N. M. Perera

Nanayakkarapathirage Martin Perera, commonly known as Dr. N. M. Perera (Sinhala එන්.එම්.පෙරේරා [en em pe reaira]; 6 June 1904 – 14 August 1979), was one of the leaders of the Sri Lankan Trotskyist Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP). He was the first Trotskyist to become a cabinet minister. He served two terms as Minister of Finance and Leader of the Opposition, as well as one term as the Mayor of Colombo.

N. M. Perera
එන්. එම්. පෙරේරා
DR.N. M. Perera.jpg
1st Leader of the Opposition
In office
19 April 1956 – 5 December 1959
Prime MinisterS. W. R. D. Bandaranaike
Preceded byS. W. R. D. Bandaranaike
Succeeded byC. P. de Silva
In office
14 October 1947 – 8 April 1952
Prime MinisterD. S. Senanayake
Dudley Senanayake
Succeeded byS. W. R. D. Bandaranaike
Minister of Finance
In office
10 May 1970 – 2 September 1975
Prime MinisterSirimavo Bandaranaike
Preceded byU. B. Wanninayake
Succeeded byFelix Dias Bandaranaike
In office
11 June 1964 – 17 December 1964
Prime MinisterSirimavo Bandaranaike
Preceded byT. B. Ilangaratne
Succeeded byU. B. Wanninayake
Mayor of Colombo
In office
13 August 1954 – 28 February 1956
Preceded byT. Rudra
Succeeded byV. A. Sugathadasa
Member of the Ceylon Parliament
for Ruwanwella
In office
September 1947 – 1960
Preceded byseat created
Succeeded byH. G. Somabandu
Personal details
Born(1904-06-06)6 June 1904
Sri Lanka
Died14 August 1979(1979-08-14) (aged 75)
NationalitySri Lankan
Political partyLanka Sama Samaja Party
Spouse(s)Selina Perera
Alma materUniversity College, Colombo, London School of Economics

Early life and educationEdit

Born to Nanayakkarapathirage Abraham Perera who was a rent collector at 36 St Joseph 's Street, in Grandpass, Colombo and Johana Perera. He was the fifth of nine siblings that was made up of five boys and four girls.[1]

Perera started his schooling in the vernacular section of St. Joseph's School, Grandpass and was later was admitted to the English section. From there he spent a year at the Cathedral Boys’ School, Mutwal a branch school of S. Thomas' College, Mutwal,[2][3][4] then known as Cathedral Boys School, Mutwal. In 1919, he entered S. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia and left in 1922 to join Ananda College. At Ananda he played cricket for the college team.

From 1922 to 1927, he studied at the University College, Colombo where he was a contemporary of J. R. Jayewardene. Perera graduated with a BSc degree from the University of London External System. Thereafter he left to the United Kingdom, to enter the London School of Economics in 1927. He was in London from 1927 to 1933, where he studied under Professor Harold Laski, gaining his PhD with the thesis on the Constitution of the German Weimar Republic. This was followed by a further comparative study, of the Constitutions of the UK, United States, France and Germany; which gained him a DSc from the University of London. Perera was the first Ceylonese to gain a degree of Doctor of Science from the University of London.[5]

Lanka Sama Samaja PartyEdit

Perera returned to Ceylon in 1933. The work done by Perera (as a member of the Suriya-Mal Movement) in the Kegalle district during the malaria epidemic of 1934 and during the subsequent floods gained for him the support of the poor and caste-oppressed people of the area, who called him Parippu Mahathmaya after the dhal (or parippu) he distributed as relief supplies. In 1935 Perera was one of the founder members of the LSSP and played an leading role in the parties Trotskyist actives between 1936 and 1940.

