Colombo, Jaffna, Media and Communications, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance, Trincomalee

“There is a right way and a wrong way to use violence”: Interview with Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

“There will be times when organised violence has to be exercised as a last resort. People will resist with violence. States will use violence against various foes. But there is a right way and a wrong way to use violence.”

Watch Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka‘s first video interview, conducted over Skype, after presenting his credentials as Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations at Geneva and other International Organizations in Switzerland on 6th June 2007.

Topics discussed in our interview ranged from future scenarios arising from the capture of Killinochchi last week and media freedom to international relations and the timbre of democratic governance in Sri Lanka today. You can download the video in full here.

Noting that Dayan is open to and regularly engages with comments very critical of his writing and worldview on Groundviews, I allowed Dayan to respond at length to each of my questions without any interruption. Readers are encouraged to engage with Dayan’s comments through questions and comments of their own.

  • Under Dog

    Whenever violence is condoned (in any form), it tends to spread like a fungus and you get incidents like this:

  • Yarlpanathaan

    From a disgruntled young (Tamil) citizen (from Jaffna)

    First regarding your recent piece on Lasantha's killing:

    This clearance from attribution you seek is something that the LTTE can/has also used in the past to distance themselves from killings attributed to them. Eg Kadirgamar. Would you be ok with this logic that you are propounding applying to the LTTE as well? It is indeed very ironic that defenders of this govt have to use LTTE type logic to defend themselves.

    The timing was perfect Mr Ambassador, because with the national mood being supportive of the land gathering that is taking place it is easy to get away with this sort of stuff. And yes only the unpatriotic colomboites proetst. (oh by the way i have been living in Colombo for the past three years -with a visa granted by your government- and i must say that most colomboites are supportive of the govt and its war be rest assured- even the upper middle class.Those against the regime are indeed a very microscopic community. Very very small than you imagine it to be. I wonder however what logic you give why these people should follow the majority's logic)

  • Yarlpanathaan 2

    Now on your Excellency's interview with Sanjana:

    You seem to argue as i have noticed over many of your writings and interviews, (cloaked in academic veneer/verbouse) that we should wait for the war to end for all this to stop. And until then that these are excusable. For a war weary Tamil citizen like me from Jaffna why should i believe you that the war will be over (you possibly will be astrological with this so i wont pursue this) or alternatively that everything will be prosperous after the LTTE is wiped out. You said in your interview with Sanjana that we should be happy that this govt has agreed to the provincial council as the devolution unit and hasn't gone below that threshold. You do suggest that we Tamils should be happy with what is being offered arent you?

    You also suggest in your interview with Sanjana that under proportional electoral politics that Tamils will be able to influence National politics. Firstly, I dont know why you are saying this unless you are rejecting devolution and saying 'come let's pay parliamentary politics'. Secondly, dont you see that this has failed with Muslim politics? Unless the minorities remain as a voting bloc behind one single party (which is not going to be possible) influencing policies in a proportionally elected central legislature or executive would be impossible. Numbers still matter Mr Ambassador. Finally, listening to Tamil parties are always going to be anathema to Sinhala politics and whoever is in opposition is going to use it. The 'sell out' phenomenon that toppled SWRD will alwys be there, Mr Ambassador. Hence autonomy is the only way to go. I mean Kethesh would have told you a lot about this. As he clearly says land and security are the defining issues of tamil grievances. These have to be sorted out for their to be meaningful devolution.

  • Yarlpanathan 3

    Final word Mr Ambassador, whenever you are asked about HR violations in Sri Lanka you say that we are better than what we were before. The world has changed compared to what we were in the 80s and 90s Mr Ambassador. Do we still need to be judged by those standards of atrocities that took place in that era? You are almost saying: be happy that July 83 didnt repeat itself. Well Mr Ambassador only if you kill many in a day will it hurt your conscience, slow genocide doesnt hurt your conscience. It hurts mine. What happened in Jaffna between late 2006 to mid 2007 where i lost many of my friends who were up and coming youth activists, I submit to you as an evidence of this genocidal war.

    I know you as a person who stood for the right to self determination of the Tamil people when you were with Varatharajaperumal and Kethesh. When and why did the change happen Mr Ambassador? Is LTTE your only excuse for what you and your liberal friend Rajiva Wijesinghe now espouse? You once called this war a democratic bourgeoisie revolution. When did your leftist instincts lead you to support bourgeoisie revolution. As a public intellectual(?) would you care to clarify?

