|Sunday, 2 June 2002|
Dr. T.B. Jayah - A National Hero
By M.A. Sourjah
The 42nd Death Anniversary of one of our National Heroes fell on the 31st of March, 2002. He was a great patriot of our nation, "a multi-faceted, multi-dimensional personality" who towered above his contemporaries in the Muslim Community. He was a national figure in the period spanning the introduction of the Donoughmore and Soulbury Constitutions which culminated in Ceylon attaning full independence from British rule in 1948.
In 1944, he spoke for three hours on the Soulbury Report and the White Paper of the United Kingdom Government to pave the way for full independence. It was on this historic occasion that the then leader of the House in the State Council, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike paid him a high tribute, when he said, "Credit for the attainment of independence should undoubtedly go to Mr. T.B. Jayah for his historic speech in passing the Dominion Bill".
Tuan Branudeen Jayah was born on January 1, 1890 at Galagedera. He died on May 31, 1960, at Jennathul Baqi, Medina - the resting place of Assabis and members of the Holy Prophet's family.
His parents were Police Sergeant Cassim Jayah and Nona Jayah (nee Sourjah), descendants of the original Malay setttlers in this island home - a fact which their family tree would reveal. T.B. Jayah's thinking was that Muslims were an integral part of the multi-racial Ceylonese (later Sri Lankan) nation. Jayah's first and original concern was the education of the Muslims, long neglected due to "Muslim conservatism". But for Jayah, the Muslims would have remained stigmatized as backward.
During his stewardship as Principal of Zahira College, Colombo (1921 - 1948), he transformed it from a tottering elementary school to a premier educational institution with branches all over the country. T.B. Jayah was appositely called the 'Sir Seyed Ahmed Khan' of Ceylon for the sacrifices he made in the cause of Muslim education and for upholding the lofty ideals of the pioneers such as Orabi Pasha of Egypt and Wapiche Marikkar, the first Manager of Zahira. Zahira and Jayah were synonymous.
During his political career, Jayah sought mutual accommodation with other communities, so that the larger interests of the country did not suffer.
This should be an important lesson for us living in turbulent, violent and critical times. If this lesson is not learnt, even after a lapse of over half a century since attaining independence, we as a nation are bound to sink deeper into the quagmire we already are in.
Jayah in his time was an Educationist, State Councillor, Member of Parliament, Minister of State and Ambassador to Pakistan, where the University of Punjab conferred on him the Degree of Doctor of Literature (D. Litt. - Honoris Causa).
Jayah had faith in the ultimate efficacy of the democratic process. He believe that the political majority will eventually come to recognise the legitimate rights of the diverse groups, be they ethnic or otherwise.
Today there is cognisance of the fact that in a multi-ethnic society, unless the right of all concerned are recognised, there would be no progress.
Jayah's thesis made some fifty years ago is valid even today. It is a thesis based on the confidence in the people of Sri Lanka. It is founded on his faith in the efficacy of the democratic process.
Democracy cannot, in a plural society, meet the aspirations of those who constitute that society unless they embrace the principle of 'give-and'take' as an integral part of the democratic concept.
One way of commemorating his 42nd Death Anniversary is to take forward this great democrat's legacy and translate his political testimony into reality.
Produced by Lake House