Ravi Jayewardene Pious son of a political giant

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By 2017-04-11

By Harshani Arsakularathna

"I have no generation to save. I have no legacy to strengthen. My generation and legacy are the people," said Sri Lanka's first Executive President J.R. Jayewardene.

This statement hints that politicians strengthening their families were common in those times too.

The reason for the former President Jayewardene to express those views could be that his only son's unwillingness to enter politics.

Ravi Jayewardene, the only son of former President Jayewardene who chose his own path while his father was a giant in politics passed away on 3 April 2017.

Ravi's elder son Pradeep Jayewardene described the sad and happy memories of the eight-decade life of his father.

Mother

"My mother is ShamenVanderkoon. For us, the news she and my father separating was unbelievable. They were so friendly. We have never seen or heard they quarrelled. But they separated.

"These are the words I remember my mother told about my father. Your father will give even his clothes if someone asks for that. He was such a kind hearted man".

"My father was born where the present Jayewardene Centre is located. Then it was Judge E.W. Jayewardene's house called 'Vaijayantha'. He was my father's grandfather. After that my grandmother built a house in Ward Place and they moved there.

"Ravi Jayewardene was a past pupil of Royal College, Colombo. He was a clever cadet and a brilliant marksman. He captained Sri Lanka's national shooting team in 1964. He participated in Asian Games. He was once the champion in West Australia.

Revolutionary character

"He was a revolutionary character. He one time served in the Army and mixed his experiences with the deep philosophy of Buddhism. He was very humane and kind, but he called a spade a spade. He inherited those traits from his grandmother, I think.

"My mother was a pilot. She jokingly said dad read her books while learning to be a pilot. She was a relation of one of my father's school friends. They married when they were very young and my father was only 22 years old then.

"My younger brothers Rukshan, Amrith and I were brought up by my grandfather J.R. Jayewardene and my grandmother Elena Jayewardene after my parents divorced. I still feel them as my parents.

"Dad had to resign from his pilot profession due to a heart attack he suffered at the age of 36. It was the time he tried to find many things in his life. He loved Buddhist philosophy and wanted to test it through his life. Due to the divorce, heart attack and loss of job, he turned towards Buddhism and meditation very much. He searched the depth of life.

Brilliant marksman

"Since he was a brilliant marksman, during 1971 insurgency, a rumour spread that Ravi Jayewardene was linked to it. One day, after he landed an aeroplane, Police arrested him. My grandfather was the Opposition Leader then and my father was released after 24 hours.

"By this time also, he wanted to be a Bhikkhu. Due to troubles he had faced as a result of his father's politics, he decided to go abroad. He got married for the second time. After marrying our step mother secretly, he migrated to Australia. He wanted to get the Australian citizenship because of the problems he faced here.

"My step mother also gave him the freedom to do whatever he wanted. He went to Thailand and was ordained as a Bhikkhu in a jungle monastery. He leant meditation there and taught it to many other people.

Strict regulations

"I remember once grandfather went to Thailand to meet dad. Due to strict regulations in Thailand then, dad came to Bangkok to meet our grandfather.

"He became a popular teacher of meditation who taught many students. But this prevented him engaging in his own meditation.

He begged for permission from his chief monk to move away. When that demand was not granted due to his popularity, he read the Vinaya books and disrobed. "He then started a meditation centre in Australia and continued meditating. After grandfather won in 1977, he came to see the grandfather but he did not settle here.

"After 1983 black July, he decided to help the grandfather and worked as a security adviser to the President. He had great knowledge in defence sector terrorism. He came to support the grandfather when he saw the ethnic rife was escalating. He extended his support after the war was started.

"We had an Army which had been trained for the World War II. Terrorists were ahead of us in terms attitude, military technology and training. My father worked hard to improve the Army's standard.

Team combat methods

He introduced the team combat methods practised by the Special Task Forces of South Africa, Israel and England. He established the Special Task Force (STF) in Sri Lanka. My father structured and streamlined STF with the support of a Keeni Meeni squad which had been trained by SAS military academy of the UK. He also initiated the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB).

"I was very close to my father after he came back to Sri Lanka. It was friendship beyond father-son relationship. I could discuss any subject with him.

"He was such a non-violent man. When he was in hospital I called a lawyer who was a retired judge. When he worked as a judge in Mount Lavinia courts, he had taken a herd of cattle into the custody of the court. He met the judge and pointed out that the cattle were undergoing difficulties. With his involvement, the cattle were directed to a farm. The lawyer described this incident to show how non-violent he was. I told it to my father as soon as I visited him in hospital.

"Although my father was a soldier, he had a completely different character. He did not agree to undergo any surgery while he was ill. He bade farewell to us as a man who had understood the reality of life.

"Although he was born to a political giant of the country, he led a life unaffected by politics. The greatness he achieved during his life through humanity may lead him to attain Nibbana."

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