Sunday 17 June, 2012
Dr. Jayasinghe: The Doyen of the Palestinian Community
Hameed Abdul Karim
On one day of our visit to Palestine we were stuck without transport and so we called Dr. Jayasinghe, our representative in Palestine, and explained our situation. He told us not to worry and that he will ‘do something’. A while later he called us and said someone will come to pick us up in about fifteen minutes.
That ‘someone’ turned out to be the landlord of the house in which the Sri Lankan embassy is situated. He happens to be quite a wealthy man with considerable clout. On the way he told us he had visited Sri Lanka on one occasion and was quite taken up by the hospitality of her people. Talking about Dr. Jayasinghe he told us that he would do anything for him even if he called him in the middle of the night. “I love the man like a father’ he said. Such is the high esteem in which Dr. Jayasinghe is held in the Palestinian community.
And he is not the only one in Palestine who loves Dr. Jayasinghe ‘like a father’. Even his secretary, a pretty young Palestinian girl, had the same ‘connection’ with Dr. Jayasinghe. Wherever we went we always heard a kind word of affection for Dr. Jayasinghe and on occasions when he accompanied us, despite his heavy workload, he was welcomed with warm embraces by all the big shots in Israeli Occupied Palestine.
You would think Dr. Jayasinghe may have read and memorised Dale Carnegie’s book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’. But I assure you he hasn’t. He is one of those people who do not need tips on matters relating to public relations. It comes naturally to him because of his human touch and his penchant to reach out to the ‘other’.
Dr. Jayasinghe has promoted tourism to Sri Lanka and indeed many Palestinians have visited our shores in the little more than four years that he has served as ambassador. This includes his secretary who chose Sri Lanka as her honeymoon destination. In fact Ms. Nuha Anastas an intrepid Palestinian lady, at the behest of Dr. Jayasinghe had arranged a group of 40 tourists to visit Sri Lanka in February 2008.
Trade between the two nations is another aspect which Dr. Jayasinghe looks into with a great deal of interest and indeed we saw a new brand of Sri Lanka tea prominently displayed in two major retail outlets. Discussions between a Palestinian herbal medicine manufacturer and his contacts here in Sri Lanka are ongoing and a lucrative deal that will benefit Sri Lanka is in the pipeline.
Dr. Jayasinghe has been a passionate supporter for a Palestine free from Israeli occupation ever since his university days. He banded together with activists like President Mahinda Rajapaksha, Hamza Haniffa, Nihal Ratnyaka, Latif Farook, Nanda Kaluthnathri and Abul Hassan, among many others, to champion the cause of Palestine in Sri Lanka.
So when he requested the Betunia Municipal Council to honour President Mahinda Rajapaksha by naming a road after him for his undying support for the Palestinian cause Mayor Arafat Khalaf, readily agreed with President Mahmoud Abbas giving his blessings. When Dr. Jayasinghe thought it would be a good idea to bring forward the opening ceremony to coincide with President Rajapaksha’s birthday, he fired another call and conveyed his wish. The answer he received was ‘Yes, Sir’. And so, today our embassy, along with many others, is down ‘Mahinda Rajapaksha Road’ in Palestine, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Jayasinghe.
However, sometimes the atrocities the Israeli commit against the Palestinians every day tend to bring down the spirits of our affable ambassador and he longs for the day Palestine will be free from Israeli Occupation.
‘I wish I live to see that day’, he sighs.