Is Ranil planning to follow uncle’s 1982 Referendum?
Posted on March 18th, 2016

Shenali D Waduge

What does a political party do when it doesn’t have the support of the majority populace and those that voted for them begin to realize their mistake and resolve not to repeat it and the only way to stay in power is to change the constitution without going for an election? Answer is simple, follow the uncle. JR Jayawardena knew his popularity had waned. He was not ready to go for an election but he wanted UNP to remain in power. His solution was to first deny Sirimavo Bandaranaike her civic rights thus removing her from contesting elections, declare state of emergency claiming SLFP were trying assassinate him (incidentally it was Ranil Wickremasinghe – Min of Education who made reference to a ‘naxalite plot’ on 28th October 1982 the same day undated resignation letters of MPs were given) and then held an illegal referendum to extend parliament and thus remain in power. Are we likely to see the same being repeated 35 years later?

The 1982 referendum goes down in history as an affront to democracy held under state of emergency.

Ranil180316 JRJaya

J.R.Jayewardene taking oaths as the first Executive President of Sri Lanka before Chief Justice Neville Samarakoon whom he impeached in 1984

1982 National Referendum

  • Held on 22 December 1982
  • The People were asked if they wished to extend the life of Parliament by 6years.
  • It was the country’s 1st referendum
  • President JR Jayawardena was elected as President in October 1982. He obtained 52%. At the 1977 general elections UNP won a landslide victory obtaining 140 of the 168 seats. SLFP won only 8 seats while TULF won 18 seats. UNP used their majority in parliament to create a new constitution (now they need only to buy some MPs and it’s a piece of cake) The new title of Executive President was created. JRJ introduced proportional representation to elect 225 MPs. JRJ became President in 1978 promising a pro-western foreign policy/economic development and free enterprise (just what nephew is doing). Parliament was to expire in August 1983. Jayawardena knew his party would lose if general elections were held. His answer was to propose a referendum. His excuse was that he needed the existing parliament to complete the programs in progress (you can bet that these will be the very reasons soon to be used)
  • Opposition declared JR a dictator – that didn’t stop the ‘dictator’
  • The referendum asked a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from voters to extend the life of parliament.
  • 54% voted in favour of extending Parliament.
  • The civic rights of the world’s first Prime Minister Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike was removed in 1980 on charges of abuse of power automatically denying her right to contest forcing the SLFP to field little-known Hector Kobbekaduwa as SLFP’s candidate. Repetition scenario cannot be ruled out.

Setting the background for the National Referendum

Having removed the civic rights of his main contender JRJ had omitted his opposition.

JR did not wish to hold elections but he was ready to hold a referendum thereby extending the term of parliament. This was when the notion of rigging elections emerged. The JRJ Government presented the 4th amendment to the constitution which the Supreme Court held as constitutional. The Bill thereafter went to Parliament on 5 Nov 1982, entire UNP voted in favor as did 2 members of the SLFP – Maithripala Senanayake (not Sirisena) and Halim Ishak. TULF abstained from voting. Only Lakshman Jayakody, Anura Bandaranaike, Ananda Dassanayake of the SLFP and Sarath Muttetuwegama of the Communist Party voted against the Bill. A gazette notification was issued on 14 Nov 1982. The then election commissioner was Chandrananda de Silva.

The question asked for the national referendum was

Do you approve the Bill entitled the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution published in Gazette Extraordinary No 218/23 of November 13, 1982, which provides inter alia that unless sooner dissolved the First parliament shall continue until August 4, 1989, and no longer and shall thereupon stand dissolved”


Anyone voting YES had to cast their vote against the Lamp

Anyone voting NO had to cast their vote against the Pot

electionresults electionresults2

Next he came up with the claim of a conspiracy by the SLFP to assassinate him (the same was done by nephew in 2002 which led to the Millennium City raid and the LTTE killing of intelligence officers). Then JRJ imposed state of emergency. The December referendum turned out to be the first vote in Sri Lanka under state of emergency.

The Opposition were joined by the Tamil parties to defeat the referendum (an unlikely scenario now) JRJ’s argument was that ‘undemocratic measures’ had to be taken in the larger interest of the nation! What a nice excuse.

If today’s the Prime Minister calls people riri yaka and other such unparliamentary names JRJ did the same then.

The joint opposition has made a calculated mistake in unanimously voting to turn parliament into a constitutional assembly when none of the MPs can be trusted. It is a piece of cake for Ranil to entice these selfish MPs to accept portfolios in exchange for agreeing to a new constitution that would enable UNP to remain in power. The losers are the common people!

The possibility of another great betrayal is looming before us. As things stand it is very clear that those pushing for a new constitution and those tasked to draft the new constitution are all those that chanted the war was unwinnable, that LTTE was a ‘partner’ and people who have had direct links to LTTE and LTTE fronts and those pushing an ideology that is against the framework of Sri Lanka’s historical identity.

All those now working on framing a new constitution are trying to pick bits of legislation copying from other constitutions totally ignoring that the fundamental need is to ensure that the identity of Sri Lanka and what the country stood for historically is all that needs to be included with a set of laws and regulations applicable to all and punitive actions for those aiming to divide the nation or its people.

