By Gamini Gunasekara
Anura Banaranaike was a leader who lent colour to the political scene in Sri Lanka. He was one of those possessed of excellent personal qualities, superior intelligence and a very clear vision. He was an unrivalled orator in Parliament. His level of eloquence in both the Sinhala and English languages was extremely high. He marshalled his vast vocabulary meaningfully, logically and appropriately, often using an apt quotation from Shakepeare or other reputed author, to make his point. He was an embodiment of a sharp intellect, ability, honesty, organizational skills and cordiality towards his associates.
He earned an honours degree in history in 1973 from a British university. He had a deep knowledge of Western and Eastern history, literature, political philosophy, economics and international relations. He also had an unquenchable thirst for new knowledge. His personal library lacked nothing in modern local and foreign books. Whenever he could spare the time in Parliament, he had the habit of perusing the valuable books and other documents found in its library. He had the unique ability to make use of the knowledge thus acquired, logically and critically, when required.
Brought lustre to Parliament
The great majority of those in politics in the present day do not have that ability. In fact even a child who observes the present day goings-on in Parliament would realize that the majority in Parliament today are persons with empty minds. In contrast, the likes of Anura Bandaranaike brought lustre to Parliament.
Anura Bandaranaike had clean hands, unsoiled by corruption, terrorism and man slaughter. He was in the fullest sense of the term, a clean leader. Even his opponents acknowledged that without any hesitation. He received the people's affection and acceptance, in full measure, in the city and the village, from childhood. He had a physical presence which made anyone who looked at him once, to look again. He had the good fortune to enjoy the close association of the most powerful world leaders, from his childhood.
Most leaders now have forgotten the priceless service he rendered to the SLFP even from his school days, i.e. from 1965. From that time he participated directly in every election campaign and contributed his might to the advancement of the party. Old time party members even now recall with gratitude the way he traversed over hill and dale, meeting the rural folk, all the time advancing the party cause.
At the same time he identified talented young people in distant villages, brought them into the party fold and helped them along to the highest levels of the party hierarchy. Today they shine at the highest levels. Most people have now forgotten this.
In the 1970 General Elections he directed the entire campaign in the Attangalla electorate single handed, whilst pursuing his university education. He had to do so as both his sisters were abroad. Bandaranaike who was only 21 at the time, secured Attanagalla for the SLFP with a majority of 21, 000 votes. I would like it to be recalled that Sirimavo Bandaranaike had not up to then secured such a large majority at Attanagalla. In addition, Bandaranaike's addressing of campaign meetings all round the country at that election, contributed immensely to the United Front victory at that election. While pursuing university education in Britain during the period 1970-74, he came back to the country at every bye-election and conducted the party campaigns.
The fact that Anura Bandaranaike was able to generate a youth wave in favour of the party as a youth leader, since his return to the country in 1974, even in the context of a situation where the party's popularity was in the wane, is testimony to his ability. At every meeting and every seminar he attended there were huge crowds.
The 1976 Ja-Ela bye-election took place in a back ground where the United Front government had suffered a severe setback.
Therefore all the powerful ministers evaded taking charge of the campaign. Even so, Anura Bandaranaike directed the campaign single handed. He secured for the SLFP a number of votes that the party had never before polled in that electorate. Thereby he displayed in ample measure his organizing ability and his popularity.
In 1977 Anura entered Parliament not through his parental political stronghold of Attanagalla or the Gampaha District, that he was used to, but through the Nuwara Eliya-Maskeliya electorate which has a majority of plantation labour votes. He could spare only six days to campaign in this electorate.
During the rest of the campaign period he had to go round the country campaigning for the party. Against all expectations he secured 49, 000 votes and was elected 2nd MP, beating the estate Tamil leader Thondaman to third place. His victory in a neck to neck contest with two formidable leaders of the time, Gamini Dissanayake and S. Thondaman, after only six days of campaigning, is a remarkable incident in the parliamentary election history of Sri Lanka. The victory was in a background where strong men of the party had fallen like giant trees being uprooted, the party base was being eroded and only eight party candidates were able to enter Parliament.
Anura Bandaranaike became the youngest Leader of the Opposition not only in Sri Lanka but in the entire Commonwealth of Nations. When the office of the Leader of the Opposition fell vacant in 1983 he was appointed to that post with the consent of everyone. Everyone accepts that leading a miniscule SLFP group of eight MPs, undaunted, against a formidable UNP government side of 148 MPs, he discharged his responsibilities at the highest level of performance. His performance in that office displaying the marks of a mature politician is an excellent model for present day leaders to emulate.
