Charles Henry de Soysa’s 186th Birth Anniversary – March 3, 2022
By K. Balapatabendi President Counsel
Former Secretary to the President
The 186th anniversary of the birth of Warusahennedige Charles Henry De Soysa (1836-1890) takes place on March 3, 2022. He goes down in history as the greatest Sri Lankan philanthropist of all time. “A grateful public” erected his statue, which stands at the center of the De Soysa Circus opposite the old Eye Hospital in Colombo, in 1917. It is the first statue of any Sri Lankan erected in the city of Colombo. For the past 104 years, without a break even during the Second World War, his birth has been commemorated at this statue on March 3.
This year it is appropriate that the Secretary, Ministry of Education Prof. Kapila Perera will be the chief guest at the commemoration ceremony organized at the foot of the statue at 3.30 pm on Thursday, March 3. No single person in Sri Lankan history has spent so much of his own personal wealth for developing the Health and Education Sectors of the country.
He built at his own expense the De Soysa Hospital for Women in 1877. This is recorded in history as the oldest hospital for women in Asia and the third oldest in the world. This hospital was built at a time when there was no focus on Women’s Health and Maternity in any part of Asia or for that matter in most parts of Europe and America as well. His decision to build a hospital for women 144 years ago shows how far-sighted and progressive he was.
The Medical College
It is recorded in John Ferguson’s “Ceylon in the Jubilee Year” published in 1887 that Charles Henry de Soysa also put up at his expense the first building of the Ceylon Medical College on land donated by Mudliyar Samson Rajapakse. The Ceylon Medical College, now known as the Faculty of Medicine, was founded by Sir Hercules Robinson, Governor of Ceylon, in 1870. De Soysa also built at his own expense the Bacteriological Institute, now known as the Medical Research Institute (MRI). This was the first Bacteriological Institute in the whole of Asia. Charles Henry’s support for Medical Research so long ago shows how much he was ahead of his times where the health sector is concerned.
CH De Soysa also built at his own expense the De Soysa Hospital in Lunawa, which still remains the main hospital for the densely populated Moratuwa area. He also built the Government Hospital in Panadura, which still remains the main hospital for Panadura area, and the Government District Hospital in Marawila, which still remains the main hospital serving the population between Chilaw and Negombo.
His doctor sons-in-law
Three of Charles Henry de Soysa’s sons-in-law were famous doctors who had qualified in England.
His eldest son-in-law, Dr. Solomon Fernando, a well-known national hero of the early twentieth century, was one of the first two Sinhalese to qualify as doctors – the other being Dr. John Attygalle. He later became the first Sinhalese to become the Director of Health Services before retiring to take to national politics where he died as a martyr in 1915 fighting for a public inquiry into the British mishandling of the Muslim Riots of 1915.
Charles Henry’s second son-in-law, Dr. Marcus Fernando, later Sir Marcus, was one of the first Sinhala surgeons. He too later took to politics and fought a bitter election against Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan for the seat reserved for Educated Ceylonese, in the then Legislative Council.
Yet another son-in-law Dr W H de Silva an esteemed Eye Surgeon played a lead role in establishing the Queen Victoria Memorial Eye Hospital by leading the public fund raising campaign and by collecting the largest public subscription ever for a charitable project in the country. The foundation stone was laid in 1903 and the beautiful building at De Soysa Circus completed in 1905. Dr de Silva functioned as the senior surgeon in charge of the hospital.
Charles Henry de Soysa who used so much of his own wealth to do so much for the Health Services of our country was, significantly, the only child of an Ayurvedic Physician, Jeronis de Soysa, who had mastered indigenous medicine from the Nayaka Thera of the Palliyagodella Temple in Moratuwa. It is also significant that while he was ever ready to build hospitals where the western system of medicine was followed; where his own health and that of his family was concerned he depended heavily on our time-honoured system of Ayurvedic Medicine.
Even in his last illness, it is recorded that doctors from the many hospitals which he himself had founded fought side by side with Ayurvedic Physicians from many parts of the country to save the life of Sri Lanka’s greatest philanthropist of all times. But it was in vain. For Charles Henry de Soysa died at the early age of 53 of an unfortunate accident, unavoidable in terms of his karma. Had he lived another 20 years which should otherwise have been his normal life-span, there is no doubt that he would have built several more hospitals and medical institutions in many parts of the country to serve the health needs of the Sri Lankan people.
His untimely death
Charles Henry was very critical of the British for neglecting the health needs of our country, which was then a British colony. Since he could not get the British rulers of the time to focus adequately on the Health Sector, he spent his own wealth to build hospitals and medical institutions for the Sri Lankan people.
