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J. R. Jayewardene

Junius Richard Jayewardene (Sinhala: ජුනියස් රිචඩ් ජයවර්ධන,Tamil: ஜூனியஸ் ரிச்சட் ஜயவர்தனா; 17 September 1905 – 1 November 1996), commonly abbreviated in Sri Lanka as J. R., was the leader of Sri Lanka from 1977 to 1989, serving as Prime Minister from 1977 to 1978 and as the second (First Executive) President of Sri Lanka from 1978 till 1989. He was a leader of the nationalist movement in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) who served in a variety of cabinet positions in the decades following independence. A longtime member of the United National Party, he led it to a landslide victory in 1977 and served as Prime Minister for half a year before becoming the country's first executive president under an amended constitution.[1]


J. R. Jayewardene
Junius Richard Jayawardana (1906-1996).jpg
2nd President of Sri Lanka
In office
4 February 1978 – 2 January 1989
Prime MinisterRanasingha Premadasa
Preceded byWilliam Gopallawa
Succeeded byRanasinghe Premadasa
7th Prime Minister of Sri Lanka
In office
23 July 1977 – 4 February 1978
PresidentWilliam Gopallawa
Preceded bySirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike
Succeeded byRanasinghe Premadasa
Leader of the Opposition
In office
7 June 1970 – 18 May 1977
Prime MinisterSirimavo Bandaranaike
Preceded bySirimavo Bandaranaike
Succeeded byA. Amirthalingam
Secretary General of Non-Aligned Movement
In office
4 February 1978 – 9 September 1979
Preceded byWilliam Gopallawa
Succeeded byFidel Castro
Minister of Finance
In office
24 April 1960 – 20 July 1960
Prime MinisterDudley Senanayake
Preceded byOliver Ernest Goonetilleke
Succeeded byStanley de Zoysa
In office
26 September 1947 – 13 October 1953
Prime MinisterDon Stephen Senanayake
Dudley Senanayake
Succeeded byOliver Ernest Goonetilleke
Member of Parliament
for Colombo West
In office
4 August 1977 – 4 February 1978
Preceded byConstituency created
Succeeded byAnura Bastian
Member of Parliament
for Colombo South
In office
5 August 1960 – 18 May 1977
Preceded byEdmund Samarawickrema
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Member of Parliament
for Kelaniya
In office
30 March 1960 – 23 April 1960
Preceded byR.G. Senanayake
Succeeded byR.S. Perera
In office
14 October 1947 – 18 February 1956
Preceded byConstituency created
Succeeded byR.G. Senanayake
Personal details
Born
Junius Richard Jayewardene

(1905-09-17)17 September 1905
Colombo, British Ceylon
Died1 November 1996(1996-11-01) (aged 91)
Colombo, Sri Lanka
NationalitySri Lankan
Political partyUnited National Party
Spouse(s)Elina Jayewardene
(nee Rupasinghe)
ChildrenRavi Jayewardene (Son)
ResidenceBraemar
Alma materColombo Law College,
University College, Colombo (University of London),
Royal College, Colombo,
Bishop's College Colombo
ProfessionAdvocate

Early life and educationEdit

 
J. R. with his parents and siblings.

Born to a prominent Ceylonese family with a strong association with the legal profession, Jayewardene was the eldest of 11 children, of Hon. Justice Eugene Wilfred Jayewardene KC, a Puisne Justice of Supreme Court of Ceylon and Agnes Helen Don Philip Wijewardena daughter of Tudugalage Muhandiram Don Philip Wijewardena a wealthy merchant. His younger brothers included Dr Hector Wilfred Jayewardene, QC and Dr Rolly Jayewardene, FRCP. His uncles were the Colonel Theodore Jayewardene, Justice Valentine Jayewardene and the Press Baron D. R. Wijewardena.

