25 February, 2018

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The Vavuniya Diaries By Neville Jayaweera

Review by B. Skanthakumar –

B. Skanthakumar

This slim memoir spanning a few months in 1971 is noteworthy for its insider view on the failed first insurrection of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP—Peoples Liberation Front), or more exactly its repression somewhere remote from Colombo and the southwest, by a principal participant. The author was then Government Agent, that is the top-most administrative official, in undivided Vavuniya (before Mullaithivu had been carved from it).

Jungle Outpost

This Tamil majority northern district was sprawling and forested and populated by poor peasants and wild animals. It was a punishment station “away from the comforts of home, family and friends”, for public officials out-of-favour with the incumbent government; and is variously described by Jayaweera as a “jungle outpost”, “Siberia”, and even “gulag”!

The Vavuniya Diaries By Neville Jayaweera – Ravaya Publishers, Maharagama 2017, pp117+xvii, Rs250

Their politically motivated transfer was to affect the loyalty and morale of police personnel and other state cadre as news of a daring bid for state power by a shadowy movement of Sinhala radical youth – known colloquially as ‘Cheguara’ (through association with the image and example of the Argentine-Cuban revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara) – trickled in from the Sinhala villages of Madukanda, Mamaduwa and Pavatkulama, to the town. 

After his previous roles as Government Agent of Jaffna during the implementation of the ‘Sinhala Only’ Act – narrated in his Jaffna: Exorcising the Past and Holding the Vision (Ravaya Publishers, 2014) – and as Chairman cum Director-General of the Ceylon Broadcasting Corporation, Jayaweera had anticipated measuring the length of his sentence in Vavuniya by “purchasing paddy and looking into corruption in cooperative societies”.

The eruption of armed rebellion from 4th April 1971 and until its eradication (in Vavuniya at least) by mid-August, changed the situation utterly.

Writ of the State

As Government Agent, Jayaweera was responsible for facing down the JVP’s challenge and maintaining the writ of the state during those hot months. The defence of the town and its police station was critical.

The JVP strategy of a ‘one-day revolution’ boiled down to storming police stations and arming themselves from their arsenal of weapons and ammunition; along with taking the political and administrative hierarchy up to prime minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike into captivity and possibly execution. Vavuniya town was an asset to both the state and the JVP for its location on the arterial road connecting Jaffna to Colombo and Mannar to Trincomalee and the rail-link between north and south.

Neville Jayaweera

Vavuniya police station came under attack on the night of 4th April, lasting into the early hours of the next morning, until the rebels withdrew. Later on the 5th, Vavuniya town itself was besieged by between 100 and 150 armed men, vastly outnumbering the police. An infantry platoon from Mannar only arrived that afternoon.

As the reader can guess, the story that unfolds is of the successful resistance to the seizure of authority by the JVP, ending instead in the capture of its known supporters, and against all manner of worries. Aside from the constant threat to his life by the insurgents, these problems ranged from minimal support from a distant and panic-stricken central government – Felix Dias Bandaranaike, nephew and advisor to the prime minister, is a malevolent character in this drama  – to a conspiracy against his own life from within the state security force.

However, the author’s purpose lies elsewhere, setting this book apart from the recent crop of autobiographies by senior civil servants of yesteryear.

Make amends

In the twilight of a long and eventful life, Neville Jayaweera attempts to make amends for the loss of innocent lives on his watch; and to accuse an unjust socio-political and economic order of begetting the (wholly legitimate, in his view) reaction in the form of the JVP. Along the way, non-believers must endure a heavy dose of spirituality: for it was also in Vavuniya, in the midst of the turmoil outside and within him, that the author renewed his Christian faith.

A centrepiece of the book is to do with a 21 year-old man who had attended a couple of the JVP’s political education classes, known as the Panthi Paha (‘Five Lessons’). On the urging of his wife and accompanied by her and their infant child, he voluntarily surrendered himself to Jayaweera who assured his prompt release the following day, after interrogation by the army officer in charge of the local military unit.

The next morning the Sandhurst-trained captain announced that the individual had attempted to escape from his custody and been fatally wounded in the chase. As authorised under emergency regulations, his body was disposed of in the forest, burned on rubber tyres without magisterial inquiry and a coroner’s inquest. Sickened to his stomach, Jayaweera knew this chain of events to be a concoction. He movingly recalls the disbelief and anguish of the young wife, who had trusted in him, when he broke the news to her.

Upon inquiries from villagers, Jayaweera discovered that the army captain had made a sport of “grilling holes in the palms of youth who were in some instances no more than ten years old, ostensibly for extracting information about rebel hideouts”. At least 30 of those he had claimed to kill in combat, were unarmed youth who had been murdered.

