Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Sri Lankan Tamil Struggle

Chapter 20: Birth and Death of Jaffna Youth Congress (continued)

by T. Sabaratnam, January 15, 2011
A journalist who reported the Sri Lankan ethnic crisis for over 50 years

In retrospect, the Coomaraswamy family’s Colombo-centered approach which promoted Sri Lankan nationalism and the Jaffna Youth Congress’s blind following of the Madras resolutions of the Indian National Congress prevented the Tamil leadership from working out a constitutional solution suitable for the Sri Lankan Tamils.

Gandhi’s visit and the arrival of the Donoughmore commissioners in November 1927 determined the course of the history of Sri Lanka and that of the Sri Lankan Tamils. Gandhi who reached Colombo on November 12 and the Donoughmore Commissioners the next day affected the political history of the Sinhalese and the Tamils in different ways.

Gandhi, though he avoided speaking about the Indian freedom struggle which he was heading at the meetings he addressed in Sri Lanka, generated greater amount of interest among the Tamils, especially the youth, than among the Sinhalese. Tamils were moved by the emerging Indian talk of ‘Poorna Swaraj’ (Total Freedom) while the moderate Sinhalese leadership decided to reap the benefits that flowed from Donoughmore Commission recommendations.

Tamil youths were affected by the emotional climate generated by the boycott of the Simon Commission which was appointed by the British Conservative government in the middle of 1927 to investigate and report about India’s demands for constitutional reforms. The Indian National Congress and other radical organizations decided to boycott the 7-member commission headed by Sir John Simon. Several organizations that supported the freedom struggle decided to boycott the Simon Commission because it did not include any Indian national. That decision gave the Jaffna Youth Congress the idea about boycotts.

The Donoughmore Commissioners witnessed the enthusiasm with which Sri Lankans received Gandhi and the huge crowds that attended his meetings. They also saw that Tamils were more enthusiastic than the Sinhalese. The commissioners noted that the Tamils had become more radical than the Singhalese.

The British colonial administrators and the Donoughmore Commissioners realized that they could no longer depend on the support of the minority communities to prolong their rule in Sri Lanka and switched their policy from backing the minority communities to going along with the Sinhalese who were prepared to accept self-government.

The Jaffna Youth Congress concentrated on social reform, temperance movement and economic development as a follow up of the Gandhi’s visit and the resolutions it passed at its third annual convention held in early December 1927 in Jaffna concentrated on those areas. It started the Youth Service League which opened branches in several villages and conducted its campaign in Tamil using the local idiom which the people easily understood.

The Jaffna Youth Congress propagandists, dressed in verti and national banian, spoke about the equality of man, the need to open the temples for the untouchables, the need to admit children of low castes to schools, preached about the evils of alcohol consumption, promoted the cooperative system, advocated the adoption of the national dress, and stressed the need for national unity. They became popular with the masses and before the end of 1927 the Jaffna Youth Congress had built for itself a mass base among the Jaffna people.

The Jaffna Youth Congress sent a small delegation to the annual sessions of the Indian National Congress held at Madras during the closing days of December 1927. The Madras sessions which marked the turning point in Indian freedom struggle influenced the thinking and actions of the Jaffna Youth Congress for the next six years (1928- 1934). In retrospect, the Coomaraswamy family’s Colombo-centered approach which promoted Sri Lankan nationalism and the Jaffna Youth Congress’s blind following of the Madras resolutions of the Indian National Congress prevented the Tamil leadership from working out a constitutional solution suitable for the Sri Lankan Tamils.

Dr. M.A. Ansari, President of the 1927 Madras Sessions

Indian historians consider the “Poorna Swaraj” and the boycott resolutions passed at the Madras sessions as the turning point in Indian history. Jawaharlal Nehru, the then emerging political leader, proposed both those resolutions. The demand to boycott the Simon Commission had become popular with the people by the time the Madras sessions was held. Jawaharlal Nehru moved the boycott resolution at the instance of the working committee. That resolution turned the boycott campaign into a popular movement.

