ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday May 4, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 49
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Many firsts by the Lady from Horagolla

Following the assassination of Prime Minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike in September 1959, the governing party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) elected the Minister of Education W. Dahanayake as Prime Minister. His action in dismissing Cabinet ministers (they were members of the SLFP) followed by the dissolution of Parliament in December 1959, led to a crisis situation.

Although he resigned from the SLFP, his resignation was not accepted. Instead, he was expelled from the party. Senior SLFP minister C. P. de Silva was elected as the president of the SLFP which was narrowly beaten by the United National Party (UNP) in the general election in March 1960.

The defeat of the UNP government within a few weeks, led to a general election in July 1960. The SLFP members invited Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, widow of the slain Prime Minister to lead the party and she was unanimously elected leader on May 7, 1960. This was the beginning of a long journey for her. She campaigned without contesting a seat. She indicated that if the party won, she would become the Prime Minister. She led the party to a landslide victory and was invited by the Governor-General Sir Oliver Goonetilleke to form the government.

Mrs Bandaranaike had created history. A woman leader had led the party to victory for the first time. A non-elected person was going to be the Prime Minister of the country. With the second chamber, the Senate being in existence at the time, she was nominated as a Senator. Breaking tradition, a member of the Senate was to be Prime Minister. Her biggest achievement was that she became the first woman Prime Minister in the world.

In the years to follow, Mrs. Bandaranaike became a mature politician. She was Prime Minister and head of government from July 1960 – March 1965 and again from May 1970 – July 1977. She was once again Prime Minister but not head of government from 1994 – 2000 under the executive presidency of her daughter Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. She served as the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament 1965 – 70.


A Sinhala daily newspaper

The Lake House Sinhala daily, 'Dinamina' had enjoyed many years as the only Sinhala morning daily newspaper before a second Sinhala newspaper appeared. That was in 1947, when the Times of Ceylon group of newspapers started publishing the 'Lankadipa,' which began as an evening newspaper on October 27, 1947.

Having built up a significant readership, 'Lankadipa,' began publishing as a morning daily on May 1, 1949. The Sinhala readers now had a choice in morning newspapers.

The respected scholar Julius de Lanerolle was editor-in-chief of the 'Lankadipa.' The second in command D. B. Dhanapala, who had started as a writer for English newspapers was full of ideas. He had the knack of picking up the right men and soon built up a fine set of Sinhala journalists.

While the 'Dinamina' used a more traditional style of writing, 'Lankadipa' developed a more easy style. This was much liked by the readers because it was closer to the day to day language they were used to. Interesting columns were introduced while space was devoted to art and culture.

The daily column 'Vagathuga' which turned out to be a very popular, contemporary social, political and economic commentary was started by a renowned poet of the day, Sagara Palansuriya on November 17, 1847. Within two weeks, another well-known literary figure, Sri Chandraratne Manawasinghe took over and continued without a break until September 28, 1964 – a fine record indeed.

'Lankadipa' soon became a model to follow and to this day remains popular among the readers.


MP’s speeches

There is simultaneous translation of speeches in Parliament today. This facility was made available for the first time on May 3,1956. That was after the Third Parliament was opened, following the 1956 April general election.

At the time simultaneous translations were introduced, Parliament was housed at Galle Face, where the Presidential Secretariat now exists. At that time the number of Members of Parliament was 95 as compared with 225 today.

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