He describes his swift action to have the captain and his unit removed from Vavuniya and to submit an inventory on the unlawful killings and missing persons in the district to his superiors in Colombo. Nevertheless, “…any attempt by me to launch even the most rudimentary investigations ran up against a stone wall of hostility and silence from the military.”

No court martial of the captain took place, nor was any further action taken by the government on his report, likely because of the political embarrassment it would have caused. Whereas the government later claimed no more than 1,100 civilian deaths across the island; by Jayaweera’s reckoning the true number was closer to 20,000.

Barrel of a gun

The author admits that “ultimately, the state has to depend on the barrel of a gun, rather than on a moral code or even on the Courts of Law, to enforce its authority”. However, he explains his exposure of these events, after almost half-a-century, because of the destructive effect on society of concealing such abuses. As people of integrity know, and as the subsequent decades in Sri Lanka tragically illustrate, impunity and non-accountability for gross crimes reproduce them in a cycle without end.

What is also surprising in an account by a former senior state administrator is his assessment of the JVP and its cause. The insurgents he says were drawn from “a militant peasant group … [that] sought to capture power in the name of a new social class…who had lived on the fringes of society for hundreds of years.” The JVP was a systemic challenge. It “threatened the whole system” and “for that reason, the entire system … mobilised to defeat it.

His criticisms of the JVP appear to be not of its goal but rather its strategy and methods. He points out that it had not mobilised the working class and the peasantry nor “grasped the theory and practice of revolution”. Both in 1971 and between 1987 and 1989, the JVP had embarked on an adventurist course, which he says not without reason, only consolidated the extreme right on both occasions.

He is sceptical of its current avatar. Parliament has been the graveyard of the JVP, he says, as it was earlier for the ‘Old Left’.    

Unique addition

The Vavuniya Diaries is a unique addition to our understanding of the 1971 insurrection, the amateurishness of the JVP and the state alike, and the tensions of that time. Its promoters, Marshal Fernando and Susil Sirivardhana, are owed our appreciation for realising its release.

It would have benefited from stronger editing and closer attention to layout. The foreword could have been used to introduce the lay reader to the political dynamics of that period and the origins and ideology of the JVP in particular. The initials JVP are repetitively mis-spelled as Jathika Vimukthi Peramuna, which was a political vehicle of the arch-racist K. M. P. Rajaratne, and no relation to the party founded by Rohana Wijeweera and his comrades. A state of emergency was declared on March 16th and not subsequent to the insurrection. 

The author does not expand on a couple of intriguing asides. What were the “tensions’ that sparked an assault on the police station in May 1971…by the army!? How was the peaceful surrender of the remaining rebels in hiding achieved in August 1971? He is silent on the attitude and part of Tamils, who comprised 70 percent of the district, to the events he details. Were there any indications among Tamils of support for the nascent armed nationalist movement in the north?

Neville Jayaweera resigned from the Sri Lanka Administrative Service and therefore as Government Agent of Vavuniya in early 1973. But not before he was subject to further harassment and threat of imprisonment by the Minister of Public Administration, Felix Dias Bandaranaike. He was only 42 years old. Shortly after, Jayaweera and his family left Sri Lanka and have lived ever since in England. He never returned to Vavuniya.

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  • 3
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    The writer does not have access to all the facts relating to Neville Js retirement. It was entirely due to an error of judgment on Neville’s part. When NJ was GA Vavuniya Susil Sirivardhana was in charge of the Muthu Ivan Karu colonisation scheme in Vavuniya. Susil reported to Neville and were close associates. Although Susil was from a wealthy family being a cousin of SWRD Banda he was an idealist and egalitarian in outlook. The JVP philosophy struck a chord with him and he became a close associate of Wijeweera and was a planner of the 1971 insurrection. He was one of the principal accused in the First JVP trial and was convicted with others such as Victor Ivan, bopage, Sunanda Deshapriya, Wijeweera et al and received a jail sentence at the hands of the CJC. While incarcerated in the Magazine prison Susil father was allowed to bring his home cooked daily lunch. Neville Jayaweera Who was GA Vavuniya sent him progress reports on the MuthuIyangana scheme at the request of Susil. Instead of declaring them to the security at the Magazine jail, Susil ‘s father concealed them in the lunch box and unfortunately one of the guards discovered it and all hell broke loose. The inquiry revealed that Neville was complicit in the whole enterprise, was suspended from office,and Felix threatened to sack him without pension. Kumar Rupasinghe Who was then married to Sunetra intervened on behalf of Felix and Mrs B allowed him to retire. I believe that nothing would have happened if the reports were declared to the sentries as they were purely of academic interest..The net result of all that was that Neville nearly broke down mentally, changed his religion from Buddhism and became a lay preacher for one those Christian Groups. He then joined the World Councilof Christian Churches Of which he became Vice President and now lives in retirement in Kent. A very fine intellect if ever there was one, despite the blunder!