The Poorna Swaraj reolution was the brainchild of K.N. Joglekar, the leader of the Bombay-based trade union. Joglekar represented the Worker’s and Peasant’s Party at the Congress sessions. He moved the resolution at the working committee and Jawaharlal Nehru seconded. It was accepted despite stiff opposition by the conservative leaders of the party who backed the constitutional approach. At the open sessions Jawaharlal Nehru proposed and Joglekar seconded it.

The single-sentence resolution which read, “The Congress declares the goal of the Indian people to be complete national independence,” was adopted with enthusiasm.

Handy Perinbanayagam told me when I interviewed him for an article published in Thinakaran Varamanjari on the 50th anniversary of the Jaffna Youth Congress in December 1986 that the Madras resolutions became the guide and objective of the Jaffna Youth Congress. Most of the materials I use in this chapter are from that interview.

Donoughmore Commission

The Donoughmore Commission was busy receiving representations and interviewing witnesses while the Jaffna Youth Congress commenced its campaign for Poorna Swaraj for Sri Lanka. The Donoughmore Commission held 34 sittings and interviewed 140 witnesses and delegations during November 13, 1927 to January 18, 1928.

During its hearings the Donoughmore Commissioners clearly indicated their thinking about the establishment of democratic institutions in Sri Lanka. They said that they were talking about the democratic institutions to which they were used to as members of the London County Councils and the British Parliament. Dr. Drummond-Shiels and Butler were London County Councilors before they entered parliament. The London County Council though elected on party basis functioned through committees which permitted the opposition party councilors a role in the administration. They were also talking about the parliamentary system of government which was built on the principles of territorial seats, the right to vote and the promotion of the principle of equality of opportunity for every man.

Tamil and Kandyan leaders failed to realize the political thinking and the background of the Donoughmore Commissioners. Lord Donoughmore, the chairman was earlier Under-Secretary of State for War and Chairman of the committees of the House of Lords and a firm upholder of democratic traditions. Sir Geoffrey Butler was a teacher at Cambridge University before he entered Parliament. He was an expert on the procedures of the League of Nations which also functioned through committees. Sir Mathew Nathan was a former Governor in Hong Kong and Sir Drummond Shiels was a Labor Party member and a Scottish Fabian. Butler and Shiels were members of the short-lived Labour- Liberal coalition government of Lloyd George of 1926.

The leaders of the Tamil delegations went completely against the thinking of the commissioners. Ramanathan who led the Ceylon Tamil League particularly, irritated them by insisting on communal representation and restricted voting rights. He argued correctly that territorial representation combined with adult franchise would ultimately lead to Sinhala domination and Sinhala rule. He also argued correctly for the grant of safeguards for the minority communities.

Ramanathan submitted that territorial representation would give the Sinhalese larger representation and influence in the affairs of the state because they were the majority in seven of the nine provinces. Universal franchise would enable the Sinhalese to obtain a greater number of seats because of their bigger population. When territorial representation and universal suffrage were combined it would lead to Sinhala domination, he submitted. He called that “mob rule.”

The safeguards Ramanathan proposed were reactionary: communal representation and restricted suffrage. He argued that Tamils and other minority communities should be allocated the number of seats proportionate to their population and allowed to elect their representatives. He vehemently opposed universal suffrage.

He asked the commissioners,

Is there anything sacrosanct about adult suffrage? Did the leaders of the people ask for it? Did the Commissioners feel in their heart of hearts that the country was ripe for it?

They count people by their heads like cattle, 50 men on this side and 40 men on that side, or 60 men on one side and 40 on the other side.

Ramanathan: The constitution you are proposing is ill suited to the needs of the country.

Donoughmore: You are out of tune with times Sir Ramanathan.

Ramanathan: It is meaningless casting pearls before swine.

Ramanathan submitted that property and literacy qualifications should be the basis for the granting of voting rights.

Ramanathan irritated the commissioners more when he argued that non-vellala Tamils should not be given voting rights. The matter concerning the depressed people in the Hindu society was considered following a memorial submitted by N. Selvadurai and other leaders of Jaffna’s depressed community detailing the discrimination under which they lived.