    • Dayan Jayatilleka

      " ….When and why did the change happen Mr Ambassador?" you ask.

      "The change happened" at exactly the same time and for exactly the same reasons that it did for every single Tamil militant group other than the LTTE, especially those groups of the Left — namely the Indo-Lanka accord and the Provinicial Councils, on the one hand, and the butchery perpetrated by the LTTE, which had degenerated into a fascist force, on the other. This historic turning point has been explained by Siddharthan and Douglas Devananda, many times, in their interviews.

      As for your question as to when my leftist instincts led me to support bourgeois revolution, well that was after I had read, as a teenage lad, Marx's Communist Manifesto, Lenin's Two Tactics and Mao's On New Democracy which taught me to support bourgeois revolution as the most progressive outcome when socialist revolution is no longer or not yet possible.

  • Santha Fernando

    To:Ground View News
    From:Santha Fernando
    Subject:Sanjay Haththotuwa’s interview with Hon Dayan Jayatilleke on
    06. 01. 2009
    Date:15. 01. 2009

    Dayan Jayatilake dodges Sanjay Haththotuwe’s incisive questions.
    First of all my sincere thanks to both Hon. Dayan Jayatilleke (DJ) and Mr. Sanjay Haththotuwe (S.H) for sparing their time to initiate this dialogue. S.H. did extremely well to say in cricketing parlance in “bowling” questions with precision line and length. Even with S.Hs precision line and length a veteran hitter of the caliber of D.J could have played at least some unorthodox strokes. But from the very beginning of the dialogues D.J was stuck for words not being able to be his self being restrained of letting out sinister dynamics playing in Sri Lanka which he prettily well understands. He did this for very obvious reasons blatantly betraying his commendable academic credentials perhaps sinking down to the levels of a crafty politician.

  • Santha Fernando

    Dayan Jayatilleke clean bowled with “Mihin Air” affair
    D.J. really met his “waterloo” when H.S clean bowled him with a googly or perhaps a doozra when he raised the “Mihin Air” issue. Precisely the question was how could a President so keen consummating the humanitarian operation he started which requires lots of money ever think of squandering enormous amount of country’s wealth on a frivolous perhaps vainly self aggrandizing venture like “Mihin Air”. His answer “finance and economics is not my domain” to tell the least is utterly deceitful.

  • Santha Fernando

    Dayan Jayatillleke is twisting the truth
    Earlier in the interview he said that he is defending the Mahinda Rajapakse government internationally only when he could do so strictly according to his own conscience. However, when D. J. was asked about his reflections on the negative international opinion on Sri Lanka he took cover under the protext that the dominat international opinion is not the real international opinion and qualified his statement by saying that Russia, China and India are not critical of Sri Lanka. All these three countries are beset with their own ethnic / national conflicts which they themselves are suppressing militarily. All these three countries are suppressing their minorities militarily blatantly violating the human rights of the minorities. So one cannot logically expect these countries to stand-up for the rights of the minorities in another country. The possition taken by the European Union, Canada, Norway, Japan are strong enough indictments against the government of Sri Lanka.

  • Santha Fernando

    Has not Sri Lanka degenerated in its H.R. record since 2006
    What is to be noted here is that Sri Lanka made gigantic strides in improving its standards of respect for human rights and rights of the minorities from 1994 to 2005. Systems and mechanisms were put in place to ensure the respect for human rights. However from 2006 onwards the incumbent government have under the cover of the war deliberately and deceitfully rolled back those systems and mechanisms. This is what the international community is concerned about. In fact D. J. knows pretty well that at present as far as the civilian and political rights are concerned Sri Lanka is ruled under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and the Emergency Regulation (ER) which are draconian. Tamils in hordes are arrested and detained for inordinately long periods of time simply for their “wrong” ethnic identity – been born in the northern or eastern province being the only offence they have committed.

  • Santha Fernando

    The detainees are kept under utterly inhumane conditions. In fact the signs of a genocide are emerging. Even economic and social rights of all peoples of Sri Lanka are being violated with blatant impunity. This is quite evident from the string of Supreme Court Judgments pronounced in the recent past ordering the executive to provide redress to people against unfair taxes. This is the three year track record of human rights of the Rajapakse regime.

