This is the text of the speech delivered by Mr. A.M.A. Azeez, at the Public reception in February, 1950, held at the Town Hall, Colombo to bid farewell to His Excellency T.B. Jayah presided over by Dr. C.W.W. Kannangara.

We, who belong to Ceylon and are representative of all the different communities of this our country are met together here to bid the Honourable Mr. T.B. Jayah, God Speed and offer to him our cordial good wishes for a very successful term of office in Pakistan. We feel certain that during Mr. Jayah’s time the bonds of friendship that already exist between Ceylon and Pakistan will grow even stronger and that lasting benefits will accrue to both countries.

I am not fortunate enough to have been a student of Mr. Jayah at Zahira nor to have received private lessons from him in History or Latin. It is rather interesting for me to remember that I started my English education in the same year, that is in 1921, when Mr. Jayah took charge of the destines of Zahira College, to convert it from just an ordinary elementary institution into one of the leading colleges in Colombo functioning as the “Radiating Centre of Muslim Thought and Activity.” Thanks to the Crescent that was published from Zahira College I was a distant admirer of Mr. Jayah during my school days. I became an acquaintance of his during my undergraduate days and I have been enjoying the privilege of his friendship from the time I joined the Government service. Mr. Jayah thought me worthy enough to succeed him at Zahira and some of my friends are wondering whether in the fullness of time he will consider me worthy enough to succeed him at Pakistan. To participate in a public reception to Mr. Jayah therefore gives me particular pleasures. I am therefore deeply grateful to you, Sir, and the Reception Committee for the opportunity that has been given to me of paying my tribute to the Honourable Mr. Jayah, when he is about to leave us for sometime to serve the country in a special capacity.

I for one and many of us indeed would have certainly preferred that Mr. Jayah refused the Pakistan post and remained with us and in the Cabinet. But, then, with the increasing importance of Ceylon in international affairs and particularly in the affairs of South-East Asia, our country could not possibly continue any longer without a capable representative in Pakistan; and our Prime Minister who is a shrewd judge of character and capacity probably knew that there was no better person qualified to assume the responsibilities of this office than Mr. Jayah whose ability to handle skillfully delicate negotiations was again confirmed at the I.L.O. conference recently held at Nuwara Eliya. Mr. Jayah sometime back went as the representative of the All-Ceylon Muslim League to participate in the First World Muslim Conference held in Karachi. He made such an impression there that he was called upon to take the Chair at one of the important sessions of the Conference; and his conduct there evoked the admiration of the elite of Pakistan. Our Prime Minister naturally knew that Pakistan would most warmly welcome Mr. Jayah where he already held in high esteem. I am sure Mr. Jayah himself knew that he had the best qualifications and the necessary attainments for this post and at this stage and in these special circumstances he could serve Lanka better abroad in Pakistan that within in the Cabinet. To those who have known Mr. Jayah it is not surprising that he did decide once again to subordinate the interests of the community to those of the country to those of the country. This readiness on his part to subordinate the interests of the community to those of the country is a distinguishing feature that has throughout characterized his public career. We who are connected with him are justly proud of this trait in his character and it shall always be our endeavor to imbibe fully this lesson from him of placing the country above the community. This has been demonstrated by him on several occasions but the most important occasion of all was during the passage in the last State Council of the Sri Lanka Bill sponsored by the Honourable Mr. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike. It was an extremely important event in the political history of our country, fraught with far reaching consequences. And on this historic occasion Mr. Jayah spoke as the accredited leader of the Muslim community numbering about four hundred and fifty thousand people. His attitude and his words on this account had a special significance as we were then at the cross road of history and any step taken by Mr. Jayah would commit not merely this generation of the Ceylon Muslims but all future generations as well.

