Prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who is also the leader of the United National Party(UNP) and the United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) is determined to form a National Government if returned to power after the August 17th Parliamentary Poll. Since most political observers opine that the next Parliament would be a hung parliament, Wickremesinghe may be in a sense creating a virtue out of necessity as a multi – party coalition is definitely required to cobble together a National Govt with a stable majority.
Thanks to Ranil Wickremesinghe and the UNF, the term national govt has re-entered the political discourse of the country in a big way. It is the term national govt which is in vogue currently and not coalition govt or multi-party govt. Even Mahinda Rajapaksa says he will not form a national govt instead of saying coalition or multi – party govt.
The term National Government first came into usage in Ceylon – as Sri Lanka was called earlier – in 1965 when Dudley Senanayake formed a “Hath Haula” or seven party coalition government. The seven members of the 1965 National Government were the United National Party(UNP), Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi(ITAK) , Sri Lanka Freedom Socialist Party(SLFSP), All Ceylon Tamil Congress(ACTC),Mahajana Eksath Peramuna(MEP), Jathika Vimukthi Peramuna(JVP) and the Ceylon Workers Congress(CWC).
The Govt headed by Dudley Senanayake was not the first coalition govt in the country. Even his predecessor Ms. Sirima Bandaranaike had been heading a coalition govt which suffered defeat in Parliament when a no confidence motion against it was passed in December 1964.
There were some who argued then that Dudley Senanayake’s govt could not be described as a national government because all the major political parties represented in Parliament were not in it. The chief opposition Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and its leftist allies the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) and Communist Party (CP) were not members of that national govt.
There was however a very good reason for Dudley Senanayake to call his Govt a national govt. This was because there was once again a member of the Sri Lankan Tamil nationality in the cabinet after a period of ten years. Former Solicitor – general and eminent Lawyer Murugeysen Tiruchelvam represented the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) called the Federal party in English in Dudley’s cabinet as Minister of Local Government.The cabinets of those days were small in numbers unlike the present. Dudley Senanayake’s cabinet when formed in 1965 had only seventeen ministers. In later years the number increased to twenty.
Independent Ceylon’s first cabinet headed by DS Senanayake was truly a national government though it was not described as such.Among the ministers were C. Suntharalingam and C.Sittambalam. Later Suntharalingam resigned but the All – Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC)leader GG Ponnambalam joined the government. When DS Senanayake’s son Dudley was elected as Premier in 1952 , he appointed V. Nalliah and GG Ponnambalam as ministers. When Nalliah resigned after a month, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan’s son in law, Subbiah Natesan replaced him. Natesan the principal of Parameshwara College in Jaffna was an Indian Tamil.
Sir John Kotelawala became Prime minister in 1953 after Dudley Senanayake resigned on grounds of ill – health. GG Ponnambalam was not included in the government of Sir John but Natesan was retained as minister . Also prominent civil servant Sir Kandiah Vaithiyanathan was inducted into the cabinet. Thus Tamils had continuously been cabinet ministers in the UNP governments of DS Senanayake, Dudley Senanayake and Sir John Kotelawala. There were always ministers of the Islamic faith such as T.B.Jayah and Dr. M. C. M. Kaleel in the successive UNP govts from 1947 to 56.
This practice of including members of the minority communities in the government underwent a change when SWRD Bandaranaike became Prime minister. The “Sinhala only” slogan of SWRD had polarised the nation. When SWRD Bandaranaike formed his cabinet there was a Muslim minister CAS Marikar but no Tamil in the cabinet. There was also a Muslim speaker H. S. Ismail.
The govt and caretaker govt under Prime minister W.Dahanayake had several Muslim ministers like C.A.S. Marikkar, M.M. Mustapha, M.S. Kariapper and Sir Razeek Fareed but no Tamil ministers. The short lived Govt of Dudley Senanayake in March 1960 had a Muslim minister in Dr. MCM Kaleel but there were no Tamils in the cabinet. His successor Ms. Sirima Bandaranaike had Dr. Badiuddin Mahmud as a cabinet minister. There were no Tamil ministers in her govt also.
