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Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Tue Jan 8 10:56:53 EST 2019

January 8-120th, 10th & 4th Anniversaries Hectic Task: Can
‘Maithri-Dayasiri Rescue SLFP?
2019-01-08 00:10:04

January 8, 2019, marks the 120th anniversary of the birth of SWRD
Bandaranaike; the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Lasantha
Wickrematunge and the fourth anniversary of the election of Maithripala
Sirisena to the office of Executive President of Sri Lanka. Sirisena’s
birth also coincides with the inauguration of Bandaranaike’s new party, the
Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) in 1951.

Bandaranaike Born on January 8, 1899

Maha Mudaliyar of Governor’s Gate, Sir Solomon Dias Abeywickrema
Jayatilleke Senewiratna Rajakumaruna Kadukeralu Bandaranaike, aide-de-camp
for Governor Chalmers, was a fifth-generation descendant of Neela-Perumal,
a high ranking officer and a member of Indian Chetty community, who
migrated in the 16th century and served under the Kings of Kandy.

Sir Solomon had a son who was born on January 8, 1899. The boy born to this
anglophile Christian aristocratic family was given the name, ‘West Ridgway’
after the then Governor of Ceylon and his Godfather, Sir Joseph West

He was affectionately called ‘Solla’, by family elders and ‘Banda’ or SWRD
by political colleagues and the press. Young West Ridgeway was given a
special privilege of staying at Warden’s bungalow at S. Thomas.’

Early in the 1920s, a young Asian walked across the quadrangle of Christ
Church College Oxford. A young Englishman spotted him and remarked: “There
goes the future PM of Ceylon”. The prophecy was fulfilled; the young Asian
was SWRD. Just for the record, the Englishman also became PM. He was Sir
Anthony Eden, who shared the room with Bandaranaike. SWRD joined Christ
Church College, Oxford in 1919. A year later, he was studying Classics for
his Bachelor’s degree.
Switching to Law from Classics he became an active member of the Student’s
Union making eloquent speeches on Government’s policies, democracy, and the
Parliamentary system. Bandaranaike, in his fourth year, became Secretary of
the Oxford Union.  SWRD’s political life and times have received immense
publicity. Volumes authored about him by political analysts are available
in print. So much is spoken of his strategies and governing policies, but
little is said about his formative days. Before discussing his vision for
Federalism in detail let’s take a quick glance at his ancestry and

The President, leader of SLFP has appointed Dayasiri Jayasekera as the new
General Secretary of the party in a bid to revive and resurrect it. Both
Maithripala Sirisena and Dayasiri Jayasekera are double somersaulters,
where political affiliations are concerned.

SLFP, born on September 2, 1951

The resignation of Dudley Senanayake as Prime Minister a year later due to
ill-health paved the way for Sir John Kotelawala to take over the
Premiership in 1953 who dissolved the Parliament prematurely in March 1956.
SWRD forged a grand alliance with a few other nationalists and left-wing
parties to prepare to face the UNP. He named it Mahajana Eksath Peramuna
(headed by SLFP). With the specific purpose of defeating the ‘common
enemy’, the MEP invited the LSSP and CP, the two leading Marxist parties to
enter into a no-contest pact at the 1956 Parliamentary elections.
Bandaranaike’s famous election slogan of, “Official language: Sinhala only
in 24 hours” created an emotional wave within the majority community. SWRD
Became a hero among Sinhalese middle class, who resented alleged Tamil
domination of the civil service Professions and commercial establishment
since the British colonial rule. In opposition to the free market course of
the UNP, nationalization of major enterprises, the creation of a broad
welfare measure, re-distribution of wealth, and a non-aligned foreign

Many Sinhala-Buddhist groups, joined hands with him under the banner of
‘Pancha Maha Balavegaya’ of ‘Sanga, Veda, Guru, Govi, Kamkaru’.(five great
forces comprising Buddhist priests, indigenous physicians, teachers,
farmers and workers). Stimulating the political and religious fervour, the
2500th anniversary of Buddha’s Parinibbana [passing away] coincided with
the 1956 election, which SWRD won comfortably helped by its ‘one language’
policy, obtaining 56 seats in a House of 95 members. While the ruling party
secured only eight seats with many stalwarts losing their constituencies.
Since the formation of the new party, they echoed the organization’s stress
on pleasing the emotions of the Sinhalese nationalist/chauvinist masses in
rural areas. On the perceptive issue of language, though the party
originally promoted the use of Sinhala and Tamil as national languages, in
the mid-1950s it adopted a ‘Sinhala only’ policy and projected itself as
the champion of the Sinhala-Buddhists relying upon the Buddhist monks, to
take its message to the villages.

