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?