Stanley Jayaweera was known to the world as an accomplished diplomat. His strongmindedness tempered with diplomacy earned him numerous accolades during his tenure. As an individual, he was keen on philosophy and was a follower of philosopher Krishnamurthy and Sai Baba. He was a generous friend and a mentor who guided his juniors to acquire professionalism and ignited their interest towards prevailing dominant topics in the international arena at the time.
Born on June 20, 1927 in Colombo, he was educated at S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia and Ananda College, Colombo. He read for a BA in Philosophy at the University of Ceylon and graduated in 1949 with Second Class (upper) Honours. He then embarked on his professional career by joining the teaching staff at Buddhist Theosophical Society (BTS). During his teaching career, he has served at Dharmaraja College Kandy, Dharmapala College Pannipitiya and Ananda College Colombo.
In June 1954, he joined Ceylon Overseas Service (COS) and was trained at the prestigeous British Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. In fact, he made up one of the last batches to receive this training. On his return, he was assigned as Personal Assistant to Gunasena de Zoysa, then Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and External Affairs.
In 1958 Jayaweera was appointed as Deputy High Commissioner in Singapore. Due to his left-wing leanings, during the period where Sirima Bandaranaike served as Prime Minister, he was cast as a patriot. He was instrumental in procuring the support of the left-wing parties to the regime of Sirima Bandaranaike during the 1960s. This was the root from where trouble sprang.
In 1960, Jayaweera was assigned to Madras, India as Deputy High Commissioner. During his time there he was closely associated with the then Chief Minister of Madras, Kamraj. From 1962 to 1965 he served for a period as Senior Assistant Secretary Defence, Citizenship Division under NQ Dias, the then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence and External Affairs. During this time Jayaweera worked tooth and nail to foster Indo-Ceylon ties, especially since Indian relations were a subject he was passionate about. His energy was directed at upholding the name of his country.
This was the period during which the Sirima–Shastri Pact of 1964 was formulated that brought up the agreement on individuals of recent Indian origin residing in Sri Lanka at the time. It was Jayaweera who initially sparked the interest of Sirima Bandaranaike on the subject. This led to the subsequent search for a solution for the complication that had been prevailing since Independence, by her. Jayaweera was closely involved in the formulation of the Pact. Although known only among his close circle, it was his greatest contribution in his Foreign Service career.
When the United National Party (UNP) came to power in 1965, Jayaweera went through a difficult period due to his left-wing politics. From July 1965 to October 1969 he was under interdiction. Later, he was exonerated of all charges by the Public Service Commission. In 1971, he was posted as Counsellor at the Ceylon Embassy in Moscow in the Union of the Socialist Soviet Republic (USSR). From 1972 to 1975, he served as Counsellor at the Ceylon Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. There he struck up a friendship with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulfikar Al Bhutto.
While there, following the passing away of Dudley Senanayake, a condolence book was opened at the High Commission by Jayaweera. This was reported to Colombo by a clerk and Jayaweera was questioned on the matter and asked for an explanation. The matter was put aside after Jayaweera replied saying he did not need instructions to open a condolence book for an individual who has been the Prime Minister for five times!!
Another incident that highlighted Jayaweera’s inner workings was when Anura Bandaranaike led a Youth League delegation to China via Islamabad, in 1973. It was in reality a secret mission to rekindle relations with North Korea. The Chinese and North Korean ambassadors had reached the airport but Jayaweera was absent. Upon being called for an explanation by Sirima Bandaranaike’s Secretary, MDD Peiris, following a complaint by Anura, Jayaweera responded saying: “Had the Hon Prime Minister requested me to meet and assist her son Anura Bandaranaike, I would have gladly obliged. However, the routine telegram from the Foreign Ministry advised of Youth League Leader travelling to Beijing via Islamabad. Further, telegram was meant ‘for info’ and ‘to meet and assist’.”
Upon reading the reply the Prime Minister requested to withdraw the initial letter.
From 1975 to 1978, he was appointed chargé d’affaires at the Sri Lanka Embassy in Bonn, West Germany. In 1978 Jayaweera returned to Sri Lanka and served for a period as Director Special Assignments, Director Africa at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Colombo. In 1985, he was assigned as Ambassador to the Sri Lanka Embassy in Bonn. On his return, he retired from Foreign Service after 37 years in the field.
He was then appointed Advisor, Indian Affairs during the time when Foreign Minister Ranjan Wijeratne held office. His work included the setting up of the India Research Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Colombo. Following his retirement Jayaweera was involved in social services and taught English at the Victoria Home for the Disabled in Rajagiriya. His demise on February 4 reduced the count of old-school diplomats down to two.
Notables among Jayaweera’s many acquaintances included Lee Kuan Yew, former Prime Minister of the self-governing state of Singapore, with whom he sought an acquaintance while the former was under British authorities. During their meeting two packets of Ceylon tea had changed hands.
Jayaweera was the older brother of Neville Jayaweera, senior Civil Servant and Government Agent of Jaffna. He was also the husband of Seetha Wijesinge, a former student of Dharmapala College, Pannipitiya. They were married in 1953 and had five children; Kaushalya, Rajeewa, Dushyanthi, Sanjeeva and Vimuktha.