Colombo, Diplomacy, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance

A brief response to a charge of mercenary intellectualism

[Editors note: This is a response by Dayan Jayatilleke to a recently published article by Prof. Peter Schalk of Uppsala University, Sweden, who identified four western educated individuals hired by the Government of Sri Lanka to defend Colombo’s decisions and criticisms from the West, labelling them “mercenary intellectuals”. In the spirit of engagement, Groundviews invited two of the four mentioned in the article, no strangers to regular readers of this site, to respond. One politely declined. Prof.  Schalk’s article on Tamilnet is here. If you are in Sri Lanka, where Tamilnet continues to be blocked by all ISPs, click on the proxy here to read the article.]

Prof Schalk should spend his time analysing how the armed movement and the leadership he thought were militarily so superlative as to be undefeatable by the Sri Lankan state’s armed forces, were decimated earlier this year. When we last met at breakfast at the faculty club of Georgetown University in late 2005 I had just told the audience of the seminar we attended and Prof. Schalk personally, that by any international standard the LTTE’s strategic achievment was unimpressive and that this time they would lose.

In this article, he clearly caricatures me in category or type 2. As an academic he should not be so careless. I challenge him to quote with sources, one – just ONE – use by me of “filthy …language” in my “capacity as a diplomatic representative of Sri Lanka”. He says my language “alienated him completely from a sophisticated diplomatic and academic-critical discourse.” Since I have just now finished reading a review in the latest issue of the Journal of Latin American Studies, Cambridge, in which a Brit academic says my Fidel book “makes a profound philosophical argument” and uses as a counterpoint, the great thinker Alasdair MacIntyre, I am hardly likely to be fazed by the prospect of “complete alienation from academic-critical discourse”. Prof. Schalk, on the other hand, has earned the reputation of a slightly eccentric fellow traveller of the Tigers.

Prof. Schalk also says that ” in international diplomatic circles [I am] known as “Bully”. Now which circles would those be? The states that unanimously elected me Chairperson of the Inter-Governmental working Group on the Effective Implementation of the UN’s flagship anti-racism document , the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action? Maybe I bullied over hundred states into so electing me, after having been proposed by South Africa? Maybe he means the powerful EU, which inclufes NATO members, which I somehow “bullied” into defeat at the Special session? Or the 29 states, including Russia, China, India, South Africa, Brazil, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Cuba — hardly eminently “bulliable” states which I could have “bullied” into voting for Sri Lanka?

  • Thaaraka

    Great Response Dr Dayan. I have reading Prof. Peter Schalk articles on Tamilnet insulting Sinhala intellectuals again and again. We may be bad but can not be this bad to shut up and do nothing.

  • David Lundsson, Sweden

    Mr. Jayatilekke is another mouth piece of the Sri Lankan government. What Mr. Schalk has written in a brilliant article is absolutely right.

    I hope that more people like Mr. Schalk will continue to speak the truth about how Sri Lankan government officials and non-officials are trying to hide the violence which is taking place in Sri Lanka for decades.

  • Off the Cuff

    Mr. David Lundsson, Sweden apparently ignores the fact that Mr. Schalk calls the LTTE a resistance movement.

    That Acts of Terrorism were perpetrated on a defenseless civilian population for three decades is forgotten. Only excuse for that would be Dementia

    Would he and Schalk apply the same yardstick to Al Qaeda attacks on western soil I wonder?

    Their inability to identify Mercenary Intellectuals employed by the Extreme Tamil nationalists robs their views of any credibility

    They seem to be licking their wounds which they never expected to receive when they embarked on the special mission at the UNHRC.

    I am glad we had people like DJ and the un named intellectuals who were capable of defeating the UNHRC campaign against SL

  • D.Jayatilleke may be an intellectual in UN circles, but back home he espouses the cause of the Rajapakse regime which oppresses tamils. This regime kicked him out of his UN posting,but he inexplicably, goes on justifying it.
    Even in UN, he proposed that Britain should hold a referendum on the monarchy ! This was hilarious to all representatives. All who lived,studied & worked in UK know that the monarchy is held in high esteem by britons. The monarchy reigns but does not rule.The monarchy is most powerful because it denies power to those who would misuse power. Britons,on special occasions,toast the Queen. They do not toast (or bootlick) any politician.
    Now Jayatillke is searching for a person to lead the tamils!

