Real motive for the assassination of SWRD Bandaranaike – communal mindism?
Posted on October 8th, 2014

Chanaka Bandarage

 Some say the assassination of Prime Minister, SWRD Bandaranaike, was a CIA plot.  Given his conduct as a socialist Prime Minister, it is somewhat justifiable to make such an assumption, but, there is no evidence to that effect.

Various other conspiracy theories have emerged as a result of the assassination; it is not the intention of this article to assess them.

It is not unfair to wonder whether or not Somarama killed Bandaranaike to stop him from implementing the Bandaranaike – Chelvanayakam pact.  There is strong justification to form such a belief.

True Bandaranaike made Sinhala the official language; thereby sometimes he is branded as an extremist  Sinhalese.  But,  one should not dismiss the fact that owing to the backlash of his ‘Sinhala Only’ act, Bandaranaike  presented the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam pact to the nation, which was at that time seen  very detrimental to the Sinhala Buddhist.  JR Jayawardane organised the famous march from Colombo to Kandy in protest of the pact.  Immediately after shooting Bandaranaike, Somarama uttered the words  ‘country, race and religion’(‘රට, ජාතිය, ආගම’);. these are words of an extremist, not of a CIA agent  or someone with a different motive.

Looking back at Somarama, one could see that he led the life of a genuine Sinhalese Buddhist.  He was born to a Sinhala Buddhist family in Matara; became a monk when he was 14.  He was ordained at the age of 21. He worked as a lecturer attached to the Government College of Ayurveda in Borella. He resided at  Amaravihara and also ran an Ayurvedic eye clinic in Borella.

There were two other accused;  Mapitigama Buddharakkitha  Thero  and HP (Hemachandra Piyasena) Jayawardena.  These two Sinhalese were also ardent Buddhists.   Buddharakkitha was an extremely powerful monk of the time.  At the time of the murder, he was the brainchild in the huge campaign against the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam pact.   A large number of Buddhist priests demonstrated against  the pact and demanded that Bandaranaike abrogate it.

Buddharakkitha was also the mastermind behind the Bandaranaike assassination.  It was alleged and later proven in court that he planned the assassination; gave directions to Somarama and Jayawardane to carry out the murder.

It was a most horrendous, gruesome crime.  The first political assassination of the newly independent nation, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon).

In the trial it was alleged that Buddharakkitha’s  primary motive for the killing of Bandaranaike was ‘business’.

It was alleged that Buddharakkitha hated Bandaranaike for not helping him in his business ventures.   There is no doubt this was true.  The co-accused  Jayawardane was a business associate of Buddharakkitha.

But, pronouncement of such a (main) motive for the murder, disregarding other motive/s by the prosecution was incorrect.  Holding of such a  belief amounts  to speculation.   Most of the time in legal matters (also in real life) decisions based on speculation turns out to be wrong.

It is reasonable to believe that the prosecution was careful not to  mention the Bandaranaike –Chelvanayakam pact as the probable reason for Buddharakkitha’s motivation to kill.  This may have been a deliberate act on their part.  The Government definitely did not want to create a martyrdom for the two murderous monks, within sections of the Sinhalese Buddhist society.  Also, revelation of such a possible motive may have diminished the public sympathy for the dead Prime Minister and the then incumbent Government, headed by the deceased Prime Minister’s widow (world’s first female Prime Minister).

Inferences can be made from a person’s conduct.   It is reasonable to infer that Buddharakkitha masterminded the murder to stop the implementation of the Bandaranaike – Chelvanayakam pact; this must have been the main motive for the killing.  Of course, his personal animosity with the Prime Minister must have also played a part in forming the motive.   Somarama, the strong nationalist, would have never got involved in the murder,  unless the killing in his eyes was political.

it is only Buddharakkitha, the mastermind, who died in the prison in 1967 at the age of 46, knew the precise motive; no one else.  It is believed Buddharakkitha never uttered the real motive to anyone (he never admitted the murder).