Raised by an English nanny,[2] he received his primary education at Bishop's College, Colombo and attended Royal College, Colombo for his secondary education. At Royal College he played for the college cricket team, debuting in the Royal-Thomian series in 1925, and captained the rugby team at the annual "Royal-Trinity Encounter" (which later became known as the Bradby Shield Encounter). Excelling in both studies, sports and Club and Societies He was the first Secretary in Royal College Social Services League in 1921 and he became the head prefect in 1925 and also represented the school in football and boxing; he was also a member of the cadet corps. He would later serve as the Secretary of the Royal College Union.[3][4]

Jayewardene entered the University College, Colombo which prepared students for the Bachelor of Arts degree award by the University of London, in 1926 to read English, Latin, Logic and Economics;[3][5] he attained a distinguished academic record and showed a keen interest in sports. In 1928 he transferred to law by entering the Colombo Law College and passed out as an advocate, starting his practice in the unofficial bar, for a brief period. Jayewardene converted from Christianity to Buddhism in his youth.[6]

Early political careerEdit

 
The first Cabinet of Ministers of Ceylon

Jayewardene did not practice law for long. In 1938 he gave up his legal career to become an activist in the Ceylon National Congress (CNC), which provided the organizational platform for Ceylon's nationalist movement (the island was officially renamed Sri Lanka in 1972). He became its Joint Secretary in 1939 and in 1940 he was elected to the Colombo Municipal Council from the New Bazaar Ward. He was elected to the colonial legislature, the State Council in 1943 by winning the Kelaniya by-election. His victory is credited to his use of an anti-Christian campaign against his opponent, the nationalist E.W.Perera.[7] During World War II, Jayewardene, along with other nationalists, contacted the Japanese and discussed a rebellion to drive the British from the island. In 1944, Jayewardene moved a motion in the State Council that Sinhala alone should replace English as the official language.[8]

First finance minister of CeylonEdit

After joining the United National Party on its formation in 1946 as a founder member, he was reelected from the Kelaniya electorate in the 1st parliamentary election and was appointed by D. S. Senanayake as the Minister of Finance in the island's first Cabinet in 1947. Initiating post-independence reforms, he was instrumental in the establishment of the Central Bank of Ceylon under the guidance of the American economist John Exter. In 1951 Jayewardene was a member of the committee to select a National Anthem for Sri Lanka headed by Sir Edwin Wijeyeratne. The following year he was elected as the President of the Board of Control for Cricket in Ceylon. He played a major role in re-admitting[9] Japan to the world community at the San Francisco Conference. Jayewardene struggled to balance the budget, faced with mounting government expenditures, particularly for rice subsidies. He was re-elected in 1952 parliamentary election and remained as finance minister.

Minister of Agriculture and FoodEdit

His 1953 proposal to cut the subsidies on which many poor people depended on for survival provoked fierce opposition and the 1953 Hartal campaign, and had to be called off. Following the resignation of Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake after the 1953 Hartal, the new Prime Minister Sir John Kotelawala appointed Jayewardene as Minister of Agriculture and Food and Leader of the House. However the party suffered a major defeat when Sir John Kotelawala called for early elections in 1956, Jayewardene himself lost his parliamentary seat in Kelaniya to R. G. Senanayake.

OppositionEdit

United National Party suffered a crushing defeat in the 1956 parliamentary election at the hands of the Socialist and nationalist Mahajana Eksath Peramuna headed by S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike. Jayewardene pushed the party to accommodate nationalism and endorse the Sinhala Only Act, which was bitterly opposed by the island's minorities. When Bandaranaike came to an agreement with S.J.V. Chelvanayagam in 1957, to solve the outstanding problems of the minorities, Jayawardene led a "March on Kandy" against it.[7] The U.N.P.'s official organ the Siyarata subsequently ran several anti-Tamil articles, including a poem,containing an exhortation to kill Tamils in almost every line.[10] Throughout the 1960s Jayewardene clashed over this issue with party leader Dudley Senanayake. Jayewardene felt the UNP should be willing to play the ethnic card, even if it meant losing the support of ethnic minorities.

Minister of State and TourismEdit

Jayewardene became the Vice President and Chief Organizer of the United National Party, which achieved a narrow win in the March 1960 parliamentary election, forming a government under Dudley Senanayake. Jayewardene having been elected to parliament once again from the Kelaniya electorate was appointed Minister of State and Tourism. The government lasted only three months and lost the July 1960 parliamentary election to the a new coalition lead by Bandaranayake's widow. Jayewardene remained in parliament having been elected from the Colombo South electorate. The United National Party won the next election in 1965. Jayewardene was reelected from the Colombo South electorate uncontested and was reappointed as Minister of State and Tourism. No government gave serious thought to the development of the tourism industry as an economically viable venture until the United National Party came to power in 1965 and the subject came under the purview of the Minister of State Hon. J. R. Jayewardene.

