Connect with us

Features

Flying into Kai Tak Airport, Hong Kong

Published

on

Hong Kong was a business centre and a popular intermediate port of call for all western countries for more than 800 years. Ships were anchored there before they ventured up the Pearl River to Canton (now Guangzhou) to conduct their business in commodities such as in tea, porcelain and silk. In return for these Chinese products, the British, to maintain the credit balance, introduced opium, grown in India, and sold it to China. Eventually, when China wanted to prohibit the importation and sale of opium, the British declared war. In 1842, after the end of the so-called first Opium war, China ceded Hong Kong Island to Britain. This was followed after the second Opium War ended. Britain obtained a 99-year lease of the now expanded Kowloon Peninsular and New Territories for a period of 99 years, commencing in 1898.

In 1925, the authorities acquired a strip of flat land for use as a flying club on a property near the Victoria Harbour, which was being reclaimed and developed by a Dr Ho Kai and Mr Au Tak. The airfield was also used by the Royal Air Force (RAF) and then in 1936, the first Imperial Airways aircraft, to land there, was a DH 86A Express (4-engine, biplane) with Cargo and just one passenger. 

During the Japanese occupation in WW 2, the original runway was extended using prisoners of war labour. Cathay Pacific Airways was founded after the war in 1946 with a solitary war surplus DC-3 named ‘Betsy’ with the initial intention of importing wool from Australia. Meanwhile, the population in Hong Kong was growing with refugees fleeing Communist China. To house them all many highrise buildings were constructed. As labour was cheap, luxury and electronic goods began to be also manufactured in abundance in Hong Kong. In 1958, the short runway, at what was now called the Kai Tak aerodrome, was extended to 8,000 ft. and then later extended to accommodate the wide body, big jets, such as the Boeing 747, Douglas DC10 and Lockheed L1011 Tri Stars.

The problem with Kai Tak was that the landing approach to one end of its runway was over the Hong Kong harbour, between high ground in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, involving a low turn at 550 feet at 2.2 miles. Even for veteran pilots it was exciting, especially in bad weather with high wind and low visibility, to which Hong Kong is often subjected to. Eventually, it became the busiest single-runway, cargo airport in the world, working to its full capacity.

 From the early eighties, Air Lanka, too, had regular flights from Bangkok, Thailand to Hong Kong. During those days someone had built a cement factory in Hong Kong harbour and that used to spew out smoke. As a result, even on days with good weather the visibility was bad. On the hillside of a park called Lok Fu, at the end of the approach of the Instrument Guidance System (IGS), there was a ‘Checker board’ and pilots were expected to fly visually towards it.

Additionally, they had flashing lead in-lights also known as ‘rabbit lights’, mounted in the sea, directing the aircraft on a curved approach path to the landing threshold. Safeguards had to be in place such as two different electrical sources on alternative lights to prevent total failure. Closer to the touch down end, lights with limited beam width (to ensure accurate flying) were mounted on building roof tops as the final approach was low over these buildings. By law, no other flashing lights were allowed in the area. Not even for advertising thereby minimising the chances of pilots making mistakes. The lights were ‘on’ 24/7. There were two settings. High intensity during bad weather and day time and low intensity during night time.

I started flying into Kai Tak as a First Officer in the early eighties in the old Boeing 707 aircraft, which needed a lot of muscle to manually fly that critical approach to the runway, known as ‘Runway 13’. Then we graduated to the Lockheed Tri Stars, which made matters easier with a bigger flight deck with larger windows improving visibility on the final approach descending low level turn in excess of 40 degrees.

Finally, Air Lanka invested in ‘fly by wire’ Airbus A340 aircraft, which needed no muscle at all but the excitement was still the same which necessitated each flight crew member to adjourn to the toilet before the top of descent for a ‘nervous pee’. This happened every time all the time!  One day, soon after Air Lanka acquired the A340, I was required to operate an evening flight to Kai Tak. Due to the A340’s design, our crew had reduced to two (Captain and First Officer) in the flight deck from the previous three (Captain, First Officer and Second Officer/Flight Engineer). It was mainly to reduce the fixed costs of crew salaries. The S/O or F/E had a vital role to play besides operating the panel. He was an extra pair of eyes, when things got busy, vital actions wouldn’t be missed and mistakes not made.

After take-off from Bangkok we were told that a Director of Air Lanka and his wife were on board our flight. This officer and gentleman had a reputation of being a strict disciplinarian, a proud product of the Royal Air Force (RAF) College Cranwell, a former Royal Ceylon Air Force (RCyAF) Officer, and a Flight Instructor of some of my own Flight instructors in the SLAF. Having left the RCyAF, he had flown with the RAF. After retirement from the RAF he joined one of the many civil flying schools at Ratmalana as Chief Flight Instructor.

