LTTE stilled the voice of an outspoken leader
It was exactly six years ago that LTTE terrorists assassinated
another outspoken political leader who has always worked for ethnic
Pic: Sudam Gunasinghe
Those who assassinated the then Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle
thought they could silence the gentleman politician who had been
immensely popular among all communities.
But all those whom Jeyaraj helped and all those who still love him
cannot be silenced. They remember him.
I have ventured to write a synopsis of the achievements, vision, and
career of Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, as a person who was well acquainted to
him. I was impressed by his deep thoughts and the seriousness with which
he took his duties to humanity. This is unusual for many who are in
The facts surrounding his service to the country are astounding. He
was a very busy and amazing gentleman. He lived by his conscience. With
amazing humility and strong religious convictions and belief in God he
made tremendous sacrifices.
As so often happens with men of such force and talent, his quest to
serve the people and his desire to fulfill the dreams and aspirations of
others he had all the time for others and little time for himself.
Working long hours he was never tired inspiring those around him and
those who come into contact with him as a remarkable and perfect
gentleman that any person would like to know.
The quality of Jeyaraj is best known when it is evident that all his
efforts were not for political gain because my personal acquaintance
with him has proved that he helped anyone and everyone regardless of
electoral jurisdictions or of political affiliations - in short Jeyaraj
He manifested a deep concern for humanity. His intellectual
brilliance coupled with his dynamic linguistic skills enabled him to
become one of the most respected Members of Parliament. He was an asset
to the Nation. His demise is an irreparable loss to all communities in
Jeyaraj was born on January 11, 1953 and had his primary and
secondary education at Ave Maria Convent and Maris Stella College,
Negombo respectively. His legal career commenced in 1977 and together
with his innate intelligence, rare combination of linguistic skills and
analytical thinking he became well-known for his fearless submissions in
Court in defending his clients.
He is known as a fearless defender of the rights of humanity in
Parliament. In 1983 he was appointed as the organizer for the Sri Lanka
Freedom Party for Katana.
He was elected to Parliament from the Gampaha district in 1989. In
1993, he was elected as a member of the politburo of the Sri Lanka
Freedom Party and was elected as the Assistant Secretary of the Party.
In 1994, he was elected as a Member of Parliament for the second time
and was appointed as the Deputy Minister of Finance, Ethnic Affairs and
National Integration the same year. In 1997, he was appointed as the
Minister of Plan Implementation and Parliamentary Affairs.
In 2000, he was appointed as the Minister of Civil Aviation, Tourism
and Christian Religious Affairs. In 2001, he was re-elected as a Member
of Parliament for the fourth time. In 2002 he was also appointed as a
member of the Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to inquire into
allegation made against the Chairman of Bribery and Corruption
Commission. In 2004, he was appointed as the Minister of Trade, Commerce
and Consumer Affairs and in addition was appointed to the most important
position in Parliament as the Chief Government Whip of Parliament.
He has held several Cabinet portfolios in Parliament and is reputed
for his spontaneous response and skilled debating.
If a politician can get his message across in a three minute
interview or on an off-the-record briefing to the journalist - the
arguments that he set out had fermenting in his mind bottled up over a
period of time and as such the words that flowed were like vintage wine.
He has impressively displayed that left over his fieriest critics
unable to cast doubt on the strength of his beliefs, his efficiency,
capability and oratorical skills which none could match in the present
Parliament. Great speeches need not be made by great leaders. Jeyaraj's
speeches were spontaneous, on the spur of the moment with chosen
thoughts which flowed as words most appropriate for the moment. Every
word uttered by him was powerful in its intellectual and moral force.
A Catholic by birth and respecter of all religions and races. To
Jeyaraj, religion was love, compassion and forgiveness and to Jeyaraj
there was only one race - the human race.
He is not only respected by the members of his Party but also the
opposition parties for his wit, quick response and debating skills
coupled with skills of advocacy.
Jeyaraj's efforts were not for political gain because my personal
acquaintance with him has proved that he helps any one and everyone
regardless electoral jurisdictions or political affiliations. Affection
and respect for fellow human beings giving them encouragement, courage
and support are the tenets of Jeyaraj's virtues.
He was an incalculable source of strength, unselfish and rejoiced in
giving. He was known as the Silver tongued Orator with a heart of Gold.
He was also known as the Julius Caesar of Little Rome.
There is none that can match him in the skills of oratory even now in
Parliament. He was well prepared for any eventuality, quick on his feet.
During the budget debates and voting he handled the situation well to
curtail and prevent turbulence caused by those on the other side and to
effectively take all measures to get the budget passed.
Some believe there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the
enormous array of the world's ills.
Yet many of the world's great movements of thoughts and action have
flowed from the work of a single man.
A young monk began the Protestant reformation, a young general
extended an empire from Macedonia to the borders of the earth and a
young woman reclaimed the territory of France.
It was a young Italian explorer who discovered the New World and
thirty two year old Thomas Jefferson who proclaimed that all men are
created equal. These men moved the world...few have the greatness to
bend history itself... It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and
belief that human history is shaped.
Each time Jeyaraj stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot
of others or strikes out against injustice, he sent forth a tiny ripple
of hope and crossing each other from a million different centers of
energy and daring those ripples build a current that can sweep down the
mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
Today is the sixth death anniversary of Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, an
outstanding humane human being.
Often, the People find it difficult to meet their own representative
, but Jeyaraj was available to anyone and everyone.
Tall, handsome Jeyaraj looked stern but he was as innocent as a child
- this silver tongued Gentleman with a heart of Gold!
Today Sri Lanka would not be ridiculed by the UNHRC if Jeyaraj was
alive. These would also be lessons learnt. What has been done by fools
cannot be undone. Jeyaraj's soul will be powerful.