Strengthening the SLFP
GENERAL ELECTION: The party-system had entered the body
politic of Sri Lanka after independence and the islandâ€™s first General
Election in 1947, saw the emergence of the Untied National Party as the
main political party in the islandâ€™s first Parliament.
The Sri Lanka Freedom Party was formed prior to the islandâ€™s second
General-Election in 1952 for the second Parliament.
The events led to its formation was the departure of the late S.W.R.D.
Bandaranaike from the government.
Professor Howard Wiggins, a former American Ambassador in his book -
â€śDilemmas of a new Nationâ€ť, at pg. 119 states as follows; â€śThe newest of
the important parties prior to the 1956 elections, the SLFP was the
personal creation of one-man and a few devoted followers.
When Bandaranaike crossed the floor in June 1951, he dissolved his
Sinhala Maha Sabha which had voiced Buddhist and Sinhalese aspiration
since its founding in 1937. In its stead he created the Sri Lanka
Freedom party or the SLFP.
The UNP Government did not give sufficient expressions to the nearly
won freedom to make it meaningful to the vast majority of the people.
They gave the impression that a set of Brown Sahibs had replaced the
white rulers of colonial times. This thinking gradually lead to the
breakaway of Bandaranaike from the government.
The famous â€śMadampa Resolutionâ€ť was submitted to the UNP government
at that time by the Sinhala Maha Sabha of which Bandaranaike was the
The resolutions was rejected on the basis that they were
out-or-order. at this stage Bandaranaike decided to leave the UNP
because he said he could not remain in the government under humiliating
circumstances that do not accord with elementally self-respectâ€ť.
This passage which contains the conversation the author had with the
late Duncan Alwis. Private Secretary to the late Bandaranaike is
inserted herein. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike before July 12, 1951, had a
private conference with D.S. Senanayake about the resolutions he was
requested to amend them.
He promised to consider it and came home. The following morning he
said he would resign and wanted me to write down the letter of
resignation, to be sent to the Governor General. George R. de Silva
visited him that morning and agreed that he should resign.â€ť I took the
letter and handed it to Lord Soulbury.â€ť
He crossed the floor on budget-Day in 1951. Mr. D.A. Rajapaksa, MP
for Beliatta walked out with him. This led to the formation of the SLFP.
Many names were suggested as the name of the new party. A popular
name was Sri Lanka Socialist Front. Ultimately a name fancied by
Bandaranaike, Sri Lanka freedom Party was selected.
Mr. Duncan Alwis says as follows â€śI can remember an astrologer
Jayasinghe approved this name as this was good for S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike
astrologically. The colour blue, the colour of Lord Vishnu was selected
as the colour of the party. The party crest had sheaves paddy and the
sun and the moon so that it would last forever according to mythology.â€ť
A mass meeting was held on September 2, 1951 at the Town Hall under
the Chairmanship of Bandaranaike.
The resolution to form the party was moved by Nissanka, MP/QC and
seconded by Al Haj Badurdean Mohamed, Principal, Zahira College,
The following office-bearers were elected temporary President
S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, Joint Secretaries- Bernard Aluvihare, Al Haj
Mohamed Badurdean and S. Thangaraja: Treasurer, George R. de Silva. Thus
the SLFP was formed which created the basis for much political, cultural
and economic change in our country.
As the party was formed, with the sudden demise of D.S. Senanayake on
22.3.1952, the new Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake called for a General
Election in May 1952. In a very short time the party faced a General
However, the party was able to get nine MPs elected to the
Parliament. The MPs elected were- C.P. de Silva (Polonnaruwa), C.A.S.
Marikkar (Second Kadugannawa), C.R. Beligammana (Mawanella), Bernard
Aluvihare (Matale), S.D. Bandaranaike (Gampaha), H. Abeywickrema (Baddegama),
S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike (Attanagalle), H.B. Thenne (Dambulla) and D.A.
During the period 1952 - 1956 the party brnahces were strengthened
and Bandaranaike toured the whole country holding public meetings.
During this period on 29.5.55 shortly before 1956, the party faced a
by-election and fared badly.
Aluth Nuwara by-election results
Edmund Dimbulana (UNP) 5,291
Daya Gunasekera (NLSSP) 2,177
C.B.W. Polgolla (SLFP) 954
K.B. Herath (CP) 504
Spoilt votes 243
Everybody thought that the SLFP was finished. At this time the UNP
said Bandaranaike was the most pathetic political failure in Asia, but
within one year, in 1956, came the landslide victory.
Historians will remember Bandaranaike for this great victory. With
the cruel assassination of Bandaranaike in September 1959 by a group of
traitors and conspirators, many thought the party would die.
After a short spell under the late C.P. de Silva as leader, his wife
Sirimavo Bandaranaike took over the leadership of the party. She became
the first woman Prime Minister in the world.
In government, what the SLFP did for the country is contemporary Sri
Lankan history is known to all.
As the time passed the party faced new challenges and Mrs.
Bandaranaikeâ€™s daughter. Chandrika Kumaratunga Bandaranaike took over
the leadership of the party and was the first Sri Lankan Woman Executive
President to reign almost for twelve years.
During this period the party had to adjust to the new system of
Parliamentary Elections which had given up the Westminster model. They
had to woo new groups to face election to the Executive Presidency.
The party had by now got a reputation of being a family party of the
Bandaranaikesâ€™. This thinking was demolished after President Mahinda
Rajapaksa assumed duties as the Executive President of Sri Lanka. When
he assumed duties as the new President said â€śI would like to make three
important promises to you today.
Firstly, I shall certainly relinquish the party leadership the very
moment I leave the Executive Presidency. Secondly, the SLFP will be made
a well-entrenched political party in Sri Lanka.
Thirdly, the doors will be kept wide open to any diligent party
worker to rise to any position in the party hierarchyâ€ť. Under his
stewardship, the party faced the Local Government polls and had a
The party is being restructured so that the principals laid down by
him are carried out to enable any members to rise to the top. Many
attempts have been made to weaken and destroy the party from inception.
The defection of the late C.P. de Silva with a group in 1964. Later,
another group left the party along with its General Secretary and
thought they could destroy it, but they failed.
The current crisis created by the so called democratic group also
seeks to weaken the party and its leadership. The party under its
present leader who has the support of the membership can meet this
challenge posed by them.
On the occasion of the 17th Convention of the party the members are
behind its leader who has transformed the party to project the problems
of the rural poor and to fight terrorism.
On the ethnic question, the party stands for a negotiated settlement,
the first attempt of such a settlement was initiated by late
Bandaranaike when he signed the Bandaranaike/Chelvanayagam Pact. The
present leader stands for a negotiated settlement while militarily
fighting terrorism and the forces that are trying to divide Sri Lanka.
Let us strengthen the party leader and the party at this Convention.
The writer is member, Central Committee of the SLFP.