23 July, 2024

Blog

In Memory Of Mr Shyamon Jayasinghe

By Lionel Bopage

Dr. Lionel Bopage

We are saddened by the passing of Mr Shyamon Jayasinghe, a strong-willed and well-known community activist in Melbourne. Shyamon was much senior to us at the University of Peradeniya. He was multi-talented as a stage artist, senior administrator, writer, author, political analyst and community and social worker. He has held executive positions in many community organisations in Victoria. Everyone knows him as an accomplished person both in Sri Lanka and as an expatriate. From what we have heard from other sources, his talents and interests extend beyond the realms of arts and philosophy.

I knew him as the first narrator (Pothe Gura) of the famous Sinhala play (theatre) “Maname” directed and produced by the well-known Professor Ediriweera Sarachchandra during a time when the art world was not as commercialised as it is today. When I was living in Canberra in the nineties, I heard of Shyamon as a founding member of SPUR, with which I have had a long, bitter, and disputed political history.

When I moved to Melbourne, I came to understand that some of the founding members of SPUR had resigned due to their dissatisfaction with some of the work that organisation was involved in. I thought it would be good to catch up with some of them, including Shyamon Jayasinghe and Mr Upa Upadasa. I took the initiative to catch up with Shyamon and had the opportunity to meet up with Upa later on.

Shyamon was residing off Stud Road in Dandenong, Victoria. When I rang him, probably in the mid-2000s, he willingly agreed to meet up with me. When I visited him, his wife the late Malini Jayasinghe was also there. We conversed for nearly two hours. We spoke about our personal stories and politics. Shyamon revealed that he was a supporter of the Lanka Samasamaja Party (LSSP) during his university days. He had also served as an Assistant Secretary to the Ministry of Defence in Sri Lanka during a turbulent period in the country’s history. In Australia he ran his own bookstore, ‘Turamali (Australia)’, providing books to Australian educational institutions.

Shyamon revealed himself to be a strong supporter of the United National Party (UNP). Nevertheless, we were in agreement on many issues, like the need for safeguarding fundamental rights, law and order, the secular nature of the state, and addressing the issues affecting the non-majoritarian communities, etc. Malini was respected for her marvellous community work within the Sri Lankan community in Victoria. She did not speak much about politics, though she listened well. Later on, Shyamon told me that Malini told him that she never expected a person like me to have been a revolutionary, let alone a leader of the JVP.

Thereafter we tried to work together on certain community issues about which we had common interest. Initially, he supported the work of People for Human Rights and Equality (PHRE)  a Melbourne based organisation, but he differed on the issue of the national question in Sri Lanka, particularly on devolution of power and a solution based on federalism. 

In 2008-9, Shyamon attended the first couple of discussions held in the La Trobe University between the Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and Burgher communities in Victoria, initiated by PHRE and the Darebin Ethnic Communities Council (DECC), and facilitated by Professor Joseph Camilleri and Dr Michalis S. Michael of the Centre for Dialogue (CfD). 

I clearly recall Shyamon’s involvement in the work done in Sri Lanka and Australia in 2013 and 2014 by the Melbourne based group Global Reconciliation (GR) . He spoke in support of the Gardens of Remembrance project, whereby the GR team tried to establish common places for all people to commemorate their loved ones lost during the many conflicts in Sri Lanka. He also publicly supported the ‘Ancient Cultures, New Futures’ – a Photography Exhibition for Sri Lankan Reconciliation that GR held in Melbourne the same year.

In October 2014, Shyamon joined as a founder member of  the Australian Advocacy for Good Governance in Sri Lanka (AAGGSL) aimed at creating awareness of the lack of democracy, accountability and good governance in Sri Lanka. The organisation is committed to the establishment of practicing democracy and rule of law in Sri Lanka, respecting the rights and will of all its peoples. Again, despite differences of opinion on the National Question, we worked together until 2022. 

