Poor Dr Jayatilleka!
Posted on June 17th, 2020

By a Special Correspondent Courtesy Ceylon Today

Having lost his diplomatic post in Russia, poor Dr Dayan Jayatilleka is now singing lustily for his supper. Having burnt his bridges with the Rajapaksa camp, his latest sonnet A knee on the neck of the next Parliament”, published in DailyFT on 11 June 2020 is his attempt to get Sajith Premadasa’s attention. 

Premadasa is hoping to bag the position of Opposition Leader. Of course, having lost at the Presidential race, the premiership would be a nice consolation price. However, his fear of general elections indicates that he is not confident of winning the title. On the other hand, becoming the Opposition Leader would not be hard, for even those in the Rajapaksa camp would gladly help him to secure the position. 

It is not that he has an inside deal” with the Government. Opponents see him as rather a naive gentleman. On the other hand, his erstwhile boss and now nemesis Ranil Wickremesinghe is the absolute maestro in political games. Given a choice between Premadasa and Wickremesinghe, political opponents will happily choose Premadasa. 

Premadasa’s attempts of trying to attract the Buddhist votes with his sudden and recent show of interest in Buddhist sermons are nullified by his present company. Mangala Samaraweera, Malik Samarawickrama, Rajitha Senaratne, Patali Champika Ranawaka, Rishad Bathuideen, Rauff Hakeem, Azath Sally and Kabir Hashim make up his inner core.

They are openly disdainful of Buddhism and the Buddhists. They have been kicking the Sinhalese in the guts – right in the midriff. Except for Hashim, the Muslim politicians in this group are being accused of nurturing extremist ideologists. Bathuideen especially has been implicated with close ties with the Easter Sunday bombers. In the aftermath of this terrorist attack, the public demanded that he step down to allow impartial investigations. 

Resigned

In response, all the Muslim politicians in all parties in a show of solidarity resigned from their positions. This included Hashim as well. Unlike the other Muslim politicians, Hashim is not dependent on the Muslim vote bank but the Sinhala base. Hence, he in effect slapped across the face of his voters. Hashim is also accused of having played a complicit role in the infamous Central Bank bond scams. However, for incomprehensible reasons the blame is deflected to Ravi Karunanayaka, who really was not involved. 

Though true UNP stalwarts like Tissa Attanayaka and Imthiaz Bakeer Markar are fighting courageously to maintain a foothold in Premadasa’s camp, they really are not a match for these elements. Attanayaka especially dedicated himself to protect the UNP Party and leadership through the long and difficult years it sat as the Opposition to a powerful and popular government. In 2015, he did not leave the UNP for personal gain but in protest of a plan to be executed against the country. All attempts to prove him a liar and a forger have failed for events thereafter have vindicated him. A democracy needs a good and honourable Opposition and Attanayaka fits the bill. 

Imthiaz too is a respected politician who rejects racial or divisive politics to establish his vote bank. After years of being out of public eye, he came back to the political arena when Premadasa pushed himself forward as an alternative to Wickremesinghe. 

It is unfortunate that under Premadasa’s umbrella too they continue to be shown a back row seat. Die-hard UNP supporters, who hates Ranil Wickremesinghe for ruining the UNP should trace back and identify the exact point he started acting against the UNP grain. They will find it is the same causes that led them to be disgusted with Wickremesinghe that disappointed them with Sajith Premadasa. 

Tenacity

Under J.R. Jayewardene’s and Ranasinghe Premadasa’s governments, Wickremesinghe was not such a disaster. However, there is a difference between just skirting on the rim of the honeypot and the fly actually falling into the honeypot. It was a childhood friend” who took Wickremesinghe from the rim to the honey in the pot. It is thanks to Wickremesinghe’s own tenacity that he is still holding on to his turf. However, the credit of Wickremesinghe now standing as a discredited politician belongs to this friend. It is little surprise that this friend is now attached to Premadasa. 

Premadasa understands that Wickremesinghe’s former friends, who are now firmly flanked by his sides, will not attract the Sinhala Buddhist votes. Hence, making the COVID-19 as an excuse he tried his level best to get back to the dissolved Parliament without an election. However, Premadasa exposed his bogus concerns when his camp held protests over the arrest of Rajitha Senaratne notwithstanding the social distancing essential to prevent the spread of the pandemic. 

The irony is Premadasa would have been able to mark a new chapter in Sri Lanka politics had he started his fresh beginning with respected politicians like Tissa Attanayaka, Imthiaz Bakeer Markar and enticed solid personalities like Tilak Marapana. Most unfortunately though he chose to bypass intelligent voters for the rabid block that hates the Rajapaksas and the racist block that harbours extremist notions and inferiority complexes. 

It is in this backdrop that Dr Dayan Jayatilleka sings his ode. The message in his long harangue is that space for Tamils and Muslims is been taken over by the Sinhala, Buddhist military.

