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“Operation Holdfast”: Contours of a Coup Conspiracy

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By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

50th Anniversary of Attempted 1962 Coup D’etat – 2

“Operation Holdfast” was the codename given by a group of conspirators to a plot devised to overthrow the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Government headed by the world’s first woman Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike through a bloodless coup d’etat in January 1962.

Sirima Bandaranaike

“Operation Holdfast” was not implemented as planned because the chief architects of the conspiracy called it off at the eleventh hour due to some details of the plan becoming known to the Govt a few hours before the envisaged H-hour.Incidently “holdfast” is the code signal for the Engineering corps within the army.

Fearing that such premature revelation of the conspiracy could result in unanticipated bloodshed the top five “masterminds” who drew up “Operation Holdfast” took a vote among themselves and decided 3-2 to abandon the project just a few hours before it was to be activated.

Even though the chief conspirators called “operation Holdfast”off and the coup d’etat plan was never put into action, the Govt of the day cracked down hard. This was to be expected as no democratically elected Govt could ignore this type of challenge to its legitimate authority.

A number of persons were arrested or questioned. Most of them were from the Armed Forces or Police. Some were sent on compulsory leave. A few were retired compulsorily.Ultimately 24 persons were charged in courts for the attempted coup of 1962.

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



Among those charged thirteen were from the Army comprising Colonels,Lt.Colonels,Majors and Captains; seven were from the Police including a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police, a serving Police DIG, Superintendents and Asst. Superintentendents of Police;one “suspended” Navy commander undergoing disciplinary inquiry;one high –ranking civil servant and two planters.

Of the Twenty-four persons charged thirteen were Sinhala , Seven Tamil,two Burgher, one Eurasian and one Chinese in terms of ethnicity. There were no Muslims or Malays.Religion –wise Twenty-one were Christians both Catholic and Protestant.Only Three were Buddhists.There were no adherents of the Hindu or Islamic faith.

It is of utmost importance to note at this juncture that this list of names figuring in the indictment does not reflect the true picture of what actually happened then. In the first place, two other Army officers not included in this list were charged separately at another trial at bar. They were Col.Terry Abeysinghe and Lt.Col Hugh de Alwis.Later both were discharged after the Attorney –General’s dept filed a “nolle Prosequi” in the wake of the Privy ouncil verdict in Queen vs Liyanage

More importantly twelve of those indicted in the list of 24 names were Acquitted and released during the course of the trial in four batches of four, three, three and two at different times for lack of a prima facie case against them.. One died in prison while the trial was in progress. The remaining eleven were convicted but discharged and released later after the Privy Council in Britain upheld their appeal.

It transpired during the trial that not all of those charged were complicit fully in the conspiracy. Some had knowledge of a proposed coup d’etat but were not fully aware of the details. Some had been assigned specific tasks on a need to know basis. Some were under the impression that tasks assigned to them were lawful orders. A few had absolutely no involvement but were wrongfully implicated through circumstantial evidence.


The trial brought out the finest tradition of “espirit de corps” prevailing among those of officer rank in the Police and armed services. Many whose actual involvement in the conspiracy was minimal and could have earned their freedom by turning crown or state witness chose not do so. They perceived such conduct as betrayal and dishonourable. They preferred to suffer in silence than “sneak”.In some cases their spouses encouraged such “noble” conduct.

If these acts influenced by the English public school spirit of “ not letting the side down” occurred on the one hand there were also acts of “ratting” on the other. Many who were involved got away by turning crown witness. Some went to the extent of allegedly fabricating evidence and testifying falsely to incriminate their erstwhile comrades at arms. A few of these witnesses found their concocted evidence torn to shreds by defence lawyers.

A key element in this aborted coup is the fact that a large number of persons from different walks of life were “involved” to some extent in the project but were not charged.Many were not even investigated.These ranged from those holding very high office to personnel from the administrative and defence sectors.Some high ranking political leaders were also compromised in this. Though some of the names were spoken about widely none were charged.

Another crucial dimension is the prevailing socio-political environment of the time and the class character of those charged.All those charged came from the upper strata of society and reflected elitist values and virtues. The English speaking middle classes and upper middle,upper classes of the country were very much in sympathy towards the coup after details of it became known.

Many felt that the coup should have succeeded. In a sense the coup conspirators were only carrying out the undeclared longing among influential segments of the population that a “change of governance” was necessary to prevent the country from “going to the dogs”.There is wistful yearning for coup 1962 even now among some persons who feel that the country would not be in the state it is in today had the conspiracy been successful.


In order to understand this phenomenon it is essential to delve deep into some events that happened between Independence in February 1948 and the D-day for “operation holdfast” on January 27-28th 1962. A brief re-run of history is necessary to comprehend the motives of the coup suspects many of whom belonged to the higher echelons of the Police and armed services.

Focusing on the role of the army in post-Independence history is particularly important to understand the coup conspiracy of 1962 because military officers were the pivotal force behind it.”Operation Holdfast” was essentially an Army exercise and planned with military precision. The “brains” behind it was a distinguished army colonel.Thirteen of twenty-four persons accused in the coup case were from the army.

