Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 13 December 2009





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

UNP - led Coalition Government of 1965-70

When the three constituent parties in the ULF, the LSSP, MEP and the CP had decided that they all should get into the government as one unit and when that position was endorsed by the seniors in the LSSP like Colvin, Leslie and Doric, why did N. M. and his supporters took an initiative for the LSSP only to form a coalition with the SLFP resulting in the break up of the ULF? Viviene Gunawardena and others who supported that move believed as Philip Gunawardena achieved much in the 1956-59 regime they expected that the LSSP could do better by forming a coalition with the SLFP.

U. B. Wanninayaka
M. D. Banda
M. D. H. Jayawardena
C. P. de Silva
K. M. P. Rajaratna
Colvin R. de Silva
Kusuma Rajaratna

Colvin R. de Silva and Leslie Gunawardena declined ministerial positions in the coalition but Vivienne and Chandra Gunasekera became deputy ministers. Majority of the members who opposed a coalition with the SLFP led by Edmund Samarakkody and Bala Tampoe left the party and formed the Lanka Samasamaja Party - Revolutionary Wing.

In due course the executive committee of the fourth International recognised the LSSP Revolutionary Wing as the body representating the worldwide Trotskyite movement in Sri Lanka. Forming the coalition with the SLFP was an indication that the LSSP was deviating from its revolutionary path and taking to parliamentary politics. Some anlyse that forming this coalition was the beginning of the downfall of the LSSP.

Another important event that took place at this time was the division of the Communist Party into two groups - the Moscow wing and the Chinese wing. At this time China accused that Soviet Russia was adopting a reformist attitude and there was a split in world Communist movement. In Sri Lanka too some in the CP led by N. Shamugathasan and Premalal Kumarasiri left the CP and formed the Chinese Wing. It is said that Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike was reluctant to admit the CP to the coalition as it represented the Moscow wing as she had special relationship with China and wanted to be neutral in the Soviet-China dispute.

In 1960 March general election although the three Leftist parties, the LSSP, MEP and the CP won only 23 seats they together polled 790041 votes. Although the SLFP won 46 seats they got only 632827 votes. The massive support the ULF gathered in the country indicated that the ULF could override the SLFP. In this situation when only the LSSP joined that coalition and the ULF came to an abrupt end the MEP was left high and dry. It so offended the MEP, it began to lean towards the opposition led by the UNP. However the CP supported the government.

Agency houses

Dr. N. M. Perera presented the coalition Budget as the Finance Minister on July 30, 1964. The highlights of it were to extend pardon to capitalists who disclosed their assets and tax them, controlling the agency houses, formation of the Gem Corporation and permitting the tapping of toddy. The permit system to tap toddy was withdrawn on the opposition from the Maha Sangha.

The government taking over the printing of school books from the private sector and the moves to control newspapers provoked the vested interests. When the government presented a Bill to take over the Lake House group, the Lake House initiated a move to oust the government. The MEP too campaigned with the UNP and the Federal Party for the freedom of the press.

In the meantime the government prorogued the Parliament on November 12, 1964 and called the new sessions on November 20. However just before the vote on the Throne Speech was taken 13 members of the SLFP led by C. P. de Silva crossed over to the Opposition. As a result the government got only 73 votes as against 74 votes by the Opposition and was defeated. The three members of the MEP, Edmund Samarakkody and Merryle Fernando of the LSSP Revolutionary Wing also voted with the Opposition.

The insistence of Philip Gunawardena for the ULF to form a Left oriented coalition with the SLFP, C. P. de Silva and Maithripala Senanayaka should be expelled form the government proved partially true on this occasion as in the words of Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, "C. P. de Silva stabbed from behind". In 1980's Maithripala Senanayake too aligned with the reactionaries and tried to get the Hand symbol for the faction of the SLFP formed by him.

