18 April, 2024


Who Represents The Real SLFP; Maithri Or Mahinda?

By Vishwamithra

“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” ~ William Faulkner

Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), although purported to be following Bandaranaike policies and principles, basically consists of socialized economic principles and hard nationalism bordering on extremism. Its fundamental appeal has been to Sinhalese Buddhists who it rightly assumed as marginalized and under-served by the then governing principals, a Colombo-based, English-speaking elite led by the United National Party (UNP). That is all post-Independence politics in Ceylon.

However, prior to Ceylon obtaining freedom from the British Raj, in both Councils, Legislative and State, amongst the dominating elements, the most striking was its composition that of a foreign cum English-educated, whiskey-drinking, impervious super-elite whose allegiance to and being arrogant towards the local culture of the average Haramanis. Haramanis was nurtured and nursed by the glorious tales of the Great Chronicle– Mahawamsa. Living in the rural countryside, nourished by the soil of the land and its meager fruits of rain-fed cultivations, the average Sinhalese Buddhist was literally kept in the dark. His wants and desires were not heard nor adhered to. His culture which boasts of thousands of years of monarchical rule by Kings and Queens was rooted in aggressively held beliefs and unforgiving faith in a religion that is sacred and universally accepted as a supreme philosophical teaching of life and living. They were proud of that faith and rightly so.

The then decision-makers who were mainly part and parcel of the establishment comprising of the colonial powers and Colombo-based elites executed their legislative callings with an exclusive mindset of arrogance on the one hand and a reprehensible sense of oblivion on the other. This mindset of the ruling elites was dictating the performance of its obligations without any substantial relationship to the great majority in the land whether they were Sinhalese, Tamil or Muslim. But the appeal of the SLFP, as per historical records, is essentially a logical progression of the Sinhala Maha Sabha, ‘founded by SWRD Bandaranaike in 1934-35, in order to promote Sinhalese culture and community interests’. While retaining its fundamental nationalistic character, the SLFP also promulgated a message of vastly different economic policies- policies that later implemented as ‘socialist’ and ‘common man-friendly’- from the UNP’s capitalistic free-market-friendly approach.

When the government was formed as Mahajana Eksath Peramuna coalition with well-known Marxists/Trotskyites like Phillip Gunawardena at the helm of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, & Co-operatives, the direction in which the new government was taking the country was obvious. Undoing of capitalist economic structures continued whenever any government led by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party was in power, until Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (CBK) assumed the office President in 1994 thanks mainly to the assassination of Gamini Dissanayake by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam. Had Gamini not been taken out of the scene, it may have been a UNP-led government in power in the wake of the 1994 Presidential Elections. Well that, as they say, is history now.

Coming back to the major policies and principles adopted by successive SLFP-led governments up to  CBK, both of economic and national significance, a radicalization of the country’s national posture, as a third-world nation advancing towards embracing oncoming modernization and rejecting archaic feudalistic strangulation of man’s inherent thirst for freedom, changed for good. The Pancha Maha Balavégaya unleashed a more radical force whose anger and rile were difficult to control and contain. Degradation of parliamentary debating, a custom of unpublishable vernacular barrage, both within and outside the ‘House of the People’, political power being misunderstood and misplaced by an uneducated class of parliamentarians contributed to an eventual decay in the national polity. Not that this did not happen under the UNP-led governments, but the difference between the two is too stark to ignore.

The SLFP became the party of the ‘common man’. The so-called underprivileged and déclassé found a proverbial ‘place in the sun’. That is undisputable and remained so until the early-nineteen seventies when J R took control of the United National Party, the so-called ‘rich man’s party’.

It is in this context one has to look at Mahinda Rajapaksa, the former leader and Maithripala Sirisena, the current one of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. Both are typical by-products of the 1956-transformation. In so far as the 1956-change is concerned, I deliberately use the term ‘transformation’ instead of the more commonly used term ‘revolution’. There were only two attempts at a revolution in the country. The first was in 1971 and the second in the ’87–’89 period. However, the change that the Bandaranaike-led SLFP government entailed in 1956 was gleefully hugged by a large majority of Sinhalese Buddhists in the country. That character of the SLFP is still valid and vastly accepted as a ‘given’ in the context of closely fought election battles.

