A statement to the effect, ‘CP de Silva should have become the Prime Minister after the assassination of Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, but was prevented from taking oaths, as he was rushed to the UK being treated for poisoning. The Sri Lankan political history would have changed if CP did not consume a glass of milk poisoned with ‘Python oil’, originally meant for Bandaranaike.’
The above statement was made at the grand event held at the BMICH to launch the biography of C P de Silva, by its author Wijayadasa Rajapakshe PC, Minister of Buddhasasana, in the presence of an august gathering that included President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. It was stated, ‘CP was poisoned—later he was found lying unconscious in the bathroom.’
C.P. de Silva was a great politician of Sri Lanka who did a lot to develop agriculture and irrigation thereby setting free the lot of the poor farmer. He was a man of high principles and had the ability to be the Head of State though not charismatic. Prime Minister Bandaranaike was shot on September 25, 1959. He died the next day. Minister W. Dahanayake was sworn in as Prime Minister. C.P. de Silva was the most senior in the Cabinet and leader of the House. He was regarded as S.W.R.D’s deputy and successor. The only authentic biography by James Manor, [though so many people have undertaken the task of writing the biography of SWRD] the Cambridge publication of 1989, is the undisputed comprehensive record. Manor referring to the above incident in his book, says,
‘…during the Cabinet meeting on August 26, 1959, the usual refreshment—glasses of milk—were handed out to the ministers shortly after midday. C P de Silva—the formidable…took a sip from his glass and began to gag violently. Finance Minister Stanley de Soyza, …patted him on the back…but CP collapsed…was carried into the PM’s room…but was completely paralysed… and he was rushed to Central Hospital’
The Expedient Utopian: Bandaranaike and Ceylon’--James Manor— Cambridge1989--p 310
[People of my generation will remember the 10-minute Milk interval at 2 O’clock, during a cricket match in the fifties and sixties] it was not only Bandaranaike and /or C. P. de Silva who drank milk before the commencement of the Cabinet meeting; there were several glasses for everybody to partake. [The steward who served the Cabinet meetings five decades ago was lucky that he only had to push his trolley; today they would hire a truck for the job]. Another famous criminal lawyer, himself a PC contributing to a column in a daily stated, “No one knew who was instrumental in bringing the glass of milk and why C.P. De Silva, who was the deputy, drank the glass of milk.”
‘1956’– a result of riding the crest of a Sinhala-Buddhist wave.
The MEP, a coalition led by SWRD, came to power in 1956 riding the crest of a Sinhala-Buddhist wave. Following the assassination of the PM on September 26, 1959, conspiracy theories galore; some accused involvement of Cabinet ministers in the crime. The above conspiracy theory related to ‘Glass of Milk of 26th August ’ came to light only after the September 26 tragedy. It was a
mischievous misconstruction of facts relating to the unfortunate incident. An in-depth study based on regular newspaper reports of the day reveals the truth. Both leading English dailies, Times of Ceylon and Ceylon Daily News carried front page news on August 27,1959, saying, ‘…long before the meeting CP complained of feeling unwell’--Times; and ‘CP complained earlier of being out of sorts’—CDN, respectively, meaning he was unwell, well before sipping his milk. Both the dailies published updates till 8th September 1959, in detail on how he was taken to hospital, who accompanied him, medical opinions and patient’s condition: but nothing to the effect that CP was found fallen inside a bathroom or a semblance of mention about a poisoned glass of milk.
CP’s own sister, the well-known Physician/ Paediatrician, Dr. Ms. Stella de Silva, who was in USA, attending a seminar, rushed home on Sep 2nd, and on her initiation an eminent neurologist was summoned from UK, accompanied CP to Hospital for Nervous Deceases in London on the 7th of September, where it was diagnosed as ‘acute nephrites’ or inflammation of kidneys due to either nephrotoxic effects of drugs and or toxins. The doctors were at a loss to describe exactly how such severe injury could happen so unexpectedly, but were convinced that it was caused from an ingestion of a toxic substance.
