SWRD's vision lives on
Today is the 52nd death anniversary of the founder leader of the Sri
Lanka Freedom Party Premier S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike. As an epoch making
national leader, statesman, intellectual and the "Silver tongued orator
of Asia", his stature stands high above the leaders this country had
during the past two centuries.
S.W.R.D's brilliant career was stopped by the bullets of an assassin
on a day like today. The whole country mourned his death. People in long
queues lined up from old Parliament up to Bambalapitiya in four rows for
a number of days to pay their respects, when the remains were lying at
the Galle Face Parliament building.
When his funeral took place at Horagolla, people flocked and a sea of
heads were seen at all open spaces and hundreds if not thousands of his
admirers, mostly the common folk from every nook and corner of the
country climbed trees to view the last journey of that great son of Sri
S.W.R.D was born as the only son of Sir Solomon Dias Bandaranaike who
epitomised the local class of elites who had been subservient to the
British Raj not only being their local servants but also went on to
imitate the colonial masters in their way of life, thinking and customs.
S.W.R.D a product of Oxford University excelled in education and
returned to the country at the time that the national resurgence led by
Anagarika Dharmapala was taking place. In utter contrast to his father
Sir Soloman, S.W.R.D chose to work for the masses and donned the
national dress woven in handloom with thread he had spun in his own
charaka at home.
In the 1940s he formed the Sinhala Maha Sabha and on the eve of
independence agreed to merge it with the National Congress of D. S.
Senanayake to form the UNP. In the first Government of Premier
Senanayake, S.W.R.D was appointed Local Government, and Health Minister
and the Leader of the House.
But very soon S.W.R.D was to be disappointed with the policies D. S.
Senanayake was pursuing. When the national (official) language policy
issue came up Senanayake wished to retain English as the official
language. S.W.R.D left the government with D. A. Rajapaksa and joined
the Opposition. In 1951 he founded the SLFP that was the first political
party to formulate the Middle Path and Non Alignment policies.
In 1956 the people rejected the UNP then led by Sir John Kotelawala
and elected the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna, a coalition of the SLFP led by
S.W.R.D and the VLSSP led by Philip Gunawardena. The landslide majority
the MEP received in 1956 was the protest of the masses, the rural
intelligentsia Sangha, Weda, Guru, Govi, Kamkaru the five major forces
comprising Buddhist clergy, physicians, teachers, farmers and workers.
Poets, writers, oriental scholars and artistes played a key role.
S.W.R.D and Philip Gunawardena introduced several socialist measures
from 1956 such as the Paddy Lands Act, nationalisation of the Colombo
Port was the domain of foreign companies, nationalisation of the bus
transport and formation of the Ceylon Transport Board. By 1958 the right
wing of the MEP, especially those in the SLFP were scheming against
S.W.R.D and they insisted on the ouster of Philip Gunawardena. Philip
and his cabinet colleague William de Silva crossed over to the
Opposition. When they crossed over Phillip said in Parliament, "Prime
Minister, your life is in danger".
The right wing plotted as predicted, Minister of Health Wimala
Wijewardena and Mapitigama Buddharakkhita were the forces that headed
the plot with others of the SLFP right wing. Somarama Thera, a renegade
bhikkhu shot Premier Bandaranaike at his Rosmead Place residence and
S.W.R.D was rushed to hospital. He succumbed to the injuries after
"A foolish man in the robes of a bhikkhu shot me. Take pity on him"
were the last words, of the great son of Sri Lanka S.W.R.D.
Fifty-two years later, today, the SLFP continues to be the major
political party representing all sections of people from the North to
the South. It is led today by another great son of the soil President
Mahinda Rajapaksa, son of D. A. Rajapaksa who was the closest associate
and friend of S.W.R.D.