(November 2005 - April
(April 2004 -
The fifth Executive President of Sri Lanka,
Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, former Prime Minister, Member of Parliament, lawyer,
human rights activist and trade unionist comes from a family with a long
tradition in people-oriented politics. He was elected Executive President in
the nation-wide election held in November 2005.
(May 1993 - August 1994)
Hon Ranil Shriyan Wickramasinghe MP LLB (born March 24, 1949) is
the current Leader of the Opposition. He was Prime Minister twice, from
May 7, 1993 to August 19, 1994 and from December 9, 2001 to April 6,
2004. He has also been the leader of the United National Party since
November, 1994 and a member of the party since the early 1970s.
- Wickramasinghe's father was Esmond
Wickramasinghe, a one-time leftist and director of the Lake House group
of newspapers then owned by their family. From Anglican stock, his
paternal uncle Lakshman Wickramasinghe was later to be a much respected
Bishop of the Church of Sri Lanka. His maternal line, who are Buddhists,
comprisesd landowners and the owners of the Lake House newspaper group.
He was a nephew of J.R. Jayewardene, a leading politician, later Prime
Minister and First Executive President of Sri Lanka.
Wickramasinghe was educated at Royal College, Colombo. Later, he entered
the Faculty of Law at the University of Colombo. After graduation he
completed the law exams at the Sri Lanka Law College and took oaths as
Wickramasinghe joined the United National Party (UNP) and progressed
through its ranks, being the chief organizer of the Kelaniya
Parliamentary seat in the mid 1970s and was later installed as the chief
organizer of the Biyagama seat which he won in the 1977 Parliamentary
He was appointed the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in the new
government headed by his uncle JR Jayewardena and was soon promoted to
the post of Minister of Youth Affairs and Employment which made him the
youngest cabinet minister of Sri Lankan. He introduced the National
Youth Services Council (NYSCO) which provides vocational and career
training to school leavers. Wickramasinghe was later made the Minister
- Under the Presidency of Ranasinghe
Premadasa, Wickramasinghe was appointed as the Minister of Industry
under which he initiated certain industrial reforms and established the
Biyagama Special Economic Zone. Appointed the leader of house in 1989,
on May 7, 1993 Wickramasinghe was sworn in as Prime Minister after
President Ranasinghe Premadasa was assassinated, by the Tamil Tigers.
In the 1994 Parliamentary Elections, the UNP lost to Chandrika
Bandaranaike Kumaratunga's People's Alliance (PA) which ousted
Wickramasinghe from the Prime Ministership. He also lost the race to be
the Opposition Leader to fellow UNP member Gamini Dissanayake who was
later assassssinated, also by the Tamil Tigers. Wickramasinghe was later
appointed as the Opposition Leader as well as the UNP leader.
In the Presidential Election of December 1999 he stood for the
presidency for the first time and was defeated by the incumbent
President Chandrika Kumaratunga. After the loss of the 1999 Presidential
Elections, Wickramasinghe unsuccessfully led his UNP through the 2000
Parliamentary Elections again losing out to the PA.
He was elected Prime Minister in the December 2001 Parliamentary
Elections with the United National Front led by him winning a majority
One of his first acts was to sign a ceasefire agreement with the LTTE in
February 2002 and start peace talks, which were later abrogated by the
LTTE after three rounds in 2003.
Wickramasinghe came under fiery criticism and was called a traitor by
some, after a police officer, commonly perceived as a Wickramasinghe
ally, exposed an elite Sri Lankan army LRRP unit, based in Colombo
engaged in covert operations against the LTTE, on the false accusation
that the unit was deployed to assassinate Wickramasinghe..
In the Parliamentary Election held in April 2004, following the
dissolution of Parliament earlier that year by President Kumaratunga,
the UNF led by Ranil Wickramasinghe lost governmental office.