  • Heshan

    Dayan Jayatilleka represents the FAILURE of the Sinhalese intellectual establishment to keep the State in check. While it may be the case that such intellectuals have limited capacity to influence the doings of the State, nevertheless, as a matter of principle, at least they must CONDEMN the State for its failures, and in that condemnation, be VOCIFEROUS. Dayan Jayatilleka reminds me of those German scientists who, out of loyalty, worked for the Nazi State, despite knowing that fascism would only bring about the destruction of Germany. Let no one dare say that CONFORMITY is for FEEBLE minds. Dayan J. is the penultimate example.

  • punitham

    How many people can there be to felicitate Dayan when there are not enough people to worry about ineffective intergovernmental bodies that are platforms for human rights violators to gang up together:


    We’ll have world peace and prosperity when the gang decides to let intergovernmental bodies function effectively. Hmmmm…. the ‘gang’ should become saints for this to happen.

  • punitham


    It’s OK for the oppressers and bystanders.
    But there’s no future for the oppressed.

  • kamala

    Over a long period of time Peter Schalk glorified the Tigers, without any concern for the suffering they inflicted on the Tamil people. The “intellectual” backing he gave the Tigers was irresponsible, if not criminal, and has to be judged in isolation of the evils of the SL regimes (i.e. SL gov being evil does NOT justify Tamils being cruel to fellow Tamils, nor does it give the Tamil side a blank cheque to go and kill civilians in Singala villages — something so basic that PS failed to grasp).

  • Dhiraj

    I read the article by Prof. Peter Schalk on Tamilnet and came to the conclusion that he is a racist. They way he speaks about the Sinhalese in his latest article (and is older ones) is pretty disgusting. His only claim to fame seems to be advocating Tamil racism and speaking at “Tamil Eelam” conferences. If I was Dayan, I wouldn’t have even written a reply to his article. Although the above post is brilliant. Prof. Peter Schalk has to sing for his supper and he has to sing louder and harder for his supper now that the LTTE has been taken out. We shouldn’t pay too much attention to him.

  • Mike

    It is a fact Sri Lanka is being governed since independence by politicians who practice majority-racism.
    It is also a fact there are self-proclaimed “Sri Lankan intellectuals” who justify mass murder and terrorism by Sri Lanka governments, just for livelihood. Take for instance, the actions by Dayan J. in protecting the criminals who casued the death of 20K civilians and the appalling detention of another 300K civilians. He claims success in the special session and also preaches to tamils, while never acknowledging the massacre of civilians or the venomous detention. Another example is that of the self-proclaimed UTHR-J intellectuals in burying the massacres and the detentions by Sri Lankan governments, by constantly invoking LTTE actions, again just for livelihood.

  • Dayan Jayatilleka

    David Lundsson,

    Where’s the quote demonstrating the use of ‘ filthy ‘ language?


    Check your facts. I didn’t ask for the abolition of the monarchy; I asked for a refrendum to be held on the subject of a written Constition, preferably Republican. This was in retaliation for what David Miliband had said in writing on the 60th anniversary of our Independence; a text in which he didn’t even congratulate us out of politeness, which is the standard form. When I said what I did at the UK’s UPR, tongue partly in cheek, if the reaction of the others what what you say it is, at least one state should have spoken up in support of the monarchy and gently ticking me off . No one did. Not even the UK’s allies. you know why? Even the US and French were smiling, since they’ve disposed of this anachronistic institution ages ago and instituted a republic. Know something else? the Universal Periodic Review report is mediated by three states, chosen by the drawing of lots. They form a troika that deletes inappropriate references. Mine was included in the UK’s report as a suggestion.


    Let’s have Beyond Borders or YA TV arrange a debate so you and I can debate in front of an audience and let the less feeble mind win. And something tells me it ain’t gonna be you !

  • Heshan

    Dayan J:

    I said you are guilty of conformity, not intellectual ineptitude. The point of being educated is to go beyond such conformity. In a sense, one can forgive the rural masses for their stupidity… the intellectuals, however, are a different story.

  • wijayapala

    Hi Heshan,

    I said you are guilty of conformity, not intellectual ineptitude. The point of being educated is to go beyond such conformity.

    Are you a conformist?

  • Bardo

    Professor Schalk is an eccentric, attention seeking academic nobody, largely unknown outside Tamil circles. I’m surprised that Dayan should even pay any attention to comments by the likes of him.