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50th Anniversary of abortive coup d’etat conspiracy in January 1962

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By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Fifty years ago on Sunday January 28th 1962 the people of the Island nation known then as “Ceylon” were rocked by a special news bulletin in the afternoon on “Radio Ceylon” (Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation)that interrupted regular programming . The shocking announcement repeated ad nauseam by a male voice on Radio stated that a conspiracy to stage a coup d’etat had been foiled.

Politics with Pride ~ Statue of the world’s first woman Prime Minister Srimavo Bandaranaike at the Srimavo Bandaranaike Exhibition Centre in Colombo, Sri Lanka ~ pic by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

Coup d’etat meaning “stroke of state” in French is used to describe the overthrow or deposition of a government or head of state through illegal or unconstitutional means. A coup d’etat generally referred to as a coup is usually undertaken by officer/s of armed forces against the established government.

The Radio announcement said that a group of senior Police and Armed services officers had conspired and plotted to overthrow the democratically elected Government of Prime Minister Mrs. Sirima Bandaranaike on the previous Saturday January 27th 1962.Details of the planned coup had come to light a few hours before the coup was to be enacted the announcement said.

“Radio Ceylon” also revealed that seven Police and Army officers had been arrested in connection with the coup conspiracy and were being interrogated. Their names were Col.Maurice De Mel, Army chief of staff and Commandant of the Volunteer force, Col.FC de Saram , First officer commanding Ceylon Artillery and deputy commandant of the Volunteer force, Lt.Col. Basil Jesudasan, commanding officer, 2nd volunteer Signals of Ceylon Signals corps, CC Dissanayake (Jungle)Deputy Inspector of Police, Range one, Sydney de Zoysa, DIG Police (retd),Lionel Jirasinghe , Assistant Supdt of Police, and Bede Johnpillai, ASP traffic.

The Radio broadcast also said that further inquiries were being conducted and that more persons were expected to be arrested in connection with the aborted coup. ”Radio Ceylon” also assured the people that everything was under control and issued an appeal on behalf of the Govt urging people to be calm.

The Evening newspapers hit the stands with news about the attempted coup and were sold out. Thereafter the morning newspapers came out with more details. News of more people being arrested became known while rumour mills also worked overtime.

Several persons including many Army and Police officers were questioned. Some more persons were arrested. Initially the detained coup suspects were housed in a two-storey building within “Temple Trees” premises. It is said that Mrs. Bandaranaike took a personal interest in their detention conditions ensuring that they had all proper facilities. She even checked on the toilet flushes to see whether they were in working condition.


Finance Minister and Parliamentary secretary (Junior minister) of Defence and External Affairs Felix Dias Bandaranaike was all-powerful then. The Dompe MP who was a kinsman of SWRD Bandaranaike began conducting an “inquisition” of sorts where he questioned each and every coup suspect and recorded their statements. Ultimately it was Felix Dias Bandaranaike’s excessive zeal in playing the grand inquisitor that ultimately worked to the benefit of the coup suspects.

Some of the suspects were released. a few were pardoned on the condition that they turn crown witness. A few were not charged but sent on compulsory leave/retirement. Others numbering around 30 were later housed at Welikade prisons and interrogated further.

In the early days these suspects were kept in solitary confinement in appalling conditions. Excessive heat in the cells,dim lights,bug infested beds, no reading material etc were some of the existing conditions.Gradually some of the harsh measures were relaxed.After being produced in courts the suspects were transferred to “star class” cells at Welikade.

Even though the coup was accepted as fact in public discourse yet in another sense there was really no coup because it never got beyond the conspiracy stage to that of execution. Nevertheless 24 persons were charged in courts. Although an overwhelming number of the accused were military or Police officers the chief accused was a civilian civil servant Douglas Liyanage.

While one of the accused died in custody the other 12 were released in batches of two,three and four at different stages through acquittals due to lack of evidence. There were instances of “nolle prosequi” too where the state was unwilling to prosecute further. After protracted trial the remaining 11 were sentenced to ten years imprisonment and forfeiture of property.However they were later discharged later by an appeal made to the Privy council in Britain.

After two botched earlier attempts to try the coup accused a third attempt proved successful.Finally 24 persons were tried at a Trial-at-Bar held under the provisions of the Criminal Law (Special Provisions) Act, No. 1 of 1962, and the Criminal Law Act, No. 31 of 1962.The defendants, almost all of whom were or had been high-ranking officers of the Armed Services and the Police, were charged upon three counts upon Information filed by the Attorney-General on the 21st November 1962.


The full names of the 24 Defendants charged in courts were:

























The charges set out in the Information were that the defendants, on or about the 27tb January 1962, did, in contravention of section 115 of the Penal Code (as amended by section 6 of Act No. 1 of 1962), conspire ,

(1) to wage war against the Queen,

(2) to overawe by means of criminal force or the show of criminal force the Government of Ceylon,

(3) to overthrow otherwise than by lawful means the Government of Ceylon by law established.