What impelled these officers and gentlemen ,most of them from the privileged classes who believed firmly in “duty,honour and country” to violate their oath of allegiance to the democratically elected government of “her Majesty” and technically “wage war against the Queen” who at that time was the titular head of state? By the same token why did senior Police officers conspire to bring about a regime change through a coup d’etat?

A simple answer would be that the 1962 coup conspiracy was the culmination of a series of events that progressively alienated them from the ruling politicians and inculcated in them a zealous fervour to save the country by resorting to such drastic action.

Sri Lanka or Ceylon got a modern,indigenous army during British rule of the Island. Different volunteer units were raised from early nineteenth century. In 1910 they were unified as the Ceylon Defence Force (CDF) and placed under the general officer commanding the British forces in the Island. The army was considerably enhanced through voluntary enlistment during world war 2.


After the war 645 officers and 14,247 personnel from other ranks were de-mobilised from the CDF. After Independence in 1948, the Army Act No. 17 of 1949 was passed by Parliament on April 11, 1949 and formalized by Gazette Extraordinary No. 10028 of October 10, 1949. Thus October 10th marked the creation of the Ceylon Army and the date is observed as Army day.

Initially the army consisted of a regular and a volunteer force. The volunteer force known as the Ceylon Volunteer Force (CVF) was recruited mainly from de-mobilised CDF personnel.

By 1951 the embryonic regular army numbered 154 officers and 1,955 from other ranks. Many officers in the regular army were also from the de-mobilised CDF and had served as officers in the volunteer units before.The regular army’s ancillary, the CVF had approximately 1,500-2000 reservists. Each unit of the regulars had a parallel unit in the volunteers. By the mid-fifties a brigade size regular army of around 3,000-4,000 troops was formed.

In the early years after Independence the commanders of the Army,Navy and Air Force were all British nationals seconded for service in Sri Lanka.The armed forces particularly the officer corps followed the old British traditions and practices. Only western food was served in the officers mess. Horse riding,Golf ,Polo, Ballroom dancing, multi-course dinners in formal attire etc continued. Gradually “ceylonization” set in.

In the case of the Army the first British commander was Brigadier James Sinclair , the Earl of Caithness. After him a Scotsman Brigadier Sir Francis Reid took over. The next in line was Col.Anton M. Muttucumaru.Thereafter came Col. Winston Wijekoon. Muttucumaru was Tamil and Wijekoon Sinhala. Moreover Wijekoon’s father Sir Gerard Wijekoon was the president of the senate or upper house at the time.


There was speculation then that Wijekoon may use his ethnicity and political clout to his advantage and supersede Muttucumaru and succeed Reid as the first Ceylonese commander of the Army. But when the subject was broached Wijekoon, regarded as a perfect gentleman dismissed it brusquely saying “There is one ahead of me in the line of seniority who is perfectly capable of taking command. I will wait my turn”.

Thus Anton Muttucumaru became the first Ceylonese Army commander and served from 1955 -59.. Wijekoon waited his turn and succeeded Muttucumaru and served from 1960 – 63. This was the situation then where race and religion was disregarded and only merit and seniority was considered. A far cry indeed from subsequent events where race and religion became the criteria determining posts and promotions!

1956 was a decisive year in which the United National Party(UNP) was voted out at the polls and the Majajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP) coalition led by Solomon West Ridgeway Dias (SWRD) Bandaranaike was voted in. The victory was depicted as a people’s victory and the new government described as “Apey Aanduwe” (our Govt) began ushering in what was called then the age of the common man. Subaltern social forces had realized the power of the ballot and were asserting themselves.

A socio-cultural revolution was in progress. This in turn led to much friction and strife where the old order refused to die while the new order struggled to be born. SWRD himself described the situation as “trials of Transition” and was mercilessly hacked by scribe Tarzie Vitachi in his “fly by night”column and lampooned by artist Aubrey Collette in his cartoons.

SWRD described by Tarzie Vittachi as “weak and vacillating”capitulated often to pressure groups and volatile individuals instead of instilling firm discipline. This went against the grain of the values and codes of conduct followed by the hierarchies of the armed forces particularly the army.


It was roughly estimated that in 1956 the officer corps in the army consisted of less than 40% Buddhists and more than 50% Christians (Catholic and Protestant). The Hindu and Islamic component was negligible. Sizable numbers of the Christian officers were Tamils and Burghers.Tamils and Burghers were overrepresented in the officer class.

As far as the rank and file was concerned roughly 70% were Sinhala of whom about 15% were Christian.Burghers were about 7 % and Muslims and Malays 11%.Tamils comprised the rest. It could be seen therefore that Muslims were grossly under represented and Malays and Burghers over represented among the non –officer ranks of the Army.

The upper echelons of the Army and Police began resenting the new regime which they perceived as disrupting disciplinary norms and undermining professional standards through “dirty” politics. They also felt the Govt with its ethno-religious perspective was politicizing issues in an undesirable manner.The first flashpoint of tension occurred in May 1956 within a few weeks of the new Govt assuming office.