While criticizing the British rulers for neglecting our health needs, Charles Henry showed the British by his own practice what the Buddhist values of Compassion (Karuna) and Loving Kindness (Metta) are all about. His answer to the British for neglecting the health of his own people was not only to build hospitals in Sri Lanka but to also show compassion to the health needs of the British working class, which was equally neglected by the elitist British governments of that time. He gave lavish donations therefore to hospitals in England that served the British working class such as the reat Ormond Street Hospital for Children, the Brompton Hospital, the Royal Free Hospital, the Hospital for Accidents to Dock Labourers and the Victoria Chest Hospital.
Service to Education
Charles Henry’s philanthropy was by no means confined to the Health Sector. He also built several schools, the most outstanding of which are the Prince and Princess of Wales Colleges in Moratuwa gifted by him 146 years ago in 1876 on a 16 acre block of land also gifted by him in the heart of the town of Moratuwa.
From the very start he ensured that both schools had Sinhala and English streams. His ambition for his hometown was a farsighted one. His dream was that Moratuwa should one day be the most educated town in the country. Today, 146 years later, Moratuwa is able to boast of being the town with the highest educational levels not merely in Sri Lanka but in the whole of South Asia.
Towards the Modernisation of Agriculture
He was also a pioneer in modernizing Sri Lankan Agriculture. Towards this end he donated 10,000 sterling pounds and 87 acres of land near Kanatta, Colombo, for a Model Farm, which was called Alfred Model Farm.
He was also a patron of Sinhala literature and funded the publication of several books written by leading Buddhist scholars of his time.
His modern worldview finds expression in his attitude to religion. Though he was a Christian, he readily supported Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Muslim religious institutions. And in the two big schools he founded in 1876, Prince and Princess of Wales Colleges Moratuwa, he ensured that they are open to children of all religions and ethnicities and declared that no one religion or ethnicity should ever enjoy a pride of place within the schools.
While he himself was a Christian and the era in which he lived was one of British colonial rule, this man had a vision that was strictly futuristic and a view that our society should be open and not divisive in any way. Against this background it it sad that within the past few years the school authorities of Prince of Wales thought it fit to jolt the very ideals of the school’s far sighted founder by allowing a conspicuous Buddhist shrine in the school which through respect for the noble ideals of its great and far sighted founder had no religious shrines or symbols whatever within its premises for well over 140 years.
The several temples that the family of CH De Soysa a Christian built in Moratuwa, Ratmalana, Hanguranketha and Marawila, the numerous churches he built in Moratuwa, Panadura and Marawila, the Hindu Kovils he is known to have built in Jaffna and the land he is known to have donated to a Mosque in Colombo bear testimony to the breadth of his religious outlook and the respect he had for pluralism more than 150 years ago..
All this philanthropy he was able to do with the wealth he earned as the Father of Sri Lankan Private Enterprise in the mid nineteenth century. He planted nearly 34,000 acres of cash crops in diverse parts of the country, managing his vast plantations with skill and acumen. He not only was the first Sri Lankan planter and exporter of plantations products but he was also the first Sri Lankan banker for he was instrumental in establishing the Bank of Kandy in 1860 with De Soysa Capital.
Sri Lanka’s greatest philanthropist of all times, Charles Henry de Soysa is a direct descendant of the Warusahannedige family which, according to tradition, held the administration of the Devinuwara Maha Vishnu Devale as its Basnayaka Nilame when it was sacked by the Portuguese in the early 17th century, Charles Henry’s great grandfather migrated from Devinuwara in the Matara district to Panadura and from there to Moratuwa in the early 17th century, bringing with him the entrepreneurial skills and vision of Ruhana to mesh them with the new economic opportunities that had emerged in the newly developing western province around the capital city of Colombo.
Charles Henry unlike so many other private sector entrepreneurs who followed him practiced a private sector ideology that responds with sensitivity to the needs of the wider community. He was a great crusader who skillfully combined private enterprise with social concern. He is the role model for a humanistic private sector, which we hope, will emerge in our country in the years to come.
As a national role model for the future, Charles Henry de Soysa who was born 186 years ago is not a man of the past but very much a man of the present and the future.
As such he belongs not to his family of descendants, not to Moratuwa, not to Matara district where he had his roots, but to the whole nation of Sri Lankans transcending the narrow barriers of class, creed, caste, religion and ethnicity.
(The writer and the great-grand father of Sir Charles Henry de Soysa come from the same home town, Devinuwara. A direct ancestor of Charles Henry de Soysa was the lay administrator of the Devinuwara Maha Vishnu Devale as its Basnayake Nilame until the Devalaya was sacked by the Portuguese in the early 17th century.)
Thomians triumph in Sydney
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!
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.
Marked stress on Asia in US foreign policy
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.
A Majoritarian Constitution
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).
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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