By Rohan Abeygunawardena

By the way, our memory runs out exactly seventy [70] years back “San Francisco Peace Treaty Conference” in September 1951.

DS Senanayake, the first Prime Minister of Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then known) chose his young and capable Minister of Finance JR Jayewardene lead the Ceylon delegation to the conference. The latter gave his historic speech on September 6, 1951, 11 days before his 45th birthday (he was born on September 17, 1906 and his 115e birthday falls this month).

This great visionary defended the sovereign rights of Japan by quoting the words of Lord Buddha “Hatred does not end with hatred but with love” (?? ?? )
which enabled Japan to return to international society after WWII.

Twenty-six years after the speech, JR Jayewardene was the elected leader of Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan economy had been stagnant for some time when the United National Party (UNP), under the leadership of JR Jayewardene, was elected in July 1977 with a massive 5/6 majority in the state’s National Assembly. (with the introduction of a republican constitution in May 1972 the name of Parliament was changed). The country’s development activities were at an all-time low. The unemployment rate has risen to over 15%. Import controls and licensing were the order of the day. The multi-purpose Mahawelli diversification program, considered the keystone of the government’s economic development program planned in 1961 for 30 years, was progressing steadily.

The new prime minister and his government amended the constitution and introduced a system whereby the president remained head of state but was given new executive powers as head of government.

JR Jayewardene was sworn in on the 4the from February 1978 as the first executive president of Sri Lanka.

In fact, JR Jayewardene first suggested a strong executive chosen by the people at a meeting of the Ceylon Association for the Advancement of Science in 1966. This idea was again suggested by him when Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike and his United Front government drafted the “1972 Republican Constitution”. He had been ignored every time.

In 1977, as Prime Minister-elect, JR Jayewardene declared that his first, second and third priorities were to create employment opportunities for the population in general and young people in particular.

The new government wasted no time and embarked on a vast development program to modernize the country. Mahawelli’s Accelerated Diversification Program was initiated with massive financial and technical support from Europe and Japan. The Katunayake Free Zone (EPZ) and Free Trade Zone (FTZ) were created to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) and attract export-oriented industries. The other aim of FTZ was to obtain modern industrial and technical know-how. The Economic Commission of Grand Colombo (ECCG) was created to administer the free zone.

Important liberalization reforms have been launched which have led to profound changes in the structure and performance of the manufacturing sector in the economy. The manufacturing sector has become increasingly export-oriented and no longer depends on the fortunes of traditional primary export industries to obtain the necessary imported inputs.

JR Jayewardene (JRJ), the first executive president of Sri Lanka was invited by the Japanese government for a state visit in 1979. It was a unique visit by a Sri Lankan head of state to Japan. He was well received with a 21-gun salute by the Japanese armed forces, the custom they generally reserve for the emperor. So, the grateful Japanese people showed their gratitude to the person who stood up for their country at the San Francisco Peace Treaty Conference in September 1951.

It was said that many Asian countries attended the Conference with huge lists of reparations claims from Japan. Japan was still struggling to achieve economic stability immediately after World War II and such payments, if made, would have had a negative impact on its economy.

Quote the teaching of Lord Buddha “Hatred does not stop with hatred but with love”Jayewardene urged other nations to drop their claims for compensation and redress and embrace Japan as a member of the international community.

When attendees heard JR Jayewardene call for compassion, not compensation, they withdrew their lists of claims in Japan, saving Japan from economic disaster.

At the end of the tour President Jayewardene and Japanese Prime Minister hira masayoshi engaged in bilateral discussions with their respective officials. The prime minister referred to the president’s big speech at the San Francisco conference, which cemented a strong friendship between Japan and Sri Lanka. Masayoshi then indicated that his government intended to make a special gift to remember and remember Jayewardene’s visit and as a sign of respect for the great speech he gave at the conference in 1951.

