chapter  4
26 Pages

Nation-Building in a Demotic State: The Failure of Political Leadership in Sri Lanka

Britain transferred power in 1948 to a chosen collaborator, Don Stephen Senanayake, a Sinhala Buddhist statesman who commanded the confidence of most of the Sinhala middle classes and large sections of the peasantry (the rest backed the left wing) but with little support from the most articulate of the other co-indigenous group, the Sri Lankan Tamils. Senanayake also did not have the trust of the Indian Tamils. The Muslims acquiesced, as did a minority of the Sri Lankan Tamils. To forge a unity of these diverse groups, Senanayake and his leading supporters organised the United National Party (UNP) in 1946. Its name indicated its goal: essentially it was to become an amalgam of the Westernised and conservative Sinhala Buddhist bourgeoisie with cooptionists from the other communities.