Dr. T.B. Jayah: possessing monumental patience, he loved humanity

Death anniversary on May 31st

By A.H.M Azwer

Dr. Tuan Burhanudeen Jayah passed away in the Holy City of Medina on May 31, 1960.

Dr. Jayah had his early education in a Madrasa and entered S. Thomas’ College, Colombo where he had a brilliant academic career winning many coveted prizes.

He obtained a Degree in Classics from the University of London and took to teaching as his profession. His first appointment was at a leading Buddhist College, Dharmarajah. He then joined a Christian Institution -Prince of Wales, Moratuwa. P.D.S. Kularatne invited him to take up an appointment as classics teacher at Ananda College, where he taught many distinguished politicians; Philip and Robert Gunawardene, Dr. S. A. Wickramasinghe and Dr. N. M. Perera. In 1923 he accepted the Principalship at Zahira College, Colombo. Muslims at that time were very backward in education. From the very inception Jayah realized that the future of the community depended in the study of English. He toured the principal towns throughout the country and impressed on Muslim parents the need to send their children to an English School.

Through hard work he was soon able to build up Zahira College to one of the leading educational institutions. A couple of years after he assumed duty as principal of Zahira College, he contested the All Island Muslim Constituency for election of Muslim members to the Legislative Council with the support of the All Ceylon Muslim League which he founded, he was returned as the third member. The other two were Sir Mohamed Macan Markar and N.H.M Abdul Cader. In 1931 and 1935 Jayah contested the Colombo Central Constituency against the formidable Labour Leader A. E. Goonasinghe. On both occasions Jayah was defeated but was nominated to the State Council in 1935 despite his defeat.

In the State Council he served on the Executive Committee of Education. This gave him a wide scope to advance Muslim education. He along with Sir Razik Fareed established many Muslim Schools throughout the length and breadth of the Island. He assisted all denominational schools as he held for many years the Chairmanship of the Headmasters Conference. He fought for the rights of teachers and was largely responsible for the establishment of a pension scheme for them. Whilst engaged in educational work he was equally engrossed in politics. In the State Council of 1931 there were two minority ministers, namely Peri Sundaram and Sir Mohamed Macan Markar on the Board at Ministers. In the State Council of 1935, by some mathematical ingenuity of C. Suntheralingam a Sinhala Board of Ministers were elected. This caused great disappointment and apprehension in the minds of certain sections of the population.

The minority members of the State Council formed a unit called the minority group. The group was pledged to fight for minority rights, particularly for adequate representation in a future legislature. G.G. Ponnambalam carried out his campaign of fifty – fifty which however did not have the support of all the members of the minority group. The early forties with the expectation of constitutional reforms was a period of intense political activity by all groups; ethnic, religious or otherwise. The British Government was prepared to grant further reforms even to the extent of Independence provided it was acceptable to two-thirds of the Members of the State Council. It was therefore necessary for D.S. Senanayake the then Chairman of the Board of Ministers to get the support of the three Muslim Members of the State Council namely,Sir Razik Fareed, Dr. T.B Jayah and Dr. M. C.M. Kaleel.

To win over Dr. Jayah and Dr. Kaleel, D.S. Senanayake offered Jayah what was called balance representation, which Dr. Jayah accepted. Both he and Dr. Kaleel gave their unstinted support to constitutional reforms and thereby assured a two-thirds majority in the State Council. For the stand taken by Dr. T. B. Jayah, both D.S. Senananyake and S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike paid him the highest tribute for making it possible to attain Independence without shedding a drop of blood. The acceptance of the Soulbury Constitution necessitated the formation of parties. After several days of negotiation the National Congress, the Sinhala Maha Sabha, the All-Ceylon Muslim League, the Moors Association and some individual members of the Tamil and Burgher communities formed the United National Party in 1946. Dr. Jayah was elected one of its first Vice Presidents.

He resigned as a Minster and Member of the House of Representatives in 1950 to accept the post of Sri Lanka’s First High Commissioner in Pakistan. He served in that capacity for seven years with great acceptance both by the Pakistan Government and Sri Lanka. The bonds of friendship he built between the two countries still endures and Pakistan has since on every occasion when requested, come to the rescue of Sri Lanka.

Dr. T. B. Jayah was a dedicated parliamentarian. He seldom missed the sitting of the legislature. As a minister he was always in his seat ready to answer questions. His interruptions, if any, were to the point and effective, never frivolous, He was not an orator of the class of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike or G. G. Ponnambalam, but his speeches were however lucid, clear in thought and diction.

He fervently believed all his belongings and his knowledge he held in trust from the All Mighty to be used for the benefit of his fellowmen. He loved humanity. Never a harsh word did he speak. He had a monumental patience. He accepted happiness and sorrow as inevitable as the work of God. It was for these that he had sought for death while performing the pilgrimage to Mecca, and, that too in the Holy City of Medina where the Prophet himself passed away. He lies buried with the companions of the Prophet. May his soul Rest in Peace for from Allah we are and to Allah we return.

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