February 4, 2024

Since Independence was sought on 4 th February 1948, without shedding a single blood drop, the first Prime Minister was chosen by the Colonials as the as Right Honorable D.S. Senanayake. He was the Prime Minster from 24 September 1947 till 22 of March 1952 when he had an accident and died immediately (after falling from horse riding in the morning).

After his death there was a battle with Sir John Kotelawala to be the Prime Minister of Ceylon. As a result, according to the wishes of Rt.Hon. D.S. Senananayake, his son, became (Dudley Senananayake ) became the Prime Minister of Ceylon from 02 December to July in 1947.

Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike became the Prime Minister from 26 September 1959, known by the Sri Lankan people as “The Silver Bell of Asia“, the fourth Prime Minister of the Dominion of Ceylon (then Ceylon), serving from 1956 until  in 1959, causing him to die in office. The founder of the left-wingand Sinhalese Nationalist Sri Lanka Freedom Party, his tenure saw the country’s first left-wing reforms.

Born to a wealthy Family

Born to a wealthy, political family, he studied philosophy, politics, and economics at Christ Church, Oxford, and was called to the bar at the Inner Temple. Returning to Ceylon, he entered local politics by joining the Ceylon National Congress. Having been elected to the Colombo Municipal Council in 1926, he was elected from his family seat in Veyangoda to the State Council of Ceylon for two terms between 1931 and 1947, while serving in the second term as Minister of Local Administration in the Board of Ministers. Having founded the Sinhala Maha Sabha in 1936 on Sinhalese nationalist lines advocating for self-rule in Ceylon, he joined D. S. Senanayake by dissolving the Sinhala Maha Sabha and merging it with the United National Party at its formation in 1947. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1947 representing the United National Party from Attanagalla, which would become the political seat of his family for the next fifty years.Since the Sinhala Maha Sabha formed the largest segment of the United National Party.

D. S. Senanayake appointed Bandaranaike as Minister of Health and Local Government ; he was elected as the Leader of the House. Following several disagreements, Bandaranaike resigned from the government and  approachaed the opposition, forming the Sri Lanka Freedom Party in 1951. Following D. S. Senanayake’s sudden death and the elections that followed, Bandaranaike was elected leader of the opposition. Mustering a powerful coalition called the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna and contesting on the lines of Sinhalese nationalism and socialism, he was able to achieve a landslide victory over the United National Party in the general elections in 1956, thereby becoming the fourth Prime Minister of Ceylon. Bandaranaike removed all the British Naval and Air bases in Ceylon and established diplomatic missions with a number of communist states. He implemented a new language policy, the Sinhala Only Act, making Sinhala the sole official language of the country, creating much controversy.

On 25 September 1959, Bandaranaike was shot at his house in Rosemead Place, Colombo and died of his wounds the day after the day he was shot at. A Buddhist monk named Ven Talduwe Somarama  was arrested, convicted and hanged for the murder of Bandaranaike. Wijeyananda Dahanayake was appointed as the caretaker Prime Minister by the Governor General and was confirmed by the Parliament. Bandaranaike’s death led to political turmoil with the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna falling apart under Dahanayake, who eventually formed his own party and contested the general elections in March 1960. Although the Freedom Party failed to form a government under the leadership of C. P. de Silva, fresh elections were held four months, later after the United National Party government lost the throne speeches. Bandaranaike’s widow Sirima Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike lead the Freedom Party to gain a majority in the Parliament and was appointed the first female Prime Minister in the world. She expanded on her husband’s left-wing reforms in her two terms as the Prime Minister from 1960 to 1964 and from 1970 to 1977. In 1994, Bandaranaike’s daughter, Chandrika Kumaratunga headed a coalition led by the Freedom Party to be elected Prime Minister, and thereafter as the President serving from 1994 to 2005, during which Bandaranaike’s widow served as the Prime Minister from 1994 to 2000. Bandaranaike’s son, Anura Bandaranaike served as Speaker of the Parliament of Sri Lanka from 2000 to 2001.

J.R. Jayawardene thus became the second President of The Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka, after making Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike adjustmenments to Ceylon to be the Social Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka. J.R. managed to restrict Mrs. Bandaranaike’s civic rights for several years. Not only that He was in office from 4 th February 1978 to 2 nd January 1989. He produced the most ‘frightening laws to be able to keep the ‘Executive President’ would be able to do anything President likes (which means that woman cannot be turned into a man!). Not only that J.R. Jayawardena kept, in his pocket a few letters signed by the members of the Parliament so that they could abandon of Parliamentary seats from the United National Party.

