Malinda Seneviratne in a “post-war” column

As the military sweep against the LTTE became intense and as Euro-centric tongues began saying things, two writers emerged through the print media who had much to say in defense of the state stance. These were Dayan Jayathilake and Malinda Seneviratne. Dayan, at the time, was a Sri Lankan top brass and rep at Geneva; Malinda had just left a state chair and was re-surfacing as a “freelance” media person. In the face of so-defined “international pressure” unleashed on the government’s military mandate, both Dayan and Malinda had much to say on behalf of the state. Well, that was Part I.

Then, the LTTE was swept clean. Prabhaharan appeared on TV with his brains blown. Crackers were lit and the removal of the “LTTE factor” from the Sri Lankan political map was celebrated with gusto. In the post-military phase of the Northern conflict, the role Dayan was assigned (that he was made to play) became slightly different. As the positions of the top brass that was involved in the “humanitarian war against terrorism” became re-adjusted and re-defined, Dayan Jayathilake had to come back home. No more Geneva. Hello Sri Lanka. Well, at least, for a job well done, Dayan had the genuinty to go on the floor and admit that the “post-war” order(ing) of things were not going as they ought to: that the map that was now being drawn didn’t sound quite like the reconciliatory mould some far-seeing individuals had in mind. So and so, for map marking. But, then, again, Dayan Jayathilake is just a pawn in the eye of power — and this war veteran has now come home. And home is where his opinion would stay.

Malinda Seneviratne is a different soldier. By no means an inferior writer, Malinda was as sharp as a needle in his pricking on the Euro-centric elements that, in turn, were pricking the “nationalist” hide of the Sri Lankan government. I locate Malinda as one of those individuals who have a massive ultra Sinhala nationalist hangover: the type to whom “multiplicities” do count, but after counting the “Sinhala-whatever” in. I have often observed this to myself in Malinda’s writing. Once I remember I had mentioned the word “multi-ethnic consciousness” (in the context: of one’s being conscious of ethnic pluralism) in something I had written. Malinda had sent me a query: “What is this ‘multi-ethnic consciousness’? I don’t quite get it”. Well, it is that mould of chauvinism with which Malinda writes. I hope that this form of irrelativist arrogance is not a part of Malinda’s personality; that it is merely a part of the ideology he projects to the world.

Malinda’s cameo against the “World”, played during the closing stages of the war, leaves a sweet taste in Malinda’s mouth that he would not let go of. The vanguard-mode which he assumes leaves open to Malinda a a little pavillion from which he may now shoot at all kinds of “international conspiracies” that comes his / the government’s way. Duly, Malinda sets about the task. No officer at the check in counter at the BIA kept a closer eye on foreign nationals arriving through its door, as Malinda Seneviratne did. Even if the airport officials missed the cue, no matter, Malinda was surely to track down all delegates that made through the gates to Sri Lanka. All pressure-levellers to the state — allegation-makers of war crimes, the lack of transparency, human rights violation and the like — are told back in no less an English by Malinda Seneviratne. Suddenly, the world is turned on by this firm voice from Colombo who is writing back to the UN, jabbing his steel at the USA and telling them to bugger off and to leave the government be.

But, the Malinda Seneviratne who is so fucking cool with defending the national pride against the poking fingers of the “west”, chooses to ignore the gross human rights violations, policy debacles, alleged “assasinations sans addresses” that permeate the Lankan political context. Malinda Seneviratne’s being critical of the UNP or its proxies is excusable. Malinda is a hardcore “jaathika chinthana” person. His writing consistently underlines the fact. Therefore, I have no issue in him debunking Ranil Wickramasinghe or his ilk. But, our country underwent a host of “rights violations” at the hands of — mainly — “unknown elements”; allegedly by government proxies. Coercion, terrorism, vandalism, nepotism, favouritism, the violation of fundamental and human rights, the manipulation of state property were / are among the recurrent issues of the day. The recurrent nature of teh discourse alone proves that, at some degree, these issues impede the minds and the lives of the ordinary people. But, Malinda Seneviratne’s eightfold columns have chosen to bypass these thorns that pierce the human flesh and to play the role of a mother. For, it is said, that the mother’s strife is to make “sons”; and to make the sons into “kings”.

