Anguish and pain
By K T Rajasingham, ‘Asian Times,’ Singapore
The government led by Srimavo Bandaranaike, issued a Treasury circular No 560 of December 1961, which stated that government servants appointed since 1956, should obtain minimum proficiency in the official language – Sinhala, to retain their posts, as well as to earn their annual salary increments and promotions. Meanwhile, Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi called upon Tamil government employees not to study and work in Sinhala.
At the time, the General Clerical Service Union (GCSU) was one of the oldest trade unions that had been formed to look after the interests of clerical servants in government service. When the government started harassing the Tamil government servants to acquire proficiency in the Sinahala language, the GCSU, which was dominated by the Sinhalese leadership, failed to come to the rescue of the Tamil officers. Thus, the government successfully managed to break one of the oldest and most powerful trade unions in the country.
After the introduction of Sinhala as the official language, a few Tamil officers anticipated such a calamity and organized the Arasangam Servaiyar Sankam – the Government Service-people Association – in the early part of 1959, and this in turn led to the organization of Arasanga Eluthuvinaignar Sankam – Government Clerical Service Union (AES), a pioneer trade union set up on a linguistic basis to fight for the cause of the Tamil officers.
The AES was followed by Arasa Kooduthapana Ooliyar Sankam – State Cooperation Employees Union, Pukaivandip Pakuthi Ooliyar Sankam – Railway Workers Union, Pukaivandip Pakuthi Eluthuvinaignar Sankam – Railway Clerical Service Union, Anjal Eluthuvinaignar Sankam – Postal Clerical Service Union, Tamil Aasiryar Sankam – The Tamil Teachers Trade Union, Thuraimuga Tholilar Kazhagan – Harbor Workers Union; Netsanthaip Paduththum Sabai Ooliyar Sankam – Paddy Marketing Board Workers Union, Ilankai Tholilar Kazhagam – Ceylon Labor Union for Plantation Sector Workers. A total of 17 Tamil trade unions emerged and by 1976, all of them came under an umbrella organization, called Tholitsangankalin Kooddu Sammelanam – The Tamil Trade Unions Federation, with X M Sellathambu, the Member of Parliament from Mullaithievu and a leading member of the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi, as president and I T Sampanthamoorthy, a veteran Tamil Trade-unionist, as the secretary-general.
Earlier, Chelliah Kodeeswaran, K Sivanandasundaram, R Balasubramaniam, T Somasundaram, Adiyapatham, Aiyer and many others who left the GCSU, inaugurated the Arasanga Eluthuvinangar Sankam. Kodeeswaran was elected as the president of the Arasanka Eluthuvinaignar Sankam. He refused to sit for the Sinhala proficiency examination and filed a case against the government at District Court of Colombo, challenging the validity of the decision to stop the annual increment of his salary, under the Treasury circular and the Official Language Act of 1956.
The Tamil trade union drew its inspiration from the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi. The party not only patronized the trade union, but also rendered all the necessary assistance to it. S J V Chelvanayakam, the leader of the party, put the AES in touch with M Thiruchelvam, a former solicitor-general and a Queen’s Council. “Murugesu Tiruchelvam, QC, was formerly solicitor-general [a legal, not political appointment] in the Bandaranaike’s government. When he and his brother M Rajendra [later head of the Civil Service] came to Ceylon as students, their father entrusted them to the care of Chelvanayakam, who guided them in their education. There was strong affinity and bond of affection between Tiruchelvam and Chelvanayakam. Before independence, Tiruchelvam had been a friend and associate of the Legal Secretary and later Chief Justice of Ceylon, Sir Alan Rose, and the two of them were the main draftsmen of the 1947 constitution. According to Tiruchelvam, Rose said, ‘You cannot trust these rascals – we had better state everything in lucid language [in drafting the constitution].'” – S J V Chelvanayakam and the crisis of Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism, 1947 – 1977 by A Jeyaratnam Wilson – page 98.
On Thiruchelvam’s advice, the AES decided to sue the government, challenging the legality of its action. Kodeeswaran, a government servant, sued the attorney-general, as the representative of the government, for the balance salary due to him as an increment, but which was denied to him by the government because he could not pass a test in the Sinhala language.
“Kodeeswaran, therefore, sued the government in the District Court. It was a declaratory action asking the court to declare that the government’s order stopping the payment of the salary increment of Rs10 per month which he had already earned, was illegal, since it was in pursuance of a Treasury Circular, which was itself illegal, because the Treasury Circular purported to implement a law, which was no law at all, that is to say, the Treasury circular sought to implement the Official Language Act of 1956, which was void in terms of Article 29 of the constitution.
“The government in reply, contended that the Act did not contravene the provisions of Article 29. They raised a point further, as the preliminary objection, that in any event, Kodeeswaran as an employee of the government [Crown], had no right to sue his employer for wages on legal principle that a servant of the Crown could not sue the Crown for wages since he held office ‘at the Queen’s pleasure.'” The Fall and Rise of the Tamil Nation by V Navaratnam – page 203.
The suit raised constitutional issues on the validity of the Act and the Treasury Circular. The District Judge, O L De Krester, who belonged to the Burgher community and the most senior member of the judicial service, upheld in favor of Kodeeswaran, by his judgment delivered on April 24, 1964. He ruled that the Official Language Act and the regulation in question were ultra vires and contravened the section 29 of the constitution.
The government appealed in the Supreme Court, which set aside the judgment on the ground, that a government servant had no right to sue the Crown in a court of law for salary or increment. The Supreme Court ignored the constitutional aspects raised in the case, but entered judgment on the preliminary point to the Crown. The Supreme Court, however, stated that, if it became necessary to consider the constitutional issues, the matter would be placed by the Chief Justice, before a bench of five judges of the Supreme Court.
The case that started in 1962, dragged on, when Kodeeswaran appealed to the Privy Council in London against the judgment of the Supreme Court. The AES was very keen in retaining C Renganathan QC, who argued the case before the Supreme Court, to proceed to London to assist senior counsels there. As the Privy Counsel litigation involved huge sums of money, the AES launched a country-wide campaign for funds and urged every Tamil government servant to contribute a month’s salary.
Discriminatory acts against Tamils were preached and practiced by the government led by Srimavo Bandaranaike.
“One of the unbelievable acts of discrimination was in 1961, at the Faculty of Science in the University of Ceylon, where the government scholarship tenable in Britain should have been awarded to G Shanmugam, a Tamil, who headed the first class honors list. However, it was awarded to V K Samaranayake, a Sinhalese, who also got first class honors, but was second to Chanmugam. Samaranayake, a close friend of Chanmugam since their days at Royal College, refused to accept the award. Later, with persuasion from Chanmugam and many other mutual friends, who feared the award would lapse, he reluctantly accepted it.” Dudley Senanayake of Sri Lanka by T D S A Dissanayaka – page 70.
