The Assassination of Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike 60 Years Ago ! On September 25th 1959 the Prime Minister Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike (SWRDB) of Sri Lanka known as Ceylon then was shot and seriously wounded by a Buddhist monk. Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike succumbed to his injuries and passed away the following day. Therefore September 26th 1959 got etched as an important date in the post-independence history annals of Sri Lanka. SWRD Bandaranaike as Premier was officially ensconced in the Prime minister’s official residence “Temple Trees” at Galle Road, Kollupitiya. Bandaranaike also divided his time between the ancestral manor at Horagolla Walauwe and his private residence “Tintagel” on 65 Rosemead place, Colombo 7. SWRDB was at “Tintagel” on the fateful Friday he was shot.A Buddhist monk named Ven. Talduwe Somarama Thero was among those who came to meet Bandaranaike on the morning of September 25th 1959.It was a Friday. The monk was a lecturer at the Govt college of Ayurveda or indigenous medicine in Borella. Somarama Thero who was attached to the Amaravihare.He also had an Ayurvedic eye clinic in Borella.The ostensible reason for the monk wanting to meet the PM was to appraise him of requirements for the Ayurveda college.
Talduwe Somarama’s name at Birth was Talduwe Ratugama Rallage Weris Singho. He was born on August 27th 1915 to Ratugama Rallage Dieris Appuhamy and Iso Hamy. Weris Singho was educated at the Talduwe Ihala school and in Dehiowita. He donned the yellow robes on Jan 20th 1929 at the age of fourteen. Somarama was ordained in Kandy on June 25th 1936 at the age of twenty-one. The premier of the nation was in the front verandah of his house meeting people who had come to see him. One batch of people was accommodated inside while others stood in line outside awaiting their turn to go in. Talduwe Somarama also waited patiently in the queue for his turn and then was admitted in.There was a group of about 20 persons inside and a queue of around 40 outside.
SWRD Bandaranaike was proud of having ushered in the age of the common man. His Govt was regarded by the masses as “Apey aanduwe” or our Government. One manifestation of this was the easy access the people had to their prime minister.
Somarama Thero sat on a chair at one corner of the Verandah.He had placed a file and a handkerchief on a low stool by his side on his left. Seated on his right was another Buddhist monk from Polonnaruwa named Ananda Thero. The Polonnaruwa monk accompanied by some farmers had come to see the prime minister on a matter concerning the appointment of a cooperative society manager.Ananda Thero was later to prove to be a key witness at the trial.
As each person’s name was announced he or she walked up to the Prime minister , paid obeisance and articulated their woes and views.However when Somarama Thero stood up as his name was announced , Prime minister Bandaranaike himself got up respectfully, walked up to him and bowed reverentially as was the custom in greeting a Buddhist monk. He then asked the monk what he could do for him. Somarama – who seemed tensed up according to Ananda Thero – told the PM that certain improvements were needed at the Ayurveda College. Bandaranaike then replied that he could get the Health minister AP Jayasuriya to attend to it if the venerable monk stated the requirements in writing and submitted it to him.
The time then was 9.45 am. Somarama Thero sat down and fumbled with the file on the stool by his side as if he was going to pull out a memorandum to be given to the Prime minister. As the prime minister was getting ready to receive what he may have thought were some papers, the Buddhist monk took out a pistol concealed in his robes and fired twice at point blank range hitting Bandaranaike in the chest and abdomen.The Prime minister made a loud sound like a gasp or moan and went down.He then got up slowly and with great difficulty tried to stagger back inside the house. Realising what had happened ,enraged people now surrounded Somarama who was shouting excitedly that he had done so for the “country, race and religion”. After a scuffle in which Somarama was manhandled by the people , the monk was formally arrested. The furious crowd may have mauled the monk but for the merciful intervention of Bandaranaike.The bleeding Bandaranaike lying on the floor had urged the people not to harm the monk in any way.The apprehended monk was taken away by the Police to the Harbour Police station amidst tight security. SWRD Bandaranaike was rushed to the General Hospital at Borella and taken to the operating theatre .
Tragically, Bandaranaike never suspected any threat to his person and was unbelievably unconcerned about security. Given the levels of security available to VVIP’s today it is mind boggling to know that only a Police sergeant was in charge of the Prime Minister’s security 60 years ago.Even the sergeant in charge was not on duty that morning.Only a constable had been at the gates. Unlike some Politicians of the present era who regard the deployment of a large contingent of bodyguards as a symbol of their important status, Bandaranaike who thought of himself as a “popular peoples prime minister” felt a sense of embarrassment at being protected by many Policemen. All credits to DBSJeyaraj &