Opposed B-C Pact ‘57- ‘Green Revolution’- ’77 - Indo-SL Pact ‘87
“It is a lack of courage on my part, a lack of intelligence on my part, a lack of foresight on my part” -J R Jayewardene, Executive President of Socialist Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka
Sunday Observer of August 16, 1987, reported a distraught Sri Lankan Head of State, who was seated by the side of Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi at the media briefing that followed the signing of Indo-Lanka pact in 1987, making a confession when answering a journalist who queried, ‘why he had not moved earlier on reaching an agreement with Tamil leadership’.
‘Lessons from the month of July’, Monday’s DM editorial prompted me to reflect on how JR Jayewardene responded to ‘July’. Unfortunately, as the editorial highlights, we have not learnt ‘…dangers of fostering and enhancing differences.’
Green Revolution –July ’77
In a state sponsored ‘Tighten-your-belts’ economy in early 1970s, the privileged enjoyed all the luxuries while the poor masses were searching for eatables in the city’s garbage bins. The closed economy, marred by scarcities and undemocratic postponement of elections, nationalization of plantations, acquisition of private properties of opponents and corporate buildings during the seven years under the United Front, was led by SLFP. (The huge three storey new wing at Galle Road, Colpetty owned by Shaw Wallace and Hedges, where the writer was employed, was taken over in 1976 for the Plantations Ministry by pinning on the gate a 30-day notice of acquisition— How sensible are the men of Good Governance; they even pay Rs 20 to 25 Million as monthly rental for over 16 months for an unoccupied premises) From 1970 to ’75, Marxist LSSP and CP leaders dropped their, ‘revolution round the corner…’ slogan and accepted four key cabinet portfolios including Finance.
Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s SLFP encouraged hostility and division between racial and religious extremists groups causing national fragmentation, a common feature under Bandaranaike governments prior to Chandrika. The 1970-’77 United Front rule dragged the country to devastation without direction or control, a situation similar to the present unity regime.
JR, let down by his Western friends, especially the US, had little option, but to agree. There was no imminent external help, particularly after the Indian Air Force violated air space and dropped ‘Parippu’ in Jaffna
The untimely death of ‘loved-by-all’ Dudley Senanayake occurred during this time, crowning relatively unpopular JR Jayewardene to lead the UNP. The veteran politician had a generation of learned young visionary politicians backed by an abundance of smart men in the public service at his disposal. The conditions that prevailed coupled with the admirable organizational skills of JR helped UNP record a comprehensive electoral victory with five-sixth of the seats under the first-past-the-post at General elections held in July 1977. The results were met with jubilation and hope by the public.
The government’s role in the economy was minimised under a deregulated economy, inviting foreign investments. Gigantic 30-year Mahaweli Diversion Programme was accelerated to six years and it was entrusted to dynamic Gamini Dissanayake. Infrastructure developed and the Free Trade Zones opened, attracting investors and creating jobs for the unemployed youth. The first five years (‘77-’82) saw a speedy economic revival under a stable government led by the political colossus JR. He occupied the Executive Presidency using 5/6 for amending the Constitution. However, as the next national elections approached, fear a psychosis marooned the entire government leadership; popularity of Sirimavo gained momentum in spite of attempted mud-sling campaign. Calling for undated resignation letters; rolling of electoral maps, jailing or withdrawal of civic rights of opposition leaders and, holding referendums in place of general elections, employing thugs and hooligans to thwart demonstrations, depriving Sirimavo of civic rights, splitting the main opposition SLFP and rigging of elections using armed thugs were notable features of the post 1982 Jayewardene rule.
Indo-SL Pact ’87— ‘inviting’ India’s direct Intervention in our affairs
The Rajiv-Jayewardene Accord or more popularly known, Indo-Sri Lanka Pact was perhaps too pushy in its extent and capacity as it expected to address two controversial issues between India and Sri Lanka; strategic interests and Tamil minority rights. The pact marked the commencement of a process which led to the creation of provincial councils. The pact received secondary importance when leaders who opposed the signing of accord assumed power in both countries around the same time. These unpleasant developments marred the understanding of the positive features of the pact which enabled Tamils to gain some recognition regarding their demands in the Constitution
Junius Richard Jayewardene was known as an American sympathizer even during his school days; hence, his leftist anti-American contemporaries [Dr Colvin schoolmate and Dr NM at Ceylon University College] nicknamed him Yankee Dickie, [‘Dickie’ being short form for Richard]. The pact was agreed upon after India arm-twisted President JR to sign it. The Agreement represented a calculated move rather than a diplomatic initiative. JR, let down by his Western friends, especially the US, had little option, but to agree. There was no imminent external help, particularly after the Indian Air Force violated air space and dropped ‘Parippu’ in Jaffna. Indian High Commissioner J N Dixit, warned, ‘Act now’, indicating their intentions to use force if Sri Lanka ignored Indian concerns. Black July 1983, another bungling by Jayewardene, burdened India with some 120000 refugees who fled to Tamil Nadu.
