On a day like yesterday (August 25 in 1980), thirty seven years ago, a report was handed over to the Commission to strip former Premier Sirimavo Bandaranaike of her civil rights. It was a dark day for Sri Lanka largely because she was the first woman Prime Minister in the world. She was sworn in as Premier on 21st July 1960.
There were ten charges against Bandaranaike. One of the charges pertained to the 1972 Lands Reform Commission. On 27 February 1980 under section 18 of the Special Presidential Commission, she was issued notice to appear before the Commission. Bandaranaike requested for time to appear before the Commission and this was allowed. The Commission decided to summon her on the 7th May 1980.
Bandaranaike didn’t appear alone. She was accompanied by her two daughters, Chandrika, Sunethra and some stalwarts of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party like Attorney’s at Law H.L de Silva, E.D Wickramanayake, K.Shammugalingam, D.W. Kularatne and Gomin Dayasri.
Appearing on behalf of the State were Deputy Solicitor General Sunil de Silva, Senior State Counsel C.M.N. Bogollagama and State Counsel R. Perera.
Bandaranaike submitted to the Commission seeking permission to make a statement. This was allowed by the Commission. Her statement continued for around 45 minutes. Her first paragraph is reproduced here since it was a long statement. “ I am here before this Commission, since I have been issued notice. This statement is to make my position clear. I am making this statement on behalf of the people of the country and not for the members of the Commission nor the Government” were how the words in the first paragraph of the statement penned.
From the long statement she made, I quote two more paragraphs. This is because even the foreign media, at that time, hailed her for her courage. In the statement she also said, “ With your permission, permit me to say that the constitution of the Commission was to debar me for seven years and strip me of my civil rights so that I would go into oblivion in my Political life. Why is the Government afraid of a normally constituted Court of Law? Sentence me. But, they are finding other Courts to sentence me. Therefore the Government is looking for other legal methods. When the UNP is in power, they find ways and means to do whatever they think. This is political victimisation” The other paragraph quoted here, which formed the conclusion of the statements, was worded as follows, “ I have placed my facts and therefor I will not appear before the Commission from now. I am pleased that you had the patience to hear me and I respect you for that purpose”.
The Commission decided on charges four, six, seven, eight nine and ten using its powers. Thereafter the Commission decided that the former Prime Minister should be stripped of her
There were 25 witnesses listed for the prosecution.
This article hasn’t been penned to probe in to the pros and cons of the issue or highlight any other political issue. But its purpose is to highlight the manner in which a straightforward female politician was treated. She was treated in the worst possible manner.
The present Bullet proof cubicle at the inner shrine room of the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy was built as a result of negotiations between Bandaranaike and a high priest in Japan. The cubicle stood in good stead when LTTE rebels triggered a bomb blast at the temple in 1998. The installation came about during the time when Bandaranaike visited the shrine. This was the time when the Diyawadana Nilame was H.B.Udurawana. The Diyawadana Nilame, being a simple man, suggested that it would be good to have Bullet Proof Cubicle. This is possibly because the Diyawadana Nilame had the foresight that the Temple of Tooth might come under a attack in the future. The Premier was noncommittal and left the Maligawa.
Around two months later, when this writer happened to visit the Diyawadana Nilame at his office, he showed a letter he had received from the Prime Minister’s office. The letter mentioned that a bulletproof cubicle was to be presented to be installed at the inner shrine room of the Maligawa. That was how Prime Minister Bandaranaike worked in her noncommittal way, but with dedication and purpose.
The first person who came forward when the news about the inquiry conducted by the Commission spread was the Mahanayake of the Asgiri Chapter Ven. Palipanne Chandananda along with artiste Vijaya Kumaratuga. This was the first and the last political discussion held inside the historic Asgiri Poyage. The then President J.R Jayewardene was called upon and requested not to proceed with the findings of the Commission. The former president was told of the repercussions the Government would have to face if they went ahead with their decision. But, that President Jayewardene never heeded the advice of the temple authorities.
The first person who came forward when the news about the inquiry conducted by the Commission spread was the Mahanayake of the Asgiri Chapter Ven. Palipanne Chandananda along with artiste Vijaya Kumaratuga
President Jayewardene gazetted the land given to the Asgiriya Temple which was taken over from the Department of Commerce. The land was used afterwards as a training Center for carpenters.
The Mahanayake Thera toed the line of the UNP and was faithul to both D.S.Senanayake and Dudley Senanayake. But in this instance he said that he stood for what was right and in support of a woman who had done so much for the country.
But Mahanayakes are of a complete different breed. They aren’t worried about what the people say. They stand for what’s right. Sometimes they foresee the future, something which our politicians fail to do. Their role goes beyond being draped in a saffron cloured robe. They have shown dedication in educating the public with their Buddhist philosophies. The piece of land came under the custody of Ven. Chandrananda. Jayawardene had to eat his words. The land now houses the auditorium.
The president didn’t realize that the Prince and Princess of Japan, at that time, were going to come to Kandy. It was one of the places the Royal couple would visit during its tour of Sri Lanka. They were also expected to pay homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic. President Jayewardene didn’t realize that the Sacred Tooth Relic was placed within the karanduwa (Casket) and that the keys to the casket were kept at the Asgiri Maha Viharaya. The president was in a quandary, having taken over the land offered to the Asgiriya Maha Viharaya.
President Jayewardene didn’t realize that the Sacred Tooth Relic was placed within the Casket and that the keys to it were kept at the Asgiri Maha Viharaya.
To find solace, he turned to the Government Agent Damunupola - that affable man who was calm as a cucumber. So an assurance was given to President Jayawardene that the programme would continue and the Asgiriya Mahanayake would be present. It was clear that without the monk there would be no exposition of the Sacred Tooth Relic when the Prince and Princess visited the Maligawa.
The day arrived and everything went the way the President wished. Exiting from the Southern entrance of the Maligawa, the president told the Government Agent, “Give back the land. I didn’t expect what they have done for me”.
But, the report of the Commission was handed over and the great stateswoman Bandaranaike was disenfranchised. That date went down in the annals of Sri Lanka’s political history as one of its darkest days.
But Mahanayakes are of a complete different breed. They aren’t worried about what the people say. They stand for what’s right. Sometimes they foresee the future
The reentry of Bandaranaike to politics was due to the efforts of Minister T.B.Illangaratne. However, there have been efforts in the past to give this credit to other politicians. Illangaratne threw his weight behind Bandaranaike at all times. She had always given an ear to Illangaratne. There could have been no nationalization programme of two conglomerate companies like Shell and Caltex ‘ without Bandaranaike. Illangaratne had his own way, even in the midst his loosing everything. His children can look back and say, “this was
Bandaranaike was a woman with human qualities. Very few people realized this trait while she was alive. The repercussions of the 1971 insurrection were a good example as to how many youth were saved. This was due to her rehabilitation programme. No doubt there were allegations of the exessive use of Police during her office. But the end result was Bandaranaiake offering a lifeline to the unguided youth.
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