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|Author:||Guest [ Tue Jan 15, 2008 7:14 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Political Crossovers|
Saga of crossovers, expulsions, resignations,
terminations, death and by-elections in Sri Lanka
by Dr. Wimal Wickramasinghe
@ The Island
Since political crossovers have now become the order of the day, prompted by various factors which we shall enumerate later, we shall begin this comprehensive article with its notable origin in Sri Lanka, followed by a series of expulsions, by-elections, resignations and termination or rather forfeiture of the seats in Parliament due to a plethora of reasons. The political crossover apparently began with S W R D Bandaranaike, who was Minister of Health and Local Government and Leader of the House under D. S. Senanayake, the first Prime Minister of post-Independent Sri Lanka. SWRD entered politics in 1936 was elected to the second State Council and functioned as Minister of Local Government. DS was senior to him, entering into politics in 1931 as Member of the State Council and Minister of Agriculture and Lands.
SWRD resigned from the portfolio on July 12, 1951, joined the Opposition and later formed his own political party called Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). Though he was second in command in the UNP, he sensed justifiably that the mantle of premiership was being contemplated by DS to be passed on after him to his son, Dudley Senanayake, who entered politics in 1947, thus becoming Minister of Agriculture and Lands.
There could be two explanations to the decision made by SWRD. One was the tendency of the family tree seeping into politics or rather governance of public affairs for the first time in Sri Lanka. This was in fact made easier by the sudden death of DS on March 22, 1952, leaving Lord Soulbury, the second Governor of Sri Lanka, to translate the wishes of DS into practice and appoint Dudley as successor with effect from March 28, 1952. It had been the practice in British parliamentary affairs to heed the wishes of the outgoing Prime Minister in the appointment of his successor.
Yet, Dudley, a gentleman in politics, too, knew the ramifications of the issue as both SWRD and Sir John Kotelawala (who was Minister of Transport and Works in the second State Council in 1936 and was made Minister of Transport Works and Leader of the House later under Dudley) was senior to him, and therefore, he sought a fresh mandate within two months from the people after dissolving the Parliament. He emerged victorious and became Prime Minister again in June 1952, the SLFP, together with the LSSP, winning eight seats each at the second General Election of 1952.
The second explanation was that though SWRD became a Minister in 1936 and was Leader of the House in 1947, the contemplation that he would be sidelined made him resign from both his portfolio and the UNP. Being frustrated over the issue, SWRD did so on a matter of principle though he took a calculated risk in politics. Nevertheless, consequent upon the resignation of Dudley, on October 12, 1953, Sir John Kotelawala became Prime Minister on October 14, 1953 until April 11, 1956, when the UNP lost the General Elections in 1956, reducing the number of seats to bare eight. Though Sir John was elected again as MP for Dodangaslanda in 1956, he did not contest the seat from March 1960 onwards.
New Government in 1956
SWRD, fighting the third general elections in 1956 under a new political party called MEP (an alliance with other small political parties headed by Philip Gunawardena, W Dahanayake, etc.), became Prime Minister on April 12, 1956. In the process thereafter, Philip Gunawardena resigned from his ministerial portfolio and crossed over to the Opposition. After the assassination of SWRD on September 26, 1959, W Dahanayake became Prime Minister on September 26, 1959, but the person next in command, C. P. de Silva, who was Leader of the House at this material time, was away from Sri Lanka; he continued to be Leader of the House under Dahanayake. The notable features in the Dahanayake Cabinet were the resignations (D. A. Rajapakse, M. P. M. Musthapa, Charles Percivel de Silva and C. Wijesinghe), removals (Wimala Wijewardena, T. B. Ilangaratna, A. P. Jayasuriya, M. P. de Soyza, P. B. G. Kalugalla, Maiththripala Senanayake, C. A. S. Marikar, R. G. Senanayake, Henry Abeywickrema, M. B. W. Mediwaka and J. C. W. Munasinghe), resignations (Stanley de Soyza) and fresh appointments to the Cabinet (M. P. M. Mustapa, Stanley de Soyza, Razeek Fareed, M. I. M. Kariyappar, R. E. Jayatilleka and Leyard Jayasundara).
First Woman Prime Minister
At the March 1960 elections, Dudley wrested power and became Prime Minister on March 21, 1960 for a little more than three months as his government lost the vote on the Throne Speech in Parliament on April 22, 1960. At the next elections in July 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike became Prime Minister on July 21, 1960. There was a constitutional requirement that the Prime Minister or any other Minister should be a member of either Parliament or Senate within three months of the appointment. Therefore, Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike was appointed to the Senate.