In that they said a vast section of the people living in the Jaffna peninsula had been discriminated against from historical times. They were deprived of their lands during the Dutch rule and made to work like slaves for the land owning vellalas. They added that they were also denied educational facilities. Thus they argued that insisting on property and literacy qualifications would amount to refusal of voting rights to them.

Ramanathan argued strongly against the granting of voting rights to the people of depressed classes. He submitted that granting voting rights to non-vellalas was anathema to the Hindu way of life. He argued that giving voting rights to the people of depressed castes would be a grave mistake.

The commissioners disagreed violently with Ramanathan. They said denying voting rights to about 80,000 persons because they belonged to the low castes would amount to “placing an oligarchy in power without any guarantee that the interests of the remainder of the people would be consulted by those in authority”. The commissioners also told Ramanathan that the low caste people should not be deprived of voting rights because they belonged to the low caste. Granting of voting rights and the provision of equal educational facilities would be the way to remedy their situation.

The Tamil Mahajana Sabhai and the Jaffna Association headed by W. Duraiswamy argued for communal representation stipulating that the proportion of Sinhalese representatives to Tamil representatives should be 2:1. The All Ceylon Tamil Conference, formed in December 1927 by the younger section of the Ceylon Tamil League under the leadership of M. Sri Pathmanathan to present the non- Ramanathan viewpoint supported universal franchise and territorial representation but pressed for safeguards for the Tamils through communal representation. They also advocated the 2:1 ratio. 

The Muslims represented by T.B. Jayah too voiced the fears of their community if territorial representation and universal suffrage were granted to Ceylon. Jayah in his memorandum “Muslims and Proposed Constitutional Changes” argued for safeguards for the minorities; safeguards that would prevent the swamping of the minorities by the Sinhalese. He also argued for adequate representation for Muslims.

By 1927 Muslims had established their separate identity based on their religion. Muslim elites had, according to N.U. Nuhuman, developed a sense of ethnic consciousness during the middle of the 19th century. That was their reaction to the growth of Sinhala- Buddhist and Tamil nationalisms. The famous debate which Ramanathan originated in 1980’s in his attempt to deny the Muslims a seat in the Legislative Council helped them to consolidate their ethnic consciousness into ethnic identity. As I pointed out in Chapter 15, Ramanathan’s effort to deny the Muslims their separate identity and representation earned for the Tamils the Muslims' suspicion and hostility.

The hostility and suspicion against the Tamils was further intensified by Ramanathan’s decision to take up the cause of the Sinhalese even though Muslims were the victims of the 1915 riots. Muslim leaders and researchers point out the contradiction in Ramanathan’s stand in the 1880s and 1915 to maintain that he was anti- Muslim. In 1880 he argued that Muslims were part of the Tamil ethnic group. In 1915 he abandoned them and stood with the Sinhalese, they say.

Muslims, according to F. Zackriya, saw in Ramanathan’s defence of the Sinhalese a Sinhala- Tamil coalition against the Muslims. He wrote thus in his research paper on Muslim Tamil relationship;

The Sinhala parties were being defended by well known Tamil leader who clearly showed an antipathy towards the Muslims. From a Muslim viewpoint it appeared as though there was an alliance between the Sinhala and Tamil elites. So much so that the same alliance of Tamil-Sinhala elites founded the Ceylon National Congress in 1917, the fears of the Muslims increased as memories of 1915 were still very strong and the Muslim leadership kept out of it. However the Sinhala-Tamil alliance was resting on fragile ground, as revealed by the subsequent events which related to seats in the Legislative Council and other aspects of political patronage from the colonial government.

The Ceylon National Congress which pressed hard for territorial representation submitted that the franchise should be restricted. E.W. Perera who led the delegation of the Ceylon National Congress submitted that voting rights should be given to males earning over 50 rupees per month. He said women of over 25 years of age having literacy and property qualification should be granted voting rights.

The Ceylon National Congress pleaded for a parliamentary form of government with a prime minister and a cabinet of ministers. The Tamil delegation did not place any scheme for government. The Kandyans pleaded for a federal form of government.