Mahinda Rajapaksa is one of the sons of DM Rajapaksa, one of the pioneers of the SLFP. Mahinda’s allegiance to democratic principles and commitment to the elevation of the ‘common man’s status is recorded history. Bu that was in the early-nineties, when he was in the Opposition, specifically during the Premadasa-regime, leading a sleeping SLFP in Paada Yaatra marches. None can dispute Mahinda’s dedication to the cause of the party in which his father was one of the pioneer members along with AP Jayasuriya, Sri Nissanka and of course, SWRD Bandaranaike. Mahinda while reflecting the fundamental ethnic profile of the party, that of ultra-nationalist and pseudo-patriotic, he practiced economic policies that were same as those of CBK’s crony-capitalist principles. One of the greatest ironies in the SLFP’s practice of economic policies was when CBK’s mother who was primarily responsible for enacting the Land Reform Bill, which its opponents called ‘draconian’, CBK in fact was one of the key officials who were responsible for implementing Sirimavo’s Land Reform policy. The irony is it was CBK herself who was responsible for the undoing of most of the policies enacted by her mother. Privatization of management of the vast business empire of Tea Estates in fact rectified that grave economic mistake done unto Sri Lanka’s economy. Mahinda embracing crony-capitalism and practicing it with blind allegiance to his kith and kin ultimately led to his fall. The passage of the 18th Amendment further confirmed Mahinda’s cavalier attitude towards ‘others’ and the concerns and needs of the ‘common man’. To disregard so ungratefully the very entity that rendered loyal and unstinted support at successive elections is an unforgivable wickedness. And Mahinda paid a very severe price for that wickedness.

Maithripala Sirisena, a product of the same traditions and practices of the SLFP had a rare quality a very few in that party have displayed so far. Standing against the party leader, the sitting President of the country, requires more than conviction and courage. It needs ‘guts’. In that deed, Maithripala stands alone. And Maithripala’s scrutiny into the unjust displacement of the Northern Tamils and his commitment to a speedy solution to making ground for those unfortunate Tamils in the North is ample evidence of a clear departure from the traditional postures of the SLFP. In this sphere, Maithripala is closer to CBK than anyone else in the SLFP’s history, except perhaps SWRD himself. Although SWRD was considered a ‘liberal’ in Sri Lanka’s history, his lack of ‘guts’ that led to doing away with the so-called BC Pact and his disconnect with the country’s agony during the 1958 anti-Tamil riots have also been penned in history.

In short, Mahinda Rajapaksa might be an aberration while Maithripala has remained a true product of the SLFP. Adherence to the founding principles of the Party does matter. It matters prior to, during and after elections. While Mahinda Rajapaksa erased much of the traditional aspects of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, Maithripala Sirisena, being an outsider of a ‘family clan’ is trying to embrace and advance the cause of the party. Whether such adherence to the SLFP-principles is valid today is another question and in this writer’s opinion, such allegiance should not be blind nor should it be unwise.

In a rapidly changing environment, where the social media is overtaking each news cycle in double-quick time, authenticity of a politician, in the eyes of the public, is most critical. That sense of authenticity belongs to Maithripala Sirisena. Having started his professional life as Grama Niladhari and risen to the pinnacle of Presidency of the country is no mean accomplishment. His rise in the SLFP’s hierarchy alone is noteworthy and his current struggle to keep the SLFP together is extraordinary. Sometimes he might succeed and sometimes he may fail. But the journey of the SLFP has been and is not uneventful. Having shown that he is far better as a public speaker than Mahinda Rajapaksa, Maithripala might indeed have an easier task in convincing the majority in the country. But he might be running into an impregnable wall within his own party. How far his authenticity would carry him is a matter not yet resolved. Mahinda’s acts of connivance might overshadow Maithripala’s authenticity. In such a battle Maithripala will succeed, come what may.

*The writer can be contacted at vishwamithra1984@gmail.com     

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Latest comments

  • 7

    Sirisena allowing rouge ranil hamu and the colombian clan to loot the country born dry, is trying to get out of crony capitalism and back to its roots???? man these colombian ranil stooges are giving kumar david a good run for the money ….lol

  • 2

    Lotus Pod Party LPP is scoring even in Cooperative Elections which is the only Election which Dr Ranil and his new UNP Ally Maithipala allow……….The results , LPP on top. UNP second and SLFP is holding the Wooden Spoon. Or Sira is holding the NAGA Trophy , in Golf Parlance……….

