Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha replies

I write to exercise a right of reply to the article in your columns by Dr Saravanamuttu, which once again engaged in snide comments about me. He has responded to something I said on April 19, in responding to another of those snide comments, when he suggested I must be deeply disappointed at not having been asked to monitor the Ministry of External Affairs.

This time he refers to ‘a coterie of self-defined earnest patriots and defenders of the current regime’ whom he claims he has referred to ‘as apparatchiks and toxic hacks’. He describes these people as claiming he was responsible for at least part of the Darusman report and for being chiefly responsible for the loss of GSP plus. Evidently hoping that his readers will erroneously think I was one of these anonymous people, he introduces my name in between, with regard to a very different sort of claim regarding his political ambitions.

He then declares that ‘Without a cent being forked out to them or kind word of them spoken, these devoted opinion makers have taken on the mantle of being my Bell and Pottinger, Paton and Boggs.’ This witticism is intended to suggest that he should be grateful to the hacks for giving him great prominence. I understand that he welcomes this prominence, and does not mind the moral disapproval the hacks evince. But it is also typical that he introduces a potential cash nexus into the expression of opinion that the hacks he dislikes engage in. I suspect the enormous amounts of money his agencies have collected over the years, which help to fund his extravagant lifestyle, have coloured his view of why people act, and those who think and feel deeply without reward are beyond his comprehension.   

I am sorry however that he thinks it positive publicity to record the possibility of his serving in a Wickremesinghe Cabinet. As President of the Liberal Party when he was a Vice-President, I am sorry that the British school of liberalism Chanaka Amaratunga introduced him to seems to have been forgotten. I suppose this is understandable in that he left us because of the association we were developing with President Premadasa, but I still think his links to those who subverted democracy and downplayed the horrors of July 1983 are deplorable.

Still, he has his reasons for nailing his colours firmly to one mast. This is a pity, because some of what he writes in this article is worth considering. If he seriously wanted these consider, as opposed to merely scoring debating points, it would have been more constructive had he stuck with the initiative the American ambassador had engaged in, to promote consensus and exchange of ideas, instead of inveigling her into a more polarizing exercise.

Interestingly, I was reminded, in thinking of the role Dr Saravanamuttu has taken on now, of an earlier meeting arranged by another female ambassador, two years ago, in a genuine effort to rescue the civilians being held hostage by the LTTE. The call then was for a concerted demand that the civilians be released, issued by those who had liaised positively with the LTTE previously. Sadly, almost to a man, those who are now triumphant over the Darusman report refused to take a strong stand on that occasion. Ruth Flint, a tough critic of the Sri Lankan government, but a fair one, was disappointed. I think this coloured what seemed her much more positive approach subsequently to the Sri Lankan government than that of the Anglo-Saxons, particularly when the latter took up the Sarath Fonseka cause. I can only hope that Pat Butenis will now follow the Flint path and not the confrontational approach of Dr Saravanamuttu, who failed to do anything for the civilians when the LTTE was holding them in thrall.

Finally, I hope that this latest exercise in classing me with what he considers apparatchiks and hacks who usually need financial remuneration or subsidizing did not arise from personal irritation. A friend had asked, with regard to the photograph on my blog that accompanied the April 19 piece about his earlier hack at me, ‘whether “that dancing man is seriously angry about that photo on the blog”, as is the little man in the bow tie (although note taking is not as bad as an older guy prancing about thinking he is a teenager’. The latter reference is to Dr Saravanamuttu’s confidante Dr Carter who had helped him arrange last week’s clandestine session at the American Ambassador’s.

Another diplomat was more amusing, shortly after the blog posting went up – ‘I’ll bet you skimmed through a million pics to find this embarrassingly frivolous snap.  The elite of Colombo do play for keeps.’ I had to assure him that I simply took what was offered to me. I don’t suppose Dr Saravanamuttu can even remotely understand the concern of those many Sri Lankans who appreciate what I try to do and help ‘without a cent being forked out to them’. 

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