16 May, 2022

Blog

Legacy Of The Sixty Two Coup

By Jayantha Somasundaram

Jayantha Somasundaram

It is sixty years since a coup d’état by senior officers of the military and police, planned for midnight 27th January 1962, was aborted. This event was a critical moment in the country’s history. And it had an impact that reverberates down to the present.

With the end of direct British rule in 1948, a movement to replace English with Sinhala as the official language and to gain state patronage for Buddhism gathered momentum. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike led the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) to an election victory in 1956 by committing to such reform. But to the westernised Ceylonese establishment, these reforms which brought with them Sinhala-Buddhist militancy and a political role for Buddhist monks, undermined the stability of the world they knew. It threatened their professional positions and social privileges as well. With the election of Mrs. Bandaranaike as Prime Minister in July 1960 this process seemed to accelerate and the westernised middle class feared the eclipse of a secular plural state and its replacement with a Buddhist theocracy.

On the motive for the Coup, one of its key leaders Sydney de Zoysa, former Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) said “the great issue then was the schools take-over. N.Q. Dias was a Buddhist chauvinist, and determined to take everything over into a Buddhist state.” (K.M. de Silva & Howard Wriggins: J. R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka)

Because a Christian education for their children is imperative, the take-over of Catholic schools was bitterly opposed by the Church and the Catholic community. Parents occupied the schools and a tense standoff prevailed. In November 1960 the Army was brought in for internal security duties relating to the schools takeover and “there were demands in the Cabinet to…move forcefully against Christians protesting the takeover of the denominational schools.” (Donald Horowitz: Coup Theories and Officers’ Motives)

The government meanwhile went ahead with its language policy and in January 1961 Sinhala became the country’s official language. “Army officers who were Sinhala Christians retired under the language act because they thought their careers had no future. The police had been about three-fourths Christian. In 1962 police and military officers staged a coup attempt, led not by Tamils but by Sinhala Christians.” (Patrick Peebles: The History of Sri Lanka)

The Conspiracy

In the Army the conspiracy originated in the artillery, with leadership provided by Colonel Maurice de Mel, former Chief of Staff, Colonel F.C. ‘Derek’ de Saram, OBE ED Deputy Commandant of the Ceylon Volunteer Force and Lt Col Willie Abrahams MBE. In the Police there were two chains of command: DIG C.C. ‘Jungle’ Dissanayake who directed metropolitan officers and former DIG Sidney de Zoysa who directed provincial officers.
The plan was that at ten pm on the night of Saturday 27th, Jungle Dissanayake would order the Police to seal off the city of Colombo, secure its approaches and announce a curfew for midnight. Willie Abrahams would take over Temple Trees and arrest Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike. And at midnight Derek de Saram would go to Queen’s House (the Governor-General’s residence) and inform Sir Oliver Goonetilleke GCMG KCVO KBE KStJ, that officers of the Army and Police had taken over the government.

However, unknown to the other conspirators, Superintendent of Police Colombo, Stanley Senanayake, one of Jungle Dissanayake’s key lieutenants, had got in touch with his father-in-law Patrick de S Kularatne MP a founder member of the SLFP and informed him about the Coup. Kularatne immediately went to the Orient Club where the Inspector General of Police (IGP) was playing bridge, and appraised him of the plot; he also informed Felix Dias, Parliamentary Secretary (Deputy) to the Minister of Defence and External Affairs. The Coup was aborted, the participants arrested, tried and convicted. On appeal to the Privy Council however they were freed on a point of law.

After the Coup

Over the last sixty years precisely what the Coup participants feared, and what the Coup tried to counter, would come to pass. Namely, the unimpeded growth of Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism and its increasing control of the state.

Secular Ceylonese opinion endured years of retreat in the expectation that when the United National Party (UNP) returned to power, the tide of sectarian nationalism would be stemmed. But to their bitter disappointment, not only were the denominational schools not returned to the Churches, but Sundays ceased to be the weekly holiday when the UNP returned to office in 1965.

After 1965 there were differences in nuance where policies of language, race and religion were concerned, but there would be no reversion to the pre-56 era. In fact these policies ceased to be areas of contention as they were written into the new constitutions. “Buddhism seems to have won the struggle for symbolic status as the pre-eminent religion in Ceylon,” concludes Prof Robert Kearney in The Politics of Ceylon.

