Born to a conservative land and plumbago mine owning family in Mirigama, Karu Jayasuriya received his preliminary education at Ananda College Colombo, a leading educational institution in Sri Lanka. Thereafter, he obtained professional qualifications by securing membership with the Institute of
Chartered Shipbrokers London (A.I.C.S.) in 1965, followed by Fellowship (F.I.C.S.). Karu underwent further training in ‘Commodity Trading’ with the Baltic Exchange in London, followed by Advanced Management Training (AMP) with the leading European Business School, INSEAD in France. He is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport. (FICT). With a view to serve the nation, Karu was in active military service with the Sri Lanka Army (CVF) during 1965 – 1972, as a Commissioned Officer.
Karu rendered a yeoman service to the growth of the private sector in Sri Lanka. He held key positions such as Chairman, Director and Chief Executive, in approximately 52 companies and resurrected several loss making institutions, turning them into profitable ventures during his 32 year career with the private sector. Karu was well known for his managerial skills. He always maintained a healthy and friendly relationship with employees at all levels. As a member of the Presidential Commission and Chairman he successfully steered Sri Lanka’s first privatized enterprise, United Motors Lanka Limited, to become a leading business institution in the country.
He also served as Chairman of several professional bodies, such as The National Chamber of Commerce and The Sri Lanka Business Development Centre. He was also a Director of the Export Development Board.
Karu was the Chairman of the Organizing Committee of ‘Expo 1992’, the first International Trade Fair held in Sri Lanka, and rendered an immense service to its great success. This was the most successful International Trade Fair held up to now, which attracted over 5600 foreign visitors.
He was bestowed with national honours, “Deshabandu” in recognition of his contribution towards development of the Export Industry. His services to the country were further recognized, when the then President of Sri Lanka appointed him as the Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany in 1992, with concurrent accreditation to Austria and Switzerland. He served in this capacity until June 1994, when he voluntarily relinquished his duties. His short but dedicated services were duly recognized by these countries.
Karu was invited to join the United National Party (UNP) in December 1994 and was appointed the Secretary – Co-ordination, at the same time. Within a very short space of time in May 1995, he was elevated to the position of Party Chairman, unanimously.
At the local government elections in March 1997, he was nominated by the Party as the Mayoral candidate. He won the election, polling the highest number of votes in Colombo, and was elected as the Mayor of Colombo. He assumed office as the 23rd Mayor of Colombo on 15th April 1997. The city of Colombo underwent a dramatic change during his 20 month regime securing recognition as the best city in the SAARC region and one of the best managed cities in Asia. Jayasuriya was also honoured as the most innovative Mayor in the region.
Karu contested the Western Provincial Council Elections in April 1999 as the Chief Ministerial Candidate of the UNP and polled a record number of over 260,000 votes. He then resigned as the Mayor of Colombo and assumed duties as the Leader of the Opposition, of the Western Provincial Council. His non-confrontational approach was well received at all times by the ruling administration, which implemented all his proposals. Here again it was a short assignment of 18 months.
For the Parliamentary Election in the year 2000, he moved over from Colombo District to Gampaha District and at the Parliamentary Elections held in October 2000, he was elected to Parliament, with a total number of over 255,000 votes from the Gampaha District. He polled the second highest number of votes in the island. He was appointed as Deputy Leader of the UNP in October 2000.
At the Parliamentary Elections in 2001 he once again lead the UNP to victory in the Gampaha District.
In December 2001, he was appointed Minister of Power and Energy in the United Front Government and also served as the Chairman of the National Health Council, Cabinet sub committees for Establishment, Disaster Management, Defense Supplies, Food Security and Cost of Living. He also chaired the Committee, which cleared all public accounts from long delays. Today all state sector accounts are presented to the parliament within 150 days, which is the European standard. The ‘Disaster Management Committee’ under his Chairmanship did a yeoman service to the flood victims of 2003.
Jayasuriya’s 22 months tenure as the Minister of Power & Energy, will be remembered by the people of Sri Lanka, since he restored the then 8 hour power cuts to full restoration of continuous power supply within 155 days of assuming the Ministership. He also successfully restored power supply to the Northern Peninsula from a 2 hour supply to a continuous 24 hour supply, a gesture which is still remembered. As the Minister of Power and Energy, he launched the largest and most ambitious Rural Electrification Programme, titled “Deepaloka” at a cost of Rs.10.2 Billion. Within 3 months of assuming all required funds for the Upper Kotmale project was negotiated. He was also successful in procuring several other support schemes from International Lending Agencies. Karu also headed the Task Force that built 49,000 houses destroyed by Sri Lanka’s worst flood that occurred in 2003. It took only 6 months to complete this assignment.
He introduced a new management concept to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation and the Ceylon Electricity Board by delegating full managerial and commercial freedom to professional management boards who were able to work independently and produce good results.
Karu and 17 parliamentarians decided to support the Government of President Mahinda Rajapakse for the elimination of terrorism for which the Government needed parliamentary strength. Though the Government and the United National Party signed an agreement to this effect in 2006, for various reasons this exercise failed, hence this decision for direct support. The original UNP/Government agreement was for 2 years. On completion of 2 years, Jayasuriya opted to return to active politics with the UNP. The invitation to return was publicly made and the Working Committee of the Party unanimously decided to restore the Deputy Leadership back to him, which was suppressed since his departure. It was a warm and affectionate welcome home for him.
Back in the saddle, Deputy Leader is heavily involved in the re-organization of the party heading the key political affairs and the management committee as well as nine other operational committees.
Next to the incumbent President of Sri Lanka, Jayasuriya has been bestowed with high ranking titles by the religious bodies of Sri Lanka.
1. ‘Deshamanya Shasanabandu’
2. ‘Sarartha Dharshi Jananayaka’
3. ‘Lanka Ranjana – Janahithakami’
4. ‘Sasana Ranjana’.
He was sworn in as Minister of Public Administration and Home Affairs in January 2007. Minister Jayasuriya was able to introduce far reaching changes to the administrative set up, such as citizens charter, public day and visits to remote areas with a full team of officials monthly to settle unresolved problems. He also headed a special committee appointed by the President after liberation to restore civil administration in the Eastern Province within 180 days. Civil administration in the Eastern Region was achieved successfully. The entire public services went through a rapid transformation to ensure a people friendly, effective and courteous service.
Jayasuriya set a new political culture in Sri Lanka by not using posters, banners, cut outs, polythene and non criticism of those with opposing political views, qualities which are appreciated by the society. This became a model followed by few others in subsequent years.
Karu’s experience as a Military Officer, Private Sector CEO, Trade Chamber Leader, Diplomat, Mayor of Colombo, Provincial Council Opposition Leader, Member of Parliament, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Minister adds up to make him a politician with a proven track record, respected and loved by the people.
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