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      Percy
      Thanks for the information if true.
      The net effect of all what you have written was the conversion of “very fine intellect if ever there was one” from Sinhala/Buddhism into Christianity.

      After all his conversion was not the fault of the proselytizing Christians, but of the weeping widow and her enforcer who enacted Chapter II to the constitution. Yet the could not stop his conversion.

    • 0
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      Percy

      Two of your assertions are factually incorrect.

      Neville Jayaweera (NJ) did get have a problem but not due to some documents he supposedly gave Susil Sirivardena’s father. It was over a letter from Susil’s mother to her son who was in remand custody at the time. As a Government Agent, especially one banished to Vavuniya, visiting a jailed terrorist suspect (it happened prior to conviction) was frowned upon. Yes, Kumar Rupasinghe who was a friend of NJ did speak to Mrs B who accepted, a letter from a mother in anguish to her jailed son had no impact on national security and the matter was dropped. He was never suspended and in fact, transferred in 1973 to Colombo to work for Felix Dias Bandaranaike (FDB) as Snr. Asst. Secretary. NJ opted to send in his retirement papers.

      NJ did not convert to Christianity due to this incident. He underwent a change in his spiritual beliefs sometime after his transfer to Vauniya.

      FYI, FDB praised NJ and Bradman Weerakoon, both senior civil servants sent on punishment transfer to Vavuniya and Ampara respectively after 1970 elections, individually by name during the statement he made in parliament after the insurrection was put down, for their exemplary service. Both had personally taken over the defense of the Police stations in Vavuniya and Ampare till the arrival of the army several days later.

      • 1
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        Thank you Rajeewa. Can you tell me why Neville was interdicted if Susil’s mother letter to her son was detected.Also if Susil ‘s mum wanted to say something or pass any information could she not have visited him in remand and orally conveyed it.I know for certain that Neville was interdicted and it could not have been for visiting Susil in remand because that was perfectly legitimate. Iam just curious to know,and it is not a case of trying to ace you on this.Most certainly not.

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          Percy
          I can vouch to the fact, NJ was never interdicted.
          *
          It was his brother Stanler (my father) who was interdicted (July 1965- Oct 1969) by the UNP govt. You could wonder reasons for one brother to be all powerful while other brother languished under interdiction with 1/3 pay. That was the code of conduct observed by entire family. No influencing. My father went back to work after fighting and winning his case through PSC before fall of UNP govt. It was the same in reverse when NJ was banished to Vavuniya despite my father’s close association with Mrs B. My father did intervene to secure Police protection for NJ’s house when CBC union members dismissed by NJ during 1968 general strike marched to Nugegoda to set fire to his house immediately after elections and Nugegoda Police declined to intervene without instructions.
          *
          Immediately after the insurrection was not a time all and sundry could visit those in remand custody. NJ being a senior official obtained permission. He sent in his retirement papers after explaining his reasons to FDB. It was not a case of FDB wanting to humiliate him as opined by another contributor. If that be the case, FDB would not have singled out NJ and BW by name for praise in his statement to Parliament.
          *
          NJ retired and worked at Marga Institute as Deputy Director till he secured employment with WCC as Director Communications for Asia, Africa and South America.

          • 0
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            Thank you Rajeewa for putting the record straight. My apologies for inaccurate recapitulation. No malice intended.

    • 0
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      ”Neville Jayaweera was born to Robert and Constance Jayaweera in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on 23 October 1930; the third of four siblings – Stanley, Sheila and Beryl”- Wikiedia

      Was Neville born a Buddhist??????

  • 2
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    The torture that the SLA inflicted on the poor and innocent Sinhalese youths in the early 1970’s was repeated against Tamils as well as the JVP during its second insurrection. Isn’t Mr. Jayaweera’s expose too late? While a state may have to enforce its authority through the barrel of a gun, those who knowingly allow the kind of torture that Mr. Jayaweera is describing to take place, are guilty of crimes against humanity as well.

    By the way, is Mr. Neville Jayaweera in anyway related to the Rajeewa Jayaweera, a hardliner on such issues when it concerns Tamils? If so, what does the latter have to say about the former?