Thus when Murugesysen Tiruchelvam became a minister in Dudley Senanayake’s cabinet in 1965, the Sri Lankan Tamils were re-entering government after an absence of nearly ten years. Politically Tiruchelvam’s inclusion in cabinet as a representative of the FP was symbolic of ethnic reconciliation. The Sinhala – Tamil ethnic divide was bridged by the political rapprochement between the two major parties representing the most number of pre-dominantly Sinhala and Tamil constituencies respectively. In fact the FP played a constructive “King maker” role in the Govt being formed. It was arguably more of a national unity government than a national govt.
Dudley Senanayake’s no 2 and State Minister J.R. Jayewardene summed up the prevailing mood of the time in a speech made to the Federal Party youth front in Kankesanthurai. JR who was chief guest said – “Since the formation of the national government an unfortunate chapter in the relationship between the Sinhalese and the Tamils has ended……….The Federal party is the saviour of democracy because they not only supported us but also stood shoulder to shoulder with us in forming the national govt”.
Currently there are great expectations of a prospective national government being formed under Prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe after Aug 17. In that context delving into the circumstances leading to the formation of a national government fifty years ago under Dudley Senanayake would be of great interest and relevance. More so , because Ranil’s father Esmond Wickremesinghe who played a crucial behind the scenes role in unmaking the government of Mrs. Bandaranaike in 1964 , played an equally important role in making the national government of Dudley Senanayake in 1965.
Elections to Parliament were held on March 22nd 1965. Parliament comprised 151 elected and 6 appointed MP’s. There were 145 electorates but five of them were multi – member constituencies. The multi – member electorates were Colombo central electing three MP’s and Colombo South, Batticaloa, Moothoor and Akurana electing two MP’s each respectively. The six appointed MP’s would be nominated by the new Prime minister.
When election results were announced no single party had obtained a simple majority on its own. The UNP polling 1, 590, 929 (39.31%) of the votes had obtained 66 seats. The SLFP polling 1, 221, 437 (30.18%) of the votes came next with 41 seats. The ITAK (Federal Party) was third with 14 seats. It had polled 217,914 (5.38%)votes.The LSSP polled 302,095(7.4 %) votes and got 10 seats.The CP got 109,754 (2.71%)votes with 4 seats.
Among the other parties winning seats were the Sri Lanka Freedom Socialist Party (SLFSP) which polled 130, 429 votes getting 5 seats. The SLFSP was a union of SLFP breakaway MP’s led by CP de Silva and the LPP of W. Dahanayake. The Tamil Congress led by GG Ponnambalam got 98, 746( 2.44%)votes and 3 seats. The Mahajana Eksath Peramuna(MEP)led by Philip Gunawardena and the Jathika Vimukthi Peramuna(JVP) led by KMP Rajaratne formed a common front and contested together. They got only 2 seats.Philip was the sole winner from the MEP. The JVP leader KMP Rajaratne lost at Welimada but his wife Kusuma Rajaratne was returned from Uva-paranagama.
Apart from these MP’s from accredited political parties, six candidates contesting as independents were also elected in 1965. They six independent MP’s were M. A. Abdul Majeed (Pottuvil),Prins Gunasekera (Habaraduwa), M.S.Kariapper (Kalmunai), Percy Samaraweera(Welimada), R.G.Senanayake(Dambadeniya) and Mudiyanse Tennekoon (Nikaweratiya). An interesting feature of the poll was that of elections not being held to the double member constituency of Colombo South.JR Jayewardene of the UNP and Bernard Soysa of the LSSP were the only candidates to have filed nomination papers there in 1965. Both were elected unopposed as Colombo south MP’s.
When the political breakdown on the basis of party positions was taken it appeared that the UNP with 66 seats was also sure of the support of the SLFSP Bloc of 5 MP’s . The MEP –JVP combine could support it if the UNP was able to procure a majority. Three of the six Independents – Abdul Majeed, Kariapper and Samaraweera were also prepared to support the UNP. This would give the UNP a possible total of 76 out of 151 elected MP’s. If Dudley Senanayake became the Prime minister and nominated six appointed MP’s then the UNP govt tally could go up to 82 out of 157. Even with a UNP parliamentarian becoming speaker Dudley Senanayake would have a flimsy majority of six. Besides the Tamil Congress with 3 MP’s was also ready to support the UNP Govt if necessary.