The charges set out in the Information were as follows:

(1) On or about the 27th of January, 1962, at Colombo, Kalutara, Ambalangoda, Galle, Matara, and other places, within the jurisdiction of this Court, the defendants above named with others did conspire to wage war against the Queen and did thereby commit an offence punishable under Section 115 of the Penal Code.

(2) At the time and the places aforesaid and in the course of the same transaction the defendants abovenamed with others did conspire to overawe by means of criminal force or the show of criminal force the Government of Ceylon and did thereby commit an offence punishable under Section 115 of the Penal Code.

(3) At the time and the places aforesaid and in the course of the same transaction the defendants abovenamed with others did conspire to over throw otherwise than by lawful means the Government of Ceylon by law established and did thereby commit an offence punishable under Section 115 of the Penal Code.

As the coup case unfolded an excited public was regaled with more and more news of the coup by the vibrant media which existed then. The “koo”as ordinary people referred to it became a widely discussed topic throughout the length and breadth of the country.

Through various news items in the media the people came to know of matters relating to the attempted coup d’etat in bits and pieces.


The conspiracy had been elaborately planned and was to be a “gentleman’s coup” without bloodshed. It was to be a swift, surgical strike and the mission was expected to be accomplished within a few hours from midnight on Saturday January 27th 1962.

The then Army commander Maj-Gen Winston Gerard Wijeykoon, Acting Navy captain (commander) Commodore Rajan Kadirgamar, Air Force chief, Air commodore John F Barker and Inspector-General of Police MWF Abeykoon were entirely in the dark about this proposed coupd’etat.

The codename for the coup was “Operation Holdfast”.Holdfast is the military codename referring to Army engineers. The idea was to seize strategic positions and installations in a “blitzkrieg”, cordon off Colombo, prevent re-inforcements coming in from the Army cantonment at Panagoda, detain the prime minister, senior ministers, key officials, leftist leaders and get Mrs. Bandaranaike to announce a “voluntary” transfer of power.

Troops and officers from the 3rd Field Regiment, 2nd Volunteer Anti-aircraft Regiment of the Ceylon Artillery , 2nd (V) Field/Plant Regiment,Ceylon Engineers,2nd Volunteer Signals Regiment, Ceylon Signals corps and Armoured cars of the Sabre troop of the Ceylon Armoured Corps were to be utilised for the coup with elements from the Police.Sections of the Navy too were expected to assist.

The coup blueprint was roughly something like this. At 10.00 pm on Jan 27th senior DIG Police “Jungle” Dissanayake was to issue a “Take post” order to his men. Immediately ASP Johnpillai in charge of traffic was to clear all main roads and strategically important highways of traffic. This was to be accomplished in 30 minutes.

The clearing of traffic in roads was to facilitate the smooth, swift, unhindered progress of military convoys and columns along roads towards their target destinations. This deployment was to be under the personal supervision of FC de Saram and Maurice de Mel.It was to begin at 11.00 pm on Saturday (27th) and cease at 1.00 am on Sunday (28th).


According to “Operation Holdfast” plans the Prime minister was to be placed under house arrest. Senior cabinet ministers including Finance minister Felix R Dias Bandaranaike and important government officials including Defence and External Affairs secretary NQ Dias were to be arrested and taken to Army headquarters.

Others to be taken to Army headquarters were the DIG-CID SA Dissanayake (jingle) who was a brother of CC Dissanayake (Jungle) and acting Navy chief Rajan Kadirgamar.The SP-CID John Attygalle was also to be taken to Army headquarters. Incidently both SA Dissanayake and Attygalle were to become future IGP’s.

Those taken to Army headquarters were to be detained in an underground bunker at the armoury. They were to be held incommunicado for a certain period of time.

Other cabinet ministers, and important officials were to be placed under virtual house arrest. These included the IGP, Air Force chief and Army commander. Their movement was to be restricted to their homes alone.

In another facet of “Operation Holdfast” a number of Government members of Parliament and leftist MP’s of the opposition were to be detained en masse at the “Sravasti” MP’s hostel. These included all LSSP, MEP and CP members. Some were to be placed under house arrest in their own homes in Colombo.

A crucial part of “Operation Holdfast” was the seizure of Colombo city and cordoning it off. This was deemed to be of vital importance as a potential counter-strike by officers and troops loyal to the government was feared. It was necessary therefore to prevent soldiers stationed at the Panagoda cantonment from entering Colombo until the transfer of power was completed.

Army personnel with armoured cars were to be stationed at the two Kelani river bridges, the Wellawatte-Dehiwela bridge and the Kirillapone bridge. In addition military personnel with radio equipment would be stationed at key locations in suburban Colombo.Soldiers with vehicles were to be positioned in strategic junctions within Colombo city also.

At midnight Police cars equipped with radio and loudspeakers were to go around Colombo and outskirts announcing a 24 hour curfew. People were to be warned to remain indoors and that anyone seen outside would be shot on sight.


