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Remembering my father – Stanley Jayaweera

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My parents in conversation with Kurt Waldheim, President of Austria and former Secretary General of United Nations.

By Sanjeewa Jayaweera

My parents in conversation with Kurt Waldheim, President of Austria and former Secretary General of United Nations. My father passed away five years ago, just a few months short of his 90th birthday. Since his demise, my late brother Rajeewa and several others have written extensively about his accomplishments. However, I felt at a time when our country is facing an unprecedented social and economic crisis, it would be useful once again to share with readers the qualities of a man whose life was built on pillars of honesty, integrity, ethics, the rule of law and a deep love of Sri Lanka. The country desperately needs loads of such men to state the obvious if we are to reverse the decline.

A quarter-century ago, he perceptively identified the country’s most significant challenge. In an article published in The Island of August 6, 1997, Thathi wrote ‘the country is in shambles, the ‘tragedy is that society as a whole has failed to throw up a community of principled men who can stand up to our rampaging politicians and put them in their place.

Public Servant par excellence, Nationalistic fervour and saying “No.”

As a public servant, he served the country with skill, a sense of duty, loyalty, dedication, and pride. A recent editorial in the Sunday Island, encapsulated these qualities saying, “the late Stanley Jayaweera was a career diplomat at a time this country had a public service as different to what we are burdened with today as chalk and cheese.”

My grandmother used to relate how his intensely nationalistic feelings would cause headaches for my grandfather in the period leading to our independence. A large contingent of youngsters from less well-off families used to attend night classes at the Pirivena along Pirivena Road, Ratmalana, where Thathi used to teach English. He, therefore, had a sizeable number of loyal “followers.” He occasionally led a procession of them shouting nationalistic slogans in front of homes of those they considered loyal to the British! No sooner the march started, a message would be conveyed “anna Jayaweerage rasthiyadu kollo tike enawa.” Many windows and doors were quickly bolted and closed until the procession passed. Several would, after that, stop talking to my grandparents!

Soon after graduating from the University of Colombo, majoring in Philosophy, he took up teaching. He taught at Christian College, Kotte, Dharmapala Vidyalaya, and Dharamaraja College. His first love was teaching. His parents, however, firmly convinced him that he would not be able to support a family on a teacher’s pay and forced him to sit for the Ceylon Civil Service entry examination. Although he came third, he was absorbed to the Foreign Services as he was slightly overage.

His first overseas posting at the age of 31 was as Deputy High Commissioner to Singapore. Earlier, when designated to open the Embassy in Moscow, he conveyed his reluctance to go as he felt he would not be able to work with the person named as the Ambassador. Permanent Secretary Gunasena de Zoysa could not change his mind and therefore took him to meet then Prime Minister S W R D Bandaranaike. Asked by SWRD why he was unable to work with so and so, Thathi had revealed the reasons with trepidation. SWRD had roared with laughter and said, “Gunasena, send Jayaweera to Singapore where he can be his own boss.” Those days the High Commissioner was based in Malaysia.

Interdiction, challenges, and defiance

In July 1965, my father was interdicted by the Dudley Senanayake government purportedly as some files were missing from the citizenship division of the foreign ministry of which he was the head. It was nothing more than a political witch-hunt as he was perceived as a leftist loyal to Mrs Bandaranaike. The government failed to bring charges before the Public Service Commission (PSC) for over four years despite Felix Dias Bandaranaike raising the issue in parliament on several occasions. The PSC enquiry did not last more than a couple of hours and the charges against him were dismissed. He was immediately reinstated with full back pay. However, he and the family were subjected to severe hardship as he was paid only 25 per cent of his salary for the first two years and then increased to 50 per cent.

Coincidentally, his brother Neville a senior civil servant was promoted by the then government as Chairman SLBC. He, therefore, was close to both Dudley and JR Jayewardene. On several occasions, they had told Uncle Neville to tell my father to come and say “sorry” and that he would be immediately reinstated. However, despite my mother, his parents and parents in law pleading with him, he said, “why should I say sorry when I did nothing wrong?” Despite the severe impact on our lifestyle due to the meagre financial resources, he stood firmly by his principles. He also refused several offers of employment from the private sector. He was determined to clear his name. Aiya, my three sisters and I are mighty proud that he did so, and our experience during those challenging times have stood all of us in good stead and no doubt shaped our personalities.