According to some of his students, although he was a very competent Flight Instructor, he ran a ‘tight ship’ and had a ‘short fuse’. Some students shivered in their boots. A definite ‘no-no’ in modern times. Being a close friend and neighbour of the then ‘Royal Family’ at Horagolla, he was later appointed a Director at Airport and Aviation Ltd Sri Lanka (AASL) and subsequently a Director at Air Lanka. The feedback I received by my own SLAF instructors and relatively junior Air Lanka First Officers who were trained by him, was that he didn’t shake hands and that his social behaviour was highly unpredictable. I had never met him but his reputation went ahead of him. It was an understatement to say that I was a bit apprehensive. I had heard that a few months before, when he was a Director at AASL he had chided one of his ex-colleagues for inviting his (the Director’s) wife to sit in the flight deck for the landing!

Anyway, courtesy demanded that at some point during the flight between Bangkok and Hong Kong, I had to make myself known as the Captain of the flight. What better time than the top of descent into Hong Kong when I would be going to the cabin to fulfil my ‘physiological’ need. After exchanging pleasantries, (I didn’t shake hands though) I invited him to sit in for the approach and landing which was always thrilling. He mentioned that he had flown into Hong Kong before in Bristol Britannia and Vickers VC 10 aircraft and requested that I permit his wife to do so. I was totally taken by surprise, but able to hide my reactions and agreed without hesitation.

The flight was uneventful until the latter part of the descent where we were informed by Hong Kong Control that the expected IGS for Runway 13 was unserviceable and instead they offered us an older, non-precision approach known as a ‘Visual Step Down’. Although neither my First Officer nor I had done such an approach before, we were carrying the necessary maps and charts that would allow us to safely carry out such an exercise. The French, UTA Douglas DC 8 pilots with whom Air Ceylon pilots flew used to say, “If you could read and understand English, then you can fly anywhere”. We could do the same (read and understand). The only problem was that the right turn to the final approach, after Stone Cutters Island, was almost 100 degrees in comparison to the regular IGS Approach which was only 47 degrees to the right. Both turns need to be done manually keeping the runway in sight.

The change of approach also meant a delay to all inbound traffic as adequate traffic separation had to be maintained. Now dusk turned to night. At last we were cleared for our self-briefed approach. Just as we got to the minimum descent altitude (it was a ‘gin’ clear night), we looked out and could see nothing familiar. Upendra, my First Officer, suggested dutifully that we should go-around. Then, it struck me that if I go slightly left I may catch a glimpse of the lead-in lights, which were flashing 24/7 in the harbour. Sure enough the lights were still on. I announced “Lead-in lights in sight” and continued with a sense of relief.

The approach speed of the ‘fly by wire’ A340 aircraft can be ‘selected’ by the pilot or ‘managed’ by the autopilot. On ‘selected’ mode the autopilot maintains any speed selected by the pilot in an airspeed window. On the other hand, the ‘managed speed’ automatically maintains an appropriate speed, depending on the flap setting. For that to happen we had to ‘activate the approach’ programmed through the Flight Management System (FMS) computers beforehand. I kept the autopilot on so that both pilots could search for visual cues to establish where we were. What the autopilot was doing was reflected exactly in our flight instruments. So, the plan was to take the autopilot off and continue to fly manually after visually establishing our position. The standard phraseology was “Autopilot off, speed managed”.

This time when the speed was managed it went up to 250 knots and the engines spooled up! We had forgotten to ‘activate our approach’ in the rush when our workload increased. If a third crew member had been there he would have probably reminded us to programme our FMS Computers well ahead of commencing the approach. Since it was too late to turn our heads in to programme them, I then did the next best thing possible and called for “selected speed and 140 knots” (our target approach speed), which was selected by First Officer Upendra and we proceeded to land. That saved the day and engine power returned to normal, ending up in a good approach and landing in the night. I am sure our lady guest in the Flight Deck was impressed.

Every flight has its own share of ‘Threats and Errors’. By definition Threats are external factors beyond the control of the crew and Errors are mistakes made from within by the crew members themselves either collectively or individually. An error could turn into a threat and vice versa. The task of the crew is to mitigate threats and trap the errors made to make it a safe flight. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) carries out regular Line Orientated Safety Audits (LOSA) on member airlines to ensure that these principles of air safety are met.



Features

Thomians triumph in Sydney 

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading

Features

Marked stress on Asia in US foreign policy

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading

Features

A Majoritarian Constitution

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading

Trending