“Another was in 1962, when the Sri Lanka team to the Asian Games in Djakarta should have been led without any doubt whatsoever by N Ethirveerasingham, a Tamil, who had won the sole gold medal for Sri Lanka at the previous games in 1958, in Tokyo. The claims of this famous Olympic athlete, who was several times elected Sportsman of the Year of the nation, were mysteriously overlooked till sanity prevailed, after pressure was brought to bear from many quarters.” Dudley Senanayake of Sri Lanka by T D S A Dissanayaka – page 71.
“By 1963, a large number of Tamil government servants who had been recruited at a time when English was the official language and their increments stopped due to lack of proficiency in Sinhala, till Chelliah Kodeeswaran of the Arasanka Eluthuvinaignar Sankam challenged the verdict in the Supreme court and had his increment restored, and thereby set a precedent.” Dudley Senanayake of Sri Lanka by T D S A Dissanayaka – page 71.
“By this time, it was clear that Tamils and Christians found recruitment to government departments and state corporations next to impossible. Besides many Tamils decided to quit government service and found gainful employment in Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia, Malaysia, and in international civil service of the United Nations or emigrated to Britain, Canada and United States. In this manner the country lost considerable talent and Dudley Senanayake regretted in particular the decision of Professor C J Eliezer, who had distinguish himself as a mathematician at Cambridge and Princeton to leave for Malaysia and that of Raju Coomaraswamy, distinguished civil servant and beyond any doubt the ablest negotiator Sri Lanka had on its international scene, to retire prematurely on the language issue and joined the United Nations Organization – [His career as an international civil servant is just as exemplary. He is today an Assistant Administrator of the UN Development Program and Director of the Regional Bureau of Asia and Far East.] Dudley Senanayake of Sri Lanka by T D S A Dissanayaka – page 71.
Meanwhile, Felix Dias Bandaranaike, who was the Minister of Finance, presented his budgetary proposals to parliament in July 1962. One aspect of his proposal was the reduction of the amount of rice available at a subsidized rate as rations. Though this decision had the support of the prime minister and the cabinet, it provoked strong opposition within the government parliamentary group. The opposition was led by Felix Dias Bandaranaike’s own Deputy Minister, George Rajapakse, who was supported by the back-benchers of the government group and backed by some senior ministers of the government, with the view to embarrass the Finance Minister.
Subsequently, Felix Dias Bandaranaike resigned his finance portfolio on August 27, 1962, and remained as the Parliamentary Secretary to the prime minister in her capacity as Minister of Defense and External Affairs. In the aftermath of Felix Dias Bandaranaike’s resignation, C P De Silva, along with his other portfolios, took over as Minister of Finance and continued until November 5, 1962. Later, P B G Caligula, in addition to his Transport and Works, was appointed as the Minister of Finance.
On May 28, 1963, Srimavo Bandaranaike reshuffled her cabinet for the second time. Felix Dias Bandaranaike was inducted as Minister of Agriculture, Food and Cooperative Development. M P De Z Sriwardene, who was a replacement to Senator C Wijesinghe, who resigned his Minister of Labor and Nationalized Services portfolio in the first cabinet, was given the Ministry of Public Works and Post. D S Goonesekera was the new induction and given the Ministry of Labor and Social Services. Dr Badi-ud-din Mohamed, who was responsible for the nationalization of the schools, was shifted to Ministry of Health and Housing and P B G Kalugalle was given the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs. Mahanama Samaraweera, who was earlier the Minister of Local Government and Housing, was made Minister of Communications and Maitripla Senanayake, who was earlier the Minister of Industries, Home and Cultural Affairs, was sworn as Minister of Commerce and Trade.
There were no surprise additions in the second cabinet of Srimavo Bandaranaike, rather, it was an exercise to carve out a portfolio acceptable to Felix Dias Bandaranaike. Again, it was a Pan-Sinhala Ministry and the Prime Minister simply ignored Tamil representation.
In the meantime, the situation in the south had become explosive. The Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), the Communist Party (CP) and the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP), the three leftist parties, formed a common front called the United Left Front (ULF).
They increased their attacks on the SLFP government with a growing combativeness among the working class. On September 29, 1963, some 800 delegates, representing a million workers, ratified a charter of 21 demands, encompassing workers from the towns, villages and from the plantation sectors for the first time in the history of the island. The immediate reaction of the ULF was threatening to the government.
By the early part of 1964, Philip Gunawardene, the leader of the MEP, broke away from the ULF and began to initiate negotiations for the formation of a national government. Philip Gunawardene’s attempt to forge an alliance with the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), almost killed the ULF.
Confronted with the failure of repressive state measures to halt the movement of the working class, Bandaranaike embarked on a new policy. She decided that the way to head off the growing 21 demands movement – and the frightening prospect for the bourgeoisie of a combined struggle of Sinhala and Tamil workers – was to invite the LSSP leaders to join her government.
In April 1964, the LSSP and SLFP began negotiations. The daily papers had their fill by publishing pictures of Dr N M Perera, an academic with a doctorate degree from the London School of Economics, considered a “Golden-brain”, a veteran Marxist and the leader of the LSSP, playing cricket with the prime minister’s kids – the two daughters, Sunethra and Chandrika (the present president) – and Anura Bandaranaike, the maverick politician in the Bandaranaike clan who has of late kept on changing political parties according to his whims and fancies and who continues to remain a gay bachelor.
Explaining the decision to the executive meeting of the SLFP on May 12, 1964 she declared, “The leftists who worked with us began a series of strikes because they did not get a place in the government. In the north … there were communal issues flaring up. Some people have various ideas on these subjects, some feel that these workers can be made to work at the point of a gun and bayonet. Still others maintain that a national government should be formed to solve these problems. I have considered these ideas separately and in the context of world events. My conclusion is that none of these solutions will take us where we want to go. Therefore, gentlemen, I decided to initiate talks with the leaders of the working class, particularly with Mr. Philip Gunawardene and Dr N M Perera.”
At last, the LSSP coalesced with the SLFP. But two of the LSSPers – Merryl Fernando, (MP for Moratuwa) and Edmund Samarakody (MP for Bulathsinhala) – revolted against the decision to join the government.
They formed the LSSP Revolutionary Party, along with Bala Tampoe and V Karalasingham, affiliated their Party with the Fourth International, the LSSP (Revolutionary Section). Edmund Samarakkody was named secretary of the provisional committee of the new party. On the day of the LSSP conference, June 7, 1964, Edmund Samarakkody issued a statement in the name of the new dissident party. It proclaimed, “The decision of the reformist majority of the LSSP to enter into a coalition with the capitalist SLFP … government and thereby to become an instrument of the capitalist class in Ceylon, constitutes a complete violation of the basic principles of Trotskyism on which the revolutionary program of the party is based.
“This degeneration is the logical outcome of the parliamentary reformist line which the majority of the leadership of the party has followed for several years and the substitution of parliamentary and reformist struggle in place of class struggle and revolutionary perspectives, and the systematic recruitment of non-revolutionary elements into the party on that basis. The revolutionaries of the LSSP have, in this situation, decided to organize themselves on the basis of the party program. They therefore withdraw from the conference and will hereafter function as a separate organization under the name of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party [Revolutionary Section].”