On the other hand the SLFP with 41 seats was sure of LSSP (10) and CP (4) support. This gave the SLFP- LSSP –CP combine a total of 55 seats. The support of Independents RG, Prins and “Podi putha” Mudiyanse increased it to 58. This was not enough to cobble together a majority but if the FP supported the SLFP or at least refused to support the UNP then there was a chance of forming a Govt. The MEP – JVP and even a few more Independents could be possibly weaned away. With six appointed MP’s a razor thin majority was feasible.
Besides the SLFP thought it had a hidden yet powerful asset. This was in the form of the Governor – general William Gopallawa. He had been appointed Governor – general in 1962 by Sirima Bandaranaike when she was Prime minister. Gopallawa who was connected to the Dullewa clan of Matale was also related to Ms. Bandaranaike. William Gopallawa’s daughter Iranganie was married to Sirima Bandaranaike’s younger brother and private secretary Dr. Mackie Ratwatte. These ties made the SLFP –LSSP – CP hierarchies feel that the Governor – General could be manipulated if necessary.
In 1960 the Governor – General was Sir Oliver Goonetilleke. He was very close to the UNP having been a confidante of DS Senanayake. Sir Oliver also served in UNP Governments as a cabinet minister and was later appointed Governor –General in 1954 when Sir John Kotelawala was Prime minister. In the March 1960 elections the UNP got 50 seats and the SLFP 46. Sir Oliver swore in Dudley Senanayake as Prime minister though the UNP had no viable majority. Dudley could not acquire the necessary numbers to prove he had a majority. He resigned.
The then SLFP leader C.P.de Silva had obtained the support of the FP and garnered a viable majority. Still Sir Oliver did not appoint him premier and instead asked FP leader SJV Chelvanayakam to meet him . Sir Oliver Goonetilleke received Chelvanayagam and told him that he was trying to ascertain whether CP de Silva could form an alternative government. If the SLFP did not have the required numbers, he was going to dissolve Parliament said Sir Oliver.
Stating that the support of the FP was crucial in this respect, the Governor General asked the FP leader categorically whether the FP would provide “unqualified” support to the SLFP-led alternative government for a minimum period of two years. Chelvanayakam replied that the FP had arrived at an understanding with the SLFP and that his party would support the SLFP-led govt not merely for two years but for its full term. The politically sagacious Sir Oliver cited this perceived reluctance on the part of the FP leader to explicitly guarantee unqualified support for two years as proof of the proposed government’s “fragility”. Stating that he was dissatisfied by Chelva’s answer, the Governor General went ahead and dissolved Parliament. Sir Oliver was severely criticised for his blatantly transparent partisan conduct.
Sir Oliver was replaced as Governor – General by William Gopallawa in 1962 after the abortive coup attempt by senior Army, Navy, Police officials. William Gopallawa who later became Sri Lanka’s first (non – executive)President was a lawyer. He had served as municipal commissioner of Kandy and Colombo and had also been Ambassador to China and the USA. Since Gopallawa was related to the Ratwatte family and had been appointed Governor – General by Ms.Bandaranaike, the UNP suspected his impartiality. Likewise sections of the SLFP and LSSP thought he could be made to toe their line. William Gopallawa however proved both sides wrong by his unimpeachable conduct in the matter.
The Trotskyite LSSP took the lead in the Prime minister issue by insisting that Mrs. Bandaranaike should not resign as PM despite the adverse election results. Instead the LSSP wanted Mrs. Bandaranaike to acquire a Parliamentary majority with the aid of political parties such as the FP and independents. The LSSP was supported in this by many senior SLFP stalwarts. The LSSP led by Dr. N. M. Perera in those days was a powerful entity unlike the caricature it is today under NM’ s nephew Prof.Tissa Vitarane. Due to these pressures Mrs.Bandaranaike delayed submitting her resignation as Prime minister by forty hours.
In the meantime the LSSP and sections of the SLFP mobilised large crowds outside “Temple Trees” to demonstrate and demand that Mrs. Bandaranaike should not resign. Crowds were also assembled in Fort outside “Queens House” (Presidents House) to prevent her entering the premises to submit her resignation. Thousands of SLFP – LSSP supporters thronged the Galle Face Green along Galle Road. There were also unsuccessful attempts to gather outside Dudley Senanayake’s residence and forcibly confine the prime minister elect within “Woodlands”.The situation was highly volatile.
