Funday Times

Leftists join the government
Gaveshaka continues to discuss significant events in June

June continued to be a significant month in the country's politics. In 1963, the left-wing political parties had formed the United Left Front (ULF) and started agitating for wage increases.

LSSP ministers
Dr .N. M. Perera &
Anil Moonesinghe

Meanwhile, considering the excessive burden on the Budget, the Minister of Finance, Felix Dias Bandaranaike proposed cuts in subsidies which meant a reduction in the rice ration. This move was vehemently opposed by the left-wing parties.

The cuts were not imposed and the Minister had to resign his portfolio. (After being a backbencher in the government, he was appointed Minister without Portfolio and later Minister of Agriculture, Food & Cooperatives.)

With a view to minimizing the political instability created by trade union actions and an attempted coup (January 1962), the possibility of forming a coalition with the left-wing parties was considered by the government. In April 1964, talks began between Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike (she was also the leader of the SLFP) and the LSSP leader Dr. N. M. Perera on such a coalition. At the conclusion of the talks, it was announced that there would be a Cabinet reshuffle.

On June 11, 1964, the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) joined the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) government accepting three portfolios in the Cabinet. In the reshuffle Dr. N. M. Perera (Finance), Cholmondeley Goonewardene (Public Works) and Anil Moonesinghe (Communications) became ministers.

Finance Minister Felix Dias Bandaranaike

This led to a split in the LSSP with two senior members – Edmund Samarakkody (MP for Bulathsinhala) and Meryl Fernando (MP for Moratuwa) – leaving and forming the LSSP (Revolutionary) Party. The Prime Minister announced that the decision to form a government with the LSSP was "for the progress of Socialism."

However, sections of the right-wing SLFP did not endorse the Prime Minister's decision and soon began to show their apprehension. This resulted in 14 SLFP MPs including senior minister C. P. de Silva (Leader of the House & Minister of Lands, Irrigation & Power) voting against the government on December 14, 1964 on the Throne Speech outlining the government's programme of work in the coming year.

On the Prime Minister's advice, Parliament was dissolved by the Governor General and a general election was fixed for March 22, 1965. Mrs Bandaranaike who until then was a member of the Senate decided to contest the Attanagalla seat at the general election. Though she won the seat comfortably, she did not win enough seats in Parliament to form the government. She thus became the Leader of the Opposition.

United Front romps home

While in the Opposition after the 1965 general election, the SLFP, LSSP and CP (Communst Party) agreed on a Common Programme in order to "carry forward the progressive advance begun in 1956 under the leadership of Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike in order to establish in Ceylon a socialist democracy." Mrs. Bandaranaike (SLFP), Dr. Colvin R. de Silva (LSSP) and Dr. S. A. Wickremasinghe (CP) signed the document which was printed and distributed.

At the 1970 May general election, the three parties contested as the United Front and romped home reducing the ruling party to a mere 17 seats in a 151-member House of Representatives. The United Front coalition secured 115 seats thus commanding a two-thirds majority in Parliament. It was a record for any democratic election.

The United Front had presented a programme of work for the economic and social development of the country which the people accepted and voted for them. On June 15, 1970 the new government presented the Speech from the Throne outlining the future programme of work.

In the government's agenda was the formulation of a new constitution. For this purpose, on July 19, 1970, on a resolution moved by the Prime Minister, the members of the House of Representatives formed themselves into a Constituent Assembly with the Speaker (Stanley Tillekeratne, MP for Kotte) as chairman.

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