We do not need to go copying other constitutions and plug their’s into ours. Obviously those tasked to draft the constitution are oblivious or do not wish to take stock of how Kosovo constitution or the new Nepal constitution was drafted – primarily to fulfill the wishes of foreign investors and their interests.

Are the bunch of people preparing the constitution attempting to fulfil this same objective? None of them have once said that the historical identity of the country needs to be solidified through the constitution. They are all chanting liberal and foreign notions only because their feet are not grounded in what the nation needs or what the people want. We cannot have a constitution that is agreeable to everyone but the people living in this country.

There is always the likelihood that those drafting the constitution will most probably take flight when they have ensured the country has been ruined and their job is done. A constitution is no joke and it is no experiment. It is nothing that looks great on paper but ridiculous in practice. With the current manner opposition are being intimidated, arrested and treated via all organs of state apparatus what will the outcome be if the Government becomes the ‘constitutional court’? What we are watching is the making and legalizing of dictatorship. The minorities must also realize and be questioned on how far they have played a role in nation building. Apart from a handful of minority all others have been eternal complainers only. There is something called give and take. People cannot simply always ask and give nothing in return.

The 17th March joint opposition rally will certainly be a turning point for Western policy thinkers. They are too smart not to know that none of their plans can be achieved on paper if it does not have the backing of the public. No investor wants to set up shop in a climate of unrest and public dissent. In such a scenario the West never keeps eggs in one basket. They are obviously going to spring some surprises. Uprisings are seen as opportunities – we saw how foreign funded rebel movements ended up killing scores of Sinhala Buddhist youth in the 1970s, 1980s and 30 years of conflict saw 30,000 Sinhalese pay the supreme sacrifice while a similar number now lie injured for life. Most likely we are going to see another repetition where the aim would be to bump off another lot of Sinhala Buddhists. The joint opposition must be tuned into this. The joint opposition must be sincere and not play to the gallery to keep itself relevant. It must be the voice of the people if it wants to remain in contention to return to power.

Election violence / Election rigging

  • The first instance of election violence was in 1973 at the Dedigama by-election following the demise of Dudley Senanayake (UNP)
  • Political thuggery was seen in 1981 during the Jaffna DDC elections – Senior UNP MPs sent to rig the polls. Jaffna library burnt to the ground.
  • Thereafter it was state sponsored thuggery, hooliganism and lawlessness mafia style.
  • 1982 referendum – UNP MPs resorted to impersonations, intimidation of election officials, open stuffing of ballot boxes. (Attanayagalle was won by UNP by over 67% votes polled!)
  • Treatment of strikers – JRJ came to create a ‘righteous society’ (Dharmishta samajaya) from 2015 to 2016 the mantra is good governance (yahapalana), sanhindiyawa and viniwida! Free market society was the norm of JRJ, nephew follows same theory. Unable to bear the rise of prices the working class demanded just Rs.10 per day and an allowance of Rs.5. It was in July 1980 some 400,000 state and private sector employees staged pickets opposite their workplaces. July salaries were suspended. All trade union offices in state owned buildings were closed/sealed. 40,356 workers lost their jobs.
  • Attacks on prisoners by UNP – massacre of 53 Tamil political prisoners in Welikade Jail was among the most dastardly crimes committed during the July 1983 violence
  • Politicians carried fire arms to polling stations (Ladies College)
  • Chandrika Bandranaike’s rule saw Wayamba PC election of 1994 as one of the most horrific with flagrant violation of electoral process. UNP women were stripped naked and paraded. No action was taken against the perpetrators.
  • Attacks on judiciary/judges under UNP – JR had houses of judges stoned. Another example of democracy denied was the enactment of the Special Presidential Commissions of Inquiry Act 7 of 1978 by JRJ appointing a SPC consisting of 2 Supreme Court Judges (Justices Weeraratne and Sharvananda)  and 1 judge (K C de Alwis) from the lower rungs of the judiciary. Many have forgotten how JRJ reconstructed the Supreme Court by sending 12 senior serving Judges home.
  • Scandals against CBK – Galle Habor issue, Thawakkal, Southern Development Authority, Air Lanka privatization, manipulations in procurement for defense, Channel 9, she also collected files on judges to hold as a sword of damocles over them and  appointed friends for political expediency

JVP leader Rohana Wijeweera’s rare speech against J.R.Jayewardene’s 1982 referendum

Some memorable quotes :

  • UPFA member Wijedasa Rajapaksa addressing Parliament on Saturday during the debate of the Justice Ministry votes said the UNP had no right to speak about the independence of the judiciary when their former leader J. R. Jayawardene had justified the stoning of judges houses when judges gave a decision in courts that embarrassed his government. On that occasion the UNP leader had said those who stoned the houses of the judges were exercising the democratic right to protest. (Now the same Wijedasa is the Justice Minister in UNP)

Much of Sri Lanka’s ills have arisen from the open economy (corruption, rich-poor divide, illicit ventures that are quick money making schemes for only a handful while leaving most as victims, business of prostitution, gambling etc). Nephew is very keen to continue and now we have a new entity in the form of military intervention, corporate intervention and oligarchy all of which are sweet music to the UNP who from post-1977 period has shown its loyalty only to a handful of greens.

