N. U. Jayawardena

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Deshamanya Neville Ubeysin-gha Jayawardena (commonly known as N. U. Jayawardena) (1908–2002) was a Sri Lankan Senator, economist, banker and entrepreneur. He was the first Ceylonese Governor of the Central Bank of Ceylon and founder of the Mercantile Group of Companies that formed the Merc Bank Sri Lank, Sampath Bank and the former Mercantile Credit Ltd.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

He was born in the backwaters of Hambantota, where his father was the local rest housekeeper. He studied at St. Servatius' College, Matara and completed his secondary education at St. Aloysius' College, Galle. Thereafter he gained a BSc in Economics from the Westfield College and studied Business Administration at the London School of Economics.[2]


On his return to Ceylon, he took up his first job as clerk (class 2) in the government service, which was uncommon for a graduate.[3] In 1934 he moved to the Banking Commission and during World War II, he moved to the Department of Commodity Purchase and became the Controller of Exchange by 1948. Thereafter he worked closely with John Exter, the American economist in establishing the Central Bank of Ceylon in 1950 with Exter as its first Governor and Jayawardena as Deputy Governor. When Exter left in 1953, Jayawardena succeed him as the first Ceylonese Governor, holding the post till 1954 when he was interdicted.

However he was appointed first Ceylonese Joint-Managing Director of a British-owned firm, Vavasseur & Company and was exonerated in public service in 1957. Following his exoneration he was appointed to the Senate of Ceylon. Moving into the private sector, he founded the Mercantile Group of Companies that included the Merc Bank Sri Lank, Sampath Bank, the former Mercantile Credit Ltd, National Enterprise Bank (DFCC Vardhana Bank),Mercantile Shipping and Mercantile Leasing.

He served in many commissions and was awarded the title Deshamanya in 1991 by the government of Sri Lanka for his contributions to the nation.

Personal life[edit]

He was married to Amybelle Millicent Jayawardena and they had two sons Dr Lal Jayewardene who was a Sri Lankan High Commissioner to the UK and a Presidential Economic Adviser; A. N. U. Jayawardena and one daughter Yasodha Neiliya Jayawardena who married Chris Pinto a Sri Lankan diplomat. His grandson Milinda Moragoda is a former Minister and Senior Adviser to President. His home Cambridge Place, Colombo was designed in 1960 by the Danish architect, Ulrik Plesner.

Suggestion for Wikipedia - check with family members about accuracy of the above entry.