In the aftermath of the Coup the 2nd (Volunteer) Squadron, Ceylon Signal Corps was disbanded. As were the 1st Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, 2nd (Volunteer) Light Anti Aircraft Regiment and the 3rd Field Artillery Regiment of the Ceylon Artillery. The 1st HAA Reg was amalgamated with the 3 Field Artillery Reg to become the 4th Reg CA in April 1962. Troops from the disbanded artillery and signals unit formed the nucleus of the 1st and 2nd Volunteer Battalions the Ceylon National Guard. The 2nd Volunteer Field & Plant Regiment Ceylon Engineers along with troops from the disbanded Signal Corps (V) were reconstituted as the 4th (Volunteer) Development and Construction Regiment, Ceylon Engineers.

A new infantry regiment was also raised in 1962, the 1st Battalion the Gemunu Watch under Lt Col John Halangoda. “The names of the new military units formed after 1956 – Sinha Regiment and Gemunu Watch had clear Sinhala nationalist flavor,” notes Channa Wickremesekera in A Tough Apprenticeship: Sri Lanka’s Military against Tamil Militants 1979-1987. “The mascot of the Ceylon Light Infantry was the elephant Kandula named after the war elephant of King Dutugemunu who defeated the Tamil King Elara.”

“The Police and the Army were purged after the Plot by N.Q. Dias, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Defence,” explains Donald Horowitz. In the wake of the Coup Felix Dias stated that “the opportunity must not be lost to complete and make radical reforms in the Police Service, in the Armed Services…deterrent punishment of a severe character must be imposed upon all those who are guilty of this…pursuit of reactionary aims and objectives.” (Sri Lanka Army 50 Years on)

And most important the composition of its officer corps was reconstituted. “Sinhalese Buddhists two thirds of the population accounted for only two fifth of the officer corps in the pre-1956 period,” notes Horowitz. During 1956-60 there was an “increase in the number of Buddhist officers and the decrease in the number of Christian officers… After Mrs. Bandaranaike took office in July 1960, every single cadet sent from Ceylon to Sandhurst was a Sinhalese… after 1962 there was a dramatic shift toward recruitment of the Sinhalese, as against all other ethnic groups, and towards Buddhists as against Christians…When these shifts did occur, they occurred with a vengeance…These changes which began under Mrs. Bandaranaike’s first government (1960-65) , continued under Dudley Senanayake’s UNP government (1965-70) and under Mrs. Bandaranaike’s successor government (1970-77).”

The Military consequences

Officers from the minority community like Brig Russell Heyn, Brig Roy Jayatilleke MBE, Col Lyn Wickremasuriya and DIG Rudra Rajasingham were passed over for command and office. “One notable consequence was the elimination of Christians from both the military and the police thereby ensuring that the enforcement of law and the administration of force would be in the hands of those who would be largely Sinhala- Buddhists,” observed David Little in The Invention of Enmity.

As the composition of the police and armed forces changed, so did its outlook and conduct. In 1958 it was the armed forces and police that were regarded as impartial by the minorities and seen as their security from politically instigated mobs. But in August 1977 on the eve of the anti-Tamil riots, according to the Government-appointed Sansoni Commission, “A false Radio Message from the Jaffna Police to the IGP stated: Today four CTB busses set on fire, Naga Vihare is being attacked.”

Then came the tragedy of 1981 when the security forces ran riot in the north and the Jaffna Library was burned.

Finally there was the anti-Tamil rioting of 1983, which led to hundreds of thousands of Tamils abandoning the country and the expulsion of the Tamil political leadership from Parliament via the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution. “For days soldiers and policemen were not overwhelmed: they were unengaged or in some cases apparently aiding the attackers,” reported the London Economist. “Numerous eye witnesses attest that soldiers and policemen stood by while Colombo burned.”