On a more humorous note, in exhibiting his anger towards the then government, no sooner any by-election results were announced, he would light firecrackers as invariably the UNP lost all such by-elections. This was around 2 a.m, and we woke up all our neighbours, mostly die-hard UNP supporters. Our immediate neighbour, who was the chief government printer would the next day inform Dudley and JR that “Stanley Jayaweera lit firecrackers last night to celebrate the UNP’s loss.” Invariably Uncle Neville used to get an earful!

Despite what Dudley Senanayake and his government subjected him and his family to, it did not prevent Thathi from opening a book of condolences in 1973 at the High Commission in Islamabad when Dudley passed away. An anonymous petition conveyed this decision to the foreign ministry in Colombo. An explanation was called as no such instruction had been given from Colombo. He replied that the death of a five times Prime Minister demanded such a courtesy and found fault with the ministry for not initiating such a move. His explanation was accepted.

The consummate diplomat

When working overseas, a strength was his ability to build strong relationships and network with politicians and foreign office personnel in the countries he served. Some of them became family friends with whom my parents kept in touch even upon return to Sri Lanka. The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had a very cordial relationship with him despite knowing that Thathi was also in touch with one of his strongest adversaries, Abdul Wali Khan.

When overseas, we used to bemoan the number of dinners and cocktail parties he would host exclusively at our residence. He used to say that entertaining was an essential tool in networking and building relationships. However, he did not believe in entertaining at hotels and restaurants, saying that the country cannot afford such costs. So, my mother, assisted by my sisters, would invariably prepare the meals, Aiya would serve drinks, and I would be assigned to clean the house! We often asked him whether our cost of labour could be remunerated. You can imagine the response we received! In fact, at times, he would return his monthly entertainment allowance to the ministry, saying that it was not utilized.

I recall a humorous incident arising from one such function at our residence in Islamabad, Pakistan. A lady diplomat of European descent had excitedly approached my mother and said, “Seetha, can you please introduce me to that gorgeous man who looks like Omar Sherrif?” When the concerned person was identified, my mother being somewhat conservative, was shocked and perplexed because it was our Pakistani chauffeur, Mujibar! He was present to supervise the serving of drinks! For sure, the guy was a carbon copy of Omar Sherriff.

Love of India and refusing to ask/plead for an overseas posting

Thathi had a great deal of love and admiration for India because of their great struggle for independence. He often told us that the failing of Ceylon/Sri Lanka is that we never fought for our freedom, which resulted in the absence of truly patriotic leaders. Early in his career, he identified that our relations with India were of paramount importance. Therefore, unlike some of his peers who sought postings to European capitals, he wanted a stint in India, which was granted by posting him to Madras as the Deputy High Commissioner.

He and a few others played a crucial role in putting together the Sirima- Shastri pact. Despite being based in Pakistan, he still had many contacts in the Indian foreign ministry in New Delhi. When Mrs Bandaranaike visited Pakistan, he had made a presentation which resulted in her asking, “Stanley kohomada ochchara danne Indiava gane Pakistan indan?” (Stanley, how do you know so much about India despite being based in Pakistan?)

Thathi was sidelined by A C S Hameed, the Foreign Minister, for seven long years between 1978 and 1985 and was confined to the ministry in Colombo and consistently overlooked when overseas postings were made. He refused to seek or plead for an overseas posting because he believed there was no need to ask or beg for a posting when his seniority entitled him to one. Ultimately Prime Minister Premadasa and senior ministers like Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake forced the hand of President J R Jayewardene to appoint him as the Ambassador to West Germany. But, again, he stood by his principles and was prepared to stomach the indignity of many of his juniors being appointed as Ambassadors/High Commissioners while he languished in Colombo. He constantly said, “I am not going to carry that bugger’s suitcases!”

Family man, social activist, and a true Buddhist

After his retirement, he was a social activist and an opinion writer who contributed to newspapers and journals without fear to discuss many burning issues impacting the country.

A feature of my father that I admire most is that whilst being a practicing Buddhist, he taught all his children that all religions are equal and, if followed correctly, are all good. My father rarely visited the temple. Instead, he practiced his religion within the confines of his home and never tried to convince anyone of the merits of Buddhism. The net result of his broad-mindedness was that three of his children married Roman Catholics, and the religion of the person they married was never an issue. Neither were there any tantrums or requirements that his grandchildren should be brought up as Buddhists.