On that fateful day Jayewardene was addressing a protest meeting in Colombo when hundreds of ‘Mahasangha’ invaded the PM’s residence at Rosemead Place compelling the shaky decision maker to abrogate the pact
Hooligans, assisted by sections of the Army and receiving the blessings of a few chauvinistic ministers, engrossed the nation with flames of inferno. Innocent Tamils living in Colombo and other parts suffered while President JR played Nero for four days fearing a military reprisal. His inaction worsened the situation. The killing of 13 soldiers on July 23 in 1983 by LTTE provided the government goons a ‘reason’ to get on killing, arson and looting. Forgetting that the majority of Tamils, both in Jaffna and in the upcountry voted for him a year before, Jayewardene made the following statement during an interview with a British journalist,
“I am not worried about the opinion of the Jaffna people now…we can’t think of them. Not about their lives or their opinions of us... The more you put pressure on the North, the happier the Sinhalese people will be here…”Daily Telegraph-July 11, 1983-
The interview was republished in the Ceylon Observer- on July 17.“It is people, not treaties, which make relations between nations meaningful. Unless India makes a difference in the lives of the people of both countries, its relations with Sri Lanka will not address the broader aspects of strategic security. This is the important takeaway as we look at the Rajiv-Jayewardene Accord.” -Col. R. Hariharan : Head of intelligence-- IPKF 1987- 1990
Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact of July 1957
An accord signed between the Prime Minister, SWRD Bandaranaike and the leader of Federal Party, the main Tamil political entity, SJV Chelvanayakam on July 26, 1957, exactly 60 years ago, is known as B-C Pact. It promoted the establishment of several Regional Councils in the island as a means to giving autonomy to the Tamil people living in the North-East of the country. It was anticipated that it would find solutions to the communal difference present at the time. On the very day, the UNP working committee met and issued a statement condemning the pact as a betrayal of the Sinhalese. Earlier, in 1956 February, at its Annual Sessions at Kelaniya, the UNP adopted an unprincipled ‘Sinhala only official language’ resolution, which the party used as an election promise in 1956. Jayawardene held discussions with extremists groups and well-known racists who broke off with Bandaranaike, to form a common front. [MSS File 317-JRJ Centre carries a paper with his own handwriting, showing that he was in touch with racist, KMP Rajaratne who vowed to wear slippers made out of the skin of the last Tamil in the island, LH Mettananda and Ven Baddegama Wimalawansa- the monk who led the satyagraha at Rosemead Pl.]
Jayewardene fashioned policies, planned strategies and tactics to challenge the pact, ignoring disastrous consequences. On August 3, UNP issued a second communiqué also drafted by him, which said, “a step towards the achievement of an Independent Tamil State,…this pact recognizes the division of the country into two parts, North and East forming one and the rest another”
Young Bandaranaike returning from Oxford in 1920s formed a political party and wrote a six piece article to Ceylon Morning Leader in May/June 1926, professing Federalism for Ceylon. He soon ‘realized’ the political certainties, shed his ideology and religion and formed the ‘Sinhala Maha Sabha’. The rest is history.
The pact was vehemently opposed by sections of the Sinhalese-Buddhist community and the main opposition UNP, which held Protests island wide ending up with a massive walk- Padayatra- from Colombo to Kandy.A reluctant Dudley Senanayake was invited to inaugurate it on the first day, but he didn’t actually participate in it. The march came under attack at Imbulgoda on its third day forcing Jayewardene to return home. Bandaranaike was compelled to abrogate the pact nine months later in April 1958. On that fateful day Jayewardene was addressing a protest meeting in Colombo when hundreds of ‘Mahasangha’ invaded the PM’s residence at Rosemead Place compelling the shaky decision maker to abrogate the pact. The tearing up led to anxiety between the two communities, causing a series of eruptions of racial violence in the country which ultimately led to a 30-year Civil War. Bandaranaike’s subsequent attempts to enact legislation parallel to the pact was met with strong resistance, which ultimately led to his assassination by an extremist monk a year later in 1959. Of all the destructive forces that campaigned against the Pact, UNP’s was the most effective.
It was Tarzie Vittachi, who said, ‘When a government however popular, begins to pander to racial or religious emotionalism merely because it is the loudest of raucous demands made on it, and then meddles in the administration and enforcement of law and order for the benefit of its favourites or to win the plaudits of the crowds, however hysterical it may be, catastrophe is certain ’ –‘Emergency ’58’- Deutsch: Pge 7
Sri Lanka President JR Jayawardene (right) and Indian Premier RAjiv Gandhi sign
the Indo sri Lanka peace Accord
Jayewardene, in 1940s, placed a proposal in Parliament to declare Sinhala only as the official language. A resolution in 1944 specifying that Sinhalese and Tamil would become the languages of instruction in schools, and in courts was approved, but with little progress in implementation. In 1956, Bandaranaike’s pledge to the voter— “Sinhala Only in 24 hours” followed by language-wise standardization by Sirimavo in 1971 and the district quota system in 1972, which had serious impacts on Tamil students contributing to the conflict even though Tamil had been declared an official language in 1987, by the 13th Amendment. The destruction caused by the politics of language remains unsolved.
The first five years (‘77-’82) saw a speedy economic revival under a stable government led by the political colossus JR. He occupied the Executive Presidency using 5/6 for amending the Constitution.
SWRD announced abrogation of the B-C pact at ‘Tintegel’ Rosmead Place to pacify the ‘Buddhist’ clergy and other racists on that fateful evening of April 9, while Jayewardene addressed a rally at Abeysinharamaya, Maradana to welcome the abrogation, described SWRD as a man, “…who was prepared to barter away the rights of the Sinhalese…”,
Prof. Howard Wriggins and Prof. K M de Silva, JR’s Political Biographers say in Vol II –Page-50; that he arrived at ‘Breamar’ Ward Place and made the following endorsement for the day in his diary-
“this is disgraceful conduct on the part of a PM, who has signed an agreement.”
A famous quote says,
‘Hypocrisy is the mother of all evil and racial prejudice is still her favourite child.’