When JRJ sang Silent Night 66 yrs ago in San Francisco

15 September 2017 01:43 am - 3     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


The 111th birth anniversary of Junius Richard Jayewardene (JRJ) and the 66th anniversary of ‘Treaty of Peace with Japan’ falls on 17th and 16th September respectively. He quoted the Buddha, ‘Nahi verena verani’ “Hatred ceases not by hatred, but by love” at ‘Treaty of Peace with Japan’ Conference on September 16, 1951

“Mr. Paulusz [class teacher] called me the ‘Rankest slacker’ in the class. I was much cut up; …how does he know ….., ? Well I will show him before I die that the ‘Rankest Rotter’ has done his bit in the world. This remark shall be my start for greater work.” : 
15 yr-old JRJ in his 
Diary - June 9, 1922 

Admitted to Bishop’s College Nursery, little Dick [Richard] left the girl’s school at six; the eleven kids were brought up in the English style Anglicans at EW Jayewardene’s home. Dick got the first part of his name after paternal uncle Junius Quintus J….and Richard after Don Richard Wijewardene, the younger brother of the mother.   

The Judge of the Supreme Court saw his son join the Colombo Academy [as Royal College was then known]. Strangely he didn’t excel academically up to Junior Matriculation. In fact he languished a couple of years in the same form.   

In San Francisco   

JRJ not only made a mark as an orator at the Conference on the ‘Treaty of Peace with Japan’ – addressing an assembly of 52 nations in 1951-but shone as a singer. He entertained diplomats when Sri Lanka’s ambassador, Sir Claude Corea, gave a reception after the conference. JRJ sang ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ and ‘Silent Night’, the favourite Christmas carols. He became a friend of the Japanese people at the Peace Treaty held in San Francisco, US.

However, in his preteen years, JRJ was very much the leader among nine junior siblings, plus the cousins of two families who lived in close proximity to ‘Park House’, the rambling mansion on a two and a half acre land at Cinnamon Gardens. They all respected his great skills at organizing games like races and wheeling old car tires. – JR Jayewardene of SL- A Political Biography by Prof KM de Silva

 “I consider it a great opportunity to be afforded the opportunity of placing before this assembly of fifty-one nations the views of the Government of Ceylon on the draft Treaty of Peace which we have been invited to approve. My statement will consist of the reasons for our acceptance of this treaty, and I shall also attempt to meet some of the criticisms that have been levelled against it. It is true that I can speak only on behalf of my Government, but I claim that I can voice the sentiments of the people of Asia in their general attitude towards the future of Japan. I need not deal with the events that led to the formulation of the final draft of the treaty which we are considering. Mr. Dulles, the American representative, and Mr. Kenneth Younger, the British representative, have given us a full and fair account of those events, beginning with the capitulation of Japan in August 1945. It may, however, be mentioned that there was a serious conflict of opinion between the four major powers as to the procedure that should be adopted to draft this treaty.…” --Speech at San Francisco- JRJ Centre Archives

‘Women mobbed J.R. Jayewardene in the streets during the San Francisco Peace Conference seeking his autograph and though he obliged them as far as possible, in his own inimitable way, there came a point when the Police and the FBI had to step in. One policeman even warned JRJ that if he didn’t move, he would have to spend the whole night signing autographs.’ -Says Roshan Peiris, quoting Veteran foreign correspondent H.B.W. Abeynaike, in our sister paper Sunday Times of Nov. 17, 1996

The Soviet Union led by Russia proposed that the freedom of Japan should be limited. It wanted restrictions on the right of Japan to maintain a defence force. JRJ continued… “On the main question of the freedom of Japan, we were able to agree ultimately, and the treaty embodies that agreement. On the other matters, there were sharp differences of opinion, and the treaty embodies the majority views. My Government would have preferred it if some of those questions were answered in a different way, but the fact that the majority don’t agree with us is no reason why we should abstain from signing the treaty, which contains the central concept of a free and independent Japan. We feel that the allied matters I mentioned earlier aren’t insoluble if Japan is free, that they are insoluble if Japan isn’t free. By signing this treaty we are enabling Japan to be in a position to do so, to enter into a treaty of friendship with the Government of China if she decides to recognize her, and I am happy to state, enabling her to enter into a treaty of peace and friendship with India. If we don’t sign this treaty, none of these eventualities can take place. 

“We in Ceylon were fortunate that we weren’t invaded, but the damage caused by air raids, by the stationing of enormous armies under the South-East Asian Command, and by the slaughter-tapping of one of our main commodities, rubber, when we were the only producers of natural rubber for the Allies, entitle us to ask that the damage so caused should be repaired. We don’t intend to do so, for we believe in the words of the Great Teacher whose message has ennobled the lives of countless millions in Asia, that “hatred ceases not by hatred, but by love”. It is the message of the Buddha, the Great Teacher, the Founder of Buddhism, which spread a wave of humanism through South Asia, Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Siam, Indonesia and Ceylon, and also northwards through the Himalayas into Tibet, China, and finally, Japan, which bound us together for hundreds of years with a common culture and heritage.”