The prevailing Parliamentary arithmetic after the elections indicated that the Federal Party (ITAK) with its 14 seats held the balance of power . With FP support Dudley Senanayake could obtain a majority easily. The UNP(66) and FP (14) together would have 80 seats. With six more appointed MP’s the new Govt would have 86 out of 157 seats in the house. Even the support of other parties such as SLFSP, MEP, JVP and Tamil Congress would not be necessary.
Likewise if the FP opted to support the SLFP the hand of Mrs. Bandaranaike would be strengthened effectively. The 14 seats of the FP plus the 55 seats of the SLFP – LSSP – CP combine would amount to 69.Three of the six independents were anti – UNP.Two other independents could be persuaded to support the new SLFP govt. If Mrs. Bandaranaike was sworn in again as Prime minister and nominated the six appointed MP’s the new SLFP led Govt would have 80 out of 157 seats.
The importance of the FP was driven home to Dudley Senanayake when he had called on the Governor – General on March 23rd after the Election results were known. Gopallawa had then informed Senanayake that the incumbent PM Ms. Sirima Bandaranaike was yet to submit her resignation. The Governor – General also told Dudley Senanayake that though the UNP was the single largest party with the most number of seats it was required to acquire a stable majority. He suggested that the UNP obtain the support of other parties such as the FP and prove that it possessed a stable majority.
Kingmaker or Queenmaker
Against this backdrop it was crystal clear that the FP could either be a Kingmaker by supporting Dudley or a Queenmaker by endorsing Sirima. The FP led by Samuel James Veluppilaai Chelvanayakam was ardently wooed by both sides. His arrival from Jaffna to Colombo was anxiously awaited by both sides. The reality however was that the soliciting of FP support had commenced even before the elections. Anticipating a hung Parliament and the necessity of potential FP support to form a stable majority both the UNP and SLFP had commenced “unofficial discussions” with the FP even as the election campaign was in progress.
FP leader SJV Chelvanayakam and other senior party leaders were busy campaigning in the North and East and could not be in Colombo for preliminary discussions. Chelvanayakam therefore entrusted that task to former Solicitor – General Murugeysen Tiruchelvam who was now affiliated to the FP.He was regarded as being close to the FP leader who had been the legal guardian of Tiruchelvam and his brother Rajendra when both were students.
Tiruchelvam had begun discreet discussions with both sides in Colombo even as the FP election campaign unfolded in the North and East. “Lake House” Editorial director Esmond Wickremesinghe negotiated on behalf of the UNP with Tiruchelvam. As is well known Esmond Wickremesinghe was the father of present Prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Ceylon Workers Congress(CWC) chief Saumiyamoorthy Thondaman was of assistance to both Wickremesinghe and Tiruchelvam in these talks.
LSSP leaders Dr. N. M. Perera, Dr. Colvin R de Silva and Anil Moonesinghe negotiated on behalf of the SLFP – LSSP – CP combine in talks with Tiruchelvam. Democratic Workers Congress (DWC) leader A. Aziz aided the LSSP leaders in these talks. On another level Tiruchelvam also conducted informal discussions with Mrs. Ranji Senanayake who was the wife of senior SLFP leader Maithripala Senanayake.
Tiruchelvam apparently conducted these parallel discussions secretively and reported only to Chelvanayakam. None of the other FP leaders knew about the talks. Also the UNP was unaware of Tiruchelvam talking to the other side .Similiarly the LSSP and SLFP did not know Tiruchelvam was talking to the UNP also. The FP negotiator however did not commit himself to either party until the elections were concluded. In any case the ultimate decision could only be made by FP Leader Chelvanayakam and approved by senior party leaders.
Once the results were announced and the importance of the FP in forming a govt was realised, the master strategist Esmond Wickremesinghe moved fast.Along with Thondaman, Wickremesinghe persuaded Tiruchelvam to tie up the FP with the UNP. Tiruchelvam consented and informed Chelvanayakam accordingly. Despite agreeing to go along with the UNP ,Tiruchelvam did not inform the SLFP or LSSP about the alignment with the UNP. The FP negotiator kept that option open in case the talks with the UNP failed.