He also had great empathy towards the less well off. Post his retirement; he spent many hours at the Victoria Home for the Incurables in Rajagiriya teaching English and providing companionship to many whom society had neglected and forgotten. I remember the anguish of many at the institute when Aiya and I went to inform them of his passing. He used to lecture English during the weekends at the Colombo University post his retirement, which I believe was pro-bono. Many a graduate sitting for the foreign service entry examinations would visit him at home and prepare for the exams.

Despite being taskmaster in office, he was pretty relaxed and broadminded as a father. He never demanded that we get the highest marks when sitting for exams. He said a person’s development based on sound values and principles is more important than passing exams. When I was in London as a student and highly stressed before an examination, he called me and said, “Chutta, remember that failures are pillars of success”.

Unlike Aiya, who kept a close tab on my career, my father did not say much about my job. Given his years of public service and socialistic ideals, he may have silently disapproved of my working in the private sector. However, on a few occasions, he did ask me, “Chutta, why do you need to drive such a big car?”

Both Aiya and I were allowed to have girlfriends at a relatively young age despite my mother’s protestations! His view was that boys needed to be boys!

He was very much a family man who liked to enjoy quality time with all of us. He would enjoy a couple of drinks every evening and play western classical music with the family around him, and we all used to narrate various humorous stories and have a good laugh. He also loved listening to Sunil Santha and C T Fernando.

His wife and my mother Seetha, whom he used to call “baby”, yes, he was far ahead of times, predeceased him by five years. She was constantly by his side in both good and bad times for 58 years and confirmed the saying, “behind every successful man, there stands a woman”. She was undoubtedly the rock on which the family was anchored. Her sweet demeanour made him often say, “Ammi is a better diplomat than me.” Her passing resulted in him going into a shell. His interactions with others were after that limited. Aiya took over the responsibility of looking after him post our mothers death.

Finally, I wish to borrow a comment from one of Aiya’s articles where he wrote, “Being a man who lived by his ideals and principles, he left no riches. His lasting legacy to his five children were the ideals and principles he endeavoured to impart albeit by example.”

May he attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.



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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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An autochthonous Constitution

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Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike at the Constituent Assembly

1972 Constitution in Retrospect – I

By Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne
President’s Counsel

This week marks the 50th anniversary of Sri Lanka becoming a republic. We observe the anniversary at a time when the large majority of our people are yearning for comprehensive constitutional reform – “system change,” as they put it. Many believe that, after the failure of the first and second republican constitutions, the time is right for the Third Republic.

This article, in three parts, is based on a paper that I contributed to a collection of essays, titled, Sirimavo, published by the Bandaranaike Museum Committee, in 2010. When Sunethra Bandaranaike invited me to contribute an essay on the 1972 Constitution, I told her that I would be unable to say much good about it. This, I explained, was despite Dr Colvin R. De Silva, the Minister of Constitutional Affairs of the United Front government who steered the constitution-making process, being a former leader of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party to which I belonged and my senior in several fundamental rights cases, beginning with Palihawadana v. Attorney-General (Job Bank Case), the first fundamental rights case, under the 1978 Constitution. “You can write anything”, Sunethra assured me. My friend, Tissa Jayatilleke, edited the publication.

Replacing the Soulbury Constitution

The Independence Constitution of 1947, popularly known as the Soulbury Constitution, conferred dominion on Ceylon. The Governor-General was appointed by the British sovereign. The Parliament of Ceylon consisted of the King/Queen, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Executive power continued to be vested in the Crown and was exercised by the Governor-General. The Cabinet of Ministers was charged with the general direction and control of the government and was collectively responsible to Parliament. The form of government was in the Westminster model, which meant that the Governor-General would act on the advice of the Prime Minister. By the oath of allegiance, Senators, Members of Parliament, and all holders of office, including the Prime Minister, Ministers and heads of departments and judicial officers, swore to ‘be faithful and bear true allegiance to the King/Queen.The first move towards making Ceylon a Republic was made by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, who, on becoming Prime Minister, in 1956, informed the other governments of the British Commonwealth of Ceylon’s intention to become a Republic, within the Commonwealth. A Joint Select Committee of the two Houses of Parliament, on the revision of the Constitution, accepted the principle of establishing a Republic, within the Commonwealth. It was also agreed that the parliamentary form of government would continue with the President being a constitutional head of state. The President and the Vice-President would be elected by the legislature, fundamental rights recognized, appeals to the Privy Council abolished, and a court established to adjudicate constitutional matters and hear appeals from the Supreme Court.