In December 2004 Wickramasinghe was chosen by the United National Party
as its Presidential candidate for 2005 Presidential Elections due in
late 2005. Mahinda Rajapaksa, then Prime Minister, was appointed as the
Presidential candidate of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.
In the Presidential Election, held on November 17, 2005, Wickramasinghe
was defeated by Mahinda Rajapaksa gaining 50.29% of the vote, while
Wickramasinghe gained 48.43%. He remains the Leader of the Oppositionm
Hon. Ratnasiri Wickremanayake
Former Minister of Public Administration,
Home Affairs and Plantation, Mr. Ratnasiri Wickremanayake was
appointed Prime Minister, on 10th August, 2000, succeeding Prime
Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who resigned at the age of 84.
Wickremanayake entered politics in 1960 winning the
Horana seat in the March General Election as a member of the Mahajana
Eksath Peramuna (MEP).
Later in 1970, he was appointed Deputy Minister,
Justice and went on to be the General secretary of the Sri Lanka Freedom
Party (SLFP) in 1977.
In the 1994 General Election, he won the Kalutara
District seat and was appointed as the Minister of Public Administration, Home Affairs and
Plantation Industries and the Leader of the House in President Chandrika’s Cabinet.
As Prime Minister Mr. Wickramanayaka is also the Minister of Buddha
Sasana and Religious Affairs and retains the Ministry of Plantation Industries. He is also the ex-officio Chairman of the Board of
Governors of the Central Cultural Fund.
Hon. Sirimavo R. D.
1960 - 1965)
Hon. SIRIMAVO R.D.
BANDARANAIKE (Born April 17, 1916) was the world's first elected woman
Prime Minister, and a founder leader of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM),
and had the distinction of becoming the Prime Minister for three times.
stateswoman, she brought credit to Sri Lanka at many international fora,
including the United Nations Organization and the Non Aligned Movement. It
was she who brought a resolution before the UN asking that the Indian Ocean
be made a Peace Zone. She worked very closely and actively with leaders such
Indira Gandhi of India, Anwar Sadat of Egypt, Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia,
and was a friend of the former socialist bloc.
Before becoming the
Prime Minister in 1994, for the third time, she took oaths as the Minister
without Portfolio on August 19, 1994. She donated her salary to the Treasury
and worked as an advisor to the Cabinet of Ministers of her daughter's
Chandrika Kumaratunga’s government.
Indian Prime Ministers
Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi had very close family connections with
the Bandaranaike family and as a result Indo-Sri Lanka Nations during her
periods of office were very strong. Her friendly and cordial approach helped
her to find solutions to festering problems such as that of the Stateless
persons of Indian origin in Sri Lanka. The Sirima-Shasthri agreement
between Mrs. Bandaranaike and Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shasthri of India
helped to initiate moves to repatriate stateless persons in Sri Lanka’s
plantations to India. It was solely due to her effort that an amicable
settlement favourable to Sri Lanka was reached on the question of the
Kachchativu, a tiny island between the South Coast of India and Sri Lanka's
North Coast, formally acceding it to Sri Lanka.
When border issues
between India and China showed signs of armed confrontation, Mrs.
Bandaranaike separately met the leaders of the two countries to successfully
bring about pacification.
She was Prime Minister
from July 1960 to March 1965 and then from 1970 to 1977.
During the height of
terror in 1988 she polled 2,289,868 votes of 44.9 percent as the
presidential candidate at the elections held on December 19, 1988. Former
President Ranasinghe Premadasa who won the election polled only 50.4
The daughter of Barnes
Ratwatte Dissawa and Ratwatte Kumarihamy, she received her education at St
Bridget's Convent, Colombo.
In 1940, she married
Mr. SWRD Bandaranaike, then Minister of Local Government and Health, who
later became Prime Minister of the country in 1956 and continued till
September 1959, when he was assassinated.