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      Agnos

      Neville J is my uncle (father’s younger brother).

      I believe in parity for Sinhalese, Tamils, and Muslims. I also believe no part of Sri Lanka can be a ‘traditional homeland’ for any one community. The island should belong to all communities.

      I take a hardline when it comes to terrorists, may they be JVP, LTTE or any other.

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        RJ
        Would you at least concede that the Aththo have a traditional homeland that has been taken away from them by the Sinhalse and to a less extent by Tamils.
        *
        People have identity and location is part of it. A homeland is not exclusive to an ethnic group, but it is a fact of life that people should respect.
        What you say of a country if extrapolated to a continent or subcontinent can have implications that will be unsavoury to you.

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        Mr. Jayaweera,

        Thanks for the info about your relationship. I have seen articles by both Neville Jayaweera and Stanley Jayaweera, and I vaguely remember HLD Mahindapala attacking the latter for his NGO connections. And both brothers, at least in their old age, seemed somewhat sympathetic to Tamil demands, in contrast to the recounting of their younger days by others. Perhaps growing up causes a transformation.

        Have you seen how parity works when one community is the lop-sided majority, which dominates the armed forces, the police , the judiciary and the civil service? The book under review itself talks about the cruelty of the SL military.
        So , will you take the same hard line when the armed forces act as terrorists against innocent civilians? The issues aren’t as black and white as you make them out to be.

      • 0
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        Jayaweera knowingly slipping from answering the question by stressing his relationship, because he has no answer other unashamed proclaiming his stand of racism. The Soulbury constitution which allowed majority to rule with the presumption of Tamils agreed for that. It was too late for Britain to return back when it was well stablished Don Stephen cheated Tamils ministers with a cup of coffee. That is how Tamils lost their protection which they should have received from Britain.
        It is irrelevant of the contemplation of Rajeewa Jayaweera elder generation. Tamil were not asking for any homeland when Britain was ruling. They were not even asking for Federalism. When Britain was leaving they asked only for 50:50 under unitary government. Home land was reminded to Tamil from 1958 by the Rajeewa Jayaweera class extremist. These were conducted only to ethnic cleansing the South from Tamils. In 1958, 1977, and 1983 or in any other brawl, whenever a Sinhala Extremist beats a Tamil in south, the first word spit out is “run back to North”. Rajeewa Jayaweera, before teaches to Tamils, he has to walk in every Sinhala Village and should educate them that there is no Sinhala Only Village existing in Lankawe. When he starts a political campaign in South to win an election by racism with “Want Unitary Government or divided country”, he better start those elections meetings signing National anthem in Tamil, holding the hand of Tilak Marapana.

      • 0
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        When I left south in 1983, I was determined in mind never to return back to South. I know there are many Tamils living like that. It is not about one Sinhala Civilian. It is about state. When it was our properties were being burned, our lives taken, our women were being raped, it was we constantly humiliated by State’s rapist Army & Police guarding on each junction of Colombo. When we were beaten, they claimed South is only their land. We left our lands bought with our hard earned income and properties to be freely taken by the mobs. None of Jayaweera any elder generation ever owned a peach of land in the North on their own until Rapist Army plucked from our hand and gave it them. It is our land. There is no way Rapist army occupying it. They should vacate it.

  • 0
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 3
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    Here are the members of the brutal Buddhist army killing off their innocent young, some 70,000 of them without any questions asked. They are of the same type as the throat slitting hooligan sent to the High Commission in London. To end this, there must be trials of the war criminals by independent courts, which cannot be found in Sri Lanka. The Tamil diaspora will not stop until there are war crimes trials of these murderers of the innocent. In the South, the mothers of those killed are silent. They should join together with the mothers of the victims in the North and ask for justice for their children. Otherwise, we will see the return of these brutalised men and women killing innocents.

  • 4
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    My own experience as an undergraduate during the time of the first uprising was that the Sinhala youth were disgruntled at what was being done to them. They were told that education was being made available to all when the quality of the education that they were provided at university level in Sinhalese was abysmally low. Their families had pawned the last cow to send them to university but they knew that their expectations could not be realised. They saw the vast gulf in the levels of education they were given and those studying in English were given. Their frustration was obvious. The university became a fertile ground for recruitment for the JVP. The five lectures were secretly given. Events were manipulated so that most of the Sinhala medium undergraduates joined. I was friendly with them because I spoke Sinhalese. When the killing was over and the university restarted, most of the Sinhala medium boys and girls did not show up. They had probably been burnt on tyres. No eyelid battered for them No newspaper asked for justice. Only Amnesty International wrote a report by a lord (not Naseby) in which the figure was given that 70,000 young Sinhalese had perished. Where are the Sinhala Mahaweerayas who write in CT taking up their cause? Let us have war crimes trials. These youth were led into violence-both Sinhalese and Tamils-by an exploitative society. The exploitation continues with language and religion as cloaks so that the progeny of the old racists and exploiters of the poor could continue to rule. We will have repeats of the JVP and the LTTE in another generation if we do not act swiftly to prevent this exploitation.