And this is what Mr. Jayah said: “But as far as I am concerned, Sir, I do not consider any right greater than the right of political freedom . . . But whatever it is, I do not consider any right to be greater than the right of political freedom and therefore although I am fully conscious of those disadvantages of the Bill looking at it from a narrow point of view, yet I am prepared to support this Bill. By that frank and forcible expression Mr. Jayah defined the attitude of the Muslim community and thereby earned the gratitude of generation still unborn. The immediate effect of Mr. Jayah’s utterance on the leaders of the country could be gauged by the remarks made on that day by the Honourable Mr. Bandaranaike. He said: “I say that if any member has brought closer the achievement of agreement among the various sections of the people of the country by an attitude of generosity where even those with whom he is concerned to suffer, I say the fullest credit must go more than to any one also among us to the Honourable Nominated Member, Mr. Jayah. He has made a speech today that will have a great effect in bringing unity among the people of this country in bringing some sense of reality to this struggle.” On another but equally important occasion Mr. Jayah re-affirmed this attitude of the Muslim community in equally clear terms. He was then supporting the adoption of the Soulbury Scheme of Reforms sponsored by the present Prime Minister in the State Council. Mr. Jayah said: “Where the Muslims are concerned it has been that is intended to secure for the people of the  country a full measure of freedom. If the fight is for full freedom the Muslim community as far as it is concerned will be prepared to work without any safeguards because they know the spell of freedom can obliterate any difference. “Let me repeat, if the fight is for full freedom the Muslim community will be prepared to work without any safeguards because they know the spell of freedom can obliterate any differences. It was on account of Mr. Jayah’s leadership that the Muslim community, to use the words of the Prime Minister, “stated their case for political reforms with moderation and did not ask for the moon.” Mr. Jayah has been working hard for the achievement of political unity in this country from his young days when as an influential member of the then influential Ceylon National Congress he made his first journey to Jaffna on a mission of peace. Mr. Jayah is undoubtedly one of Ceylon’s bridge-builders and has contributed greatly to the peace and harmony that prevail in this country, in strange contrast to many of our neighboring lands. If Mr. Jayah had not been the leader of the Muslims at that critical stage of Ceylon’s history, there was the possibility of the Muslim community having been led into political wilderness carried away by the cries of fifty-fifty and the promise of a composite Cabinet and of others pursuing an anti-democratic agitation. Equally there was the possibility of the community having been made to lose its self respect and individuality by adopting an insincere unreliable and sycophantic attitude towards the politicians in power. Mr. Jayah avoided both extremes in a statesman like manner and he has been really responsible for bringing the Muslim community into an equal and honorable partnership with the other communities in the political life of the country and thus helping in the establishment of a strong political unity in the midst of cultural diversity. It is my feeling, Sir, that it is this aspect of his life and this chapter of his career that will be high-lighted in the future biography of his. We shall all the more appreciate this contribution of Mr. Jayah when we remember that this very community which is in equal partnership with others was at the commencement of Mr. Jayah’s public life three decades back educationally backward, culturally isolated and politically insignificant. Mr. Jayah realized at that time as no other man of his generation realized that the lack of English education was responsible for the parlous state of the Muslims and he said in 1914, seven years before he became the Principal of Zahira, that “it was only by the revivifying influence of English education that the Muslim community would be brought to a position of intellectual elevation, social efficiency and political power.” Having then held up the example of the Buddhist leaders and the Indian Mussalmans he asked: “Who is to be, the Sir Seyad Ahmed of Ceylon? Who among our leaders will follow in the wake of that renowned Indian. He need not necessarily be a child of Western culture for Sir Seyad Ahamed was not. But he must certainly be fearless in his actions disinterested in his motives inspired with a mighty purpose and ready to dare and even die in the cause he espouses. If such a one there be he will doubtless go down to posterity as the Saviour of the Muslims of Ceylon.”

Mr. Jayah posed this question in 1914, and today in 1950 we say without any hesitation and with one accord that the Honourable Mr. T.B. Jayah is that Sir Seyad Ahmed and that leader and that Saviour of the Muslims.

Au Revoir at Zahira College

Mr. A.M.A. Azeez: “I am using the term Zahirians not in its familiar connotation of Staff and Students past and present but in its special connotation on this occasion to include all those present here who are deeply devoted to Zahira and genuinely interested in her progress and welfare. Mr. Jayah reproved a few days back in his characteristically mild but sufficiently effective manner the organizers of a smaller party at another place for their having called it a farewell function. We are really gathered together not to bid farewell but to say Au Revoir and wish Mr. Jayah a very successful term of office in Pakistan.

Mr. Jayah was responsible for rousing the social and political consciousness of the Ceylon Muslim Community. He envisioned the political freedom of the country at a time when many of his contemporaries were thinking of Ceylon in terms of Britain’s Premier Crown Colony and prepared the Community to play a worthy part in the attainment of that freedom. By precept and practice Mr. Jayah encouraged the Muslims of his generation to place Society above Self, Country above Community, and fitness above friendship  or family. Mr. Jayah in his relationship to Zahira is “an Institution within an Institution.” When Mr. Jayah took charge of Zahira in 1921, it was an elementary school, one among many. He made it one of the leading institutions of the Island and with his help and guidance, Zahira became the “radiating centre of Muslim Thought and Activity.” On this aspect I feel the speakers to follow will dwell at length and therefore I shall not anticipate them. Mr. Jayah found the Muslim League a Debating Society and converted it into a powerful Political Organisation which successfully on several occasions stressed the special needs of the Ceylon Muslims. He found teachers without professional status and with the help of his colleagues in the old Legislative Council gave them status and salary scales. All those associated with Zahira feel proud of his achievements and wish him a very happy and successful term in Pakistan.” 

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