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ARRIVING IN ENGLAND & SCOTLAND – Part 49

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CONFESSIONS OF A GLOBAL GYPSY

By Dr. Chandana (Chandi) Jayawardena DPhil

President – Chandi J. Associates Inc. Consulting, Canada

Founder & Administrator – Global Hospitality Forum

chandij@sympatico.ca

Back in England

After departing France, we arrived at the Eastern Docks of Dover in the United Kingdom (UK) which serve as the main cross-channel ferry terminal. Often people rushing through Dover do not pay much attention to its history as a port and trading gateway which dates back to the Bronze age and before. Historic sites such as the eleventh century Dover Castle and the eighteen century Dover Western Heights were interesting.

In addition to being a major cross-channel ferry terminal, Dover is also a cruise terminal, maritime cargo and marina facility situated in Kent, south-east England. It is one of the world’s busiest maritime passenger ports with over 10 million passengers a year in the early 1980s. In addition, a vast number of lorries, trucks, coaches, cars and motorcycles passed through the Port of Dover every day. The modern port facility features a large artificial harbour constructed behind stone piers and a protective, concrete breakwater.

London

The train from Dover to London Victoria railway terminal took 90-minutes. After that, most of our trips within London were by the tube (subway), the most famous and oldest (since 1863) transport system of its kind in the world. This underground network of nearly 250 miles was always the most efficient and quickest way to travel around this great city.

We both were very happy to be back in London, a city we knew well and had many friends and a few family members living in it. As we both had spent a few months in London during our first visits there in 1978 and 1979, we did not plan to visit tourist attractions that we were familiar with. Soon after we arrived, we were invited to a few lunches and dinners hosted by our friends in London. I also met some of my Ceylon Hotel School (CHS) friends/batchmates. One of the parties organized by our friends to welcome us was also attended by four of my former guests of Hotel Swanee, who worked near London as school teachers. We certainly felt warmly welcomed back to London!

UN/ILO Fellowship Activities in UK

On my first Monday in London, the UN/ILO fellowship coordinator in UK for my individual program, Larry Wilson, met with me. Larry was an experienced consultant with useful contacts in the hospitality industry, the academia and the wine and spirits industry. He informed me that my first assignment would be in Glasgow, Scotland. After that, he had organized three assignments in South England for me. He explained details of my observer assignments in Cosham (near Portsmouth) and South Downs before attending a short, but an advanced, management development study program at the University of Surrey in Guildford.

Due to my hectic study tours within UK, my wife decided to stay with my aunt’s family in Kilburn, in North London. We met in London on the weekends and in between my travels. She occasionally visited me in Cosham where UN/ILO had arranged complimentary board and lodging for me with a local family who lived near the college where I was understudying Senior Lecturers in hospitality management. My wife simply loved living in London, which was our favourite city which we later called home in the mid-1980s and the early 1990s.

I knew that a majority of international tourists spent their time in UK only within London. Therefore, I was happy that I had been given ample opportunities to travel to different parts of the country and explore the natural beauty, history, food, culture and people of different areas of UK. The day after my orientation to the program in UK, Larry and an associate drove two ILO Fellows from Indonesia and me from London to Birmingham.

Stratford-upon-Avon

Stratford-upon-Avon was an interesting stop on our way to Birmingham. We did a quick tour there and then had lunch in an old pub. Although the long, rich history of over 13 centuries was impressive, the most popular tourist attraction of this destination was the birthplace of one famous Englishman from the sixteenth century. William Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s greatest dramatist and often called England’s national poet and the ‘Bard of Avon’.

The Royal Shakespeare Company resides in Stratford. As an award-winning dramatist, my father had studied Shakespeare in depth, and had acted in a couple Ceylonese plays inspired by the great Bard’s work. Before and after my father’s visits to Stratford-upon-Avon decades prior, he ensured that I had an appreciation of the life and work of Shakespeare. Therefore, visiting Stratford-upon-Avon in 1982, allowed me to happily tick off a box on my bucket list.

During his short lifetime, William Shakespeare had created an amazing body of written work including 38 plays categorised as comedies, tragedies, historic and romantic. In addition, he had written over 150 long and short poems. During my brief visit to Shakespeare’s birthplace, I was inspired to pay some attention to his usage of and the great influence on the English language.