While these announcements would be going on, key installations would be taken over in a rapid “blitzkrieg” like manouevre. The Central Telephone and Telegraph exchanges would be taken over and all tele-communication suspended until further notice.

The Police headquarters and Criminal Investigations department (CID) offices in Fort were to be taken over shortly after midnight. The newspaper offices of Lake House and Times of Ceylon were also to be taken over and newspapers were to cease publication for a few days.

There was no Television in Sri Lanka those days and the most important communications institution was “Radio Ceylon”. Fully armed Signals corps despatch riders on motor cycles were to be positioned from 11 pm on Nov 27th at Torrington (Independence) square. At H-hour when the password “holdfast” is given these troopers were to storm “Radio Ceylon” and take it over.

In anticipation of the coup the conspirators in the Army sappers had on Thursday Jan 25th laid out a special telephone line from the Army headquarters at Lower lake rd to the Army barracks in Echelon square in Fort. This secure line was to be used for urgent intra-army communication.

“Col” Maurice de Mel was to be at Army headquarters co-ordinating matters. FC de Saram was to position himself at the Prime Minister’s official residence “Temple Trees” at the earliest and direct operations from there. The password there was to be “British Grenadier”. This was the title of the Artillery regiment’s marching tune.

CC “Jungle” Dissanayake was to be at “Queens House” (Presidents House) in Fort and direct operations from there until Police headquarters was taken over. Queens House was the official residence of then Governor-General Sir Oliver Goonetilleke who was later implicated in the abortive coup.

“Jungle” was to commence “coup” operations from 11.00 pm on Jan 27th. The password for “Queens House” operations was the name of an IGP during British times-”Dowbiggin”. Once the coup was accomplished the leaders were to meet at “Queens House” and request: Governor-General Sir Oliver Gonetilleke to dissolve Parliament and take direct authority.

The coup conspirators did not seem to have plans of retaining power for themselves after acquiring it. At least that is what it seemed at that time.The simplistic plan was to dissolve Parliament and establish direct rule under the Governor-General Sir Oliver.

He was to be assisted by a “ Regency Council” in which former Prime Ministers Dudley Senanayake and Sir John Kotelawela were to be members of. Even Wijayananda Dahanayake and Sirima Bandaranaike being ex-premiers were to be invited to join this council. After a reasonable period of time fresh elections were to be called and an elected government installed.

It was stated later that three phases were envisaged. The first phase after the coup would be a military dictatorship. The second phase would be “indirect democracy” where a council including ex-prime minsters would assist the Governor-General in ruling. The third phase was elections to Parliament after promulgating a new constitution ensuring justice and equality to all races and religions.


The inspiration for the coup planners was Pakistan. Gen. Muhammed Ayub Khan had seized power on October 27th 1958 in Pakistan in what was described as a “bloodless” coup. Interestingly Ayub Khan deposed Pakistan’s president Iskandar Mirza, who had been Ayub Khan’s mentor and benefactor.

Mirza as Defence secretary was responsible for getting Ayub Khan appointed as Army commander on Jan 17th 1951. Mirza bent the rules to make Ayub Khan the first native Pakistany army chief by superseding two of his seniors Generals Akbar Khan and Raza.

Mirza went on to become governor-general and later President when Pakistan became a republic on March 23rd 1956.On October 7th 1958 Mirza declared martial law and appointed his protege’ Ayub Khan as chief martial law administrator. The army chief had only three months more before mandatory retirement.

Though trusted by Mirza, the Pakistani general staged a coup within three weeks of assuming tremendous power as martial law administrator.He sent three generals at midnight to arrest his patron Mirza and then “exiled” the deposed president to England. Ayub Khan became president.

Interestingly there were many who welcomed the coup in Pakistan then thinking a stable political climate would prevail. Ayub Khan entrenched himself in power by holding an unusual type of referendum in 1960.

Over 80,000 recently lected local authority members were asked to vote “yes” or “no” to the question “Have you confidence in the President, Field Marshall Ayub Khan”? With 95.6% voting yes the military dictator introduced a new Constitution for Pakistan.

Ayub Khan’s coup was the inspiration and model for the coup conspirators in Ceylon as Sri Lanka was known then. It is noteworthy that none of the three defence service chiefs or Police chief were involved in the coup. Most of the officers involved were of senior rank.


The coup was described joucularly by the colourful ex-prime minister of Ceylon Sir John Kotelawela as a “Buddhist” coup. Sir John who had himself served in the Army during british rule called it Buddhist as the planners were obsessed by the idea that not a “drop of blood should be shed”.

Ironically most of those involved in the attempted coup were not Buddhists but Christians. Except for a few the overwhelming majority of those charged in courts were Christians both Protestant and Catholic drawn from Sinhala, Tamil and Burgher and even Chinese communities.

