Whither SLFP and its vote base?
The SLFP is 70-years-old and to mark the ‘birthday’ its Deputy Secretary Dr. Suren Raghavan had written an article titled SLFP, the architect of Sri Lanka’s future (The Island – 01.09.2021). He attempts to give the SLFP a new facade of multiculturalism, probably to boost its image and improve its electoral base among the minority communities. It has won one seat in the North in the parliamentary elections in 2020, and perhaps hopes to win more in the North and the East in the future. He says “Departing from its situational ideology of a firm Sinhala Buddhist embodiment, the SLFP always had formulated and remained itself on the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural philosophy”.
This brief note attempts to show that historically, whenever the SLFP departed from its “firm Sinhala Buddhist embodiment”, the electorate had rejected it.
The SLFP came into being to fulfill the need to have a political party that represented the national viewpoint on all affairs; political, economic, social, cultural, foreign relations, minority demands etc. Its formation and the 1956 victory could be considered a watershed in the development of political consciousness of the common man and woman in this country. The common man and woman had been engaged in an eternal battle for survival, and also to preserve their culture and civilization, which they had built on their land, rising up against invaders both South Indian and European, imperial occupation and subjugation. They will resent any attempt to compromise their heritage, land and culture. They had fought for independence from the British colonialists, and when power had been transferred to Sinhalese and Tamil leaders who were in every respect British except the colour of the skin, they were disappointed. These leaders formed the core of the UNP and were detached from the people and did not feel the pulse of the people so to speak. Hence the people felt the need for leaders who represented their views and aspirations. The SLFP grew out of this need and had been the party that was close to the poor rural Sinhala Buddhists.
The SLFP had to a degree fulfilled this obligation, except on a few though crucial instances. SWRD could not complete the work he started, mainly due to his failure to realise the need to develop and adopt a national economy, so as to be totally independent and free of the imperial yoke. In this respect Sirimavo was successful to some degree, but she went too far in her attempt to protect the local industry and curbed all imports causing much hardship. Thus the national movement suffered a huge setback. The western imperialists had realized that Sinhala Buddhist civilisational consciousness , or what Dr.Gunadasa Amarasekera calls the Jathika Chinthanaya, would always stand up against their hegemonic exploitation. They had supported the UNP which was accommodating and submissive, which characteristics it had acquired from the close relationship its leaders had with their western masters.
There had been times when SLFP governments had succumbed to the pressure exerted by the western powers and abandoned their historical obligations and the inherent role. At such times the western powers had supported SLFP governments. For instance the government of Mrs Chandrika Kumaratunga seemed to have forgotten its role in protecting the national interests, and consequently had to put up with foreign interference in dealing with the LTTE, the separatist movement and constitution reforms. The high achievements of SLFP governments, which had a far reaching impact on the national consciousness, pride and dignity of the people, were the granting of official recognition to the mother tongue of the common people, taking over of the British Air and Naval bases in Trincomalee in 1957, and nationalization of foreign owned estates. The total defeat of the LTTE in 2009 was also one of the greatest achievements of SLFP governments. Here the government succeeded on three fronts; the military battle, the diplomatic battle and the anti-imperialist battle. These three battles were equally difficult and it was a miracle that the government won all three.
As mentioned earlier, there had been times when the SLFP had deviated from its core policies and breached its historical role to some degree. However, the worst betrayal happened in January 2015, when some of its leading figures joined with the UNP and local and foreign separatist forces in a coup to oust the war winning president. The new president did worse by grabbing the leadership of the SLFP while being in a government with the UNP. Moreover, he carried out several acts of revenge which were extremely damaging to the SLFP. Several SLFP stalwarts who had shown loyalty to him and not to MR had lost the election, but these people were appointed as cabinet ministers. Several district organisers who were capable of winning elections were removed because they were loyal to MR, and his henchmen were appointed to those posts. Mathripala Sirisena kept quiet when the Sri Lankan government treacherously cosponsored a UNHRC Resolution, which made allegations of war crimes against the armed forces who saved the country. He could not stop the sale of several national assets, which could be considered antithetical to the core SLFP policies and principles. All these acts in the eyes of the SLFP supporters, and also many others, are anti-national acts done due to personal vendetta and private agenda. Anti-national here means a lack of affection and concern for the country and nation.