In Washington, John Foster Dulles told our Ambassador Sir Claude Corea, ‘Your man was the hero of the conference’. On San Francisco streets people saw banner headlines in the newspapers. There were several glowing tributes paid to him. …..  

JRJ had appeared on American television after the peace conference bringing good publicity for Ceylon. One reporter wrote,   

‘A darkly handsome diplomat from the seldom considered island of Ceylon spoke resoundingly for international decency and magnanimity to a world that has known little of it of late. He was Jayewardene, Finance Minister of the rubber rich island. Dispassionately and with logic he tore Russia’s wrecking crew to pieces in an address at the peace conference.’ He was able to convert Laos, Cambodia and Pakistan to support the treaty.

The wealthy Jayewardene family’s prominence was at its peak during Dick’s early days. His father and two of his father’s siblings were lawyers and young Dick was inspired and influenced by the oratorical skills of uncle Hector. The first seed of his curiosity in politics was sowed in him when uncle Hector won the New Bazaar Ward in the Colombo Municipal. 16-year-old JRJ made an entry in his dairy, “Today I bought a Gillette razor”, a practice he began in 1921 and continued throughout his life. These diaries preserved at the ‘Presidential Archives’ at ‘Breamar’ and JRJ Center provide a lot of insight into his thoughts.

A darkly handsome diplomat from the seldom considered island of Ceylon spoke resoundingly for international decency and magnanimity to a world that has known little of it of late. He was JRJ.

Dickie and brother Cobert were customary visitors at grandmother [maternal] Helena Wijewardene’s mansion (present American Centre near Galle Face Hotel) where regular religious rituals took place. They were attracted to Buddhist practices. The lady was successful in winning them over to Buddhism. Father EW, the staunch Anglican, however, did not object.   

JRJ’s skill in expressing in coherent verbal form received acclaims: The San Francisco News, wrote, ‘a dapper, diminutive Ceylonese with a David-like gift for throwing verbal stones stole the show at the plenary session. Mr. Jayewardene, Ceylon’s delegate won an applause from all, but the Soviet delegates. His vocabulary touched off a roar of acclamation that shook the windows of the opera house meeting room.’ Time: ‘Ablest Asian spokesman at the conference was Ceylon’s delegate, JR Jayewardene, a slim, soft-spoken man with a razor-like tongue.’ New York Herald Tribune: ‘Ceylon’s Jayewardene led the spokesman for 13 of the 52 nations at the conference in proclaiming their intention to sign the Anglo-American sponsored treaty.’   

The President of US, made some characteristic remarks in his address; ‘the treaty we are gathered here to sign has not been drawn in a spirit of revenge. The treaty reflects the spirit in which we carried on the war. The principles for which we fought were clearly set forth by president Roosevelt right after Pearl Harbour. ..we know that independent people have more vigour and staying power, and can do more to help secure peace, than people held under alien control’ Americans the prime movers of the conference were keen to get DS Senanayake the PM to lead the Ceylonese delegation. But PM had other ideas; he wanted to send JR instead and he presented a cabinet paper making a point that, ‘Although over five years have lapsed since the surrender of Japan, a conclusion of a peace treaty has not been possible due to irreconcilable difference of opinion between Western alleys and Soviet Union…’ -- JRJ Cent. MSS FILE NO 119

The PM’s instructions to me were brief; ‘We should ask for no reparations; and we should insist that Japan should recover her freedom’. - Men and memories- Autobiographical Reflections by JRJ.   

In lighter vein…

On one instance in early 1920s, in the Royal College boxing ring JRJ met his schoolmate Colvin R de Silva. It doesn’t matter who won and who lost, but both of them were quick-witted mercilessly articulate orators, who ended in opposite corners in Sri Lanka’s political ring as giants for the rest of their lives. Junius Richard, who amazed the delegates in the afternoon, fascinated them with his scintillating melodious voice singing, ‘O come all ye faithful joyful and triumphant..’. The combination created a sound that got impregnated in the memories of generations of Japanese people.   

  Comments - 3

  • Dad Friday, 15 September 2017 07:02 PM

    I wish we had this kind to talent in politics today

    GC Saturday, 16 September 2017 02:41 PM

    We have such talent but they do not wish to get into politics at a time when most of the rest are corrupt, dishonest, etc. etc. Even if they come into politics they will not have a place at the top table or can get neglected. Look at how many excellent UNP people languish in the government side, without any or good ministerial portfolios so that those rejected by the people in elections can be accommodated not only as national list MPs but powerful SLFP ministers. What a sad situation.

    Jaffna Man Saturday, 16 September 2017 05:40 PM

    But he didn't practice what he preached,83 Anti-Tamil riots and allowing the Indian Army to massacre thousands of Tamils,all happened under his watch.

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