Notwithstanding the real motive, the murder of the country’s then Prime Minister, SWRD Bandaranaike by the two Buddhist monks and the layman in 1959 must be thoroughly condemned  by all in all proportions.

With the death of Bandaranaike, the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam pact also died.

The writer is a Lawyer


18 Responses to “Real motive for the assassination of SWRD Bandaranaike – communal mindism?”

  1. Christie Says:

    According to my Indian Myna in the writers domicile what was raised at the hearing were correct. Political innuendo is all assumptions and allegations. Sons and daughters of one of the leading lawyer involved are domiciled in there. According one of the sons of this lawyer it was a business matter. Any racial or religious issue is also a business matter. SWRD and his cohorts only nationalized Sinhala businesses and did not touch any Indian. Buddarakkita and Wijayawardana are the few Sinhala people who financed the SLFP while Indian merchants and India were the biggest financiers. So SWRD was a puppet of the Indians and India and had follow their instructions and refused to endorse Buddarakkita’s tender to ship rice from Burma which has always being in the hands of the Indians for decades. So SWRD got Buddarakkita and Wimala’s money and the bullets. May all of them attain Nibbana and Heaven. With SWRD the Sinhala businesses also died but there is a bit of Sinhala business revival now.

  2. Nanda Says:

    bandaranaika (even if assumed as a betrayer due to so called dead act) is no match compared to Ruin-ill. Why no one wanted his head ? because he is good for “Sinhala businessmen ” ?

  3. SA Kumar Says:

    Why no one wanted his head !

    Nanda, why this kolavri, kolavri mate?

    live & let live until Eelam war V !

  4. Nimal Says:

    Buddataketha may have instigated it and some said that Ossie Corea was involved in the attempt as he had jumped over the wall after the shooting.

  5. AnuD Says:

    This story is missing parts. I think, the businesses had a had a role may be true, I am wondering whether the Church also was aligned. I had heard that one monk who ran away jumping over a wall was Ozzie Corea.

  6. Chanaka B Says:

    I agree, this is not the full story. I was only touching on the motive. After the incident, Ossie Corea, a famous underworld figure of the time, was found dishelved like a monk and was hiding. There was a story that after Somarama shot dead the Prime Minister, Ossie Corea, who was hiding in the bushes shot Somarama in his groin and jumped over the parapet wall of the Rosemead Place residence. He did this to eliminate Somarama, as Buddharakkitha will be safe then; who feared that Somarama would talk after the event. As I said in the article there were so many conspiracy theories surrounding the murder, Ossie Corera’s is just one. Ossie Corea was a defendant in the case, he was acquitted. Thus, I believe Ossie Corea had no part to play in the murder; but, I may be wrong. Believe it or not, there was a story against one of the eminent surgeons of the medical team– that he did something to Bandaranaike after the surgery (the surgery was a success), on the instigation of a powerful person. This is also bunkum

  7. Lorenzo Says:

    Banda-Chelva Pact ended in 1958. Ended. Finished!

    SWORDB died in 1959. More than one year after the pact came to an end.

    BBS has called for renaming the country back to how it was called – SINHALE. A good one.

    If English homeland is called England (where other minorities also live),
    If Russian homeland is called Russia (where other minorities also live),
    If French homeland is called France (where other minorities also live),
    If Japanese homeland is called Japan (where other minorities also live),
    If Chinese homeland is called China (where other minorities also live),
    If Thai homeland is called Thailand (where other minorities also live),
    If Hindu homeland is called (H)India (where other minorities also live),
    If Bengali homeland is called Bangladesh (where other minorities also live),
    If Tamil homeland is called Tamil Nadu (where other minorities also live?),

    SL must be renamed SINHALE.

  8. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    Ossie Corea was in the lobby with Somarama in yellow robes, but Somarama did not know that Ossie in yellow robes was contracted to kill him, after he shot SWRDB. Neither did he recocognize the other priest was Ossie. Ossie could not get a proper shot at Somarama, and his bullet hit Somaramas testicles. That is how the jingle,…Ossie, had one big ball, but Somarama, had none at all, was coined, sung to the tune of “Bridge over River Kwai ” during that time. Yes, it was correct that the priest who jumped over the wall was Ossie. He was in hiding till his hair grew.