Several reasons could be attributed for this attempted coup but the premier cause was a state of mind which believed the ruling politicians were ruining the country through maladministration. The world’s first woman prime minister Mrs. Bandaranaike was regarded by the coup conspirators as someone unfit to govern and therefore had to be replaced in the larger interests of the country.The country was deteriorating due to bad governance.

Another argument adduced by the Defence was that of a danger of dictatorship being foisted upon the country and that the accused persons were only trying to prevent it by preemptive action.It was alleged openly in court that Felix Dias Bandaranaike wanted to impose totalitarian rule.

This suspicious belief and hostile mood was prevalent among most of the accused in the attempted coup case. The prevailing situation in the country has to be understood in the proper context in order to comprehend the thoughts and motives of the alleged coup conspirators.

The prevalent atmosphere is best illustrated by the observations made by the learned judges who delivered the verdict in the coup case. The following relevant extracts from the judgement delivered by Chief Justice MC Sansoni and Justices HNG Fernando and LB de Silva on April 6th 1965 in the Queen vs Liyanage case are reproduced below –

“The evidence concerning the alleged conspiracy cannot be adequately understood except in the background of events which had occurred in the country during a period of about one year preceding 27th January, 19S2. Some reference to those events is necessary at this stage.


From about February 1961 there had been in the Northern and Eastern Provinces a movement styled ” Satyagraha ” designed to manifest the opposition by the Tamil-speaking people to the Government’s Language Policy. In consequence it was necessary to station Army Units in areas where the movement was being pursued, and a particularly strong Army detachment was stationed in the Jaffna District. After some weeks a State of Emergency was declared, under the Public Security Act, and a number of Tamil leaders were detained in pursuance of the Emergency Regulations on the grounds of security.

The Satyagraha virtually ended soon after these detentions. But the leaders were kept in custody for some further time. Even after their release in the latter half of 1962, however, the declaration of Emergency was continued and was still in force in January 1963. It was the position for the defence at this Trial, that although Emergency Regulations were no longer necessary after the abatement of the Satyagraha situation, the declaration of Emergency was continued because the Government was under stress owing to difficult economic and labour conditions.

One advantage which the Government enjoyed during a State of Emergency was that the Volunteer sections of the Armed Services could remain mobilised and thus expeditiously available for use in strike situations and in the event of civil disturbance. A special device utilised for the first time in 1961 was to place Volunteer Units on compulsory leave without pay. While expenditure was thus saved, the Units remained mobilised and -could be recalled to duty without the delays involved in a new mobilization.

In October 1961, Mr. Bandaranaike, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of External Affairs, gave an order to the heads of the Armed Services and the Police to prepare an ” appreciation ” as to the measures necessary to deal with a situation envisaged in data supplied by Mr. Bandaranaike. Among the matters contemplated in the data supplied, was the possibility of a series of strikes in essential undertakings and of Civil disturbance arising from incitement by Leftist and Trade Union Leaders. This order certainly shows that the Government contemplated the utilisation of the Armed Services during contemplated strikes and disturbances.

There was at this stage much agitation for the implementation of two reports affecting wages and conditions of work. One was the P. O. Fernando Committee report concerning Port labour, and the other the Wilmot Perera Report concerning the Public Service. The Government’s position was that the financial conditions precluded the possibility of implementing these reports, and it was feared that the failure to implement them would give rise to discontent and possible disturbance.


About the middle of November 1961 there was a Harbour strike which involved a very large number of Port workers in Colombo.In early December there was a strike of brief duration at some depots of the Ceylon Transport Board. On or about 15th December 1961 Port workers were once again called out on strike, and they continued to be out on strike until after the events of January 1962. In anticipation of this strike and perhaps of probable subsequent strikes, the compulsory leave of the Ceylon Volunteer Force was cancelled on 12th December, and the Volunteer Units quickly reassembled for active service.

There were further in December a strike of cinema workers, of Gas Company employees and of Bank employees. There was also a strike of employees of the Standard Oil Company, and the threat of sympathy strikes in the other Oil Companies. On the 30th December Trade Union leaders announced an Island-wide token General Strike for the 5th January 1962 in support of demands inter alia for an immediate settlement of the Port Strike and for the implementation of the two reports earlier mentioned.

On 4th January 1962, there was a suspicion of sabotage on the part of some Technicians of Radio Ceylon, eight of whom were taken into custody and detention. On 5th January there was a token General Strike affecting workers in the Public Service as well as the workers in the private and public sectors of transport, industry and commerce.

In addition to the difficult if not chaotic conditions arising out of these strikes, information available through security channels to the Police and the Army was that an island-wide General Strike, accompanied probably by violence, could be expected towards the end of January 1962. The authorities responsible for security and for the maintenance of essential services in an Emergency were actively preparing to meet the thus contemplated situation. A number of what were termed Operational Orders were prepared to be carried out by different branches of the Armed Services and the Police for the maintenance of essential services and supplies.

