The SLFP stood up for Socialism and Progress By Garvin Karunaratne

18 April 2015

In today’s context when some of our own leaders have thought it fit to balkanize the SLFP, it is necessary for the current leaders as well as the Sinhala masses to be aware that the SLFP was the only Political Party that stood for the masses of the Sinhala people- the downtrodden- those who have suffered since the colonial period. As Rohana Wasala recently said, “The SLFP is the only strong national party that honestly works to promote the interests of the majority community while doing the same for the minorities.”

It is up to today’s political leaders of the SLFP to remember what the SLFP stood for since its inception in 1951. The SLFP was created by SWRD Bandaranaike in 1951, when he resigned from the UNP along with other Ministers and Members of Parliament, A.P.Jayasuriya, Jayaweera Kuruppu, George R. de Silva, D.A. Rajapaksa and D.S.Gunasekera.  In explaining why he formed a new party, SWRD Bandaranaike said, “When I helped in the formation of the UNP, encouraged the Sinhala Maha Sabha to join it,   agreed to be a member of this Cabinet, it was done with the intention of giving stability to the new Government of the new era. I thought that the socialist ideas will be promoted step by step in the future and also the problems faced by the country will be solved simultaneously.”
Thus the SLFP stood for socialist ideas from the outset.

It is upto every Sinhala person to realize that the SLFP stood for socialist ideas, the progress of the downtrodden, the poor- the masses and to tell their political leaders that the SLFP has to be resurrected somehow. Many of the Members of Parliament of today are unaware of the early achievements of the SLFP because most of them were not even born in 1956.

At the General Election of 1956, the UNP was led by Sir John Kotalawala.  SWRD Bandaranaike of the SLFP formed the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna comprising the SLFP. VLSSP (Viplawakari Lanka Sama Samaja Party led by Philip Gunawardena and some other parties. The Sinhala Buddhists fought a major campaign with Venerable Henpitagedera Gnanasiha Thera as their leader. He was a great orator and for months he was touring the electorates in his Volkswagon addressing the people. For some two months everyday, he left his Temple at Mudduwa, Ratnapura in the wee hours of the morning and came back around midnight to be greeted by us.  His Motto was: Are you a Sinhalese? Are you a Buddhist? Then vote for the SLFP. The masses were mesmerized with his speeches. There was an awakening in the country and the MEP was victorious.

The SLFP with the support of some leftist parties has ruled Sri Lanka from 1956 to March 1960, from July 1960 to 1965, from 1970 to 1977 and finally from 1994 to 2015. The days when the SLFP ruled is marked with progressive economic programs and the creation of economic infrastructure that helped the common people. It is unfortunate that most of these progressive measures have been neglected today. The leaders of the SLFP tried hard to follow a non-aligned policy- to steer clear from belonging either to the forces of imperialism or the socialist block. On the whole the attempt was to help the masses to get them on their feet.

In addition to administering normal economic development programs and maintaining day to day administration, the main achievements of the SLFP during the periods it ruled the country were:

The Paddy Lands Act
The People’s Bank
The Multi-purpose Cooperative                  
Cooperative Wholesale Establishment
Small Industries Program including    
Handlooms and Powerlooms
The Divisional Development Councils      
Defeating Terrorism

Continued next week

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