There were different estimations, but based on my quick research, I guessed that there were nearly 170,000 English words used in early 1980s. Out of that, Shakespeare was credited with the invention or introduction of 1,700 words (that are still used today) or 1% of the modern English language. Many scholars had concluded that Shakespeare used over 17,000 words in his body of work. In comparison, it is estimated that an average person today uses only between 7,000 and 10,000 words.

As someone who learnt to speak English frequently only after joining college at the age 17, during this visit I focused on gradually improving my command of my second language. In terms of native speakers, English ranked third in the world (behind Mandarin and Spanish). However, in terms of total number of speakers, English is the most spoken language in the world. Therefore, English usage has a great diversity of accents and dialects around the world.

During my travels within UK in 1982, I was also surprised with the numerous accents of English language within England among English people. I wondered if the percentages of modern English words deriving from language groups such as Latin (29%), French (29%), Germanic (26%) and Greek (6%) and other languages (10%), a reason for this.

Birmingham

“Which city has more canals – Venice or Birmingham?” Larry asked us a trick question as we were reaching Birmingham in his car. All three ILO Fellows had gotten the answer wrong and were surprised to hear that the correct answer was Birmingham! Although this is somewhat of a myth, Birmingham is the epicentre of UK’s bustling, canal network, and proudly boasts around 35 miles of waterways. Most of these were built in the 1700s and 1800s.

Larry also told us that Birmingham has numerous cultural activities and festivals, including one of the world’s largest St. Patrick’s Day Parades. “Chandi, why don’t you visit Birmingham with your wife in three weeks’ time to enjoy St. Paddy’s Day events?” Larry planted a seed in my mind. At a time when there was hardly any global appreciation of British food which was widely considered ‘bland’, Birmingham’s culinary scene and reputation had already started to progress. One reason for this was the growing diversity of the population of Birmingham. As the second largest city of UK, in 1982, out of its one million residents, nearly 15% were from South Asian countries. This population segment grew every year.

Birmingham was a city with many other surprises. On our second day in Birmingham, we did a long morning walk around the pedestrian-friendly Victoria Square. We discovered there the famous concert hall and venue for popular assemblies, the old Town Hall, built in 1834.

After lunch, I said goodbye to the two ILO Fellows from Indonesia. Larry and his associate dropped me off at the main train station in Birmingham and said to me, “You seem like a seasoned traveller, Chandi. You will be OK traveling alone. When you reach Glasgow train station, a senior manager from Teachers Whisky, John Ross, will be there holding a sign with your name. He will make all the arrangements for your week in Scotland. Enjoy Scotland and the best whisky in the world! Remember not to pay any bills!” were his parting words.

My second trip to Birmingham was 22 years later. That opportunity came when I was invited by the main Community College in Birmingham to deliver a guest lecture to a large group of hospitality management students. By then, I was the President of the largest professional body in UK for hospitality managers – Hotel & Catering International Management Association (HCIMA, now Institute of Hospitality, UK).

The train journey from the second city of England to the second city of Scotland took around six hours. The countryside of West England is very scenic. Warrington Bank Quay area had a special appeal to me. After passing Lancaster area I enjoyed watching a beautiful sunset on the Irish Sea. Once again, the train then gradually moved away from the coast while the surroundings got darker. I arrived in Scotland around eight in the evening.

Lost in Glasgow

After getting off the train in Glasgow, I did not see anyone holding a sign with my name. After walking around this large and old train station for a little while, I decided to seek assistance from the information counter. When I checked how far away is the Stakis Hotel in Glasgow, the employee politely asked me, “Which Stakis Hotel? There are a few in Glasgow.”  In this pre-smart phone era, I felt lost. I took a call from a telephone booth and left a SOS message at John Ross’s office. Finally, I spotted him with a large sign, but on another platform. After apologizing, John quickly took me to the hotel and hosted me to a late supper.

“I would have booked you at the best Stakis Hotel in Glasgow and the flagship hotel of the company – Grosvenor Hotel. Unfortunately, it was totally destroyed recently in a major fire” John said. Like many Scots, John was very friendly. When he sensed that I liked hotel stories, he explained over dinner, how self-made billionaire, Reo Stakis (a Cypriot-Scottish hotel magnate) changed the way Scottish people dined out, by offering affordable pricing strategies in his chain of Stakis restaurants and hotels (in later years, over 30 properties were sold to Hilton Hotels).