Although sub-section 4 of section 29 of the 1947 Constitution provided that ‘in the exercise of its powers under this section, Parliament may amend or repeal any of the provisions of this Order, or of any other Order of Her Majesty in Council in its application to the Island’, the question whether Parliament could replace the British sovereign, who was a source of the legal authority of the Constitution and a constituent part of Parliament, had been raised, among others, by J.A.L. Cooray in his Review of the Constitution. The Privy Council stated in Ibralebbe v The Queen (65 NLR 433, 443) that the reservations specified in section 29 were ‘fundamental’ and in Bribery Commissioner v Ranasinghe that section 29 (2) was ‘unalterable under the Constitution’(66 NLR 73, 78). Although obiter (not essential for the decision), these statements gave support to a move initiated by the Left parties towards a new ‘homegrown’ or ‘autochthonous’ Constitution with a complete legal break from the existing constitutional order in preference to amending the Constitution. There was also a definite trend in the Commonwealth towards enacting ‘homegrown’ constitutions to replace those given by the United Kingdom.

The Constituent Assembly route

It was this trend towards and desire for an autochthonous Constitution that led the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) and the Communist Party (CP) to not support the call of the 1965 government of Dudley Senanayake of the United National Party (UNP) to re-establish the Joint Select Committee on the Revision of the Constitution. The SLFP, LSSP and CP, which later combined to form the United Front (UF), whilst declining to serve on the Joint Select Committee, proposed that a Constituent Assembly be set up to adopt and enact a new constitution. At the general election of May 1970, the UF, as reflected in its manifesto, sought from the electorate a mandate to permit the Members of Parliament to function simultaneously as a Constituent Assembly. The Assembly would draft, adopt and operate a new constitution, the primary objective of which was to make the country a free, sovereign and independent republic dedicated to the realisation of a socialist democracy that would guarantee the fundamental rights and freedoms of all citizens.

At the above-referenced general election, 84.9% of the voters, a significantly high percentage even for an electorate known for its enthusiastic participation in elections, exercised their franchise. The UF won 116 out of 151 seats on offer but obtained 48.8% of the total votes cast. With the support of the six nominated members and the two independent members who won their seats with the help of the UF, the latter now commanded 124 seats in the 157-member Parliament. The UNP was down to 17 seats. The Federal Party (FP) won 13 seats while Tamil Congress (TC) won 03.

The Governor-General, in the course of delivering the first Throne Speech of the new Parliament, called upon the Members of Parliament to form a Constituent Assembly in keeping with the mandate asked for and given by the people at the general election.

That the Address of Thanks to the Throne Speech was passed without a division is also important. On 11 July, 1970, Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike wrote to all members of the House of Representatives to invite them for a meeting to be held on 19 July, 1970, to consider and adopt a resolution for constituting themselves into a Constituent Assembly.

The meeting was to be held at the Navarangahala, the newly constructed auditorium of Royal College, Colombo, and not in the chamber of the House of Representatives, signifying the intention of the UF to make a complete break from the 1947 Constitution. Dr Colvin R. de Silva, the Minister of Constitutional Affairs, emphasised that what was contemplated was not an attempt to create a new superstructure on an old foundation. It is a matter of great significance that all political parties, represented in Parliament, participated in the formation of the Constituent Assembly on 19 July, 1970.

J.R. Jayewardene, the Leader of the Opposition and Deputy Leader of the UNP, joining the debate on the resolution to set up a Constituent Assembly, reminded the UF that it had a mandate only from less than 50% of the people. Nevertheless, if both sides of the legislature, the victors and the vanquished, agreed to make common cause in enacting a new basic law through a legal revolution, that new law, if accepted by the people, will become the full expression of the hopes, desires and aspirations of the present generation.

V. Dharmalingam of the FP, while questioning the need to go outside the existing Constitution, noted: “We are making common cause with you in enacting a new Constitution not as a vanquished people but as the representatives of a people who have consistently at successive elections since 1956 given us a mandate to change the present Constitution which has been the source of all evil to the Tamil people.”

