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To my mind, the more valuable debate in the Sri Lankan media would be over how external threats should realistically be countered, the armed forces best defended, national sovereignty best protected in the inclement international weather, and the historic military victory made permanent.

- Dayan Jayatilleka,

Accountability, Reconciliation, Democracy 

Lanka Independent, July 22, 2011

All our images are crumbling down one by one once and for all. To understand Egypt, we are given with Slavoj Zizek. To understand why Sartre called Che ‘the most complete man of his time’, we have to read Dayan Jayatilleka. To Jayatilleka, Sartre’s ‘most complete man of his time’ is identical with Nietzsche’s ‘higher man’ (‘incorrectly rendered as Superman’, asserts Jayatilleka. Nietzsche, however, makes a difference between higher man and superman). In words sopped with philosophical sophistication, Jayatilleka introduces Che to us as the man of ‘pure individualism’ as well as the martyr for ‘collective-universalist cause’. And he wrote this in none other than 'Granma', the Official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (Granma International, November 12-13, 2007).

Just ten days back, I happened to read Slavoj Zizek’s interview (A Life in Writing: Slavoj Zizek, The Guardian, June 15, 2011). The man who writes preface to Mao’s contradictions, the man who allays the fears of the western countries apprehensive about the revolt in Egypt that it is not a revolt of the fundamentalists, and the man who defends Marxist violence in In Defense of Lost Causes, finally says that it is an illusion to hold that capitalism is falling. "A lot of what I write is blah, blah, bullshit, a diversion from the 700-page book on Hegel I should be writing," he bares.

Dayan Jayatilleka 300 What the writings of these two intellectuals imply to us is that we should hereafter make our own evaluations about such people rather from evidences of their actual practices than from the introductions of their publishers; that whatever they write about the grammar and literature of revolution is all bullshit.

Just after the large scale annihilation at Mullivaikkal in May 2009, the defense minister of Sri Lanka, Kodapaya Rajapakse ordered Major General Sarvendra Silva directly over phone to do whatever possible to wipe out all remaining sparing no one (Channel 4, United Kingdom, 27 July 2011). Women fighters got their breasts severed; people were beheaded; tongues were chopped off; children were killed ruthlessly; women were stripped and raped; 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed. It is this perverted Sri Lankan Army that we should defend, pleads Jayatilleka.

He has also written a book on Fidel Castro and his ethics of violence in 2007 (Fidel’s Ethics of Violence: The Moral Dimension of the Political Thought of Fidel Castro, Pluto Press, 2007).  The wrapper of the world renowned publisher’s book introduces Jayatilleka as a fighter of the Sri Lankan underground movement, and as Sri Lanka's Ambassador & Permanent Representative to the United Nations and also as Vice President of the UN Human Rights Council. My images about the leftist publishers are also cracking now.

According to Jayatilleka, Lenin justified violence for political reasons; he did not have an ethical perspective on violence. Mao, who used violence in Cultural Revolution to achieve his goals, did not have any ethical perspective on violence or rules of conduct. Neither did Polpot. Sartre and Fanon had the ethic-free tendency of extolling violence justifying the ultimate ends; they were indifferent to the means. Thus, according to Jayatilleka, the entire Marxist tradition did not have any ethical perspective or rules of conduct regarding violence.

The only persons, according to Jayatilleka, who had ethical stand and rules of conduct in the entire revolutionary history, were Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Such rules were followed in Congo and Cuban revolutions. And that was the great contribution of Castro as a political thinker to the world, says Jayatilleka.

What was that ethic? What were those rules of conduct followed by Castro? That no harm should be inflicted on unarmed civilians was his ethic. The lives of innocent civilians were sacred was his ethic.That prisoners of war should be treated with dignity was his rule of conduct. Had Castro violated such rules, the imperialists would have put him before the UN Human Rights Council, claims Jayatilleka. Castro did not commit any war crime; did not kill unarmed civilians. That was his ethical perspective on violence and that was his rule of conduct, says Jayatilleka.

It is this humanist intellectual criticizing the Marxist tradition of violence from Lenin to Fanon, who asks us to defend the Sri Lankan army that declared a no war zone intentionally to make people move there and then killed them ruthlessly. He asks us to defend the ‘vampires’ who raped the women prisoners and then cut off their breasts. (The Sri Lankan army officer who gave testimony to the atrocities in Channel 4 called the army forces as ‘vampires’ :  27 July 2011). The army that blindfolded and shot the surrendered fighters to death should be defended! The army that bombarded hospitals and killed innocent children should be defended!