He asks, if the task force appointed to create a secure country, disciplined, virtuous and lawful society” is defined by one in which you can be ‘secure’ in the knowledge that if you skin an unarmed civilian and slash the throat of a five-year-old child, and you’ve been in the right uniform and the child is of a suitable ethnicity for you to do so, then even if you have been found guilty by a High Court and your appeal dismissed and the sentence upheld by the unanimous verdict of the Supreme Court, you can still be pardoned – with the pardon publicly justified”.

Dr Jayatilleka, who has represented Sri Lanka at the UNHRC, ignores that over 14,500 LTTE cadres were released without so much as a trial when the incumbent President was the defence secretary. These cadres were rehabilitated in programmes where they were either sent back to school or given a vocational training to help rebuild their lives. 

These cadres too were engaged in violent crimes, where not only toddlers but even foetuses were ripped out of mothers’ bellies. The long list of atrocities including the Anuradhapura massacre, bomb attack on the sacred Temple of the Tooth, Aranthalawa massacre, Central Bank attack, Gonagala massacre, ethnic expulsion of Sinhalese and Muslims, closing of Marvil Aru sluice gates denying water to over 15,000 agrarian families of all ethnicities were all committed by these cadres. Yet, today they are living peacefully with their families without so much as a criminal record.

Victims

Not a single HR activist has spoken against these releases on behalf of the victims of the LTTE terrorists. In staff sergeant Ratnayaka’s case, after 13 years of hearing his case, the courts continued to entertain reasonable doubts about his culpability. Even while handing him the death sentence, the courts noted that this heinous crime could not have been committed by Ratnayaka alone. Furthermore, it was not established in courts his exact act in the crime. 

In this context, to insist on upholding a sentencing of only one for a crime committed by a group, which if executed would be irreversible, is a gross violation of Ratnayaka’s human rights. The fact that this insistence on upholding his punishment is based on the racist element that this soldier is a Sinhala Buddhist should be universally condemned. 

Dr Jayatilleka also picks a bone with the task force appointed for the Archaeological Heritage Management of the Eastern Province. The fact that Defence Secretary General Kamal Gunaratne is heading both these task forces is a bitter pill for Dr Jayatilleka who does not see eye-to-eye with the General. 

In his article, Dr Jayatilleka notes that even the foreign journalist P.K. Balachandran has observed that this task force is without any Tamil or Muslim representation, despite these two communities constituting two thirds of the population. It is a pity that Dr Jayatilleka despite being the academic was unable to correct the misperception of a foreign journalist. The insinuation that the Sinhala Buddhists would do a disservice to Muslims or to Hindus should have been corrected. This kind of racist suggestions that a community can only trust their own kind and not the other Sri Lankans is despicable. 

If that were true, then one must wonder at the reasons for the Catholic MPs who were in the then Government to prevent the Easter Sunday massacres. Harin Fernando shocked Sri Lanka when he confessed to having been forewarned of the attacks and chose not to do anything other than save his skin. In the same argument, Sajith Premadasa, Rajitha Senaratne, Mangala Samaraweera, Patali Ranawaka or any of the Sinhala politicians in this camp should not fear elections, but they do. 

Dr Jayatilleka tsk tsk over Police brutality” for arresting those who were protesting the death of a man half way across the world, two weeks after the incident. There are some glaring omissions – including the absence of protests for the Sri Jayewardenepura undergraduate Pasindu Hiroshan. Pasindu sustained critical injuries to skull and brain after yet again another ragging incident went horribly wrong. The socialist groups ought to be protesting over these incidents than something unrelated to Sri Lanka. However, they will not; nor will the Premadasa camp.

Nothing to offer

Both the Premadasa group and these socialists are fellow travellers. With nothing to offer to their voters, they are hoping to gain ground by discrediting the incumbent Administration. Dr Jayatilleka finds it opportune to join the chorus. He is waiting for Premadasa to notice him and beckon him to his side. 

However, Premadasa might not as he knows Dr Jayatilleka to be a slick character. Dr Jayatilleka does not have any special affinity with Premadasa or his politics. It is just that after his last encounter with the then Joint Opposition in which some members including Pavithra Wanniarchchi roundly told him off for his surreptitious attempts to push his devolution ideas into the camp, he feels that the Pohottuwa doors are forever closed for him. 

However, if by chance the present Administration gives him an ambassadorship, preferably to a country that snows, Dr Jayatilleka in his true opportunist style would effortlessly change his tune. He has done so many times before and to repeat yet again would not be an issue.

If such a chance dawns on him under this Administration, then he would not be worried about the overrepresentation of Sinhalese, Buddhists or military or the task forces bypassing elected officials. Then, he would be passionately arguing that as Sri Lanka is the only isle with the unique Sinhala Buddhist identity, whether the adjective should be Sinhala” buddhists or Buddhist” Sinhala. Unfortunately for Dr Jayatilleka, both this Administration and most probably the Premadasa’s camp know that to have him on board would be to deal with another Hoole.

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