The leader of the FP, S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, urged the Assembly to reach common ground on controversial issues and quoted Jawaharlal Nehru in support: “We shall go to the Constituent Assembly with the fixed determination of finding a common basis for agreement on all controversial issues.”

V. Anandasangaree, speaking on behalf of the TC, stated that his party did not wish to be a stumbling block but requested the Government to be fair and adopt the new Constitution unanimously.

Indicating the acceptance of the Constituent Assembly route towards the adoption of a new constitution by all political parties, the proposed resolution to form the Constituent Assembly was unanimously passed on 21 July 1970.

It is significant that all political parties represented in Parliament participated in the formation of the Constituent Assembly, thus giving legitimacy to the process. However, the Constitution that the Constituent Assembly adopted lacked similar legitimacy. The Federal Party discontinued participation after the Assembly decided to make Sinhala the only official language. The United National Party voted against the Constitution. With all political parties agreeing on the Constituent Assembly process, it was a unique opportunity to adopt a constitution that had the support of the people at large. But Assembly proceedings show that the United Front, which had a two-thirds majority but had received a little less than 50% of the popular vote, imposed a constitution of its choice. The Constitution also extended the term of the legislature by two years which had a chilling effect on Sri Lankan democracy. There is certainly a lot to learn from the 1970-72 reform process.

Retaining the parliamentary form of government

Whilst the desire of the UF was to make a complete break from the Soulbury Constitution modelled on the British system, it nevertheless considered the Westminster model of parliamentary government to be suitable for Sri Lanka.

However, J.R. Jayewardene proposed the introduction of an executive presidency, a proposal opposed even by Dudley Senanayake, a former prime minister and the leader of the UNP. Interestingly though, Jayewardene was to have the last word. After he was elected Prime Minister in 1977, the UNP he led having obtained an unprecedented five-sixths majority in Parliament, Jayewardene introduced the executive presidency through the Second Amendment to the 1972 Constitution. He followed it up with the Second Republican Constitution of 1978, based on an executivepresidency sans any checks and balances usually found in countries with a presidential form of government.

It is salutary, in the above context, to recall the words and sentiments expressed by Sirimavo Bandaranaike during the debate on the Second Amendment to the Constitution: “The effect of this amendment is to place the President above the National State Assembly. Above the law and above the courts, thereby creating a concentration of State power in one person, whoever he might be. This has happened in other countries before, and history is full of examples of the disastrous consequences that came upon such nations that changed their Constitutions by giving one man too much power. (…) We oppose this Bill firmly and unequivocally. It will set our country on the road to dictatorship and there will be no turning back. This Bill will mark the end of democracy in Sri Lanka, as the late Dudley Senanayake realized when these same ideas were put to him in the United National Party.”

Dr De Silva warned against the danger of counterposing the Prime Minister chosen by the people who are sovereign against a President who is directly elected: “Let me put it directly and more strongly. You have the Prime Minister chosen by the people who are sovereign. Then, if you have a President, chosen also by the sovereign people directly through the exercise of a similar franchise, you have at the heart and apex of the State two powers counterposed to each other, each drawing its power from the same source, the sovereign people, but each drawing the power independent of the other.” No Constitution will be able to define adequately and satisfactorily the relationship between the two, he explained.

(Next: Part II: A Majoritarian Constitution)

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Jacqueline concerned about situation in Sri Lanka

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Jacqueline Fernandez: They need empathy and support

Jacqueline Fernandez, who is very much a part of Sri Lanka, and now a big name in Bollywood, has been in the news quite often, the past few months – for various reasons.

However, she does worry about the situation in Sri Lanka and had this to say on Instagram:

“As a Srilankan, it is heartbreaking to see what my country and countrymen are going through. I have been flooded with a lot of opinions since this began from around the world. I would say, do not be too quick to pass a judgement and vilify any group based on what is shown. The world and my people do not need another judgement, they need empathy and support. 2-minutes of silent prayer for their strength and well-being will bring you much closer to them than a comment based on a loose grasp of the situation,” she wrote.

“To my country and countrymen, I am hoping this situation comes to an end soon and through means which are peaceful and for the benefit of the people. Praying for immense strength to those dealing with this. Peace to all!” she added.

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