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DB Jayatilaka's 150th Birth Anniversary

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The 150th Birth Anniversary of Sir D. B. Jayatilaka was commemorated at a simple ceremony held at the Public Trustee Department's premises on February 14. It was held under the patronage of Speaker Karu Jayasuriya. High Commissioner Taranjit Singh Sandhu addressed the event. Dr. Wickrema Weerasuriya delivered the commemorative oration.

Taranjit Singh in his address said: "I am honoured to be here at the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Sir Don Baron Jayatilaka. I thank Hon. Karu for his gracious invitation. The statue of Sir DB Jayatilaka reminds us today of the struggles and sacrifices of our forefathers, that too when both our nations are celebrating 70 years of independence. It also provides an opportunity for reflection and introspection. Sir DB Jayatilakawas most honourable, scholarly, and selfless in his sacrifice for the country; he was truly giant of a man. We owe our existence today to brave men and women like him. I salute his spirit.

It was Thomas Carlyle, who said, that history of the world is nothing, but biography of great men. The history of Sri Lanka is definitely not complete without the special mention of Sir DB Jayatilaka. As High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka, I will add that the history of India-Sri Lanka bilateral relations, is also not complete, without acknowledging, the priceless contribution of Sir DB Jayatilaka.

Sir D.B.Jayatilaka's association with India started early. He was a linguist, well versed in several languages including Singalese, Pali, Sanskrit, English& Latin. He graduated from University of Calcutta in 1896 and went on to gain a BA in jurisprudence from Oxford. His formative years in Oxford provided the basis for a life-long friendship with India; he was active in the Society of Indian students in Oxford, serving as its Secretary, Treasurer, and President on various occasions.

Ceylon turned to India when the food shortage hit the country during the heights of World War II; Sir DB Jayatilakawas sent as an emissary, and India did honour his request and sent food shipments to the island. He was later appointed as Representative of Government of Ceylon to India. Unfortunately he fell ill when he was in Delhi; the Viceroy had arranged a special plane for him to return to Ceylon; unfortunately, he passed away when the plane was over Bangalore. He was later cremated in Borella. He remained a true son of Ceylon; he would remain forever, a true friend of India. Had destiny allowed him a longer life, who knows, what turn his career would have perhaps taken.

Sir DB Jayatilaka was a patriot, freedom fighter, national leader, philanthropist and a statesman of extraordinary vision. He was the perfect mix of the best of orient and occident. He was a flagbearer of Buddhism, and was deeply influenced by Theosophical Movement. He was also a great educationist. It might be a strange coincidence but it is true that in 1923, when Sir D.B. Jayatilaka was elected President of Ceylon National Congress, another great educationist, who would later become independent India's first Education Minister, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, was elected President of Indian National Congress.

Prime Minister Modi, in his Vesak Day speech, noted that the friendship between India and Sri Lanka was etched in time by the 'Great Master'. Sir DB Jayatilaka was a worthy son of the Great Master, and his contributions to strengthening the bonds between our great nations will be remembered forever. As Lord Buddha has said,' even death is not to be feared by those who have lived wisely.' Sir DB Jayatilaka did live wisely; let us be his worthy disciples and live wisely, today and everyday."

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