In Sri Lanka’s political history, ‘3’ is not a good number. The year with three as the last digit was a watershed moment in Sri Lanka’s political history. This began in 1953. The largest hartal in Sri Lanka began in 1953. When the hartal began, the prime minister was Dudley Senanayake. There was a schism in the UNP government following the death of D.S. Senanayake.
Dudley, the son of D.S. and Sir John, was in a power struggle to become Prime Minister. JR stepped in and got the Prime Minister ship to Dudley. Despite Sir John’s displeasure, Dudley was appointed Prime Minister. The police were called in to quell the strike, and one person was killed. Dudley immediately accepted responsibility for the murder and resigned as prime minister. Sir John was appointed Prime Minister. Sir John became Prime Minister, making the United Nations Party government unpopular with the public. Because of the 1953 hartal , Dudley’s withdrawal, and because Sir John became Prime Minister, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike won a landslide victory in 1956.
In 1963, something strange happened. That is, for the first time, the Ceylon Samasamaja Party, which is said to be forming a socialist government, joined a government and assumed ministerial positions. The N.Ms and Colvins who joined Mrs. Bandaranaike’s government were powerful ministers. Mrs. Bandaranaike’s government was overthrown in 1964 by C.P.De Silva, the senior leader of the Sri Lankan Freedom Party joined the UNP because of Mrs. Bandaranayake’s coalition government.
In 1973, an event happened that changed the country. That is Death of U.N.P. Leader, Dudley Senanayake. Before he died, between him and opposition leader J.R. had a severe division between them. The UNP working committee had decided to act against J.R. But later at Jaela U.N.P. Organizer Paris Perera’s residence JR. met with Dudley to settle the conflict. Dudley died later. Hundreds of thousands of people came to Colombo for his funeral. It set the record as the largest number of people who came to Colombo. They asked for permission to hold the funeral at Independence Square, but the lady’s government did not allow it. Because of this, she received a lot of opposition across the country. Dudley’s death in 1973 changed the politics of JR, UNP and the country.
1983 was a terrible year. The beginning of Cursed War of Sri Lanka that lasted over three decades started in middle of 1983. It was called Black July. Prabhakaran from the north and Wijeweera from the south were raising their heads because of that Black July. J.R.’s government loaded the responsibility of the black July and banned J.V.P. In 1983 not only was the country burnt down, but Sri Lanka was ostracized by the international community.
Also, in 1983 Ranasinghe Premadasa’s path to the leadership of the country was carved. Because of the war in the north due to the black July of 1983, due to ban on J.V.P. the terror in the south, forced JR to abandon the idea of running for the presidency for the third time and nominated Premadasa.
Next comes 1993. Unlike 53, 63, 73, 83, 1993 was the most dangerous year for Sri Lanka. Premadasa, the country’s head of state, was assassinated in 1993. Earlier such a killing happened in 1959. That is Bandaranaike’s murder. After that, the first time a head of state was assassinated was in 1993. An LTTE suicide bomber killed Premadasa exactly one week after killing of Lalith Athulathmudali. Lalit was killed by LTTE gunner. Prabhakaran wanted to kill Lalitha first and put the responsibility of the murder on Premadasa and kill Premadasa. When Lalith was killed, the then opposition Sri Lankan freedomParty and Lalith-Gamini Party blamed the killing on Premadasa and turned Lalith’s funeral into an anti-Premadasa rally.
To everyone’s surprise, Premadasa was killed on the highway. The killing of Lalith and Premadasa was a shock to the entire country. In the end, this murder paved the road for Chandrika who emerged from nowhere. When Lalith and Premadasa were killed, Wijetunga, who became president, thought that seniority had fallen on his head. Ranil, who was the Prime Minister, thought that he was about to become the President. Gamini thought that the presidency, which he had dreamed about in 1988, had reached his feet. Anura of the Sri Lankan freedom Party thought that the way to become the President was clear for him. SLFP leader Mrs. Bandaranaike thought that she was lucky to sit in the presidential chair before she died. But in the end Chandrika became the president.
Like in 53, 63, 73, 83, 93, 2003 was also a year of great change in Sri Lanka. Chandrika’s government fell in 2001. Ranil formed a government when Chandrika was in office. Immediately after becoming the Prime Minister, Ranil started peace talks with the LTTE. But surprising not only Sri Lanka but also the international community, the LTTE withdrew from the peace talks in April 2003. Chandrika and SLFP brought a Massive crowd to Colombo saying that they enough of been patient.
In November 2003, while Ranil was in America, Chandrika took over three ministries in Ranil’s government. Ranil’s government was dragged down. Chandrika and J.V.P. held, crucial negotiations to form an alliance in 2003, . The United People’s Freedom Alliance came to the fore as a result. Chandrika formed this alliance to rule the country for another 6 years by abolishing the post of Executive President or becoming Executive Prime Minister. The JVP join this alliance to make a leader of their choice as the president and make him a puppet. Neither of these happened. When Chandrika took over the ministries in 2003 and formed the alliance, Mahinda, who was the arch enemy of Chandrika and the JVP, became the Prime Minister and became the President. In the end, it was JVP who led the battle to make Mahinda president.
Next comes 2013. 2013 is not a year to be forgotten. President Mahinda impeached Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranaike in January 2013. Even then there was no opposition against Mahinda’s government. With the impeachment against Shirani, lawyers launched anti Rajapaksa protests across the country. Sobitha Thero led it. Sri Lanka’s civil organizations emerged and came out against the Rajapaksa government and a discussion about a common candidate started with the impeachment against Shirani Bandaranaike in 2013.
Now it is 2023.
I don’t know what will happen in 2023…? Number three is a fatal year for leaders. A revolutionary year in politics. It is a year that produces new leaders for the country. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, JR. Jayawardena, Ranasinghe Premadasa, Chandrika Kumaratunga, Mahinda Rajapaksa were born in a year with a revolution happened in a year the last number is three.
‘Does that mean the country will have a new head of state and a new government in 2023…?’
By Upul Joseph Fernando