Post LTTE-defeat Malinda Seneviratne does not leave the new found bastion as does Dayan Jayathilake. Instead, he improvises and works an insensitive “ultra nationalist” stance on post-war Sri Lanka; while starching the governmental sarong for another day’s survival. He strings across all the national newspapers one may get hold of. Here, we have Malinda Seneviratne on the “Daily Mirror”. Cast it aside, you come across the familiar yarn on the “Daily News”. Turn the pages of the “Lakbima” English paper — he’s there and s(tr)inging. Almost all the English papers, and Malinda — like the unimaginative baker who manipulates the same mould — is producing 8-9 pro-governmental snacks. These snaks, at their best, justifies the governmental mandate to the slim English-reading population of the country. At their worst, they echo an assortment of muffins without eyes — for they taste slightly foreign to our day-to-day reality, and are blind to the formation of things, as things are outside the portals of power.

While Dayan Jayathilake coolly bows off the stage once the cause (in which he believed) is done, Malinda Seneviratne — freelancer — makes this “post war Sri Lanka” the dancefloor to enhance his mileage. In the past few months Malinda Seneviratne had but one day off from his linen-washing duties. On that day, if I remember right, he had something to say about the film “Bindu”. As Malinda’s columns kept coming, I was wondering as to how far this man could go. Surely, he has to see the end line at some point; surely, he had to change his “beat”, as the war concluded, the discourse merged with other complexes of a “post-war context”, as other humanitarian issues and as other economic-social priorities crop up. But, no — not he: since May 2009, up to today, not only has he relished in this self-appointed, self-enhancing role, but he has only got more involved in his art.

My belief is that Malinda Seneviratne is, to a degree, play acting. A perceptive individual who rather chooses not to see the coercion, the violence, the corruption and the beastility unleashed by the proxies of the state in this run up to the Januray election. Malinda sees, hears and thinks about the gross trampling of voices oppositional to the state mandate. The press people of non-Lakehouse moulds, I am told, are being given all kinds of unofficial telling off behind the closed pages of the papers we read. Malinda, as a veteren journalist, I’m sure, hears of these; sees these. But, why the fuck doesn’t Malinda Seneviratne not address these and other issues that branch off? I can excuse the bugger for being anti-opposition (opposition = political opposition of the government). Let’s excuse him for not breaking intellectual bread with the bourgeois-oriented politicians in green caps. That’s fine. But, what about the state hegemony that envelopes the breath we take; that happens at other levels — the media, the people, the democratic discourse of freedom and fairness of the political mechanism? Surely, Malinda, how the fuck do you sleep at night?

No — Malinda Seneviratne is a clear case of one “play acting” or “role playing” a cause. The way he chooses to be the devil’s advocate is a case of wanting to justify and make clean the dogma and ideal for the sake of it; for the sake of survival. The pity is that none of the newspapers that carry his malicious columns have the fucking gut to turn the man down. These news houses — themselves, the partial-victims of state hegemony — do not have the marrow to reject the reactionist’s words as trash; nor to read between the lines, where the game is concerned. For them, a column by the famed Malinda Seneviratne would look a bonus, at the expense of their own anus.

When at university, we looked on Malinda Seneviratne as a man of substance. In our friendship he is often referred to as a heart of gold. How a thinking man could be blinded by one’s political affinities and choose not to see and to be dumb where hegemony is at play is truly amazing. In that case, Malinda, you are the epitome. You read to us poetry of how the state machinary cut short the life of your dear friend during the 88-89 bloodbath. You spoke to us Malinda, the deep-felt trauma of losing and of being oppressed. Disgrace the base diplomas from which you did ascend. If, indeed, your conscience speaks to you without falter — then, Malinda — I would re-asses my convictions. But, where humanity is belittled, democracy is ridiculed, constitutions are violated, we cannot allow you to defend hegemony and allow you and your washing machine a free pass. Step out the laundary, sweetheart. The world revolves.


