Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Junius Richard Jayewardene

Junius Richard Jayewardene

Ask a question about 'Junius Richard Jayewardene'
Start a new discussion about 'Junius Richard Jayewardene'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
Junius Richard Jayewardene (Sinhala:ජුනියස් රිචඩ් ජයවර්ධන) (September 17, 1906 – November 1, 1996), famously abbreviated in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

 as JR, was the first executive President of Sri Lanka
President of Sri Lanka
The President of Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is the elected head of state and the head of government. The President is a dominant political figure in Sri Lanka. The office was created in 1978 but has grown so powerful there have been calls to restrict or even eliminate its power...

, serving 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. Before taking over the newly created executive presidency, he served as the Prime minister of Sri Lanka
Prime Minister of Sri Lanka
The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka is the functional head of the Cabinet of Sri Lanka. However, the President is both head of state and head of government in Sri Lanka...

 between 1977 and 1978.

Early life & education

J.R. Jayewardene, who was the eldest in a family of 11 children, was the son of Hon. Justice
Justice is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, or equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics; justice is the act of being just and/or fair.-Concept of justice:...

 Eugene Wilfred Jayewardene
Eugene Wilfred Jayewardene
Justice Eugene Wilfred Jayewardene, KC was a Ceylonese judge, lawyer and politician. He was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ceylon and is the father of J R Jayewardene the first executive President of Sri Lanka.Born to James Alfred Jayewardene, a Proctor who was the Deputy Coroner of...

 KC a Chief Justice of Ceylon
Chief Justice of Sri Lanka
The Chief Justice of Sri Lanka is the highest post in the judicial system of Sri Lanka and heads the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. The Chief Justice is appointed by the President, chosen from candidates recommended by the Constitutional Council...

. Educated at the prestigious Royal College, Colombo where he played for the college cricket
Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players on an oval-shaped field, at the centre of which is a rectangular 22-yard long pitch. One team bats, trying to score as many runs as possible while the other team bowls and fields, trying to dismiss the batsmen and thus limit the...

 team, debuting in the Royal-Thomian
The Royal–Thomian , the annual cricket match between Royal College, Colombo and S...

 series in 1925 and captained rugger
Rugger may mean:*A slang word for rugby football, or for one who plays rugby football*List of Star Wars creatures#Ruggers, a species of animal in the Star Wars fictional scenario*A person who makes rugs, or a tool used when making rugs...

 team at the annual Royal-Trinity Encounter which later became known as the Bradby Shield Encounter
Bradby Shield Encounter
The Bradby Shield Encounter - commonly known as "The Bradby" - is the blue ribbon of Sri Lanka's school rugby union season. It is played annually between traditional rivals Royal College, Colombo, and Trinity College, Kandy. The encounter consists of two legs, one being played in the Royal College...

. Excelling in both studies and sports, he became the head prefect in 1925 and also represented the school in football, boxing and was a member of the cadet corp.

Jayewardene entered the University College, Colombo
University of Colombo
The University of Colombo is a public research university located primarily in Colombo, Sri Lanka...

 in 1926 where he attaining a distinguished academic record and showed a keen interest in sports. In 1928 he entered Colombo Law College and passed out as an advocate
An advocate is a term for a professional lawyer used in several different legal systems. These include Scotland, South Africa, India, Scandinavian jurisdictions, Israel, and the British Crown dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man...

, starting his practice in the unofficial Bar, for a brief period. Jayewardene converted from Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 to Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 in his youth.

Political career

Jayewardene did not practice law for long, however. In 1938 he became 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 1940. He was elected to the colonial
legislature, the State Council
State Council of Ceylon
The State Council of Ceylon was the unicameral legislature for Ceylon , established in 1931 by the Donoughmore Constitution. The State Council gave universal adult franchise to the people of the colony for the first time...

 in 1943 by wining the Kelaniya by-election. During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, Jayewardene, along with other nationalists, contacted the Japanese and discussed a rebellion to drive the British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 from the island.
After joining the United National Party
United National Party
The United National Party, often referred to as the UNP ), , is a political party in Sri Lanka. It currently is the main opposition party in Sri Lanka and is headed by Ranil Wickremesinghe...

 on its formation in 1946, he became Finance Minister
Finance minister
The finance minister is a cabinet position in a government.A minister of finance has many different jobs in a government. He or she helps form the government budget, stimulate the economy, and control finances...

 in the island’s first Cabinet in 1947. He played a major role in re-admitting Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 to the world community at the San Francisco Conference.

Jayewardene's acute intelligence and subtle, often aggressive political skills earned him leading roles in government (1947–1956 and 1965–1970) and in opposition (1956–1965 and 1970–1977). In 1951 Jayewardene was a member of the committee to select a National Anthem for Sri Lanka headed by Sir Edwin Wijeyeratne
Edwin Wijeyeratne
Sir Edwin Aloysius Perera Wijeyeratne, KBE was a Sri Lankan politician, diplomat, and one of the founding members of United National Party. He was a Senator and Cabinet Minister of Home Affairs and Rural Development in the government of DS Senanayake...