The crossovers – orchestrated due to graft and other reasons brought the downfall of the SLFP government in late 1964, Sirimavo continuing to be Prime Minister until March 25, 1965. Dudley became Prime Minister for the third time on March 25, 1965, after the March 1965 general elections, with Philip Gunawardena, C. P. de Silva, W. Dahanayake and I. M. R. A. Iriyagolla crossing over to the Dudley government with ministerial posts. Having got a landslide victory, Sirimavo Bandaranaike became Prime Minister again in May 1970 (and until July 23, 1977), with the leftist die-hards like Dr N. M. Perera, Dr. Colvin R. De Silva, Leslie Gunawardena and Peter Keuneman crossing over to the government and getting ministerial portfolios. But the first three were removed from the Cabinet on September 2, 1975 and their political careers ended after the July 1977 general elections.
There was a five-sixth majority of the UNP in Parliament at the general election of July 21, 1977 that secured 139 for the UNP and only 8 seats for the SLFP in a Parliament of 168. Thereafter, the UNP won another seat at the 2-member Pottuvil by-election on September 12, 1977 which could not be held on the day of general elections owing to the death of one of the contestants. Two other developments took place immediately afterwards, one being R P Wijesiri (2nd MP for Harispattuwa) who was the only successful independent candidate winning a seat (out of 295 independent candidates), first joining the SLFP (making it 9 in Parliament) and later joining the UNP, making it 141 and 8 for the SLFP. This number became 142 when C. Rajadurai resigned from the TULF and joined the UNP becoming the Minister of Regional Development and Hindu Cultural Affairs.
J. R. Jayewerdene became Prime Minister from July 23, 1977 to February 3, 1978, and with the passing of a new Constitution in 1978, he was sworn in as first Elected Executive President of Sri Lanka on February 4, 1978, making wild crossovers virtually impossible, only M D H Jayawardena (Kaduwela Electorate resigning from his portfolio in November 1979 and Gamini Jayasuriya (Homagama Electorate) thereafter. The first Presidential Election was held on October 20, 1982 and JR won it with a 52.91 per cent of the total votes cast and continued in that capacity until February 1989. Other presidential candidates at the first presidential election were Dr Colvin R de Silva (LSSP), H S R B Kobbekaduwa (SLFP), Vasudeva Nanayakkara (NSSP), G G Ponnambalam (ACTU) and Rohana Wijeweera (JVP).
JR was sworn in as the second Executive President of Sri Lanka and first Executive President elected by the people. Another unique and unconventional but legal through the parliamentary process, was the decision by President Jayewardene to call for a Referendum instead of a general election, the reason cited for it by the President was that the SLFP at that time was controlled by Naxalites who were bent on violence, having a plan to take over the Army and carry out a campaign of terror. For the Referendum to be held, the government passed an amendment to the Constitution (the Fourth Amendment) which was approved by a majority of the seven-Judge bench of the Supreme Court. The amendment read as follows: "Unless sooner dissolved, the first Parliament shall continue until August 4, 1989, and no longer, and shall thereupon stand dissolved..." (extension of the term of Parliament by another six years). This decision was unanimously taken by the government parliamentary group and the UNP Working Committee. At the same time, MPs of the UNP signed undated letters of resignation and handed over to President Jayewardene, some of which came into effect later.
This Amendment in Parliament was carried by 142 votes to 4 against (M/s Ananda Dassanayake, Anura Bandaranaike, Lakshman Jayakoddy of the SLFP and Sarath Muttetuwegama of the CP). While M/s Maithripala Senanayake and Halim Ishak (2 SLFP (M) members) voted with the government, the TULF was not present at the time of voting. Thereafter, the Referendum was held on December 22, 1982. It was an election between the Lamp and the Pot, the Lamp in favour of the Proposal getting 3.14 million as against the Pot against the Proposal getting 2.60 million.
R. Premadasa who became Prime Minister on February 6, 1978 won the presidential elections in December 1988 with a 50.43 per cent of the total votes cast and was sworn in as President in in January 1989. He made D. B. Wijetunga the Prime Minister in preference to Gamini Dissanayake or Lalith Athulathmudali, creating political turmoil thereafter. Nevertheless, in March 1990 he got Prime Minister D. B. Wijetunga to resign from the post in the midst of a cabinet meeting. DB hurriedly left the cabinet meeting for the office of the Secretary to the President, prepared the letter of resignation from the premier’s post and handed it over to President Premadasa who was conducting the cabinet meeting at that time and thereby the whole Cabinet was automatically dissolved. This ruse was adopted by President Premadasa to oust Gamini Dissanayake from the Cabinet as he was not invited to swear in.