6 thoughts on “Malinda Seneviratne in a “post-war” column

  1. You have encapsulated what we’ve all been feeling brilliantly. I am hoping that the day is nigh that this type of commentary will find space in the mainstream newspapers, where there is a crying need for a different point of view. 🙂

  2. Vihanga,

    If you think there are pure choices, you are in cloud cuckoo land. We all make choices. We opt, more often that we like to admit, for the consolation prize. In a proverbial gala-uda-satana, only an ungrounded daydreamer would vote, say, for Wije Dias. For me, at the time you wrote this, the choice was a no-brainer. That’s my ‘consolation prize’ brother. Nothing more, nothing less. As for ‘laundry’, you are way off the mark. I’ve pointed out flaw as much or more than any rabid regime-hater. Without malice though.

  3. “I’ve pointed out flaws as much or more than any rabid regime-hater” …Perhaps Malinda the regime-lover can give us some examples of the flaws that he has pointed out. Perhaps he made a remark that the coronation kiri bath could have been made a little more sparingly (if he ever did) but where was he when the Regime spent 800 million on a party of Bollywood when 280,000 citizens were in detention camps? We heard him ridiculing the “Colombians” when they voiced their concern over the President being called Maha Rajaneni on National TV. According to him it was a popular spontanious term of endearment adopted by an “adoring public”. We also heard him defending the 18th amendment and removal of term limits on the Presidency claiming it was only strengthening democracy. So what really are his criticisms of this regime? Might he have the courage to list them here in point form?

  4. @Dingiri: I never ridiculed Colomboans about their hangups about the President being called ‘Maha Rajaneni’. I’ve ridiculed them for other things and my comments on ‘Maha Rajaneni’ were not made without qualification, both on tv and elsewhere. As for the 18th Amendment, I criticised it in 3 sunday newspapers over several weeks and urged parliamentarians to vote against it, in 5 consecutive columns in the state-run daily news.

    you clearly don’t read much or else you would not have missed my criticisms of the regime and my reservations about many policies/actions. not my fault.

    courage? hmmm….that’s rich coming from somehow who hides behind a pseudonym. 🙂

  5. I dont think one gets to write for the Daily News by being a critic of the regime, dont you think? Although I have to put my hand up and admit that you have indeed critcised the 18th elsewhere (though not in the Daily News). I did a quick search and found your articles. Thank heavens for Google!

    Why do you think my name is a Pseudonym? It is a perfectly good indigenous name. Still, does it really matter even if it was a pseudonym? Should I give a surname, address, perhaps? Have you wondered why supporters of the regime are very forthright with revealing their identities and critics are not? Perhpas there is a message there. Not that I believe I’ll get the Wickrematunga-Ekneligoda treatment, I am not that high-profile, but perhaps I am worried about something as mundane as my next salary increment, or if my appliation for a place in a school for my 5yr old will be entertained.. You must be well aware that these are cabinet level decisions for Sri Lanka and that crtics of regimes dont have a chance when it comes to a fair decision.

  6. sad that you don’t seem to understand that things are not one-dimensional. all newspapers have gate-keepers, all newspapers have owners and as such all newspapers have parameters within which people have to operate. people who write are aware of these limits. some stop half-way, some go to the edge and stretch the limits. i have written about the 18th. 5 days in a row. one doesn’t have to use the word ‘amendment’ and the number ’18’ to write about the issue. google won’t tell you that, bro. sorry.

    pseudonym….everyone has bravery-conditions. you’ve just stated yours.

    for the record, i’ve been threatened by all regimes from JRJ onwards. and beaten up too.

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