The LSSP(RS) held an Emergency Conference on July 18-19. Before it met, the provisional committee of the new group had written to the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USEC) asking that it be recognized by the USEC as its Ceylonese affiliate. The United Secretariat had already sent a message to the LSSP(RS) saying that it agreed “To recognize this emergency conference as officially constituting the continuing body of the Trotskyite movement in Ceylon and to empower it to speak for and conduct any matters pertaining to the section of the Fourth International in Ceylon.” In its turn, the emergency conference of the LSSP(RS) resolved to accept “the recognition granted, and will hereafter function as the Ceylon Unit of the Fourth International”. Fifty-four delegates voted for this resolution, nine against it, and eight abstained.
Thus ended the association of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party of Ceylon with the international Trotskyite movement. Although, it was to continue to call and consider itself Trotskyite, henceforward no international segment of the movement concurred in that assessment. Subsequently, the three members from the LSSP were inducted as ministers in the third cabinet of Srimavo Bandaranaike, on June 11, 1964. Dr N M Perera, the leader of the LSSP, was given the Ministry of Finance, while Cholomondeley Gunawardene got the Ministry of Public Works, and Anil Moonesinghe was given the Ministry of Communication. T B Ilangaratne, who was the Minister of Finance in the second cabinet, received the Ministry of Internal and External Trade and Supplies and Maitripala Senanayake was allocated the Ministry of Rural and Industrial Development.
Srimavo Bandaranaike showed keen interest in foreign affairs. In December 1960, when she visited India with her children at the invitation of the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, she was found to be lacking in confidence. This was clearly evident by her biting her lower lip and clutching nervously her handkerchief. In March 1961, when she was in London to attend the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference, she had begun to come to terms with her office and the environment. Gradually, she was at ease whenever she was in the company of foreign dignitaries.
Unlike her husband, the late S W R D Bandaranaike, who had generally accepted the Indian model for his foreign and domestic policy, Srimavo Bandaranaike was being pushed more and more towards the left. Political observers were of the view that the government under Srimavo Bandaranaike was strongly anti-West, pro-communist and increasingly pro-Chinese.
During the Chinese attack on India in 1962, Srimavo Bandaranaike played a key role by calling the Colombo Powers Conference to successfully mediate in the Sino-Indian dispute. As head of government, she exercised considerable initiative in regard to issues in which India had been greatly interested. Indo-Ceylon friendship had a vital significance with regard to the policies and steps each country took in the international arena.
The sticky issue Ceylon had with India was that of the Tamils of the Indian origin and their political status in the country. In 1954, the Nehru-Kotelawala Agreement had settled on principle, a voluntary measure under the governments’ auspices, both Ceylon and India, for the people of the Indian origin to register as Indian or Ceylon nationals. It was found that Ceylon had not shown a keen interest in encouraging people to register for Ceylonese citizenship, and subsequently the Indian High commission retaliated by slowing down its registration process.
After the completion of a 10-year period of the Nehru-Kotelawala Agreement, stateless Tamils of the Indian origin numbered nearly 900,000, the total number for which Nehru and Sir John Kotelawala earlier had sought solution. During S W R D Bandaranaike’s tenure of office, he was unable to address the issue, as he was preoccupied with other matters before his assassination. But, Srimavo Bandaranaike’s government began to show interest in the stateless issue of the Tamils of the Indian origin. Ceylon began to exert pressure to India, to reopen negotiations once again.
S Thondaman, the leader of the Ceylon Workers Congress and a nominated Member of Parliament, noticing that the Ceylon government had begun exerting pressure on India to reopen negotiations, went to New Delhi and contacted several leaders. He told them that the problem now was exclusively of that of Ceylon and the issue had to be settled between the Ceylon government and those people affected by the country’s discriminatory laws. He reminded the Indian leaders that the problem of statelessness in Ceylon, had ceased to be an Indian problem.
Thondaman also met Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India, on October 4, 1963 and discussed the question of securing Ceylonese citizenship by the Tamils of the Indian origin, whom Ceylon had declared stateless. He told Nehru of the misery and frustration Tamils working in the plantation sector encounter. He said “those workers who are born in Ceylon will work and die there. That being the case, no wrong can go on for a long time.”
Thondaman informed Nehru of the Ceylon government’s decision to stop employing stateless persons in government service. Nehru was distressed. He assured Thondaman that he would try his best to help.
“There was some talk in Colombo of a coming deal with India about sharing the stateless persons,” Thondaman told Nehru. “No such nonsense with me. I won’t agree to any horse deal,” Nehru promised and told him that such a suggestion had been made by Dudley Senanayake a few years earlier, when he met him in London during Queen Elizabeth’s coronation.
That was in 1953. Dudley had a long meeting with Nehru. During the discussions, Dudley asked, “Why do you not agree to the repatriation of some of these people? Why do you not take back some of these people?”
Dudley suggested that, India take back 300,000 of the Indian Tamils and offered to grant citizenship to the balance. Nehru declined to consider the offer, saying that he was opposed to any compulsory repatriation. “It should be purely voluntary and we are prepared to take back those who are willing to return,” Nehru said.
Nehru related that offer to Thondaman and assured him that India was ready to take back some, but the return should be voluntary. He promised to consult the CWC in all future negotiations.
, Earlier, during the colonial period, it may be recalled that, A E Goonasinghe, a Member of the State Council, managed to pass a resolution, in 1939, in the council for the deportation of 15,000 Indians. Again, in 1939, D S Senanayake moved a resolution to deport all Indians appointed to government service after April 1, 1934 and also to discontinue all Indians with less than 10 years’ service.
The issue of the deportation of Indian workers was brought to the notice of the Indian National Congress and to Mahatma Gandhi. The working Committee of the Indian National Congress took up this issue and resolved to send a representative to Colombo to meet with the Sinhalese Board of Ministers. Dr Rajendra Prasad (1884-1963), who later became the first president of India (January 26, 1950-May 13, 1962), was the president of the Indian National Congress and he came forward to send Dr Pattabi Sitaramaya, who was a senior Congress leader and a South Indian, because C Rajagopalachari, popularly called Rajaji, (the first Governor-General of India, after independence in 1952) a most senior leader of the Congress, a Tamil, was busy as the Chief Minister of the Madras Presidency.
Ultimately, Dr Rajendra Prasad chose Jawaharlal Nehru, with the concurrence of Mahatma Gandhi, as the representative of the Indian National Congress to Ceylon.
Earlier, for the first time, Nehru visited Ceylon in 1932. He wrote about his visit on March 28, 1932, to his daughter Indira Gandhi – earlier, Indira Priydharshni – “Fourteen months have passed by since I wrote to you from Naini prison about the past history. Three months later, I added two short letters to that series from the Arabian Sea. We were on board the Cracovia then, hurrying to Lanka. [Lanka is the old name for Ceylon.] As I wrote, the great big sea stretched out before me and my hungry eyes gazes at it and could not take their fill. Then came Lanka, and for a month we made glorious holiday and tried to forget our troubles and worries.