He took the entire burden of the campaign in the 1988 Presidential election contested by Sirimavo Bandaranaike, in the midst of State violence and tiger terrorist threats. He addressed 115 campaign meetings throughout the island and gave leadership to the campaign amidst showers of bombs and bullets. If not for the violence and bogus votes, that election would have been won by Bandaranaike. Anura also led the 1989 general election campaign together with his mother. He was also able to raise the consciousness of the people through Padayathras and Rathayathras. Most leaders today do not remember the way people waited with lighted Huluathus to greet Anura coming in those Padayathras and 'Rathayathras'.
It is with the unanimous agreement of all Members of Parliament that Anura Bandaranaike reached the highest office in Parliament, that of Speaker, as well. He added lustre to that office. He gave a historic ruling that the Legislature is supreme. The coalition was born due to his enthusiasm and perseverance. If not for the birth of the coalition, a SLFP-led government would not have been born in 2004.
There is no one today to write about Anura Bandaranaike and to commemorate his memory. Those who climbed the steps of the political ladder with his help while he was alive do not appear to be speaking even a word about him today. Sri Lankan politics is immersed in ingratitude today to such an extent. Our society feels the absence of distinguished politicians of the calibre of Anura Bandaranaike today more than ever.
- Army Major, 2 soldiers remanded 2250
- Foreign investors withdrew Rs 100B 2560
- Govt. extends deadline for more competition – Kabir 2618
- China mulls maritime regulation 2248
- Vasu challenges Govt 3311
- New laws to punish offenders 3378
- Wimal seeks permission 3330
- JO women plan protest 3287
- COPE to grill five more 3290
- Prez orders Rs 10,000 per family 3265
- Delimitation report still problematic – JVP 3308
- JO to meet at MR’s residence 3303
- JO vows to block ratification 3275
- Prez to lead SLFP polls campaign 3282
- Contaminated milk dumped into reservoir 3270
- FR case against PM dismissed 3490
- Gota grilled over gold statue 3300
- Rs 25,000 fine for dumping dogs 3276
- Prez will intervene in SAITM issue – Dilan 3265
- Lankan fishing boat found abandoned in Indian waters 3262
- Workshops and Balkans again 3390
- Protests in ‘Chaos’ Signs of life 3401
- Whither higher education in Sri Lanka? 3394
- Let children collect funds for school development 3374
- The ‘Uncle’ syndrome 3384
- How Prabhakaran killed his opponents 4285
- Soldiers fight Sailors for semi-spot 1272
- Malinga charts course to Champions Trophy 1273
- Sumanasinghe passes 1,000 runs mark 1270
- Sri Lanka and Pakistan set to qualify for WC 1273
- Havies march on to semis 1269
- Trinity awards cricket and rugby players 1272
- Rice at a price 1313
- Step in the right direction 1237
- Decriminalize homosexuality 1236
- Ruffling judicial feathers 1230
- SAITM still tossed on a stormy sea 1423
- Where are we headed? 1229
- I believe in cooperative politics – Karuna 1821
- I like to talk to diehard Sinhala chauvinists – Wigneswaran 1897
- Justices should be subject to judicial audits 3702
- Traders have imported rice under local branding– Duminda Dissanayake 3591
- CTSU to protest SAITM ruling-on the streets 3823
- ‘Unity Government’ A golden opportunity... 3386
- GoSL’s interest cost comes down by Rs 1.3B 58
- The Club HNB opens its doors to their esteemed Clients 1264
- LOLC Group clinches NBE Award 2016 1259
- LankaClear bags Silver at NBE Awards 1262
- A brief description of the National Business Excellency awards 1262
- Pan Asia Bank shines at National Business Excellence Awards with two coveted awards 1261
- Digital Transformation: A Conversation with Alberto Granados 1263
- A MUCH-MALIGNED WORD AMONG BANKRUPT POLITICIANS 1276
- Crysbro provides drinking water to war heroes 1262
- Abans innovative LG Dual Cool Air Conditioners 1261
- GSP+ To sustain economy or to Mutate society? 2987
- Fully fledged Media Commission by June – DGI 3028
- Way for True Conciliation! 4194
- Malayalam film - “Orazhcha” (A week) 2328
- Sri Lanka’s Finest Talent – but Who Cares? 2330
- The mesmerizing mystery of Mozart’s music – Mass in C major KV317 (Coronation) 2330
- A Showstopping Performance 2387
- House for Rent 2326
- Footpaths Towards Deconstruction - part 9 2315
- Junsu 1123
- The fate of our woods 1124
- Celebrate ‘A month of love’ 1124
- Five new branch openings 1124
- THINC Sri Lanka Networking Conference 2017 1134
- ‘Our Shop’ for staff welfare 1124
- A musical kaleidoscope 891
- Challenging the hospitality industry 890
- Sci-fi action from start to finish 893
- Helping children in need 891
- An action soaked 886
- Health is wealth 890