President Maithripala utterly failed in his bid to wrest the SLFP from the MR-led faction, which is the real SLFP that is close to the common people. It appears that the SLFP that resonates with the common people would want its leadership, at least for the present, to be formed by the war winning leaders. Those leaders who won the war not only destroyed the enemy but also stood up boldly against the hegemonic imperialist forces. They had realised that the imperialists were not interested in the welfare of the country, but were pursuing their geopolitical agenda and in the process would even cause the division of the country if it suited them. Further, our leaders were cognizant of the fact that the geopolitics in the region and global power politics were changing, and the balance of power was shifting towards friendlier countries with whom an alliance would be least damaging. This fact formed the basis of their foreign policy, which enabled them to resist with confidence the pressures exerted by the western powers. These policies resulted in not only a victory against the bestial LTTE, but also an unprecedented growth spurt that saw infrastructure development all over the country during the period from 2010 to 2014.
What the results of the 2018 LG polls showed was that an SLFP leader cannot afford to betray the person who saved the people and the country from the clutches of the LTTE, that was colluding with all anti-national forces to destroy the Sri Lankan nation. The election results also showed that an SLFP leader cannot afford to form a government with the UNP, whose leadership was pro-imperialist and pro-separatist. All SLFP stalwarts lost their electoral seats and the most significant loss was Attanagalla, where the SLFP roots were the deepest. After Gotabaya’s victory at the presidential election in 2019, the SLFP knew if it were to survive at the general election it had to align with the SLPP. That policy enabled it to retain the votes it got at the LG polls.
The SLFP that Dr Raghavan speaks about is not the party that was formed by SWRD or the one that was led by leaders like Sirimavo and Mahinda Rajapaksa. It is the SLFP that betrayed the people several times by “Departing from its situational ideology of a firm Sinhala Buddhist embodiment”. His version of a SLFP may stand to lose its Sinhala Buddhist vote base further.
N.A. de S. AMARATUNGA
One of best development administrators SL ever had
Mr. K. Thayaparan (KT), who retired from the government service after serving as a development administrator for more than thirty years passed away on Jan 05 at the age of 86. He was born in 1937 in Malaya, which was then under the British rule; his father had migrated there in 1916 for employment. His father was employed in the Malayan Railways, and the family was living a happy life. In the late 1940s, there erupted a terrorist movement launched by Communists of Chinese origin. To fight with the terrorists the British Government had issued a conscription order for all school leavers above the age of 17 years to join the military. Many families with male children over 17 years fled to Ceylon to avoid conscription. Since KT’s family also had a male child who had been noticed to report for military duty, his family members too other than his father left Malaya in 1951 and came to live in Ceylon. In Jaffna, KT resumed and completed his school education. In 1958 he entered the University of Ceylon at Peradeniya to undertake studies in geography, economics and history.
During the university days, KT had won university colours in badminton. He graduated in 1961, and served as a school teacher in the Matara district. In 1962, after sitting a competitive examination, KT joined the Government Divisional Revenue Officers’ service. In 1963, together with the other officers of the DROs’ service and comparable services, KT was absorbed into the Ceylon Administrative Service that had been created in place of the Ceylon Civil Service, which had simultaneously been abolished.
Till 1975 KT served in the district administration in the northern districts, first as DRO, then as Asst. Government Agent and as Addl. Government Agent. From 1976 to 1979 he worked in the Ministry of Fisheries as Deputy Director Planning, and contributed to the development of the National Fisheries Development Plan 1979 – 1983. The Fisheries Development Plan, among other activities had concentrated on exploitation of the fish resources in the Sri Lanka’s exclusive economic zone, which was proclaimed in 1977, and utilisation of irrigation reservoirs and village tanks for development of inland fisheries. The Government made a policy decision to implement an accelerated programme to develop inland fisheries and aquaculture. For this purpose, a new Division called the Inland Fisheries Division was set up in the Ministry, and KT was appointed its director.