The new Minister Jayewardene saw tourism as a great industry capable of earning foreign exchange, providing avenues of mass employment, and creating a workforce which commanded high employment potential in the world. He was determined to place this industry on a solid foundation providing it a 'conceptional base and institutional support.' This was necessary to bring dynamism and cohesiveness into an industry, shunned by leaders in the past, ignored by investors who were inhibited by the lack of incentive to invest in projects which were uncertain of a satisfactory return. The new Minister Hon. J. R. Jayewardene considered it essential for the government to give that assurance and with this objective in view he tabled the Ceylon Tourist Board Act No 10 of 1966 followed by Ceylon Hotels Corporation Act No 14 of 1966.

This was the beginning of a new industry ignored by the previous governments but given a new life by Minister J. R. Jayewardene. As a result, today tourist resorts exist in almost all cities and today an annual turnover of over 500,000 tourists are enjoying the tropical climes and beautiful beaches of Sri Lanka not to mention the enormous amount of foreign exchange they bring into the country.[11][12]

Leader of the oppositionEdit

In the general election of 1970 the UNP suffered a major defeat, when the SLFP and its newly formed coalition of leftist parties won almost 2/3 of the parliamentary seats. Once again elected to parliament J. R. Jayewardene took over as opposition leader and de facto leader of the UNP due to the ill health of Dudley Senanayake. After Senanayake's death in 1973, Jayewardene succeeded him as UNP leader. He gave the SLFP government his fullest support during the 1971 JVP Insurrection (even though his son was arrested by the police without charges) and in 1972 when the new constitution was enacted proclaiming Ceylon a republic. However he opposed the government in many moves, which he saw as short sighted and damaging for the country's economy in the long run. These included the adaptation of the closed economy and nationalization of many private business and lands. In 1976 he resigned from his seat in parliament in protest, when the government used its large majority in parliament to extend the duration of the government by two more years at the end of its six-year term without holding a general election or a referendum requesting public approval.

PresidencyEdit

 
Presidential Standard of Junius Richard Jayewardene
 
Sri Lanka 1977 Cabinet Ministers

Tapping into growing anger with the SLFP government, Jayewardene led the UNP to a crushing victory in the 1977 election. The UNP won a staggering five-sixths of the seats in parliament—a total that was magnified by the first-past-the-post system, and one of the most lopsided victories ever recorded for a democratic election. Immediately thereafter, he amended the constitution of 1972 to make the presidency an executive post. The provisions of the amendment automatically made the incumbent prime minister—himself—president, and he was sworn in as president on 4 February 1978. He passed a new constitution on 31 August 1978 which came into operation on 7 September of the same year, which granted the president sweeping—and according to some critics, almost dictatorial—powers. He moved the legislative capital from Colombo to Sri Jayawardanapura Kotte.

EconomyEdit

There was a complete turnaround in economic policy under him as the previous policies had led to economic stagnation. He opened the heavily state-controlled economy to market forces, which many credit with subsequent economic growth. He opened up the economy and introduced more liberal economic policies emphasizing private sector led development. Policies were changed to create an environment conducive to foreign and local investment, with the objective of promoting export led growth shifting from previous policies of import substitution. To facilitate export oriented enterprises and to administer Export Processing Zones the Greater Colombo Economic Commission was established. Food subsidies were curtailed and targeted through a Food Stamps Scheme extended to the poor. The system of rice rationing was abolished. The Floor Price Scheme and the Fertiliser Subsidy Scheme were withdrawn. New welfare schemes, such as free school books and the Mahapola Scholarship Programme, were introduced. The rural credit programme expanded with the introduction of the New Comprehensive Rural Credit Scheme and several other medium and long-term credit schemes aimed at small farmers and the self-employed.[13]

He also launched large scale infrastructure development projects. He launched an extensive housing development program to meet housing shortages in urban and rural areas. The Mahaweli River Diversion Scheme was accelerated. New reservoirs and large hydropower projects such as the Kotmale, Victoria, Randenigala, Rantembe and Ulhitiya were also launched. Several Trans Basin Canals were also built to divert water to the Dry Zone.[13]

ConservationEdit

His administration launched several wildlife conservation initiatives. This included stopping commercial logging in rain forests such as Sinharaja Forest Reserve which was designated a World Biosphere Reserve in 1978 and a World Heritage Site in 1988.