Chelvanayakam and other senior FP leaders arrived in Colombo. Esmond Wickremesinghe met Chelvanayakam personally and assured him that the UNP would honour any arrangement reached with the FP.A crucial meeting was set up between Dudley Senanayake and SJV Chelvanayakam at the Turret road (Now Dharmapala mawatte) residence of Dr. M. V.P. Peiris.
Dudley Senanayake elected to Parliament from Dedigama was accompanied by JR Jayewardene(Colombo South), V. A. Sugathadasa (Colombo North) and of course Esmond Wickremesinghe.The host Dr. Peiris who was made a minister in the UNP cabinet was also present. The FP delegation led by Kankesanthurai MP Chelvanayakam consisted of Dr. E.M. V. Naganathan (Nalloor), S. M. Rasamanickam (Paddiruppu), V. Navaratnam (Kayts) and M. Tiruchelvam.
Since most of the spadework had been done by Esmond Wickremesinghe and Murugeysen Tiruchelvam, the UNP – FP talks moved smoothly. The FP had raised areas of concern such as use of Tamil language in administration, Use of Tamil in courts, De – centralisation of power to the north and east and land alienation and settlement in the North and East. Both sides agreed to terms reached in three of the four areas including the setting up of District councils. The problem was in the area of land alienation and settlement.
The FP insisted that the demography of areas in the North and East should not be altered by state aided colonisation of Sinhala settlers. The FP called it Sinhala colonisation of the traditional Tamil homeland and demanded that only Tamil speaking people should be settled in colonisation schemes in the North and East. An emotional Dudley Senanayake vehemently objected to this and blurted out “Then where are my people to go for land”? With both sides refusing to compromise there set in a deadlock. It was almost midnight now and the UNP – FP talks seemed destined to fail.
This state of affairs changed when Dr. Peiris went out to make some telephone calls. He made a dramatic re- entry saying there was reports that Mrs. Bandaranaike was on her way to Queens House to be sworn in as Prime minister because the FP was supporting her. This “news” was wrong but the flabbergasting piece of information helped alter the situation drastically. There was now a sense of urgency and determination that an agreement be reached between both parties. A message was conveyed to the Governor – General on behalf of Chelvanayakam that the FP was not supporting the SLFP and that it was discussing the issue of supporting the UNP with Dudley Senanayake.
Thereafter matters moved fast.After further discussions a compromise was proposed by Esmond Wickremesinghe. It was suggested that when irrigation schemes were implemented in a district and agricultural settlers were given lands , priority should be given to people of the same province. Thereafter priority should be given to people from adjacent provinces. This compromise was acceptable to both sides.
With agreement being reached , JR Jayewardene suggested that copies be made of the agreement and signed by the respective party leaders. The FP’s V. Navaratnam then began typing out the terms of the agreement as JR read them out aloud. Dudley Senanayake and SJV Chelvanayakam signed both copies. History was made. History was also repeating itself.
In 1957 SWRD Bandaranaike and SJV Chelvanayakam representing the SLFP and FP respectively had signed an agreement. Both signatories were old students of St. Thomas’ College. Eight years later another pact was being signed by Dudley Senanayake an old Thomian and Chelvanayakam a fellow Thomian. The historic agreement became known as the Dudley – Chelva pact just as the FP agreement with the SLFP in 1957 was called the Banda – Chelva pact.After signing the Dudley – Chelva pact both leaders shook hands. While shaking hands Chelvanayakam simply told Senanayake ”I trust you” to which Dudley replied “I have been in politics for thirty years. I have never gone back on my promise”.
Queens House was immediately informed by telephone that an agreement had been arrived at between the UNP and FP. A letter addressed to the Governor – General on behalf of the FP was drafted and typed out at the house of Dr.Peiris. The letter stating that the FP was supporting the UNP to form a Govt was immediately despatched by courier to the Governor-General.
Meanwhile the press baron Esmond Wickremesinghe who had printer’s ink running in his veins was not going to let his newspapers miss out on a first – class news story. Wickremesinghe telephoned and updated the news desk at Lake House. New front pages were laid out as Esmond dictated the lead story over the phone to the “Daily News”. It was translated into Sinhala and Tamil.Lake House newspapers scooped all other newspapers on the following morning.