So it was not without reason that in his pre-riot speech in Aluthgama on 15 June 2014 Secretary General of Bodu Bala Sena, Ven Galagoda Atte Gnanasara warned that “This country still has a Sinhala police, a Sinhala army. If after today a single Muslim or some other alien lays a hand on a single Sinhalese, let alone a robe, it will be the end of all these creatures”

“’All I can say’ concluded one Police Officer who had been involved with the coup, ’is that if it had succeeded, Ceylon would have been a better place to live in today,’” (Horowitz)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 2
    7

    A Reform has an overtone. It implies that the idea advances a procedure to improve an existing state of affairs.
    Neither the step to replace English with Sinhala as the official language, or a process to give state patronage for Buddhism fits that definition.
    .
    The idea was primitive, regressive and suicidal. We see the result more than ever, today.

    • 2
      3

      We should never have let go of the monarch ruling over England I guess?

    • 3
      3

      What this article solely lacks is the Cold War context and history in Sri Lanka and the fact that the CIA and MI6 was behind the coupe attempt and Don Horowitz did the cover up research!!.
      IN 1959, Prime Minister SWRD Banadaranaike was assassinated because he got rid of the British occupation of Sri Lanka’s PORTS and AIRPORTS. The British and Americans then went to the Chagos Islands south west of Sri Lanka, forced out the people and set up a Huge Military Base called Diego Garcia on those islands to fight Russia/ USSR. India was then as now allied mainly with Russia.
      The British-American Cold War in the Indian Ocean was building up and the coup like the coup that killed Burma’s Aung Sang (Father of Su ki) a decade earlier, was to continue continue British Divide and Rule policies in Ceylon. But it backfired and the rest is history.. yet to be written about the American and British attempts to set up bases along the East and West coasts of Sri Lanka!

      • 4
        3

        The White mans game has always been “head I win, tails you loose” with both the UNP and SLFP. Their “advisors” game the plot and narrative.
        Both US puppet Ranil Wickramasinghe, Yankee Dickie JRJ’s and Keenie Meenie KMS Services Ravie Jayawardena were played just like the US citizens Basil and Goat Rajapakse are played to advance the AUKUS great game in Sri Lanka to set up military bases now to fight China.
        At this time US is spoiling for war with either Russia or China to distract from its Covid-19 Virus and Vaccine Biowarfare project that is back-firing. The Empire has morphed into a Rogue State and we are back in a new Cold War.
        Also Mr. Somasundaram it is clear that like you, the Sri Lankan Tamil and Sinhala diasporas in AUKUS have been Weaponized to promote divide and rule narratives in Sri Lanka and work for the AUKUS-NATO Deepstate and against the interests of citizens of Lanka

  • 6
    2

    An excellently planned and compiled article which has come at the right time. We were making some comments on the 1962 coup on this Tisaranee article just before this article appeared:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/after-gotabaya-the-deluge/
    .
    To begin countering the nastiest Sinhala-Buddhist racism, and to persuade many of its adherents to join us in getting the country back on track, we must first be aware that the Anglicised elite had behaved in ways in which a reaction was inevitable.
    .
    Speculating on what would have happened had a Christian-dominated military taken over wouldn’t make sense. Weren’t all the Catholic leaders in Vietnam massacred, and wasn’t there much suffering owing to American involvement before the Vietnamese managed to rescue the country? Any reformists must understand what they are trying to counter before the reform process can commence. The truth must be faced and told.
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe of Bandarawela
    .

    • 7
      1

      Exactly SM. 1956 was the swing of the pendulum, a reaction to the domination of the Christian, English speaking elite that had run the country for ages. Ideally they should have been replaced by a liberal and secular Government. But the damage was already done. The vile Sinhala-Buddhist racism that we see today shows that the pendulum has still not reached its maximum amplitude and worse is to come.
      .
      In South Vietnam an 80% Buddhist country was being run by a minority Catholic Government, the result of French colonisation. The Church owned most of the land in the country and the Buddhist flag, Vesak etc were banned. The leader Ngo Din Diem and his evil wife were dictators. But they had the support of the Church (her brother was Archbishop) and the Americans, because they were staunchly anti-Communist. This was the time of the domino theory, that if one country fell to Communism the rest would follow. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_crisis

    • 2
      1

      “Weren’t all the Catholic leaders in Vietnam massacred,…? “
      I am interested in this piece of history.
      When did this happen?
      I know of events in late 18th to mid 20th Century which I doubt relates to the above.