“Up and down that most beautiful of islands we went, wondering at its exceeding loveliness and at the abundance of nature. Kandy and Nuwera Eliya and Anuradhapura, with its ruins and relics of old greatness; how pleasant it is to think of the many places we visited! But above all, I love to think of the cool tropical jungle with its abundant life, looking at you with a thousand eyes; and the graceful areca tree, slender and straight and true; and the innumerable coconuts; and the palm-fringed sea-shore where the emerald green of the island meets the blue of the sea and the sky; and the sea-water glistens and plays on the surf, and the wind rustles through the palm leaves.”Glimpses of World History by Jawaharlal Nehru – pages 55-56.
This beautiful account of Ceylon was one of the many letters to his daughter Indira, written mostly while in prison, containing a rambling account of world history. Nehru, who had a vivid memory of the country and a lot of contacts, traveled by a charted aircraft from Bombay (Mumbai) and landed at the Ratmalana airport, on July 16, 1939. He met the Pan-Sinhala Board of Ministers led by Sir Baron Jayatileke, who was the Home Minister and the Chairman of the Board of Ministers.
Nehru found that the Sinhalese ministers were timid and unresponsive. To his dismay, he found them to be discriminatory against the Tamils of the Indian origin. He pleaded with the Board of Ministers that the discrimination shown against the Indian employees, in the retrenchment of a large number of them from government service, for no other reason than that they are Indians and Tamils, contravened international practices, but to no avail.
Nehru observed to his discomfiture that Sinhalese felt that the Indians who were on the soil of Ceylon as laborers, were lower in their standards, therefore Indian labor and their emigration should be stopped. Nehru said in a public rally, “I think the Sinhalese and their leaders are somewhat short-sighted in their labor policy. But I am perfectly prepared to support their demand for the stoppage of Indian labor and emigration. As a matter of fact, if this were done, the Ceylon plantations and the Ceylon government would come to terms soon enough with the Indians.”
During this visit, Nehru found that the interests of the plantation workers were being looked after by the Agent of the Government of India, whose office was located in Kandy. If the workers were to live permanently in Ceylon and become absorbed within the national mainstream, the Agent of India should never come into the picture. He urged the Indians living in Ceylon to organize themselves into an organization to safeguard the interest of the thousands of the Indian plantation workers. Accordingly, the Ceylon Indian Congress was inaugurated on September 7, 1939, at Gampola. S Sathiyamoorthy and V V Giri represented the Indian National Congress at the inaugural session.
Varahagiri Venkatagiri, alias V V Giri (1894-1980), was one of the top trade union leaders at that time and a senior Congress man. He was later the vice president of India, May 13, 1967-1969 and was acting president of India, May 3, 1969-July 20, 1969 after the demise of Dr Zakir Hussain (May 13, 1967-May 3, 1969. Again he was elected as president of India on August 24, 1969-August 24, 1974.
S Sathiyamoorthy was one of the best orators India had ever had. He was the most senior leader of the Indian National Congress, a Tamil and the mentor of the versatile Kamaraj Nadar, who after the demise of Jawaharlal Nehru played a key role as the “kingmaker” of India.
Nehru told the Indian community in Ceylon that, they should make up their minds whether, they wished to be in Ceylon or to return to India. In the latter case, they should return with such benefits as they might secure; but if they choose to be permanent residents and wanted to be citizens of Ceylon, then they should identify themselves with the nationalist movement in the country.
Nehru was outspoken when he said, “If the government there [Ceylon] considers that Indians are not good enough for Ceylon, them I am afraid, Ceylon is not good enough for me.”
Nehru, in a meeting in Colombo on July 17, 1939, declared with a heavy heart, “India wants to do away with the imperialist notion of capturing and exploiting another country. If Indians have any interests abroad, it should be based on goodwill and cooperation of the people of that country. I am proud of being an Indian and will not tolerate a single hair of an Indian to be touched by any other. I do not want Indian to go to a place where they are not wanted. But, where they can go, they should go with the goodwill of the whole people. Indian, wherever they are, should not suffer indignities from anyone. Things, as they are, are in a bad way in the world, specially as regards Indians. This angers me and irritates me. I will sooner see Indians crushed to atoms rather than suffer degradation and dishonor.”
Nehru on conclusion of his visit, submitted his report to Dr Rajendra Prasad, the president of the Indian National Congress. He strongly recommended that India should stop the emigration of Indian laborers to Ceylon, and accordingly the Indian government did so.
From 1939 up to 1964, Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) insisted on an honorable solution to the plight of the Tamils of the Indian origin in Ceylon. He was against any form of repatriation. Tamils of the Indian origin expressed hatred whenever the Ceylon government considered to make a kind of a horse-trade with India. They were assured by Nehru that he would not go in for such inhuman and deplorable deals. But, unfortunately, after the visit of S Thondaman, in October 1963, in the following year, Nehru had a mild heart attack in January and in May, a fatal one and passed away on May 27, 1964.
After his death, there were many contenders for premiership within the Indian National Congress hierarchy, but it was difficult to find a suitable person to match Nehru. Kamaraj Nadar, the president of the Indian National Congress, was faced with a daunting task of selecting a replacement. At last, Lal Bahdhur Shastri (1904-1966) emerged as a conscientious candidate. Kamraj Nadar, for the first time, as a compromise formula, also saw that Indira Gandhi was made a minister in the Lal Bahdhur Shastri’s Cabinet.
When Lal Bahadur Shastri, a soft-spoken man of small stature, assumed the office of the Prime Minister of India, he did not want to necessarily follow Nehru’s policies with regard to foreign affairs. He decided that India should settle all existing problems, first with her immediate neighbors, with a view to presenting a clean image in the international arena.
Though, S Thondaman, the accredited spokesman for the stateless plantation workers and the Tamils of the Indian origin, had very clearly pointed out that the issue of stateless people was an issue of Ceylon and not that of India, Shastri was not favorably disposed with the argument.
At the time, T T Krishnamachari and C Subramanian, two leading Tamils from South India, held important portfolios in Shastri’s cabinet. Also, the kingmaker K Kamaraj Nadar was another important Tamil and he held the position of president of the Indian National Congress and he was responsible for making Shastri premier. Unfortunately, for the Tamils of the Indian origin in Ceylon, Shastri managed to convince these Tamil leaders in a negotiated settlement of the issue with Ceylon. This was an unwise move which still causes anguish and resentment among Tamils all over the Ceylon and India.
Subsequently, Shastri sent Sardar Swaran Singh, the Foreign Minister, to Colombo to make a preliminary survey of the stateless problem of the Indians in Ceylon. He felt that the issue had to be settled at the highest political level, and not on the basis of any past commitments.
On October 24, 1964, on the invitation of Shastri, a high-powered Ceylon delegation led by Srimavo Bandaranaike arrived in New Delhi. The Ceylon premier was given a red carpet welcome and received at the airport by Lal Bahadur Shastri and by the Members of his cabinet, along with other distinguished personalities.
