By Dayan Jayatilleka –
As the basic axiom of journalism goes, facts are sacred, comment is free. CT has admitted the fact that I never said Gotabhaya is behind the BBS or is responsible for the BBS. Then why did its caption misleadingly read “Dayan Reveals Gota’s Post-Conflict Homeland Security Plan; Gota And Israel Behind BBS’ Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes”? Does this not clearly state that ‘Dayan reveals…Gota and Israel behind BBS?” Is this not spin?
Secondly, one cannot have the cake and eat it. Either I had the guts to be one of the few to criticize Gotabaya Rajapaksa, or I didn’t. If my criticism was clearly and unmistakably of Gotabaya, which it was, then CT has to admit that I was probably the only one to speak openly in that manner at that time. If I didn’t criticize Gotabaya you cannot caption your article as you did. You cannot have it both ways—saying I did not criticize gotabhaya by name and then going on to request readers to examine what I said and conclude whether or not Gotabaya was behind the BBS!
The problem is that you have erred several times over. You ran the original piece without getting my side of it and did not even inform me that the story had appeared. You attributed to me things I hadn’t said in the caption—which was mischievous, even mendacious.
Let me recapitulate what is in the video and the report which everyone can check. I criticized the rise of Islamophobia and the BBS. I also criticized the influence of Israel in the design of the postwar order in Sri Lanka. I criticized the network of officials within the Sri Lankan state who comprised the Zionist lobby and were pushing Sri Lanka in the direction that I cautioned would be counterproductive—as it was. I have written a book—‘Long War, Cold Peace” in which these points are made and is available in its second edition (with an Introduction by the legendary Godfrey Gunatilleke). I criticized Gotabaya’s presence at an occasion on which the BBS monks were present and worse, his (passing) defense of the BBS in his speech. I retract none of what I said. However, none of it adds up to your headline—and it cannot, because I never believed that Gotabaya was behind or was responsible for the BBS!
I write as one who was interviewed by the BBC while marching against the BBS. What I pointed out repeatedly in public at that time was the strange anomaly that the USA which refused Narendra Modi a visa for years, even while he was Chief Minister of the economically powerful Gujarat, due to his alleged role in anti-Muslim rioting in that state years ago, Washington granted the BBS leader and his team five year multiple entry visas even after the BBS had been controversially associated with Islamophobic violence!
As a founder member of MIRJE ( Movement for Inter-Racial Justice & Equality) in 1979 and someone who has fought against Sinhala racism for decades—indeed the very term “ethnoreligious fascism” to define the BBS was originally mine—I am quite aware of the main wellspring of Sinhala Buddhist racism in our society in general and the postwar order in particular.
When there was violence at the Shah Rukh Khan show after agitation against having it, when there was a hate campaign against so-called ‘forced conversions’, when President Kumaratunga had to post armed police guards outside and even inside Catholic – not just Evangelical—churches on Christmas Day 2003, the BBS wasn’t formed, Gotabaya was in LA California and Mahinda Rajapaksa was not even the PM let alone the presidential candidate.
The font of Sinhala racism for the past few decades has been none other than Champika Ranawaka (with Gnanasaara in his ranks). Who originated the Islamophobia of the postwar years, having revived the Digavapi issue? As I state in the speech, part of which is in the video, who in Cabinet visited Israel repeatedly during wartime? Not Weerawansa, but Champika Ranawaka…and Gnanasara was not in his team.
During MR’s Presidency, who opposed the BBS in Cabinet and called for the banning of its Maharagama meeting? Dinesh Gunawardena and Wimal Weerawansa. Who was present on stage at that meeting which was dotted by BBS goons in black T shirts? Champika Ranawaka. Whose name was disclosed by the LSSP’s Prof Tissa Vitarana as opposing in Cabinet any action against Gnanasara though the report which was commissioned by Mahinda Rajapaksa and chaired by Tissa Vitarana recommended such action? Champika Ranawaka.
Mao once said derisively to a group of young militants: “You say you want to make a revolution but you do not know where the bourgeoisie is! The bourgeoisie is in the Party!” Similarly, Sri Lanka’s cosmopolitan liberals and liberal leftists say they want to oppose racist extremism but they do not know who the Godfather of Sinhala racist extremism is and where he is! He is in the Yahapalana Cabinet! I was bemused to read just the other day, a high-minded polemic against religious violence and its backdrop, littered with references including several to Mahinda Rajapaksa/the Rajapaksas, but none whatsoever to Champika Ranawaka! As for Gotabaya, in the postwar period he was guarding Mahinda’s right flank against the most dangerous purveyor of Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism within the system and with access to the system: Gen Sarath Fonseka. Though this was first pointed out to me personally by the brilliant Dr. George Yeo, at the time the Foreign Minister of Singapore, the point has been independently made and repeatedly argued by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha in his writings. Sarath Fonseka too is within the Yahapalana Cabinet.
Let me clarify my position on Gotabaya as simply as I can and hopefully for the last time. Just as a medical doctor may oppose a strong medication and even more so, a surgical intervention plus a chemo shot, at a certain point of time, but urgently recommend it later for another disease, or because the original disease has become cancerous, so too will a political scientist do the equivalent. I criticized Gotabaya during Mahinda’s second term because he was to the Right of Mahinda and on the Right of the regime, which made its policy direction lopsided. Today the whole context has changed. Gotabaya is not the most reactionary, right wing figure in this country. There are far worse and scarier things out there than Gotabaya. Gotabaya is not the enemy and in fact is not an enemy. He is not the problem or part of the problem—unlike in the MR’s second term—but is very much part of the solution.
What was far too strong a dose of medication then in 2014, is just what the doctor ordered now. More: before the cancer that the pro-imperialist, pro-Indian annexationist, Ranil–CBK elite and puppet government represents in our body politic metastasizes, we need a surgical intervention and an implant – and Gotabaya is just the person for the job. This government and what it is doing to our country is classifiable as “political evil” – and Mahinda and Gotabaya can combat it. Gotabaya is also the only one with a vision to rescue and modernize Sri Lanka. Looking around at the garbage, seeing the suffering of people during the spreading dengue epidemic, I know that Gotabaya would solve such problems expeditiously. Looking at what he achieved in Colombo and other cities such as Nuwara Eliya, I imagine what he could do for the whole country and how it could look like.
If Gotabaya does not or cannot intervene to stop the spreading cancer, then even more radical methods of intervention by the people themselves—such as in August 1953—will have to be embarked upon, supplemented by the emancipatory upsurge that we saw in Russia in 1917, Portugal in 1974-75, Iran in 1979, the Philippines in 1985, and Venezuela 1992. Gotabaya is our last chance to have a peaceful, mainstream, systemic electoral intervention. He is not our Donald Trump (we don’t need one); he is potentially our Vladimir Putin.