Eighteen soldiers from the Artillery regiment deployed in Mannar went on a hunger strike protesting service conditions.They demanded that the Prime minister himself intervene directly and redress their grievances.Instead of letting the army top brass deal with this insubordination SWRD helicoptered down to Mannar and negotiated with the fasting soldiers.He managed to get them to call of their protest fast but seriously dented military discipline.

Worse still was the escalation of the ethnic crisis. Sinhala was made the sole official language and Tamil MP’s and activists protesting against it peacefully through non – violent “Satyagraha” on Galle Face green were set upon by thugs and hooligans sponsored by ruling party politicians. The Prime minister reportedly ordered the Police not to intervene while mobs assaulted, stoned and manhandled unarmed Satyagrahis.


Then came the communal violence of 1958. While mobs were unleashing violence against innocent civilians the Prime minister dilly-dallied and loss of life,limb and property increased..Finally the Governor –General Sir Oliver Goonetilleke took hold of the reins of governance.Sir Oliver declared emergency and gave clear orders to the armed forces. “Clear them out even if you have to sh-sh-sh-shoot them” , he instructed.The army and Navy then quelled the violence and ensured Island wide security.

Even though the officers of the armed forces discharged their duties without fear or favour and established law and order many of them were disgruntled. They felt that a communal conflagration need not have occurred in the first place. They felt that SWRD Bandaranaike’s misgovernance and meek capitulation to communal forces was at the root of these troubles. They also felt he had mishandled and aggravated the situation.

While the gentlemen officers of the army were seething with discontent SWRD Bandaranaike upset the Police force also through blatant political interference of both a political and communal nature.

Osmund de Silva the Inspector General of Police had fallen foul of the Prime Minister. This was due to the conscientious Osmund refusing to carry out inappropriate orders of the Prime minister.

So SWRD Bandaranaike wanted to oust Osmund de Silva but there was a hitch. He was a Buddhist and the first Buddhist Inspector General of Police at that. The senior Deputy Inspectors General of Police in line to step into his shoes were all Christians. There was even intense personal rivalry between DIG CC Dissanayake (Jungle) DIG Sidney de Zoysa on account of this.

The Sinhala Buddhist associations of the laity and clergy opposed Osmund de Silva’s removal on the grounds that he was a Buddhist and that his successor would be a Christian.A tremendous outcry was launched on behalf of the first Buddhist IGP.

SWRD Bandaranaike who had been born and baptized as an Anglican before reverting to Buddhism after the advent of the Donoughmore Commission was somewhat sensitive to this criticism by the Buddhist lobby.


He wanted Osmund de Silva out but did not want any of the Christian DIG’s to become IGP. His idea was to bring in someone from outside and make him IGP. His choice was a civil servant MWF Abeykoon.This was flagrant political interference in the affairs of the Police.

The Police top brass was aghast at this. Though divided among themselves the senior DIG’s were united in oppsing an outsider. The senior Police officers irrespective of racial and religious differences met together and discussed the situation.

One idea mooted was for all senior Police officers to resign en masse in symbolic protest. It was however ruled out because such drastic action could demoralize the Police service and trigger off a major calamity.

Since the Premier was vehemently insisting that a Buddhist should be made IGP the senior Christian DIG’s in a remarkable gesture resolved to shelve their rightful claim and opt for a viable alternative. They decided to select the senior most Buddhist Police officer in service and ask the Prime minister to appoint him as the IGP and pledge to serve under him diligently.

The senior most Buddhist Police officer in service then was Stanley Senanayake who was a police Superintendent (SP). He had joined the Police force as an Assistant Superintendent of Police(ASP) in 1943.After serving as ASP in Ratnapura,Kurunegala, Kegalle and Matale Senanayake had been promoted as SP North –Western Range in 1954. Senanayake had then become in 1955 ,Director of the Police training school in Kalutara taking over from Sidney de Zoysa.


Now in a rare and exemplary gesture the senior Police officers were prepared to work under the comparatively junior Stanley Senanayake rather than work under an outsider parachuted into office. This was because they valued the service and had the best interests of the Police at heart notwithstanding their personal ambition,rightful claim and seniority.

Despite this show of solidarity by the Police top brass a stubborn Bandaranaike declined to appoint Stanley Senanayake as IGP. SWRD went through with his brazen decision to make Abeykoon the IGP. Later events demonstrated that this was a grave blunder as Abeykoon proved himself incompetent and incapable of discharging his duties as IGP efficiently

There was much heartburn within the Police top brass as a result of the new appointment. The consideration of religion over merit and seniority had upset many. Moreover Buddhist – Christian relations in the country were also deteriorating just like Sinhala – Tamil relations. It was against this backdrop that the year 1959 dawned.

The new year had an inauspicious beginning with wild rumours of a “Christian coup”gaining wide circulation. It was widely whispered that “Catholic Action” was behind the conspiracy to topple the “Sinhala Buddhist” government of SWRD Bandaranaike. Apparently a cabal of senior Catholic officers from the Police and defence services were in league together ,it was said.

