57th death Anniversary of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike falls
Remembering a noble statesman
Sri Lanka Freedom Party founder and one-time Prime Minister S.W.R.D.
Bandaranaike personified the generation that led the cultural transition of his
country from a European colony to a free South Asian nation.
Born in 1899 with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, S.W.R.D.
Bandaranaike received an Anglican Church baptism and his godfather was the
British Colonial Governor of the day, Joseph West Ridgeway.
In keeping with the colonial lifestyle of his father, Maha Mudaliyar Solomon
Dias Bandaranaike, the laird of Horagolla, Solomon Jr. was bestowed the middle
names of West Ridgeway.
His mother was Ezlynn Obeysekera, a member of the low-country nobility. Young
Bandaranaike had his early education at S. Thomas’ College, Colombo. After a
brilliant academic career at the Oxford University, England he returned to
Ceylon as a Barrister-at-Law. Elected to the Maradana Ward of the Colombo
Municipal Council defeating the then undisputed labour leader A.E. Gunasinghe,
Bandaranaike plunged headlong into national politics. He was elected uncontested
to the legislature as the member for Veyangoda under the Donoughmore
He married Sirima Bandaranaike, the eldest daughter of Barnes Ratwatte Disawe of
Mahawalathenna. The marriage was a union of the upcountry and low country
nobility, which paved the path for Sirimavo, a housewife, to be the first woman
Prime Minister in two daughters Sunethra and Chandrika and son Anura
national fatigues enjoying the foreign aroma
premier’s body lies in state
father with daughters Sunethra, Chandrika and son Anura
The Bandaranaike family has set the ground-breaking record with father and
mother being Prime Ministers and one daughter also Prime Minister and first
Woman Executive President of the country and the son, Leader of the Opposition
and a brilliant speaker.
Bandaranaike was appointed Minister of Health and Local Government and Leader of
the House in the first post independence government.
He crossed the floor in 1951, and later formed the Sri Lanka Freedom Party,
which he said treads the middle path in politics. The year 1956 became the early
turning point in post colonial Sri Lankan politics when various progressive
forces were galvanised into a new political organisation, the Mahajana Eksath
Peramuna (MEP) under Bandaranaike’s leadership.
It is a coalition of SLFP Marxist Guru Philip Gunawardene’s VLSSP and W.
Dahanayake’s Basha Peramuna.
|At a Buddhist
|On a parade
after the landslide victory
Donning the garb of the man in the street, with his flowing banian and cloth,
Bandaranaike went around the country with his socialist program in which pride
of place was given to the Sinhala Language, Buddhism and indigenous culture.
Bandaranaike with his Sangha-Veda-Guru-Govi-Kamkaru ‘Pancha Maha Balavegaya’
fought the election in 1956 and secured a resounding victory. Master of the
spoken word and a democrat at heart at difficult times he explained away that
the country was undergoing a period of transition. His socialist government
established diplomatic relations with Russia, China and Eastern European
Communist countries. As pledged in his political manifesto his socialist
government nationalised private bus companies and the Colombo Port. His
record-breaking but short tenure as Prime Minister was punctuated with unending
labour strikes, political conflicts and disputes among the irreconcilable
political elements in the government. Soon, dissension set in when the two
Marxist Ministers left the government due to internal conflict.
The United Bhikku Front which left no stone unturned to bring Bandaranaike to
power found fault with him later and became the ardent enemy of the government.
In the end it was a fight between the progressives and reactionaries in the
government. Prime Minister Bandaranaike was shot dead on September 25, 1959 at
his Rosemead Place residence by an assassin, who along with the main architect
of the conspiracy to kill him, were prominent members of the United Bhikku
Front. The Prime Minister succumbed to his injuries on the following day,
September 26, 1959 – an unforgettable day in Sri Lankan politics.
The new cabinet with
S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike as the Prime Minister