The Ceylon delegation included T B Ilangaratne, Felix Dias Bandaranaike, two Ceylon ministers and Shirley Amarasinghe, Secretary to the Treasury and who in years to come was to be hailed as a diplomat of international repute.
The Ceylon government refused to grant permission for Thondaman and other leaders of the Ceylon Workers Congress to travel to New Delhi to assist the Indian government. Shastri agreed to bypass the issue of voluntary return of Indian nationals and was prepared to move on with the subject of how many people each country was willing to take.
While the negotiations were going on, Srimavo Bandaranaike was the guest speaker of the Indo-Ceylon Friendship Association. She said that the problems regarding those of Indian origin in Ceylon were not the making of either country – ie, neither Ceylon nor India. Rather, it was the legacy of the colonial regime, and now it was the duty of the two countries to make a joint effort for its settlement. She further added that except for this one issue, no other issues remained between India and Ceylon.
Lal Bahadur Shastri was very accommodative. It was revealed that Shastri was even prepared to recall all those stateless persons to India. While the numbers were being discussed, Kamaraj Nadar presented his views and conveyed the sentiments of the leaders of the south of India.
Shastri, who tried to please Ceylon, calling it “our small neighbor”, was very different after the meeting with Kamaraj Nadar. He told the Ceylon delegation, “thus far, and no further”. By that time, the Ceylon delegation had been able to obtain more concessions from Shastri than they had hoped for and they agreed on the closure of negotiations. In the end, an accord legally known as the Indo-Ceylon Agreement was signed.
“Indo-Ceylon Agreement” means the exchange of letters between the government of India relating to the status and future of persons of Indian origin in Ceylon, signed at New Delhi on October 30, 1964, and published as Treaty Series No 5 of 1964, and which in terms of the letters aforesaid, constitutes an Agreement between the governments of India and Ceylon.
The agreement was based on an estimate of 975,000 stateless Indians as on October 30, 1964. Out of these, India agreed to take back 525,000 domiciled in Ceylon. Meanwhile, Ceylon agreed to grant citizenship to 300,000, and the repatriation of those receiving Indian citizenship to be completed within a period of 15 years, and Ceylon to keep pace with India in granting citizenship. According to the estimates of the India and Ceylon governments, the fate of the unresolved 150,000 was kept in abeyance to be decided at a later date.
Neither India or Ceylon consulted S Thondaman and the Ceylon Workers Congress, which represented the interests of the stateless people of the Indian origin. Earlier, during Nehru’s days, the CWC had always been consulted as it was a creation of the Indian National Congress.
Outlining the basis of her decision a year later, Srimavo Bandaranaike wrote, “The upcountry people lost their political rights as a result of the election of Indian MPs to the seats where the Indian plantation workers predominated. These Indian plantation workers are a group of people who have received more wages and … great privileges. The Indian workers got this better treatment from the very start; they are now enhancing it through their trade unions to an extent far exceeding what they have produced. The peasantry of the upcountry areas is at present subjected to this foreign exploitation.”
Thondaman described the agreement a “horse deal” and accused Shastri and Bandaranaike of deciding the fate of the Tamils behind the backs of the leaders of their community.
The Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi at its annual convention at Trincomalee, in 1964, condemned the agreement in a strongly worded resolution. It charged that the agreement was another attempt to reduce the strength of the Tamils in Ceylon. The ITAK urged India to withdraw from implementing the agreement.
C N Annadurai, the leader of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), questioned the Indian government regarding the negation of human dignity, which involved uprooting thousands of people irrespective of their wishes, people to whom Ceylon had been a homeland for generations.
In December 1964, the DMK leader, in a pragmatic but emotional speech at the Rajaya Sabha – the Upper House of the Indian Parliament – conveyed the remorse and agony of millions, at the betrayal of the stateless people domiciled in Ceylon by the Indian government led by Lal Bahadur Shastri. (See annex below)
Earlier, in July 1960, the daily Observer, one of the English dailies published by the Associated Newspapers Company of Ceylon – which is popularly called the Lake House Group, published a cartoon depicting Srimavo Bandaranaike as a pregnant woman in bed with Dr N M Perera, the leader of the LSSP. The cartoon was published in a bad taste and it created a furore in the country. Bandaranaike was a widow, and the cartoon offended the basic morality and journalistic ethics.
Subsequently, she was encouraged by Dr N M Perera and Felix Dias Bandaranaike to take over Lake House and sell its shares to the public and break the Wijewardene family’s monopoly.
Lake House press was established in 1918, by D R Wijewardene, a dedicated newspaperman and a shrewd businessman. By the early 1930s, it began to challenge the Times of Ceylon owned by the British. Lake House from the beginning is said to have been associated with moderate Sinhala leaders.
After independence, Lake House controlled some two-thirds of all daily and weekly publications in Ceylon and it took it upon itself the role of a king-maker and guardian of public morality. It had a hand in the making and un-making of politicians and public servants. By the time of the first Dudley Senanayake government, Lake House was so powerful that it was described a “state within a state”. Lake House controlled almost four fifths of all the dailies and weeklies published in the country. Wijewardene family members owned more than 400,000 of its 600,000 shares.
After the death of Wijewardene, his son-in-law, Cyril Esmond Lucien Wickremesinghe became the Editorial Managing Director of the Group, in 1950, at the age of 30. He is the father of Ranil Wickremesinghe, the present prime minister and the leader of the United National Party. Also, he is the uncle of J R Jayewardene, the past two-time president and the UNP leader.
S W R D Bandaranaike was vilified by Lake House throughout his political career, but he never took any steps to curb its papers.
In August 1960, the government of Sirimavo Bandaranaike announced the takeover of the newspapers controlled by the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon, which had opposed her Sri Lanka Freedom Party and its pro-Sinhalese socialist policies in the general elections. Inclusion of the takeover in the Throne Speech of the government gave a general impression that Bandaranaike was trying to muzzle the press.
The prime minister overplayed her hand and gave Lake House the heaven-sent opportunity of seeking refuge under the cloak of freedom of the press. The United National Party (UNP) led by Dudley Senanayake opposed the takeover with vigor. From that moment on, Wickremesinghe stood at the forefront of the battle for the freedom of the press.
Protests against the takeover were organized, which forced Srimavo Bandaranaike’s administration to make the issue one of low priority.
Threats to press freedom took many forms. A state-controlled Commission of Inquiry formally proposed press controls. On September 23, 1963, the government appointed a Press Commission.
“The commission immediately ran into difficulties with regard to two of its members. While all its members, including Chairman K D de Silva, a retired Supreme Court Judge, were intent on supporting the government’s objective of bringing the press under governmental control, one of them, Mrs Theijavathie Gunawardena, had been such an outspoken critic of Lake House and Times Group and so vocal an advocate of strong measures to curb their influence that there was an outcry against her appointment. The other member to whom objection was taken was S W Walpita, a left-wing lawyer. The criticism raised against the former were too solidly based on fact for the chairman to ignore them. She was replaced by a less controversial figure. [The Chairman] K D de Silva succeeded in retaining the services of S W Walpita.” – J R Jayewardene of Sri Lanka – A Political Biography – Volume Two – From 1956 to His Retirement (1989) by K M de Silva & Howard Higgins – page 131.
