best diplomats in the world. He added that he knew the best diplomats in the world because every year he was sent at Indian Government expense to cover the UN General Assembly Sessions. I believe it is that, above everything else, which has driven our poor Tuan Mahindapalan mad with envious hatred.

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