That a critical state of affairs was imminent, if not already existing, is obvious. The Army had to be engaged in shifting food cargoes and on picket duties. A censorship was introduced on Press publications of information concerning the strike situation. The Shipping Conferences had imposed a surcharge on freight rates consequent on cargo vessels being inordinately delayed outside the port of Colombo. Trade Unions were restive at the failure of the Government to consider their demands and at the use of the Armed Services for work in the Port.


On 13th December 1961 Dr. N. M. Perera, a prominent Opposition and Trade Union leader, in a speech in Parliament accused Mr. Felix Dias Bandaranaike of making arrangements with the Army and Navy to rule the country and to arrest even members on the Government side.

On 9th January 1962 Mr. Pieter Keuneman, a Communist leader, warned the country that a situation was developing to create the basis for permanent Military rule in the country.

On 12th January 1962 another Opposition leader Dr. W. Dahanayake suggested in Parliament that somebody in the Government was preparing to set up a Military Dictatorship. Similar accusations were made in other public speeches.

There was unfortunately a hook on which to hang these allegations. Mr. Felix Dias Bandaranaike had at a meeting some time earlier in reference to conditions in Russia, stated that a little bit of Totalitarianism might be of benefit to Ceylon.

There is some evidence that in Army circles in Ceylon during this period suggestions were in fact being made that one solution of the current difficulties might be some form of arbitrary rule in which the Armed Services would be associated.

The defence position at this Trial had been that Mr. Bandaranaike did in fact intend to set up a Military dictatorship. We do not at this stage propose to consider whether this allegation is true.

What is important in the present context is that conditions existing and contemplated in January 1962, including the imposition of censorship, the full mobilization of the Services on security and civil duties, and the public concern, were such as in other countries had in fact given rise to attempts, whether successful or not, to overthrow democratically elected Governments and to establish some form of unconstitutional rule”.


DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at djeyaraj2005@yahoo.com

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  1. I am a retd sgt in army.I was in army when coup took place in 1962. We soldiers were all full of sympathy for officers who did it.I always saluted officers rersponsible when I saw them in later life

  2. I was 19 years in 1962. My uncles in Police were questioned but not arrested. I must say my family and relations fully supported the coup. We prayed for arrested people in St. Anthonys Church

  3. .
    Very interesting……

    Srilanka’s first Terrorist was a Buddhist Monk.

    The first coup is called ‘Buddhist Coup’.

    No wonder, now I know where we got ideas from……..


  4. I feel sad as I read this fine article by DBS.I wish coup succeeded. History of country will have been very different and prosparous

  5. Thank you for this great article DBS. You’ve taken pains to research this I can see. Hope you’ll write more details later

  6. What a fantastic peice of writing, Mr DBSJ! Thank you for writing about a very significant moment in Sri LAnkan hisorty (despite being foiled).
    ‘… a danger of dictatorship being foisted upon the country and that the accused persons were only trying to prevent it by preemptive action.’
    Who knows, if the coup had succeeded, the country might’ve had a better history since

  7. Excellent article Mr.Jeyaraj. You have taken me back 50 years. Some of those involved were known to me.They are no more God bless their souls

  8. dont write things like a fool. It was a coup by the catholics and christians. your prabakaran was also a catholic. but, we this has nothing to do with the religon. well done mr jeyaraj the historian.

  9. A Coup De’ tat is pass due right now.
    but with a lapdog like current Army Commander( does he command any respect from the soldiers is a different matter) such eventuality is unlikely.!!!
    But with ample supply of SF units ( disbanded or in service) with full knowledgeable officers retired or in-service, I can not rule out such a thing can take place.
    Boy! if that happens , I would be very happy man! Such is the state of affairs as of now!!!!

    The Anonymous ( so annoyed by state of affairs, Hippocratic, full of falsehood and rhetoric, regime!!!)

  10. Idiot! Not a single Hindu/Buddhist involved in this coup. Killers of SWRD became Catholics before die.

    That same “Catholic/Christian” gangs still continue their work against Sri Lanka even today. Mentors and managers of LTTE are from Catholic Church.

    Not a single UNP politico was involved?

  11. We see the same forces are still working against Sri lanka. They are not for the benefit of the people of Sri Lanka but for the benefit of the WHITES. JVP and LTTE were the latest!

  12. aratai
    It wasn’t a Buddhist Coup.
    The coup was described joucularly by Sir John as the planners were obsessed by the idea that not a “drop of blood should be shed”.
    As a matter of fact it was a Protestant Christian Coup.,
    so much so after this Coup the Govt. of Ceylon for next 30years was very particular in recruitment in the Army, made an unofficial policy of recruiting Sinhala Buddhists. Further promoted this by erecting Buddhist Temples /Dagaba/Chaitya etc. in all major military camps.
    I have heard those Protestants/ Anglicans were hurt because they felt ,they would be marginalized if west minister democracy to prevail, with no any chance for minority Protestants /Anglicans to run GOC/GOSL or influence it’s decision making, which they enjoyed for centuries in colonial Ceylon & another decade after independence in 1948.