As the sitting of the commission continued, it was reported that its members were bent on bringing the press under state control “ Because it was a monopoly press and reflected the views of the capitalist classes and supported the UNP;  “The religious content, the attack on Lake House and the Times group for their alleged support of the Roman Catholic minority against the Sinhalese Buddhist majority.”
The interim report of the commission was submitted to the Governor General on July 27, 1964 and the final report was submitted on September 28, 1964 and the final report was published in October 1964 – Sessional Paper XI of 1964 – final report of the Press Commission.
The commission recommended (1) The establishment of a Press Council, with wide powers and also, with judicial powers; (2) The establishment of a government corporation to take over Lake House or the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd, as it was called; (3) The establishment of a cooperative to run the financially ailing Times of Ceylon: and (4) The enactment of legislation to eliminate “undue concentration of ownership and of control and ownership by non-Ceylonese,” over the other newspapers of the island.
Legislation was drafted for the nationalization of the press and presented in the Senate – the Upper House – instead of the House of Representative, on October 1, 1964. After debate, it was approved on October 6.
According to the Standing Orders of the House of Representative, Section 72 (ii) and (iii), in cases where a bill approved by the Senate is placed on the table of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, he should then ask, “Who is sponsoring the Bill?” Whereupon, though it was a government-sponsored bill in the Senate, it was open to any two members of the House, whether of the government or opposition to say, “We are sponsoring the bill” and mention in writing the day on which the second reading would be held, not less than five days from the date of tabling.
J R Jayewardene arranged for two opposition MPs, M H M Naina Marikkar (UNP, Puttalam) and L Rajapakse (MEP, Hambantota) to prepare the documents sponsoring the Ceylon Press Council Bill, and set February 2 for the second reading.
The opposition motive, of course, was to delay the passage of the bill as far as possible because general elections for parliament were expected at any time after July 1965.
The Chief Government Whip, M P de Z Sriwardene, was informed by the Speaker Hugh Fernando that Naina Marikar and Rajapakse had sponsored the bill and that they had requested February 2 for the second reading.
Usually, when a bill is tabled in the House of Representatives by a minister, the Speaker asks when the second reading is expected, and the minister replies, “Tomorrow”. But this was not the procedure for a bill sent down to the House of Representatives from the Senate.
On October 15, 1964, when the government presented the Press Council Bill in the Parliament, the Speaker asked whether it could be read, and Michael Sriwardene, the Minister said that it could be read, “Tomorrow”.
J R Jayeyawardene immediately pointed out to the House that the Chief Government Whip’s sponsorship of the bill was incorrect as it had already been sponsored by two MPs and their sponsorship was valid according to the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives.
Pandemonium broke out in the floor of the House. The Speaker adjourned the sitting and announced that he would give his ruling at 4 pm the same day. Hugh Fernando subsequently ruled that the sponsorship of the bill by two opposition MPs was procedurally correct. The government was now forced to wait until February 2, 1965 to take up the second reading.
The government withdrew the bill at the last moment, but not before it had become a major political issue. It was reported that the government was involved in heavy-handed activities, including bombs being thrown at the residence of Wickremesinghe, meaning to intimidate him into submission. But he remained undaunted. Supported by his fellow directors at Lake House, he led an effective global campaign in support of press freedom in the country. Through direct contact, he urged local politicians to stand up to the attacks on freedom of expression and of the press, and he united rival newspaper groups to stand up with him in his fight for press freedom.
As an alternative, on November 12, parliament was prorogued and its sixth session was scheduled for November 20. This was a counter move by the government to make the bill sponsored by the two oppositions MPs lapse and also to present their own bill. Srimavo Bandaranaike issued the following statement regarding the prorogation of the parliament, “I owe it to this country to explain the reasons for the prorogation of parliament. My attention has been drawn to certain procedural shortcomings in the two important measures that have recently presented to the parliament.
“It is well known that the declared policy of the government has been to break up the press monopoly in the country. The report of the Press Commission that was published recently drew pointed attention to the desirability and indeed the necessity of breaking the monopoly of the press in Ceylon. It laid stress on the establishment of a Press Council as well as the setting up of an independent corporation to take over the Lake House Group of Newspapers.
“Since there was no other way to correct the procedural shortcomings that have arisen in the process of implementing the report of the Press Commission, I have advised His Excellency the Governor-General to prorogue the parliament from midnight of November 12 and re-summon parliament on November 20.”
Accordingly, parliament was convened on November 20 and as the Governor-General took his seat to deliver the customary Throne Speech, the leader of the opposition, Dudley Senanayake, led the entire opposition in a walk-out. He subsequently issued a statement that this was meant to register protest at the misuse of parliamentary procedures to cover up the lapses of the government.
The vote on the Throne Speech was taken on Thursday, December 3, 1964. In the afternoon, the prime minister received the resignation letter of C P de Silva, the senior minister and the leader of the House. Srimavo Bandaranaike came over to parliament and began meeting potential defectors individually and tried to persuade them to reconsider their decision. It is said that her last-ditch efforts succeeded in making at least two MPs planning to defect to reconsider and support the government.
Exactly at 5.47 pm, C P De Silva crossed over to the opposition, followed by Mahanama Samaraweera, a former minister. Amid thundering applause from the opposition benches C P De Silva took his seat, next to R G Senanayake, in the last row of the opposition.
Immediately, R G Senanayake rose from his seat and announced his allegiance to the government on the grounds that the government should be judged, whatever its other sins may be, but only on the successful settlement of the Indo-Ceylon issue, and he voted with the government.
Ironically, it was the signing of this Indo-Lanka agreement that motivated Saumiyamoorthy Thondaman, an appointed MP, to cross over to the opposition.
When the vote on the Throne Speech was taken, W Dahanayake (Independent – Galle) moved an amendment that, “Your Excellency’s Government does not enjoy the confidence of this House.” The amendment was passed with 74 to 73 votes. The government was defeated by a single vote.
E L Senanayake, the UNP Member of Parliament for Kandy, claimed credit for this one vote. He was convalescing in England, but arrived that afternoon by flight in time for voting after receiving instructions from the opposition parliamentary whip, demanding his presence for voting.
Earlier, when the vote on the Throne speech was taken up, it was declared that C P De Silva and others were motivated by the lofty ideal of saving the country from “unadulterated totalitarianism”. Along with C P de Silva (Leader of the House and Minister of Land, Irrigation and Power), 13 SLFP MPs crossed over to the opposition and voted against the government. They were – Mahanama Samaraweera (Matara) P P Wickremasuriya (Devinuwara), Wijebahu Wijesinghe (Mirigama), Edumund Wijesuriya (Maskeliya), A H de Silva (Polonnaruwa), Indrasena de Zoysa (Ampara), C Munaweera (Rattota), Albert Silva (Moneragala), Sir Razik Fareed (First Colombo Central), S B Lenawa (Kekirawa), Laxshman de Silva (Balapitiya), D E Tillekeratne (Ratgama) and R Singleton Salman (Appointed MP).
Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi, which opposed the takeover of the Lake House, in a statement issued in the first week of October 1964, said that it was the biggest sufferer at the hands of Lake House since it had always been anti-Tamil and had always been in the forefront in supporting every attempt to deny Tamils their language and other basic rights. “But,” the statement said, “muffling of the press is not a solution.” Accordingly, the ITAK voted with the opposition. Also, the two Left rebels who called themselves the LSSP (Revolutionary Party), Edmund Samarakkody (Bulathsinhala) and Meryl Fernando (Moratuwa), voted with the opposition.
The stunning defeat by one vote left three options for the Prime Minister: (1) To seek a vote of confidence in the parliament; (2) The prime minister to tender her resignation and allow the Governor-General to choose the next course of action and (3) To advise the Governor-General to dissolve parliament and call for a fresh election.
The prime minister’s decision was to be conveyed to the nation at 7 pm on December 4, but after several postponements, it was delivered around 9 pm on the same day.
Srimavo Bandaranaike in her address to the nation said that, C P de Silva had stabbed her in the back and that she would advise the Governor-General on the course of action. She said, “I shall not let the betrayal of my country to the forces of reaction. In accordance with the democratic and socialist traditions, I shall lead my people to greater victories in the future.”
Meantime, Dr E M V Naganthan of the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi, issued a statement asking Srimavo Bandaranaike to resign immediately. He pointed out, “Once the prime minister had lost the confidence of the House and does not within reasonably short time hand in her resignation, the Governor-General should, in the exercise of his prerogative, demand her resignation forthwith.”
On December 7, 1964, Srimavo Bandaranaike advised the Governor-General to dissolve parliament and general elections were scheduled for March 22, 1965.
The last date to file nominations for the sixth parliament was January 11, 1965. There were a total of 4,710,887 eligible voters in all 145 electoral seats in the island. The election campaign of the United National Party was spearheaded by Dudley Seananayake, J R Jayewardene, Esmond Wickremasinghe – the chief of the Lake House Newspapers and Hema Basanayake – the retired Chief Justice of Ceylon.
The UNP had a no contest pact with the newly-formed Sri Lanka Freedom Socialist Party (SLFSP) led by C P De Silva and an understanding with MEP (People’s United Front) led by Philip Gunawardene, Jathika Vimukthi Perumuna (JVP – People’s Liberation Front) the Sinhala extremist Party led by K M P Rajaratne, and with W Dahanayake – the independent candidate. Therefore, the UNP and its allies fielded a strong contingent of candidates and the SLFP-LSSP-CP coalition continued on the left front. In the Tamil areas, as usual, the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi and the All Ceylon Tamil Congress fielded their candidates. Accordingly, the UNP fielded 116 candidates, the SLFP – 101; ITAK – 20; LSSP – 25; SLFSP – 32; CP – 9; Tamil Congress – 15; JVP – 10; MEP – 61; LSSP (R) – 4; CP (Peking) – 2 and independent 100, totaling 495 candidates.
J R Jayeawardene (UNP) and Bernard Soyza (LSSP) both filed their nominations at Colombo South multi-member constituency and were returned uncontested.
Speech made by C N Annadurai, the leader of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), South India, on the floor of the Rajya Sabha – Upper House of the Indian parliament, in December 1964.
“Mr Vice-Chairman, the Minister of External Affairs has given us a fairly full picture of the present international situation. I have the fullest sympathy towards the Minster of External Affairs when he is called upon to solve problems bristling with difficulties and confounding the best brains of the present day world. Though the field is very alluring, I do not propose, due to the embarrassing time factor, to enter into the very alluring grounds covered by the Minister of External Affairs. I propose to be nearby home and deal with only one problem, the so-called Indo-Ceylon Pact. In dealing with that problem, I may request the Minister of External Affairs to take my speech to convey the feeling of remorse and agony by millions of people over this Indo-Ceylon Pact.
“The minister has been telling us how politicians and statesmen all over the world, are trying to enthrone justice and equity, are trying to find out how best human dignity can be safeguarded. I am going to measure the Indo-Ceylon Pact only by that rod of human dignity, international justice and commonsense. Measuring it with such a rod, I find that this pact means a gross betrayal of millions of people whose one sin has been looking towards this country and this government for solace.
“The Indo-Ceylon Pact, the very name I would say Mr Vice-Chairman, the very name, is a misnomer. There is no problem at all between two sovereign countries like India and Ceylon. The main problem is between millions of people settled for generations together in Ceylon and Ceylonese government in the matter of the treatment meted out of them. The only part that we could have played and legitimate part the we should have played, is by stressing the human aspect if the problem. All along, it has been stated that we are not going to look at this problem as other than a problem of human interest.
“The persistent, the consistent and the logical policy being followed by the previous government, to be more correct, by the late lamented prime minister of this country has been given a go-by, without an iota of remorse. He has been stressing that the problem of millions of people who have been unfortunately termed as stateless is a problem that has to be tackled mainly and solely by the Ceylonese government. The Indian government enters in the picture only to guide the Ceylonese government when it needs guidance.
“A point has been raised in this House, whether the sovereignty of one country can be abridged by the actions and consultations of another country. Various views on sovereignty there have been, and the present trend is that even sovereignty is to come under the aegis and under the guidance of the eternal principles of justice and fair-play. If this is merely the sovereign right of the Ceylon government, Mr Kotelawala, Mr Dudley Senanayake, after that Mr Bandaranaike, and now Sirimavo Bandaranaike need not have, and would not have, and could not have, come to this country for consultations.
“The very fact that successive prime ministers of Ceylon have come to this country for consultations on this problem means that this is not purely a problem wherein the sovereignty of a country is at issue. This is a problem wherein the whole world has an interest. The fact of the matter is that millions of people who are called people of Indian origin are settled in Ceylon, not for a decade or two decades, but for centuries together. It has been stated that only the Indians there are people of Indian origins.
“May I ask the Minister of External Affairs to delve deep into the annals of Ceylon? It may give him and insight into the fact that the so-called Sinhalese are people of Indian origin who went to Ceylon during the reign of King Vijaya, and the millions of people who are now dubbed as people of Indian origin, have gone there later. Therefore, to call the people of Indian origins “aliens” to Ceylon, is a travesty of fact. This government ought not to have countenanced such barefaced injustice. The main burden ought to have been on the Ceylon government to come to this country or before the bar of the world and they ought to have stated in what way they are treating, they have been treating and they are going to treat people who are settled there permanently.