After that, John explained my training itinerary within the Teachers Whisky factories, bottling plants and marketing department over the next six days. As I was scheduled to teach ‘Wines and Spirits’ as well as ‘Bar Practical’ at the Ceylon Hotel School, I looked forward to this training program to gain as much first-hand experience as possible in the Whisky production process. As I was a believer in story telling rather than delivering formal lectures, I was in the process of expanding my repertoire of European stories relevant to the courses I would be teaching.

Learning Whisky Production

All of the staff at Teachers Whisky were very helpful to me. A family-owned company until its takeover in 1976, William Teacher & Sons had started out as a large chain of bars in Glasgow before becoming a distiller and blender supplying whiskies worldwide. From humble beginnings providing blends for its bars, the company began to supply bespoke blends for the trade and grew its global footprint. One of these blends provided the basis for the brand that would make it internationally famous: Teacher’s Highland Cream. Their bottling plant in the outskirts of Glasgow had a large group of friendly Scottish ladies who loved to hear my jokes, every time they trained me.

A Tourist in Scotland

After work, on most late afternoons, John took me on quick sightseeing visits in Glasgow and nearby areas. As a proud Scot, he loved talking about the rich history and culture of Scotland. I enjoyed those interesting chats over dinner at different restaurants every day during my stay in Scotland. I told John that the only famous Scot I knew at that time, Sean Connery, is one of my favourite actors since I first saw him in ‘Dr. No’ in 1962. John was happy, but jokingly said that “Sean is not from Glasgow. Although he is from Edinburgh, we all are still very proud of him!”

The Kingdom of Scotland had emerged as an independent sovereign state in the ninth century and became a part of Great Britain in 1707. Four countries (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) were officially renamed as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) in 1927.

Covering the northern third of the island of Great Britain, Scotland has a 96-mile border with England to the south-east. In 1982, out of a total population of 56 million in UK, Scotland had around 9% or little over five million. Glasgow’s population then was around 600,000 and it was the most populous city in Scotland. Natives or inhabitants are known as Glaswegians and are well known for their distinctive dialect and accent.

Although identified as the industrial capital of Scotland, Glasgow is blessed with various major cultural institutions – the Burrell Collection, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Scottish Ballet and Scottish Opera – all which enjoy international reputations. John took me to the Glasgow Cathedral which is the oldest cathedral in Scotland and the oldest building in Glasgow. We also visited the Sauchiehall, one of the main shopping streets in the city centre of Glasgow.

A Missed Opportunity

My father was somewhat disappointed when he heard that after having spent a week in Scotland, I did not visit the capital and his favourite Scottish city (where he had some training), Edinburgh. “Chandana, you should have taken a quick, one-hour train ride from Glasgow to experience this must-see city of Edinburgh. It is the home of the Fringe – the largest art festival in the world”, he said. I made a mental note of my father’s advice, but had to wait for another 23 years until I had an opportunity to visit Edinburgh!

In 2005, I was happy to be invited by my then employer to visit Edinburgh to work briefly for an organizational client with whom I had secured a contract. In Edinburgh, I was a presenter at a master’s degree management seminar held at the famous Balmoral Hotel, for a group of General Managers from Rocco Forte Hotels. It was done in my then capacity as the International Vice President of the International Management Centres Association (IMCA), in UK.

During my global travels since 1979, I learnt quickly that one must optimize opportunities in travels in an optimistic manner. Often when I hear people saying that “I plan to travel the world after I retire”, I disagree and suggest, “Do it now! Life is too short to postpone things you like to do until the end of a long career. It is even better if you can combine both.” In my opinion, for globe-trotting one needs four things – time, energy, health, money or luck. Although I often did not have money as I spent all I had on travel, I had lot of luck and opportunities, for which I am grateful.

An Amazing Progress of Glasgow

In later years, I was amazed how Glasgow, as a rather an industrialized city with a blue-collar image prior to 1980s, eventually became the European Capital of Culture in 1990. With this designation bestowed by the European Union since 1985, Glasgow followed prestigious predecessors and five of my favourite cities – Athens, Florence, Amsterdam, Berlin and Paris. It was a great tourism turn-around success story. Today, Glasgow is notable for many things – architecture,  culture, media, music scene, art, sports, clubs, cuisine, and transport. Glasgow is also famous for being a UNESCO City of Music, one of the friendliest cities in the world and, of course, for its Haggis.