  • Santha Fernando

    President is ruling the country like a bandit
    To say very precisely the President is ruling the country like a bandit without caring the Constitution for a topence. Can D.J say that the President is ruling the country in accordance with its Constitution. There are some saying that the President enjoys the privilege of immunity from indictment even if he violates the Constitution. But the position of President derives power from the Constitution. President is the creature of the creator Constitution. When the creature nullifies the creator the creature him or her self cease to exist. In short the President is ruling the country without a Constitution, thus illegally. Because by his violating it the Constitution has ceased to exist. Anybody who exercise power illegally is a thug or a criminal who has to be prosecuted judicially.

  • Santha Fernando

    As a intellectual Dayan JAyatilleke should be at least honest to himself.
    We hope that D.J still knows that he is not only a intellectual but an academic too. As an academic in its broadest meaning he is expected to guide not only his students but the general public of Sri Lanka and its leaders in the right direction and not to tell the “king” that he (king) is garbed in majestic clothes when the king is in fact stark naked’ for petty material gain or for the fear of getting bumped of like Lasantha. D.J. please be honest to yourself. Then even if you are bumped of the innocent people will walk pass your grave in admiration. Otherwise people will spit at your face as a scoundrel while you are still alive for trucking with a murderous dictatorship. But of course that will happen only when the dictator is no more. Remember the dictator will fall one day sooner than later.

  • dayan jayatilleka

    Reading this I figured out two things about santha fernando. firstly, he has nothing else to do but blog. secondly, whatever else he is, he is not an academic.

    • Dil

      I think it is evident to a person of average intelligence like me that the Ambassador has no qualms representing a corrupt government and being under the leadership of a very obviously corrupt foreign minister to begin with. I dont think you have to be an academic to figure that out just as much as you dont have to study music to appreciate music. Some people have this overwhelming desire to be in the limelight and for some even representing a repressive and corrupt government is the only route to it. Thats what it seems like to me.

      • Dil,
        Firstly, I am not here to defent anyone – least of all Dayan, who as well all know is quite capable of defending himself.
        I wanted to make the point however, that all of us have our virtues and vicesand it is unfair to assume "guilt by association". The country and even the world at large needs the talents, knowledge and core competencies of educated, honest, capable men and women at work especially where those qualities are found lacking. Kadirgamar didn’t serve a completely honest and blemishless government, but he made the government that he served a bit more honest and was a counter weight to its blemishes. Men and women, who are better than the average, make the average a bit better – and often, such is the nature of progress.

        • Dil

          Thanks for the positive view point, will reflect on it. I confess I dont know much about the "Ambassador", he appears to be educated but then SWRD too was educated and he messed up big time. If the general view is that he is honest and capable and hopefully works with intergrity and passion for the country lets hope for the best. Just that from the writing & the video he appeared to be dodgy and reflecting on past photos and books published by him, kind of like"when I ope my lips let no dog bark" type, but I will consider your viewpoint and attempt to look at it from that perspective…..lets see and hopefully these academic types will mend fences and raise the bar, instead of basking in the adulation of high positions.

          • Dil,
            Like you, I am not yet convinced that we can let Dayan be the sole trustee of the task at hand, and i personally do not have any testimonies to confirm or challenge his honesty – therefore I make no judgements. I have noticed however that he has managed to keep his integrity in tact – even if that is by avoiding the contentious issues with somewhat silly excuses like "[finance and economics] is not my domain". It is not difficult to empathise though because he is compelled to self-censor his speech because his superiors do not have the maturity or self-assurance to be able to tolerate any form of criticism.
            But as a private citizen, I appreciate the fact that Dayan has chosen to participate in an open forum such as this and face criticism (and even personal insults) when he can easily choose not to (but it's unlike him to avoid or back off from such).
            Dil, please don’t feel any obligation to take my views under advise, but I am saving my angers and frustrations to be vented out on the day people like Dr Silva come online and personally see no point in venting it out on Dayan when that time could be better spend in engaging him in constructive conversations.

  • kichchi

    In a democracy, the Government is by the people, for the people and of the people. The people elect a few people (in Sri Lanka people elect a party) to govern the country on their behalf according to the constitution WITH ALL ITS AMENDMENTS that is in force.

    Is the country being administered according to the Constitution or just ” certain parts of the Constitution” that suits the administrators and totally ignoring the other parts of the same Constitution.

    As Shantha Fernando points out it is TOTALLY WRONG. The Administrators must either to act in accordance with the Constitution IN FULL or reject the Constitution IN FULL. If rejected in full, it means that the Administrators are administering the country without a MANDATE FROM THE PEOPLE.

    Then it becomes an ILLEGAL ADMINISTRATION.

    Then the country is not governed by a LEGALLY ELECTED GOVERNMENT.