ON THE 39TH DEATH ANNIVERSARY OF S.W.R.D.BANDARANAIKE


By Thilak S. Fernando in London.

>S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike was a legend in the Sri Lankan political history. He >led a peaceful but a powerful social revolution of the ordinary masses in >helping the common man to achieve equality and dignity in society.

>In July 1951 Bandaranaike stated in Parliament that he was compelled to form his own political party because he was truly inspired by an urge to serve >his people to the best of his ability. He had realised that the >independence ‘ Ceylon’ had gained in 1948 was only an ‘independence by name'. The essence of SWRD Bandaranaike philosophy was to achieve true national >independence by forming a new political party, Sri Lanka Freedom Party, with the participation of maha sangha, indigenous physicians, teachers, farmers >and workers.

>SWRD never wanted to convert his political party into an organised source of political thuggary and intimidation. It was the same with his trade unions. >As a political party leader he only inspired his party to be a democratic >alternative capable of capturing political power with a view to serving his >people. He never believed in or relied upon private armies or political >thugs, nor did he place reliance upon political violence either, as a means >of achieving his political objective; misusing power or execute political >violence to muzzle the opposition was never his style.

>When S.W.R.D Bandaranaike gave birth to a new era , a new tradition in Sri >Lankan politics, making inroads to political reforms to generate political >awareness of the minds of rural and working class masses he made sure that >the ‘socially deprived’ masses played a leading role in the political life >of the country, the result of which was that universal franchise became >meaningful word to these rural folk after they were socialised in political process. Bandaranaike wanted to give the common man what he wanted – to >improve his social and economic change.

>He saw the aspiration of the rural and working class masses that suffered >under the Colonial rule for centuries as well as of the post independent > Ceylon’. SWRD’s ideology was simply to bring about economical and social >changes in the Sri Lankan society. Inspired by historical traditions of Sri Lanka he devised a political strategy capable of inspiring the farmers and >workers. It was his commitment to old traditions of the country that >encouraged him pro provide leadership to the SLFP which aimed at the >restoration of the language, religion and culture of the culture.

>The impact of these had an effect on the subsequent process of political and social change after the political watershed of 1956. In certain quarters >political pundits and academic gurus were trying to discount the importance >of the change of 1956, but the impact still remains as a force in the minds >of the ordinary folk.

>SWRD Bandaranaike led a consistent struggle in the ‘Ceylon’ legislature to >modernise the electoral process. Reduction of the voting age to 18 was one >of his major factors in this process. He introduced the free education to >everyone at a time when more than ninety percent of the parents was >receiving a monthly income of less than Rs.300. Implementation of this free education system has helped thousands of children to improve their quality >of life and merge with the elite society. By implementing The Jayasooriya >Report, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike established Mahavidyalayas in every four-mile >radius thereby opening up the doors of the universities to the common man’s >children.

>On the ‘Separate Representation Act for Ceylon Indians’ Bandaranaike said, > The question arose whether we should proceed to hold elections under the >Act or whether we should bring all these people into general voters list. I >think the entire Cabinet was of the opinion that it was anomalous to >separate citizens this way and the Cabinet was not at all satisfied with the arrangements urged by the previous government for this step.” (Hansard >Vol.33 Col. 2483). He stood firmly against the exclusion of Indian >plantation workers from the operations of the Employees Provident Fund Act, >mooted by the then Minister of Labour, T.B. Illangaratne.

>He was an ardent champion of the national sovereignty of the country and was never prepared to barter national sovereignty for economic or political >gain. In 1956 Bandaranaike government took over the control of Katunayake >and Trincomalee Bases from the British emphasising that it was a genuine >attempt to complete the process of political independence of the country.

>S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike was born on 8 January 1899 . He entered Oxford in 1921 and became the Secretary of the Oxford Union in 1923. In 1924 he was called >to the Bar. Young Bandaranaike joined the political arena in Sri Lanka in >1927 when he was first elected to the Colombo Municipal Council. In 1931 he >was elected to the First State Council and again in 1936 to the Second State Council and as Minister of Local Administration. After acting as Leader of >the State Council in 1945 SWRD was elected to the first Ceylon Parliament in1947 as Minister of Health and Local Government until he resigned from the >Government on 12 July 1951.

>Talking of power S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike amplified: “ Let us remember, >particularly of us who are called upon to submit to the corrosive influence >of power, that the only thing that even makes the exercise of power >beneficial is the realisation that we must always be one with the people”. >On the issue of ethnic minorities he said : “ Nobody wants a dictatorship or tyranny of the majority. But, at the same time, do not forget that in >certain circumstances there can be a tyranny of the minorities. Do not >forget that. We do not want a tyranny of any kind.”

>SWRD Bandaranaike’s vision blazed a new trail of freedom for the common man.

>He was a kind human being who fanned the flickering flame of democracy and >gave heart to the downtrodden and paved the way for them to be masters of >their destiny. He was more than a politician but was certainly a true >statesman.