THE GENERAL ELECTION OF 1956 Part 5E
Posted on April 11th, 2021

KAMALIKA PIERIS

REVISED 12.4.21

The 1956 achievements are popularly credited to SWRD.  Ananda Meegama rectified this and showed that it was Philip who was behind most of the changes. It is now acknowledged that Philip was responsible for most of the progressive measures instituted in the MEP regime, said WTA Leslie Fernando.

Philip contribution to the 1956 MEP government cannot be overestimated. ‘Philip provided the necessary backbone to the government. His very presence on the front benches made opponents wary, said Meegama.

Till 1956 then he was seen as an agitator against capitalism and colonial rule after 1956 he     surprised everybody by his performance as Minister of Agriculture and Food, his clarity of thinking his dynamism, information and his implementing programme earned him the respect of all.

Meegama says that for initiative, hard work, and successful implementation very few Ministers in Sri Lanka could matchup to Philip’s performance. Others were CWW Kannangara and DS Senanayake in land settlements. These two had about 15 years or so to do this, Philip made an impact in just three years.

Meegama says Philip was the most colorful personality thrown up by the revolution of 1956.   Philip was featured in the TIME magazine as the strong man in the Bandaranaike government.

Philip vision was long range. Philip saw the potential of China. Like SWRD, Philip too spoke out in favor of China. Philip, as Ceylon’s Minister of Agriculture, addressed the FAO conference in Tokyo in 1958. He spoke of the absence of China at this meeting. He said China should be in UN before the next FAO meeting. Within the next 15 years, China will be the industrial and agricultural giant of the world, declared Philip.

Philip and William Silva visited China in 1958. Bandu says that the high regard in which Philip was held could be seen from the fact that Pm Chou en Lai accepted a luncheon invitation from Ambassador William Gopallawa despite a busy schedule that day in connection with the national day celebrations said diplomat Bandu de Silva.  It was 4 pm when the guests arrived for lunch. During that visit Philip manage to settle a demurrage claim against the Chinese Oils and Fat Corporation, which had been there for some time. Bandu says ‘the Chinese understood Philip contribution and settled the claim immediately.’

Bandu de Silva said it was Philip who ensured that the trade agreement with China was continued, Bandu who was a ringside observer in these negotiations states that there were strong forces in the government which opposed this and it was due to Philip’s effort that the trade agreement was renewed for a second time. The conditions now were different to what they had been before, when it came to rice and rubber production, but Philip insisted on going through with this. Bandu says the decision was not unfavorable. Bandu handled this agreement and says that China gave better quality rice than what we asked for.  Shipments came regularly without a break and the result silenced critics.

Philip wanted a mixed economy with checks and balances. Philip thought that joint stock companies of state and private sector could be created to utilize the excess capacity in paddy milling, coconut oil and desiccated coconut industry.

Philip believed in developing the public sector and entrusting it with responsibility, said Garvin.  Philip wanted the CCS and the DROs brought together in on unified administrative service. He said the DROs were the most experienced and reliable of the rural administration. They should be promoted to the CCS.  It is not the GAs sitting in the Kachcheri who do the rural administration work. If clerical servants are given the right of promotion to CCS why not the DROs, Philip asked.

Philip in a hectic three year tenure during the MEP government brought change to every subject under his ministry. There was dynamism in the plantations industry with replanting programme during Philips time said Ananda Meegama.

He started programmes to increase paddy yield, and this was continued by later governments. FR Dias Bandaranaike said, later that the beginning of agricultural growth in Sri Lanka  stemmed from the 1956 period. It is from this time that we have recorded a steady 6% growth per year in paddy production.

 Chandra Arulpragasam  supported this. It is important to recognize , he said,  that the Green Revolution could not have taken off in Sri Lanka around 1967 if the institutional support structure for small-scale paddy farming had not been laid in late 1950s.  This was provided by the establishment of the multipurpose cooperatives, agricultural credit for smallholders, a fertilizer subsidy, a guaranteed price for paddy and a pilot crop insurance scheme.

Bandu de Silva thought that the Paddy Lands Act was the most progressive piece of legislation after the Free Education Bill. The Paddy lands Bill gave security to the tenant farmer ant the multipurpose Coops and the proposed cooperative bank were to provide the farmer with the much needed services and credit. Because of the revolutionary impact of the Paddy Lands Act Philip became a legend in rural Sri Lanka

The Paddy Lands Bill was nowhere as drastic as the land reform of Japan, Taiwan and India, said Meegama. The Paddy Lands Bill was emasculated by vested interests even before it reached Parliament. (Continued)

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