State Council of CeylonEdit

In 1936 he contested the Ruwanwella constituency, which at the time was the Thun Korale areas of Yatiyantota, Ruwanwella and Dereniyagala and parts of the present Galigamuwa electoral division, from the LSSP. His opponent was the incumbent Molamure Kumarihamy of the Meedeniya Walauwa, the feudal manor which had tremendous power over the poor people of the Sabaragamuwa area at the time. He was to hold this seat, or its Yatiyantota portion on division, continuously until 1977. Following his election, he and Philip Gunawardena, the other LSSP member of the State Council, used it as a platform voice the party's policy and objectives for complete independence from Britten, where as the Ceylon National Congress was advocating self-rule. In 1937, he formed the Ratmalana Railway Workers' Union and was the LSSP delegate to the Indian National Congress session.[6]


With the outbreak of World War II, the Board of Ministers declared its support to the British government. The LSSP opposed the move, claiming that it was an imperialist war and organized protest. In 1939, Perera formed the All-Ceylon Estate Workers' Union and lead a militant strike at Mooloya Plantation in January 1940. Perera and Gunawardana voted against the war budget in the State Council, On protests of the planters, the Governor of Ceylon declared LSSP activity against war effort as subversive and order the police to arrest the leaders of the LSSP. On 18 June 1940, N.M. Perera, Philip Gunawardena, and Colvin R de Silva were arrested by the police with Edmund Samarakkody being arrested the following day. The LSSP called for a gathering to protest the arrest and carried out a protest march which was dispersed by the police with a baton charge and followed by arrests. LSSP leaders were detained at the Welikada Prison but was later transferred to the Bogambara Prison after it was suspected that they were planning a hunger strike. On 5 April 1942 during the Easter Sunday Raid, Perera along with several other imprisoned LSSP members escaped from prison. He was smuggled into Bombay in July 1942 and worked with the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India, Ceylon and Burma (BLPI) in that country's independence struggle. He was arrested in Bombay in July 1943 and was deported to Ceylon where he was sentenced to six months’ rigorous imprisonment by the Magistrates Court of Kandy for prison escape and was imprisoned in Badulla for the duration of the war. He was released in 1945.[5][6]

Leader of the LSSPEdit

During the war the LSSP had several divisions. With the first taking place in 1940, with the split of the ro-Moscow fraction led by S. A. Wickremasinghe, M. G. Mendis, Pieter Keuneman and A. Vaidialingam. This was followed by a second slit over N. M. Perera and Philip Gunawardena opposition to merger into the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India, Ceylon and Burma, resulting in the formation the Workers' Opposition. After the war this faction, reconstructed the LSSP as an independent political party with N. M. Perera becoming its leader.[6]

Trade union activitiesEdit

Perera was the president of the All Ceylon United Motor Workers' Union, and the United Corporations and Mercantile Union the Ceylon Federation of Labour (CFL). He was appointed their chief negotiator by the striking workers during the 1946 general strike.

Leader of the OppositionEdit

Having lost their seats in the State Council due to their imprisonment, the LSSP contested the 1947 general elections under the new constitution. N. M. Perera was elected from Ruwanwella and the LSSP gained the 28 seats in parliament, becoming the second largest representation, making Perera the Leader of the Opposition. He opposed the Ceylon Citizenship Act. On reunification with the Bolshevik Samasamaja Party (BSSP), he remained with the LSSP when the Viplavakari Lanka Sama Samaja Party (VLSSP) split off under Philip Gunawardena. He served as opposition leader until fresh elections were called in 1952. In the 1952 general elections, he was re-elected, but the LSSP became the second largest party in the opposition and S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike became the opposition leader.[6]

Mayor of ColomboEdit

In 1954, the LSSP won a string of local government elections which included nine Village Councils and three Urban Councils and the Colombo Municipal Council, where N. M. Perera was elected Mayor of Colombo, only non-United National Party-politician to win that office after 1945. He was Mayor for two years, before he was voted out of office on 28 February 1956 by the United National Party.[6][7][8]

