Bandaranayake and the SLFP lives only with change - Sri Lanka Guardian

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Monday, September 1, 2008

Bandaranayake and the SLFP lives only with change


‘Fifty seven years ago, the SLFP helped catalyse a new change and a shift in Sri Lankan politics. Fifty seven years after, the SLFP needs a change today, to save itself for the future. It is therefore time now to think of a change and work towards a democratic leadership with a futuristic vision in the SLFP to achieve a democratic life both within and without the party. This needs a political dialogue and it is my call today for all SLFP members to take up that challenge.’

by Mangala Samaraweera

(September 01, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Fifty seven years ago this day, late Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranayake created history by founding a political party that was destined to change the course of our socio- economic path for almost two decades and leave a social thinking that even today is held valid by the South and the Sinhala society. Forming of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) brought together a different social layer of our rural society into active politics that had not been kindled into political consciousness by the UNP and would not have, if not for Bandaranayake. But the shortcoming was that it was the Sinhala rural polity that he addressed and not the whole rural polity including the Tamil.

Nevertheless, it was a change he believed in. And a change that brought many other changes too. His economic policy backed by “Left” political parties, though state oriented, gave space to a new, small time, entrepreneurship class within the national economy and an opportunity to the poor to access education in their own mother tongue. His politics in the realm of foreign policy landed Sri Lanka firmly in the non-aligned movement more closer to the then respected “socialist” bloc countries.

After the conclusion of World War II, most post colonial societies cried out for such change that conservative leaderships like the UNP could not fathom by themselves. In most such countries, that change was led by intellectuals and socialist minded leaders. Ayub Khans, Sukarnos, Lumumbas, Nassers as a collage of popular political leaders that emerged in the post WW II period in these new countries showed Bandaranayake was not a leader in isolation nor out of step of his time. That was the emerging world then.


Yet, what irks right now is the mediocrity of the present day SLFPleadership that can not lead the people from the front for a new, democratic social change. SLFP is a political party that was born out of democratic change. It has to live with change and democracy. Today, this country can not afford to stop where the SLFP began its politics. Where Bandaranayake chose to use the State in strengthening the national economy.

Today, the SLFP can only live with the fundamentals of Bandaranayake politics, which was to broad base the social power structures to reach the masses. In short, today, the SLFP has to live with the broadest form of inclusive democracy that would allow for a change that would benefit Sri Lanka as a knowledge based society, looking to the future. Such futuristic change can not be aspired for by extending and expanding a brutal war that excludes over one fifth of the citizenry from living a democratic life. War has never paved the way for democratic life in human history. Human development can not be achieved with a party that has no responsibility in the political life of this country. Inclusive democratic life can not be dreamt of with a SLFP that has been tamed by and chained to a despotic regime and lacks internal democracy.

Fifty seven years ago, the SLFP helped catalyse a new change and a shift in Sri Lankan politics. Fifty seven years after, the SLFP needs a change today, to save itself for the future. It is therefore time now to think of a change and work towards a democratic leadership with a futuristic vision in the SLFP to achieve a democratic life both within and without the party. This needs a political dialogue and it is my call today for all SLFP members to take up that challenge. Let us all in the SLFP, work towards a new and democratic leadership.

(The writer is a member of parliament in Sri Lanka and a Leader for a break way faction of the ruling party the SLFP (M) )
- Sri Lanka Guardian

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