  • 1
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    ” In the turbulance of Jaffna ” N V states how Mrs B asked him in 1963 to take up the post of Govt Agent Jaffna for the sole purpose of implementing Sinhala only Act in North; carrying out instructions of ultra nationalist and xenophobic N Q Dias in implementing the said Act and to suppress Tamils’ protests that includes anticipated future militancy; going along with N Q Dias’s operation in disguise of building several military camps encircling North; etc

    N Q was referred here as “the Tsar” and Srilanka’s ” Clausewitz”. NV’s brother Stanley was assistant secretary to NQ.

    In Sinhala newspapers NV was called as ne sapumal kumaraya during those days.

    To be fair I wish to add that NV has regretted all his actions in the North later, may be after he was converted to Christianity.

    • 1
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      I think NJis on record saying that as Director Of Broadcasting He was over enthusiastic in his admiration of Dudley S which implied that he made decisions politically advantageous to Dudley which resulted in his transfer to Vavuniya after
      Mrs B took office. Neville had a brother called Stanley who was in the foreign service and had some mental issues resulting in psychiatric treatment. Iam personally aware of it.

  • 0
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    I have mentioned NV by mistake. It should be N J ( Neville Jayaweera ) Sorry.

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      Maya

      Thank you for remembering me even when you make mistakes.
      By the way I am married and not available.

  • 1
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    N V

    ” I am married ” — it doesn’t matter

    ” not available ” — why ? Any medical reason ? I could refer you to a known specialist.!!

    Anyhow Thanks for making me happy by your quick wit.

    (. C T. my previous post vanished before pressing it. Hope I am not repeating. )

  • 5
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    As a CCS man myselfand one who worked with him in Jaffna , undoubtedly Neville David Jayaweera(henceforth NJ)was a bright spark in the Ceylon Civil Service.However it seems Karma conspired with certain tragic flaws in his character and his DNA to doom what would have been a brilliant CCS career.

    It all began when he was very prematurely picked to be Government Agent /Northern Province in 1963 whilst yet being in his early 30s.His immaturity was evident immediately for only very experienced men in there late 40s to early 50s had been sent before to this distant outpost, which by this fact alone, enabled the GA to be virtually King of all he surveyed..Comaparatively GA/Northern Province enjoyed enormous powers not available to any othe GA.In British times the GA Twynham self styled himself as the “Rajah of the North”NJ”s immaturity was immediately visible.The swagger in his walk soon was evident in the swagger in his talk.His DNA flaws soon became evident, for in thinking he was a racist, even though he tried his level best to mask it all the while.Otherwise how was he handpicked by NQ Dias , the incorrigible racist to be GA/ Jaffna?Dias knew NJ’s thinking on the ethnic issue just as he knew the thinking his brother Stanley Jayaweera, another Dias favourite.Unfortunately for NJ, such was the mightof the Tamil inteligentia , NJ’s pop gun oratory failed miserably in his quest tame the surging Northern spirit.This resulted in his privately venting all manner of insults on Tamils.As expected, NJ failed in his Mission Jaffna, much to Dias’ regret.

    cont..

    • 5
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      Part 2

      NJ’s next tryst with the limelight was as Director General/Ceylon Boradcasting Corporation in 1965.Here too , despite some innovative measures he implemented, including the rehabilitation of what he called “crusted”. Toilets, the swagger of his walk and talk undermined him badly for he soon fell foul of the newly immergent “Yako Class’ that was to eventually flood and overwhelm the Public Service.He failed since he tried to implement the old and outdated ethics and practices of the old British CCS.He simply failed to read the reasons for the 1964 transformation of the Ceylon Civil Service in to the Ceylon Administrative Service.At Radio Ceylon he did not fail to embarrass the gentle Dudley Senanayake by the programme “Roving Mike”.His appointment as Director General Broadcasting was also premature in terms of experience,Poor Dudley was apparently bamboozeld by NJ’s swagger!This appointment resulted in an attempt by angry Radio Ceylon employees to nearly burn down NJ’s Nugegoda home,. while they failed by a whisker, This incident had a traumatic impact on his genial wife Trixe, so much so she never ever returned to Sri Lanka after leaving for the UK.From this incident,NJ developed some phobias, The first was to closely examine the silencer barrel of his car before getting in(Radio Ceylon employees had attempted to blow up his Opel Rekard car by blocking the silencer with the stem of a banana bunch)Secondly he always examined his chair in office( again these employees had put some excreta on it)
      The UNF government coming into office in !970 proved to be NJ’s death knell for it contained the mercurial, brilliant Felix Dias Bandaranaike,NJ’s nemesis from the University of Ceylon days.FDB never forgave NJ, for daring to contest him for the presidency of the Studnets Council, even though FDB was elected with a thumping majority.FDB also never forgave NJ for been Dudley’s blue eyed boy!
      cont…