      • 1
        2

        Dear SJ,
        .
        I was referring to the mid-20th Century. Svenson has given the link above.
        .
        This article is about the 1962 coup in Ceylon. That coincided with the deposing of the Catholic regime in South Vietnam; I thought that was well known to people of our generation, but I felt that younger people may not know.

        • 1
          1

          “Weren’t all the Catholic leaders in Vietnam massacred,…? “
          “I was referring to the mid-20th Century. Svenson has given the link above.”
          *
          August 1963
          “Over 1400 Buddhists were arrested. The number killed or “disappeared” is estimated to be in the hundreds.”
          November 1963
          …after six months of tension and growing opposition to the regime, ARVN generals executed the 1963 South Vietnamese coup, which led to arrest and assassination of Ngô Đình Diệm.
          *
          Have I missed something?

        • 3
          1

          S.M,
          It wasn’t the “Catholic regime” that was deposed. It was the Diem regime. The guy overthrown at the war’s end, Nguyen Cao Ky, was a Catholic too.

          • 0
            0

            Dear oc,
            .
            I’ve spent many hours re-looking at the Vietnam War:
            .
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam_War
            .
            Here it says that it lasted from 1955 to 1975. Wikipedia is not without its faults, but it is a good starting point. Here it says that this entry is too long, for one thing.
            .
            One aspect of it was Communist vs Anti-Communist. Another Catholic vs Buddhist, but a closer look shows that a majority of the population followed “Folk Religions”, even before that War. I’ve read about the Emperor who was defeated Din Diem in rigged election. None of it is edifying.
            .
            I’ve looked up Nguyen Cao Ky; apparently he escaped to America, and died an old man. It says that he was buried in a Buddhist cemetery, but it is clear that up to the time that Diem was overthrown lots converted to Catholicism because that was the way to advancement.
            .
            I don’t think it necessary for every Lankan today to plough through all that; I feel that the generailsation that I made, that happenings in Vietnam had an adverse effect on Buddhist-Christian relations in Ceylon. SJ and you have faulted me on details, but was I misleading?

      • 1
        0

        SJ, I think this refers to the advancing Vietcong army killing Catholics and anyone else they thought were pro-American. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacre_at_Hu%E1%BA%BF

  • 7
    4

    ‘Because a Christian education for their children is imperative, the take-over of Catholic schools was bitterly opposed by the Church and the Catholic community.’
    .
    This ought to read ‘Because education has always been a successful means of conversion……’
    .
    There was no take-over of Catholic schools. The situation was that you had a predominantly Buddhist country where most schools were run by the Churches. Almost all teachers were Christian, almost all pupils Buddhist or Hindu. These schools were financed by the Government. It was this financing that was stopped. The schools therefore had to choose between becoming state schools or going it alone without the tax-payers money and unable to charge fees. Most became part of the state system. This is very different to ‘taking over the schools’ but the churches, and especially the Catholic Church told parents and pupils a different story to gain their support claiming that the Government were taking their schools from them.

    • 8
      11

      My mom is 95 year old. Both my parents , their siblings and many of their peers and relatives studied in Catholic schools ,except for one of my aunt ,that too through marriage, NO one was converted. The reason they all studied in Catholic schools, is only because there were no other schools then and they just did not have options. Lankan govt was not even in a position to built a class room leave alone financing. Soon after Srima took over ,children had to be in queue to get food before attending school. There are few more articles by DBS and K.Perera in Daily Mirror , not only gives an idea about the coup but the downfall of Silly Lanka, master minded by the racist SWRD. Though he presented as a champion he was truly a weakling who used religion and race for his own survival. Now that we have the end product what is there to speculate about Horowitz ??? SWRD was the first to overtly politicize the security forces and administration. He was the first to nominate a outsider as IGP. and many more.

      • 7
        2

        Chiv, if the security forces (ie the Officers) and administration were dominated by Christians or Tamils, weren’t they already politicized? SWRD merely changed them from one form to another. You (and I) dislike the new form but we cannot deny that it is the form of the majority. See the last two chapters 10 and 11. http://www.lhmettananda.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Catholic-Action-by-L-H-Mettananda.pdf

        • 10
          0

          Svenson,
          Whatever one might think about minorities having advantages, I don’t think even you could claim that the way this country is run now is better than pre-1962.
          Different cultures have different values. The Muslims are good at business. The Burghers were good in the police and railways. They were not corrupt. The Tamils were good administrators, engineers, etc. Whatever the Sinhala Buddhists are good at, it certainly isn’t any of the above. They owned a lot of plantations, and the transport business, but this was taken away by Sinhala Buddhist politicians.
          It is important to recognize that Sinhala Buddhist values are not conducive to efficient running of businesses or a modern state. Everyone may be born equal, but what is drilled into you post-birth counts. Providing equal education to children of diverse cultures doesn’t produce similar results, sadly. We can see this now, sixty years too late.