In doing all this, we still maintained our personal friendship. In fact, we were trying to organise a community get-together named “An Evening with Shyamon” to appreciate and recognise the contribution he has made to the Sri Lankan and multicultural community in Victoria. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic that was spreading in Victoria since early 2020, and the restrictions imposed, did not allow us to go ahead with the planed event.

After the Aragalaya protests in 2022, Mr Ranil Wickramasinghe was appointed Prime Minister and later the President of Sri Lanka. Shyamon was a strong supporter of Ranil and did not like an iota of criticism against Ranil. Unfortunately, our considered criticism of the regime led Shyamon to disengage from our political activities. Needless to say, we were disappointed about this development.

Till the end of April this year, my wife Chitra and I wanted to visit Shyamon. However, he was unwell and wanted the visit to occur later. Sadly, in early May I had to undergo certain medical procedures, which prevented us from visiting friends or participating in any public activities. We very much regret the missed opportunity to meet up with Shyamon before his passing.

Shyamon was a secular and non-religious person. Yet, his outlook for making Sri Lanka a better place for its citizens remained bedrock. Honouring and saying goodbye to a friend who has passed is about honouring his life. Friendship transcends death. A friend can never leave, as their memories will not be forgotten by those he left behind.

Shyamon’s passing will definitely leave a huge gap that no one else could single-handedly fill. As friends, we take this opportunity to pay our tribute and honour him. Our deepest sympathies extend to his children – Ashok and Vindi, his relatives, and many friends.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 14
    1

    ‘Shyamon was a strong supporter of Ranil and did not like an iota of criticism against Ranil’. This is why I like Lionel Bopage.

  • 12
    1

    ‘he differed on the issue of the national question in Sri Lanka, particularly on devolution of power and a solution based on federalism’. This is why I am unable to like Shyamon.

    • 12
      2

      There are several Sinhalese, who claim to be moderates, but when it comes to the rights of Tamils, they behave as extremists. Shame on (Shaymon) him.

    • 6
      1

      Alert!
      Now, you know Ranil’s stance on devolution of power and federalism as a solution.
      (For those who still struggle: Put two and two together!)

  • 18
    5

    If he founded the SPUR speak no more. Please google and read it was a very racist Sinhalese nationalist anti-Tamil organisation. Constantly denying what happened to the island’s Tamils, their history, and their right to their homeland and was canvassing and making representations to the Australian government very hard against the island’s Tamils and Australian Tamils and their organisations. Their members used to even come on TV and once even on Australian national radio to spread their lies and misinformation against the island’s Tamils. Now quiet as their true colours and motives were found out. Please google and read what the SPUR was really about. I personally have no respect for anyone who had anything to do with that organisation.

    • 3
      12

      SSS
      Doesn’t the author say that several members including Shyamon ŕesigned from SPUR due to dissatisfaction with its activities?
      “some of the founding members of SPUR had resigned due to their dissatisfaction with some of the work that organisation was involved in. I thought it would be good to catch up with some of them, including Shyamon Jayasinghe”.
      SPUR is quiet now because its hard-core members have died out, and the younger generation is not interested. They are smart enough to see that racist warmongering has brought no results.

      • 4
        6

        O C ,

        Never like Home is the real situation of people like Shyamon ,
        Ameer Ali , Lionel Bopage and almost all or majority of those
        who write from their New Homes ! They are lost in those new
        lands but the lands are full of resources of their interests and
        crying foul to prove to the guys back home that they too can
        have them by learning the tricks ! I am not amazed to read
        that Bopage meets up with Shyamon at Shyamon’s house and
        talks about politics of Srilanka . That simply indicates ,
        wherever they go , they have nothing better to do than doing
        something useless to them . That also shows they did not
        learn a new life in their new home . Samasamaja turned
        Elephant Shyamon is nothing compared to ‘ Wattakka’s’ new
        friend ‘ Pakaya .’ So many things for us to talk about on this
        writing of our guys’ inability to change even under a new
        environment And Such People Think They Can Change
        Others ! A coconut scraper (Hiramanaya) is still a coconut
        scraper even if you take it to the moon !

