|"War or Peace in Sri Lanka," Chapter 1, part 2|
T.D.S.A. Dissanayake's 'War or Peace.....'
DS grooms Dudley, SWRD leaves
UNP in anger
This Sunday we
have pleasure in publishing the third instalment from Chapter I
"Sri Lanka: What Went Wrong?" of the forthcoming book
"War or Peace in Sri Lanka" (Volume IV) written by T.D.S.A.
Dissanayake. The book will be printed simultaneously in Colombo and New
Delhi in October 2003.
The author who is
currently working behind LTTE lines in the North-Eastern Province is
completing Chapter II "Peace: at what cost?" He will greatly
appreciate readers communicating their views on the current serial, to
enable him to add the final touches to Chapter I. Any correspondence may
be sent to his home: 20 De Fonseka Place, Colombo 5. Sri Lanka:
By 1951 Prime
Minister D.S. Senanayake and the leader of the House S.W.R.D.
Bandaranaike were at loggerheads. These two leaders had two different
political philosophies. D.S. Senanayake was pro-Establishment whereas
S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike was anti-Establishment ever since his days at
Oxford. D.S. Senanayake was a visionary. His vision was how to obtain
Independence from the British without bloodshed?
Bandaranaike was also a visionary. His vision was what Ceylon should be
after Independence? For example he advocated a bloodless revolution with
power shifting from the over-privileged elite to the under privileged
What the Leader of
the House S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike had learnt at Oxford was intellectually
similar to what Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India had learnt at
Cambridge, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan of Pakistan had learnt at the
London School of Economics (of the University of London) and President
Manuel Rozas of the Philippines had learnt at Harvard. However Prime
Minister D.S. Senanayake was a high school drop out though he was
unquestionably a very able Prime Minister.
Thus he was devoid
of an intellectual base which is a priceless asset for any Prime
Minister or executive President (Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike and
President Ranasinghe Premadasa were also high school drop outs. They too
were unquestionably able. They too had the safe deficiency, namely the
absence of an intellectual base).
D.S. Senanayake and Leader of the House S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike were
getting further and further apart since Independence. To compound the
crisis, the Prime Minister courted disaster when he began to groom his
son Dudley Senanayake a Cabinet Minister since 1947, as the next Prime
Minister at the expense of the heir apparent S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, a
Minister since 1936 and the Leader of the House since 1947.
Bandaranaike, left the UNP in anger in 1951 to form his Sri Lanka
Freedom Party (SLFP). The next General Election was scheduled for
sometime in 1952 but before that Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake died
suddenly in March 1952, when he suffered a massive stroke while on
horseback. He was succeeded by Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake who won
the emotionally charged General Election of 1952, held shortly after the
State Funeral. The victory was by a landslide.
In the context of
national unity, a cardinal policy of the late Prime Minister, the UNP
and the Tamil Congress received a massive mandate in the Northern
Province and the Eastern Province at the General Election of 1952. S.
Natesan (UNP) defeated S.J.V. Chelvanayakam (Federal Party) at
Kankesanthurai and was made a Cabinet Minister. V. Nalliah (UNP) won
Kalkudah and was also made a Cabinet Minister. Most leading candidates
from the Federal party for example Dr. E.M.V. Naganathan (Jaffna), A.
Amirthalingam (Point Pedro) lost badly.
At the General
Election of 1952, like at the General Election of 1947, every political
party, large or small, advocated Sinhala and Tamil as the Official
Languages of Ceylon. All Parties advocated a gradual change except the
SLFP which pledged to do so in 24 hours. Since 1952 S.W.R.D.
Bandaranaike had to languish in the political wilderness,although he was
the Leader of the Opposition. However, in 1953 the hartal (stoppage of
work) organised by the LSSP to protest against the removal of the rice
subsidy became violent.
The Army had to
open fire several times and during that crisis Prime Minister Dudley
Senanayake was taken ill with a chronic stomach ailment which he got
during times of stress. He resigned and was taken to London for medical
attention. He was succeeded by the Leader of the House, Sir John
Kotelawala, who can best be described as a playboy. In fairness to him,
he was a good freedom fighter and a capable Cabinet Minister but was
totally impervious to the winds of change in Ceylon.
Later in 1953
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of neighbouring India enunciated his
language policy in the Lok Sabha (the Lower House of the Parliament of
India), he said, "Today English is the Official Language of India.
It is spoken in every State in the Union. Twentyfive years from now an
Indian language has to take the place of English. Today Hindi is spoken
widely but only by 42% of our people.
For example Hindi
is spoken widely in North India but is hardly spoken in South India. It
is only when Hindi is spoken throughout South India that we can perceive
it to be the Official Language of India. In my judgement that will take
one generation, hence my reference to twenty five years. We cannot do so
any earlier." (Hansard: October 1953)
There was hardly
any response in Ceylon to that policy decision except by S.W.R.D.