I recently read a promotional blog about Scotland. It said that, “You’ll see the gems of Scotland’s past in Edinburgh and its bright future in Glasgow. This city has no pretensions and you’ll get to know Scottish people on a deeper level than you would anywhere else.” I fully agree.



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Thomians triumph in Sydney 

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Nothing is happening for us, at this end, other than queues, queues, and more queues! There’s very little to shout about were the sports and entertainment scenes are concerned. However, Down Under, the going seems good.

Sri Lankans, especially in Melbourne, Australia, have quite a lot of happenings to check out, and they all seem to be having a jolly good time!

Trevine Rodrigo,

who puts pen to paper to keep Sri Lankans informed of the events in Melbourne, was in Sydney, to taken in the scene at the Sri Lanka Schools Sevens Touch Rugby competition. And, this is Trevine’s report:

The weather Gods and S.Thomas aligned, in Sydney, to provide the unexpected at the Sri Lanka Schools Sevens Touch Rugby competition, graced by an appreciative crowd.

Inclement weather was forecast for the day, and a well drilled Dharmaraja College was expected to go back-to-back at this now emerging competition in Sydney’s Sri Lanka expatriate sporting calendar.

But the unforeseen was delivered, with sunny conditions throughout, and the Thomians provided the upset of the competition when they stunned the favourites, Dharmaraja, in the final, to grab the Peninsula Motor Group Trophy.

Still in its infancy, the Sevens Touch Competition, drawn on the lines of Rugby League rules, found new flair and more enthusiasm among its growing number of fans, through the injection of players from around Australia, opposed to the initial tournament which was restricted to mainly Sydneysiders.

A carnival like atmosphere prevailed throughout the day’s competition.

Ten teams pitted themselves in a round robin system, in two groups, and the top four sides then progressed to the semi-finals, on a knock out basis, to find the winner.

A food stall gave fans the opportunity to keep themselves fed and hydrated while the teams provided the thrills of a highly competitive and skilled tournament.

The rugby dished out was fiercely contested, with teams such as Trinity, Royal and St. Peter’s very much in the fray but failing to qualify after narrow losses on a day of unpredictability.

Issipathana and Wesley were the other semi-finalists with the Pathanians grabbing third place in the play-off before the final.

The final was a tense encounter between last year’s finalists Dharmaraja College and S.Thomas. Form suggested that the Rajans were on track for successive wins in as many attempts.  But the Thomians had other ideas.

The fluent Rajans, with deft handling skills and evasive running, looked the goods, but found the Thomian defence impregnable.  Things were tied until the final minutes when the Thomians sealed the result with an intercept try and hung on to claim the unthinkable.

It was perhaps the price for complacency on the Rajans part that cost them the game and a lesson that it is never over until the final whistle.

Peninsula Motor Group, headed by successful businessman Dilip Kumar, was the main sponsor of the event, providing playing gear to all the teams, and prize money to the winners and runners-up.

The plan for the future is to make this event more attractive and better structured, according to the organisers, headed by Deeptha Perera, whose vision was behind the success of this episode.

In a bid to increase interest, an over 40’s tournament, preceded the main event, and it was as interesting as the younger version.

Ceylon Touch Rugby, a mixed team from Melbourne, won the over 40 competition, beating Royal College in the final.

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Marked stress on Asia in US foreign policy

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US President Joe Biden disembarks Air Force One as he arrives at the Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea May 20, 2022

US President Joe Biden’s recent tour of some Asian powers is indicative of a renewed and enhanced interest the US is beginning to take in the Indo-Pacific region. In this his first Asian tour the President chose to visit Japan and South Korea besides helming a Quad meeting in Tokyo and there is good reason for the choice of these venues and engagements.

The first phase of these bridge-strengthening efforts by the US began in late August last year when US Vice President Kamala Harris visited South-east Asia in the wake of the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Besides being driven by strong economic compulsions, the US intention was also to ensure that too much of a power vacuum did not open up in the region, following its pull-out from Afghanistan, since China’s perceived expansionist designs are a prime foreign policy concern of the US.

However, the US President’s recent wide-ranging tour of East Asia seems to have been also prompted by some currently intensifying trends and tensions in the wider stage of international politics though the seeming power vacuum just referred to has a significant bearing on it. The immediate purpose of the US President’s tour seems to have been to bolster his country’s backing for Japan and South Korea, two of the US’ closest allies in East Asia. This is necessitated by the ‘China threat’, which, if neglected, could render the US allies vulnerable to China’s military attacks on the one hand and blunt US power and influence in the region on the other.

