Future of Bandaranaike legacy and its political dynasty | Daily News


 

Future of Bandaranaike legacy and its political dynasty

 

Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, the two times Executive President of Sri Lanka and the daughter of founder of Sri Lanka Freedom Party and Ms. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, both elected heads of State suffered an unceremonious exit from one time family stronghold of Attanagalle and Party head office in Colombo. She defied party authority and its decisions on two vital instances of Presidential Elections. In 2015 as adviser to party she encouraged the dissident secretary to challenge the party candidate in contesting against him and worked against the party. Then in 2019, she repeated the traitorous act by supporting the opponent.

Why CBK was thrown out of Attanagalle and Darley Road?

Her mother Sirimavo Bandaranaike achieved many distinctions in her political career. With no experience in the field of politics, in 1960 the gracious lady became the head of the government without even entering the House of Representatives. Beginning her political career as the Prime Minister, she not only made her the first woman Prime Minister in the world but set a second world record also as the first Prime-ministerial couple, a record she shared with SWRD. At the time of her death she set a third record as the oldest serving Prime Minister in the world. Sri Lanka Freedom Party, the political giant that ruled the nation for nearly four decades, though reduced to a pathetic non-entity today has little to boast about apart from its two senior members of international reputation. The two learned men of undisputed integrity are Dr. Sarath Amunugama and Mahinda Samarasinghe.

Sirimavo was instrumental in producing the Bandaranaike dynasty, a role and the legacy that needs to be accepted by all. His opponents say SWRD Bandaranaike in 1956 chose to ride to power on discordant politics; but the main contender, UNP hopped the band wagon along with the main Tamil political party, the Federal party too. Bandaranaike only knew the voters and read their tempers appropriately.

SWRD, the moderate democrat, ‘the silver tongue of Asia’ was a good Parliamentary orator; but governments cannot not run on speeches alone. He was responsible for an ineffective and inefficient administration of low performance. The only silver-line in the dark cloud of 1956-59 era was Philip Gunawardena, the leftist partner in MEP coalition whose Nationalism held much significance in an environment of hostility and intolerance. Bandaranaike gave into right-wing reactionary forces who saw Gunawardena’s exit after three years; SWRD had to pay the price with his life.

His economic policies based on nationalisation of economic assets ended in disaster burdening state coffers which was compelled to finance these eternally loss making white elephants. Unscrupulous politicians who took turns in running the ministries abused these institutions to channel their relatives and cronies in top post and average supporters to fill them over and above the actual requirements. Jayewardene, Premadasa and Bandaranaike’s daughter Chandrika Kumaratunga continued the destruction throughout their tenures which ended in 2005.

In 1994, nation voted CBK, first as PM and a few months later as the President. The appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa as Leader of Opposition, was seen as a huge achievement in the SLFP politics. It took five decades of party’s family politics, for the son of DA Rajapaksa, (who followed SWRD when he crossed the floor of House to the opposition in 1951), to take over the all important post, ‘defeating’ the Crown Prince, Anura Bandaranaike. With this appointment the doors were opened for politicians outside Bandaranaike family to reach the higher echelons in the party, making it more democratic. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s appointment was seen as a victory for the majority masses who backed his candidacy realizing his credentials as a man of action.

Though a majority of the SLFPers including grassroots supporters were demanding him, it was after much careful thought that President CBK who was also the SLFP leader, that decided to appoint Rajapaksa to the post. Most of them believed that his candidacy might not get the approval from Chandrika; that she would opt for a person like Nimal Siripala or Richard Pathirana so that she could manage one of them with greater ease. During the SLFP-led PA government, Mahinda Rajapaksa was not her favourite choice to be appointed to important portfolios. But after the unexpected election defeat of December 2001, she had little option but surrender to majority’s wish in appointing him as the Leader of the Opposition.

Rajapaksa supporters

It came as a surprise, because senior party men believed she was grooming her brother Anura to succeed her as the party leader and the future presidential candidate; they believed that she would prefer one of them as mentioned for the opposition leader’s post so that Anura could take over without much trouble when the time arrived. But recognizing the wave of support Rajapaksas were having within the SLFP, she had to make the hard choice of naming Mahinda for the post.

Mahinda Rajapaksa was known to be an efficient man with excellent leadership qualities and ability to bring the party back to a strong position even from scratch; they knew he was even capable of bringing back those who crossed over to UNP from the party causing the unexpected fall of CBK government in 2001. Rajapaksa knew that those defections took place because of the personal problems they had with CBK.

Mahinda Rajapaksa was a staunch Anura supporter when CBK parachuted into the party and claimed the leadership during the family conflicts in the early 1990s. Ignoring warnings by the mother, the brother and sister clashed openly, which ended with brother Anura leaving his parent’s party to join the main political rival, the UNP. Anura made scathing attacks from UNP platform on mother Sirimavo and sister Chandrika.

The appointment of Rajapaksa to the Opposition Leader’s post caused some heartburn among some Anura loyalists in the party. When Ratnasiri Wickremanayake tendered his resignation as Leader of Opposition, some party seniors even attempted to persuade Wickremanayake to stay on, in a bid to prevent Mahinda’s claim.

CBK, who once gate-crashed the famous Padayatra march organised by Mahinda during UNF rule, a great effort by Mahinda to revive the ailing giant had to face many a debacle even when the party was back in power. CBK blocked the workers’ charter that Mahinda proposed to introduce in Parliament, and call him the ‘Cabinet Reporter’. Mahinda Rajapaksa had the blessings of the Maha Sangha, — (a factor which is important in Sri Lankan politics), long before his appointment as President of the nation, the Malwatta Chapter of Siyam Nikaya conferred on him ‘Rohana Jana Ranjnana’ title in recognition of his services to the Buddha Sasana.

Today, the SLFP is almost disintegrated under weak leadership of Sirisena; a couple of worthy men left in it would surely join the ‘Pohottuwa’ led by Rajapaksas in contesting Parliamentary elections due in a couple of months.

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