Charting a new course for Sri Lanka’s success
The SLFP Convention : A brief look back :
The Sri Lanka Freedom Party had its annual Convention yesterday. The
party which was founded on September 2, 1951 by Prime Minister S. W. R.
D. Bandaranaike made an impact in the country since its very inception.
Bandaranaike left the UNP and the Cabinet in July 1951. Five MPs of
the UNP, A. P. Jayasuriya, Jayaweera Kuruppu, George R de Silva, D. A.
Rajapaksa and D. S. Gunasekara resigned from the UNP and joined him. Two
independent socialist members of the opposition H. Sri Nissanka, Q. C.
Tamara Kumari Ilangaratne, later joined him.
The inaugural meeting was held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, September 2, 1951
at the Town Hall, with S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike in the chair. The
conveners of the meeting were:
* Bernard Aluvihare
* Badiudin Mahmud
* C. R. Beligammana
SWRD Bandaranaike in a motorcade meeting the public after a
victory. ANCL file photo
* Haji A T Kareem
* George R de Silva MP
* C. P. de Silva
* Anthony J. M. de Silva
* P. de S. Kularatne
* Stanley de Zoysa
* P. B. Dissanayake
* P. Dolapihilla
* C. M. Fernando
* D. H. Panditha Gunawardana
* T. B. S. Godamune
* R. S. S. Gunawardana
* Vernon Gunasekara
* D. S. Gunasekara MP
* Daya Hewavitharane
* Tamara Kumari - Ilangaratne MP
* J. P. M. Jayasinghe
* A. P. Jayasuriya MP
* F. R. Jayasuriya
* L. B. Kolugala
* Jayaweera Kuruppu MP
* A. M. Marker
* C. A. S. Marikkar
* A. C. Marikkar
* J. C. W. Munasinghe
* H. Sri Nissanka QC MP
* A. C. Nadaraja
* Albert Perera
* W. F. B. Perera
* Walter Perera
* Darrel Peris
* Senator Barnes Ratwatte
* D. A. Rajapaksa MP
* H. B. W. Rambukwela
* C. V. Ranawake
* W. A. D. Ramanayake
* C. A. Samarasinghe
* K. Seneviratne
* S. Ilangaraja
* T. B. Tennekoon
The meeting commenced at 2 p.m. and Jayaweera Kuruppu MP for
Balangoda acted as secretary pro-tem. President of the Kandy Socialist
Front H. Sri Nissanka MP moved the resolution to inaugurate the new
party. Principal Zahira College Badiudin Mahmud seconded the motion.
Among the speakers were T. B. Ilangaratne, C. V. Ranawake, Ovitigala
Gunasekara President of the Ayurvedic Physicians Association. A. D.
Jayasekara, President of the Swabasha Teachers’ Association, D. S.
Gunasekara MP, C. M. Fernando and T. B. S. Godamune.
The party that was thereby inaugurated gradually grew from its
infancy to the national party that it is today.
One may pose the question as to how the party that was formed over 50
years ago became the ruling party of today. The SLFP adjusted itself to
changing conditions that existed in the country from time to time. By
such adjustments it became the main opposition at times and the leading
party in any governing coalition.
It entered the body politic at a time that the newly acquired freedom
had not become meaningful to the vast mass of the people in this
country. Professor Howard Wiggins the former American Ambassador in his
book ‘The dilemmas of a New Nation’ states as follows ‘the newest of the
important parties prior to the 1956 election, the SLFP was the personal
creation of one man and a few devoted followers.
He further states that he dissolved the Sinhala Maha Sabha and formed
the SLFP mainly to focus attention on Sinhalese and Buddhist
The SLFP in a short period of time became the governing party in the
country. In his speech welcoming the dawn of freedom Bandaranaike said
“We must not, we cannot allow our newly regained freedom to run the risk
of remaining merely a theoretical concept, a thing dead and without real
meaning for the mass of the people.
We must see that it quickens into a life of greater happiness and
prosperity for all.”
Soon after it was formed the party faced a General Election in 1952.
They contested 48 seats and won nine, polled a total of 361,250 and
received a percentage of 15.52 of the votes.
It was a very good performance for a party in its infancy. Today the
country has won its freedom from terrorism and the SLFP has been in the
vanguard in this achievement. To those who oppose greater devolution of
power Bandaranaike had this to say “The difficulties in the way of
self-government, financial as well as otherwise must be removed so that
local government, which is the foundation of any democratic form of
government, should be established on a firm and sound footing.
Provincial Councils, which are urgently required to complete the
structure of local government and decentralize many functions today
vested in the central government, must be established without delay.”
In 1947, Sri Lanka achieved its freedom, Bandaranaike however said
that the vast mass of the people never achieved this so long as the
Colonial British bases remained on Sri Lankan soil.
He agitated for greater democracy and greater freedom for his people.
This desire for freedom made him endorse the word freedom as a name
in his party.
It is stated that what provoked him to use the word Sri was because
it was a word used in Nissanka’s name. He agitated for greater freedom
and led the people to victory in 1956. Many changes came after 1956 and
freedom became more meaningful.
Earlier freedom was an arrangement between the British Colonial
masters and the ruling elite at that time. Freedom came when India
achieved it after much agitation.
It was left to the SLFP to again free the country under the
leadership of the President, a few months ago.
The SLFP started with modest beginnings, its leader was it’s asset.
Within a few years it became the governing party. The office bearers of
the party on 7th December 1952 were as follows -
President: S. W. R. D.
Aluvihare, B. Mohamed, S. Ilangaraja
Treasurer: George R de
Silva, A. P. Jayasuriya
Executive Committee: A. P.
Jayasuriya, T. B. Ilangaratne, S. W. Jayasuriya, C. M. Fernando, P. de
S. Kularatne, Jayaweera Kuruppu, D. J. Senaratne, S. D. Bandaranayake,
W. A. D. Amarasinghe, T. S. B. Godamune, J. C. Munasinghe, M. P. de
Zoysa, Stanly Zoysa, Don Victor Jayamaha, W. F. P. Perera, W. Gonaduwa,
Anthony J. M. de Silva, W. M. Gunaratne, E. Wanigasekara, K. M. P.
Rajaratne, K. A. Albert Perera, Mohandiram D. P. Rajakaruna, S. R. Yapa,
P. B. G. Kalugalla, T. B. J. Edirisinghe.
Main Office: Rajagiriya
If the SLFP has created history it is the victory of the party in
1956. Over 50 years have elapsed since this victory. Historians will
assess the event in history books of the future. In Government, the SLFP
brought about many measures that have benefited the people such as the
establishment of the CTB, nationalization of the port.
It gave pride of place to national culture, many were the attempts to
destroy the party.
The SLFP sought friendship with all countries and opened embassies in
the Communist bloc of that time, while it played a dominant role in the
Government introducing welfare measures.
The SLFP strengthened democratic institutions and introduced the
concept of election on one day. Earlier the attempts to destroy it by
asking the SLFP to unite with the UNP, Mrs. Bandaranaike firmly opposed
The SLFP remains the hope of the vast mass of our people. The party
achieved freedom under the leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and
the country is looking forward to a prosperous and peaceful Sri Lanka.