Bandaranaike was first appointed Prime Minister as a member of the Senate in
July 1960. She contested her first seat to Parliament in March 1965 from the
electorate of Attanagalle - and was returned by a very large majority. She
became the Leader of the Opposition on that Parliament. She was Prime
Minister again from 1970 to 1977, being elected on a coalition of left and
She gave leadership to
the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the party founded by her late husband,
both during good times and bad. Mrs. Bandaranaike's greatest achievement was
perhaps, the holding of the 1975 Non Aligned Movement's Conference in
Colombo, and her election as to its Chair. After her election to Parliament
at the 1977 polls, when she became Opposition leader again, President JR
Jayewardene appointed a Presidential Commission to inquire into the period
1970-77 and found her guilty of abuse of power. Parliament adopted a special
motion on October 16, 1980 and removed her civic rights for seven years.
This resulted in her being unable to contest the Presidential Election in
1983, which saw Jayewardene’s election for a second term. President
Jayewardene granted her a free pardon in January 1986.
decades in politics, the veteran Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Sirimavo
Bandaranaike, resigned on 10th August, 2000. She passed away on October 10,
2000, the date of the General Election which saw the government led by her
daughter Chandrika Kumaratunga, who was the fourth Executive President of
Sri Lanka, lose its parliamentary majority.
Hon. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (August - November 1994)
Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, the second daughter of
two prime ministers, was born on 29th June 1945. Her father, SWRD
Bandaranaike, was a senior Minister of the Government at the time. He was
later to become the Prime Minister of the country in 1956, while her mother,
Sirimavo Bandaranaike, was to become the world’s first woman Prime Minister
in 1961, following the assassination of her husband in 1959.
She had her early education at St. Bridget’s Convent,
Colombo. Later, at Aquinas University College, Colombo, she studied for LLB.
From there, she went on to the University of Paris, from which she graduated
in Political Science. She also obtained a Diploma in Group Leadership from
the same University. Her studies for the Ph.D in Development Economics at
the University of Paris were interrupted by the call to serve her country,
where her mother’s government had launched a wide ranging programme of
reform and development. While in Paris, she also underwent training in
political journalism at the prestigious Le Monde. She is fluent in Sinhala,
English and French.
With her academic background in Social Sciences and her
practical experience in the field, Chandrika Kumaratunga has authored
several research papers and monographs on Land Reform, Agrarian Reform,
Development Strategies and Food Policies in Sri Lanka.
Ms. Kumaratunga has been a guest lecturer at the Jawaharlal
Nehru University in New Delhi and the Bradford University in U.K. She was a
Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of
London from 1988 to 1991.
Early political life
The Land Reform Programme in the 1970s under the government
of her mother Hon. Sirimavo Bandaranaike provided the avenue for Chandrika
Kumaratunga’s entry into active politics. She served as a Director and as
the Principal Director of the Land Reforms Commission (1972-1976); was
Chairman of the Janawasa Commission (1976-1977), which was responsible for
the settlement of several thousands of educated and under-educated youths.
From 1976 to 1979, she also served as one of the FAO’s panel of Expert
Having inherited the liberal political philosophy of her
father, the late SWRD Bandaranaike, in her student days in Paris, she was
also greatly influenced by the radical student movement of the 1960s, which
saw a strong commitment to social reform and help to the underprivileged,
and had a strong commitment to the imperatives of a plural society in her
approach to politics. She has been a full time political activist from her
early youth, establishing grass root contacts throughout the country.
The Provincial Council Elections held in May 1993 saw
Chandrika Kumaratunga's first entry to electoral politics. She was elected
to the Western Provincial Council with a very large majority, and was
appointed the Chief Minister of the Province, the country's largest. In
August 1994, she contested the Parliamentary General Elections as a member
of the People’s Alliance party, and its Prime Ministerial candidate. She was
elected to Parliament by an overwhelming majority, and was appointed Prime
Minister in the People’s Alliance government that was formed on August 19th,
1994. In the Presidential Elections held shortly thereafter in November
1994, she contested as the People’s Alliance candidate. She was elected
President obtaining a record 62% of the votes cast, which made her resign
from the office of Prime Minister to accept the higher office. She was
re-elected President for a second term in December 1999 which office she
relinquished in November 2005.