      • 5
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        Part 3
        He was promptly banished from the luxury of Colombo to the wilds of Vavuniya.His jack boot handling of JVP uprising in Vauvuniya in the hopes of proving loyality to the UNF government failed.NJ took early retirement in the early 70s( he did not resign) and fled to the UK to live with his CCS Sterling Pension which draws to date,He also sought refuge in Christ, landed on a lucrative job with World Council of Churches and as he proudly put it”Travelled the world”,not forgetting to pick a souvenir from each visit!Today he lives in glorious retirement in Kent.
        That NJ laments on his cruel doings as GA Vavuniya is commendable but that he does so just a step away from his grave is deplorable.Why did he wait for so long for his catharsis? Only NJ could answer .UltimatelyJayaweera’s DNA combined with character flaws combined with Karma to undo what would have been a glorious Ceylon Civil Service career.His Ozymandias ( Shelly’s poem)like career and his legacy is a lesson for any aspiring public servant, or in fact an aspirant for any job.

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          CCS Cadet

          Were you a failed and disappointed CCS man who was after his job?
          N Q Dias was the Tzar who wanted to enforce Sinhala only language policy over night.

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      CCS Cadet
      Your narrative contains a significant amount of willful or age-related memory loss.
      Yes, NJ was sent as GA Jaffna (not Northern Province) in his early 30s but you have left out the fact, he was appointed GM of Gal Oya Board at age of 29. He took over from veteran CCS stalwart/diplomat Shirley Amarasinghe at the specific request of Minister CP de Silva who sent his Perm Sec. to convince the Public Service Commission to approve the appointment. I presume you were not part of the Kutcheri team he took with him to the refugee camps in KKS in the aftermath of the 23 December 1964 cyclone. The team lived with the refugees for a week till matters stabilized. Notwithstanding the’swagger in his walk and talk’ as you describe, Jaffna citizens took out a protest march when he was transferred to Trinco as GA in early 1965 even though they set fire to his Residence in 1963. Maybe you were long gone by then. After one year as GA Trinco, NJ was appointed DG of Radio Ceylon and subsequently became first Chairman / DG of Ceylon Broadcasting Corporation. So what do you say? A case of a string of premature appointments???

      • 3
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        Rajeeva,the concern and love for your dear paternal uncle is commendable.

        But rather unfortunately you fail to see the general drift of my comment which was not to list NJ’s string of positions in the CCS but to highlight the disastrous effect on him consequent to the string of such prematurely senior appointments.This set the foundation for his early, premature departure from the CCS.Such high level appointments before maturing in age and experience just destroyed the career of an otherwise remarkable Neville David Jayaweera.Premature appointments drove his ego through the roof and sadly destroyed an otherwise able man.

        As regards the protest march in Jaffna on Neville’s transfer to Trincomalee,well you may check with your Uncle himself.Surely he would reveal to you the great role played by his buddy Inspector of Police Van Sanden who organized it at NJ’s behest.NJ felt humiliated by the Trinco transfer as he had already held the more prestigious position of GA/Jaffna and expected to be GA/Kandy if not GA/Colombo.

        You say that the Residency in Jaffna was burned by a Tamil mob during NJ’time, something I do not recall.The reference in my comment is however to the near burning down of his home in Nugegoda by a Sinhalese mob of Radio Ceylon employees led by Hudson Samarasinghe.So NJ seems to have been at the receiving end of the fury of Sinhalese and Tamils too.All due to that monumental ego of his,don’t you think?His ego made him so harsh on his subordinates and interlocutors outside and indeed with his superiors.

        As for NJ’s career between 1965 and 1973 ,I would rather not comment except referring you to the comment by Mandarin below.