After the 1977 riots, the government made one concession to the Tamils; it lifted the policy of standardization for university admission that had driven many Tamil youths into militancy. The concession was regarded by the militants as too little and too late, and violent attacks continued.

National politicsEdit

Jayewardene moved to crack down on the growing activity of Tamil militant groups. He passed the Prevention of Terrorism Act in 1979, giving police sweeping powers of arrest and detention. This only escalated the ethnic tensions. Jayewardene claimed he needed overwhelming power to deal with the militants. He had likely SLFP presidential nominee Sirimavo Bandaranaike stripped of her civic rights and barred from running for office for six years, based her decision in 1976 to extend the term of parliament. This ensured that the SLFP would be unable to field a strong candidate against him in the 1982 election, leaving his path to victory clear. This election was held under the 3rd amendment to the constitution which empowered the president to hold a Presidential Election anytime after the expiration of 4 years of his first term.

Jayewardene was loath to give up the massive majority he'd won in 1977.[citation needed] He therefore held a referendum to cancel the 1983 parliamentary elections, and allow the 1977 parliament to continue until 1989. He also passed a constitutional amendment barring from Parliament any MP who supported separatism; this effectively eliminated the main opposition party, the Tamil United Liberation Front.

Civil warEdit

 
Jayewardene presents a baby elephant to American President Ronald Reagan and the American people, 1984

Jayewardene said in Daily Telegraph, 11 July 1983," Really if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala people will be happy."[14][15][16][17]

At first, the war went badly for the government, and the LTTE ended up in possession of Jaffna and most of the northern province. The army counterattacked with an offensive that threatened to retake the city, at the cost of many civilian casualties. Jayewardene had to halt the offensive after pressure from India pushed for a negotiated solution to the conflict. Jayewardene and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi finally concluded the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord, which provided for devolution of powers to Tamil dominated regions, an Indian peacekeeping force in the north, and the demobilization of the LTTE.

The LTTE rejected the accord, as it fell short of even an autonomous state. The provincial councils suggested by India did not have powers to control revenue, policing, or government-sponsored Sinhala settlements in Tamil provinces. Sinhala nationalists were outraged by both the devolution and the presence of foreign troops on Sri Lankan soil. An attempt was made on Jayewardene's life in 1987 as a result of his signing of the accord. Young, deprived Sinhalese soon rose in a revolt, organized by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) which was eventually put down by the government.

Foreign policyEdit

Quite contrary to his predecessor, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Jayewardena's foreign policy was aligned American policies (earning him the nickname 'Yankie Dickie') much to the chagrin of India. Before Jayewardena's ascendency into the presidency, Sri Lanka had doors widely open to neighboring India. Jayewardena's tenure in the office restricted the doors to India a number of times; once an American company tender was granted over an Indian company tender.

Post-presidencyEdit

Jayewardene retired from politics in 1989 after his second term as president at the age of 84;[18] his successor Ranasinghe Premadasa was formally inaugurated on 2 January 1989. He did not re-enter politics during his retirement even after the assassination of Premadasa in 1993.

LegacyEdit

 
President J. R. Jayewardene & Diyawadana Nilame Dr. Nissanka Wijeyeratne with Raja (elephant)

On the economic front, Jayewardene's legacy was decisive. For thirty years after independence, Sri Lanka had struggled in vain with slow growth and high unemployment. Since Jayewardene's reforms, the island has maintained healthy growth despite the civil war.

On the ethnic question, Jayewardene's legacy is bitterly divisive. When he took office, ethnic tensions were present but the country as a whole was at peace. By the end of his tenure, Sri Lanka was facing not one but two civil wars, both featuring unprecedented levels of violence and brutality.