        • 12
          0

          SPUR was a racist organisation right from the beginning. Shaymon was against granting of justice to Tamils, so was SPUR. So he is also a racist. On what grounds did he resign from SPUR. Was it due to financial irregularities inside or political allegiance back home. Once I aptly wrote “SPURts of a SPURious organisation has to be SPURned”.

        • 1
          1

          “A coconut scraper (Hiramanaya) is still a coconut
          scraper even if you take it to the moon !”
          That will be if you take coconuts too with you.
          I am sure that it will find another use even if the name remain the same.
          *
          BTW
          Will not your criticism apply just as well to all those setted abroad who comment profusely on matters of this land?

      • 8
        0

        old codger

        “SPUR is quiet now because its hard-core members have died out, and the younger generation is not interested. They are smart enough to see that racist warmongering has brought no results.”

        SPURistas still maintain their website (https://www.spur.asn.au/).

        You may be right about the “younger generation” however you see there is a large number of SPURistas still dwelling in racism, irrationality, ….. The kind of articles SPURistas publish is the ones nobody reads them. However it is not about knowledge, wisdom and truth but about how to kill people and peace.

        I suspect it is the pride and joy of the Sinhala/Buddhists diaspora, mostly read by people who are in their 40s and above.

        • 2
          0

          Native,
          40’s?? Surely you’re joking?
          The SPUR website is pretty antiquated, just like their membership. Take a look at the audience, at the start of this Raj Somadeva video in Australia:
          https://youtube.com/watch?v=DcdIG07h5l4&feature=share7
          I’m sure most are SPUR members. Some seem disappointed at what Somadeva says.

    • 4
      11

      Siva Sankaran Sharma,
      Hasn’t Lionel Bopage said enough of SPUR. Why beat a dead horse!

      • 12
        0

        However, you can make negative comments but I cannot state the truth. Have noticed you have recently tried to attack me and nitpick on everything I comment. Trying to shut me up are you? Another person also tried the same tactic. Have you ever lived in Australia, especially in Melbourne, their headquarters? Where the SUPR was at one time very active and even had the ear of the Australian authorities until they realised their true racist and diabolical intent. They were an extremely obnoxious racist organisation, they used to send even spies and photographers to intimidate and spy on Sri Lankan Tamil Hindu and Christian functions and organisations and the people attending them. Their utterances and claims against the Tamils were exactly the same as what Eagle Blind from Melbourne used to post here. Most probably he was also a member too. Many Sinhalese even highly educated professional ones, holding high places, were members of this organisation and they should have known better. It is because of these people and their professional standing that the Australian authorities were first fooled by their racist lies and propaganda until the Tamils fought back. Eagle also lived in the same area where Shyamon lived. Dandenong is a very working-class suburb outer suburb of Melbourne. Lots of Sinhalese and Burghers and other recent immigrants live around this area

        • 11
          0

          The late Shyamon was no innocent, he was also against just Tamil rights and devolution. SPUR was a very racist anti-Tamil obnoxious organisation from its very inception, against granting any rights to the island’s Tamils or even Australia granting residency status to Tamils, especially to the Tamil asylum seekers.

          Yes, it has become very dormant and quiet now as the largely racist active members have passed away or have become infirm, also the Australian authorities currently do not take them seriously, they realised its name Sri Lankan Society for peace unity and human rights was just a deceptive, there were not promoting peace unity or human rights but outright Sinhalese racism. As for the younger generation of Sinhalese here, most of them are not bothered but there is still a very large amount of them carrying this racist anti-Tamil torch, and propaganda, sadly even many born here. Like many going around deliberately misleading the larger Australian population, all the Tamils on the island are purely descended from South Indian immigrants who were imported into the island by the European colonials and have no right for a homeland or equal rights with the so-called native indigenous Sinhalese. Many have made the same comment here again and again. I personally have had experiences of this at a university and even at my working place and had to correct stories and confront the mischief makers.

          https://www.spur.asn.au/about-us/#:~:text=SPUR%20%E2%80%93%20was%20formed%20in%20Melbourne%20in%201994,to%20help%20mother%20lanka%20in%20her%20rehabilitation%20efforts.