  • 0

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  • 7

    What a load of rubbish is this. What heroism? Ask any Grama Nmiladhri whether he likes to be the president of the country. Sirisena is the traitor who was seduced by the promise of power. A man who stood by Rajapaksa praising him as the undisputed Maharaja until that promise came along. Shameless man who is not averse to displaying his raw desire by flouting evry commitment given to ven Sòbitha. Just yesterday I watched a video on Utube of an interview with Sibhita where he is asking what was the purpose of wasting crores and crores of rupees on 2016 August elections if the defeated cadidated are to reapoinred.
    Vishvamitra, tell us us the storry of postponement of local elections. For you Yahapalana suckers holding elections before the time is autocratic while evading elections is democratic. You are an arch UNPer
    and I am a lifelong SLFPer – let us wait and see the judgement of SLFPers at the next available opportunity on your question who represents SLFP.—-

    • 2

      somass ji

      “A man who stood by Rajapaksa praising him as the undisputed Maharaja until that promise came along. “

      Read the quote below:

      There are no permanent friends or permanent enemies, just permanent interests.

      Carol Moseley Braun

      Day by day you are growing into an unique moron. Soon you would grow past our resident moron Max.

  • 6

    What is the point of all this laborious word play-is the UNP the true representative of conservative democratic values?

    How come an unpopular non-performer like Ranil can hold on to the UNP leadership despite repeated electoral defeats? The UNP is in the grip of a Royal college mafia because it is not democratic. The boss appoints the committee which then appoints the boss!

    Ranil and co has convinced the blind idiots in the UNP that they are lacking in desired qualities and that only he and the royalists around him are posh, all knowing and honest.

    Is this true ? Ranil was the master mind behind the Bond scam. Yet so many in the UNP defended the bond thieves.The results of this unbelievable dishonesty we will see at the next election.

    Another royalist Upul Jayasuriya was removed from BOI for unknown reasons.IN his place Sagala Ratnayake’s cousin was brought in, another royalists.

    Is all this good Vismamitra, my pseudo intellectual writer ?

  • 2

    Sumane & Soma,
    Sri Lanka needs young blood as leader.
    Gotha & Basil ( formerly from the UNP ) are US citizen.
    So I would’nt be surprised if SriLankans bring Namal Raja as their new leader as per DJ’s wish.

  • 0

    Today people of SL see only two parties; 1. Governing party of Maithree and Ranil (an forced marriage of a very few SLFPers and the majority UNP), and 2. the Joint Op lead by MR’s SLFP.
    For them the REAL SLFP is what MR leads and what Maithree leads is a bunch of people who did not get a ‘chance’ under MR’s leadership. At a decisive election, people don’t elect a party but a charismatic leader who can govern the country. His or her political party is just a tool for him to use to showcase his organizing ability. MR has shown it under JO. He is also ready with ‘Pohottuwa’ in case the SLFP gives him and his team mother-in-law’s treatment as it is doing today. If Maitree contests again under SLFP what he has to say is the same as what Ranil has to say to the public. Instead MR will have a lot to say about both Ranil and Maithree. By that time, MR’s mistakes will be history and he will see as the man who liberated the country, built highways, and elevated Colombo to be the fastest growing capital in the world.
    Vishwamithra may write tons of articles being seated in his arm-chair, but the man in the street has a different opinion on the SLFP leadership. As the governing party Ranil and Maithree are governing! As the opposition, MR is showing the public the duo are not governing but ‘playing’ hide and seek.
    All of us can see it if an election is held!

  • 0

    What is most amusing is how UNP idiots like Vishwamitra’s portrayal of the rural Sinhalese with Haramanis. Uneducated, stupid and hence not good for making political decision.
    Aiyo moda UNP fellow, if you look at the history of SL, it was the Haramanis that has taken the right decision through out our history. In 2005 Haramanis took a brilliant decision. Thanks to that decision the country is safe.

    In 2015 the ‘educated and intelligent’ UNPers took a decision and see where our country is now. Go and learn politics from Haramanis!

  • 0

    Vishavamithra is not a thinker but trying to be a political analyst. Why Party is important than politicians. Why politicians more important than the country. Just crap

  • 2

    Regardless of what these writers expound, readers must remain focused on the irrefutable fact that the political class in Sri Lanka is unreliable, corrupt to the core and wholly selfish and exploitative of the very people who faithfully follow a flag of SLFP, UNP, MEP, UPFA, JVP, LSSP etc.

    These symbols are mere distractions to gain power and wealth for the political class who have been and always will be the very parasites that drain the country of its treasure, self-worth and ultimately dignity.

    Individuals like presidents always lie about what they will do, and never actually carry thru with their promises. It is best to sideline politicians altogether and allow community and citizen groups to become prominent and forceful in the affairs of the state.

  • 3

    “Who Represents The Real SLFP; Maithri Or Mahinda?”

    Neither maithri or mahinda..It is the mahanayake theros who represent the real SLFP and the real UNP. They are the unelected puppet masters of the two major parties.All three maithri,mahinda and ranil fall at their feet and worship them .

