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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 aspirations.’

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. Bandaranaike

Secretary: Bernard Aluvihare, B. Mohamed, S. Ilangaraja

Treasurer: George R de Silva, A. P. Jayasuriya

Auditor: P. Munaweera

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 this.

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.

 

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