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United National Party 63 years old

"Some says the UNP is in shambles now. Is there none to rally the party. Does Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe mark time. What about Mr. Rukman Senanayake?"

By Walter Wijenayake

(September 07, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The United National Party was formed 63 years ago today, on the September 06, 1946 with 205 members, eleven years and three years after the formation of Lanka Samasamaja Party and Communist Party respectively and five years before the formation of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, by the merger of the Ceylon National Congress and the Sinhala Maha Sabha, and the adhesion of other political elements willing to support its ‘policy’.

On the very day of the inception of the party in the State Council Building with Mr. D. S. Senanayake, then leader of the State Council in the chair, the draft constitution of the party was adopted. Further a resolution was passed by Mr. Nadesan and seconded by Mr. T. B. Jayah, ‘that a political party called the United National Party be formed.’ The following office bearers were President _ Mr. D. S. Senanayake (Later Rt. Hon), Vice presidents – Messers S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, Sir John Kotelawela, George E. de Silva, T. B. Jayah and A. Arunachalam Mahadeva (later Sir), General Secretary – Mr. H. W. Amarasuriya, Joint Treasurers – Messers J. R. Jayewardene and A. R. A. Razik (later Sir Razik Fareed)

At it 56th year of inception in 2005, its membership had been increased to 14,35,000. It is how it had been progressed.

The party fielded 98 candidates for the following General election which began on the 23rd August and continued till September 20, 1947. 42 members of Parliament returned. Mr. D. S. Senanayake was appointed Prime Minister by Sir Henry Monck Mason Moore, the then Governor.

Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, the Minister of Local Government and Health as well as the Vice President of the party left the party in 1951 with five other Members of Parliament. IT was the first blow suffered by the party. The second severe plight overtook the party by the death of its founder president Mr. D. S. Senanayake on March 23, 1952.

His son Mr. Dudley Senanayake succeeded him. He dissolved the Parliament and fixed the General Election for the second Parliament for April 28, 1952. The party fielded 80 candidates who 54 were returned. It was a resounding victory for the UNP. Sri Lanka Freedom party headed by Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike got hold of 09 seats. However Mr. Dudley Senanayake remained as the Prime Minister for only one and half years. He resigned the Premiership in October, 1953 on ill-health. He also retired from active politics some time later. Sir John Kotelawala who was the then Leader of the House and Minister of Transport and works succeeded him. Mr. J. R. Jayewardene was made the leader of the House. The tremors of the language controversy began to be felt shortly after Sir John Kotelawela assumed duties.

He requested the Governor General, Sir Oliver Goonetileke to dissolve the Parliament and it was so happened. When the election for the third parliament was held, it was found that it was a complete debacle for the UNP. It contested 76 seats and won only 08 seats. Ten Ministers of the Kotelawala Government failed to secure their seats. They were Messers J. R. Jayewardene, A. Ratnayake, E. A. Nugawela, P. B. Bulankulame Dissawe, S. C. Shirley Corea, M. D. H. Jayewardene, Dr. M. C. M. Kaleel, Sir Kanthaiah Vaithianathan, Messers Montague Jayawickrema and N. h. Keerthiratne.

Out of the Minsiters only Sir John Kotelawela and Mr. M. D. Banda were successful. Mr. Dudley Senanayake has a already resigned and Sir John Kotelawela did not have much interest of the Party it became dimmer daily. Mr. J. R. Jayewardene was the only person to rally the party which was in shambles. However Mr. Dudley Senanayake returned to politics and reassumed leadership. Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike was assassinated on the September 26, 1950.

The UNP put forward 127 candidates to contest the newly enlarged House of Representatives of 151 members for the 4th parliament. The UNP retained 50 seats and formed a minority government, but was beaten in its first battle – the Address of Thanks to the Governor General for his Throne Speech, which was delivered on April 06, 1960. The vote on Address of Thanks debate was taken on April 22nd Dudley Senanayake Government was defeated when the opposition amendment was passed by 86 votes to 61.

