Feature Article

'Mercenary Intellectuals'

[TamilNet, Monday, 28 December 2009, 14:14 GMT]
Prof. Peter Schalk, of Uppsala University, Sweden, identifies four western educated individuals hired by the Government of Sri Lanka to defend Colombo's decisions and criticisms from the West, and labels them as "mercenary intellectuals." He dismisses even discussing the "Sinhalatva hard core idealogues" from whom, Schlak says, one cannot expect any "rational reaction of responsibility in the Tamil issue," and that one cannot expect any "academic performance" from these Sinhalatva types.

Full text of the write-up by Professor Peter Schalk follows:

On my Encounter with Intellectuals among Sinhala Speakers

Peter Schalk

Peter Schalk
Peter Schalk
The article “Diplomatic misstep” in TamilNet, Friday, 25 December 2009, which is about a well documented verbal misbehaviour of Professor Rajiva Wijesinha actualises an important problem of responsibility of intellectuals Sinhala speakers which I have taken up in another article in TamilNet. Here I tell about my encounter with different types of intellectuals who have chosen to abandon the academic discourse and become mercenary intellectuals of a political regime.

There is of course no such entity or essence like “the Sinhala intellectual”. There are only different categories among them. I focus here the political intellectual among Sinhala speakers. I have no hope here for one type, for the Sinhalatva hard core ideologue. We cannot expect from him any rational reaction of responsibility in the Tamil issue. His tunnel vision focuses on Sinhalatva (=Sinhala ethnonationalism) only. He has marginalised himself as ultra extremist on the political stage. We cannot expect any academic performance from him.

There is another type, a special group of leading intellectuals among Sinhala speakers known as Buddhist monks. Their support of the war is now made object in many academic seminars around the world in comparative studies of “the political Lankan Buddhist monk”. I am fully aware that that there is no such single category as “the Buddhist monk”, but when it comes to the leadership there is a continuity and concord of their opinion that the war was just and that it had to be conducted for the sake of peace according to well-known saying samaya sandaha yuddhaya ‘war for peace’. It was retrieved from past historiography by the monk Valpola Rahula in 1992 as collective political program in the present conflict. These leading monks have misunderstood the teaching of the Buddha. They create an embarrassment to global Buddhism.

The Sri Lankan Government has hired a group of Western educated intellectuals whose task is to defend its decisions and to attack criticism from the West. Just to mention four of them representing not only individuals, but they also represent the type of a mercenary intellectual. The first calls himself “Professor” or “Dr” and runs a one-man institute in Europe or Asia financed by obscure sources collecting and making up intelligence reports which he delivers to the Defence Department. He is regarded as a specialist on terrorism, albeit his works do not stand a test in a basic academic seminar. We are used to work with open sources in the academic interaction, which has not yet been practised by this type of political activist.

The second type uses in his capacity as diplomatic representative of Sri Lanka a filthy and abusive language and irrational and dogmatic argumentation in relation to the Tamil Resistance Movement. His language alienated him completely from a sophisticated diplomatic and academic-critical discourse. He also applied a just war theory on the persecution of Tamil speakers by his President. In international diplomatic circles he is known as “Bully”.

There is also a third type, a professor again, this time one of humanities. He is also employed by the Defence Department. He is 150% faithful to his leader, the President. He attacks others verbally with scorn and disdain, interrupts and preaches. He does not allow any contradiction. He also has abandoned the academic and diplomatic discourse with his street fighter jargon that has become also a common form of official communication in Lankan embassies.

There is finally a fourth type, again a professor, who always holds the view that the Big Man/Woman in charge expects from him to have, and he shifts party accordingly. I am aware of two of his party defections. When he is abroad he speaks for federalism as a solution, when at home he condemns it. He is a typical survivor among hired intellectuals on the political stage.

All four have established firmly an image of the intellectual mercenary. When they speak up we already know what they are going say. They are predictable and therefore not especially interesting for us who have followed their careers, in some cases for decades. They have now become living semiotisations and fossilisations of the Rajapakse Government. My point is that they have no excuse for their acting as they know very well alternative views and ways of performance. They are in the position of saying no. They cannot even refer to a special duty or even right of being obedient.

Now we come to “the liberal” who is well aware of possible violations of human rights by the Government, but who still hoped that the Government would “humanise” the war. He recommended the Government to increase the number of latrines to the prisoners in the concentration camps, but he has no recommendation to close the camps. Some think that “the welfare camps (sic)” were functional in the beginning but are now becoming an object of criticism by foreign powers and are therefore dysfunctional for the external trade economy of the country. Which further wisdom can we expect from these liberals among Sinhala speakers in the Tamil issue?

Finally, there is the dissident type of Sinhala speaker, monk or layman, who, however, has to choose inner or outer emigration facing the iron fist of the present Government. I respect them deeply for their integrity, but I am worried about their welfare. They are the hope for the future of Lanka. The Tamil Resistance Movement and progressive Western forces should cultivate close contact with them and encourage them. There is already a chain of connections. These resilient and defiant intellectuals among Sinhala speakers have a potential to form and lead a Sinhala Resistance Movement for democracy and to initiate a de-sinhalatva-fication from primary schools to universities.


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