Chandrika Kumaratunga has had more than her fair share of
personal tragedy in life. She was a school girl when her father Prime
Minister SWRD Bandaranaike was assassinated by political opponents. Her
charismatic film-idol-cum-politician husband Vijaya Kumaratunga whom she
married in 1978 was also slain by political opponents in 1988.
is the mother of two children - daughter Yasodhara and son Vimukthi.
Hon. Dingiri Banda Wijetunge (1989-1993)
- Mr. D. B. Wijetunga, who was the Prime Minister at that
time, was elected by parliament to be the President, after the assacination of President
R. Premadasa in 1993. Some leaders who left the UNP, during the Premadasa regime re-joined
- Some of the welfare measures curtailed earlier were
For further elaborated evaluation of Mr. D. B.
Wijetunge's governance please refer to the Former
Hon. Ranasinghe Premadasa
(June 23, 1924 - May 1, 1993) was the 3rd President of Sri Lanka from
January 2, 1989 to May 1, 1993. Before that, he served as the Prime
Minister in the government headed by J. R. Jayewardene from February 6,
1978 to January 1, 1989. He was assassinated in Colombo in a suicide
bombing, by the LTTE.
Premadasa came from a family of modest means and his political rise was
resented by some of his rivals from the upper class families who had
inherited political power, post British departure in 1948. He attended
St Joseph's College, Colombo; originally planned to be a journalist, and
translated an autobiography of Jawaharlal Nehru into Sinhala.
He was active
in the Temperance Movement of Sri Lanka, and made his entry into
politics from the Labour Party, then headed by A.E.Goonesinghe,
beginning with Local Government politics in the Colombo Municipal
Council. Having realized that the Labour Party in the 1950s had lost
most of its political base, Premadasa joined the righht wing United
National Party, and reached the highest levels in democratic,
post-independence Sri Lanka.
tenure as Minister of Broadcasting in Dudley Senanayake's cabinet (1965
-70), Premadasa turned Radio Ceylon, the oldest radio station in South
Asia, into a public corporation - the Ceylon Broadcasting Corporation on
5 January 1967.
Part of his
political program was shelter for the poor, after the United Nations
declared a Year of Shelter. Other policies included
a Poverty Alleviation programme, a foster parents scheme, the Gam Udawa
project with which he tried to achieve a re-awakening of villages in Sri
Lanka, the mobile secretariat whereby he took the central government
bureaucracy to the peasants, the
Foundation to encourage drama and music, and the pension
schemes he initiated for the elder artistes. On the economic front, the
garment industry project that he initiated became a forerunner in
earning foreign exchange and provision of employment in the villages.
with less success in dealing with Sri Lanka's ethnic crisis. When he
assumed office, he faced a rebellion in the south from the hardline
Sinhala-nationalist, Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna. The security
forces put down the revolt and killed many of its leaders. In the north,
the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) or Tamil Tigers, were facing
off against the Indian Peace-Keeping Force. The Indian presence on the
island was unpopular, and Premadasa requested India to leave. After they
did in 1990, the government's war with the LTTE resumed, and resulted in
known for the unostentatious life led by him in his simple residence
away from his luxurious official residence; a man who perhaps travelled
abroad the least of any politicians at the helm. During his presidency,
he also expelled from the UNP his two formidable rivals Lalith
Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake, who then joined to form the
Democratic United National Liberation Front (DUNLF).
married to Hema Premadasa and had two children. Sajith Premadasa, his son,
is an MP of the UNP from Hambantota District. Ranasinghe Premadasa was
killed on 1 May 1993, during preparations for a May Day demonstration in
Colombo, by an LTTE suicide bomber who had infiltrated into his inner
Hon. Junius R. Jayawardena (1977-1978)
- The UNP gained a landslide victory. Mr. J R Jayewardene
became the Prime Minister in 1977. The heavy defeat of the SLFP paved the way for the
leader o f the Tamil United Liberation Front [TULF], to become the leader of the
- The new government introduced a new constitution in 1978.
