The Centre was established by act of Parliament titled J.R Jayewardene Centre Act No. 77 of 1988. The act specified the venue as 191, Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 07. It was an apt depository for the treasure for it was the house where President Jayewardene spent a part of his childhood and later till 1938 the year he shifted to his own house ‘Braemar’.
Ever since he became head of government and head of state he made it a practice to store the goods he received from state visitors or on state visits abroad in a special room or rooms at the President’s House, thus underlining the point that these were not personal to him but property of the state’. (A Political Biography Vol. II Cha. 37 P.718. K. M. de Silva and Howard Wriggins) This simple gesture was the indirect indication of his noble thought that he would leave everything he treasured, including his own house ‘Braemar’ at Ward place in which he lived with his charming wife Elina throughout his married life, to the benefit and service of the public.
Among the things he contemplated to be transferred to the Centre were
- all items he received as gifts
- all books and volumes he had inherited, purchased and received as gifts,
- all what was classified as archives in the presidential Secretariat.
Today the Jayawardene Centre, apart from its original purpose of repository and reference library, is an educational base where classes in various disciplines such as meditation, arts and crafts, information technology, languages, aerobic exercises, Kandyan dancing etc., are conducted by competent instructors in these fields.
The Centre also floats a scholarship fund for children who cannot afford higher education due to poor economic reasons.
The Centre is endowed with a fully equipped auditorium and reception hall housed in a four storied building. The reception hall is hired out for wedding receptions, seminars and workshops on literature, history, religion and for book launches at very reasonable rates.
President Jayewardene’s love and concern for the Centre is evinced by the fact that, as reported, he turned down the invitation to assume Presidentship temporarily after the assassination of President Premadasa and went back to his library to do what pleased him most in his retirement to oversee the establishment of the J.R Jayewardene Centre at the house in which he had spent part of his childhood and the early years of his professional career! (ibid. ch. 37 p.733)