Karu Jayasuriya, the present Speaker of the Parliament of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka became a great personality who successfully defeated the Constitutional conspiracy to re-establish democracy in the country. When we soberly recollect the chain of acts displayed by various Parliamentary members at that time, the Speaker had been the cynosure because everybody was anxious how he was able to manage the chaos. Ultimately, Karu Jayasuriya became the martyr of the lovers of democracy in the republic.

As a result of this incident the decision to hold a premature Parliamentary election was reversed. Though some Parliamentary members have forgotten the importance of this mission of the Speaker many new Members of Parliament were able to extend their tenure in Parliament for a further one year and eight months.

Without prejudice we can say this mission is historic in Sri Lanka’s Parliament. This incident drew the attention of the nation to know his past life that fostered a remarkable personality for him. When someone may explore the past life of Karu Jayasuriya one can surmise his personality is not only inherited by decency but also developed by him throughout his past life. Therefore, the objective of this article is to highlight some of his traits displayed by him throughout his life.

Early education

Karu Jayasuriya hails from a noble family in the village of Kandalama, Meerigama of Hapitigam Korale. He received his early education from his village’s school (Kandangamuwa Govt. School) and later entered Ananda College, Colombo.

During his studies at Ananda College he received advice and guidance from late Ven. Professor Kotagama Vacheeswara and late L. H. Meththanada. Such advice and guidance made him to develop an exemplary character and conduct. With the influence of his parents and mentors his character developed with piety, amicability and generosity. Even today he devotes a reasonable amount of time to worship the Triple Gem every morning. As a result, he is always blessed by the Triple Gem. He has been honoured and conferred with various titles by all the Nikayas and their Chapters in the Buddhasasana in Sri Lanka. His yeoman services were not limited to the Buddhasasana but it has been extended to all religions in Sri Lanka. He rejected religious fanatism and embraced religious tolerance. That’s why all the followers of all religions practised in Sri Lanka respect him. This is one of the legacies he gathered for eight decades of his life.

Experience in National Security Service

After completing his school education in 1965 he joined the Sri Lanka Army as a Second Lieutenant and served the nation until 1972. Like Sir John Kotelawala, Sir Oliver Goonetilake and Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, Karu Jayasuriya also joined politics after completing a period of national security service. This is one of a rare qualifications acquired by Karu Jayasuriya which many present day political leaders in Sri Lanka do not possess. Many people talk about some shortcomings in national security today, but, if Karu Jayasuriya is given the opportunity to become the Commander of the Security Forces invariably he can become an exemplary Commander because he is well disciplined, keen and conscious.

Professional education and experience

Karu Jayasuriya has obtained excellent professional qualifications and a professional experience. At the age of 25 he got his qualification as an Associate of the British Institute of Chartered Ship Brokers (ACIS) and later acquired the higher qualification of the Institute; Member of the British Institute of Chartered Ship Brokers (MCIS). He got additional training in maritime trading at the Baltic Institute in London. Later, he followed Advanced Management training at the prestigious European Institute of Business Administration (INSEAD). Later, he was offered the Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistic and Transport (FCILT) London). For all these qualifications and experience Karu Jayasuriya held many executive positions in a number of reputed commercial establishments and his efficiency and dedication propelled him towards the top of the hierarchy of those establishments. Some of those positions he held were Chairman, National Chamber of Commerce, Chairman, SAARC Chamber of Commerce, Chairman, Colombo Rubber Traders Association, Chairman, Sugar Importers Association, Chairman Sri Lanka Business development Centre as well as Director, Export Development Board (the original concept of establishing a government body to promote exports from Sri Lankan was by Karu Jayasuriya while late President Ranasinghe Premadasa laid the foundation to the establishment). For his excellent managerial ability at the end of the 80s decade served as Managing Director, Chief Executive and Chairman in 52 well reputed business establishments.

Political career

Karu Jayasuriya entered active politics at the age of 55 following an invitation from the United National Party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. In 1996, he took over as the Chairman of the United National Party. Though Karu Jayasuriya joined active politics at the age of 55 he inherited the UNP party membership by descent. His maternal uncle A.W.G. Seneviratne had been a UNP candidate of the SLFP stronghold of Attanagalla from 1956. Therefore, we can see he had been a supporter of the UNP since his adolescent age. In 1999 he contested the Western Provincial Council as the Chief Minister but could not win the Provincial Council due to a deficit of meagre 9,066 votes. At that election he received over 250,000 preference votes from the Colombo District, the third highest ever at that point in preference voting in Sri Lanka in any election. Only Chandrika Kumaratunga and Lalith Athulathmudali had polled more. Mr. Jayasuriya’s preference votes was nearly 100,000 more than that of People’s Alliance Chief Ministerial candidate Susil Premjayanth.