          • 3
            0

            OC
            ‘Whatever one might think about minorities having advantages, I don’t think even you could claim that the way this country is run now is better than pre-1962.’
            .
            No I wouldn’t claim that. It is far worse now, and with no end in sight. As I have already said the opportunity to create a liberal secular state was lost. The blame for this lies with both the pre-1956 elite and the post 1956 SB yakkos. Neither group could (can) see past class, caste, race and religion.

            • 3
              0

              Svenson,
              How about an IQ test for voters? If we don’t hand out driving licences without testing, why should we give the right to vote without testing?

        • 4
          0

          S
          The end of colonial rule did not mean the end of vestiges of colonialism.
          The coup jump-started a process that would otherwise have evolved slowly.
          *
          The coup was prompted by another important factor, besides personal and community considerations, that many do not even think about.
          The SLFP of the time was not socialist, but it was clearly anti-imperialist in important ways.
          The significance of nationalisation of the three leading petroleum companies in 1961 is not even noticed. Would you think that the US was thrilled?
          The Petroleum Corporation did a good job in cracking petroleum at home and saving much foreign exchange. But with passage of time it failed to keep up with cutting edge technology in petroleum processing.

          • 5
            0

            S.J,
            “But with passage of time it failed to keep up with cutting edge technology in petroleum processing.”
            A familiar story, like sugar, paper, cement, steel, even tyres. Are our people (or some of them) congenitally incapable of maintaining anything? What will all the fancy expressways look like in 50 years?

        • 4
          0

          Svenson, If I am offered health care, education instead of religion, I would happily take the first two and care least for the religion. I have no interest in religion and race anymore and feel happy to have all religion (including Jainism and Sikhs) in near family except for Muslim which I hope will be integrated to our family traditions. My nearest and dearest friends from medical school are from every religion I know of. My family and me are grateful to those catholic missionaries who primarily provided education and health which our governments could not. We depend on our life experience rather than referrals.

          • 5
            0

            Svenson, just to let you know the same is observrd in most S.E. Asian countries. In India the oldest missionary institutes are very much respected and appreciated for their services. My kids here are inadvertently attending such institute just as their grandparents. I have much more respect for education and health rather than religion of today.

      • 2
        1

        Dear chiv,
        .
        This is a different subject. Up to 1815, Europeans controlled only the maritime areas of Ceylon. There were conversions to Catholicism during the Portuguese period; many in those same families would have converted to the Dutch Reformed Church when the Dutch were in control.
        .
        However, very few of these people remained with the Dutch Churches after they handed over control to the British in 1796. Many reverted to Buddhism (and Hinduism). Most of the conversions to “English-speaking churches” would have taken place in the 19th Century. The Catholics who would have had to practice their religion only surreptitiously under Dutch (some probably pretending that they belonged to the Dutch Reformed Church) would have been able to practice Catholicism openly under the British.
        .
        Catholics and Muslims take their religions very seriously; other Christians probably not. Let that serve as an overview!

    • 6
      0

      S
      Assisted schools were run by Christian (RC&P) Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim organizations entirely on state funds.
      There was abuse of privilege. Religious conversion and religious partiality by Christian missionaries were matters that irked the Buddhists and to some extent Hindus.
      What the government did was to give the option to be free of state funding and do what the school administrators wanted to do in the interest of their religion or to be under state control.
      State control did not change the religious identity of the school.
      (Even today, leading Catholic schools under state control have members of the clergy in the administration of the school.)
      Concessions were made with quotas for preferential admission of members of the religious community concerned.
      The Catholic Church of the time was close to the UNP and bitterly anti-Left. That seeped into the schools as well. The catholic community was intentionally misled by the Church into thinking that their children will be denied religious education.
      There was no such thing in the government agenda.
      Post take-over schools got a touch secular– that helped inter-religious understanding.
      Some Catholic and Protestant schools used the option to go private.

