A former Ambassador speaks out: Interview with Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka
In his first interview for public television in Sri Lanka upon his return to the country after his stint as Ambassador to France and UNESCO in Paris, Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka talked about a number of issues related to governance, foreign policy, devolution, the growing Islamophobia in the country, his work with youth and the critique that he is “a skilful, eloquent, erudite proponent… of the status quo”.
We begin by exploring why he submits, in a recent article to the media, that Sri Lanka suffers from a ‘garrison State delusion‘. He notes that once the war was won, the administration’s stripes – both neo-conservative and ethno-populist – has led to a model of over-securitisation and quasi-occupation.
Given what Dr. Jayatilleka sees as a catastrophic failure of foreign and strategic policy in Sri Lanka, he then looks at where the country could head into over 2013 and beyond, given failing, strained relationships with India and the United States, a seriously flawed understanding of our relationship with China and the almost complete erosion of soft-power post-war.
He then goes on to explain why his support of the 13th Amendment fits in with his support for President Premedasa, who opposed the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord and inter alia, brought about legislation that wrenched back devolution and undermined it.
We then talk about the lack of progress of meaningful reconciliation in Sri Lanka. Dr. Jayatilleka dismisses the National Action Plan [for the implementation of some of the recommendations of the LLRC] – calling it a “National Inaction Plan” – and says that the Government is heading in the wrong direction vis-a-vis the implementation of that which was in the LLRC’s Final Report. He also touches on the thorny issue of how Tamils felt at the end of the war, in comparison to the collective memory of the Holocaust.
We then go into a critique of Dr. Jayatilleka’s body of thought and work by Michael Colin Cooke who in A Man for all political Seasons: Dr Dayan Jayatilleka avers,
“Dr Jayatilleka exemplifies this to perfection: a skilful, eloquent, erudite proponent (i.e. spear bearer) of the status quo. Nothing like the brave revolutionary and intellectual thinkers he is so fond of quoting: Che, Fidel and Galeano; individuals who spoke the truth to power on behalf of the poor and dispossessed.”
The interview ends with Dr. Jayatilleka noting that the youth in Sri Lanka, in the diaspora and those who are nomadic constitute a major source of hope for a more just, democratic and peaceful Sri Lanka.