Sri Lanka excels at the San Francisco Peace Conference

Address by J R Jayewardene Leader of the delegation of the Government of CEYLON (SRI LANKA) at the conference for the conclusion and signature of the Treaty of Peace with Japan - San Francisco, USA 6th September 195

On 6th September, 1951, Sri Lanka displayed immense courage and scintillating eloquence in standing up for Japan at the international conference held in San Francisco to finalise the Peace Treaty with that country. By doing so. Sri Lanka underscored the age old ties of deep affection and respect that existed between the two countries. This was indeed an unforgettable and shining moment in our diplomatic history and the story must be told for the benefit of the younger generation.

The End Of The War In The Far East

After the western powers ruthlessly dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6th and 9th August respectively, wiping out these two cities and causing horrendous casualties, the Japanese Government had no alternative but to accept the humiliating terms of surrender that had been laid down. Japan capitulated on 10th August, 1945, and the war came to an end. Some of the allied powers, who were filled with hatred for the Japanese, insisted that the terms of surrender should be rigidly enforced in an attempt to break the spirit of the Japanese nation.

For six long years the allied powers deliberated on the terms of the Peace Treaty to be signed with Japan. By mid 1951 a draft Peace Treaty was ready for adoption by the countries affected by the Far Eastern war. For this purpose an international conference was arranged to be held in San Francisco in September 1951. Being a stakeholder, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) was invited to this conference.

The San Francisco Conference

Prime Minister D. S. Senanayake appointed Minister J. R. Jayewardene to lead the delegation to this important conference.

Minister Jayewardene walked into the conference hall in San Francisco on a September morning brimming with confidence and a determination to present Sri Lanka's views in a fearless and forthright manner and took his seat among the delegates of 51 countries. His turn to speak came on 6th September, 1951. In a voice filled with emotion and infectious conviction, he captivated the assembly with a stirring speech in which he steadfastly advocated that Japan should be allowed to live as a free and independent nation.

He stated:

"The main idea that animated the Asian countries - Ceylon, India and Pakistan - in their attitude to Japan was that Japan should be free"

And he added:

"Why is it that the peoples of Asia are anxious that Japan should be free? It is because of our age-long connections with her, and because of the, high regard the subject peoples of Asia have for Japan when she alone, among the Asian nations, was strong and free and we looked up to her as a guardian and friend.

We in Ceylon were fortunate that we were not invaded, but the damage caused by air raids, by the stationing of enormous armies under the South-East Asia Command, and by the slaughter-tapping of one of our main commodities, rubber, when we were the only producer of natural rubber for the Allies, entitles us to ask that the damage so caused should be repaired. We do not intend to do so for we believe in the words of the Great Teacher whose message has ennobled the lives of countless millions in Asia, that "hatred ceases not by hatred but by love". It is the message of the Buddha, the Great Teacher, the Founder of Buddhism which spread a wave of humanism through South Asia, Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Siam, Indonesia and Ceylon and also northwards through the Himalayas into Tibet, China and finally Japan, which bound us together for hundreds of years with a common culture and heritage. This common culture still exists, as I found on my visit to Japan last week on my way to attend this Conference; and from the leaders of Japan, Ministers of state as well as private citizens and from their priests in the temples, I gathered the impression that the common people of Japan are still influenced by' the shadow of that Great Teacher of peace, and wish to follow it. We must give them that opportunity."

He went on to say:

"On the main question of the freedom of Japan, we were able to agree ultimately, and the treaty embodies that agreement. On the other matters, there were sharp differences of opinion, and the treaty embodies the majority views. My Government would have preferred it if some of those questions were answered in a different way, but the fact that the majority don't agree with us is no reason why we should abstain from signing the treaty, which contains the central concept of a free and independent Japan.

"We feel that the allied matters I mentioned earlier are not insoluble if Japan is free, that they are insoluble if Japan is not free. A free Japan, through, let us say, the United Nations Organization, can discuss these problems with the other free nations of the world and arrive at early and satisfactory decisions. By signing this treaty we are enabling Japan to be in a position to do so, to enter into a treaty of friendship with the Government of China if she decides to recognize her, and I am happy to state, enabling her to enter into a treaty of peace and friendship with India. If we do not sign this treaty, none of these eventualities can take place"'

Disagreement with the submission made by the Russians

The Russian delegation had expressed the view that the freedom of Japan should be limited. Responding to this view Minister Jayewardene stated that what he had advocated was a completely free and independent Japan.

He said:

"That is why I cannot subscribe to the views of the delegate of the Soviet Union when he proposes that the freedom of Japan should be limited. The restrictions he wishes to impose such as the limitation on the right of Japan to maintain such defence forces as a free nation is entitled to, and the other limitations he proposes would make this treaty not acceptable not only to the vast majority of the delegates present here but even to some of the countries that have not attended this Conference, particularly India, who wished to go even further than this treaty visualizes.

"If again the Soviet Union wishes the Islands of Ryukyu and Bonin returned to Japan contrary to the Cairo and Potsdam Declarations, why should then South Sakhalin as well as the Kuriles be not also returned to Japan?

"It is also interesting to note that the amendments of the Soviet Union seek to insure to the people of Japan the fundamental freedoms of expression, of press and publication, of religious worship, of political opinion and of public meeting - freedoms which the people of the Soviet Union themselves would dearly love to possess and enjoy.

The reason why, therefore, we cannot agree to the amendment proposed by the Soviet delegate, is that this treaty proposes to return to Japan sovereignty, equality and dignity, and we cannot do so if we give them with qualifications. The purpose of the treaty then is to make Japan free, to impose no restrictions on Japan's recovery, to see to it that she organizes her own military defence against external aggression, and internal subversion, and that until she does so, she could invite the aid of a friendly power to protect her, and that no reparations be exacted from her that would harm her economy".

He ended his speech dramatically saying:

"This treaty is as magnanimous as it is just to a defeated foe. We extend to Japan the hand of friendship and trust that with the closing of this chapter in the history of man, the last page of which we write today, and with the beginning of the new one, the first page of which we dictate tomorrow, her people and ours may march together to enjoy the full dignity of human life in peace and prosperity"

Minister Jayewardene's speech was received with resounding applause. Even the ranks of Tuscany could scarce forbear to cheer!

Commenting on Minister Jayewardene's performance at the San Francisco conference the prestigious New York Times stated:

"The voice of free Asia eloquent, melancholy and strong with the tilt of an Oxford accent dominated the Conference.

The ablest Asian spokesman at the Conference was Ceylon's Finance Minister J. R. Jayewardene".

The Government and people of Japan have never forgotten that it was this little island of Sri Lanka which was their staunchest friend in their hour of need. They talk about it even today.

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