TRIBUTE TO JEYARAJ FERNANDOPULLE: The Voice that was to be silenced by death- still echoes from within.
By Dr.Telli C Rajaratnam
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 power today.
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.
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 appointed the Chairman of the Committee of Public Enterprises (COPE) which dealt with the scrutiny of Public Enterprises. 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.
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 was humane.
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.
The crux of his successful oratory was the bond of empathy between him and the audience. The greatest talent a politician can have is the ability to convey sincerity. 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.
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 the country.
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.
Jeyaraj’s deep thoughts and the seriousness with which he performed his duties to humanity is unusual for many who are in power today.
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.
If a politician could get his message across in a three minute interview or on an off-the record briefing to the journalist-the arguments that he sets out had been fermenting in his mind bottled up over a period of time and as such the words that flow is like vintage wine.
The crux of his successful oratory was the bond of empathy between him and the audience. The greatest talent a politician can have is the ability to convey sincerity.
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 can 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 flows as words most appropriate for the moment. Every word uttered by him is as powerful in its intellectual and moral force.
Jeyaraj’s skills of advocacy is often seen in Parliament when he defends any Government Member. Like any skilled in advocacy he has the ability to make something out of nothing and nothing out of something.
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 Sri Lanka would not be ridiculed by the UNHRC if Jeyaraj was alive. These would also be lessons learnt.
The awful shadow of some unseen Power
Floats though unseen among us,—visiting
This various world with an inconstant wing
As summer winds that creep from flower to flower,…
Like clouds in starlight widely spread,—
Like memory of music fled…
Of human thought or form,—where art thou gone?
Why dost thou pass away and leave our state,
This dim vast vale of tears, vacant and desolate?...
Why aught should fail and fade that once is shown
Why fear and dream and death and birth
Cast on the daylight of this earth
Such gloom,—why man has such a scope
For love and hate, despondency and hope?....
Love, Hope, and Self-esteem, like clouds depart
And come, for some uncertain moments lent…."
(Hymn to Intellectual Beauty - P. B. Shelly)