2020 and the Destiny of Sri Lankan Bamunukula | Daily News


2020 and the Destiny of Sri Lankan Bamunukula

Under the leadership of SWRD Bandaranaike, the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna came up with a resounding victory at the 1956 General Election. It was viewed by the late Sinhala intellectual novelist cum social critique Martin Wickramasinghe as Bamunukulaye Binda weteema (Collapse of the Comprador Bourgeoisie). The objective of this essay is to scrutinize the evolution of Sri Lankan post- independence political and social structure via the prudent view of that great critique.

It was mostly the social class considered on the basis of indigenous cultural norms and values of Sri Lanka, as pro-American or pro-British, that Martin Wickramasinghe categorized as Bamunukulaya. This class was again dubbed by then leftists as the comprador bourgeoisie. During the period of over past six decades the social trend which was formed as a result of the social revolution which took place in 1956 was seen all over the island. The emergence of a generation educated and used to think and work in their vernacular, either Sinhala or Tamil, made a critical effect in this regard. Therefore it has to be concluded that a significant and conspicuous social tremor was caused in 1956.

Although the administration of Premier Bandaranaike was limited to a brief period like three and a half years, his policies and initiatives caused a long term effect on the Sri Lankan socio-political structure. The nationalization of private enterprises that commenced with the taking over of the passenger transport industry, which was being implemented up to the period of Sirimavo Bandaranaike can be mentioned as a remarkable step of its kind. Sri Lanka’s post-independence forward movement was diverged to a controversial direction by the nationalization of port, petroleum, insurance and schools that were implemented under the socialist steps.

Further, the Ceylon Civil Service and the village headman system derived from the imperialist era were also subjected to complete transformations through a series of reformative actions. A massive trembling was evidenced in the social structure during the period of nearly past seven decades caused by the strength of waves unleashed by those who came out in consequence of providing free education throughout the island in Sinhala and Tamil media, as well as the expansion of university system.

Cracks in Bamunukula

The sections which came forward with Sinhala and Tamil media education were seen penetrating the social structure during this period not only as administrators, engineers, doctors, higher ranks of the Forces, but as members of all sections of services pertaining to state and private sector institutions as well. Although there were some limitations under Bandaranaike, Senanayake, Jayawardene and Premadasa administrations and afterwards too, it is the retrospectively viewed reality that the society is still being compelled to depend on the comprador bourgeoisie.

Especially when the UNP was in power, the members of said class were evidenced being appointed to higher ranks of their administrative mechanism. The awarding of highest positions in the Government service by the 1965-70 UNP administration to those who were convicted of the 1962 military coup and were subsequently freed by the British Privy Council on technical grounds, is a conspicuous example in this regard. A few important positions in the administration are still being held by the members of this increasingly diminishing social class.

Bamunukula’s crucial positions

While the national administrative and professional positions were gradually being eclipsed by the children of 56, there had also been some sudden attacks aimed at the authority of the said comprador class. The appointment of K. H. J. Wijayadasa and R. Paskeralingam as top officials by President Premadasa who grasped power aggressively from the Bamunukula leadership is a fine and conspicuous phenomenon. H. B. Dissanayaka who was known to be a real Sri Lankan rustic was appointed as the Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka by Paskeralingam who emerged from Thelippalai Maha Vidyalaya, a school in a rural area of the Jaffna District. Although some such isolated and sporadic incidents were seen, it is through the developments evolved in consequence of the revolution of 1956, the waning away of political, economic and social effects of the comprador bourgeoisie was felt.

While the revolution of 1956 was seen as “collapse of Bamunukula” by a renowned Sri Lankan writer and again as the “collapse of comprador bourgeoisie” by the Leftists, Sirikotha, the monumental pillar of the same bourgeoisie is seen standing splendidly amidst various threats even today. While the UNP was affected by historical accidents such as the arrival of personalities like Premadasa and D. B. Wijetunga, its leadership has hitherto been successful in protecting the party’s continuous existence from being falling out of the hands of so called collapsing comprador social stratum. Even after getting defeated at 25 elections or more, the leadership of the UNP does not seem to be prepared to hand over its dominance to the children of 56 who emerged as the majority within the party.

It does not seem illogical that the bourgeoisie has some reasonable grounds to refrain from allowing the leadership of the UNP to be handled by outsiders. Even though the non-comprador social stratum is highly positioned from the perspectives of education, wealth or popularity, how can the UNP, the centre of power of the Bamunukula be handed to the recently perked up lower social stratum.


Although they were successful in winning the positions based on educational qualifications, Sinhala and Tamil children of 56 who studied in the vernacular did not rapidly reach the higher levels within the business sectors. i.e. import, export, plantation and industries. However, a handful of those pertaining to the children of 56 such as Dasas, Gnanams, as well as DSI Rajapakshas were seen coming up especially during the period of Sirimavo Bandaranaike, through the path created by way of restrictions imposed on import businesses. Large scale businesses such as Aitken Spence, George Stuarts, Hayleys and Browns as well as some of the other medium scale enterprises that were nourished by the bourgeoisie originated during the colonial period too, have already come under the ownership of the children of fifty six. With the spread of this trend into the fields of electronic and other media, the sources which conventionally provided momentum to UNP are now seen to be withering away.

The fact that the crumbling business conglomerations and associations are still breathing, cannot be treated as an unusual phenomenon in the process of social evolution. According to a certain intellectual in the business world known to us, President Premadasa has once mentioned that Bamunukula class of this country is not prepared at any cost to embrace the business community comprised of the children of 56 who indicate signs of surpassing them.

Will this sequence of events leading up to the election of 2020 lead to the end of the political journey of Bamunukula?

Social segments of Bamunukula as well as their eulogist intellectuals and social activists who presently see no way out, depend on the grants of various Western and other foreign institutions who are incognizant of the political culture, social values and the socio–political evolution of Sri Lanka. The gradual weakening of the ability of such parasites and parasitic institutions to affect the national political and economic activities of this country is nothing other than a sociological reality.


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