Business News
Discussion Forum
Photo Gallery
Readers Opinion
World News


The Neville Jayaweera Tribute

By : Neville Jayaweera
Location & Time : London 15.00 GMT - November 4, 2005
Source : TWG

Madame Malar Thamotheram, members of the Tharmotheram family and friends,

In the course of several tributes paid to the memory of Jeyam during the Church service, all speakers have referred to his many and varied endowments and achievements. Therefore, during the few minutes allocated to me to speak from this platform I will not go over that ground again. Rather, as a member of the Sinhala community, I want to dwell on an aspect of Jeyam's life which, for obvious reasons, other speakers preferred not to dwell on.

Like many others seated in this audience, Jeyam was a victim of the injustices heaped on the Tamil people by my own community. When I think of how Jeyam's career, and indeed the lives of thousands of other Tamil brethren, had been thwarted and terminated through discrimination practised against Tamil people over decades, I feel a deep shame and contrition. If Jeyam can hear me from wherever he is now I can only ask him to forgive me as a member of the Sinhala community and indeed to find it in his Christian heart to forgive the whole Sinhala community for the wrongs they have inflicted upon the Tamil people.

As I look around me in this very hall, I can see many other brilliant Tamil mathematicians, engineers, accountants, doctors and other professionals, all of whose services and skills are desperately need back in SL. So then, why are they here rather than there?  Why is it that a SL, a country so desperately in need of skills and talents for nation building, squandering all these precious assets in foreign lands?  When will SL ever realise, if it ever will, that only the termination of its discriminatory policies will attract these skills and talents back to serve the country of their birth?

Fifty seven years after Independence SL is still only a state, a state comprised of two warring nations. When will it be able to transcend the divisions that have plagued it for so long and emerge as a single nation? It was Jeyam's undying hope and prayer that some day it will.

As you have heard many speakers say, Jeyam was a brilliant mathematician, one of a galaxy of brilliant students of mathematics who came out of Hartley College Jaffna, among whom was Prof. C.J. Eliezer who went on the become Professor of Mathematics in the Colombo University, but himself had to pursue his career abroad because of discriminatory policies perpetrated upon his fellow Tamils. Jeyam could have pursued a career in the prestigious Ceylon Civil Service, but instead opted for the far nobler vocation of teaching. Many leading secondary schools in then Ceylon sought to employ him as their mathematics teacher but, as a practising Methodist Christian, he opted to serve in Ceylon's premier Methodist institution, Wesley College. However, when in the fullness of time it was Jeyam's turn to be appointed Principal, the discriminatory policies which by that time were in full bloom, took toll again and he was denied what was his legitimate right. Those who knew Jeyam and who were acquainted with the rights and wrongs of the situation were aghast and outraged. Jeyam resigned his job as a teacher at Wesley, opted out of the profession, and after a short stint with the British Council (I think) in Colombo, he migrated to the UK.

However, a man so richly endowed by God would not let his many skills and attributes wither on the vine. In the UK, Jeyam went on to pioneer many institutions and activities to improve the prospects and the quality of life of the Tamil diaspora who were by the mid 70s growing into a steady stream. You have already heard several speakers pay tribute to Jeyam's  qualities as an institution builder, as a pioneer and as a leader of the Tamil people.

It would not be an exaggeration to say of Jeyam that he was to the Tamil Diaspora, in the UK as well as in other countries, what Martin Luther King had been to the black people in the USA of the 1960s. Jeyam was deeply hurt but was neither embittered nor discouraged. He had felt the searing pains and carried the scars of injustice, but would not allow himself to be deterred from his vision. Like Martin Luther King, Jeyam had caught a larger vision. To the very end he believed that it is still possible for all the communities who comprise the fabric of SL, the Sinhala, the Tamils, the Moors and the Burghers and all religions, to live in peace and amity and without recourse to war. He hoped and prayed that the discriminatory policies followed by successive governments of SL would be turned around and that wisdom and reason would triumph over injustice, bitterness and conflict.

Whether Jeyam's dream will ever be realised, and whether the Tamil people of SL will ever gain the Promised Land, remains an open question. Notwithstanding, it is the measure of Jeyam's greatness and his quality as an exceptional human being, that despite all the evidence to the contrary he continued to the end to believe in his vision.  

May his vision be realised in full  and may his Soul Rest in Peace.

While condoling with the Tharmotheram family I thank them again for the privilege of allowing me to speak on this platform.

Neville Jayaweera

Send this article to a friend  Print the articles  Send your comments