Impeachment Motion Aborted
Although Lalith Athulathmudali was included in the Cabinet, changing his portfolio from Agriculture, Food and Co-operative to Education and Higher Education, an impeachment motion against President Premadasa was alleged to have been submitted to the Speaker, orchestrated by Gamini and Lalith and presumably supported by another about forty five signatories. But President Premadasa was shrewd enough to abort this motion and get Lalith out of the Cabinet. Since Gamini and Lalith were out of the Cabinet, they formed a new political party called Democratic United National Front (DUNF), the party almost wholly patronized by political crossovers from the UNP.
First Woman President
Thereafter, chief ministerial candidate Lalith and President Premadasa were assassinated on April 23 and May 1, 1993 respectively, leaving Prime Minister D. B. Wijetunga to become President on May 1, 1993, and towards the end of the Wijetunga regime, Anura Bandaranaike crossed over from the SLFP to the UNP and became a Minister, signalling the process of political crossovers. At the general elections of August 1994, the UNP lost power and Chandrika Kumaratunga, who was Chief Minister of the Western Provincial Council and Head of the People’s United Front (mainly consisting of the SLFP, LSSP, CP, Sri Lanka People’s Party (YP section), and Democratic United National Front (Lalith Section), was elected Prime Minister.
Assassination of Gamini Dissanayake
It prompted Gamini Dissanayake to cross over to the UNP and become both Deputy Leader of the UNP defeating former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on a vote in Parliament and presidential candidate for the UNP. But during the presidential election campaign, Gamini was assassinated in September 1994, Chandrika easily becoming the first lady President of the country in November 1994 with a 62.28 per cent of the total votes cast, beating Gamini’s widow, Srima Dissanayake.
Ranil was keen on fighting the presidential election after Gamini but some of his close associates, including the present writer, persuaded him not to do so as there was no chance of winning the presidential election, though on a sympathy vote, as Chandrika, as a charismatic leader, was at the climax of her popularity. Ranil, while conceding to Srima, sought a pledge from President Wijetunga that should Srima suffer defeat, to some of his close associates, it was imminent – otherwise, an elected president would automatically become Leader of the UNP as per its party constitution – Ranil should be the next Leader of the UNP.
Ranil as New Leader of the UNP
All this high drama happened while the Working Committee of the UNP under President Wijetunga was in session at Siri Kotha at that time. The defeat of the UNP presidential candidate resulted in making Ranil Leader of the House on November 10, 1994. There was of course the accusation that Ranil did not openly support Gamini’s candidature, even leaving the platform at Thotalanga early where Gamini and a few other UNP leaders faced the fateful event.
As expected, President Kumaratunga made her mother, Sirmavo Prime Minister, forming a Cabinet of 23 members. Among the UNP MPs who joined her Cabinet thereafter on June 9, 1997 were Nanda Mathew, Dr Sarath Amunugama, Ronnie de Mel. Wijayapala Mendis and Rohitha Bogollagama. At the fourth presidential election held on December 21, 1999, Chandrika was re-elected President for the second time with a percentage of 51.12 in her favour.
Again the Peoples’ Alliance won the elections in October 2000 with both Ronnie de Mel and Dr Sarath Amunugama continuing as Minister of Ports and Southern Development and Minister of Irrigation and Water Resource Management (now, Minister of Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion) respectively. The UNP die-hard, Wijepala Mendis, too crossed over to the government in October 2000 and became Minister without Portfolio. Another UNP MP who crossed over and became Minister of Advanced Technology and National Enterprise Development as from November 18, 2004 was Rohitha Bogollagama
The process of crossover began with Bandula Gunawardena first joining the UNP. With the crossing over of ministers such as S. B. Dissanayake, G. L. Peiris, Lakhsman Kiriella, Mahinda Wijesekera and Nandimithra Ekanayake to the UNP, the People’s Alliance government collapsed, leaving Ranil Wickremesinghe to win the general elections of December 2001, all the dissidents except Nandimitra, who lost the election, becoming cabinet ministers. The total number of Ministers stood at 25, increasing the number to 32 on March 4, 2002.
