60 yr ago today


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 &

5 thoughts on “60 yr ago today

  1. Thanks Sam, Iremember the tragedy very well.
    Once when I was ticked off by JR for exhibiting the clothes of a pilot after an aircraft accident, I retorted that Mr. Bandaranaike’ s blood stained clothes were on display at the BMICH!
    Narme

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  2. Thanks Sam for minding us of this WOG.( westernised oriental gentleman).Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike.Solomon from his father Sir Solomon and West Ridgeway from his god father, the incumbent Governor General.He was an Anglican Christian by birth as his parents were and was tutored by a Briton at home prior to St Thomas’ College., Mt Lavinia. Left for Christ college,Oxford to a place already secured for him by his father.He had to overcome racial prejudice at Oxford and in his memoir says “one was being shown politely but unmistakably that one was simply not wanted.”.Despite this He was able to secure a post of Junior treasurer at the Oxford Union.( Lalith Athulathmudali and Lakshman Kadirgamar were presidents of the Oxford Union.).He read classics and achieved a second class honours.
    In 1925, on his return to Ceylon, he confessed to the people at Horagolla that he was unable to address them in Sinhala.!! He did not speak the language.
    He learned Sinhala and converted to Buddhism by1930.He entered politics via the Colombo municipal council and progressed to the Ceylon National Congress.In 1936 he formed the Sinhala Maha Saba and the joined the UNP in 1946.In 1948 he was a member of the cabinet of the first UNP government.He was unhappy in the UNP as he wanted to be the prime ministerial nominee after DS.In 1951 he left the UNP and formed the SLFP which merged with the Sinhala maha Saba.In 1956 ,he mooted the Sinhala Only Policy and by popular vote became the Prime minister of Ceylon in 1956..Much blood was shed in 1956 and 1958 when the first racial riots after independence were seen under his premiership, the first after I dependnce.
    The rest is history,when he was gunned down in his own home at Tintagel by Somarama thero.Why ? Oh why ? I do not know.History often has memory lapses.Have we forgotten Vivienne and Budhharakita.??.
    I believe that this WOG would have been better in the long run, as he was educated and would not have given way to the blossoming of the current set of buffoons.!!
    Just a note about the soiled clothes on display as noted by Narme.The two bullet holes are on the right side of the chest.! Does this mean that the injuries were to the right lung and liver.He lived to talk, hence clear airways.? He died the following day.Did we have the surgical expertise and intensive care that we have today.Probably not.! If we had he would have been 120 years old this year.

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  3. Hi Friends
    It is very sad to recall the events leading to S W RD Bandaranayake’s demise – a PM who changed the face of Sri Lankan politics so remarkably at a time when the world scene was so fixated by the European and American politicians
    I have a few observations to add to the events leading to Bandaranayake’s assassination
    My parents lived about 50 yards away from Mrs Vimala Wijaywardena who was then the Minister of Health in the cabinet. We youngsters used to play street cricket on Buller’s Lane. Every evening around 5-30 pm we could see Ven. Buddharakita, the chief priest of the Kelaniya temple being driven in V W ‘s Opel Kapitan car to her place
    She was in an extra marital relationship with the chief priest which was was well known to all around, her husband obviously was tolerant of the proceedings in his home
    When the trial of the pm commenced Ven Buddharakita was the chief suspect as Somarama had lost his life before the trial commenced
    The anniversary brings back so many memories of yesteryear

    Pleased to share this with you all

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