Three Cabinet Ministers
After agreement was reached, an elated Dudley Senanayake told Chelvanayakam that he was willing to offer three cabinet minister posts to the FP. The UNP leader said that he had wanted to offer two ministry posts to the Federal Party and one to the Tamil Congress but GG Ponnambalam had declined the offer. Therefore he was offering the FP all three posts. Chelvanayakam told Dudley that the FP too could not accept ministry posts as FP candidates contesting polls had pledged that they would not accept cabinet portfolios until their ideal of Federalism was realised.
Dudley however was insistent.He said that without the participation of the FP the Government of which he was going to be head of would not be a “national Govt. He urged the party to re-consider its decision. Chelvanayakam then replied that he would place the UNP leader’s request before the FP Parliamentary group for consideration. The FP then departed from Turret road in the wee hours of the morning.
It had now become clear that Dudley Senanayake was going to form a Government with the help of the FP and other parties.Still the LSSP made a last ditch effort to reverse the situation. Dr. N.M. Perera and the DWC’s Aziz went to Tiruchelvam’s house on Rosemead place.While NM waited in the vehicle, Aziz went in and met Tiruchelvam. The FP negotiator told the DWC leader that the party was going to support the UNP. A crestfallen Aziz turned back.
LSSP leader Dr. N.M. Perera would not give up still. He went along with Anil Moonesinghe to the Alfred House Gardens residence of Chelvanayakam. NM offered to get the 1957 Banda – Chelva agreement implemented in full if the FP supported a SLFP led Govt. Chelvanayakan politely refused saying the party had pledged its support to the UNP.
Dudley Senanayake also sought and obtained a letter of support from all party leaders addressed to the Governor –general. The joint letter stated -“The results of the General elections show the country has endorsed our actions in defeating the coalition govt in Parliament on December 3rd. We represent an overall majority in the house of representatives. We will support a National Government under the leadership of Mr. Dudley Senanayake the leader of the United National Party who has pledged to protect and preserve democratic freedom and to rescue the country from the economic and other difficulties that now face us”. It was signed by Dudley Senanayake (UNP), C.P. de Silva(SLFSP), SJV Chelvanayakam (FP), GG Ponnambalam (ACTC) and Philip Gunawardena(MEP).
There is an interesting parallel between 1965 and 2015 regarding the formation of a multi-party national govt. The various political forces who joined hands and outvoted the SLFP in a no confidence vote on Dec 3rd 1964 were the same ones who formed a national govt in 1965. The formation of the “Hath Haula” under Dudley Senanayake was viewed as the logical extension of the political dynamic that defeated the SLFP – LSSP – CP in 1964. Likewise the “rainbow coalition”which supported Maithripala Sirisena at the January 8th Presidential poll has now re-grouped itself as the UNFGG under Ranil Wickremesinghe with the objective of forming a national govt after the August 17th elections. This move too is depicted as the continuation of the silent revolution which defeated Mahinda Rajapaksa in January.
This letter was sent to the Governor – General Gopallawa who then telephoned Sirima Bandaranaike and informed her that the UNP had the necessary majority. Mrs. Bandaranaike said she would come to Queens House and submit her resignation. Dudley Senanayake was asked to call over at Queens House and take his oaths as Prime minister.
There was still a simmering problem. Supporters of the SLFP and LSSP were mobbing the areas outside Queens House in Fort. Their intention was two-fold One was to prevent Sirima Bandaranaike from meeting the GG and resigning. The other was to block Dudley Senanayake from entering Queens House and being sworn in as PM.A few ex – ministers were also mingling with the boisterous crowds.
William Gopallawa then telephoned the SSP Colombo Ivor Van Twest and instructed him to clear the area of all “obstructions”. Van Twest delegated the task to Asst Supdt of Police V. Vamadevan who went to the spot with a Police contingent. An ex – minister accosted Vamadevan and got into a verbal duel with the young ASP. He threatened Vamadevan in obscene language referring to his Tamil ethnicity and demanded that the Police withdraw immediately. Vamadevan did not budge and with the aid of his fellow cops pushed back the mobs beyond “Ceylinco House”towards Galle face.