Regi Srivardana, the literary critic who denounces the text worshipping postmodernists and to whom I have great respect, rightly called this Dayan Jayatilleka as the last Stalinist of Sri Lanka. Jayatilleka’s tenure as the Sri Lankan representative to the UN during 2007-2009 betrayed the cruel side of his face. His article on Che and his book on Castro helped in misleading the leftist Latin American countries to support the Sri Lankan government. It is unfortunate that Castro and Chavez did not ask themselves on what account was it possible for their enemies to bring Sri Lanka to the human rights council for interrogation when they could not succeed to do the same with Cuba or Venezuela. Deplorable as well was their support to Saddam Hussein and Muammar Kaddafi who killed their own people. 

It is one of the fundamental qualities of the pseudo intellectuals to wipe out all the possibilities of ethical sense making and make use of the mere words to promote themselves. Jayatilleka has done this very strategically in his article on Accountability, Reconciliation, Democracy (The title itself omits the conjunction ‘and’ to avoid any connotation of interrelatedness of the three terms), wherein he intentionally and incorrectly pulled in the erstwhile socialist countries to defend non-accountability.

The issue of accountability and the demand for its implementation in the case of Sri Lanka did not just fall down from any far away planet all of a sudden. As the war was going on intensively, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon visited Sri Lanka. The memorandum of understanding between the Secretary General and the Sri Lankan President emphasized accountability on the part of the Sri Lankan Government. It was towards the implementation of that memorandum that a team of experts comprising three legal experts was constituted to advice the Secretary General. It is on the basis of the report by that team that the UN and other countries now demand the Sri Lankan government to take accountability. Reconciliation is not possible without accountability and that is the stand of most of the countries. The political logic behind this is that democracy will not be possible without accountability and reconciliation.

Jayatilleka’s assumptions about democracy and accountability are as follows: ‘Democratization has no single trend. There are various trends. In the overwhelming number of democratic transitions, there were no accountability hearings with regard to the conduct of the militaries of those countries. On the other hand, an amnesty or a pledge not to rake up accountability issues was part of the process.’

Note that Jayatilleka has put ‘Democracy’ in the title of the article, but has chosen ‘Democratization’ for discussion – the process. He starts with ‘democratization’; then goes on with ‘trend toward democracy’; then makes it plural, ‘trends’; then makes it ‘universal trends’; then says that some of these trends cancel out each other or combine to ‘modify the outcome’; then he appeals for ‘authentic adherence to pluralism’; then says that this adherence ‘has not only a domestic but also a global dimension’; then asks us to recognize ‘plurality of global trends, such as democratization’.

Herein lies his trick: Put ‘democracy’ (ideal/end/goal) in the title. Begin discussion with ‘democratization’ (process/means). In the end, make it an example, one among the many (‘such as’). In between make everything still more abstract (‘trends’ instead of means, ‘outcome’ instead of democracy, ‘domestic’ instead of Sri Lankan).

If an uninformed flies with Jayatilleka up in the abstract air, he/she is more likely to come down to earth to believe that whatever that has happened in Sri Lanka under the Rajapakshe regime is only democratization, and that this has happened only as part of global trends. Means are to be justified by the ends, of course with variations (‘modify the outcome’). Sri Lankan democracy will be different in the pluralist world. Accept plural trends, accept variant outcomes, and accept the atrocities of the Sri Lankan Army.

Having implied these, he summons the ‘great waves of democratization’– in a little paragraph, he surfs on wave after wave up to the fifth. One wonders if Sri Lanka is experiencing the sixth wave.

Thereafter he talks about accountability. As said earlier, he emphasizes that there were no accountability hearings with regard to the conduct of the militaries and that there was always an amnesty or a pledge not to rake up accountability issues.

He does not bother to inquire whether those militaries were for or against democracy. Neither does he have any inclination to look for the reasons and mechanisms behind such amnesty compacts. After all, democratic states need armies. One wonders if armies need democracy.

More starkly he states, ‘democracy and accountability did not go together; more often than not, it was a question of democracy OR accountability’. Now he cunningly leads his argument to convert accountability issues in the process of ‘democratization’ into accountability of ‘democracy’. Democracy and accountability do not go together! If you want democracy, give up accountability or if you want accountability, give up democracy!

There is no single democracy, but a plurality of democracies. One may reject another. Hence one should not hold that democracy is similar in nature. What this implies is that what is democracy for you is not democracy for me. As democracy does not have a consensual meaning, don’t preach us about democracy. Even if you talk about democracy, the issue of accountability was not taken up in the countries that experienced democratic waves, particularly in the Soviet Union and east Europe after 1989. There were interrogations in those countries about the atrocities inflicted by the armies. Hence, democracy and accountability are not congruent.

