RRW in The Island, 15 June 2020 where the title runs “One with elegance in thought and letters”
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend, All losses are restored, and sorrows end. —- Shakespeare/Sonnet 30
Of course, Rajiv Jayaweera was not my friend. I never saw him in person, nor heard him; but I had once seen his picture in a web publication. However, I saw him well enough through his writings as a fellow contributor to The Island, and experienced a latent relationship with him as a person whose intellectual grasp of our country’s burning issues, and whose concerns and attitudes relating to them generally matched mine; I felt as if I had known him closely as a friend for some time. I was impressed by the meticulous attention he paid to his language in expressing his ideas precisely (a characteristic in truth tellers).
The news of his sudden death, in such tragic circumstances, was deeply moving for me. On hearing it, there came to my mind a commemorative essay that Rajiv wrote on his late father, the distinguished diplomat Stanley Jayaweera, on his third death anniversary. It was the last of a couple of articles he wrote about his father, touching on their mutual relationship as father and son. This last one was published in The Island on February 1, 2020, under the title: “A bygone era diplomat of perspicacity”.
The essay began thus: “‘If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings, nor lose the common touch’ – Rudyard Kipling. My father, Stanley Robert Jayaweera (SJ), passed away on February 4, 2017, four months short of his 90th birthday. Over the last couple of years, I have penned several articles of his work, besides one in May 2017, of the different phases in our father-son relationship. This article would be the last. As memories begin to fade, they too need to be reposed.”
The last two sentences now seem to me to contain a hint of his own premature passing away. The anecdotes Rajiv recounts in the article about his father illustrate the principles the latter lived by: personal probity, humility as well as dignity, commitment to duty, and patriotic loyalty to his motherland.
The term ‘perspicacity’ captures the essence of SJ’s professionalism as a diplomat. Rajiv himself was not a diplomat, though he, incidentally, played a virtual ambassadorial role through his casual journalism in representing Sri Lanka truthfully to the treacherously misinformed outside world, in order to neutralize the gravely negative impact of unjustified adverse propaganda on its image abroad.
Professionally, he served as an executive of SriLankan Airlines, the flag carrier of Sri Lanka. I remember him once writing about entrenched corruption in that body. As far as I could judge, Rajiv was not politically affiliated to any individual or party. However, I felt that he liked the advent of non-politician plain spoken Gotabaya Rajapaksa as president. In the corruption in SriLankan Airlines article aforementioned, he expressed his implicit trust in President Gotabaya to have these problems investigated properly and appropriate action taken in his characteristic no-nonsense way.
I would like to take this opportunity to offer my deepest condolences to that family. Meanwhile, I beg that the following comments of mine not be misconstrued as an undue trespass on the privacy of the bereaved family, whose devastating grief I can understand, and join others in sharing: Rajiv’s very personal pre-suicide note addressed to his younger brother has been dragged into the public domain by the cold sensation mongering media. We can’t do anything about that. Yet , it is no slur on Rajiv or his family. The characteristic elegance of his language is unmistakable even in this informal letter to his beloved younger brother whom he used to affectionately call ‘Chutta’ ‘the little one’. The note only reveals what a great-hearted compassionate equanimous person Rajiv was. What led to his carefully planned suicide was, there could be little doubt, his desire to avoid prolonged physical and mental suffering due to some steadily deteriorating health conditions. Generous gestures like making a good contribution to the presidential Covid-19 fund and depositing money in a bank account for his domestic helper before taking his own life show how he cared for others, in spite of his own afflicted situation. He closes the letter with the customary Buddhist invocation: ‘May the Triple Gem bless you all’ and signs off: ‘As always, Aiyah’. Probably, no better epitaph to him could be conceived than this his last letter to his brother.
May He Attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana!
A COMMENT: I have never met Rajiv but have featured his Island articles often in recent months and corresponded with him as “Rajeewa Jayaweera” … This measured VALE from RRW is a a birching of the bottoms of those who have tried to present the suicide as a dirty tricks operation of the present government. Such suggestions highlight the arcane and scheming strands within (A) the Yahaapalana world and (B) the minds of those who see themselves as HR (human rights) defenders. These strands are not confined to journalists. In my guesswork reading quite a few personnel of eminence in Colombo elite circles reason in this manner. I suspect that Rajeewa knew this and took measured steps to scotch that stirring of the pot.
What magnificent acts of charity! What a meaningful choice of spot for his act of euthanasia! Stride forth in history with that moment when our island secured independence.