In memoriam Neville Jayaweera (1930-2020)

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In memoriam Neville Jayaweera (1930-2020)

Neville Jayaweera

WACC notes with sadness the death of its former Director of Research and Planning, Neville Jayaweera, at the age of 89.

Appointed by Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake, to be both Chairman and Director-General of the then Ceylon Broadcasting Corporation in 1966, Jayaweera introduced a new standard of ethics and vision for broadcasting in his country. He said he was convinced that, “in a developing country, a powerful medium such as broadcasting should not be content merely with providing news, music and entertainment, but that it had an obligation to help in development tasks as well.”

Jayaweera brought his considerable broadcasting experience, and sensitivity to development issues, to the WACC when he moved to London in 1974. There, he conceived and spearheaded a global programme to alert Third World countries to the impending revolution in communication. His thesis was that the silicon chip, the integrated circuit, the satellite and the computer – in harness – would radically and rapidly transform cultures and values, and bring about fundamental changes in social and economic structures.

Working for WACC, Jayaweera first directed its Electronic Media Development Unit (EMDU) and later Research and Planning. He was responsible for the Intercultural Communication Programme (ICP), which ran from 1982 to 1986, and he oversaw the Curriculum Development Programme, whose aim was to assist WACC-related agencies to improve their methods of training.

Jayaweera travelled widely, interacting with a wide variety of people and cultures and lecturing on various aspects of communication technology. He wrote on communication issues, focusing primarily on development communication and on the impact of new communication technologies.

During the time he worked for WACC Jayaweera also served as a member of the Central Religious Advisory Committee of the BBC, London, and as WACC’s spokesperson at UNESCO and the International Telecommunications Union.

After leaving WACC, Jayaweera was appointed as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland (1991-1995).

Following his retirement in 1995, Jayaweera wrote and broadcast on the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, espousing justice for both sides of the conflict. He published two books on his experiences of ethnic conflict: Jaffna: Exorcising the Past and Holding the Vision. An autobiographical reflection on the ethnic conflict and The Vavuniya Diaries (Recollecting the first JVP uprising 1971).

Ann Shakespeare, a former WACC communication officer and editor of its newsletter ACTION, has been responsible for collecting and publishing Jayaweera’s writings. She comments:

“Despite the prominence and respect gained through his work in national and international arenas, Jayaweera sought most of all to maintain an ocean-deep inner relationship with the God of creation, which is where he was convinced that Reality lay. The main focus of his life lay in prayer, meditation and intercession. He followed the path of His Master, Jesus Christ, in humility, self-denial and in self-sacrificial love to others; and also in godly Joy, for he had a most wonderful sense of humour!”

The vast bulk of Jayaweera’s writings since 1995 relate to spiritual and religious themes. These are in the process of being uploaded to his website and are freely available.

WACC offers its condolences to the surviving members of Neville Jayaweera’s family.