The Ceylon Indian Association, an association of merchants and money lenders, supported communal representation. Its delegation which claimed it represented the plantation workers also pleaded for an increase of the Indian communal seats from two to five. They suggested a literacy qualification for the granting of voting rights.

Trade union leader and the leader of the Labour Party A.E. Goonesinghe was the only politician who asked for universal suffrage. He went to the extent of burning effigies of the leaders of the Ceylon National Congress for refusing to support his demand for universal suffrage.

The Federal Solution

The Kandyan leaders pleaded for a federal constitution which would give them an autonomous region. The demand was made by the Kandyan National Assembly headed by P.E. Nugawela. The Kandyan National Assembly was formed in 1925 by the Kandyan leaders who broke away from the Ceylon National Congress in 1925 because Low Country Sinhala leaders had broken an agreement they reached with the Kandyan leaders.

Kandyan leaders were reluctant to support the 1924 reforms because they feared that Low Country Sinhalese leaders might win most of the seats in the Kandyan districts. Low Country Sinhala leaders won the support of the Kandyan leaders giving a promise not to contest the Kandyan seats. They broke the agreement and contested and won most of the seats in the Kandyan areas. Only three Kandyans were elected in the 1924 election. The fear of the Kandyans that Low Country Sinhalese would exploit the Kandyan resources and people led to their thought of safeguarding their interests. The solution they thought was a change in the structure of the state.

They placed a federal solution on the table and pleaded that that would provide them the necessary safeguards for them to maintain their separate identity. The Kandyan delegation also told the Commission that a federal constitution would help the Kandyans and the Tamils to retain their separate identity and rights.

The Kandyan delegation submitted a scheme where Sri Lanka would be divided into three regions: Tamil, Low Country Sinhalese and Kandyan Sinhalese. The scheme proposed that the northern and eastern provinces be brought into the Tamil Region; western, southern and parts of the northwestern and north central provinces into the Low Country Sinhala Region and central, Uva and Sabragamuva and the hilly portions of the north central and northwestern provinces that were under the Kandyan Kingdom into the Kandyan region.

The Kandyans urged that each region should have its legislative assemblies and provided the list of subjects that should be assigned to them. They also provided the list of subjects that should be handled by the central government.

Tamil leaders did not support the rational solution the Kandyans proposed. They not only failed to think of an alternate state structure but also failed to support the one presented by the Kandyans. Three reasons can be attributed for their failure to support the federal solution proposed by the Kandyans. The first was their Colombo-centric thinking. Coomaraswamy and his descendants considered themselves as part of the Colombo elites and went to the Jaffna peninsula only to canvas the support of the people there. Ramanathan though he resided in Jaffna peninsula in the latter part of his life always considered himself as part of the Colombo elite.

Secondly, Ramanathan and Arunachalam hoped to be leaders of the country. Jayaratnam Wilson in his book Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism Its Origins and Development in the I9th and 20th Centuries says that they even hoped to be the chief ministers under the 1924 constitution. They had faith in their Sinhalese colleagues but the Sinhala leaders thought in terms of obtaining for the Sinhalese their due. By the time of the 1924 constitution other Sinhalese leaders like the Senanayake brothers (F.R. and D.S.) and Sir James Peiris had emerged to claim the leadership. Ramanathan and Arunachalam failed to realize that the Sinhalese leaders too would have had their ambition to be leaders.

Thirdly, the influence of the Indian freedom struggle led not only Ramanathan and Arunachalam along the wrong track of Sri Lankan nationalism but also the Jaffna youths. Some of them like K. Nesaiah were undergraduates at the university colleges in Madras and they thought in terms of Sri Lanka. Promoting national unity and Sri Lankan nationalism were two of the main objectives of the Jaffna Youth Congress.

Social Reform Movement

Social reform had been the main objective of the Jaffna Students Congress from its inception. As pointed out in the last chapter, the Jaffna Students Congress resolved in its first sessions to work towards the eradication of social evils, particularly untouchability and the dowry system. In that they were influenced by the Vaikom Satyagraha which took place in the Travancore state, now a portion of the Kerala state.  