  13. The defence position at this Trial had been that Mr. Bandaranaike did in fact intend to set up a Military dictatorship.


    Hmmm…. I was not born then. No one up to now ever told me about this either.

    The above words by DBSJ brings to my mind the film ‘Sagarayak meda’ gives the background of 1971 youth up rising and about the character of FDB. I think it was produced by Gamini Fonseka and he played the role of FDB.

    The film portrayed him to be a dictator of sort.

    However the spirit of FDB yet to depart from our inner circle of ruling authorities. For years we were under totalitarian rule.


    Please be careful about what you write.

    The above passage you cite was NOT written by me as you say.

    It is EXCERPTED from the Judgement delivered by Chief Justice MC sansoni and justices HNG Fernando and LW de Silva.

    Please DONT attribute these WORDS to DBS

  14. aratai says:
    January 27, 2012 at 6:55 pm
    Very interesting……

    Srilanka’s first Terrorist was a Buddhist Monk.

    The first coup is called ‘Buddhist Coup’.






  15. KOO says:
    January 27, 2012 at 6:55 pm
    I wish coup succeeded. History of country will have been very different and prosparous
    It is sure if the coup materialised histry of the country very different but not leads to prosparous. Only 2 percent of cristians would taken powar of the country.


  16. We prayed for arrested people in St. Anthonys Church

    Would you then describe the coup as Christian-inspired?

  17. Actually KOO, the failed coup attempt led to the purging and “Buddhistisation” of the military, along with a paranoia among the Sinhala Buddhists that non-Buddhists cannot be trusted (although there were a smattering of Buddhists involved in the coup). The SLFP’s Sinhala nationalist programme became further entrenched.

    In other words, the coup attempt helped pave the trajectory of the later violence and bloodshed. Congratulations!

  18. It is said that Mrs. Bandaranaike took a personal interest in their detention conditions ensuring that they had all proper facilities. She even checked on the toilet flushes to see whether they were in working condition.

    In the early days these suspects were kept in solitary confinement in appalling conditions. Excessive heat in the cells,dim lights,bug infested beds, no reading material etc were some of the existing conditions



    Hennadige Francisco Fernando alias Puran Appu

    There is no contradiction here.

    Initially some of the arrested (not all) were kept at a 2 storey bldg within “Temple Trees” where Felix questioned them

    Then they were all kept at Welikade in solitary confinement in appalling conditions while further interrogation took place. After being produced in courts they were transferred to “star Class” section of Welikade where conditions were much better

    I think you should have consulted Gongalegoda Banda before commenting

  19. Interesting article. The plotter may claim that they were trying to prevent a dictatorship by the coup, but a dictatorship is a dictatorship – no matter how good the intentions were originally. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and that has been proven time and time again all over the world. So even the passage of time may have cooled off the passions or emotions, I still have no sympathy for the plotters.

    What is interesting is that in any other county, the plotters would have been tortured and then summarily executed. That did not happen. They all received fair trials and most of them managed to go back to “normal” life afterwords. That speaks volumes about the strength of the parliamentary system that was in existence then. A bit of that strength is still in Sri Lankan society. Most LTTE carders are gradually being released just two years after the end of the war. Compare that to US where they are holding prisoners, without any legal justifications, for 10 years now.

  20. Very well written Jeyaraj

    Please write more about this important historic event which the present generation knows nothing about

  21. Quote – ” The inspiration… was Pakistan. Gen. Muhammed Ayub Khan…as in Pakistan… as a “bloodless” coup.
    Ayub Khan deposed Pakistans President, who had been Ayub Khan’s mentor and benefactor.

    Defence secretary was responsible for getting Ayub Khan appointed as Army commander…. bent the rules to make Ayub Khan, army chief by superseding two of his seniors Generals.
    The army chief had only three months more before mandatory retirement.

    Interestingly there were many who welcomed the coup in Pakistan then thinking a stable political climate would prevail.”

    Looks very similar to General Sarath Fonseka…….

    If this so-called “coup” has succeeded….
    Sri Lanka would be like Pakistan today….a miserable nation…

  22. Couple of my relatives were involved in coup. Sadly what they feared and wanted to prevent has taken place. The Armed forces were purged of Christians and Buddhists predominated recruitment.Merit gave way to excessive politicisation

  23. Is there any connection to Former IGP Late Rudra Rajasingham here. I understand that he was also questioned but in which capacity I don’t know. Also is it IGP Late Stanley Senanayake is the whistle blower isn’t it?

  24. Just from your last word of the article -‘unconstitutional rule’
    What happening now in Srilanka is ‘unconstitutional rule ‘
    dictatorship GOSL still not implementing the 13th amendment
    of the constitution and continuing ‘unconstitutional rule’ .