It is very clear that the country has lost much of what it gained if we are to remove propaganda and smear slogans and stick to statistics and what we can physically see. The current journey will bring detrimental results for the nation.

 Shenali D Waduge


9 Responses to “Is Ranil planning to follow uncle’s 1982 Referendum?”

  1. SA Kumar Says:

    The Opposition were joined by the Tamil parties to defeat the referendum !!! We-Tamil always NO to TE ?

  2. asoka2468 Says:

    Shenali is right! These crooks are in the process of jailing the Rajapaksa family. Next year they will jail Gota and MR.
    Its a pity that our fellow countrymen are so stupid to still believe all the stories that these crooks are saying about the Rajapaksa family.

  3. Ancient Sinhalaya Says:

    Traitor thambi mudiyanselage adarmista jr was for destruction of the Sinhalese race, Sri Lanka and
    Buddhism. Reason? UNPatriotic party align the country with the west who wants Buddhism wiped out
    from the country.

    So when you have people like alugosu thambi mudiyanse, alugosu lk porisada, alugosu pol pot ponil the job is
    very easy. They have no conscience at all. So Sri Lanka, Sinhalese race and Buddhism have to suffer
    in the hands of the UNPatriotics! You need the support of only some Sinhala modayas as tamils, mussies and
    catholics always give 100% to UNPatriotics!

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    The JR govt was FORCED to accept the 13-A under Duress from INDIA. The JR govt big fault was to extend the life of the govt unconstitutionally – but even that, seen in hindsight, was during the Cold War times and must be accepted for what it was intended to be i.e. going pro-west. But now the Cold War is over (1946-1991), the JVP subdued and the LTTE removed.

    But yet the Ranil led UNP/Yahap is trying to virtually ‘sell the country’ with :

    *. ECTA with INDIA
    *. 5,000 acre lots on 99 yr leases to foreigners
    *. Chunnel to Tamil Nadu

    Why ?


    FRAN, I do not think this is Shanali submitted this? Asoka 2468, If did not know what happened at that time with Indira Gandhi, JVP, and Prabhraken, your going at a tangent.

  6. Fran Diaz Says:


    Ask Shenali. She always means well for Lanka and states the truth of matters.

    Security comes first, always.


    Th UNP under JR was cornered by India who was rnning with the Eastern bloc at that time. Now we have the opposite with India ? Over crowded India’s Head is with the West, and her Heart is with the East.

    Also, now we have the Indian Envoy here selling the idea of Ambulance Services to entire Lanka. He says it will be run with Lanka personnel (!!).

  7. Fran Diaz Says:

    Our observation is that INDIA goes into hyperdrive whenever the UNP comes into power, through the vote or through stealth, with a person like JRJ or with a person like RW.

    * INDIA trained the LTTE in Tamil Nadu when JRJ’s UNP was in power.
    * INDIA imposed the 13-A on the JRJ UNP govt.

    Now RW’s UNP wants to :

    *. Do the ETCA with India
    *. Do the leases of 5,000 acres on 99 yr leases with foreigners (who are these foreigners ?)
    *. A sea tunnel to Tamil Nadu which place has over 15 Million Dalit Tamils (caste on birth certificates; 3,000 yr old caste system with atrocities suffered even to date).

    Meantime, CBK is in charge of Reconciliation. She had :

    *. already removed Sri Lanka History from the school curriculam.
    *. Wants to remove Buddhism from the school curriculam and replace that with a mixed teaching of religions. No country has ever tried this mish mash or knows what such experiments would do to young minds.

    – What do you think of all this ?

    – How do you expect the masses of Lanka to react to all this ?
    – How do you expect the Sinhala Buddhist leaders to react to all this ? what is left of the leaders after the LTTE decimated the able UNP leaders, and the JVP assassinated Vijaya Kumaratunge and a so called monk assassinated SWRD (SLFP) for bringing in the Tamil Language (Prov Act) of 1958. We are all looking for answers here. No offense intended here. There has to be give and take here if we are to live in peace together.

    Suggestion : All leaders get together and put out a home made Peace Plan and stick with it. Put Security, Peace and Development, Education and Wellbeing, as the must have ingredients.

  8. SA Kumar Says:

    . No offense intended here. There has to be give and take here if we are to live in peace together. – We all are united now to live in United Provincial Council of Mother Lanka .

    live & let’s live until Eelam war V !

  9. Christie Says:

    “Political thuggery was seen in 1981 during the Jaffna DDC elections – Senior UNP MPs sent to rig the polls. Jaffna library burnt to the ground.”

    Burning the Jaffna Library was part of the Indian imperialist act to portray Sinhalese uncivilized Chauvinists. Sansoni Commission did not find Sinhalese to blame.

    I do not know how the Indian Colonial Parasites voted in that 1982 referendum. It was not about the Constitution.

    My opinion is India is dividing the populate of non Indians to pieces and they will win.

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