Mr. J R Jayewardene became the first Executive President of Sri Lanka, with wide executive
powers. Mr. R. Premadasa was appointed as Prime Minister.
- At the Presidential Elections held in 1982, President J.
R. Jayewardene won a second term, while the leader of the SLFP, Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike
was kept out of the contest by the deprivation of her civic rights by the government.
- In 1982, the government extended the life of the existing
parliament for another six years by holding a referendum.
For further elaborated evaluation of Mr. J. R.
Jayewardene's governance please refer to the Former
The first Prime Minister Rt. Hon. D.S. Senanayake died in
March 1952, and his son Mr. Dudley Senanayake, then Minister of Agriculture
and Lands, was appointed Prime Minister by the Governor General, Lord
Soulbury, Parliament was subsequently dissolved and a general election was
held in May 1952. The election was won by the UNP led by Mr. Dudley
Senanayake. Among other things, increased welfare benefits, in particular
the rice subsidy, contributed to the resounding victory.
Within a year, after the Korean boom ended, the Government
found that the burden of the subsidy on the Budget was excessive and decided
to curtail the subsidy expenditures sharply. The price of rice was
increased. Other subsidies including free meals for school children were
The Political protest to this move was explosive. A general
strike, known as "Hartal", launched by very strong trade unions affiliated
to the left-wing parties was so effective that the Prime Minister was
compelled to resign from office. The price of rice was immediately reduced
and the ration enlarged. This event is a landmark in the political economy
of the post-independence era, which underlined the importance of the subsidy
issue in government.
elections in March 1960 after the assassination of Prime Minister SWRD
Bandaranaike in September 1959 had a large number of parties contesting.
None of the parties were able to gain a majority, and a minority government
was formed by the UNP and Mr. Dudley Senanayake assumed duties as the Prime
Minister for the second time.
Government did not survive for long and was defeated at the vote on the
Address of Thanks. Fresh elections were held in July, 1960.
general election of March, 1965 did not give a clear majority to any party,
but the UNP, which had gained the highest number of seats, formed a
government with the help of six other small parties including the major
Tamil party, the Federal Party. Mr. Dudley Senanayake became the Prime
Minister, for the third time.
Senanayake tried to reach an understanding with the Federal Party on the
ethnic issues by devolution of power to the North and the East, but the
proposals were withdrawn on account of opposition,
trade and exchange controls were relaxed and a multiple exchange rate system
was introduced in 1967 with the Foreign Exchange Entitlement Certificates (FEECs)
which were traded at a premium over the official rate for specified
reforms were supported by the first borrowing made by Sri Lanka from the IMF
in 1965 of U.S. dollars 30 million.
Government decision to pay compensation to the nationalized US oil company
holdings paved the way for the resumption of assistance from the US. In
1966, the moratorium on repatriation of dividends, profits and other
investment, imposed in 1964, was lifted.
aid consortium consisting of Australia, Canada, Japan, the UK and the US was
set up to assist Sri Lanka. This was later joined by the Federal Republic of
1966, an attempt was made to limit food subsidies by excluding income tax
payers from benefits. Taxpayers with taxable income of over Rs. 1,000 were
required to pay a tax equal to the subsidy unless they handed back their
ration books. The amount of rice given at the subsidized price was reduced.