    So when people democraticaly overthrow this Anti-constitutional



    “The prevalent atmosphere is best illustrated by the observations made by the learned judges who delivered the verdict in the coup case. The following relevant extracts from the judgement delivered by Chief Justice MC Sansoni and Justices HNG Fernando and LB de Silva on April 6th 1965 in the Queen vs Liyanage case are reproduced below –……………….

  25. To the anti-hristian fanatics who comment on this blog

    Dont forget that SA Dissanayake (Jingle) and John Attygalle and Tyrell Goonetilleke of Police who did their best to investigate the coup and Felix Bandaranaike and Justice minister Sam PC Fernando and many of the Judges and AG dept lawyers involved in case were Christians too

  26. It could be, Srilanka justice system famous for delivering injustice to lot of Tamils and still many youths in the prison .Sri lankans judges illegal judgement even canceled the constitutional amendment of the northeast merge.

  27. My dad was in the army (RSM) He’s told me quite a few thigs about 62 coup. But this article is brilliant.Hope its goig to be a series

  28. The saddest part is that your relatives’ actions had directly contributed to the present situation by driving the purge of the armed forces. If there had been no coup plot, the armed forces would not have been purged.

  29. “Most LTTE carders are gradually being released just two years after the end of the war. Compare that to US where they are holding prisoners, without any legal justifications for 10 years now”

    1. First of all how many of them are LTTE cardres? Any one who had anything to do with LTTE in the Vanni was assumed as LTTE cardres. That includes people who survived as labourers for LTTE. LTTE was adminsitering vanni for nearly 10years or so, as such people had to survive doing any kind of work available.

    2. It is a well known fact that a lot of INNOCENT TAMILS are in prisons for AGES without any charges. Not only that the their kith and kin does not even know whether they are dead or alive. (Your comparison to US is meaningless)

    3. The present government has lost all credibility in the eyes of not only Tamils, but anyone with any independent thinking. (Unfortunately most sinhalese are brain washed by unscrupulous politicians with the “Sinhala Budhist Mantra” as if Budhism belongs to Sinhalese only and that they have to safeguard sinhala Budhism at any cost, even at the cost of killing innocent lives).

  30. Accept your defense. Sorry for the slip.

    The above words were the defence position at that trial not DBSJ’s.

    It is not a “Defense”. I am not defending anythimg.Only stating a fact………….DBSJ

  31. Stanley Senanayake – later promoted to be IGP – was part of the alleged conspiracy until he chose to become the whistle-blower. He was the Son-in-Law of the late P..de S. Kularatne, the famed Ananda Principal. It is said it was PdeSK who passed on the information to Mrs B. So it is left to the reader to figure out if it was a Buddhist or Christian/Catholic Coup.

    The fact is there was a fear in those times when there were many violent changes in the post-Colonial world in the height of the cold war, the Govt may fall into the hands of left-wingers and/or the young and ambitious Felix Dias. This is underlined by the fact FCdeSaram is reported to have said Mrs B should be sent to the safety of England and that her children should be educated there at State expense. FCdeS (the Colonel) was a close relative of the Bandaranaikes.


  32. Appoi Jeyaraj

    Hari shok aney me Article,

    My uncle who was in army those days read it and praised it like anything.Some of my friends also telling that DBS writes history like interesting story.

    aau aau Jeyaraj, collars up aah!

    Aiyo how do you get all this facts about coup aney? you must have been small boy then no? Tell will you, Tell aney.How aah?


    Thank you Nelum. Please thank your uncle and friends aney on my behalf.

    You are right aney, I was seven going on eight then in 1962 January Nelum

    Aiyo Nelum,Cant tell how the facts were gathered no Kella?

    Understand will you Aney?

  33. One of my uncles Willy was arrested in tyhe coup. He died in custody. He was an innocent man. Richard Udugama hated him and took revenge on him

  34. I am 80 years old now.I was in the army those days. Me and my army pals were all supportive of our officers.If they succeeded country would have been a better place.Now it has gone to the dogs. Army is now a damned disgrace

  35. One of my close relatives was a suspect. He was found guilty but discharged due to Privy council verdict

    That is why they abolished appeals to privy counil. Now look at the Justice system existing?

  36. Very interesting article Mr.DBS Jeyaraj. I enjoyed reading it but I will really enjoy an article by you about my living God honorable Douglas Devananda. If Lord Devananda plans a coup it will be a success because he is such a great military genius.

  37. Excellent article Jeyaraj annan. I learned about coup 1962 through this only. I am waiting to read rest.

    Also Annan, Have you stopped writing about Tamil Tigress writer Niromi? I read that also with lots of interest


    Thank you. No its not stopped.
    “True Take of a Tamil Tigress” will be resumed after the coup 1962 articles are concluded

  38. Probably Sri Lanka would have been far better off than what it used to be later, if this Coup succeeded. “Gentlemen Coup” teaches us many lessons as to how people of extremely opposed opinions planned such an action have acted responsibly about human lives.

    If the same happened in SF’s era in post Jan 2010, we could have seen how newly empowered idiots run a mock killing people at random.

