ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday September 9, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 15
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Two political parties are formed

D. S. Senanayake with S. Natesan
during a visit to Jaffna

The month of September marks the formation of two leading political parties in Sri Lanka. One is the United National Party (UNP) on September 6, 1946 and the other, five years later, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) on September 2, 1951.

Before the parliamentary system of government was introduced, the State Council formed the legislature where the members were elected on an individual basis. At the time the Soulbury Constitution was accepted, there were about ten political groups in the State Council but even the Board of Ministers did not belong to a single party. When it was realised that a party system was essential for the new Soulbury Constitution to function properly, these groups began to form themselves into properly constituted political parties.

Among the political groups taking a lead in forming a party was one which met on June 4, 1946 presided over by D. S. Senanayake, the Leader of the House and Minister of Agriculture and Lands. Five other ministers and 25 State Councillors attended the meeting held at the State Council premises. A draft manifesto and constitution was adopted and the inaugural meeting was held on September 6 at 32/3 Flower Road (present Sir Ernest de Silva Mawatha). Three-hundred and seventy persons were invited including members of the Ceylon National Congress and the Sinhala Maha Sabha.
The convenor, J. L. Kotelawela, Minister of Communications & Works invited D. S. Senanayake to preside.

S. Natesan, the Member for Kankesanthurai in the State Council (he was Principal of Parameshwara College, Jaffna) proposed that a political party be formed under the name 'United National Party.' The resolution was seconded by T. B. Jayah, Muslim Nominated Member of the State Council. (He was Principal, Zahira College). A. F. Molamure (Speaker of the first State Council who resigned due to personal reasons) proposed and A. R. A. Razik (second Muslim Nominated Member) seconded the adoption of the draft constitution.

S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, Minister of Local Administration proposed the name of D. S. Senanayake as President and was seconded by George E. de Silva, Member for Kandy.

The other elected office-bearers were:

Vice Presidents:
S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, J. L. Kotelawela, George E. de Silva, T. B. Jayah & A. Mahadeva
General Secretary: A. Mahadeva
Joint Treasurers: J. R. Jayewardene & A. R. A. Razik

The party contested the first general election under the new constitution in August/September 1947 and won sufficient seats to form the government with D. S. Senanayake as prime minister.


Bandaranaike forms new party

D. S. Senanayake & S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike after the swearing-in of the first Cabinet in 1947. In the middle is Sir Monk Mason Moore, Governor-General

The leader of the Sinhala Maha Sabha, S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike who joined hands with D. S. Senanayake to form the UNP and later served in his Cabinet as Minister of Local Government & Health (he was also leader of the House) resigned from the government on July 12, 1951 following differences of opinion. Resigning with him were five Members of Parliament including two Parliamentary Secretaries (as Deputy Ministers were then known) - George R. de Silva & A. P. Jayasuriya, D. A. Rajapakse (MP for Beliatta), Jayaweera Kuruppu (Balangoda) & D. S. Gunasekera (Udugama).

On July 15, the Executive Committee of the Sinhala Maha Sabha decided to form "a middle party between the UNP on the extreme right and the Marxists on the extreme left." This was endorsed at a special session of the Sabha on July 29 and Mr. Bandaranaike was empowered "to enter into negotiations with other political organisations for the purpose of expediting the formation of the new party."

Accordingly the Sri Lanka Freedom Party was inaugurated on September 2, 1951 at the Colombo Town Hall, when a manifesto and constitution was adopted and S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike elected as President. Bernard Aluwihare, Badi-ud-deen Mahmud and S. Thangarajah were appointed joint secretaries.

The party contested the 1952 general election, putting forward 50 candidates. Nine were elected and the party polled a total of 361,251 votes ahead of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party which polled 305,133 votes also winning nine seats.

Bandaranaike who became Leader of the Opposition in the second Parliament, formed the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna to contest the 1956 general election and won with ease, pushing the ruling party UNP to fourth place with just eight seats.


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