Mahinda Rajapaksa as PM first and President thereafter
The next general elections was held in 2004 with the People’s Alliance winning it and Mahinda Rajapaksa becoming Prime Minister on April 6, 2004 (and until November 17, 2005). By this time, Anura Bandaranaike had left the UNP and crossed over to the PA, thus becoming first as Minister of Industrial and Investment Development and thereafter as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism. The JVP too joined the government in 2004 with Members of Parliament in the second hierarchy such as Anura Kumara Dissanayake (Minister of Agriculture, Livestock Development, Lands and Irrigation), Vijitha Herath (Minister of Cultural Affairs and National Heritage), K. D. Lalkantha (Minister of Small and Rural Industries) and Chandrasena Wijesinghe (Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) until June 16, 2005. The total number of Ministers stood at 41 but it got reduced to 37 with the resignation of the JVP members.
A Rauf Hakeem is another member who changed sides in politics. He joined the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress in 1988, getting the mantle of its leadership after the death of Minister A. H. M. Ashroff (who was Cabinet Minister of Shipping, Ports, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction under President Chandrika Kumaratunga from November 11, 1994 until his demise on September 16, 2000) and becoming an MP on the SLMC ticket in 1994. He was appointed Deputy Chairman of Committees in Parliament. On October 13, 2000, he joined the Kumaratunga Cabinet as Minister of Commerce & Trade and Muslim Religious Affairs and Shipping Development. By the time President Kumaratunga formed an interim government in alliance with the JVP, Rauf Hakeem had resigned from the government. Nevertheless, when the new Cabinet that was formed under Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe on December 5, 2001, Rauf Hakeem was Minister of Ports Development, Shipping, Eastern Development and Muslim Religious Affairs. Thereafter, he joined President Rajapaksa’s Cabinet in 2006 as Minister of Posts and Telecommunication but resigned from it in December 2007 before the Third Reading on the Budget.
Arumugam Thondaman Factor
So was the change of party politics with Arumugam Thondaman who, while being General Secretary of the Ceylon Labour Congress after the demise of S. Thondaman on March 11, 1997, was appointed Minister of Livestock Development and Estate Infrastructure Facilities from November 10, 1997 up to the General Elections of December 2001. Thereafter, he joined the UNP government of Ranil Wickramasinghe and became Minister of Housing and Estate Infrastructure Development in December 2001. He contested the Nuwara Eliya District on the UNP ticket at the General Election of 2004 and crossed over to the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse, functioning as Minister up to now.
Crossovers from the UNP
Nanda Mathew (Ratnapura District) and Dr Sarath Amunugama (Kandy District) were the first UNP MPs to cross over to the government of President Kumaratunga and that was when they were appointed Ministers of Special Functions from November 10, 1999. Thereafter, Nanda Mathew was appointed as Minister of Shipping and Housing and Dr. Amunugama as Minister of Northern Rehabilitation and Reconstruction from July 13, 2000. Thereafter, Ronnie de Mel followed as Minister of Economic Development and Industrial Development from July 13, 2000. Wijepala Mendis (Puttalam District) also joined the government of President Kumaratunga as Minister without Portfolio as from October 13, 2000. Thereafter, Keheliya Rambukwella (Kandy District) joined the government as Non-Cabinet Minister and is now Non-Cabinet Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare. Rohitha Bogollagama (Kurunegala District) who was earlier Non-Cabinet Minister of Industries under the government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as from December 5, 2001 also joined the Kumaratunga government as a Minister and now functions as Minister of Foreign Affairs under President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Mahinda Samarasinghe (UNP MP from the Kalutara District) too joined the government and now functions as Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights.
These crossovers from the UNP never ended there. The following seventeen dissident MPs from the UNP, while remaining as members of the UNP, joined the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, some as Cabinet Ministers and others as Non-Cabinet or Deputy Ministers. They are M. H. Mohamed (Minister of Parliamentary Affairs), Gamini Lokuge (Minister of Sports and Public Recreation), Asoka Milinda Moragoda (Minister of Tourism), Bandula Gunawardena (Minister of Commerce, Consumer Affairs and Co-operatives) [all from the Colombo District), Edward Gunasekera (Gampaha District who later went back to the UNP), Dr Rajitha Senaratna (Minister of Construction and Engineering Services) (Kalutara District), Hemakumara Nanayakkara (Non-Cabinet Minister of Agricultural Development and Agrarian Services) (Galle District), Mahinda Wikesekera (Minister of Special Projects) and Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena (Minister of Mass Media) (Matara District), P. Dayaratna (Minister of Plan Implementation) (Digamadulla District), Neomal Perera (Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) (Puttalam District), R. M. Dharmadasa Banda (Minister of Supplementary Plantation Crops Development) (Moneragala District), Mano Wijeratna (Non-Cabinet Minister of Enterprise Development) (Kegalla District), Naveen Dissanayake (Non-Cabinet Minister of Investment Promotion) (National List MP), Chandrasiri Ariyawansa Sooriyarachchi (Deputy Minister of Land and Land Development) (Polonnnaruwa District) and Professor G. L. Pieris (Minister of Export Development and International Trade)(National List MP), led by Karu Jayasuriya (Minister of Public Administration and Home Affairs) (Gampaha District).