          • 6
            0

            SSS, Nathan
            Before 2000, the UNP was even more racist than the SLFP, only the JVP was worse.
            That might explain how someone like Shyamon could be a UNP supporter and racist at the same time.

        • 2
          7

          I heard of Shyamon as a founding member of SPUR, with which I have had a long, bitter, and disputed political history, – Lionel Bopage.
          Lionel Bopage has already said what need to be said of SPUR.
          You lashing it is like beating a dead horse.
          Feel free to come up with more of your invective if it suits you.

          • 4
            2

            Please do not nitpick and comment on things that you have very little knowledge of or have had first-hand experience with, as we have had with SPUR and their activities, in Australia, especially in Melbourne. We know what really happened here and the people who were behind this. Not gleaning things from this article. The author of this article may have liked Shyamon and most probably glossed over a lot of things but as an affected Tamil, I do not have to. Or may have liked him, so now want to gloss over a lot of things. Yes, you have been nitpicking on my comments and this is a fact, being invective nasty and sarcastic once when I accidentally spelt Justice Wigneswaran’s name as Vigneswaran the usual way most Tamils spell and forgot to address him as justice to which he himself did not take any offence, as he knows it was a genuine error but you made to hue and a cry about it. Most probably trying to deflect attention from the message posted on the comment.

        • 2
          3

          “However, you can make negative comments but I cannot state the truth.”
          Thanks for that interesting revelation, which I trust is an exception to the rule above.

          • 2
            2

            Was waiting for your nit-picking and attack against me too and you have not disappointed me

  • 6
    1

    Shocked and saddened to hear that he is not with us anymore. Shyamon will be missed forever and always. Enjoy your spiritual journey in Paradise. Rest in Peace.

  • 6
    1

    A respected gentleman. I like writings. He is genuine in the subject of devolution of powers as in all other subjects. May His Soul Rest in Peace.

    • 0
      0

      There is an error. It should be read as ‘I like his writing.’ In the next sentence it should be read as ‘as well as in all other subjects’.

  • 4
    1

    I didn’t like his unstinting support/faith of/in Ranil ……. which at times bordered on lunacy

    But always felt ……. ” Shyamon was a secular and non-religious person. Yet, his outlook for making Sri Lanka a better place for its citizens remained bedrock.”

    He’ll be missed.

  • 4
    1

    I have not known the late Shayamon personally. His last posting on the CT on Jerome Fernando’s issue clearly showed that he was an utter stooge of Ranil and though he was parading as an atheist or a secular person, deep within he was not.

    • 2
      0

      MJA ,

      Age plays a major role on one’s life and dictates what one can and
      can not do at certain age . We all are subject to this condition and
      that is science . That is why internationally people retire at a
      certain age to spend the rest of life in relax . Those who know the
      value of this wonderful rest of life relax , grab it with both hands
      and enjoy their remaining years . And I am not surprised at all that
      Our Politicians and Their All Kinds of Boot Lickers never desire to
      take a rest because of their firmly rooted Greed of Power and
      Money . They do have a lesson if they do know driving . Colour lights
      Green , Orange and Red .

  • 1
    0

    Why, Why,
    I wouldn’t agree with you more.
    Even on the field of art Shayamon had a very narrow view as evident when he happily joined the band wagon
    attacking Kishani Jayasinghe when she sang some time back Danno Budunge in a westernised style- a song that has a western origin anyway running to Mendelssohn to 1830’s- according to researchers. His
    connections to pioneering
    SPUR as a mature adult in his mid fifties might show the real political animal residing in him. Yes, people tend to loose marbles when in old age and rattle on to satisfy their preconceived ideas or for populist consumption.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.