The way was cleared by the Police for Mrs. Bandaranaike to submit her resignation to the Governor – General. After she did so and left Queens House, Dudley Senanayake was asked to call over. Anticipating trouble the Strongman of Northern Colombo V. A. Sugathadasa took over the security of Senanayake. The UNP leader was escorted by Colombo’s former Mayor Sugathadasa and a convoy of vehicles packed with some toughies.The convoy took a route from Kotahena to reach Queens House. While the protective escort vehicles and their occupants remained outside Dudley and Sugathadasa went in. Dudley Senanayake was sworn in as premier for the fourth time.
Meanwhile the FP parliamentary group met in Colombo . After Chelvanayakam briefed all the MP’s about the agreement reached with the UNP, the party leader informed the gathering about the offer of three ministry posts. Chelvanayakam said that if the MP”s were willing the party could accept the offer. Chelva suggested that the FP president S.M. Rasamanickam and party secretary A. Amirthalingam along with M. Tiruchelvam could become ministers. Since Tiruchelvam was not an MP he could be made a Senator to become a cabinet minister said Chelva.
Howl of Protest
There was a howl of protest. V. Navaratnam the Kayts MP protested strongly against the suggestion to accept ministry posts. He was supported by Parliamentarians like C. Rajadurai, K.P. Ratnam, and C.Kathiravetpillai who argued strongly that the party should not join the cabinet. It was pointed out that the Tamil Congress which had kept out of the cabinet would now vilify the FP as traitors for joining the UNP Govt just as the FP condemned GG Ponnambalam as a traitor for joining the UNP govt earlier. Both Rasamanickam and Amirthalingam said they would not become ministers.
Chelvanayakam then pointed out that the party having a minister post would be beneficial in ensuring the smooth implementation of the Dudley – Chelva agreement. He was supported by Dr. EMV Naganathan who observed it was easier to work from within govt ranks rather than from outside. A compromise was reached finally.
As the FP candidates had vowed not to accept ministerial office and all elected MP’s were bound by such oath , it was decided that a person who had not made such a pledge could accept a cabinet portfolio. The FP would only accept one and not three ministry posts.It was unanimously resolved that Tiruchelvam should represent the FP in the national govt. He would also be made a member of the upper house or Senate. The FP requested the Home Affairs ministry for Tiruchelvam but Dudley had promised that to former premier W. Dahanayake. So Tiruchelvam became minister of Local Govt in the national govt.
The National Government of Dudley Senanayake in 1965 was a seven party coalition comprising the UNP, FP, SLFSP, MEP, ACTC, JVP and CWC. It was popularly referred to as the “Hath Haula”. Representatives of the UNP, SLFSP, FP and MEP were appointed as ministers. The JVP’s Kusuma Rajaratne was made a deputy minister. The Tamil Congress did not accept ministerial office but after a few years M. Sivasithamparam of the ACTC became deputy – speaker. The CWC had campaigned for the UNP in the elections but did not field any candidates. Dudley Senanayake nominated the CWC’s S. Thondaman and V. Annamalai as appointed MP’s. R. Jesudasan of the CWC was made Senator.The CWC was the seventh member of the UNP led national govt.
The “Hath Haula”National Govt was the first Govt since Independence to complete its five year full term of office from 1965 to 1970. There were schisms when the JVP deputy minister Kusuma Rajaratne resigned her post in 1966 as a mark of protest against the Govt bringing in new laws to facilitate the use of Tamil in administration. In 1969 the FP quit the Govt and Tiruchelvam resigned as minister over the refusal of Dudley Senanayake to declare the Koneshwaram temple precincts in Trincomalee as a sacred area. The FP sat in the opposition but did not vote against the Govt.
This then is the story of the seven party national govt being formed in 1965. It was a coalition of diverse political elements. Only a statesman of Dudley Senanayake’s calibre could have managed the inherent contradictions within that Govt.
The national govt of Dudley Senanayake completed its full term and confidently went to the polls in 1970 seeking a renewed mandate from the people of the country. The voters of Sri Lanka however passed harsh judgement on the performance of the national govt.
The united front of the SLFP(91), LSSP(19) and CP(06)won 116 seats out of 151 in Parliament. The UNP was routed with the party getting only 17 seats.
This article written for the “DBS Jeyaraj Column” appears in the “Daily Mirror” of Aug 15, 2015, it can be reached via this link:
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at email@example.com