This untrue “koo story”had begun when Osmund de Silva was IGP. An Ayurvedic physician cum Bhikku called the Ven.Malawana Gnanissara Thero living at Havelock road in Colombo had tipped off the IGP that Catholic actionists in the Police and armed services were plotting to stage a “Christian coup” against the Govt. According to the Thero DIG Sidney de Zoysa was the mastermind behind the coup conspiracy.


Sidney Godfrey de Zoysa, a colourful robust personality , was a living legend and the subject of many stories and discussions. He was the son of Sir Francis de Zoysa an eminent lawyer and member of the State Council. Among Sidney’s siblings were Stanley the Finance minister in the Bandaranaike cabinet,Bunty the famous lawyer, Lucien the sports and radio personality and Olga ,Sri Lanka’s first beauty queen.

Sidney born in 1909 was an old Royalist and had joined the Police in 1937 as a probationary ASP after obtaining an economics degree. Among the humorous anecdotes ascribed to him is one about the interview he faced when applying to join the Police.H. Leslie. Dowbiggin, the then I. G. P. had asked him ‘How many steps did you climb on your way to this room?, Sidney’s answer was ‘I came up on the lift, Sir’.

Another related tale is a testimonial submitted by Sidney de Zoysa for the Police interview.It was from Professor Marrs the head of the University College where Sidney read for his degree.Prof Marrs had enthusiastically recommended de Zoysa for the Police saying in the testimonial “I strongly recommend Mr.de Zoysa’s application because outside the Police force he could prove to be a bigger problem”.

Sidney served in difficult areas like Tangalle and Jaffna where he had an encounter with the king of smugglers “Hitler”Kandasamy.Subsequently he became SP and Police training school director.Later he was promoted as DIG.Sidney was a larger than life personality about whom many stories and rumours abound.

So when Gnanissara Thero fingered Sidney as the brains behind a coup in the making, a secret inquiry was authorized by Osmund de Silva without Sidney’s knowledge into his activities.But even as the investigation was in progress, Abeykoon became IGP.


In what was perhaps the first of his many mistakes the new IGP handed over the file into the suspected coup investigation to de Zoysa himself for further investigation.

This resulted in Sidney stultifying the probe and launching instead an internal vendetta into those officers investigating him. He also intimidated Gnanissara Thero into retracting his original statement Finally the probe into a suspected coup was called off and Sidney de Zoysa was cleared.

This however did not deter the rumour mills working overtime. The country was buzzing with the talk that a Christian coup masterminded by Sidney de Zoysa was in the pipeline. Sidney’s reputation was such that many believed it.

The “coup story” at that juncture was a false alarm but three years later another coup d’etat cloud gathered across the political horizon. This one was for real and true to form Sidney de Zoysa too figured in that prominently

NEXT: The Driving Force Behind “Operation Holdfast”.

DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at djeyaraj2005@yahoo.com

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  1. I remember the 62 coup incident well because my late father was on the legal team appearing for suspects. So I as an undergraduate then became very familiar with many matters of the case.

    Now I am 71 and living in the US. But when I read the articles on coup 62 by Mr.DBS Jeyaraj my memory is revived and I am remembering those days clearly

    Thank you Mr.Jeyaraj for a thorough explanation of those events of the past

  2. Read and re-read the article with great relish Mr.Jeyaraj. Thank you very much for these informative pieces on our recent history

  3. DBS Anna

    I liked this article very much.

    My humble request to you is to write a series of articles like this on the history of the Singala -Tamil problem.

    Please Anna, Will you do it for the sake of many young Tamils like myself?

    Hopefully Thangaichi when the time is appropriate………..DBSJ

  4. Of the 22 above only 11) ANTHONY JOHN BERNARD ANGHTEis currently living

    Three of the 24 accused are living……..DBSJ

  5. DBS,
    My father, who was an Officer in the Education Department, was one of the Arbitration Officers during the Government take over of the private schools in the early 60s. In that role he had to interact very closely with the Catholic Church of Ceylon which was running large number of schools in the island at that time. Having dealt with the good fathers and the nuns of the Church, he had a very health respect for them. Surprisingly he was a total believer of the so called Catholic Action and many years later he would claim that one of the reasons that Sinhala-Tamil relations were shot was the fact that the Buddhists were so busy watching the Catholics that they totally were oblivious to the raising tide of Tamil frustrations!

    Listening to him, one realises how close Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) came to a a total breakdown of Buddhist-Christian relations in the early 60s which would have had even greater consequences than the Sinhala-Tamil issue. It is also a credit to the Catholic Church that looked at the impending situation and very wisely decided to take a non-confrontational attitude and worked with the governments of the time to diffuse any potential conflagrations.

  6. SWRD Bandaranaike started the rot and his hand can be seen in every negative aspect that isblighting to the country to this day – from the communal politics, to political interference in the police/armed forces, to politicisation and corruption of the bureaucracy and civil service it seems.

    How come someone so intelligent, be so incredibly stupid at best, incompetent at worst, is something I fail to understand. The bullet probably spared the country further damage. His wife and daughter were equally useless.

