Heads that ruled…
“Social upheavals have at least one advantage,”
writes E R Sarachchandra for an anthology of Sinhalese literature, “they
provide rich material for literature.” The late professor seems exact in
his analysis since post-independence politics is plump with upheavals
offering a host of rich material for literature.
To have the white lords driven away home was a mistaken prophesy back
then. The whites of course said Bye, but their spirits stayed on - at
least in the country’s politics. What D S Senanayaka had enjoyed as the
first premier under a dominion was not what Sirimavo Bandaranaika had in
her third official term.
Republic of Sri Lanka
What was Ceylon in 1948 became Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri
Lanka towards 1972 and that explains the difference between dominion and
republic; Lanka had the British monarch as its head of state and it
became a republic with a self-governing constitution in 1972.
Things geared up towards the open of 1978 when the President became
significant with more powers than the premier ever had. Before the1978
power-shift premier had been heading the government, hence was the
highest political authority.
Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Dudley Senanayaka enjoyed three terms in
office. Politics was windfalls for widow Bandaranaike, but she marked
her position down history: being the world’s first woman Prime Minister
and the first ruler of republican Sri Lanka. With the J R Jayewardene
charter stirring up Sri Lankan history with open economy policy and
full-powered executive presidency, the premiership was confined to a
ceremonial rank. Exceptions were, nevertheless, unforeseen till 2002
when the President and the Prime Minister of the majority camp were from
two different parties. The Constitution had to be reworked and
Mrs. B was not the only one to come to power following her husband’s
death. Dudley Senanayaka became premier subsequent to his father’s
death, Wijayananda Dahanayaka following S W R D Bandaranaike’s and D B
Wijetunga following Ranasinghe Premadasa’s.
Mirigama representative Don Stephen Senanayake knew his onions thanks
to his experience in pre-Independence State Council. Senanayaka had
balanced diplomatic relations with Britain. He refused knighthood but
maintained good links with Britain. Dudley Senanayaka is well respected
for his frank politics who stressed on nationalist economy. The landmark
of Sir John Kotalawala - famously nicknamed as Bandung Donkey for his
political faux pas in Indonesia - is his introduction of country to the
United Nations. Despite his Oxford credentials Solomon West Ridgeway
Dias Bandaranaike is ironically famous for nationalistic movements. His
tenure is well remembered along the political corridors for his drastic
changes and for being the first high-up political victim of daylight
murder. His successor Wijeyananda Dahanayaka was not too lucky to remain
in office for long. Junius Richard Jayewardene moved to a presidency
with executive powers before long. Ranasinghe Premadasa should be the
very first one from a modest family to reach premiership, which was
naturally followed by executive presidency. As in Dahanayaka’s becoming
acting Prime Minister D B Wijetunga became acting President following
the death of President Premadasa. He is well known for his simple
attitudes as both premier and president. Ranil Wickramasinghe is the
youngest cabinet minister who held the premier post twice - first
following Wijetunga’s ascension into presidency and second going along
election triumph. The second tenure was short-lived as the President
Chandrika Kumaratunga dissolved Parliament.
Chandrika Kumaratunga’s victory was inevitable as she brought hope as
the daughter of two Prime Ministers. Just like J R Jayewardene she did
not want to be happy with the premiership, and aimed at being the
world’s fourth woman President, which was no hurdle in the least.
Mahinda Rajapakse won a hard battle for premiership over a few other
opponents. He was the unanimous choice of the party first for the
opposition leadership, second for the premiership and later for the
presidency. Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka is well known for his patriotic
attitudes along with anti-terror campaign.
Family links are commonplace in the premier lineage. The turn of
events seem all the same. Governor General Lord Soulbury had chosen
Dudley Senanayake as his father’s successor over his cousin Sir John
Kotalawela, who - quite a paradox - succeeded him as the third premier.
Sirimavo Bandaranaike entered the scene following her husband’s death
setting the stage for their daughter.
Ranil Wickramasinghe first entered cabinet as the nephew of President
J R Jayewardene.