Leader of the OppositionEdit

N. M. Perera contested the 1956 general elections, where the Sri Lanka Freedom Party of the Bandaranaike gained landslide victory over the United National Party which was reduced to eight seats in parliament. Once again N. M. Perera was elected Leader of the Opposition again, a post he held until 1960. He was a strong opponent of the Official Language Act, and narrowly escaped death then a bomb was thrown on stage when he was addressing a crowd at the Old Town Hall.[6]

Minister of FinanceEdit

When LSSP was divided over possible government participation in early 1960s, Perera was the principal leader of the wing that wanted to enter into government with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, which led to LSSP's expulsion from the Fourth International in 1964. A short lived Coalition government was formed in 1964 known as the United Front. Perera was appointed Minister of Finance. He had to step down as minister when the United Front was defeated in the 1965 general elections. He was reappointed as Minister of Finance in 1970, when the United Front won the 1970 general elections. He served as Minister of Finance from 10 May 1970 to 2 September 1975. Facing budget deficits of $195 million – caused by rising energy and food-importation costs and declining revenue from coconut, rubber and tea exports – Bandaranaike attempted to centralise the economy and implement price controls. He initiated a program of nationalization of private property and industries. [9][10] It stunted both domestic and foreign investment in industry and development, unemployment and inflation remained unchecked.[10][11] In September 1975, N. M. Perera and other LSSP ministers were removed by Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike. In the 1977 general elections, LSSP suffered a major defeat and Perera lost his parliamentary seat in Yatiyantota.[6]

Later yearsEdit

From 1977 to 1978, he served as Chairman of the Board of Control of Cricket in Sri Lanka, and worked hard to obtain test status for Sri Lanka. In 1978, he represented Sri Lanak at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development as an adviser. He died on 14 August 1979 at the Colombo National Hospital following gall-bladder complication, aged 75 and his funeral gathered large crowds.[12][13]

Personal lifeEdit

He married fellow LSSP founding member and later party secretary, Selina Margaret Peiris on 6 March 1936. N. M. Perera was an avid cricket fan and a keen tennis player.[14]


  • Parliamentary Democracy (1931)
  • The Case for Free Education (1944)
  • External Economic Assistance (1964)
  • The Economy of Ceylon: Trends and Prospects (1971)
  • Critical Analysis of the New Constitution of the Sri Lanka Government (1979)[5]

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Dr. N.M. Perera's Policies and Achievements by Prof. B. Hewavitharana[15]


  1. ^ "Dr. NM Perera: a politician ahead of his times" (PDF). pdfs.island.lk. 2009. Retrieved 13 August 2009.
  2. ^ Dr. N.M. Perera 1905 – 1979 : An honest and upright politician Archived 8 September 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Dr. N. M. Perera: A true visionary". Archived from the original on 22 February 2008. Retrieved 28 May 2013.
  4. ^ Doughty fighter and man of principles
  5. ^ a b c "MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of People". Encyclopedia of Marxism.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Wijenayake, Walter. "Dr. N. M. Perera: a politician ahead of his times". Island. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  7. ^ Mohamed v. 'Gopallawa (PDF). Ceylon Law Reports. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  8. ^ Abeynayake, Stanley E. "Dr. N. M. Perera: The first Leftist Mayor of Colombo". Sunday Observer. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  9. ^ Richardson 2005, pp. 321–322.
  10. ^ a b The Anniston Star 1970, p. 42.
  11. ^ Phadnis 1971, p. 273.
  12. ^ "Colossus among political leaders". dailynews. 2009. Archived from the original on 17 August 2009. Retrieved 14 August 2009.
  13. ^ Abeynayake, Stanley. "Dr N M Perera's 33rd death anniversary : Doughty fighter and man of principles". Daily News. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  14. ^ Epasinghe, Premasara. "Dr N M Perera, colossus among national leaders". Daily News. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  15. ^ "Dr. N.M. Perera – Parliamentarian – par excellence". Daily News. 10 January 2007. Archived from the original on 21 March 2008. Retrieved 22 March 2008.

External linksEdit