A marksman slips away (Island Editorial)
Ravi Jayewardene has passed away at the age of 80. He needs no introduction. He was known to everyone as a gentleman to his fingertips. Intelligent, capable and born into a famous aristocratic family with an astute political heavyweight and eminent lawyer as his father, he could have reached great heights in politics without much effort if he had cared to do so. Instead, he took to flying, which he gave up to choose a cloistered existence in keeping with his outlook on life while he was relatively young. He earned the love and respect of the public.
Never did Ravi benefit from his father’s position or clout unlike the present-day, spoilt brats of political leaders who are bent on building political dynasties and amassing ill-gotten wealth. He was humbleness personified and maintained a very low profile even in the heyday of his President father, who ran a seemingly monolithic government while bragging that the only feat he could not achieve with his executive powers was to make a man a woman and vice versa.
The Old Fox, credit where credit is due, also did not groom anyone from his family as his successor and his policy enabled the UNP to produce several leaders including incumbent Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. That was true leadership though JRJ was not infallible. He, no doubt, stayed in power well past the age of being put out to grass, but he was decent and wise enough to avoid politics in retirement. If he had retired without seeking re-election he would have been able to end his political career in a blaze of glory and be fondly remembered just like his only child.
The real strength of the late President Jayewardene was his wife and son more than anything else, we reckon. His wife, Elina, was a gracious lady in the real sense of the word; she was seldom seen, but much admired. She was above suspicion like Caesar’s wife, so to speak. Not even the worst critics of JRJ had anything negative to say about her. Ravi was never seen in public to all intents and purposes. He shunned publicity. Sons are said to be of two types—creepers and trees. Those who belong to the first category are dependent on their parents to achieve their goals in life while others manage to do so, on their own.
A patriot to the core, Ravi was determined to help remove the scourge of terrorism which used to plague the country. He was instrumental in establishing the elite commando arm of police, the Special Task Force (STF), which played a pivotal role in defeating terrorism. The country has benefited from his marksman’s vision. If deployed in sufficient numbers with a free hand given in peacetime, the STF is equal to the task of neutralising the underworld within months. It is believed that Ravi took exception to the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord, which Indians railroaded his father into signing as he realised it was inimical to Sri Lanka’s interests.
JRJ was lucky to have a son like Ravi in a country where even mediocre sons, notorious for lavish lifestyles and many a brush with the law with impunity, go places and become a nuisance to their fathers in politics. Many are the lessons such brats can learn from Ravi, who never became an embarrassment to his father in anyway. He did not move about with armed guards, shoving other road users into wayside drains. Nor did he zip about in flashy cars or seek to gratify his desires at the expense of the taxpaying public. Such was the upbringing of the man. One cannot but join his family in mourning his demise.