While Taiwan’s airspace has reportedly been frequently violated by China, sections in Japan have reasons to be wary of perceived Chinese expansionist moves in Japan’s adjacent seas. Moreover, many of China’s neighbours have been having territorial disputes with China, which have tended to intensify the perception over the decades that in the Asian theatre in particular China is a number one ‘bogey’. For historical reasons, South Korea too has been finding the increasing rise of China as a major world power considerably discomforting.

Accordingly, the US considers it opportune to reassure South-east Asia in general and its allies in the region in particular of its continuous military, economic and political support. Though these are among the more immediate reasons for Biden’s tour of the region, there are also the convulsions triggered in international politics by the Russian invasion of Ukraine to consider.

Whereas sections of international opinion have been complacent in the belief that military invasions of one country by another are things of the distant past, the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine in February this year proved them shockingly wrong. We have the proof here that not all authoritarian rulers are prepared to adhere to the international rule book and for some of China’s neighbours the possibility is great of their being attacked or invaded by China over the numerous rankling problems that have separated them from their economic super power neighbour over the decades. After all, China is yet to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and is increasingly proving an ‘all weather friend’ of Russia. Right now, they are the strongest of allies.

The ‘China threat’ then is prime among the reasons for the US President’s visit to East Asia, though economic considerations play a substantive role in these fence-strengthening initiatives as well. While South-east Asia is the ‘economic power house’ of the world, and the US would need to be doubly mindful of this fact, it would need to reassure its allies in the region of its military and defense assistance at a time of need. This too is of paramount importance.

President Biden did just that while in Tokyo a couple of days back. For instance, he said that the US is ‘fully committed to Japan’s defense’. Biden went on to say that the ‘US is willing to use force to defend Taiwan.’ The latter comment was prompted by the perceived increasing Chinese violations of Taiwan’s air space. After all, considering that Russia has invaded Ukraine with impunity, there is apparently nothing that could prevent China from invading Taiwan and annexing it. Such are the possible repercussions of the Russian invasion.

Meanwhile, North Korea is reportedly carrying on with its development of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. On this issue too, South Korea would need to have US assurances that the latter would come to its defense in case of a North Korean military strike. The US President’s visit to South Korea was aimed at reassuring the latter of the former’s support.

However, as mentioned, economic considerations too figured prominently in the US President’s South-east Asian tour. While being cognizant of the region’s security sensitivities, bolstering economic cooperation with the latter too was a foremost priority for the Biden administration. For example, the US is in the process of formalizing what has come to be referred to as the Indo-Pacific Trade Treaty. The US has reportedly already inducted Japan and South Korea as founding members of the Treaty while, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand are mentioned as prospective members to the treaty.

The perceived threat posed to Western interests in South-east Asia by China needs to be factored in while trying to unravel the reasons for this region-wide endeavour in economic cooperation. It needs to be considered a Western response to China’s Belt and Road initiative which is seen as having a wide appeal for the global South in particular.

While the Russian invasion of Ukraine is having a divisive political and economic impact on the world, international politics will increasingly revolve around the US-China stand-off on a multiplicity of fronts in time to come. Both sides are likely to try out both soft and hard power to an exceptional degree to exercise foremost influence and power in the world. As is already happening, this would trigger increasing international tensions.

There was a distinct and sharp note of firmness in the voice of the US President when he pledged defense and military support for his allies in Asia this week. Considering the very high stakes for the US in a prospering South-east Asia, the US’ competitors would be naive to dismiss his pronouncements as placatory rhetoric meant for believing allies.

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A Majoritarian Constitution

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1972 Constitution in Retrospect – II

By (Dr) Jayampathy Wickramaratne, President’s Counsel

In this the second part of a three-part article on the 50th anniversary of Sri Lanka becoming a republic, the writer submits that the 1972 Constitution paved the way for constitutionalising majoritarianism in multi-cultural Sri Lanka.

The unitary state

Although Tamil parties expressed their support for the Constituent Assembly process, they were to be disappointed by the substance of the new constitution.

Basic Resolution No. 2 proposed by the Government called for Sri Lanka to be a unitary state. The Federal Party (FP) proposed an amendment that ‘unitary’ be replaced by ‘federal’.