The accelerated development programme had a number of activities to perform. Establishment of fish breeding stations in different parts of the country, recruitment and training of scientific and technical officers to serve at fish breeding centres, import of exotic fish species suitable for culture in Sri Lankan inland waterbodies, training of youth in inland fishing and aquaculture, promotion of investments in shrimp farming, etc. Funding agencies like UNDP, ADB and individual countries on bilateral basis came forward to support the accelerated inland fisheries development programme by providing funds for development of infrastructure, providing technical assistance, providing foreign training for the scientific and technical staff who were mostly young people without experience, and providing advisory services. It was heavy work for KT, but he managed the Division and its work smoothly.
KT was a firm believer in team work. He knew workers in all outstation inland fisheries or aquaculture establishments by name. He distributed foreign training slots offered by donor countries or agencies to every scientific or technical officer on an equitable basis. He listened to everybody, and was quite loved by his staff. KT was quite neutral in politics. However, in spite of his hard work to develop the inland fisheries sector, he was transferred out of the Ministry in 1985 to the SLAS Pool.
In 1979 when KT took over the responsibility of developing inland fisheries and aquaculture in the country, the total national inland fish production in Sri Lanka was 17,400 tons. During his tenure of nearly six years, the national inland fish production steadily increased and in 1985, the year he was transferred it had increased to 32,700 tons, showing an increase of nearly 90%. Also, there were 4,500 inland fishing craft operating in reservoirs, and the number employed as fishers, fish collectors, fish traders, etc. was over 10,000.
After leaving the Ministry of Fisheries he served different assignments such as Director Regional Development, National Consultant or the World Bank funded Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Project, Secretary to the North-East Provincial Council Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries, and Secretary to the State Ministry Hindu Religious and Cultural Affairs. In 1995, he was appointed Addl. Secretary Development of the Ministry of Fisheries, but his stay in this post was brief since the then Minister replaced him with one of his political supporters. His last government assignment was as Addl. Secretary, Ministry of Plan Implementation, National Integration and Ethnic Affairs. In 1997, he retired from the government service, but continued in a few foreign funded projects as institutional development consultant. He once told that his most productive period in the government service was as Director Inland Fisheries. After retirement he authored several books, Reminiscences of Malaya 1937 – 1951, Stories of Some Brave Men and High Achievers, and Introduction to Some Known High Achievers.
Although he was quite suitable to be appointed the Secretary to a Ministry, he was never considered for such a post. In the final years of his career, he was compelled to serve under his juniors. But he carried on regardless and did the best in whatever the capacity he served.
It was not Central Bank bond scam
I was surprised and sorry to read a journalist attached to The Island writing about a central bank bond scam: surprised because, the editor of The Island, in his inimitable editorials, consistently refers to a treasury bond scam; sorry, because it is simply factually wrong. I have driven home that point several times in The Island and assumed that that canard was dead. Would you permit me to flog a not-so-dead horse?
There never was a central bank bond scam; there could not have been, because there was no market in central bank bonds. The central bank has not issued its own liabilities at least since 1967. The currency notes issued by the Central Bank are liabilities of the government (aanduva/state?) of Sri Lanka. (Should you not clear up that mess confusing ‘state’ with the ‘government’? It is one thing to have faith in the state of Sri Laska and quite another to have faith in the government of Ranil Wickremesinghe.) The Central Bank issues those bills (it does currency) on behalf of the state/government of Sri Lanka and they are not the liabilities of the Central Bank or the Monetary Board. There was a scam in government bonds in 2015 as well as in 2016.
As became clearer in the course of the Chitrasiri Commission, the then-governor of the Central Bank and a few other officers of the Central Bank were parties to that financial fraud involving government bonds. The Central Bank is simply the agent of the government/state who markets government liabilities. Those liabilities do not become the Bank’s liabilities. When you carry Sri Lanka currency, you carry liabilities, much like government bonds, of an entity whose credit is low. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka is not in the picture.
Ampitiya That I Knew
Ampitiya is a village just two miles from Kandy. The road to Talatuoya, Marassana, Galaha and turning left from Talatuoya to Tennekumbura and Hanguranketha and beyond goes through Ampitiya.My family moved there in 1949 when our paternal grandfather bequeathed the ancestral home to our father to be effective after our grandfather’s demise. Until then the eldest sister of our father’s family with her family and the two bachelor brothers lived in the house. After living in various places our father was transferred to on duty, we had come to our final abode there.