The two suspects, Susantha Punchinilame (Ratnapura District) and Mahinda Ratnatilake (Ratnapura District), indicted in the case involving the alleged assassination of Nalanda Ellawala, MP for the Ratnapura District, both becoming non-cabinet ministers, Susantha as Deputy Minister of Public Estate Management and Development and Ratnatilake as Deputy Minister of Textiles in December 2007. Wijayadasa Rajapakse (National List MP from the UPFA) crossed over to the Opposition before the Third Reading of the Budget for 2008 in December 2007. Earlier, Nandana Gunatilaka (JVP Member from the UPFA) severed connection with the JVP and is apparently supporting the government. Rev. Dr Omalpe Sobitha, MP from JHU resigned from the seat to accommodate Champika Ranawaka as an MP who was later appointed Minister of Environment and Natural Resources. Rev. Uduwe Dhammaloka, MP elected from the Colombo District on the JHU list, is now an independent member, voting in favour of the government at the vote of the Third Reading of the Budget in December 2007.
Anura Bandaranaike Factor
On the day of the third reading, Anura Bandaranaike (who was first elected to Parliament in 1977 after being in active politics in general elections of 1965 and 1970, Leader of Opposition from November 1983 to 1988 and Speaker from October 2000 to October 2001), on making a misreading on the balance of power in Parliaemnt, crossed over from the government and sat in the Opposition, thereby losing his ministerial portfolio. When he realized that the JVP was apparently abstaining from voting on the Third Reading of the Budget, despite its previous announcements, allowing the government to win, he immediately left the chambers.
Anura started his political career as a SLFPer, crossed over to the UNP in October 1993 after resigning from the SLFP on October 11, 1993 and functioned as Minister of Higher Education for a short while. In 1994, he became a National List MP from the UNP. When the party led by President Chandrika Kumaratunga won the general election of 2000, Anura was unanimously appointed as Speaker of Parliament as from October 18, 2000 until October 1, 2001.
Thereafter, he contested the Gampaha District in 2004 on the UPFA ticket, having rejoined the SLFP. After the general election of 2004, he first became Minister of Industries, Tourism and Investment Promotion from April 10, 2004 and then as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism from August 22, 2005. Under President Mahinda Rajapakse, he was appointed Minister of National Heritage and was removed from the portfolio in February 2007, together with Mangala Samaraweera (Matara District) (who was Minister of Ports and Aviation) and Sripathy Suriarachchi (Gampaha District) (a Non-Cabinet Minister). Anura joined the government again within a few days as Minister, but on the day of the Third Reading of the Budget, he crossed over to the Opposition, thereby losing his portfolio.
There is likelihood that he would be brought back to the government fold after his medical treatment in Singapore, consequent upon a private chat the President had with him recently at Visumpaya, thereby beefing his security! What a tragic end of the ‘crown prince’ who always crossed sides at the inauspicious times?
Mangala, together with Sripathy, formed the SLFP (M) alliance, and joined hands with the UNP, while being Members of Parliament as well as members of the SLFP.
S Thondaman Factor
The saga of political crossovers is a never-ending thing, prompted by various reasons, some on matters of policy – a rare occurrence now unlike in the early fifties, and others for enjoyment of ministerial portfolios and other perks, including alleged involvement in grafts. To go back into the past, the most notable character after other Tamil cabinet ministers such as C Chiththampalam, C Sunderalingam, G G Ponnanbalam, V Nalliah, Sir K Vaidyanathan, M Thiruthelvam, Cheliyah Kumarasuriar and K W Devanayagam was Saumyamoorthy Thondaman who first entered the cabinet of J R Jayawardena on September 7, 1978 who retained the portfolio until August 1994. S Thondaman entered into politics in 1947 by winning the Nuwara Eliya seat as President of Ceylon India Congress. He lost the March 1960 elections and did not contest the July 1960 elections. Nevertheless, he was nominated as an appointed MP by Sirimao Bandaranaike during the fifth Parliament of 1960-1965. As an appointed member from 1960 he supported the SLFP government but it is said that it was he who defeated the government in December, 1964 by one vote. This was because he declined to vote.