In a memorandum and the model constitution that it submitted to the Steering Committee of the Assembly, the FP proposed that the country be a federal republic consisting of five states made up as follows: (i) Southern and Western provinces, (ii) North Central and North Western provinces (iii) Central, Uva and Sabaragamuwa provinces (iv) Northern Province and the districts of Trincomalee and Batticaloa and (v) Ampara district. The city of Colombo and its suburbs were to be administered by the centre. A list of subjects and functions reserved for the centre, with all others going to the states, was included. Interestingly, law and order and Police were to be reserved subjects.

However, Assembly proceedings show that the Tamils were clearly for a compromise. Dharmalingam, who was a main speaker of the FP under Basic Resolution No. 2, stated that the existing constitution had failed as it was not designed for a multi-ethnic country. He pointed out that in ethnically heterogeneous countries where unitary constitutions had been in operation, concessions to the federal principle have been made to meet the demands and aspirations of the minorities. Where there has been a refusal to concede the federal principle, there have been movements for separation. The FP distanced itself from secessionists such as C. Sunderalingam and V. Navaratnam, referring to them by name, and stated that it was not asking for a division of the country but for a division of power.

Dharmalingam made it clear that the FP’s draft was only a basis for discussion. Stating that the party was only asking that the federal principle be accepted, he suggested that as an interim measure, the SLFP, LSSP and CP should implement what they had promised in the election manifesto, namely that they would abolish Kachcheris and replace them with elected bodies. He stated: “If this Government thinks that it does not have a mandate to establish a federal Constitution, it can at least implement the policies of its leader, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, by decentralising the administration, not in the manner it is being done now, but genuine decentralisation, by removing the Kachcheris and in their place establishing elected bodies to administer those regions.”

Sarath Muttetuwegama of the Communist Party, the first political party in the country to propose federalism, in 1944, followed Dharmalingam and stated that ‘federal’ had become a dirty word not because of the federal system of government but because of what the FP had advocated. He was clearly referring to the FP’s association with the UNP and the conservative policies it had followed, such as voting against nationalisations, the takeover of private schools and the Paddy Lands Bill. Seemingly oblivious to the offer that Dharmalingam had made, he asked why the FP had not used the phrase ‘regional autonomy.’ Speakers from the UF who followed Muttetuwegama made it clear that the UF was in no mood to consider the FP’s offer to settle for much less.

Consequently, Basic Resolution No.2 was passed, and the FP’s amendment was defeated in the Steering and Subjects Committee on 27 March 1971.

Dr Nihal Jayawickrama, who was the Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, under the UF Government, and played an important role in the constitutional reform process, has said that the first draft prepared under the direction of the Minister of Constitutional Affairs did not contain any reference to a ‘unitary state’. However, Minister Felix Dias Bandaranaike proposed in the Ministerial Sub-Committee that the country be declared a ‘unitary state’. The Minister of Constitutional Affairs did not consider this to be necessary and argued that while the proposed constitution would have a unitary structure, unitary constitutions could vary a great deal in form. Nevertheless, the proposed phrase found its way to the final draft. ‘In course of time, this impetuous, ill-considered, wholly unnecessary embellishment has reached the proportions of a battle cry of individuals and groups who seek to achieve a homogenous Sinhalese state on this island’ Dr Jayawickrama observed. ‘Reflections on the Making and Content of the 1972 Constitution: An Insider’s Perspective’ in Asanga Welikala (ed), The Sri Lankan Republic at 40: Reflections on Constitutional History, Theory and Practice vol 1 (Centre for Policy Alternatives 2012) 43.

It is significant that the FP continued to participate in the Constituent Assembly even after its amendment was rejected. Records show that its leader, S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, regularly attended the meetings of the Steering and Subjects Committee.

With the advantage of hindsight, it could be said that acceptance of the FP’s proposed compromise for a division of power would have proved to be a far-reaching confidence-building measure on which more could perhaps have been built later. Moreover, such an acceptance would have ensured the continued participation of the FP in the Constituent Assembly. Even had the FP, as the UNP eventually did, voted against the adoption of the new constitution, their participation in the entire constitution-making process would have resulted in greater acceptance of the 1972 Constitution by the Tamil people.

Although they discontinued participation at a later stage, Federal Party MPs nevertheless took oaths under the new Constitution. Tamil parties soon united under the banner of the Tamil United Front (TUF), which later became the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF). At the famous Vaddukoddai conference of 1976, the TULF embraced separatism and adopted a resolution calling for a separate state called ‘Tamil Eelam’ in the Northern and Eastern provinces. At the 1977 elections, the TULF contested on a separatist platform and swept the Tamil areas.

