Today (Tuesday) on the eve of Ceylon's general election, Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake is preparing to face the people in the hope of leading his Conservative United National Party back into office for a further five-year term.
Today (Tuesday) on the eve of Ceylon's general election, Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake is preparing to face the people in the hope of leading his Conservative United National Party back into office for a further five-year term. Under his leadership the parliament recently dissolved was the first since Independence to last the full term.
Mr. Senanayake's main rival is Mrs. Sirima Bandaranaike, widow of a former Prime Minister whom she followed into office in 1960 after his assassination. She leads a united coalition of left wing parties.
Prime Minister Senanayake is favourite, but he has lost power before over the cost of rice. This term again, rice is a vital election pivot. Ceylon is a welfare state, with free education and medical care. Once there was a free rice ration every week for all. Mr. Senanayake halved the free ration and raised the price in the open market to aid farmers' financial difficulties -- not a popular move with the public.
About two thirds of Ceylon are Buddhists. Much of the impetus was taken out of last week's election campaigning by the Wesak holidays, commemorating Buddha's birth enlightenment and death.
Many Buddhists support Mrs. Bandaranaike, who has promised her United Front will restore the full free rice ration.
Mrs. Bandaranaike supports the Buddhists in their wish to repatriate Tamil-speaking Hindus of Indian origin. This naturally makes her unpopular with the million or more Indian Tamils, and the ten per cent entitled to vote will no doubt back the Prime Minister's United national Party.
Dudley Senanayake, son of the Father of The Nation, Don Stephen Senanayake, is relying heavily on support from rural areas, although not all the inhabitants of these areas are farmers who have benefited from his policies. He has the added advantage of having led a successful government for the last five years, whereas Mrs Bandaranaike could be remembered badly for the economic crises which took place when she was last in power in the early 60's.