Appointment of W. Dahanayake
Bradman Weerakoon, [Secretary to nine Heads of State including the three, Dudley, Sirimavo and Dhahanayake] makes a very comprehensive note in his best seller ‘Rendering unto Ceasar: 2004’- ; Bradmon –he says, SWRD himself made the appointment of W Dhanayake to act as PM, as he was scheduled to visit Washington [on September 28], to address the UN General Assembly, and the paper was delivered to Queen’s House on 24th September. In Weerakoon’s own words, “So the G-G had before him, most conveniently, and in writing, a nominated successor”—BradmanW. :pp65
Hugh Fernando, MP for Wennappuwa, former Speaker and SLFP stalwart during the early sixties, published a pamphlet under, The inside story; he states, “…after the assassination…,Maithripala Senanayake, who was next to CP in seniority wanted Dhahanayake out…collected signatures and submitted to G-G. …next to the late Mr Bandaranaike, Maithreepala’s loyalties went to C P--The inside story-H Fdo. Colombo-1965,p. 7
The Poisoned Glass of Milk and SLFP leaders’ meeting with G-G
Strangely, there had been no mention about milk poisoning until the assassination of the PM ; theories and gossips spread only after mischievous elements initiated the grape vine and kelepattara business in a calculated and clever move to switch the investigators’ minds away from themselves. The accused Mapitigama Buddharakkita Thera, the most influential political bikkhu of the day, who played a major role in 1956 victory of Bandaranaike led the plot to murder the PM. While the case was being heard and even after he was sentenced,
Buddharakkitha used his influence to give the highest publicity to this fabricated story of “poisoned glass of milk”, with the motive of deviating the attention of the authorities and making them believe it to be a part of the scheme by some cabinet members and close associates, to kill SWRD. [A note book preserved by JR Jayewardene, with copies of hand written letters by the 1st accused, Buddharakkita, stressing the fictitious story is available at JRJ Centre library]. Sinhala newspapers close to the powerful Monk gave wide publicity to this story,
indirectly hinting at pro-leftist Philip Gunawardene group. In his letters addressed to VIPs by him, he openly points a finger at them.
In 1960, when the month-old Dudley Senanayake government fell, G-General dissolved Parliament not allowing CP to form a government. Sir Oliver had a ‘soft corner’ for his party, the UNP—he thought his party would improve its stake in Parliament at a second election; also he did not want to see a non-Govigama running the country. CP de Silva, deprived twice of the chance of becoming PM, acted as Prime Minister when Ms. Bandaranaike went abroad. This cordial working relationship between Ms. Bandaranaike and CP de Silva came under stress and strain after a few years. CP de Silva became disgruntled by the course of events. However, the coalition with the LSSP in 1964 made him rather a dejected person.
“This continuing policy of making the Sinhalese seat a monopoly of one Goyigama Mudaliyar family naturally led to resentment”. –Nobodies; to Somebodies--Kumari J. 2007 :PP 323/5. This harmful practice continued in the post-independence UNP and SLFP governments up to the 1970s. The statements made by speakers at the book launch,
‘…that SLFP leadership felt that they were more superior only because they considered themselves to be higher caste and CP belonged to a low caste’, is only a figment of their imagination. Irrespective of both the Bandaranaikes and Ratwattes belonging to ‘Goyigama first class land-owning Mudaliyar families’; as J Jiggins says, in a cabinet of 14, in each case, Senanayake had only one depressed caste compared to four in Bandaranaike’s--Family and Caste in Politics of Sinhalese ‘47-’71- J Jiggins: Doctorate thesis-1973- pp 133/34. There had been several unauthentic stories about poisoned milk appearing in Newspapers over the past six decades; but the Python Oil issue emerged with the publication of the CP de Silva biography on 30th March 2016. Toxicological analysts have done laboratory research to confirm that Pythons are non-venomous, therefore non-poisonous as well.
--There had been in the past and at present quite a few venomous Cobras, Vipers and Kraits that secretly work among local politicians, but the non-poisonous huge Pythons are rare? Bandaranaike had a few ‘venomous types’ on his lap or hidden in his cloak.
Leaders, please take to heart, Observe…! --