Sri Lanka rupee was devalued in 1967, after nearly 15 years, by 20 per cent
against the pound sterling to reduce the pressure on the balance of
agricultural sector was given high priority and came under the direct
supervision of the Prime Minister’s Office. School children were mobilized
for agricultural activities and agriculture was given a prominent position
in the school curricula. The import of potatoes was banned.
attempt was made to develop large scale private sector agriculture by
leasing out land to large private sector investors. In 1968, the first
agreement between the Asian Development Bank and the Government was signed
for financing the foreign exchange cost of the Tea Factory Modernization
Credit assistance was provided through the New Agricultural Credit Scheme
introduced in 1967 for paddy, vegetables and other specified food crops. The
Government, through the Central Bank, backed this scheme with 100 per cent
refinance and a 75 per cent credit guarantee. Loans were provided on easy
terms to the farmers.
government procurement price for paddy was raised and inputs such as
fertilizer were supplied at a subsidized price.
and designs were made for the development of the Mahaweli river basin.
subsidized rice quota was reduced but some part was given free.
third Dudley Senanayake Government was defeated at the 1970 elections, which
is mainly attributed to the reduction in welfare measures.
Senanayake passed away after a brief illness in April 1973.
- Hon. Sirimavo Bandaranaike (1960
The world's first woman Prime
- The new Prime Minister, Mr. W. Dahanayake, who was
appointed as caretaker pending new elections, has problems with his colleagues in the
Government from the beginning and political instability continued. Parliament was
dissolved in 1960.
Hon S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike (1956-1959)
- Mr. Dudley Senanayake resigned from politics in January
1956. The MEP led by the SLFP came to power with a landslide victory at the 1956 (April)
general elections. Mr. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike became Prime Minister. The UNP was pushed to
the fourth place, with only 8 seats. The left leaders within the Government were assigned
important cabinet portfolios.
- The Government took steps to expand the role of the public
sector in the economy.
- An initiative was taken to introduce state led industrial
development with the introduction of the State Industrial Corporations Act in 1957.
- The cargo handling at the Port of Colombo and bus services
- The Paddy Lands Act of 1958 gave protection to tenant
- Sinhala was proclaimed the official language in June, 1956
and after protests, provision was made for the use of the Tamil language in 1958.
- The Government took over the control of the Trincomalee
naval base and the Katunayake air base from the British authorities.
- Two premier educational institutions - the Vidyalankara
and Vidyodaya Pirivenas - were elevated to the status of universities.
- The efforts by Mr. Bandaranaike to resolve the ethnic
issue by giving some form of autonomy to the Tamil community in the North, and the East on
the basis of the Bandaranaike - Chelvanayakam Pact had to be abandoned due to strong
- The trade unions affiliated to the left-wing parties also
showed their muscle through prolonged strikes which were settled by large wage increases.
The strikes weakened the economy which was already facing difficulties due to
deteriorating external resources.
- The Employees' Provident Fund was introduced by the
Government to provide retirement benefits to workers in the Public sector.
- A Ten Year Plan was prepared, giving emphasis to
developing agriculture and industry. However, due to resource problems, arising from
declining export earnings, a more modest Three Year Plan was adopted.
- During the period 1956 - 1959, the agricultural
development policy of farmer settlement under irrigation was continued. The Walawe River
Development Scheme was inaugurated in 1957. However, strong initiatives were taken to
develop the industrial sector.
- A radical departure was made in foreign policy when
relationships were built with countries having different political ideologies and
socialist orientation in terms of the new policy of non-alignment. The relationship with
India was further strengthened.
- However, ideological differences within the coalition
government continued to simmer and two left-wing ministers were forced to resign.
- The Prime Minister, Mr. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike was
assassinated in Colombo in September, 1959.
Hon. Sir John Kotelawala (1953-1956)
- Rt. Hon. Sir John Kotelawala became the
Prime Minister in 1953 after the resignation of Mr. Dudley Senanayake.