Vaikom Satyagraha was the first agitation for social equality in India. Roads adjoining the famous Sri Mahadevar Temple were banned for the use of uintouchables who were also called Harijans. Temple priests claimed that the use of the roads by untouchables would pollute them.  Indian National Congress members of the Travancore state, then part of the Madras Presidency, decided to take action to abolish that degrading system. They decided to hold a satyagraha on March 30, 1924. Temple trustees went to the magistrate court and obtained an order prohibiting the satyagrahis from entering the prohibited roads. Notice boards announcing the order of the court were errected at the entrances of the prohibited roads and police constables were placed to implement the court order.

The Congress members decided to defy the order and court arrest. Every day batches of Congress volunteers headed by high caste Nairs entered the prohibited roads and were arrested. The agitation received wide publicity in India and Sri Lanka. Jaffna youths followed it with interest.

Erode Venkata Ramasamy Naiker (1879- 1973), popularly known as EVR or Periyar, was the leader  of the Indian National Congress branch of the Indian National Congress during that time. He was from a rich merchant family of Karnataka origin that had settled down at Erode. He entered the family business at the age of 12 but gave it up and joined the Congress in 1919. He rose to the position of a member of the Erode Municipality before he was elected leader of the Congress branch in 1924.

Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bay of Trivancore

Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bay of Trivancore

Defying the order of Gandhi that non-Malayalis should keep out of the Vaikom Satyagraha he joined it on April 14 with his wife Nagamma and were arrested and jailed. He was unrelenting and refused to leave Vaikom until the road was opened.

Gandhi, who was informed of the agitation, went to Vaikom in 1925, negotiated with Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi of Travancore, and worked out a compromise: the government to withdraw the police and the satiyagrahis to put off the agitation. The satyagraha received nation-wide attention and the members of the newly formed Jaffna Students’ Congress sent volunteers to participate in it.

Maharani Lakshmi Bayi (1895- 1985) who was regent for her nephew Chitra Thirunal from 1924 till late 1931 followed up the compromise worked out with Gandhi by throwing all the streets in Travancore open for the use of untouchables. She won the praise of all Hindus by abolishing the Devadasi system in 1925, by abolishing animal sacrifice and the practice that all female worshipers should bare their breasts on entering the temples in 1926 and by introducing the panchayat system. Those reforms invigorated the reformists in Tamil Nadu and Jaffna.

E.V. Ramaswamy Naiker was unhappy with the compromise Gandhi worked out with Maharani Lakshmi Bayi because he felt that Brahmins were helping each other to the detriment of the non- Brahmins. (Please note that Gandhi was a Brahmin). He was also annoyed that his role in the Vaikom Satyagraha was blacked out in the newspapers owned by the Brahmins.  

Frustrated, E.V. Ramaswamy Naiker left the Congress in November 1925 and formed the Self-respect Movement which was "dedicated to the goal of giving non-Brahmins a sense of pride based on their Dravidian past". He then launched a vigorous campaign for social reform while other nationalist movements focused on the struggle for political independence. His attack was mainly against the caste system, child marriage, ridiculous and harmful superstitions, traditions, customs and habits.

Young E.V. Ramaswamy Naiker Periyar when he was a merchant

EVR when he was a merchant

To propagate the ideals of the Self Respect Movement E.V. Ramaswamy Naiker started a Tamil weekly Kudi Arasu which became very popular among the Tamils. He started an English weekly Revolt in 1928.

The Self Respect Movement grew fast and received the sympathy of the heads of the Justice Party from the beginning. It held its first conference in May 1929 at Pattukoddai under the presidency of S. Guruswami. EVR announced at that conference his decision to renounce the caste denomination Nayakar from his name.

The Self Respect Movement started a training school in Self-Respect at Erode, EVR’s home town to train volunteers to propagate the ideals of the organization. Its aim was social revolution. Handy Perinbanayagam told me that the Jaffna Youth Congress sent a volunteer group to be trained at that training camp.

One  month before the Pattukoddai conference, in mid- April, the Jaffna Youth Congress held its annual sessions at the Jaffna esplanade.  It adopted a resolution to upgrade the network of Social Service Leagues established in 1925 into youth leagues. The conference also decided to invite EVR to tour Jaffna.