This is what is called political indirection. There were mass killings of the Jews during the Second World War. When the war was over, there were Nuremberg trials. The Stalinist excesses were interrogated even during the Khrushchev rule. Under Gorbachev, those documents were made open for public access under Glasnost and Perestroika. Russia made a formal apology to Poland for the killings of thousands of the Polish by the Russian army in Katyn. The transitions happened in the Soviet and east Europe were peaceful without bloodshed. Without unleashing the army on the people, the communists relinquished power. In the racist South Africa, accountability was made a precondition for reconciliation and democracy. See how artfully Jayatilleka distorts history! All this he does in the name of (postmodern) pluralism! What a revolutionary Marxist humanism!

Next, he says that reconciliation and accountability will become antithetical to each other. One has to choose either reconciliation or accountability. If you insist on accountability, there will be no reconciliation. In the cases of Chile and Bangladesh, it was possible to open inquiries only after 40 years, says Jayatilleka. I don’t understand if he conceals history or is just ignorant. The writings of such authors as Arial Dorfman and Isabel Allende, documentary films like Patricia Guzman’s The Battle of  Chile, the debates on the revolutionary poet Pablo Neruda - all these had been campaigning for interrogations against the tyrant Pinochet. Nixon and Mao were protecting him, and later Margaret Thatcher. These are all the everlasting memories of any revolutionary.

The atrocities inflicted by Pakistan on Bangladesh continue to remain as unhealed wounds in the memories of the Bangladeshis. Writers of that country came out with many books them. Film makers documented them in many films. The roots and the history of the Bangladeshi cinema are in the price those people paid for their liberation. With his artful writings Jayatilleka asks for surrendering of popular feelings to the intentions of the rulers.

He says that Sri Lanka has persistent external threats. Though the Tigers have been militarily defeated, their support base abroad and the organizational structure could not be wiped out. Just because these forces are faraway, it cannot be said that there is no threat to Sri Lanka, says Jayatilleka. Such threats must be taken into consideration and the army must be kept strong. These enemies of the state will do everything to isolate Sri Lanka. So the country has real threats for its integrity and sovereignty.

Tamil nationalism refuses to regard the existing constitutional provisions for provincial autonomy. What has happened is a popular war of national liberation and reunification. The army has done this in the interests of the nation. This is a legal and just war. The experiences of the Middle East point to the importance of the role of armed forces. It is not possible to conduct any internal or external enquiry about the conduct of the army that has just waged a necessary and nationally popular war.

Thus what has happened is a war of national liberation, says Jayatilleka. From whom have they got liberated? From the Tamil enemies! From the antinational Tamils! Today the Egyptian army has joined forces with the Islamic fundamentalists to crush the popular revolt. Sri Lankan army should learn this lesson, says Jayatilleka.

What about the ethnic issue? What about political solution? What about the ethics for the armed forces that he has so far been advocating? Who constitute the nation? Are only the Sinhalese the nation? Were not the Tamils who were killed part of the nation? Were not the Tamil civilians, Tamil children part of the nation? Were not the women who were raped and killed part of the nation? Let Tamils be the enemies as he holds, what about the ethics and rules of conduct for the army that he advocated?

Does the ‘nation’ as portrayed by Jayatilleka seem to consist of Tamils? Aren’t his words the words of a highly perverted racist? The army that took up the cause of racism and took it to its logical culmination, ethnic mass killings is called by Jayatilleka as the army that accomplished national liberation. Is this racist a Marxist? What fitness does he have to talk about Che Guevara, the revolutionary who arduously moved around country to country on revolutionary mission transcending national boundaries?

Those who know about the past four decade history of America and the Europe know one thing for sure: the derangement of progressive minds after reaching the higher echelons of power. Bill Clinton who participated in the Vietnam war protests against the war, later developed into a war maniac. The neo-leftists of the 1960s of Europe later became rulers and supported America’s war on Iraq.  The man who was seemed to have belonged to the Che-inspired leftist generation of the 1970s, and now the Sri Lankan ambassador to France, Dayan Jayatilleka’s head has all along been stuffed with nothing but racism. He has now developed into an outspoken racist rejecting whatever he has advocated so far. He is now ready to bury anything including accountability, reconciliation and democracy to protect and hail the glory of army.

The ethics and rules of conduct as he attributed to Che and Castro and advocated are none but mere heap of trashy words. He is not only the last Stalinist of Sri Lanka as called by Regi Srivardana, but also the prominent intellectual attempting to logically justify Sinhala racism.

(Photo courtesy: Colombo Telegraph)

- Yamuna Rajendran (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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0 #1 Venkatesh 2014-05-06 17:34
Strong arguments, neatly written article
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