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EXPLORING ITALY Part 47

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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

To Europe on a UN Fellowship

Early January, 1982 I departed for Europe on a 13-week, fellowship fully-funded and arranged by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which is a United Nations organization tasked with helping countries eliminate poverty and achieve sustainable economic growth and human development. it is the largest UN development aid agency since its formation in 1965, headquartered in New York City and offices in over 150 countries. The purpose of the fellowship was for me to acquire relevant knowledge and obtain a teaching qualification to justify my new appointment as a Senior Lecturer at the Ceylon Hotel School (CHS).

My wife accompanied me and we looked forward to visiting a dozen countries in Europe. We were in an adventurous mood. We travelled from Colombo to Paris and then to Lyon before proceeding to Turin, where UNDP had arranged for me to attend a five week-long ‘Training Methodology’ study program at the Turin Centre – the professional training and education arm of the International Labour Organization (ILO). On a cold, snow-covered winter day, we arrived at the Turin Centre. We were immediately greeted with a warm, Italian welcome.

The centre had an atmosphere of a hotel as well as, a small university. It had been built in 1961 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of modern Italy. After the year-long centennial celebrations, the Italian government had gifted the entire complex to the United Nations who converted it to the International Training Centre and three other educational institutes of the ILO in 1964. It is a beautiful centre built in a large park on the banks of River Po. Conference rooms and classrooms were located in over 20 pavilions. Facilities included a restaurant, cafeteria, bar lounge, bank, travel agency, post office, medical centre, indoor and outdoor sports.

Most of the 300 double bedrooms were occupied by ILO Fellows mainly from developing countries around the world studying in short programs, and visiting members of the faculty. I quickly realized that I was unique among nearly 600 residents of the Turin Centre in three aspects. I was the only Sri Lankan, only hospitality professional and the only Fellow travelling with his/her spouse. We loved the Turin Centre, its international atmosphere and Italian hospitality.

Training Methodology

 

The program I took at the Turin Centre had a few courses focused on the latest theories and practices in pedagogical education and training methodology. The program with 16 Fellows from 13 countries was facilitated by five ILO experts who came on short secondments from universities in five other countries. Although, well diverse in terms of nationalities, my cohort of this program had no female Fellows. Two Italian ladies, who were full-time employees of the Turin Centre, coordinated the program and our logistics, and added that essential female charm to the program. I loved the global flavour of the program.

The other participants came from different professional specializations including, medicine, law, engineering, architecture, banking, finance, statistics and social work. The common element for the 16 of us was that we were all educators of postsecondary institutions. In addition to learning to become better educators, we were also trained to design and implement workplace training. What I learnt at the Turin Centre helped in my both careers in post secondary education and hotel management over many decades.

In the early 1980s pre-PowerPoint era, most post secondary educators used only black boards and white boards in classrooms. At that time, the overhead projector was the trendiest classroom teaching tool. There was a special session at the Turin Centre to train us to make colourful overhead projector slides. With my background in visual arts, I was able to excel in this course. When I returned to CHS after my training in Europe, for each lecture I used many colourful overhead projector slide presentations. They not only added colour to my lectures, they also enhanced my popularity as a Senior Lecturer.

After learning the basic teaching skills, our program in Turin focused on Microteaching, a concept developed and made popular at Stanford University, USA in the 1960s in training professors to become better teachers. During the first week, we all had to do a condensed version of our favourite lecture in 10 minutes focusing on teaching one simple skill, while all of our mini lectures were recorded. As the least experienced teacher in the group, I picked ‘Organizing Events at Resorts’ as my topic.

When the videos were shown in the class the next day, each presenter and the other 15 Fellows critiqued each mini lecture. After four weeks of a very high level of education, during our last week, we repeated the same process with 10 minutes per Fellow on the same topics. Finally, the facilitators showed our group, the before and after recordings of all 16 mini lectures. The improvements, we observed were extremely impressive, motivating and enhanced the self-confidence of all Fellows. I knew at once, that my teaching skill improvement in just five weeks had progressed more than I had hoped. Thank you, UNDP and ILO!

Enjoying Italy

 

Although English was the medium of instructions, we were given mini lessons of spoken Italian every evening during the weekdays. The aim here was for the Fellows to say a few Italian words when the Turin Centre took us to the local markets and on four weekend bus tours to touristic places in other major cities.

We met a few local Italians at the bar lounge of the Turin Centre. They all were very friendly and one family became extra friendly with us. “Where are you from? How did you get a such a nice tan?” they asked. When we tried to explain in our broken Italian that we were born in Sri Lanka with permanent tans, they said that they preferred to speak in English to improve before a forthcoming trip to USA to meet extended family had migrated to America decades earlier.

Our new Italian friends offered to take us to their home on our first Sunday in Turin. After picking us up, we proceeded to their home located in a beautiful area in the suburbs of Turin. We joined about 12 members of their family gathered around two large kitchen tables to enjoy food prepared by our host’s mother and grandmother. That was a memorable feast with all types of Martini vermouths, Northern Italian appetizers, home-made bread dipped in olive oil, slow-cooked meat and poultry dishes, varieties of wines from the Piedmont region, home-made desserts and lots of strong coffee.