The house was situated about 100 yards before the second mile post. There were paddy fields both in front of the house and behind it with a mountain further away. These were salubrious surroundings to live in. There was no hustle and bustle as in a town and the only noise would have been the occasional tooting of horns and the call of vendors selling various household needs.
The Ampitiya village extended from near the entrance to the Seminary and the school situated a short climb away along Rajapihilla Mawatha (now Deveni Rajasinghe Mawatha) on the road from Kandy ending at the gate to the Seminary, and running up to the Diurum Bodiya temple.
Ampitiya was well known thanks to the Seminary of our Lady of Lanka located there. Newly ordained Catholic priests took theology classes here. The Seminary with its majestic building commanded a fine view of the Dumbara valley. The student priests lived in the hostel called Montefano St. Sylvester’s Monastery situated just above the sloping rice fields coming down to the Kandy-Talatuoya Road. There was a volleyball court within the Montefano premises and we used to see the young priests enjoying themselves playing a game in the evenings as the court was quite visible from our house.
We, as schoolboys of the neighbourhood, used to get together during many weekends and play cricket on the roadway to the Montefano which was just past the second milepost as there was no vehicular traffic then on that road.
Ampitiya had a school started by the Catholic Church and known as Berrewaerts College which later became the Ampitiya Maha Vidyalaya. At the time our family became residents of Ampitiya this was the only school. Later the Catholic Church established a girls’ school named Carmel Hill Convent. This school enabled most girls who had to go all the way to Kandy or Talatuoya by bus to walk to school.
People who follow sports, especially athletics, would have heard the names of Linus Dias, Sellappuliyage Lucien Benedict Rosa (best known in Sri Lanka as SLB Rosa) and Ranatunga Karunananda, all Ampitiya products who participated in the Olympics as long distance runners competing in the 10,000 metres event. Linus Dias captained the Sri Lankan contingent in the Rome Olympics in 1960.Though they were not able to emulate Duncan White they took part.
Karunananda became a hero in Sri Lanka as well as in Japan when at the Tokyo Olympics of October 1964 he completed the 10,000 metre course running the last four laps all alone. The crowd cheered him all the way to the finish appreciating his courage in not abandoning the already completed race. Later he said he was living up to the Olympic motto which said the main thing is to take part and not to win.
Rosa captained the Sri Lankan team in the 1972 Munich Olympics. He switched to long distance running while still a student thanks to the Principal of Ampitiya Maha Vidyalaya, Mr. Tissa Weerasinghe (a hall mate of mine one year senior to me at Peradeniya) who had noted his stamina and asked him to switch to long distance events. I must mention that Tissa was responsible for bringing this school to a high standard from where it was when he took over.
Coincidentally, during our Ampitiya days, all the houses from Uduwela junction for about half a mile towards Talatuoya were occupied by our relatives! They included the Warakaulles, Koswattes, Pussegodas, Sangakkaras, Godamunnes, Thalgodapitiyas and Wijekoons. Now most of these houses are occupied by others.
Ampitiya area had two Buddhist temples. One was the Dalukgolla Rajamaha Viharaya on the Ratemulla Road and the other, Ampitiya Diurum Bodiya, near the third mile post. From the latter temple a famous Buddhist monk, Ven. Ampitye Rahula Thero later joined the Vajirarama temple in Colombo and was highly recognized by Buddhists just like Ven. Narada and Ven.Piyadassi Theros.
The Uduwela temple had a water spout emerging out of a granite rock where the temple priests and neighbours used to bathe and wash their clothes. This spout never ran dry.
At present the landscape of Ampitiya has changed hugely. Most of the sloping paddy fields have been filled and dwelling houses have come up. The majestic view, except for faraway mountains, is no longer present. A five-star hotel has been built just beyond the second mile post and the area has lost its previous tranquility. A person of my vintage who once lived there visiting Ampitiya now wouldn’t be able to recognize the place given the changes.
HM NISSANKA WARAKAULLE
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