September 17, 2001 marked the 70th anniversary of the San Francisco Peace Conference where Sri Lanka’s represnetative J.R. Jayewardene made a historic speech in which he, quoting the Buddha, urged the world community to be magnanimous towards Japan. The speech later laid the foundation for a solid Sri Lanka-Japan friendship. To mark the 70th anniversary [...]

Sunday Times 2

Remembering the age-long bonds between Japan and Sri Lanka

J.R. Jayewardene and Anagarika Dharmapala shared the same birthday on Sept 17

September 17, 2001 marked the 70th anniversary of the San Francisco Peace Conference where Sri Lanka’s represnetative J.R. Jayewardene made a historic speech in which he, quoting the Buddha, urged the world community to be magnanimous towards Japan. The speech later laid the foundation for a solid Sri Lanka-Japan friendship. To mark the 70th anniversary of the conference, a webinar was held on Sept 17. We reproduce here the text of the speech Japan’s Ambassador Sugiyama Akira delivered at the webinar.

Professor Noguchi Yoshinori, Vice Representative of Cosmos Scholarship, Professor K D Paranavitana, Consultant to the J R Jayewardene Centre, Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning, Ayubowan, Wanakkam, Ohayo gozaimasu,

It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to this online seminar this morning, which is held in commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the San Francisco Peace Conference. First and foremost, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to all the distinguished participants for joining us to celebrate one of the most defining moments of our bilateral relationship.

Seventy years ago this month, the San Francisco Peace Treaty was signed and Japan was admitted again into the international community after World War II. Hon. Yoshida Shigeru, the then Prime Minister of Japan and the head of the Japanese delegation to the Peace Conference, said in his speech, “The peace treaty before the Conference contains no punitive or retaliatory clauses; nor does it impose upon Japan any permanent restrictions or disabilities. It will restore the Japanese people to full sovereignty, equality, and freedom, and reinstate us as a free and equal member in the community of nations. It is not a treaty of vengeance, but an instrument of reconciliation. The Japanese Delegation gladly accepts this fair and generous treaty.” This Peace Treaty gave hope and encouragement to the Japanese people devastated by the war and marked the starting point of renewed Japan.

J.R. Jayewardene addressing the San Francisco Peace Conference

The spirit of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, that is, reconciliation, fairness, and generosity, was eloquently emphasized by His Excellency Junius Richard Jayewardene, the then Finance Minister representing the Government of Ceylon in his moving speech at the San Francisco Peace Conference on September 6th, 1951. The sonorous speech, that received enthusiastic applaud in the lofty hall of the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco, continues to ring louder in the hearts of many people, with the eternity of the truth phrased in “Hatred ceases not by hatred, but by love”, which was ennobled in the sacred scripture of Dhammapada. With this sacred teaching by the lord Buddha, the Great Teacher, in mind, His Excellency Jayewardene expressed strong support for a free and independent Japan and renounced reparation claims. Thus, His Excellency Jayewardene most effectively solidified the tone of the Peace Conference.

The whole-hearted support by the friendly people from the shining pearl of the Indian Ocean impressed the Japanese people so deeply that we continue to hold the abiding memory of this speech at the San Francisco Peace Conference closely with profound gratefulness.

In this ever-memorable speech, His Excellency Jayewardene warmly recalled his visit to Japan on his way to San Francisco. During the visit, he met leaders, private citizens, and priests in Japan and found out the existence of common culture and heritage which bound together Asian countries, including Sri Lanka and Japan. Then, His Excellency observed, “I gathered the impression that the common people of Japan are still influenced by the shadow of that Great Teacher of peace, and wish to follow it. We must give them that opportunity.”

In fact, this Buddhist ligature between Japan and Sri Lanka is age-long, and it was, to be sure, Srimath Anagarika Dharmapala, one of the leading makers of modern Buddhism, who had pioneered binding our hearts by the common faith of peace, and kindled the warmth of friendship during his first visit to Japan in the late 19th century, long before the establishment of our diplomatic relations. The fact that today, September 17th, is the common birth anniversary of the two great figures in the history of our bilateral relationship -Srimath Anagarika Dharmapala and His Excellency J R Jayewardene- assures the success of this seminar while receiving their sacred blessings.

Our diplomatic relationship, deeply rooted in this common consecrated faith of Buddhism, will mark the 70th Anniversary of its establishment next year. Embracing the virtuous spirit sprouted in San Francisco, I would like to renew my firm resolution to further consolidate our mutual cooperation and prosperity, bearing in mind the presence of special ties that bound us together at the deeper sphere of our soul.

Today, we have invited two of the most illustrious scholars -the authors of many publications on the current subject as well- to make keynote speeches on the fount of our friendship, which was given birth from the spirit embedded in the San Francisco Peace Conference. I wish to extend my heartfelt appreciation to Prof. NOGUCHI Yoshinori and Prof. K.D. Paranavitana for accepting our request – to explain as to why our relationship is so exceptional, that only grows from strength to strength through the test of time.

Anagarika Dharmapala in Japan

Before closing, I would like to bring to the kind knowledge of the distinguished participants, that the official announcement was made on August 20th to confer “Foreign Minister’s Commendation 2021” on the Sri Lanka Eye Donation Society for its invaluable contribution of donating over 8,000 corneas to Japan alone, including His Excellency J R Jayewardene’s own corneas, the left of which was donated to a Japanese woman, and the right of which to a Sri Lankan fellow citizen. Taking this opportunity, I wish to express, on behalf of the government and people of Japan, our sincere appreciation to the Sri Lanka Eye Donation Society for their dedicated service since 1961.

The reminiscence of the San Francisco Peace Conference mirrors our universal aspirations for peace. The eternal truth of Dhammapada teaches us that “the conqueror begets enmity, the defeated lie down in distress. The peaceful rest in happiness, giving up both victory and defeat.” While renewing my sincere prayer for permanent peace, I would like to close my commemorative remarks by referring to the concluding passage of the noble speech of His Excellency J R Jayewardene, in which his best wishes were expressed, as Japan and Sri Lanka had set out their first step towards the new horizon, where the great friendship was beginning to rise; “We extend to Japan a hand of friendship, and trust that … with the beginning of the new chapter, the first page of which we dictate tomorrow, her people and ours may march together to enjoy the full dignity of human life in peace and prosperity.”

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