Japan Remembers JRJ


On September 8, Hokkaido Shimbun, a regional newspaper in Japan, carried a front page article about the signing of the Treaty of San Francisco exactly 68 years ago. Even that brief article mentioned the influential role played by Mr. J.R. Jayewardene at the conference which led to the signing of the treaty.

The treaty, signed by 49 countries, including Ceylon, ended Japan's position as an imperial power, allocated compensation to Allied civilians and former prisoners of war, ended the occupation of Japan by the Allies, and returned full sovereignty to that nation. 

To quote Wikipedia, "while many were reluctant to allow a free Japan … and insisted that the terms of surrender should be rigidly enforced in an attempt to break the spirit of the Japanese nation, the Ceylonese Finance Minister J.R. Jayewardene spoke in defense of a free Japan and informed the conference of Ceylon's refusal to accept the payment of reparations that would harm Japan's economy. He said that Ceylon did not ‘intend to do so for we believe in the words of the Great Teacher [Buddha] whose message has ennobled the lives of countless millions in Asia, that hatred ceases not by hatred but by love.’

He ended the speech by saying "We extend to Japan the hand of friendship and trust that … her people and ours may march together to enjoy the full dignity of human life in peace and prosperity."

The New York Times reported that Mr. Jayewardene's speech was received with resounding applause, further stating that the "voice of free Asia, eloquent, melancholy and still strong with the lilt of an Oxford accent, dominated the Japanese peace treaty conference today."

Since the treaty, Japan has risen from the position of a subjugated nation to a world powerhouse. Mr. Jayewardene was revered in Japan, and I have seen the memorial put up for him at one of Japan’s most sacred sites, Kamakura. I am aware of a statue of him in Tokyo.

Japan has reciprocated the hand of friendship that Mr. Jayewardene extended in numerous ways. Among the hundreds of projects, grants, and soft loans extended to Sri Lanka over the years, I can recall the Peradeniya Teaching Hospital, the Parliamentary complex, the Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital and the new wing of our International Airport.

Lest we forget.


In Hokkaido, Japan

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