Followed by J.R. Jayawardena the next President became Ranasinghe Premadasa. He was in office from 6 th February 1978 , until at the age of sixty-eight ,till 2 January 1988. He was assassinated on the Independence Day in February 1978 when a Tamil servant boy waved a hankey to attract him to the spot where he was killed there and then on the spot.

After his demise became the acting President was Dingiri Banda Wijetunga, who also died recently. He was the acting President from 1 May 1993 – 7 May 1993 May 1993.

Mahinda Rajapaksa  served as the President of Sri Lanka from 2005 to 2015; the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka from 2004 to 2005, 2018, and 2019 to 2022; ]  the Leader of the Opposition from 2002 to 2004 and 2018 to 2019, and the Minister of Finance from 2005 to 2015 and 2019 to 2021. He has been a Member of Parliament (MP) for Kurunegala since 2015.

Ranil Wickremesinghe who is the 9th and current President of Sri Lanka. He also holds several ministerial positions, including the Minister of Finance, Minister of Defence, Minister of Technology and Minister of Women, Child Affairs and Social Empowerment.

Ranil Wickremesinghe has led the United National Party since 1994. He has served as  the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka on five separate occasions, leading six governments, from 1993 to 1994, 2001 to 2004, 2015 to 2018, 2018 to 2019, and for a few months in 2022. He has also served as the Leader of the Opposition from 1994 to 2001 and from 2004 to 2015.

Entering active politics in the mid-1970s with the UNP, he was first elected to Parliament from the Biyagama electorate and was appointed Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, by his uncle, President J. R. Jayewardene. He was thereafter appointed as the Minister of Youth Affairs and Employment and becoming the youngest cabinet minister in Sri Lanka.

In 1989, President Ranasinghe Premadasa, appointed Wickremesinghe as the Minister of Industry, Science and Technology and Leader of the House. He was appointed Leader of the Opposition in November 1994, following the assassination of Gamini Dissanayake during the campaign in Wickremesinghe was the UNP nominee in the 1999 and 2005 Presidental elections, but was defeated by Chandrika Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa, respectively.

On 8 January 2015, Ranil Wickremesinghe was appointed as the Prime Minister by President  Maithripala Sirisena , who had defeated President  Mahinda Rajapaksa  in  his coalition alliance, the  United National Front for Good Governance , won the  2015 parliamentary election  with 106 seats. Although it fell short of an outright majority, Wickremesinghe was re-elected as the Prime Minister, with over 35  Sri Lanka Freedom Party members joining his Cabinet. Wickremesinghe was removed as Prime Minister on 26
October 2018 by President  Maithripala Sirisena  with the appointment of former President  Mahinda Rajapaksa  as the Prime Minister, which Wickremesinghe refused to accept, resulting in a constitutional crisis. The crisis ended with Sirisena re-appointing Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister on 16 December 2018. He resigned as Prime Minister on 20 November 2019, and was again succeeded by Mahinda Rajapakse following the 2019 presidential election. He contested the  2020 parliamentary election  but failed to secure a single seat for the UNP in Parliament.

He re-entered Parliament as a National List MP of the  United National Party , and was sworn in as a member of parliament on 23 June 2021. In May 2022, Wickremesinghe was re-appointed as Prime Minister by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa , the new President On 9 July 2022 Wickremesinghe announced that he was willing to resign amidst mass anti-government protests that saw his personal residence set ablaze, along with the residence of then-President Gotabaya Rajapaska taken over by protestors. He agreed to resign as Prime Minister once a new government was formed.

Wickremesinghe became the acting president on 14 July 2022, after his predecessor  Gotabaya Rajapaksa  fled the country. Rajapaksa resigned on 14 July 2022, and on the same day, Wickremesinghe was sworn in as acting President of Sri Lanka. On the the same day, he decided to formally abolish the  presidential standard  and remove the style “His Excellency” when addressing as the President. On 20 July 2022, Wickremesinghe was elected as the 9th President via an  election  by the Parliament on 21 July 2022, he took the Prediental oath in Parliament as the current President of Sri Lanka.

Those people who talk about Ranil Wickremasinghe is an efficient President, who have managed to cut down on people queuing for petrol and gas ( explosions!) and bringing the country to a satisfactory situation and not being a bankrupt country any more, despite the soring prices of commodities, seem to think that he should be the next Presidential candidate but he himself has declared that ‘ he would decide on that only in April 2024!’.That will show his confidence in resurrecting the country at all!

The basic fact remains that all the Prime Ministers were hell bent on their own ideas and principles that has gone down the country to a stage of bankruptcy at present!

By Dr. Tilak S. Fernando

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