      • 6
        0

        As for Hindus, the take over was a blessing to those oppressed by caste in the North.
        The monopoly of caste-ridden bigots in some leading schools was broken, so that ‘untouchable’ children were admitted more easily to good schools and were treated as equals.
        Caste prejudice and discrimination still exist, but not practiced openly as in the past, and challenged under the law on several occasions.

      • 5
        0

        S.J,
        “State control did not change the religious identity of the school.”
        Not entirely true. St.Aloysius’ College, Galle a premier school in the past, was reduced to just another mediocre Maha Vidyalaya. Most State schools are essentially Buddhist schools, whose students chant “gathas” in the morning. Hardly secular. St.Mary’s College, Matale is now St.Mary’s Muslim Vidyalaya! I suppose the area’s majority religion influences what direction the school takes.

        • 1
          0

          OC
          The take over was with assurance that the denominational identity will not be changed; and that pledge was honoured.
          The point I made was that, contrary to some claims here, the take over was not designed to rob any school of its identity.
          What I said was based on what I witnessed in the N&E and in Kandy. (The Girls’ High School, Kandy had a quota for Christians at least early this century. My first school in Trincomalee still has Catholic nuns running the school.)
          *
          What happens because of demographic changes over decades cannot be blamed on the authors of the changes. Not much changed even during the SLFP’s third go at office (1970-77).

      • 3
        0

        S.J,
        “What the government did was to give the option to be free of state funding”
        They weren’t allowed to charge fees from the students either. Many went under before JR offered concessions.
        It’s interesting that the Rajapaksa offspring are Thomians, like Anura B. It seems there was more than a bit of hypocrisy among SB leaders.

    • 2
      1

      Stevenson, I respectfully disagree with you.

      It was a hostile takeover. Most of their kids were not Buddhists or Hindus. They were Christians.

      There were many great English Buddhist schools during British time.

      e.g. Ananda. And plenty more.

      But they never charged a school fee. wrong move. Depended on foreign donors. Foreign donors had other priorities later. So these schools collapsed and the government had to bail them out.

      Not the case with private schools. Government should have left them alone.

      1956 Sinhala only had nothing to do with school medium. By 1950 almost all government schools had become Sinhala and Tamil anyway. Some private schools continued an English medium class even in 1960s.

      It all boils down to money. If you have money to spend for your education you must get a better education. It is a right.

  • 6
    2

    Jayantha, thanks a lot, interesting reading and I learnt many things that I didn’t know. Although I was not even born at the time of this coup, I did closely follow many political and economic dynamics in the 60s and 70s for one of my studies later, and was quite amazed how fast things changed in Ceylon/Sri Lanka during those two decades. My personal thoughts are that 1956 certainly was a watershed moment for Ceylon BUT quite a few major changes actually occurred in the 60/70 two decades. Roughly, 11 out of those 20 years were governed by the SLFP and 8 yrs. by the UNP. But even 5 out of those 8 UNP years, the 65-70 UNP regime was dominated by quite a few leftists and nationalists who jumped the SLFP/left wagon by 1965, such as CP, Philip, IMRA etc., who held very strong ministerial posts in Dudley’s govt. Especially IMRA radically changed school systems towards ‘pure Sinhala’ nationalistic mode. And you can clearly see other socialist and patriotic elements strongly represented in those 5 years as well. So, all in all, 60 – 70s period was a free run for Sinhala nationalistic movements whether it was under SLFP or UNP regimes.

  • 7
    4

    To the author,
    Thank you for presenting the background of the 1962 failed coup in some detail.
    The coup could be seen as an attempt to preserve the privileges enjoyed by an insignificant section of the society to counter the inevitable changes that were underway. Paradoxically, the coup may have accelerated such changes.
    There is no point in speculating as to what may have happened if the coup succeeded. As such, the comment by a police officer (Horowitz) who was associated with the coup is just an opinion.

  • 5
    2

    …………..As the composition of the Police and Armed forces changed,so did its outlook and conduct…………
    says the Essayist in this excellent write-up.