On the perceptive issue of language, though the party originally promoted
the use of Sinhala and Tamil as national languages, in the mid-1950s it
adopted a ‘Sinhala only’ policy and projected itself as the champion of the
Sinhala-Buddhists relying upon the Buddhist monks, to take its message to
the villages.

Rise and Fall of SLFP?

The friction between DS and SWRD was an artificial one created by the Old
warrior’s political talents; he was grooming his son Dudley to take over
the reins after him. Bandaranaike, the Leader of the House and UNP’s second
in command, wanted the creation of a position as Deputy PM, a position that
automatically leads to an heir apparent, that DS would not grant. It did
not take long for the Barrister Oxonion to realize the tragedy awaiting
him. Mid-1951 he made up his mind to bid goodbye to the Party which he
contributed to in a big way. The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) born on
September 2, 1951, was the result. Today it is in dire straits. Since
January 8, 2015, the Party is led by President Sirisena who is only a day
younger than the party itself, being born on September 3, 1951. The SLFP,
which ruled the nation for over 35 years is at a critical crossroads. They
have lost their way and anticipate an association with the Sri Lanka
Podujana Peramuna, [Pohottuwa] where, obviously they will be at the mercy
of Rajapaksa antics. Some of the present leaders think the calamity that
they go through are similar to the traumas of Sirimavo/Anura/Kumaratunga
conflicts in the 1980s, but all those factional splits, like in
Premadasa/Lalith/Gamini created cracks of the UNP, the off-shoots were
thinned out within months, and finally the main party emerged as the
undisputed winner. However, the dent caused by the SLPP is unique; they
have grabbed the culture and traditions of the main party along with a
70-80% of the rank and file-grass root support base that back Rajapaksas.
They have virtually destroyed the mother party. The ten or 12% vote base at
LG elections 11 months ago has continued to deteriorate, and in alliance
with a power block like SLPP, as it happened with LSSP/CP/JHU [and to a
certain extent the JVP] they will be soon relegated to a ‘name board’.
There is little the duo, Sirisena/Dayasiri can do; the best option for the
rest of the SLFPers is to look for greener pastures within the Green

Lasantha Wickrematunge Assassinated on Jan 8, 2009

‘I hope my murder will be seen not as a defeat of freedom but an
inspiration’-- Lasantha Wickrematunge; … Published three days after he was
brutally assassinated by unknown gunmen, Lasantha editor, co-founder of
Sunday Leader wrote …

“I have been in the business of journalism a good long time. Indeed, 2009
will be the Sunday Leader’s 15th year. Many things have changed in Sri
Lanka during that time, and it does not need me to tell you that the
greater part of that change has been for the worse. We find ourselves in
the midst of a civil war ruthlessly prosecuted by protagonists whose
bloodlust knows no bounds. Terror, whether perpetrated by terrorists or the
state, has become the order of the day. Indeed, murder has become the
primary tool whereby the state seeks to control the organs of liberty.
Today it is the journalists, tomorrow it will be the judges.”

Wickrematunge was a strong critic of the Rajapaksa government and had been
locked in a legal battle with, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, defence secretary and
Army Commander Sarath Fonseka, who was leading the war against the Northern
LTTE Army.

Wickrematunge’s assassination caused a national rage being the country’s
most influential media personnel and one of the biggest political figures.
It raised questions about freedom of expression in the country.
Wickrematunge’s murder was widely condemned across the world. The Editors
Guild was of the view that the government of the day was responsible for
the killing as it has been unsuccessful in stopping attacks against media
personnel. The government expressed shock at the killing. The Sunday leader
became well known as one of the best independent newspapers. He once stated
that once the paper was started, he had planned to return to law, but found
himself reluctant to give up journalism. He was also a reporter for Time
magazine and a political commentator and hosted quite a few TV programmes
including Good Morning Sri Lanka.

CID investigating the murder informed the Mt Lavinia Magistrate that they
have sufficient evidence that the murderers were from the Army
Intelligence. Sub Inspector Sugathapala who visited the scene of crime
found a notebook and he made notes in the IB and placed the Note Book as
evidence in the Police Records. SP Adhikari of Mt Lavinia Division informed
DIG Nanayakkara who in turn notified the IGP Jayantha Wickramaratne of this
evidence. DIG Nanayakkara summoned Sugathapala and SP Adhikari who ordered
a cover-up by altering the notes and confiscating the vital evidence.
Adhikari and Sugathapala were remanded for meddling with evidence.

The writer can be contacted at -- kksperera1 at gmail.com


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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