Though Jayewardene indeed did not take measures to stop the attack on Tamils, he was not opposed to them personally, only politically. One of his most esteemed friends was a supreme court judge of Tamil ethnicity, a member of an elite family and raised in Colombo, but who was strongly linked to his Jaffna Tamil heritage. This is but one close Tamil friend of the president's, and it is quite clear that he was not a racist but rather a man who knew how to exploit racism to win the majority.[19][20]

Highly respected in Japan for his call for peace and reconciliation with post-war Japan at the Peace Conference in San Francisco in 1951, a statue of Jayewardene was erected at the Kamakura Temple in the Kanagawa Prefecture in Japan in his honor.[21]

J.R Jayewardene CentreEdit

In 1988, the J.R. Jayewardene Centre was established by the J.R Jayewardene Centre Act No. 77 of 1988 by Parliament at the childhood home of J. R. Jayewardene Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo. It serves as archive for J.R Jayewardene's personal library and papers as well as papers, records from the Presidential Secretariat and gifts he received in his tenure as President.

Family lifeEdit

Jayewardene married Miss Elina Bandara Rupasinghe in 1935, Ravindra "Ravi" Vimal Jayewardene is their only child,[22] he was an army officer and a pilot in Air Ceylon and served as the Presidential Security Adviser. He was a notable marksmen and the founder of the Special Task Force unit of the Sri Lanka Police .[23][24]

Further readingEdit

  • De Silva, K. M., & Wriggins, W. H. (1988), J.R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka: a political biography, University of Hawaii Press ISBN 0-8248-1183-6
  • Jayewardene, J. R. (1988), My quest for peace: a collection of speeches on international affairs, OCLC 20515117
  • Dissanayaka, T. D. S. A. (1977), J.R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka: the inside story of how the Prime Minister led the UNP to victory in 1977, Swastika Press OCLC 4497112

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "J.R. Jayewardene". BRITANNICA-Online.
  2. ^ Crossette, Barbara (2 November 1996). "J. R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka Dies at 90; Modernized Nation He Led for 11 Years". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
  3. ^ a b Remembering the most dominant Lankan political figure Archived 30 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ JR's 10th death anniversary today
  5. ^ "JRJ's 102nd birth anniversary on Sept. 17" Archived 18 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ de Silva, K. M.; William Howard Wriggins (1988). J.R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press. p. 133. ISBN 0-8248-1183-6.
  7. ^ a b "JRJ: Farsighted statesman?".
  8. ^ "Mr.J.R.Jayawardene on 'Sinhala Only and Tamil Also' in the Ceylon State Council".
  9. ^ https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/sri-lankas-role-in-japanese-peace-treaty-1952-in-retrospect/
  10. ^ "State of Emergency" (PDF).
  11. ^ "DIED JUNIUS RICHARD JAYEWARDENE". Asia Week. 15 November 1996. Archived from the original on 10 May 2009.
  12. ^ "Political forces - The constitution remains controversial". The Economist. 16 August 2006.
  13. ^ a b "President Junius R. Jayawardena (1978-1988)". www.globalsecurity.org. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  14. ^ Fernando, Jude Lal (2014). "The Politics of Represenatations of Mass Atrocity in Sri Lanka and Human Rights Discourse: Challenge to Justice and Recovery". In Admirand, Peter (ed.). Loss and Hope: Global, Interreligious and Interdisciplinary Perspectives. London, U.K.: Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 30. ISBN 978-1-4725-2907-7.
  15. ^ Berlatsky, Noah, ed. (2014). Genocide & Persecution: Sri Lanka. Farmington Hills, U.S.A.: Greenhaven Press. p. 126. ISBN 9780737770162.
  16. ^ Short, Damien (2016). Redefining Genocide: Settler Colonialism, Social Death and Ecocide. London, U.K.: Zed Books. ISBN 9781783601707.
  17. ^ Sriskanda Rajah, A. R. (2017). Government and Politics in Sri Lanka: Biopolitics and Security. London, U.K.: Routledge. p. 62. ISBN 978-1-315-26571-1.
  18. ^ Election heat and ‘Yahapalana’ antics
  19. ^ "Former Sri Lanka president dies, leaves mixed legacy". CNN News. 1 November 1996.[dead link]
  20. ^ "J. R. Remembered – J.R. Jayewardene Memorial address by Milinda Moragoda". Asia Tribune. 19 September 2004.
  21. ^ A visionary strategist
  22. ^ Tribute: My father had many facets, not many faces. Daily News (Sri Lanka), Retrieved on 3 April 2018.
  23. ^ "India may train Sri Lankan troops". Archived from the original on 26 July 2010. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  24. ^ Humble son of a humble President


External linksEdit