    I wonder if the collective damage they done can ever be reversed. Oh, to be able to turn back the clock..


    “The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
    Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
    Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
    Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

    -Omar Khayyam

  7. Jeyaraj annan

    Can see that you must have done lots of research into the topic. I dont see many journos do research like you. Good job Annan!

  8. I never knew there was a coup in 1962 till I read DBS. Continue please with more articles about it. It is a service you are doing

  9. We need more writers like DBS to give us articles like this which are easy to read and understand and very much full of interesting information in detail

  10. I grew up thinking SWDR was a great hero… now more and more i learn the past i’m amazed by the damage he has done to our country. All the roots for our today’s problems have been created during SWRD days… sad

  11. I can remember the coup faintly, more than 50 years ago, the night time curfew etc. I was 3 1/2 then. There was a big build up miilitary on the main roads. My father was near the gate with us showing them. There was an eeri feeling in the country.

    Now 50 years after, I say, it was a shame that the coup failed. I admire the coup leaders who were bold, noble men

  12. Thank you for your historical article. 1962, my late farther a Police Inspector, was station in Police
    Training School in Kaluthara. DiG De Zoysa instructed my farther verbally to hand over the police vehicle fleet. My farther insisted orders in writing. Which saved him from been arrested.

  13. Wow, thank you DBSJ for a wonderfully written article on our country’s history much of those born later didn’t know of.
    Your writing is simply superb.
    Your easy to to read style makes history sound like a contemporary thriller novel. Before any academics start on their boring account of the 1962 Coup, I urge you to put it into a book.
    You have honored these brave men of history!
    Well done. Waiting for Part 3.


    Thank you. Writing a book is a suggestion made by many but I am yet to do so.Lets hope something materialises soon

    As for the coup 1962 some academics have written on it notably Prof. Horowitz.(his work is not “boring”)

  14. Thank you very much DBSJ.
    Your article is accurate in every detail.I know this because I was associated as a junior reporter with Mr.Balasunderam when he was reporting the court proceedings from Colombo for the ‘Eela Nadu’ news paper which was Jaffna based.

    Thank you

    I am curious about your identity.Would you mind sending a private e-mail to me at dbsjeyaraj@yahoo.com please?

  15. DBSJ

    Your article is accurate in every detail.
    I remember the coup of 1962 as if it was yesterday, because I was associated in reporting the court proceedings with Mr.M.Balasunderam to the ‘Eela Nadu’ news paper which was Jaffna based.

  16. Very interesting. A PM even without executive powers could act in such tyrannic way.

    Again I’m convinced that our country was ruined by politicians & politics.

    We should not let this to happen again.

    Thank you once again for giving the real motives of politics.

  17. I agree and always believed the ROT was started by Soloman Bandaranayake.He used the slogan in 1956,I will give you
    ‘singhala only in 24 hrs’if you vote for me.The southern rural people voted him in and the horse galloped pushing all reasons aside.He created the situation,the budhist clergy as well as the singhalese now started the ‘watch’.The ‘catholic watch’ and continued to the ‘Christian Watch’.
    Bandaranayake had to eat his own bitter pill when he was faced with the new IGP being a Christian.The cry for ‘Singhla Budhist country’ became so strong ‘The singhala Only Act’ was quickly passed in Parliament.To please the Busdhist clergy and the singhala masses,decided to bring in an outsider as the IGP who was a Budhist.The ROT continued and still continues.
    As someone wished on this thread- that the coup should have been succesfull so that the regime of hatred could have been wiped out.Unfortunately it had been written that Sri Lanka for all its beauty and wealth had to be led by vicious and hatefull politicians who were interested in making names for themselves and forget that DEMOCRACY will one day over throw all ills.It has to come and it will be won at a very heavy price by each one of Sri Lanka’s people.
    It has already happened many times by the ill fated ethnic riots where many innocent Tamils lost their lives and property.Before the attacks on Tamils began there was a great Singhala/Muslim race riots in Kandy and upcountry.It has been said that the muslims showed their strength against the singhala hooligans who started the attack and many singhalese lost their lives by knife weilding muslims.After which never once have the singhala thugs risen up against the Muslims.Ofcourse there was an attack and burning of the Muslim mosque in Kaddugannawa by Anurudha Bandaranayake’s sons in the mid 2000.The Muslims wer taken by surprise.
    Tarzie Vitachi’s book Emergency ’58 clearly describes the trauma of innocent Tamils who lost it all and the country thrown into utter chaos and the governments attitude during JR Jayawardene’s time.He was called the ‘Willy Fox’.An interesting paragraph in this book is the ‘Padaviya Panzers’.Where the strong SP and his policemen,comprised of Singhalese,Tamils and muslims stood confronting the singhala thugs who were marching to attack a Tamil village.I think it was Sydney Soyza,DBJS correct me if Iam wrong who challenged them to stop otherwise he would to shoot since a state of ‘Emergancy’ had been declared as sri Lanka was burning.The thugs were violating this law.The front row of men defying the orer moved forward and one thug raised his sarong and bared his .? SP shot it off.! The march ended.It was found that the thugs were the newly settled colonists on Tamil traditional lands.Some Tamil families had already moved out of fear and intimidation by the sighala colonists and only a few Tamils families remained.They were the helpless target of these hooligans.
    For the younger generation of Sri Lankans Tarzie Vittachi’s Book Emergency ’58 will be a revelation of facts and a must read.