  9. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    SA K !!

    Cave quid dicis, quando, et cui….DIE SOMNIATOR

  10. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    SA K !!


  11. Chanaka B Says:

    Lorenzo, you are right; the pact ended in 1958. His eccentric action led to the first ever communal riots between the two communities in 1958 (Prabhakaran was later motivated by the riots to take up arms). Though the pact ended, Bandaranaike did not give up the idea. At the time of assassination, he was trying to pass legislation identical to the pact. The monks protested, spearheaded by Buddharakkitha, chief incumbent of Kelaniya Vihara; a very powerful monk of the time (immediately after the death, the then incumbent Prime Minister, Dahanayaka, requested Buddharakkitha to give a sermon on national radio praising Bandaranaike, which Buddharakkitha did; he was arrested a few days later!). The then Government did not want to tell that Bandaranaike was likely killed due to the pact/impending legislation; it said the motive was purely ‘business’ (commercial); a reason hard to believe.

  12. Lorenzo Says:

    Thanks Chanaka for the information.

    Yes it is HARD to believe that it was purely business.

  13. SA Kumar Says:

    Chanaka B
    motive was purely ‘business’ (commercial); a reason hard to believe- fully agreed .

  14. SA Kumar Says:

    SL must be renamed SINHALE – Fully agreed also TE (NP) must be renamed Saiva TE.

  15. SA Kumar Says:

    Dear SW
    Cave quid dicis, quando, et cui- Beware what you say, when, and to whom
    VIVIT ET VIVET DUM (eellaam V ) BELLO. DIE SOMNIATOR- please translate in English.
    My Sinhala brother
    Couple of weeks before SLN hand over few acre land to its old owners & got sign a document that promise to return these land back to them if any war start again at Mullatheevu.
    please tell me Why?

    We both community live together last 2,500 (according to Mahavamsam)& will live for another 2,500 years or more.
    so live & let live until Eelam war V !

  16. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    It is your last line…… dreamer. Be nice.

  17. SA Kumar Says:

    day dreamer- agreed

    From Elra(Eela raj- Ellalan) to VP, still We Demilaya not realist our Day dream !

    Are happy skotharaya SW?

    Be Nice – Thanks

  18. Nimal Says:

    As I remember,W.Dahanayake who became the PM was clever enough to get the Scotland Yard to investigate this murder and they were brave enough to point a finger at that Whiskey drinking and philandering monk Buddarakkitha.I think that thero died in Prison.In the trial,where GGP and Choksey were the lawyes found that Corea had said ‘hurry’ after jumping over the wall.It was meant that it was OK(after this killing) but the defense put it has hurry(be quick).WD was a good and honest PM who put some strict election laws,where he put a limit to the campaign by any party.He was a good English teacher at St Alosyious Galle and frequented our home in Elliot road in Galle.Good memories of him.We last met him at Rosmead place at SWRD’s home where my sister in law was unjustly transferred as a teacher,because she was a Bandaranayake/Ratwatte related to MRs SWRD.She was transferred to a horrible place.WD had an an impartial inquiry and reinstated and the boss of the education was a Tamil Gentleman working off Malay street and he was just and firm and never allowed the politicians to interfere with his decisions.He was the product of the colonial times where honesty,integrity and fair play was the order of the day.
    I want readers to note this(though not relevant to this thread).When we visited the PM’s house in Rosmead place the person who was there was CJ.Chelvanaygam.That time Colombo was in turmoil with communal riots and his driver was reluctant to pick him up and we were asked to give him a lift which we did.Half way on the route through Galle road we were able to see the burning Tamil shops and my brother asked him what he could say then to the reaction to his stupid act of tarrying the Sinhalese name boards in the North,etc and there was deafening silence from him throughout the journey where he seems to be shocked.He only thanked us for the safe lift we gave him.

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