Mr. Jayasuriya served as the Leader of the Opposition of the council. In 2000 he contested the Parliamentary elections and won a seat from the Gampaha District easily by polling 378,328 preference votes. It was 62.7% of the UNP’s total district votes.

He was reelected as a Member of Parliament from Gampaha at all the successive General Elections. The new government formed after January 8, 2015 Presidential Election he was offered Ministerial portfolio: Public Administration, Buddhasasana, Local Government and State Affairs. The government formed in August 2015, saw him elected to Parliament from the National List of the UNP and secondly, he became Speaker of Parliament. He continues to serve as the Speaker of Parliament to date.

Ministerial experience

During his tenure in Parliament on several occasions, he served the country as Cabinet Minister. During 2002-2004 period he held the Cabinet portfolio, Power and Energy. During this period Sri Lanka experienced frequent power failures and power cuts. This situation hindered all sectors of the economy. Specially households with schoolchildren had to face various hardships. Industrial and commercial establishments and government offices could not run in desirable capacities. The end result was the low output resulting in low growth. All eyes were pointed to the Minister of Power and Energy.

Minister Jayasuriya had to spend all his energy and experience to solve this acute problem. At first he appointed well-known and well experienced engineers Professor K. K. Y. W. Perera as the Secretary to the Ministry of Power and Energy and Professor Mohan Jayatilake as the Chairman of the Ceylon Electricity Board. Together, these professional experts and the senior staff members of the Electricity Board, Minister Jayasuriya laid a comprehensive plan to cope with this acute problem. Though the Prime Minister had given 180 days to solve the chaos, Minister Jayasuriya and his Task Force were successful in completing their mission in 167 days. This can be considered as a herculean task accomplished by Karu Jayasuriya during his ministerial life. The Government formed after the Presidential Election in January 8 offered Karu Jayasuriya the Cabinet portfolio: Public Administration, Buddhasasana, Local Government and State Affairs. During this tenure as the Minister of Public Administration he took several steps to promote Good Governance in the public sector.

As the Minister of Buddha Sasana he extended his service to every sector of the Buddhasasana. All Mahanayakes and prelates appreciated his yeomen service and awarded many titles. At the August 2015 General Elections he did not contest a Parliamentary electorate but became the Chief Spokesman of the UNP in the election campaign travelling islandwide. In the new government formed after the August 2018 General Election he was firstly appointed as a Member of Parliament from the UNP National List and secondly elected as the Speaker of the Parliament and continues his service as the Speaker to date.

National Movement for a Just Society

Besides, been an ardent supporter of democracy, he was the founder of the National Movement for a Just Society. Firstly, he explained to youths in Gampaha, especially university students about the value and importance of establishing a just society. Later, he inaugurated the National Movement for a Just Society inviting clergy, scholars, civil society activists, journalists, politicians, members in the business community and all other interested parties. Thereafter a number of meetings were held in Gampaha and Colombo giving wide publicity. Many members in every social class were interested with the concept and the objective of the movement. The National Movement for a Just Society was thoroughly against the various powers vested to the Executive Presidency by the eighteenth Amendment of the Second Republic Constitution. The abolition of the Executive Presidency was the main slogan of the movement. Before long with the public support, the National Movement for a Just Society grew like a ‘Vanaspthi’ tree and finally helped change the existing regime.

Good Governance

“Good Governance is perhaps the single most important factor in eradicating poverty and promoting development.” (Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations). The Millennium Declaration explicitly recognizes Good Governance as one of the most crucial requirements in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It clearly points out that Good Governance at all levels is: (i) indispensable for creating a conducive environment for poverty alleviation and development; (ii) a prerequisite in asserting universal values such as human rights, (iii) is the operational link between noble aspirations and effective realization. Karu Jayasuriya is one of Sri Lanka’s politicians who realised the concept, objectives, principles and strategies of Good Governance. On many occasions as relevant he highlighted the importance and when time permits, he implemented the Good Governance strategies. For example, during his tenure as the Minister of Public Administration he issued a number of circulars in promoting Good Governance in the government sector.

Champion of Information Act

Transparency is one of the eight characteristics of Good Governance. Transparency means that decisions taken and their enforcement are done in a manner that follows the rules and regulations. It also means that information is freely available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their enforcement. It also means that enough information is provided and that it is provided in easily understandable forms and media. Karu Jayasuriya with the advent of the National Movement for a Just Society highlighted the importance of easy access for information to secure the rights of affected. Later, he made the Draft of an Act of Information and pleaded with the then Speaker to schedule in the Order Book of Parliament as a private Act. At the debate he described importance of the Act but at the time of voting, the majority was against the Act. This incident did not discourage Karu Jayasuriya and under the government formed in 2018 he had been able to enact the Information Act. This can be considered a triumph of first obligation in establishing Good Governance by promoting transparency, voicing and rule of the law.

Long live Mr. Jayasuriya!


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