    The proof of the Pudding is in the eating……………they say
    We are all now witness to this rot that passes off as change…….
    Damn shame we possibly cannot put the tooth paste back into the tube…………….

  • 6
    0

    “The government meanwhile went ahead with its language policy and in January 1961 Sinhala became the country’s official language. “Army officers who were Sinhala Christians retired under the language act because they thought their careers had no future. The police had been about three-fourths Christian. In 1962 police and military officers staged a coup attempt, led not by Tamils but by Sinhala Christians.” (Patrick Peebles: The History of Sri Lanka)”
    *
    I cannot think of a worse muddle of historical facts.
    I think that the author could have fact checked before using this passage thgat adds little worth to the main argument.
    *
    What I resent is the interpretation of “secular’ as letting the privileged elite from minority groups to have it good for ever with no regard to the concerns of the less privileged.

    • 2
      0

      SJ,

      Agree. It was essential then, although it could have been done in a more gradual way. Yet, the Christians held too much power, and there might not have been another way to do it.

      Right now, what they are doing is quite different of course. They still don’t have the necessary structures in place to balance out race and economy to make it equitable for all. As a result, when certain minorities are using the economic system in place, they do far better than the majority race people. Few rich Sinhalese business elite just do not cut it.

      Few Sinhalese business elite means money is concentrated at the very, very top, in all kinds of alternate global monetary networks, with fellows crossing fingers that returns will magically return e.g. bit-coin market (it has failed recently- one trillion dollars vanished!). Minorities on the other hand will make the profits equitable to their communities. Sinhalese GoSL now can only use Sinhala chauvinism and hegemony, and military to ensure their survival.

      • 3
        1

        When current GoSL is all about making money sky-high with glorious thought-bubbles in place, this is the result. It is not based on reality of a normal functioning country, and for the Masses (who are mostly Sinhala Buddhists). It is based on a lazy way of making money, snatching out of global interactions and functionings.

        Only way that country money of the hard-working Masses(of all races) can work for all is the common pool of capitalized socialism via JVP-NPP- Sajith (capital mostly created by the Masses when they worked in labour camps of the Middle East).

    • 4
      0

      SJ

      Today its been decided to celebrate the annual Katchatheevu festival on 11th & 12th of March.

      Have you extended an invitation to the Chinese Ambassador Qi Zhenhong to visit the island during the festival? Please remind him to take his drone with him.
      Could you let him know the distance between Qi Zhenhong Katchatheevu and Rameshwaram in case if he asks.

  • 4
    2

    SWRD played the race & religious card successfully & the opposition, UNP, had to follow suit, pandering to the monks which was important to the village voter, the biggest vote base. While the SLFP branded it self as (national) socialist, serving the peasants of SL, the UNP was associated with capitalism & the marginalised ethnic minorities, as well as, the average middle class, opted for the UNP, expecting liberal policies. Unfortunately, the UNP leaders did not have the vision for ethnic & religious harmony but went along with the Buddhist rhetoric of Christian & Tamil influence overriding Sinhala Buddhist culture, a fear instilled by political opportunists which is more profound now. UNP had its share of racist & opportunistic politicians, whether it was their political strategy or own belief of patriotism is another story but the biggest hypocrites are the Bandaranayke family. The race & religious division is now established in SL & the fear is SL becoming an Afghanistan with a Buddhist Taliban.

    The US elected a black man as President & the UK Conservatives may elect an Indian, Rishi Sunak, the current Finance Minister, as it’s next leader, replacing Boris J . Would that ever happen in SL?

    • 2
      0

      1956 was not just race and religion. It touched on issues that led to the Hartal and its cruel suppression.
      Let us for argument’s sake grant that SWRDB played on those. The UNP did not just follow suit, it did far worse.
      JR attempted a march to the DM, Kandy to thwart the B-C pact.
      1n 1960 Dudley used a vicious campaign claiming that Mrs B had sold half the country to the FP. The cartoon that the UNP used is still before my mind’s eye.
      In 1965 Dudley went over the top to introduce the Poya Week, which took Mrs B to dismantle in 1971, at a price though.
      *
      It will not happen in Sri Lanka for neither Boris nor Rishi is here!
      Jokes apart, India has had a Muslim, two Dalits and a woman for President are religious, caste and gender oppression gone?
      Britain still retains its colonial mindset, even if it has a Black for Queen, that mindset will take a lot to be rid of.