The Parliament was dissolved on December 17, 1964 and the nominations were called for January 11, 1965. The SLFP contested 101 seats and was in the same camp with the LSSP and the CP as they had a no-contest pact. The LSSP contested 24 seats and the CP 9 seats. The UNP contested 115 seats. The MEP contested 61 seats but it had some understanding with the UNP as it did not nominate candidates for several seats like Avissawella, Kolonnawa, Gampaha and Matugama where MEP was expected to win. Likewise, the Sri Lanka Samajavadi Nidahas Party led by C. P. de Silva contested 32 seats but the UNP did not nominate candidates to 14 out of them. The UNP did not contest Mr. and Mrs. K. M. P. Rajaratna who contested from the Jathika Vimukthi Peramuna.

In the 1965 general election, the UNP won 66 seats, SLFSP 05 seats, the MEP and the JVP led by K. M. P. Rajaratna one seat each. In the opposing camp the SLFP got 41 seats, the LSSP 10 and the CP 04 seats. Although the camp led by the UNP got only 73 seats, it formed an alliance with the Federal Party and was able to form the government. The opponents called the 'Hath Hvula' meaning a hotchpotch of seven parties.

Welfare policies

In the coalition government led by the UNP leader Dudley Senanayake, M. Tiruchelvam of the Federal Party was appointed the Minister of Local Government and Philip Gunawardena, the leader of the MEP became the Minister of Industries and Fisheries. At this stage many doubted whether Philip could be called a socialist anymore. But in the 1965-70 Cabinet there were gentlemen politicians like Dudley himself, M. D. Banda, U. B. Wanninayaka and M. D. H. Jayawardena. Dr. Sarath Amunugama equates the welfare policies of Dudley Senanayake with that of S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike. Besides in the 1965 election campaign the UNP promised that it would continue the nationalised ventures.

The government taking over the printing of school books from the private sector and the moves to control newspapers provoked the vested interests. When the government presented a Bill to take over the Lake House group, the Lake House initiated a move to oust the government. The MEP too campaigned with the UNP and the Federal Party for the freedom of the press.

The 1965-70 Dudley Senanayaka government did not undo the progressive measures implemented by the 1956-59 MEP regime and the subsequent SLFP regime from 1956 to 1964, like making Sinhala the state language, nationalisation of bus transport, the port, banks, insurance companies and petroleum products Paddy Lands Act, the Schools Take Over and printing of school books by the government. Charles Wesley Ervin who has presented a research work on the Trotskyism in Sri Lanka identifies 1965-70 regime as a middle path government.

Philip Gunawardena as the Minister of Industries and Fisheries in the 1965-70 government displayed his usual ability. He streamlined many public corporations to make them viable institutions. He introduced the Industrial Development Board and formulated a national industrial policy. He developed Tyre and Steel Corporation with Soviet aid. He got Japanese and Chinese aid to facilitate mechanised fishing industry. It was Philip who put the Fishing Corporation into operation. Charles Wesley Ervin expresses that Philip never betrayed socialism as he understood it.

Sinhala colonies

Soon after the formation of the Dudley Senanayaka government it formulated the Dudley Senanayake-Chelvanayagam Pact to solve the ethnic issue. The main features of it were to implement regulations for the reasonable use of Tamil, formation of District Councils, removing disabilities for the Tamils to join the government service and to give preference to Tamils in new colonies in the North and in the East.

As the first step to implement Senanayake-Chelvanayagam Pact when the regulations for the reasonable use of Tamil were introduced the two Left parties along with the SLFP vehemently opposed it. Dr. Colvin R. de Silva argued in Parliament the regulations were ultra vires to the Sinhala only Act. In the procession led by Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike against it the LSSP and the CP cadres too shouted the slogan "Dudleyge Bade Masala Vadai" (There is Masala Vadai in Dudley's belly). It was a surprise to many as in 1956 both the LSSP and the CP stood for parity for Sinhala and Tamil.

In Senanayake-Chelvanayagam Pact like Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam Pact Sinhala was recognised as the State language. But in both the pacts there were limitations for opening up Sinhala colonies in the North and in the East.

Dudley Senanayake tried for two years to implement the Senanayake-Chelvanayagam Pact but failed due to hostility from the opposition as well as from his own ranks.

Ultimately the Federal Party left the government in 1968.

In 1968 the SLFP, LSSP and the CP joined hands to form a United Front. They formulated a common programme as well.

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