EVR arrived in Jaffna on June 14 and was accorded a grand welcome at the Jaffna esplanade that evening. The Morning Star of June 22 reported that EVR told the huge gathering, “I don’t believe in God but I was born in a highly religious family. I became an atheist after seeing the things that are being done in the name of God. How can you believe in God when a section of the people are denied entry into the temple?”

EVR condemned animal sacrifice, told the audience not to believe in superstitions and declared the practice of denying educational opportunities to the children of a section of the depressed community as atrocious. He also castigated the members of the high castes for discriminating against the children of the low caste people in the seating arrangements in schools.

EVR also spoke on national liberation. He said social reform should be part of the freedom struggle. “We must put our house in order before we achieve independence,” he said.

Then EVR toured Jaffna for two weeks and visited several schools and villages. The Youth Leagues organized huge receptions. E.V.R. appealed to the youths to take the lead in the social emancipation of the downtrodden people of the Jaffna peninsula. He told them to concentrate initially on the fields of education and economic development. He appealed to the youths to end the caste discrimination practiced in admission and seating.

Jaffna schools at that time refused admission to the children of the paraya cast, the lowest in the caste ladder. They admitted the children of the other non-vellala castes but they had to either sit on the ground or sit on benches a few inches lower than those on which vellala children sat.

According the Morning Star and Uthayatharakai EVR denounced that practice as inhuman and barbaric. He urged the educated youths to remedy the situation.

The Donoughmore Report

The Donoughmore Commission issued its report in June 1929. In it the Commissioners said the 1924 constitution which provided a majority for unofficial members was an unqualified failure. They argued that the failure was due to the fact that the unofficial members were given power without responsibility. They concluded that any further constitutional development of Sri Lanka had to be something that would create a sense of responsibility towards government. Therefore, they recommended a reform package that provided responsibilities for Sri Lankan politicians.

The main recommendations of the Donoughmore Commission were:

  • Adult suffrage
  • Territorial Representation, and
  • State Council

Of these recommendations the introduction of adult suffrage was considered the major change. Men and women of 21 years of age were granted voting rights. The commissioners laid down two restrictions. The first was the residence qualification.  To be eligible to be a voter one should have resided in Sri Lanka for five years and his temporary absence during that period should not exceed a total of eight months. The commissioners said a residence qualification was laid down to ensure that only those with an abiding interest in the country and those who were regarded as permanently settled were registered as citizens. The commission noted, “this condition will be of particular importance in its application to the Indian immigrant population.” The second condition was that the registration of voters should not be compulsory or automatic.

The first restriction was the result of the campaign led by D.S. Senanayake, A.E. Goonesinghe and other Sinhalese leaders. They argued that Indian immigrants should not be granted voting rights because they were not permanently resident and had no abiding interest in the country. The commissioners thus adopted the tests ‘permanent residence’ and ‘abiding interest’ for granting voting rights to Indian Tamils.

To establish that the Indian immigrants had no permanent residency and abiding interest the Sinhalese leaders pointed out the Indian Emigration Act which India enacted in 1922. India enacted that legislation due to the pressure of the Indian National Congress which demanded that the Indian Government should look after the welfare of the Indians abroad. The enactment required the countries in which Indian emigrants lived to upgrade their living conditions and threatened to end emigration if they failed to take action. Sri Lanka enacted the Indian Immigrant Labour Ordinance of 1923 to satisfy the Indian government.

Sinhalese leaders pointed out those ordinances and argued that the Indian Tamils living in Ceylon enjoyed Indian protections and thus they had no permanent residence or abiding interest in Sri Lanka. They also argued that if citizenship rights were granted to the Indian migrants, Kandyan Sinhalese would be deprived of their representation.

In the last chapter I noted the basis on which voting rights were given under the 1924 constitution. I said that there were territorial and communal electorates. I also pointed out that under the Indian Communal Electorate system provision was made to elect two Indian members.

