Sri Lanka Freedom Party 68th anniversary | Daily News


Sri Lanka Freedom Party 68th anniversary

The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), which is eternally etched into the hearts of the self-sufficient rural masses donning the cloth and banyan, celebrates a proud history of 68 years.

There was an intellectual who probed the economic, social, cultural, and political developments in this country during the middle and latter half of the 1940s. He was Queen’s Counsel, Herbert Sri Nissanka, who was a linguist and an eminent legal personality rich with Buddhist values.

He was a colleague of late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike who studied law at the Oxford University in England. During their university life, Nissanka used to brief Bandaranaike on Buddhist and cultural values maintained in the country from time to time.

The two of them exchanged views in a friendly dialogue. Sri Nissanka, who had a matured intelligence outstripping his age, made Bandaranaike leave behind western culture and habits and imbibe local cultural values and get accustomed to them.

On their return to Sri Lanka after their studies, both Bandaranaike and Sri Nissanka got involved in the legal and political sectors. Sri Nissanka and Bandaranaike later started a discussion at the Yamuna Residence at Kirillapone to build the SLFP on the theme of social democracy. The end result was the formation of the SLFP in 1951 with the participation of more progressive individuals.

It was Sri Nissanka who proposed the party’s name as the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, its colour as blue, and its symbol as the hand, and drew up its constitution. Nissanka, who entrusted Bandaranaike with the responsibility of leading the party, cleared his path by acting as a theoretician.

The furniture, including chairs and desks, as well as the pen used at the inaugural ceremony of the party, are still preserved at the Yamuna Residence, which is at present, called the ‘Yamuna Sadaham Ashramaya’.

Spearheaded by five forces; the Sangha, native physicians, teachers, farmers, and workers; the Sri Lanka Freedom Party proliferated into rural areas with great public appeal, gaining the blessings of the rural masses. Turning a new leaf in the history of Sri Lanka’s politics, Bandaranaike was able to set up a new government in 1956 with the support of left-wing parties.

Prime Minister Bandaranaike steered the country towards a revolutionary change by changing its Western-oriented foreign policy into one friendly towards the Socialist Bloc led by China and Russia.

At the time, he was steering Sri Lanka towards development with new energy by launching nationalised services and receiving the unstinted support of the masses. But he was gunned down and stilled by an assailant in 1956, marking one of the most tragic incidents in the country’s history.

Although Wijayananda Dahanayake inherited Premiership, he was not able to maintain the party with the same energy. It was the same later with C.P. de Silva. Sirimavo Bandaranaike was later selected as the leader of the party on the invitation of all sections and she managed to take the party forward by protecting Bandaranaike’s policies and overcoming all challenges systematically.

Sirimavo Bandaranaike rendered a great service as the world’s first woman Prime Minister. She conducted foreign policy with great aplomb and finesse. Facing various threats and challenges, she managed to protect the party even better than her own children.

The strategies adopted by her quelled the 1971 youth uprising, and she earned plaudits from friend and foe alike. The SLFP, which had been treading a difficult path after overcoming various crises which erupted from time to time, is today endeavouring to endear itself to the rural masses by protecting togetherness.

Today, we are passing a period where democracy is overflowing in the party, ensuring great freedom within it. It is praiseworthy to see incumbent SLFP Chairman President Maithripala Sirisena acting with great patience to steer it with greater energy. Entrusting party responsibilities to youth, he has launched a training facility to provide them with political education.

At this important juncture, it is the duty of grateful party members and supporters to spare a thought and remember former President Mahinda Rajapaksa who ended a 30-year war, and former President and Party Chairperson Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga who laid the foundation for gaining minority support and votes to the party by promoting communal unity and harmony.

As the Sri Lanka Freedom Party celebrates its 68th anniversary tomorrow, it is memorable and most significant to see President Maithripala Sirisena donning the party leadership with the support and representation of these five forces, as well as the leadership of the country.

Long live the SLFP.

P. Kumara Dharmarathna, Chairman, SLFP Media Forum

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