  • 4
    0

    Good to read this. I’ve heard of it but didn’t know much about it. Strangely enough, we know a guy who was involved in it: a minor player, Tony Anghie. He must be close to ninety now.

  • 3
    0

    Jayantha S.,
    Thanks for the well laid out article, except a few, which I remembered reading in newspapers at that time.
    “In 1962 police and military officers staged a coup attempt, led not by Tamils but by Sinhala Christians.”
    Believe this may be incorrect
    Probably, attributable to misinformation or ‘Patrick Peebles’ research did not elicit sufficient information on individuals who were the main participants..
    Example, Lt Col Willie Abrahams MBE is one of the main, ‘Originators’ of the coup was a Tamil Christian
    His full name is Lieutenant Colonel Wilmot (Willie) SELVANAYAGAM Abrahams, MBE- Commanding Officer, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment. He is a Tamil Christian
    The reason to point this out too is that there are officers in the police too who were Christian Tamils.
    Remember this as at that time it was followed with very much interest and widely published.

  • 2
    1

    PART TWO
    .
    Please follow these Youtubes, usually about half an hour each, by a quite brilliant young man, if you want to know about the legacy of each group of foreigners:
    .
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUBDrhAeDp4
    .
    The Dutch severely persecuted the Catholics, but considerable numbers held on to their faith. They are easily the largest Christian group in Lanka today, and have a culture of their own.
    .
    There was almost no violence when the British took over the country from the Dutch during the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. The Dutch monarch was in exile in England, and asked his officers in Ceylon to hand over control to the British. The Established Church of England had become Protestant mainly because Henry VIII, then married to the Spanish Princess, Catherine of Aragon, wanted to divorce her, and marry Anne Boleyn, the mother of Queen Elizabeth I. The Anglican High Church considered itself to be still Catholic, and does to this day. The Low Church? Well, read up!

  • 8
    1

    The fact that the ‘Godayas” have messes up everything and in truth cannot perform at the required level makes us believe whoever opposed them were better.

    The fact is that these colonel Blimps who tried the coup were also equally blundering jackasses.

    Sam blood, same food, same air, – a hilarious lot all of them !

  • 2
    1

    Under sub heading ” The Military Consequences ” the author writes –
    “Officers of the minority community like Brig. Russel Heyn, Brig. Roy Jayatilleke, Col. Lyn Wickramasuriya, and DIG. Rudra Rajasingham were passed over for command and office”.

    Major General B.R.Heyn – All Ceylon cricketer who took the scalp of Don Bradman in Colombo , retired as Commander of the Ceylon Army in 1967 . Later , General Heyn was the President of the Cricket Board. His sons Richard and David represented Ceylon in Hockey and Cricket respectively.

    Mr. Rudra Rajasingham – CR Rugby player, was President of the CR&FC and the CRFU , retired as IGP in 1982 . He was subsequently appointed as the Ambassador to Indonesia , and later Chairman of the State Mortgage Bank.

    It may well have been an oversight by the author Mr. Jayantha Somasunderam . However , one must exercise extreme caution when putting pen to paper on matters of historical importance , as erroneous statements could easily be construed to be misleading or malicious, or both.

    • 3
      0

      Russell Heyn was commissioned into the Ceylon Army as a Major in 1 CLI on 10 February 1951. Richard Udugama was promoted Major in 1 CLI on 1 April 1951. The former though senior was passed over on 1 January 1964, and instead the latter was appointed Army Commander.

      Roy Jayatilleke (Serial Number O/50005) was commissioned into the Ceylon Army on 10 October 1949 with the rank of Major. Sepala Attygalle (S/N O/500010) was commissioned into the Ceylon Army as a Captain on 22 October 1949. In September 1967 both were promoted Brigadier and Attygalle was immediately thereafter re-promoted Major General and appointed Army Commander.

      Rudra Rajasingham was senior to Ana Seneviratne but the latter was promoted over him by President J R Jayawardene in August 1978 and appointed Inspector General of Police. Rudra Rajasingham succeeded Ana Seneviratne as IGP in 1982. J R Jayawardene would publicly acknowledge in later years that overlooking Rajasingham was wrong.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.