  18. Well, after asking the Suddha not to discriminate, our fellows were heavily in to it

    Banda & Co ‘Sinhala-Only’, Bothale walauwe Barthalamew (DS) ‘Rice-Board’ cabinet & colonising Tamil areas from even before, raping estate Tamils with the backing of even some monks, rioting & killing normal Tamil civilians (no Tigers then), grabing Catholic schools, robbing plantations (now sold to Indians after running them down!), local industries & destroying the strong economy; the hand that fed

    If the coup had suceseeded we would have avoided the BS of the past 5 dacades and be better than Singapore or malaysia
    They with similar colonial histories went on the proper path, we went down the beaten path !”

  19. DBS

    You once wrote you were born in the year Prabakran was born.Thats 1954.

    So You must have been about 7 or 8 in 1962 when the coup attempt took place
    How the hell do you manage to get allo this really superb information aah?You must be really digging into past!

    Anyways good show!

  20. The Coup, though was a Christian coup, was a good coup, they did not want to harm anyone. The coup leaders were against Tamil Separatism. The country needed the coup at that time, with Sirima nationalising everything including the Shell Company. She was about to take over Lever Brothers, BCC, the coup plot stopped that. Sirima was very naive and immature, at that time she knew zero about governance. Felix Dias, William Gopallawa, PBG Kalugalla etc basically carried her through with the help of the marxists – NM, Colvin, Peter et al. This was repeated in 1970 til 1975/76.



  21. I am younger brother of one of the coup case 62 accused. I am somewhat familiar with the matter.I congratulate you Mr. Jeyaraj for this

  22. Dear rajesrajah

    As someone wished on this thread- that the coup should have been succesfull so that the regime of hatred could have been wiped out.

    If the coup had been successful there would have been a revolution by the Sinhala Buddhists to wipe out everyone belonging to the upper-class English-speaking elite whose interests the coup plotters represented. On the other hand, if the plotters had never embarked on this idiotic course to begin with, the police and military would not have been purged and “Buddhisticised.” The 1962 coup plot was an important milestone in the development of “the regime of hatred” that led to the civil war.

  23. Dear PM

    I admire the coup leaders who were bold, noble men

    They were also extremely stupid, given that Mrs B was voted out of office just a few years later. Do you admire stupidity?

  24. It is a shame that the coup never took place. Our country will be so fifferent and developed if it happened. also no communal troubles ever

  25. I’m your fan DBS.Its amazing how you unearth all these details and weave them into such a readable interesting article.

    Thanks Tissa……….DBSJ

  26. Appoi Jeyaraj

    Hari shok aney me article.

    Waiting to read more next week

    Aiyo dont disappoint aney…


    Appoi Nelum

    Thank you aney

    Aiyo ,How can I disappoint you Kella….

  27. Some note writers in this column propose that Sirima was Naive!

    I would like to draw their attention to these words of Bertrand Russel in his book “unarmed victory”:

    “My special thanks go to Ms Sirima Bandaranaike for her crucial role in ending the Indo-China war!”

    During first JVP insurrection in 1971 she could receive help and aids from both blocks:Soviet and Western!

    Her uncomparable deplomacy was very successful and unseen among present day world leaders!

    She in her capacity as the head of the Non-aligened Nations voiced for Nelson Mendela, against the Vietnam war!
    Unfortunately, Sirima’s role was not understood by the Leftists in our country. They always did whatever they could in order to destroy her.

    I also would like to remind another point to these note wrtiters: when Ms Bandarakaike visited Jaffna, our northern farmers garlanded her with Grapes, Chillies, onions etc. It was an economic boom for them until JR’s infamous “Open Market” was itroduced to SL!

  28. Jeyaraj I Hate this SLFP , the origin of this party
    and their leaders actions was main reason for
    pushing the country backword and creating division
    among community which caused civil war and vilonce
    culture in the past. We lost valuable number of the human
    lives because of this party petty political gain to become
    power. Please do not remind this party or similar rasist
    parties like JHU or JVP are same like nazi party not alive
    in modern day. We have replaced more advanced political
    Party’s which take country’s forward and minorities political

  29. I am a close relation of two coup suspects. One is no more but the other is alive still. If you give me a safe e-mail I can send you some intresting info about coup


    Thank you

    I think I can guess who the two were/are

    My e-mail is dbsjeyaraj@yahoo.com

    Whatever you send will be kept confidential

  30. My father was in the army.He was recruited as Lance/corporal and retd as Sgt-Major. I heard lots of stories from him about coup

    You are right Mr.Jeyaraj.

    My father and many of his buddies were sympathetic to coup. My dad was fiercely loyal to his arrested superiors and used to go to courts in civils when it was possible to show support

  31. Interesting article. As a matter of fact I have all the original news articles from 4 1/2 years on the coup. My father was the 8th defendant.