With consultation of Mr. Dudley Senanayake, the Prime Minister the Governor – General Sir Oliver Goonetilleke dissolved the Parliament and fixed the fresh elections for July 20 1960. The UNP put forward 128 candidates and 30 members only retained. Mrs. Sirima R. D. Bandaranaike became the Prime Minister. When Mr. C. P. de Silva, the leader of the House crossed the floor and voted with the UNP – Opposition, Mrs. Sirima R. D. Bandaranaike fell on December 04, 1964. Then the Governor General Mr. William Gopallawa fixed March 22, 1965 as the date for the general election for the 06th Parliament. At this time the UNP retained 66 seats, Mr. Dudley Senanayake formed the Government with his 66 seats, Mr. Dudley Senanayake formed the Government with his 66 members, from the Federal Party, 05 from the Sri Lanka Freedom Socialist Party 03 from the Tamil Congress, and one from each from the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna, Lanka Prajathantrawadi Pakshaya and the Jathika Vimukthi Peramuna.

This Government was called the National Government and comprised all those parties, who had fought for democracy. Mr. Dudley Senanayake continued in power for the whole term of 05 years from March 25 1965 to March 15, 1970. Federal Party had failed in its ambition to get through the District Councils Bill presented in the House of representatives in July 1968, and deserted Mr. Dudley Senanayake and the Government. Finally the Government was dissolved on the March 25, 1970 and the date for general election was fixed for March 25, 1970 for the 07th Parliament on May 17, 1970.

In this General Election the UNP put forward 129 candidates. The Mahajana Eksath Peramuna which was a also campaigning with the Government of Mr. Dudley Senanayake had four contestants. The Sri Lanka Freedom Socialist Party led by Mr. C. P. de Silva Leader of the House, both in the Bandaranaike and Dudley


Senanayake governments, disbanded his party in August 1968, and joined the UNP and fought the May 1970 election under the banner of the UNP. So did Dr. W. Dahanayake, the former leader of the Lanka Prajathantrawadi Pakshaya.

At this election Mr. Dudley Senanayake was succeeded by Mrs. Sirima Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike. There was a tussle between Messers Dudley Senanayake and J. R. Jayewardene, over the question of supporting Mrs. Bandaranaike’s Govenrment, or not doing so. The differences between the due became so acute that only an injunction from the Supreme Court prevented a disastrous situation. However, shortly before Mr. Senanayake’s death, both became friends again, and prevented a shattering blow on the party, which would have had serious repercussion on its future.

Mr. Dudley Senanayake continued to be the President of the party and made Mr. Jayewardene to be the Leader of the Opposition. After the demise of Mr. Senanayake, Mr. Jayewardene was elected the leader of the UNP and from then a new light began to show itself in the affairs of the party. He did much to the party. He organised two Sinhala, one English and one Tamil journals for the purpose of publicising the party’s view and activities.

However the Parliament was dissolved on May 18, 1977 and the general election was fixed for July 21, 1977. At the election, out of 154 contestants seeking election, 139 were returned in Parliament of 168 members. One seat could not be contested owing to the death of a contestant. The SLFP. Won only 08 seats out of 147 contested. All the others who aligned with the SLFP were defeated. Mr. J. R. Jayewardene was elected Prime Minister and continued to function in the capacity till February 04, 1978.

On that day he became the first Executive President of the Republic of Sri Lanka, in consequence of an amendment to the Constitution. Later in the same years, a referendum was held and the will of the people was that there should be no general election till, 1989.

When Mr. J. R. Jayewardene became the President, Mr. R. Premadasa was made the Prime Minister on February 23, 1978. He was elected the second Executive President of Sri Lanka on December 19, 1988 and he assumed duties at the historic temple to the sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy on January 02, 1989. He led the UNP to victory at the general election held on February 15, 1989. He survived the attempted impeachment by some UNP and opposition members of Parliament.

When he was assassinated on May 01, 1993 by a suicide bomber Mr. D. B. Wijetunge was appointed the third Executive President. In the Presidential election held in 1994 Mrs. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge came into power. She dissolved the Parliament in 2001. There the UNP got hold of power and Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe became the Prime Minister.

At the General election held in 1994 Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse came into power and became the Prime Minister and at the Presidential election held in 2005 Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa became the fifth Executive President of the island.

Some says the UNP is in shambles now. Is there none to rally the party. Does Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe mark time. What about Mr. Rukman Senanayake?
-Sri Lanka Guardian

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