The place of Buddhism

According to Dr Jayawickrama, Dr. de Silva’s original proposal called for the guarantee of freedom of thought, conscience and religion to every citizen. However, the Prime Minister requested that this proposal be added with a provision for the protection of institutions and traditional places of worship of Buddhists.

Basic Resolution No. 3 approved by the Constituent Assembly was for Buddhism to be given its ‘rightful place’: ‘In the Republic of Sri Lanka, Buddhism, the religion of the majority of the people, shall be given its rightful place, and accordingly, it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster Buddhism, while assuring to all religions the rights granted by Basic Resolution 5 (iv).’

Basic Resolution 5 (iv) referred to read: “Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have and adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”

But by the time the final draft was approved, the proposal had undergone a further change. Article 6 of the 1972 Constitution is as follows: ‘The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster Buddhism while assuring to all religions the rights granted by section 18 (1) (d).’ Section 18 (1) (d), in the chapter on fundamental rights, assures to all citizens the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

To the question of whether constitutionally guaranteeing special status to Buddhism not available to other religions of the land might adversely affect the non-Buddhists, Dr de Silva retrospectively responded in the following manner: “The section in respect of Buddhism is subject to section 18 (1) (d) and I wish to say, I believe in a secular state. But you know when Constitutions are made by Constituent Assemblies they are not made by the Minister of Constitutional Affairs. I myself would have preferred (section 18(1) (d)). But there is nothing…And I repeat, NOTHING, in section 6 which in any manner infringes upon the rights of any religion in this country. (Safeguards for the Minorities in the 1972 Constitution (Young Socialist 1987) 10.)

Dr Jayawickrama has been more critical. ‘If Buddhism had survived in the hearts and minds of the people through nearly five centuries of foreign occupation, a constitutional edict was hardly necessary to protect it now’, he opined. (‘Colvin and Constitution-Making – A Postscript’ Sunday Island, 15 July 2007).

Language provisions

Basic Resolution No.11 stated that all laws shall be enacted in Sinhala and that there shall be a Tamil translation of every law so enacted.

Basic Resolution No.12 read as follows: “(1) The Official Language of Sri Lanka shall be Sinhala as provided by the Official Language Act No. 32 of 1956. (2) The use of the Tamil Language shall be in accordance with the Tamil Language (Special Provisions) Act No. 28 of 1958.”

Efforts by the FP to get the Government to improve upon Basic Resolutions Nos. 11 and 12 failed. On 28 June 1971, both resolutions were passed, amendments proposed by the FP having been defeated. S.J.V. Chelvanayakam informed the Constituent Assembly that they had met with both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Constitutional Affairs, and while the meetings had been cordial, the Government had refused to make any alteration to the Basic Resolutions. He stated that the FP would therefore not attend future meetings. “We have come to the painful conclusion that as our language rights are not satisfactorily provided in the proposed Constitution, no useful purpose will be served in our continuing in the deliberations of this Assembly. By taking this step, we mean no offence to anybody. We only want to safeguard the dignity of our people.” There was not even a dramatic walk out. ‘We do not wish to stage a demonstration by walking out’, he added.

That Dr Colvin R. de Silva, who prophetically stated in 1955, ‘one language, two countries; two languages, one country’, should go so far as to upgrade the then-existing language provisions to constitutional status has baffled many political observers. In fact, according to Dr Jayawickrama, the Prime Minister had stated that it would be unwise to re-open the language debate and that the better course would be to let the ordinary laws on the subject operate in the form in which they were. By this time, the Privy Council had reversed the decision of the Supreme Court in A.G. v Kodeswaranthat a public servant could not sue the Crown for breach of contract of employment and sent the case back for a determination on other issues, including the main issue as to whether the Official Language Act violated section 29 (2), as the District Court had held. Dr. de Silva did not wish the Supreme Court to re-visit the issue. ‘If the courts do declare this law invalid and unconstitutional, heavens alive, the chief work done from 1956 onwards will be undone. You will have to restore the egg from the omelette into which it was beaten and cooked.’ He had, however, resisted a proposal made by Minister Felix R. Dias Bandaranaike that Sinhala be declared the ‘one’ official language of Sri Lanka.

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