A cousin of our host in trying to practice his English, asked us, “Do you know that Italy is the # one country in wine production in the world, but the French exports 50% more wine per year than us?” With an attempt to be politically correct, I just smiled. He continued, “That is because we enjoy drinking our great wines by ourselves, unlike the French!”, and made an infectious loud laugh. All around the table joined him including us.

The meal lasted over six hours. We all sat around the tables, ate, drank and laughed while listening to two older uncles of our host arguing about soccer and Italian politics, all the while chain smoking. When my wife, who was not used to eating so much food and inhaling smoke from cigars and cigarettes felt a bit tired, they let her rest in the master bedroom. After a nap when she re-joined the prolonged hospitalities, the grandmother said in Italian, “Bellissima giovane moglie (beautiful young wife), now that you had a nice beauty nap, time to enjoy the new dishes I just made.” Italian hospitality was the best we ever experienced during our global travels over the next 15 years.

Before they dropped us back at the Turin Centre in the late evening, I asked if they were celebrating a special occasion. Our friend Piccolo said, “No, that was our weekly, family get-together. You are invited next Sunday too!” Unfortunately, we could not join them again as the Turin Centre took us on bus tours every weekend after that. We visited Florence, Rome, Vatican City and Genoa. First, we covered key attractions of Turin over a weekend and a few evenings.

Turin

 

Turin had been the first capital of the modern Italy from 1861 to 1865 when the Kingdom of Italy claimed most of the territory which covers present-day Italy. Florence followed Turin to become the capital from 1865 to 1871, and Rome became the capital city of the Kingdom of Italy from 1871 to 1946. Since the national unification in 1861 until 1946, Italy had been a kingdom ruled by the House of Savoy, reigning royal house of Italy. After the voters chose to replace the monarchy (forced to leave Italy in exile) with a republic in 1946, Rome continued as the capitol. However, Turin is special as the first capitol of Italy and the home town of their first king, Victor Emmanuel.

In 1961, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the unification of Italy, three exhibitions had been organized in Turin. Although the historic, royal palaces and museums were the main tourist attractions of Turin, the exhibition centres and large business corporations added a modern dimension to a dynamic city. The headquarters of the large car manufacturer, FIAT (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili di Torino) and large multinational, alcoholic beverage company Martini & Rossi were in Turin.

The most impressive thing we saw in Turin was the Shroud of Turin, also known as the Holy Shroud. It is a length of linen cloth bearing the negative image (from blood, sweat and dust) of a thin and tall man. Some describe the image as depicting Jesus of Nazareth and believe the fabric is the burial shroud in which he was wrapped after the crucifixion. This has not been proven, as lifeless bodies of people who were punished by crucifying 2,000 years ago were all believed to be wrapped in burial shrouds.

Florence

 

Florence was a delightful, former capital city. As an artist I was disappointed that Leonardo da Vinci’s the Last Supper was closed to the public at the time we went to Florence. As the iconic mural painting’s appearance had badly deteriorated by the late 1970s, it had to be restored over a couple of decades. I was determined to see this masterpiece, but had to do a trip in 1990s to realize that dream. We were taken to see many other masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture including Michelangelo’s ‘David’ sculpture.

Rome

 

Our visit to Rome was during a long weekend. All members of our tour group were first time visitors to Rome. We agreed that no justice could be made to this great city of its ancient glorious heritage in three days. However, I was happy that we were able to visit most of the popular tourist sites in Rome. We visited several districts of Rome, but spent more time in the Colosseo district, containing the most ancient attractions like the Colosseum, Capitoline Hill and the Roman Forum. We also tossed a couple of coins into the Trevi Fountain, as our guide promised us that those who do so would return to Rome again!

The Vatican City

 

The Vatican City was fully crowded as we went there on a Sunday. Our group liked different aspects of the Vatican City. One of my favourites was the Vatican Museums with ancient Roman sculptures such as the famed ‘Laocoön and his sons’ as well as Renaissance frescoes in the Raphael Rooms. When our guide asked us to rank the best attraction in The Vatican City, I favoured the Sistine Chapel ceiling showing the mesmerizing work by the great Michelangelo.

Genoa

 

Genoa was a quick visit. This historical port city was very colourful. It appeared that some large groups of tourists arrived in Genoa by boat and ferry services. Although most of the city’s museums and historical sites were impressive, my most memorable was visiting the house where Christopher Columbus was said to have been born in Piazza Dante. Our tour guide took us to his favourite site, which was the Lanterna, which he claimed to be the oldest European lighthouse. He had a final surprise for us. He arranged a romantic boat ride for us in the harbour around sunset.

We returned to the Turin Centre with great memories of Italy’s three capitols and Genoa. We also made many new friends, learnt more about the outstanding wines and gastronomic treasures of Italy. We were sad that our memorable stay of five weeks in Italy was coming to an end. I was determined to return to Italy, which I did on a few occasions over the next few decades. We gradually became excited to pack our bags to get ready to explore Switzerland, for the very first time, in February, 1982.



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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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