  • 5

    The author is so green! The author thinks Gamini would have won against CBK in 1994.

    What a joke, the people were exhausted from the 17 years of UNP misrule!

    When you lie as they say, at least try and make it believable !

    • 1

      The author is so green! The author thinks Gamini would have won against CBK in 1994.

      prabha seemed to think so cos he assasinated gamini and rajiv thinking they will come back to power.Gamini was a very clever man and rajiv definitely was going to be reelected.So prbha is good at keeping close to polls.However he made a big mistake thinking BJP was going to win in 2009 because all the pollsters were predicting it.The moral of this story is you really can’t know whether gamini or CBK would have triumphed until the election was over.Only thing you can predict is that gamini would have given a much better fight to CBK than the clown who contested aganst her,i don’t even remember the person.Gamini was a most able man in UNP.

      • 1

        I think that it was Gamini’s wife who was hastily persuaded to contest. My surmise proves correct:


        However, I think that Perriamama is right. Chandrika would probably have prevailed even against Gamini. Remember that her party had already got ahead of the UNP in Parliamentary Elections.

        Also, when I looked at that map, I learnt (or was reminded of) another thing: there’s been a near total Prabha inspired boycott in the Northern Province. That’s why most of it is grey. All the people in the North were very enthusiastic for her. So, if one tries to assess her standing in the country as a whole – apart from the actual polls – she stood high.

        I did not vote in either election that year. I was doing a humble job abroad. I remember that I gave notice the moment the Parliamentary Election results were out – so enthusiastic was I for the change.

        By now, I’m disappointed with Yahapalanaya, but still am happier with what I worked towards on 8th January 2015, than I was with the Rajapaksas.

  • 0

    Mathripala Sirisena ( MS) turn into New UNP leader after victory of 2015 of 8th January, Presidential election. He is no longer a SLFP member, that he betray vital interest of National policies has been advocated SLFP’s principles by SWRD and SRD since 1956 and 1960tees .Needless to say current SLFP role of national political mission has dead and gone for-ever.
    But CBK is not SLFP’s she who followed the policies of Mahajana Party of leader of Vijiya Kumaratunge’s thinking.
    The CBK is well known Tamil-federalist of attached to TNA.CBK spend whole 11 years of waste of country for defeated war to Tamil-Terrorist .During her 11 years rule and ruin country and we lost nation sovereignty and surrender the country to Western forces and to Indians….RAW’s

  • 3

    Maithri is a better bet than mahinda, who is the biggest economic hit man this country has ever seen. I hope Maithri will pull his socks up and round up all the crooks on both sides of the divide at the opportune time.

  • 3

    SWRD B founded SLFP as part of his strategy to become PM. He introduced “Ape Anduwa” but soon realized the minority grievances must not be ignored. He found out about the private life style of his backers like Buddharakeerta (Thero then!). SWRD B did try to bridge the language and religious divide. He did not meddle with the legal system – one of his ministers CAS Marrikkar was jailed for corruption and minister Henry Abeywickrema for rape of a minor.

    Vishwamithra question: “Who Represents The Real SLFP; Maithri Or Mahinda?”
    Answer: Both do not. SLFP has become a money minting machine. SWRD B never thought his brain-child will grow into this monster.

    Neither maithri or mahinda

  • 2

    Dear K.Pillai / July 20, 2017 23:04: I’m just beginning to realise how brilliant your comments are. It is true that I (and probably you) was alive in 1956, but too little a kid to remember all this.

    However, my family all hailed from the area around Baddegama (Henry Abeywickrema’s electorate), but up to now I had no inkling of all this sort of thing.

    Yes, in that brief comment you have captured the essence of the changes that 1956 ushered.

    However, come elections, I’m determined not to be sitting on the fence. My vote will be against Mahinda. How to express that is the question.

  • 1

    Dear Vishwamithra,

    One little slip on your part. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s father was NOT Don Mathew Rajapaksa. It was his younger brother, Don Alvin:


    I spotted it because the member of the State Council (or was it the Legislative Council?) before that was my maternal grandmother’s brother, Vincent Stuart Wikremanayake, son of this man:


    who was, of course, my great-grand-father.

    Vincent Stuart W. was a proctor, Don Mathew Rajapaksa, his clerk – or so I’ve been told!.

    So, never mind Maithri contesting after eating hoppers with Mahinda; something similar was done by the first Rajapaksa who got into serious politics.

    Forget the individuals, it’s policies and principles that matter!

  • 0

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