  39. Wilfred

    My dear old chap

    You say:
    “If they succeeded country would have been a better place”

    Please give me an example where under a millitary junta that country has prospered.

    Now look at the country it is an elected dictatorship yet the country has already gone to dogs.

    What a dreamer you are. If you are not satisfied with the current arrangement then the people must take the initiative to unite and change the structural defect in the governance of the island.

    Look at Pakistan, Sri Lankas favourite friend in South Asia. Where has it gone with military coup after military coup and a feudal society relying on religion, Kashmir, and military to unify it masses?

    Sri Lanka is a feudal society very primitive in its outlook yet yearning to develop as par with other developed nations.

    Dominated by safron clad politicians, double speak left, politicians pandering to monks and thugs, power crazy armed forces, the Sri Lankan society will neve shed its feudal mentality.

    There is no substitute for democracy. You should be crazy to aspire to be ruled by a junta.

  40. Dear Mr. Jeyaraj,

    Thanks very much for your article.
    My dear late Dad was one of the 24 defendents and I was 15 years old at the time.
    I clearly remember the unfolding drama from the time of his arrest from our rented home at Manning Place to his eventual release and compulsary retirement.

    Of course we had no clue as to what was going on.

    What more can I say except “cheers” Mr.Jeyaraj for your article and that it was deadly serious and no joke at the time.


    Thank you for commenting.

    To strike a personal note-

    your mother was my music/singing teacher at St.Thomas’prep.One of your brothers was also studying there then.Also my father was a contemporary of your father at St.Johns,Jaffna. My interest in the coup 1962 at the age of 7/8 was initially sparked off by this.

  41. Re. Mr Jebanesan’s comment and observations made by some readers, in good faith, there can never be a Good Coup, please permit me to suggest there can always be a first time in anything. In addition to the Coup by General Pinochet that, in a way, saved Chile from going extreme left is our own parallel of 1988/89 where the army saved us from a mis-adventure probably worse than what the LTTE came out with. There were excesses from the army in both cases. Chile today is one of the most prosperous and stable countries in Latin America where even countries with vast natural resources – like Colombia – sufffer serious social unrest in their countries.

    If those who had known the more senior and genial Douglas Liyanage, Jeff Felix and Basil Jesudason will be left with the impression these quality gentlemen were not capable of harming anybody. In Mr Jebanesan’s comments he talks of the politeness of the men who came to arrest him. That was the quality of men in uniform then – Officers and Gentlemen to the core. Look at the quality we have today. In Haiti the whole country was ashamed when a large of our men sent there for peace-keeping – were found guilty of serial rape. This is the quality of officers the then Defence Secretary, his colleagues and superiors created to the exclusion of some races/religions. Certainly, waging war against the State is not one to be applauded during normal times. Though they were Christians/Catholics they too loved the country no less and may have formulated their own ways of defending it. Also, let us give the law its due. They were merely accused but not found guilty. Felix Dias’s machinations were fully exposed. So let us give them the benefit of the doubt.


  42. My father was the 16th defendant and your story allowed me to re-visit a rather dark period in my childhood my being 9 years at the time. With the advantage of age and maturity, I am able to have a better understanding of this period of Sri Lankan history. Obviously things were so much different at that time, we could spend hours debating whether our parents generation or ours did or is doing the right thing. In a sense, this is what history is supposed to reveal – a true and unbiased assessment of events vis-a-vis the existing status and morality of the time. Your story helped trigger off a flood of memories – mostly sad but with a few beautiful examples of family and friends standing together tall and proud to overcome setbacks. I’m sure that the impacts have left scars on all the family members of those who participated in the 1962 Coup and my only hope is that the story of the impact on the families is written soon before our generation also passes on. Once again thanks for the wonderful story and keep on writing….

    Thank you.I will be writing…………DBSJ

  43. Thanks for your personal note remembering your days at Prep.School and our fathers schooling at St.Johns together.

    Just continue your good writing and I will continue reading what you write.

    Thank you.I intend continuing with the coup 1962 series this week………..DBSJ

  44. Maybe mahinda was thinking of this coup when he kicked fonseka upstairs into a ceremonial job with no powers.The main purpose was to see that he had no more direct contact with the army officers and men.Adding fuel to the fire was manmohan telephoning him and telling he had heard about a coup.RAW would have told him to tell that because of fonseka’s close connections to pakistan.

    Once a coup,always a coup they say.Who can blame mahinda.Uneasy lies the head with the crown.

  45. Dear Mr. Jeyaraj,

    On a positive note I am glad I came to know who you are and I will be reading all of your articles.

    Hope to share a drink with you one day.

    Thanks again.


    Thank you for commenting.I have made some changes to your earlier comments instead of deleting them completely as requested.I have edited this one too.I think these should be all right

    You are most welcome to comment as articles on coup conspiracy 1962 appear whenever you feel like it

    As for us meeting, who knows the hour may be close at hand

    Best Regards and wishes

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