    Thank you for commenting.

    Your father would have been Major Bastiyampillai Ignatius Loyola who was second officer commanding 3rd field artillery>If I recall correctly he along with Majors White and Joseph were acquitted and released together.

    I would be grateful if you would kindly send me an e-mail to dbsjeyaraj@yahoo.com please?

    I am sorry to trouble you

  32. Re. Rajesrajah’s comments Feb 11. No doubt SWRD made many mistakes, in a latter perspective, but he should not be judged too harshly. He found himself during a transitional period in our post-colonial history. Few will say he was a communalist. He was more a liberal and, in many ways, a social iconoclast – born as he was in a feudal Palace to a regional fiefdom in a differnt social order. He abandoned many principles and decided to embrace a totally self-contradictory group of religio-political interests only to seek personal justice to him in an Uncle-and-Nephew conspiracy (Unge Nedhayinge Pakshaya) that denied him the coveted post of
    PM that he felt was rightfully his due. Analysts believe, though he knew letting the communal genie out of the bottle can divide the country and cause untold harm, his mind was made up once he secures the apparatus of power he will thereafter right the
    wrong to the Tamil people. The Reasonable Uzse of the Tamil Language Bill is one part of that thought. This was a serious miscalculation. Subsequent events went beyond his control and he himself succumbed to the growing spectre of racial division that rages to the day – undiminished. As his talk to the Jaffna Youth in 1926 established, he was for a reasonable formula to Tamils and a just nation along the federal path. Also, being an Anglican himself till the last years of his life, he could not have been anti-Christian-Catholic. But these extreme forces that brought him to power were later to take a strident anti-Christian posture in his name as well.

    If you recall, CBK carried much of his socialist genes and was in favour of a more acceptable political arrangement for the Tamils (2000 Proposals) but the chauvinistic interests that have since grown in numbers and strength, did not allow her sufficient space to move towards a settlement.

    Once tranquil nations have suffered and harmonious countries have been destroyed due to political mistakes. It is our sad fate this did not spare us.


  33. I really have to question the morality and intelligence of all those lamenting the failure of this coup attempt. If the country had been taken over by a bunch of Anglophile, elitist, Christian snobs (which is what they seem to be) it would have inevitably lead to the kind of civil war witnessed in south Vietnam. Any JVP type peasant revolt would have been ten times worse – perhaps even leading to a Khmer rouge style revolution (we Sri Lankans are surely capable of such stupidity). Our democracy is tenuous, but thank goodness we can say that we have had democratically elected governments for all of our Republic’s history.

  34. Mandawala Hamuduruvo
    February 12, 2012 at 12:22 am

    I am not a historian; neither was Bertrand Russel(1872-1970) who won Nobel prize for literature.
    But there are many errors in what you have stated.
    Think Indo-China war of Oct-Nov 1961 was ended due to the efforts of USSR and Sashtri died in Tashkent after signing the treaty.

    This coup occurred during her first term. She did well during her subsequent terms with regard to foreign affairs when Ceylon had many experienced Foreign service personnel(nowadays its filled from the ranks of military and ex politicos-really does not matter when India is doing their work in recent times).

    She was aligning with China and BMICH was a gift from that country during her time. She cornered India into accepting hundreds of thousands of upcountry Tamils and giving up the right to Kachativu, when India was in a bad situation internally and externally.

    Similarly, it was not Srimavo but the former agriculture minister Kobbekaduwe, who was garlanded in Jaffna with vegetables and also won more votes there than JR in the Presidential election(Srimavo could not contest as she was disenfranchised).

  35. Interesting article DBS

    My grandfather was a CCS permenet secretary and a schoolmate and close freind of Sydney De Zoysa. I remember a chance meeting in the early eighties at the Hill Club between him and Felix Dias when FDB stated “Maybe we both should have acted differently in 1962″they both went to a side and talked for about 15 minutes and I leter learnt it was the first time they had talked since 1962 that was my first information on the 1962 coup and I suspect there is a lot more information that will never be revealed on how widespread the Coup participants were or what actually was to have happened.Sadly the 62 coup was a closed subject at home whenever I tried to bring it up.

    The other interesting fact is that the many relatives involved; F.C. De Saram, Mrs B and FDB were cousins, Douglas Liyanage and N.Q. Dias were cousins and Sydney De Zoysa was a distant cousin to both Douglas and NQ Jingle and Jungle Dissanayake were borthers guess and I’m pretty sure that Basil Jesudason was related to some of the Tamil officers who were indicted were also cousins. Guess the Coup was about relative merits !!!!!!!!!!!!

  36. Dear DBS
    Your reporting perspective on the 1962 coup does not treat other important political dimensions of the coup. The coup was needed at that time to prevent Sri Lanka been taken over by the left led by Samasamajists. The list of the persons to be arrested included prominent left leaders and trade unionists. In fact most of them were to be annihilated. Eventually the coup was one factor which made Samasamajists to capitulate their leftist policies and to enter into a coalition with the SLFP led Sinhala chauvinist bourgeoise segment ending Samasamajists’ just and reasonable stand on the ethnic issue.