- In 1954, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
visited Sri Lanka. the last British Governor General, His Excellency Rt. Hon. Viscount
Soulbury left Sri Lanka. Sir Oliver Goonetilleke became the first Sri Lankan Governor
- The Asian Prime Ministers' Conference was
held in Colombo in 1954. As a follow-up to that meeting, a meeting at Bandung heralded the
birth of the Non-aligned Movement. These meetings and the Afro-Asian Conference in 1954
emphasised the importance of regional solidarity.
- Sri Lanka became a member of the United
Nations (UN) in 1955.
- A diplomatic mission in the USA was
established in 1956.
- There was no direct involvement by the
Government in developing industrial enterprises. However, the Government introduced a
modest programme to revamp some of the industries set up during the war, which were not
functioning efficiently. Some were closed down and some others were converted to public
- By 1955, the new SLFP in opposition
assumed leadership of nationalist aspirations, reflected in a demand that Sinhala be made
the official language of the country. These groups formed the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna
(MEP) to contest the elections.
- Hon. D.S.Senanayake (1948-1952)
- Sri Lanka's first Prime Minister
- At the time of independence, the political
party system was not well developed except for the left parties that were organised in the
1930s. The first Government of independent Sri Lanka was formed by Rt. Hon. D.S.
Senanayake of the United National Party (UNP), which gained the highest number of seats at
the 1947 general elections, with the backing of minority parties. This Government included
some members from the northern electorate as Ministers.
- The Government maintained close links with
the United Kingdom even after independence through agreements on defence, external affairs
and membership of the Commonwealth.
- These agreements with Britain were
expected to safeguard the security and sovereignty of the country. Thus. the naval base at
Trincomalee and the air base at Katunayake were kept under British authority.
- The citizenship of the country was defined
and negotiations were initiated with India on repatriation of plantation workers of Indian
origin who were not eligible to obtain citizenship.
- The country's diplomatic relations during
this period were mainly with the Western countries because of the strong trade relations
with those countries. The important exception was the recognition of the People's Republic
of China by Sri Lanka in 1950 and the establishment of trade relations with her under the
Rubber-Rice Pact signed in 1952.
- The development of domestic agriculture
became the first priority in the policy regime of the first post-independence Government.
Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake who had been campaigning for self-sufficiency in food since
the first State Council period when he was the Minister of Agriculture emphasised the
development of agricultural infrastructure to step-up paddy and other subsidiary food crop
production. Thus, the settlement of farmers in the Dry Zone which was started in the 1930s
was pursued with increased vigour. The land policy was mainly geared towards transfer of
land to the landless, under the settlement schemes and for expansion of villages.
- A start was made in developing the
hydro-power potential of the country with the commissioning of the Laxapana station in
- The two development programmes prepared
during this period, i.e., the Six Year Development Plan 1951 - 1957 and the Six Year
Programme of Investment (1954 - 1959), placed major emphasis on investment in agricultural
infrastructure. The private sector was expected to play a leading role in the development
- The Central Bank of Sri Lanka was
established in 1950 by replacing the Currency Board System, to implement an independent
and flexible monetary policy.
- Welfare measures inherited by the new
Government were expanded systematically. These measures included free education up to the
tertiary level, free health facilities for all, and above all, the provision of food,
mainly the staple food, rice, at a subsidised price for all.
- The Korean War boom of 1949 - 1951, caused
by the sharp rise in rubber prices during the Korean War, enhanced foreign resources and
encouraged the expansion of welfare measures. Later, these measures exerted tremendous
pressure on government budgets . In 1951/52, welfare expenditures accounted for 29 per
cent of the government current expenditure, even exceeding the expenditure on development.
- The welfare measures, however, helped the
country to maintain investment in human capital at a higher level and have been
responsible for lifting the human development status of the country well above most other
developing countries and even some developed countries.
- Conflicting views among the different
groups within the UNP surfaced by 1951, and as a result, a group of government members led
by Mr. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike crossed the floor to join the Opposition and formed the Sri
Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) in 1951. This marked the birth of a major party with the
capability of forming an alternative government.
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