A former Ambassador speaks out: Interview with Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

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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.

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka from Young Asia Television on Vimeo.

  • Rohan

    WOW! ‘General’ Fonseka? Gota would be mad at you forever for this label.

  • L de Silva

    Listening to Dayan at a recent public forum organised by Rajive W, made one realise, this guy sure is an excellent spin – doctor if there ever was one, he may be able to fool the international community with his verboseness and pseudo-intellectualism but certainly not all the people all the time (at least not some of us back home)! Pity, at one point this writer had some respect for him and then some!

  • Jayalath

    Ok , we undestand the incident . You have lost the job and every thing you held because they did not agree with your comments and ideas , this is not some thing very much new to us, because this the Game in Sri Lanka and south Asia , you must agree with me . Last week was revealed in India nearly half of the cabinet Ministers have corruption or murdering charges and I don’t know how much if considered in Sri Lanka , you may know that better than me . ( some time 75% ) so this is our Legacy . If it is not our LEGACY please correct me , because you are a DR. That you may see things better . ( according to general the people’ opinion )

    As I pointed out when a new gov is elected (party, blue or green ) they have been carrying a thugs load with them to batter losing party supporters and bunch of intelectuals who are specialists in political folk singing to brain wash the ignorant vote base ( people like you ) and as soon as they came in what they do is to shut up people like you send as embassadors Unless they know when people question you regarding the governance that they elected that you can’t keep quiet . Some intellectual supporters of course do not open mouth because then they lost the game , so they are waitng untill is perceived the next gov , ( like people are waitng to see the moon to celebrate muslim festival after fast period ) then they start to dismentle and move into next gov to sing their nasty piece of songs .

    So , my concern is , and unsung question to you directly and I expect a straight forward answer . When will you think that in Sri Lanka one day will have a government with rational governing bodies to over come problems that you have raised after few years in governing. And to your perspective which political party or politicians are capable in the present day or none alive at the moment to do so ?

    Because we are suffering enough since 77 , we have a good progress in certain departments but in general , the future is bleak. It seems many more conflicts on its way .we must stop this nonsense one after another and we need some thing once for ever , therefore I would request to you stop this game and tries to elect a better gov in the name of this country . Not base on personal pleasure and assets.

    • Jayalath

      It should be correct as they are waiting untill the next gov is perceived

  • Patriot

    I think the single “indelible global memory” that was left after the war, has to be the execution scene documented in the Channel 4 video.

    This visceral scene, of a helpless individual, bound and on his knees being summarily executed, has started to manifest itself in popular culture in a way that was not seen before 2009. I can think of two hollywood movie scenes that seem to have been influenced by the channel 4 video. The first is the BumbleBee execution scene in Transformers DOTM. The second more recent movie is “Looper”.

  • Aney Apochchi!

    [Edited out] The simple reality is that he has been an integral part of the Rajapaksa team and no combination of gymnastics will EVER take that justified label away from his culpability for what that murderous and corrupt lot have done in and to this country.

    THAT IS THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF IT!

  • warforpeacehypocrite

    The sinhala intellectual likes of Dayan J are part of the problem. At least the BodiBalaSena explicitly express their chauvinism than hiding behind sophisticated jargon. It is well known that he defended this regime and the genocidal war by the state and now he may be little unhappy that this regime doesn’t heed his 13th amendment call. Perhaps this former ambassador could enlighten us all what part of a just war this could be part of:
    quoted from hrw report

    “The army made us strip completely in front of the children. All the women were made to walk around the soldiers in a circle. The soldiers were laughing at us. All the women were then raped in front of everyone. My daughter and I were raped in front of her children. I was raped in front of my grandchildren.

    After about two hours, the soldiers asked a naked boy and girl, who didn’t know each other, to hugeach other at gunpoint. As they hugged due to fear, they were shot in front of our eyes. I can still picture that moment. They then separated all young boys and girls from us and took them away (they never came back). We heard screams, wailings, and shootings continuously. During the time, we were in the forest, we heard men and women crying and the sound of gunshots
    constantly. We were too scared to utter a word. We were not given any food or water for the first two days. On the third day, we were given dhal curry and rice. We were all transferred to Mirusuvil camp [on the Jaffna peninsula] after five days.”