Monday, Jun. 01, 1959

Jealousy Among the Marxists

For three years, Ceylon's frail-looking Premier Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike has needed all his considerable skill at compromise to hold together his United Front coalition. Chief threat: the unsettling presence in his Cabinet of pro-Communist Food and Agriculture Minister Philip Gunawardena.

A University of Wisconsin-trained Soviet apologist, Gunawardena used his powerful position to force nationalization of Colombo's port and bus systems and collectivization of many of the island's fertile paddy fields. Now he was setting up an island-wide system of cooperatives frankly dedicated to his declared objective: "All private enterprise must totally disappear."

Having had their fill of Philip, right-wing ministers resolved to boycott Cabinet meetings until he was sacked. Bandaranaike agreed to clip Gunawardena's wings by taking from him three of his ministry's four departments. Gunawardena resigned, taking with him into opposition three other ministers. Bandaranaike was left with a parliamentary minority of 47 out of 99 seats, and should have tumbled from office.

But things do not happen that way in Ceylon. Constitutionally, the government need not resign unless it loses a vote on the budget—which does not come up until August. Besides, Bandaranaike quickly patched up a new alliance with Parliament's three Communists and 14 Trotskyites, who resent Gunawardena's energetic bid for personal publicity and power. Trading on the jealousies that divide Ceylon's varied Marxists, Bandaranaike hopes to serve out his term till 1961, and seems secure for perhaps six months.