. The following year he was elected as the President of the Board of Control for Cricket
Sri Lanka Cricket
Sri Lanka Cricket, formerly the Board for Cricket Control in Sri Lanka , is the controlling body for cricket in Sri Lanka. It operates the Sri Lankan cricket team and first-class cricket within Sri Lanka....

 in Ceylon.

As the youngest Finance Minister, in D.S. Senanayake's government, Jayewardene struggled to balance the budget, faced with mounting government expenditures, particularly for rice subsidies. His 1953 proposal to cut the subsidies - on which many poor people depended on for survival - provoked fierce opposition and the 1953 Hartal
Hartal 1953
Hartal 1953 was a country-wide demonstration, commonly known as a hartal, held in Ceylon on August 12, 1953. It was organized to protest of the policies and actions of the incumbent United National Party government, and resulted in the resignation of the Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake...

 campaign, and had to be called off.

By the late 1950s, the UNP struggled to deal with the rising force of the Sinhala-nationalist Sri Lanka Freedom Party
Sri Lanka Freedom Party
The Sri Lanka Freedom Party is one of the major political parties in Sri Lanka. It was founded by S.W.R.D Bandaranaike in 1951 and, since then, has been one of the two largest parties in the Sri Lankan political arena. It first came to power in 1956 and since then has been the predominant party in...

. Jayewardene pushed the party to accommodate nationalism and endorse the Sinhala Only Act
Sinhala Only Act
The Sinhala Only Act was a law passed in the Ceylonese parliament in 1956...

, which was bitterly opposed by the island's minorities. Throughout the 1960s Jayewardene clashed over this issue with party leader Dudley Senanayake
Dudley Senanayake
Dudley Shelton Senanayake was a Ceylonese politician, who became the second Prime Minister of Ceylon and went on to become prime minister on 2 more times during the 1950s and 1960s.-Early life:Dudley was born on 19 June, 1911 as the eldest son to Molly Dunuwila and Don Stephen Senanayake, who...

. Jayewardene saw how skilfully the SLFP had played the ethnic card, and felt the UNP should be willing to do the same, even if it meant losing the support of ethnic minorities.

No government gave serious thought to the development of the industry as an economically viable venture until the United National Party came to power in 1965 and the subject of tourism came under the purview of the Minister of State Hon. J. R. Jayewardene.

The new Minister Jayewardene saw tourism in a new dimension as a great industry capable of earning foreign exchange, providing avenues of mass employment, creating a manpower which commanded a 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.

In the general election of 1970 the UNP suffered a major defeat, when the SLFP and its newly formed collation 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.


Jayewardene won a sweeping election victory in 1977 to become Prime Minister. Immediately thereafter, he amended the first republican constitution of 1972 and created the post of executive president. Provisions were included in it which made him President without an election. He swore as the 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. It retained the Executive Presidency with drastic and unchecked powers, and, on its adoption into law, continued him as the first Sri Lankan Executive President. He moved the legislative capital from Colombo to Sri Jayawardanapura Kotte. He opened the heavily state-controlled economy to market forces, which many credit with subsequent economic growth but also with the greater divisions in society.

After the 1977 riots
Sri Lankan riots of 1977
The 1977 riots in Sri Lanka followed the 1977 general elections in Sri Lanka where the Sri Lankan Tamil nationalistic Tamil United Liberation Front won a plurality of minority Sri Lankan Tamil votes in which it stood for secession...

, the government made one concession to the Tamils; it lifted the policy of standardization
Policy of standardization
The policy of standardization was a policy implemented by the Sri Lankan government in 1973 to rectify disparities created in university enrollment in Sri Lanka under Colonial rule.-The reasoning for the law:...

 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.

Jayewardene moved to crack down on the growing activity of Tamil militant groups. He passed the Prevention of Terrorism Act
Prevention of Terrorism Act (Sri Lanka)
The Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1978 is a law in Sri Lanka. It provides the police with broad powers to search, arrest, and detain suspects. It was first enacted as a temporary law in 1979, then made permanent in 1982....

 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
Sirimavo Bandaranaike
Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike was a Sri Lankan politician and the world's first female head of government...

 stripped of her civic rights and barred from running for office for six years, based her decision in 1976 to extend the life of parliament. This ensured that the SLFP would be unable to field a strong candidate against him in the 1982 election
Sri Lankan presidential election, 1982
The Sri Lankan presidential election of 1982 was the first presidential election of Sri Lanka. Nominations were accepted on 17 September 1982, and the election was held on 20 October 1982. Electoral participation was 81.06%. Incumbent president J. R. Jayewardene of the governing United National...

, 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.

The UNP had obtained an overwhelming majority in the 1977 elections
Sri Lankan parliamentary election, 1977
The 1977 Sri Lankan election heralded the beginning of a new period of Sri Lanka's history - a period of unprecedented violence.-Background:Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike had become extraordinarily unpopular. Her economic policies had led to industrial growth and self-reliance, but was...

, and Jayewardene was loth to part with it. 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
Separatism is the advocacy of a state of cultural, ethnic, tribal, religious, racial, governmental or gender separation from the larger group. While it often refers to full political secession, separatist groups may seek nothing more than greater autonomy...