Bandaranaike. He explained to his audiences what Prime Minister
Jawaharlal Nehru had said in the Lok Sabha. He then said that whereas in
India only 42% spoke Hindi, in Ceylon 72% spoke Sinhala. Therefore, he
Methi unoth (If I become Prime Minister)
hatherakin (in twenty four hours)
Sinhala pamanak (Sinhala only, repeat Sinhala only)
bashawa keranawa (will be made our Official Language.)" (Thunderous
That was the
ultimate of being a demagogue but it was the principal theme of
campaigning by S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike in 1954. He drew massive and
enthusiastic crowds wherever he went. It was dearly a populist move
amongst the Sinhalese. Therefore at the annual Convention of the SLFP in
December 1954, he proposed that henceforth Sinhala Only be made official
policy of the SLFP. That proposal was accepted with much enthusiasm.
contrast, throughout 1954 Prime Minister Sir John Kotelawala in
customary pithy language said repeatedly at public meetings amongst the
Sinhalese, "Those of you who want to start a communal racket like
the SLFP do not know what it entails. The UNP composes of all
communities who inhabit the Island, as reflected in its name. As long as
I am head of the UNP the principle of parity of status for Sinhala and
Tamil which we adopted when our Party was formed in 1946 will
Tamils, he dropped some bricks in characteristic style, while addressing
meetings in Jaffna and in Delft. Quite clearly S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike
was scoring heavily with his Sinhala Only policy. Therefore within the
Working Committee of the UNP there was much agitation led by J. R.
Jayewardene, Leader of the House, to change the language policy of the
UNP. Sir John Kotelawala resisted those moves but finally yielded to the
populist move amongst the Sinhalese. The UNP formally adopted the
Sinhala Only policy, proposed at their annual Convention held in
Kelaniya in January 1956 by J. R. Jayewardene who was the Member of
Parliament for Kelaniya.
That proposal was
carried by acclamation. All elected Tamil MPs from the UNP stormed out
of the Convention and immediately resigned from the UNP. Sir John
Kotelawala wound up the Convention with a political somersault,
incompatible with his personality, claiming,
Sinhala to be the sole official language of Ceylon as long as the sun
and the moon last."
Thus in a short
space of two years, the two largest political parties amongst the
Sinhalese changed their language policy radically by strictly adhering
to democratic norms. However both the SLFP and the UNP were unmindful
that they had sown the wind and would have to reap the whirlwind. In
fact the only political parties which acted with wisdom on the sensitive
language issue were the Marxist LSSP and the Community Party. The LSSP
campaigned in all nine Provinces on the premise of parity of status for
Sinhala and Tamil, which was their language policy since the inception
of their Party in 1935. Dr. Colvin R. de Silva, earlier Member of
Parliament for Wellawatte - Galkissa, went a step further and campaigned
on the basis,
will have two languages and remain one nation, or we will have one
language and become two nations!"
In the North and
in the East mass support shifted visibly in favour of the Federal Party,
which had fared disastrously in the General Election of 1952 and even S.
J. V. Chelvanayakam had lost his seat. Now he was looked upon as a
prophet for having predicted so accurately the behaviour of the
Sinhalese in respect to the Tamils.
At the General
Election of 1956 the complex dichotomy of Ceylon, the English speaking
elite and the Sinhala and Tamil speaking hoi polloi each living in a
world of their own making, underwent a cultural revolution. The UNP
Administration under Prime Minister Sir John Kotelawala had come under
many Western influences both cultural and otherwise. In the prevailing
mood of the electorate and a campaign spearheaded by the Maha Sangha, S.
W. R. D. Bandaranaike was swept into power.
Prime Minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike himself initiated the Official
Language Act of 1956. The Bill was supported enthusiastically by the
SLFP and allies in Government and the UNP in Opposition. Thus the
gunpowder (fifty-fifty) and the fire (Sinhala Only) were put together.
The explosion ripped Ceylon apart. Sri Lanka has not yet recovered from
that explosion and whether it ever will is largely a matter of opinion.
The first ever
Sinhalese-Tamil riots took place when the Official Language Act of 1956
became law. In 1957 it was obvious that a riot at a national level would
take place at any moment. It was against that background that Prime
Minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike and S. J. V. Chelvanayakam began
negotiating for some kind of equitable solution.
They reached an
honourable agreement which was known as the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam
Pact. That Pact was assailed by the Maha Sangha who had brought
Bandaranaike to power in 1956. It was also assailed by a section of the
UNP led by J. R. Jayewardene who was not a Member of Parliament because
he was trounced in Kelaniya in 1956. On the issue of the reasonable use
of Tamil, in the North and in the East, J. R. Jayewardene claimed that
Prime Minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike was betraying the Sinhalese!
Therefore he proposed a protest march from Colombo to Kandy which would
culminate at the Temple of the Tooth where they would pray for the
Sinhalese!! The behaviour of Prime Minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike was
even more revolting.
Under relentless pressure, without even consulting S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, he publicly tore up the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact in March 1958 in the presence of hundreds of members of the Maha Sangha who were occupying the lawns of his private residence in Rosmead Place and refused to leave till he abrogated the Pact. Two months later Sinhalese-Tamil riots broke out at the national level. It was fought with savage fury, as reflected in the following citation: