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The Great son of Sri Lanka

Today (January 8, 2009) falls the hundred and tenth (110) birth anniversary of Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike, the fourth Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, patriot and great national leader. He was born on January 8, 1899, the only son of late Sir Solomon Dias Bandaranaike, Maha Mudliyar of Ceylon, under the British Colonial rule. S. W. R. D. came from a distinguished aristocracy of Ceylon.

Lives of Great Men all remind us We can make our lives sublime. And, departing, leave behind us Footprints on the sands of time. - Wordsworth

S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, had his education at S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, one of the leading public schools. He came under the direct influence of the very famous Warden Stone, a Classics scholar. After a brilliant academic career, he proceeded to Christ Church College, Oxford. At the Oxford University, he showed his prowess as a brilliant student, orator and debator. Young Bandaranaike, shone like a bright star in the firmament and he was elected Secretary of the Oxford Union by defeating Malcolm McDonald, a former Secretary for Dominions in the then British Cabient. Among Bandaranaike’s contemporaries at Oxford University, was the former British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden.

Successful career

After serving the Bar in England, in 1925, he returned to Ceylon and began a successful legal career. But, he was more interested in serving the people and took to politics, when he was only, 26 years. He became a member of the Ceylon National Congress and soon became one of its joint secretaries.

S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike with D. S. Senanayake Indian President Dr. Rajendra Prasad’s arrival in Lanka S. W. R. D., Sirimavo and Sir Oliver Gunetilleke

The year 1927, was vital for Bandaranaike. He realised that to win the hearts of the people, he must address the public in Sinhala. This brilliant young man, learned Sinhala in no time and became a fine speaker both in Sinhala and English. After his return to Ceylon from Oxford, he was free to choose one of the three courses. I presume firstly; a life of luxury and leisure at Horagolla Walauwa, secondly; a distinguished legal career at the Bar; thirdly the hardest of all life of service to the people. He chose the last and the hardest way as he followed, the socialis and democratic “middle path.”

His services were not limited to the legislature alone. He engaged himself practically in all social service activities as well. He entered politics by contesting Maradana Ward, in the Colombo Municipality and defeated the then Labour Leader A. E. Goonesinghe. With the inauguration of the State Council, Bandaranaike returned uncontested for Veyangoda seat and in 1936 he was re-elected, uncontested and became the Minister of Local Government. Under the Soulbury Constitution, Bandaranaike entered Parliament in 1947 by a record majority from his Pocket-Burrow-Attanagalla. Prime Minister D. S. Sananayake appointed him as the Minister of Health and Local Government. He also became the Leader of the House.

political differences

The political differences he had with D. S. Senanayake and the United National Party, paved the way for his resignation. This marked the begining of the political change - “The dawn of the Era of the common man.”

I consider, July 12, 1951 and July 17, 1951, as the dates that laid the foundation, for the present era, in the Political History of this country. It marked the birth of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, led by S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike. On July 12th, SWRD, left DSS Government and crossed over to the Opposition. Like his shadow, the great national leader from Giruwapattuwa, D. A. Rajapaksa (Beliatta) followed SWRD andsat in the Opposition.


He was a man who adorned the Legislature of this country for over 25 years. He was a gentleman par excellence, fine human being and a warm hearted man.

In 1952, elections, he won the Attanagalla Electorate by a majority of 32,544 votes by defeating the UNP candidate A. W. G. Seneviratne. His Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (People’s United Front) coalition, brought him to power. He united the all progressive forces - Sangha - Veda - Guru - Govi - Kamkaru and routed the English oriented westernised United National Party. We must mention here, that from 1926 to 1956 in his political career, he never lost an election.

He was defeated by “Mara”, (death) September 26, 1959, at the hands of an assassin.

Silver Tongue orator

As an orator, he was unrivalled. He was popularly known as the Silver Tongued Orator. In his brilliant speeches he quoted Latin and Greek at the most appropriate times. Law and Literature fascinated him. He was a vociferious reader. Burke and Pitt, Lincoln and Gokhale polished his powers of speech. SWRD was a master of the spoken word.

I give below, a few lines from his memorable address of thanks as the leader of the House of Representatives he delivered on February 10, 1948, in reply to the speech from the throne by HRH the Duke of Gloucester. This was considered a brilliant piece of oratory in the world.

Political freedom comes alive, only when it is utilised to achieve other freedoms - freedom from poverty; freedom from disease; freedom from ignorance; freedom from fear. Nor is that all. We have to fan the flickering flames of Democracy, so that each individual is assured of the freedoms for which Democracy has always stood, and which safeguard man’s self-respect and secure decent, honest and fair dealing between man and man. Those are the high tasks that we shall all, to the best of our ability, try to perform with diligence, devotion and efficiency.”

noblest son

Bandaranaike was one of the noblest sons of Sri Lanka. He was really brilliant. His mental alacrity was really amazing. Further, the quickness of perception and the way in which he was able to master a subject was astounding.

This great leader and patriot fought for the freedom of the country and he found one of the most honoured places in the Hall of Fame.

During the brief spell of his premiership he opened the doors toward the well-being of the common masses. In the field of education, the establishment of the Vidyodaya (Sri Jayewardenepura) and Vidyalankara (Kelaniya) Universities created the opportunity to a large sector of village students to pursue higher studies.

The nationalisation of transport, taking over of Trincomalee and Katunayake bases from the British Government, State patronage of the age old Ayurveda system and the establishment of a Ministry for Cultural Affairs are some of the remarkable achievements of this great man.

His life was gentle and the elements so mixed in him, that nature might stand up and say to the world.

This was a man.



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