Under the 1924 election law any Indian who was settled permanently in Sri Lanka and possessed the qualification to register as a voter was entitled to register himself as voter in the territorial electorate. Any Indian who was temporarily resident in Sri Lanka and possessed the qualifications to be registered as a voter could register themselves as voters in the Indian Communal electorate. In the 1924 election 12.901 Indians resident in Sri Lanka registered themselves as voters and elected the two Indian representatives.

The Donoughmore Commissioners almost wiped out the voting rights of the resident Indian population by laying down the five year residence qualification for voting rights. The attack on the voting rights of the Indian Tamils began during 1927 and 1928.

Lord Donoughmore

Lord Donoughmore

The second important recommendation of the Donoughmore Commission was the election of the representatives through territorial electorates. The commissioners rejected the demands for the retention of the system of communal representation saying it would perpetuate division among the communities and not unite them.

In their report they said,

We have unhesitatingly come to the conclusion that communal representation is, as it were, a canker of the body politic, eating deeper and deeper into the vital energies of the people, breeding self-interest, suspicion and animosity, poisoning the new growth of the political consciousness and effectively preventing the development of the national or corporate sprit.

There can be no hope of binding together the diverse elements of the population, in a realization of the common kinship and an acknowledgement of common obligation to the country of which they are all citizens, as long as the system of communal representation, with all its disintegrating influences, remains a distinctive feature of the constitution.

The third main recommendation was the establishment of the State Council. The Donoughmore Commission recommended the establishment of a State Council composed of 50 territorially elected representatives and three officials. The officials were: the Chief Secretary, the Financial Secretary and the Legal Secretary. The Governor nominated eight members to represent the unrepresented interests. Thus the total membership of the State Council was 61.

The Donoughmore Commission took the minority fears into account to devise their constitution. On Page 31 of their report they said,

Not only is the population not homogenous, but the divergent elements of which it is composed distrust and suspect each other. It is almost time to say that the conception of patriotism in Ceylon is as much racial as national and the best interests of the country are synonymous with the welfare of a particular section of the people. If the claims for full responsible government be subjected to examination from this standpoint, it will be found that its advocates are always to be numbered among those from the larger communities

Having taken into account the diverse nature of the Sri Lankan society and the distrust and the suspicion that prevailed the Donoughmore commissioners devised a system that would permit the participation of all elected members in the government of the country. Two of them being former members of the London County Council which successfully worked through the committee system the commission made use of that system to help the sharing of power among all elected representatives.

The committee system the commissioners introduced was: The State Council at its inaugural meeting elected a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker. The rest of the representatives divided themselves into seven committees. The seven committees were for the following subjects:

  • Agriculture,
  • Education,
  • Health,
  • Home Affairs,
  • Local Government,
  • Communications and Public Works,
  • Labour and Industry and Commerce.

Each committee then meet and elected its chairman. Chairmen of the committees were designated ministers and the ministers formed the Board of Ministers. The Board of Ministers elected their leader who became the Leader of the State Council. The State Council functioned in executive and legislative capacity. The Board of Ministers performed the executive duties and the committees the legislative function.

Next: Tamils Take the Wrong Road




Chapter 1: The Context

Chapter 2: Origins of Racial Conflict

Chapter 3: Emergence of Racial Consciousness

Chapter 4: Birth of the Tamil State

Chapter 5: Tamils Lose Sovereignty

Chapter 6: Birth of a Unitary State

Chapter 7: Emergence of Nationalisms

Chapter 8: Growth of Nationalisms

Chapter 9: Religious Revival

Chapter 10: Parallel Growth of Nationalisms

Chapter 11: Consolidation of Nationalisms

Chapter 12: Consolidation of Nationalisms (Part 2)

Chapter 13: Clash of Nationalisms

Chapter 14: Clash between Nationalism Intensifies

Chapter 15: Tamils Demand Communal Representation

Chapter 16: The Arunachalam Factor 

Chapter 17: The Arunachalam Factor (Part 2)

Chapter 18: The First Sinhala - Tamil Rift

Chapter 19: The Birth and Death of the Jaffna Youth Congress

Chapter 20: The Birth and Death of the Jaffna Youth Congress (Part 2)

Chapter 21: Tamils Take the Wrong Road


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