2019 Sep 26
S.W.R.D Bandaranaike was born on Janurary 8th 1899 AND was the fourth Prime Minister of Sri Lanka serving from April 1956, when his party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, won a landslide victory at the general election, until his untimely demise at the hands of a robed assassin in September 1959. Although he came to power on the crest of the Buddhist Sinhala wave it was a robed rogue monk going by the name of Thalduwe Somarama of Amara Viharaya, Rajagiriya who shot the Prime Minister three times whilst injuring his companions. This horrific public case unearthed a throng of conspirators and conspiracies, Buddharakkita and H. P. Jayawardena, a businessman closely associated with him, were found guilty of conspiracy to murder as well as multiple co conspirators .
This year (2019) therefore marks the 110th anniversary of his birth and 60th anniversary of his death.
He came from a land owning family that had strong links with the British administration, his father Sir Solomon Dias Bandaranaike being a high ranking local official in colonial times to the British Governor. He was born in Horagolla and attended the great halls of Royal College that echoes the footsteps of many a Sri Lankan Leader.
S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike returned home in 1925 after pursuing a brilliant further academic career at Christ Church College, Oxford. Like many young idealists from countries under colonial bondage, SWRD too came back with a zealous sense of mission to serve his country and people. While being a member of the Ceylon National Congress, Bandaranaike also founded a political party known as the ‘Progressive National Party’ to achieve the goal of political self-government. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike became the leader of the Progressive National Party while C. Ponnambalam of the Jaffna Youth Congress was the party secretary.
S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike’s advocacy of federalism did not create a major political splash at that time; it only caused ripples. If the “Lion of Boralugoda” Philip Gunawardena could be described as the “Father of Marxism” then the Laird of Horagolla Solomon Bandaranaike could be termed in lighter vein as the “Father of Federalism” in Ceylon as Sri Lanka was known then.
The then prime minister was enlightened enough to feel the necessity for some form of decentralization and/or devolution when the unified Ceylonese nation began progressing towards self-government under British rule.
A charismatic leader and a brilliant orator, he soon made a mark in politics as a strong opponent of the colonial administration and a committed advocate of ‘self rule’, indigenous culture and language. His vigorous defense of local causes led to his tenure as Prime Minister being called ‘the age of the common man’.
SWRD Bandaranaike’s impact on the political, economic and social development of Sri Lanka was of such a profound kind that what he left behind is not only yet remembered and revered, but continues to influence the core direction of state principles and policies.
At the dawn of Freedom on the fourth of February 1948 in Independence Hall, as the Lion Flag was raised, as Leader of the House in the first Parliament, he proclaimed his vision of freedom as something that came alive only when the people had won not only political freedom but the social and economic freedoms too.
His vision and indelible legacy rests on the fundamental premise that the people – their lives, hopes and aspirations must come FIRST. For the people to truly be free and sovereign the State has a duty to provide basic human rights to the people. The people must have justiciable rights to freedom from ignorance, freedom from disease, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
It was the obligation of the State to ensure these rights to all and it was his mission to enshrine these as fundamental rights in the Constitution. His untimely death in 1959 deprived him of this goal but the dream was fulfilled in the time of his widow Premier Sirimavo Bandaranaike in the Constitution of 1972.