In other words, there were 74 votes against the government and 73 for it and had Thondamon voted with the government, the votes would have been even, resulting in the Speaker voting for the government and saving it. He held the same position as Appointed MP from 1965 to 1970. He was not in Parliament during 1970 and 1977 but President J R, after an invitation extended to him, appointed him to the Cabinet as Minister of Rural Industrial Development on September 7, 1978 which post he held until August 1994. Again, he was made Minister of Livestock Development and Rural Industries on November 11, 1994 under President Kumaratunga’s first Cabinet and he continued to function in the capacity of Minister of Livestock Development and Estate Infrastructure until his death on March 11, 1997.
This article is not only on crossovers of MPs but on resignations, expulsions, by-elections and terminations of them. In addition, there had been one historic appointment made by the Judiciary for the Bandaragama seat after the 1965 general elections at which time K D D Perera of the SLFP was elected MP. On the first election petition, he was disqualified to be MP. Yet, he won at the next by-election held on October 20, 1967 but again on an election petition made against him, it was George Kotalawala of the UNP who was declared by the Judiciary as the MP for Bandaragama on February 22, 1969.
The first by-election from 1977 was held on November 11, 1977, for Dehiwala consequent upon death of S de S Jayasinghe, Minister of Fisheries, and his daughter, Sunethra Ranasinghe, won it comfortably. The by-election was held for Colombo West that necessitated owing to J R Jayawardene resigning from Parliament to assume the office of President and it was Anura Bastian of the UNP who won it on March 21, 1978. The third one was on December 20, 1979 for the Galle seat as the sitting member, D G Albert Silva was unseated on an election petition, thereby W Dahanayake, as the UNP candidate, winning it comfortably.
The next by-election was for Anamaduwa as a result of sitting member from the SLFP, Sadhatissa Wadigamangawa being unseated by an election petition. Asoka Wadigamangawa of the UNP won the seat by a slender majority of 1787 votes. The next by-election was at Kalawana where the sitting UNP member, A Pilapitiya, was unseated on an election petition against him and at the by-election of January 12, 1981, Sarath Muttetuwagama won the seat by a majority of 2,408 votes, the UNP not fielding an official candidate for it.
An account of the by-elections held for seventeen seats held by the UNP that fell vacant owing to their resignation on February 10, 1983 has been given elsewhere in the article. We shall only mention one exceptional case. One was resignation of Ronnie de Mel, Minister of Finance and Planning, from the Devinuwara seat, but within one day of his resignation, Ronnie de Mel was nominated as the new MP for Bulathsinhala consequent upon resignation of O S Perera from the seat.
A need arose for effecting an amendment to the 1978 Constitution (5th Amendment) for holding of the by-elections – passed by Parliament on February 24, 1983 to enable by-election where seats in Parliament were not filled within 30 days. In consequence, by-elections were held on May 18, 1983 in respect of those resignations mentioned above: the UNP winning 14 seats (M H K Jagathsena (Ambalangoda), Dr Ranjith Attapattu (Beliatta), P SL Galappaththy (Devinuwara), Dr Leonard Kiriella (Eheliyagoda), Mahinda Yapa Abeywardhana (Hakmana), C V S de Silva (Habaraduwa), Gamini Lokuge (Kesbewa), K Jayakody (Mahara), Ananda Kularatne (Mulkirigala), Asoka Somaratne (Ratgama), Dr P M B Cyril (Tissamaharama) and Jinadasa Weerasinghe (Tangalle); the SLFP 3 seats Richard Pathirane (Akmeemana), Amarasiri Dodangoda (Baddegama) and Anil Moonesinghe (Matugame); and the MEP 1 seat (Dinesh Gunawardena for Maharagama).
On the death of Dr Leonard Kiriella in late January 1984, as a result of which the Eheliyagoda seat felt vacant. In the process of selecting a suitable nominee for the seat, it was rumoured that Vasudava Nanayakkara, a former MP for the area, was contemplating to file an election petition with a view to avoiding nomination of an MP within the expiry period of 30 days. Sensing this proposed action, President J R Jayawardene to whom the interview committee vested power to nominate one out of the three interviewed recommended to the Commissioner of Elections to appoint by Gazette the most suitable candidate, Dr Wimal Wickramasinghe, and therefore, he was sworn in as MP for Eheliyagoda on February 10, 1984.
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