    Therefore the coup of 1962 was not that progressive as some people tend to believe.



    This is an on going series of articles.It is premature to potificate now.Kindly wait till I conclude the series before doing so

  37. Dear Wije

    I was unaware that the coup plotters were also against LSSP. What a bunch of nutters. Thank you for exposing their anti-democratic mindset.

  38. Thank you for the article, I am a child of one of the defendants who is still alive, and I was 10years old at the time, but do remember a lot of our visits to the jail. Memories of these will never go away, but am sure it has only made us stronger. Look forward to reading further instalments. Keep up the good work…


    Thank you for posting this. I think I know whose daughter you are. I heard about a recent bereavement in your family.My condolences

    I have been overwhelmed by the response to the articles on the 1962 coup.Many with some “connection” to the coup suspects or witnesses have been in touch with me directly and through this comments section.These range from close friends of families to even someone who was in charge of security during detention.

    The most sensitive aspect to me has been the response of family members particularly the children of both the accused and witnesses.Their childhood memories of this experience that must surely have transformed their lives are touching.

    As one of them wrote to me –

    “It is a little like `Midnight’s Children’ by Salman Rushdie-all these scattered individuals who don’t know each other but are somehow connected by this one event”……

    50 years have passed and only three of the original 24 suspects charged in courts are among us still.

    I do hope I can by writing these articles do justice to the memory of those departed and to those yet living still.This applies to family members too

    I will be writing the next part later this week

  39. Dear DBSJ:

    Your comments to Melani are deeply moving. As you probably know, I knew more than one
    leading figure in this alleged Coup at personal level – and that includes Stanley Senanayake who helped me get my 1st passport during his brief service at the Immigration Dept. I have written what I think of them and
    their motives at a time when the values, culture and political landscape of our
    people were so sublime.

    I am glad your well researched reports on this interesting event in an important part of our recent history has drawn such a vast readership – both in Sri Lanka and outside.


    Thank you very much………..DBSJ

  40. [Then came the communal violence of 1958. While mobs were unleashing violence against innocent civilians the Prime minister dilly-dallied and loss of life,limb and property increased..Finally the Governor –General Sir Oliver Goonetilleke took hold of the reins of governance.Sir Oliver declared emergency and gave clear orders to the armed forces. “Clear them out even if you have to sh-sh-sh-shoot them” , he instructed.The army and Navy then quelled the violence and ensured Island wide security.]

    This tallies with what my dad who was living in wellawatte at time,said to me about the 1958 riots.DBSJ is always reliable when he puts something in print.

    SWRD is the bastard who set this country on the violent path,which ended only in 2009,exactly 50 years after.JRJ also adopted his same tactic of looking the other way in 1983,and this time there was no sir oliver goonetilleke to save the country.

    From this i’am wondering whether universal franchise was a mistake,to allow such babboons to come to power.What is the other alternative to that?monarchy?Then the people become utterly powerless.parliamentary system brings out the baboons into parliament.Something in between may be.A council consisting of eminent people who have distinguished themselves in some form or other.Much better than this parliamentary system that really stinks.

  41. Many thanks to Mr. Jeyaraj for his splendid article. As a somewhat precoscious lad, I thought it was a pity that the coup in 62 failed. After all, government of Mrs. Sirimawathi Bandaranaike was just a pathetic extension of a former regime led by her arch-hypocrite of a husband, Solomon B. In my view, the fellow wasn’t intelligent as such, but had considerable animal cunning.
    Democracy is often the bane of a country, especially when it is grafted onto an alien culture. The storey of European democracy is neither eddifying, nor graceful. As for the US, what can one say about a political system that would elect specimens like Reagan and Bush George for president?
    Ceylonese are too much swayed by appeals to their emotions; these can be evoked by any tripe about race, religion or language. In short, most of them are not fit to govern their own lives let alone elect those who should rule their long suffering country.
    Long ago, before pretensions to democracy was the ‘politically correct’ yelp every political whelp let out, Uruguay has an excellent system.
    After elections, heads of the parties that polled a certain percentage of votes, formed a ruling council. They appointed technically competent chaps to run various departments. At one point, there were nine in the ruling council.
    I think this must be modified to suit Ceylon. Nobody should be allowed to head a party unless he has at least 10 years experience from some gainful employment. Dabbling in sociology, psychology, economics, ‘political science’, business administration, etc., and being a clergyman are disqualifications.

    If those lads of 62 succeeded in introducing such a system to Ceylon, she would have continued to be the pearl of the indian ocean, but not into a miserable Singapore or Hong Kong, where man is turned into a programmed insect with a high income.
    Of course, it’s futile to speculate on what might have been, but one can well understand the temptation to do so, when one sees the incredible suffering for which many of the so-called modern heroes are responsible. Ah, if people were rational and had better taste, all the gandis, s. bandaranaikes, mogabes, idi amine, bokas, bushes, thatchers, etc., would have ended up in the same place, viz. an anatomical museum for successful anthropoids.

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