Tuan Burhanuddin Jayah

We might stand up for our community, but it cannot be said that we have stood against the interest of the country as a whole. I have always said, and I repeat it today, that I consider the interest of the country as a whole, to be paramount.
 (Dr. T. B. Jayah) , 1937)

Dr.Tuan Burhanuddin Jayah

Every community has thrown up leaders in different walks of life who proudly acknowledged Sri Lanka as their home. They shared and proclaimed the common identity which all of us have inherited. They gave special attention, as one who would expect, to the needs and aspirations of their communities. They served their communities well, but at the same time they served the nation as whole. They fought for the unity of the nation, but they never sought to divide the country or set up one community against another.

Tuan Burhanuddin Jayah, the son of Police Sergeant Cassim Jayah, was born at Galagedara in Kandy on 1st January 1890. Jayah played multifarious roles to serve the nation, as a teacher, principal, Member of the Legislative Council, Parliamentarian and as a High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in Pakistan.

Jayah began his early education at St. Paul’s College, Kandy from where he won a scholarship to St. Thomas’ College, Colombo. He passed the Cambridge Senior and London Matriculation and won many prizes for Mathematics, Latin and Western Classics. He took his degree from the University of London in 1913, and thereafter joined Ananda College, Colombo as a teacher and taught Classics and History. THe late Professor G. P. Malalasekera who was also a teacher of Ananda at that time said of Jayah :

"He was the doyen of the academic staff, highly respected and loved by both teachers and students alike. A most popular teacher whose classes no students would miss willingly because his wisdom and erudition, and his power and skill of exposition were truly remarkable."
In 1921 Jayah took the rein of Zahira College as Principal. At that time Zahira had only six teachers and fifty students. But after one year, under Jayah’s dynamic leadership, the College had 30 teachers and 450 students. Later on, branches of Zahira spread to other provincial towns like Aluthgama, Gampola, Matale and Puttalam, etc.
Jayah entered active politics in 1924 and was elected to the Legislative Council. He was one of the three Muslim members of the Council at that time. He led the Muslim Delegation on political reform with a memorandum to the Colonial Secretary in 1935.
He was unassuming and modest, never sought cheap publicity or applause. As a distinguished son of Sri Lanka, he was determined and bold, and diligently inched his way to rescue his community from the abysmal educational lag to which it had been driven.

A Sinhala Buddhist student of Jayah once said:
"I am as proud of Zahira as any Muslim. It has given self-respect to Muslims as Ananda gave to Buddhists. What was more, the modern maker of the school, Jayah of Zahira himself was a gift given from Ananda to Zahira. Jayah of Zahira will live in history as the greatest Muslim leader of modern Ceylon."

The late Prime Minister, S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, paying his tribute to Jayah said: Credit for the attainment of Independence should undoubtedly go to Mr. T. B. Jayah for his historic speech in passing the Dominion Bill."

Sri Lanka is an ethnic compendium with many communities professing different faiths, speaking different languages and pursuing different ways of life, speak in favour of the tolerant nature of this land and people.

Today on this death anniversary of this great son of Sri Lanka let us hope to work towards a united Sri Lanka, socialist in content but democratic in form where each community would have cultural autonomy in the country politically united and economically integrated as it was the vision and mission of our national leaders.

T. B. Jayah, passed away on 31st May 1960 at the age of 72 in the sacred City of Medina, Saudi Arabia.

Alhaj DahlanSalahudeen
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