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          CCS Cadet
          All I have written has nothing to do with concern and love for my uncle but to put matters in perspective.
          *
          His superiors may have opted to make use of his competencies/capabilities and ignore his ego if what you say is correct.
          *
          The roof of the Residecy, located on top of the Kutcheri was set on fire shortly after he assumed duties in 1963. His parents detected it and raised the alarm as NJ was in Colombo attending a conference.
          *
          As for SP van Sanden organising a protest march, those in the know will know ‘danno danithi’!
          *
          As for the mob trying to set fire to his house in Nugegoda, please read my last response to Percy.
          *
          NJ was a very tough, efficient and competent administrator, qualities rarely appreciated in this country. I say this not as a newphew but as one who appreaciate such traits.
          *
          Finally may I ask, why the anonymity of CCS Cadet. Why not divulge your identity and be held accountable for your assertions? Readers could also evaluate you from yours CCS days similar to judging NJ. Same would apply to the Mandarine! Old CCS hands were trained to ‘play a fair game with a straight bat’

          • 0
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            Rajeewa Jayaweera

            “The roof of the Residecy, located on top of the Kutcheri was set on fire shortly after he assumed duties in 1963.”

            Did his parents see S J V Chelva, G G Ponna, Amirthalingam, ……………….. and little VP running away from NJ’s official residence burning torches in their hands?

            • 0
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              Native Vedda
              No, SJV, Ponna and AA were not involved. They were gents, not marauders.
              *
              FYI SJV and Ponna with a crowd marched on the Kutcheri some time after NJ assumed duties. Crowd being unruly, SP van Sanden wanted to disperse them. NJ disagreed, went out and invited a small delegation into the Kutcheri for a discussion. He assisted SJV up the stairs.
              *
              Delegation demanded meeting be held in Tamil as they spoke no Sinhala. NJ declined as Sinhala was official language and he spoke no Tamil. He proposed a compromise – hold discussion in English which was readily agreed and discussion went on smoothly thereafter.
              *
              From that date, NJ had the most cordial of relations with SJV and Ponna. No further protest marches took place during his watch.
              *
              Most news papers including Tamil papers carried photos of young NJ, the all powerful GA holding a frail SJV by his arm and assisting him up the stairs. It helped a lot to defuse tension. Ordinary Tamil people deeply appreciated the gesture.
              *
              To invite a small delegation into the Kutcheri rather than baton charging was a brilliant move on NJ’s part.
              *
              I now wonder if any of your ancestors set fire to the Residence and ran away !!!

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    Thank you CCS Cadet. Shows how Sinhala racism in elite families continues down into generations. They keep themselves in comfort, deluding the poor Sinhala masses through Sinhala-Buddhist rhetoric, enjoying a thoroughly Western style of living, sending their kids to private schools and then to university in England, if they are bright enough, and robbing the state and the people of their money.

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      Mama singhalam
      Neville was from no elite family. His father was a Govt clerk and lived in Hena Rd Ratmalana when all the elites were in Colombo 3,4,5, and 7.
      Also your perverse comment on Sinhala Buddhist rhetoric. Sinhalese Busshists are proud of their heritage and culture, but they also appreciate the niceties of other cultures excepting perhaps those Dravidian elements from which no positives can ever be extracted.Tamil gooses have cooked themselves in their own juices!

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    CCS Cadet,your comment is a brilliant nut shell analysis on Jayaweera’s chequered CCS career.It also set my old memory in recall mode!

    As another CCS man may I add on a lighter note that the swagger you refer in Jayaweera’s walk and talk also extended to the swagger in the roar of the silencer of his Peugeot 203 car as he whizzed down from Jaffna to Colombo on the A1 road.He never bothered to offer lesser mortals a lift even when he clearly saw them in any road side distress.He was particularly fond of showing the Over Drive in his car for this was a novelty then!

    As regards erstwhile nephew Rajeeva Jayaweera’s assertion above that the brilliant Felix Dias got NJ down to be his Assistant Secretary after his (debatable)performance in Vavuniya, nothing can be further than the truth.Attached to the Ministry of Public Administration at the time , I was privy to the fact that FDB did want NJ under his wing.But this was purely to further humiliate NJ rather than honour him!FDB had already destroyed NJ’s Himalayan ego by banishing him to Vavuniya in 1970 and now he wanted to reduce NJ to dust.NJ knew what was in store were he to accept the appointment.He put in papers for early retirement and slithered away to good old England,where he remains today amidst the woodlands of Kent.