; this effectively eliminated the main opposition party, the Tamil United Liberation Front
Tamil United Liberation Front
The Tamil United Liberation Front is a political party in Sri Lanka which seeks independence for the Tamil-populated areas of Sri Lanka.-Formation:...


Civil war

Jayewardene said in Daily Telegraph, 11th July 1983," Really if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala people will be happy."

At first, the war went badly for the government, and the LTTE ended up in possession of Jaffna
Jaffna is the capital city of the Northern Province, Sri Lanka. It is the administrative headquarters of the Jaffna district located on a peninsula of the same name. Jaffna is approximately six miles away from Kandarodai which served as a famous emporium in the Jaffna peninsula from classical...

 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
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 pushed for a negotiated solution to the conflict. Jayewardene and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi
Rajiv Gandhi
Rajiv Ratna Gandhi was the sixth Prime Minister of India . He took office after his mother's assassination on 31 October 1984; he himself was assassinated on 21 May 1991. He became the youngest Prime Minister of India when he took office at the age of 40.Rajiv Gandhi was the elder son of Indira...

 finally concluded the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord
Indo-Sri Lanka Accord
The Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord was an accord signed in Colombo on July 29, 1987, between Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan President J.R. Jayewardene. The accord was expected to resolve the ongoing Sri Lankan civil war...

, which provided for devolution
Devolution is the statutory granting of powers from the central government of a sovereign state to government at a subnational level, such as a regional, local, or state level. Devolution can be mainly financial, e.g. giving areas a budget which was formerly administered by central government...

 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 were the once that didn't even had powers to control over revenue,police,government sponsored Sinhala
Sinhalese people
The Sinhalese are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group,forming the majority of Sri Lanka,constituting 74% of the Sri Lankan population.They number approximately 15 million worldwide.The Sinhalese identity is based on language, heritage and religion. The Sinhalese speak Sinhala, an Indo-Aryan language and the...

 settlements in Tamil provinces . Sinhala nationalists were outraged by both the devolution and the presence of foreign troops on Sri Lankan soil. An attempt
1987 grenade attack in the Sri Lankan Parliament
The 1987 grenade attack in the Sri Lankan Parliament took place on August 18, 1987, when an assailant hurled 2 grenades into a room where government Members of Parliament were meeting. The grenades bounced off the table at which Sri Lankan President J. R. Jayawardene and Prime Minister Ranasinghe...

 was made on Jayawardene's life in 1987 as a result of his signing of the accord. Young, deprived Sinhalese soon rose in revolt
Insurrection 1987-89
The 1987-89 insurrection in Sri Lanka, in which around 50,000 lives were lost, was carried out by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, a Marxist Sinhalese political party in Sri Lanka.-Leadup to conflict in the 1980s:...

, organized by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna
Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna
The Janathā Vimukthi Peramuṇa is a Marxist-Leninist, Communist political party in Sri Lanka. The party was involved in two armed uprisings against the ruling governments in 1971 and 1987-89...

 (JVP) which was eventually put down by the government.

Jayewardene retired from politics in 1989; his successor Ranasinghe Premadasa
Ranasinghe Premadasa
Ranasinghe Premadasa was the 3rd President of Sri Lanka from January 2, 1989 to May 1, 1993. Before that, he served as the Prime Minister in the government headed by J. R. Jayewardene from February 6, 1978 to January 1, 1989...

 was formally inaugurated on 2 January 1989.

Foreign Policy

Quite contrary to his predecessor, Sirimavo Bandaranaike
Sirimavo Bandaranaike
Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike was a Sri Lankan politician and the world's first female head of government...

, Jayawardena's foreign policy was aligned American policies (earning him the nickname 'Yankie Dickie') much to the chagrin of India. Before Jayawardena's ascendency into the presidency, Sri Lanka had doors widely open to its neighbourhood India. Jayawardena'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.


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.

Family life

Jayewardene married Miss Elina Bandara Rupasinghe in 1935, Ravindra "Ravi" Vimal Jayewardene is their only child, he was an Officer in the Sri Lanka Army and served as the Presidential Security Adviser. He was a notable marksmen, pilot and the founder of the elite Special Task Force
Special Task Force
The Special Task Force is an elite special forces unit of the Sri Lanka Police Service specializing in Counter-Terrorist and Counter-Insurgency operations. It was formed in 1983 not as a military force but rather as a highly specialised police unit...


Further reading

  • De Silva, K. M., & Wriggins, W. H. (1988), J.R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka: a political biography, University of Hawaii Press ISBN 0824811836
  • Jayewardene, J. R. (1988), My quest for peace: a collection of speeches on international affairs,
  • 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

See also

  • List of political families in Sri Lanka
  • 1987 grenade attack in the Sri Lankan Parliament
    1987 grenade attack in the Sri Lankan Parliament
    The 1987 grenade attack in the Sri Lankan Parliament took place on August 18, 1987, when an assailant hurled 2 grenades into a room where government Members of Parliament were meeting. The grenades bounced off the table at which Sri Lankan President J. R. Jayawardene and Prime Minister Ranasinghe...

External links