The conversation that took place between President Jayewardene and Japanese Prime Minister Ōhira Masayoshi regarding the gift was recounted by the President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Mr. Takao Kawakami who visited the hospital on an inspection tour in 2002. He turned out to be the secretary to the Japanese Prime Minister during the president’s visit in 1979. The president of JICA was congratulated by members of the hospital management committee. The writer was the hospital’s chief accountant at the time and had the opportunity to listen to her narration.

“What kind of gift are you thinking of? Asked President JR Jayewardene.

“Something useful to help your modernization program, through a project grant, perhaps,” the Prime Minister replied.

The president’s next career was “How big is the grant?” “

“It doesn’t matter,” the prime minister said.

President Jayewardene explained that his government planned to establish an administrative capital in the ancient city of Sri Jayewardenepura, Kotte. Therefore, a modern hospital was useful for the new city.

Prime Minister Masayoshi asked officials if Japan had offered a hospital to another country. They confirmed that there was a modern hospital offered to Thailand.

“How big is this hospital? the president asked and an official informed that it was a 1000 bed hospital.

“Make it 1001 bedded hospital,” joked President Jayewardene.

Amused Prime Minister Masayoshi asked “Who is this extra bed for?” “

“For me,” said the president.

The Japanese government built a beautiful, modern and sanitary hospital on a 24 acre site called “Kumbi Kelle” in Talapathpitiya, Nugegoda in three years. This modern, state-of-the-art 1,001 bed hospital was inaugurated on September 17, 1984 by Ishimaysu Kitaagawa, the representative of Japan and President Jayewardene. It was the president’s 78th birthday.

President Jayewardene also ensured that the hospital was run as a semi-governmental organization under the Ministry of Teaching Hospitals. A board of directors has been created by a special act of parliament. His intention was to free the management of the new hospital from the clutches of government bureaucracy. Despite many requests by prominent figures of the time to name the hospital after the then president, he ensured that the hospital was named “ Sri Jayewardenepura General Hospital (SJGH). ”

The best tribute to SJGH has been paid by the current commander of the army General Shavendra Silva when he visited the JGH after the war in 2009. He was seriously injured and unconscious while participating in “Operation Liberation” in Vadamarachchi in 1987 and was airlifted to the JGH. When he regained consciousness he thought he was in a ‘Five star hotel.’ Such was the surrounding calm of this hospital. The general also thanked the staff of the JGHH for saving his life with excellent medical care provided not only to him but to many others injured during the 30 Years War. The JGHH treated more than 4,000 war-wounded defense and police forces.

In 1999, when the Health Ministry’s vote was being discussed in parliament, a prominent member of the opposition (now minister) criticizing the shortcomings of public hospitals said: “These members do not realize the poor condition of public hospitals because they are ‘they only go to Sri Jayewardenepura General Hospital for treatment when they are sick. Feather on the JGH leadership cap!

Several foreigners I met during my tenure told me that the JGH was one of the finest modern hospitals in South Asia.

The Additional bed was inside the spacious presidential suite built at the entrance to the administrative block.

President Jayawardena never used the rollaway bed. But that bed was occupied by two eminent personalities, Minister of National Security Lalith Athulathmudali when he was injured in a grenade attack inside the parliamentary complex in 1987 and the world’s first female Prime Minister, Mrs Sirimavo. Bandaranaike in the late 90s.

During the opening ceremony, President JR Jayawardena called on the staff to look after the hospital in the same way they look after their own home.

Employees took his advice and viewed the JGH as their second home.

President JR Jayawardena, retired from politics in the late 1980s, accepted the invitation of Dr JB Peiris, the President appointed by the People’s Alliance government of Ms Chandrika Kumaratunga, and attended the 10e
The hospital’s anniversary celebrations took place on the 19the March 1995, as “Guest of honor”. The main guest was the then Prime Minister, Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike.

President JR Jayawardena in his speech reiterated his appeal to the staff at the inauguration ceremony in 1984 to take good care of their institution.

Then Health Minister AHM Fowzie called on staff and management to keep politics out of hospital administration.

The quality health care and pleasant environment of this historic institution must be maintained and maintained for the benefit of future generations. This task is now devolved to present and future management and staff.

Tenth Anniversary Celebration – Keep Politics Away

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