    Undoubtedly NJ was blessed with a good intellect.He was an able baldy ! !But as his disastrous career trajectory eventually proved,intellect is only part of success but without humility such a blessing amounts to nought.The photo above of NJ looking down rather than at you brought back memories of his haughty condescending attitude of looking down on others.Seems his attitude is yet to change!This also proved to be his undoing in the quest for the top job at the World Council of Churches for which he had all other attributes except ofcourse humility.He may have embraced Christa and got the job at the WCC but was utterly unable to embrace Christ’s humility.

    On the contrary his erstwhile brilliant CCS colleague and fellow Thomian, Bradman Weerakoon’s down to earth,simple approach proved to be a successful combination of brilliance and humaneness.

    Robin Bradman Weerakoon is therefore unsurprisingly remembered nostalgically even today long after retirement while Neville Jayaweera is at best an unknown legend ; a mere footnote; a CCS man known for the wrong reasons; or at best a bud of great promise that alas withered on the stem , just as it was coming into bloom.

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    Another point worth mentioning here is that Neville was one of a triumvirate Of Sinhalese who betrayed their birthright during the ethnic conflict. The other two were The notorious Brian Seneviratne married to eelamist AJWilsons sister, and another ex CCS called Adrian Wijemanne since thankfully called to his Lord and Master. I saw the BBC interview with Neville a couple of days afterLakshman Kadirgamar was assasinated, when he allleged that Kadirgamar was killed by theSL Govt. Here was LK leading the front in denouncing the Tigers and causing enough damage to the Tiger propaganda machine in the West, and we have NJ publiclydefending the Tigers stating that it was the work of the Govt. I know that there are Tiger fanatics who repeat that mantra, but so are those who claim that Velu is not dead! I don’t know what NJ is up to these days he has lost his wife and only daughter and he is 85 years old. Heaven knows what further blows await him before he nestles in the arms of His Lord and Master.

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      One rather belated addendum.After Neville retired from the CCS he worked at the Marga Institute for 2/3 years until end 1976 when joined WCC. During the time at Marga he was a lay preacher for his church and conducted sermons on Sundays at the Church in Maya Avenue Kirillapona. At the WCC C he was Regional Director Asia which entailed regular travelling to countries in Asia. He was promoted to VP from which position he retired.At Marga he conducted some very incisive interviews with people like Sir John and which may be in the Marga archives.Although he was an ambitious and intellectually driven civil servant, in later years he was much mellowed and rather lonely. [Edited out]

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      Percy
      NJ’s wife Trixie is very much alive in Kent. Where do you get such info? His daughter passed away of cancer in February 2017.

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        My apologies Rajeewa for that blunder.
        I should have checked. May Trixie enjoy many more years of life on this good earth.

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    Some comments have been made regarding NJ’s “premature” promotions, and some facts of a general nature may help to place this in proper perspective.
    According to my father (V.A.J.Senaratna, CCS ), many senior positions in the administrative service were held by foreigners, many of whom left Sri Lanka following our independence. Consequently, young Sri Lankans were promoted to fill the vacancies, and many of them – not only NJ – continued to be rapidly promoted. For instance, my father was appointed GA Badulla in June 1957 when he was only 34, and when the Badulla district and the Uva province was one and the same as there was no Moneragala district at that time (NJ was his AGA, and my father had the highest regard for his capabilities.).
    Similarly, Mr. Baku Mahadeva, following a rapid and brilliant career in the CCS, was appointed a Permanent Secretary in his late thirties or early forties.

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      Mr Senaratne
      Thanks for putting matters in perspective. It was a time when efficiency/ capability determined promotions and not servility, a malaise that began with’the ‘Ape Anduwa’ culture.

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        BPVAJ Senaratne was a brilliant man. Whatever came of that thesis that he was working on epistemology, I think.
        Victor’ name adorns the prize winner panels in the Royal College Hall. The Senaratne fraternity have passed away excepting I think the youngest of the brothers Neville who lives in the UK.
        Talking about age of Civil Servants when British Civil Servants were first appointed by Governor North some were 13 years of age and were called “the Governors boys” who he took on circuit when he travelled in the island. There was one 18 year old who dispensed justice as a judge and remarked that his predecessor had done “splendaciously”Now What the hell is that. For more juicy stories about those days when locals were treated like cattle I implore,nay beg you to read “A history of the Ceylon Civil Service”by JR Toussaint 1935. Difficult to find but there may be reproductions available.

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    Iam really surprised that Tamil correspondents to this site are critical of NJ for presumably anti Tamil role. I can say this, whther it was the influence of the WCCC or not he was certainly pro Tamil and even pro LtTtE as I related in my posting on NJs response to the Kadirgamar asasination.
    I for myself I was livid at NJs attitude as I do not believe that the LtTTE cause is either justifiable or right.

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