“Most of the people today, who are called men of Indian origin, have no connection, no hovels, no homes, no relations in that unfortunate part of our country, Tamil Nad. The only affinity between those people and the people of Tamil Nad is the affinity of language. If Ceylon government turns round and says that this is your problem, what prompted the government of India to accept that version of the Ceylon government’s proposal? What is it that they have surrendered to? Is it to temptation? Is it to pressure? Is it to various other extraneous circumstances? Why have they surrendered to the temptation of taking this problem as their problem? Even after having taken that false stand, did the government of India or the present Mmnistry, follow the best tenets of democratic principles? What did those prime ministers of Ceylon do? When Mr Dudley Senanayake came here, when Mr Kotelawala came here and when Mrs. Bandaranaike came here, they took into their confidence, they consulted, the important leaders of opposition in their own country. I remember when Mr D S Senanayake, as prime minister, came to this country, he brought along with him as one of the Members of the Delegation, the late lamented Mr Bandaranaike.
“Why is it that when a small country like Ceylon maintains and works along the best democratic tenets, you have not taken care to consult the opinion of any of the opposition parties? Why is it that the Ceylon government when it came here, came fully armed with the unanimity of opinion of all political parties functioning in Ceylon and even of the Communist Party which is called the Lanka Sama Samaj Party.
“Why are you presenting to this House and to this country, a fait accompli. Why has the minister stated in the other House, that he was constantly in consultation with the leaders of opinion in Tamil Nad? May I ask the Minister of External Affairs to inform this House if he has taken care to consult any one of the leaders of the major political parties in Tamil Nad? No. He can turn round and say that the Chief Minister of Madras has given his blessings or consent and another Minister who was deputed by the Chief Minister here – Hon Mr Ramaiah – had given the consent. What else can they do? Can they expose the government of India? They cannot. Their loyalty to the party and to the government stands in the way of their opening their hearts to say what they feel.
“Even after accepting the Indo-Ceylon Pact, speaking if I remember correctly at Baroda, the Chief Minister of Madras stated, that he would have been happier if a smaller number of people had been asked to come. What does that mean? It means there is a volcanic eruption though in a mild form, in the mind of the Chief Minister of Madras. He is not happy over this pact though he cannot, as a loyal Congressman, as a loyal State Chief Minister, question the propriety of the central government. Therefore to cite the support given by the Chief Minister of Madras or his Deputy, is merely burking the issue.
“Why have you deviated from the path followed by the late lamented prime minister? What did he say on the floor of this house, on the floor of the other House, and on many occasions? He had very correctly stated that he would take any number of people coming to this country, if they come voluntarily. What is this pact? This is not a voluntary repatriation. You have assured the Sinhalese that you would take 5 lakhs or more that will be coming and you have persuaded after much difficulty- I can understand the difficulties – Ceylon to retain 3 lakhs of people. You have left without taking into consideration, for the present only I hope, 1,50,000 people.
“Well, when a similar problem confronted Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru and Mr Kotelawala, what were the terms? What were the terms of the Indo-Ceylon Pact of 1953-54? The main terms, the soul of the pact, was that the repatriation of the people ought to be voluntary. The people in Ceylon should be given the option, to opt for India or remain in Ceylon, and the Ceylonese government at that time went a step further and said that it was working upon a scheme of inducement, that they were going to induce the Indian residents there, as they called them, to go over to India by offering them the temptation of a cash bonus. Even that has been given up or given a go-by in this Pact.
“After the 1954 pact, did the Minister for External Affairs or even the prime minister, look into the aspect of how that pact has worked? It has been stated and it has not been repudiated by the Ceylonese government, that when more than 8 lakhs of people applied for registration of citizenship in Ceylon, merely 1,25,000 people were registered. It has been said by Senators and Members of the House of Representative in Ceylon itself, that the 1953-54 pact, was not implemented in a just manner. Even the present Cabinet Minister there, who has now resigned, Mr Felix Bandaranaike, stated on the floor of the House of Parliament in Ceylon, that the Pact has not been worked out equitably and justly.
“When a government, after having entered into a pact with this government, has not worked that pact correctly and justly, why have you walked into that parlor and signed on the dotted line? That is why millions of people today think that the so-called Indo-Ceylon Pact, is a betrayal of the interests of millions of people. Hon Members here have stated and particularly Mr Chengalvaroyan has said, “What alternatives is there?” Well, what alternative is there when you sit tight over the fate of our country and these people. When you do not mete out justice, what alternative is there? That alternative will be found out by the people at large. If you are going to solve every problem with this condition – what alternative, we can solve the Chinese problem very easily. Already I find a trend from the speech of the Hon Mr Sapru and another Hon. Member, that they are thinking along the line of “What alternative?”
“‘What alternative’ should not or ought not to be the argument of a potent government. What alternative has Ceylon government if we refuse to sign this pact? If we refuse to take those 5 lakhs into this country, what is the alternative open to the Ceylon government? Have they got the guts to keep these millions of people in Belsen Camp? Have they the power to defy world opinion by shooting them down? No. Even the Ceylon government cannot go so far. When many Hon Members addressed the Minister of External Affairs as the Foreign Minister, I at first was irritated and then I thought he is really a Foreign Minister and that is why he has left it to the discretion of a foreign government to settle the fate of millions of people. Mr G G Ponnambalam, who held the Ministry of Industry in the Ceylonese government said when resigning his post in the floor of the House of Representative: ‘The Indian and Ceylonese Citizenship Act has been so enforced and implemented, as to render it utterly oppressive, with the deliberate object of denying to several hundreds of thousands of Tamils who call no country other than Ceylon their own and owe no allegiance to any other country, their inclinable right to be part of the permanent population of this country.’
“Ceylon has not implemented the citizenship Act of 1953-54. When the Ceylon government has not implemented the Indo-Ceylon Pact of 1953-54, how can we believe that this pact is going to solve the problem? And when a member of my party in the Loki Sabha put a very pertinent question to the Ministry for External Affairs, he wanted a definite, categorical answer from the External Affairs Minister, My friend there, Mr Sezhiyan, wanted a clarification from the minister, as to whether this repatriation will be voluntary or compulsory.
“The Minister for External Affairs – I have come to realize that he is adept in the art of by-passing straight questions-said, ‘Why should we take a Hypothetical stand?’ Two labor organizations in Ceylon, one led by Mr Aziz, and another by Mr Thondaman, both have declared their repudiation of this pact. They have said that they are not going to opt for India. Therefore this is not a hypothetical proposition. When the people of Ceylon refuse to opt for India, what are you going to do? Are you going to take them in shifts and get the 5 lakhs of people here, whether they are willing or not and dump them on India?
“Another member said that we have no jurisdiction. I find from reports that a professor of Delhi University – I do not remember his name at the moment- has stated, in one of the seminars conducted by the Delhi University, that the Ceylon government has got and obligation, according to the United Nation Charter on Human Rights, to confer citizenship on those aspects, the External Affairs Minister, good man that he is, has signed this pact; or is it the prime minister? I do not know – which is a betrayal of the human dignity of lakhs of stateless people there. It is only to register my protest against this attitude, that I have taken part in today’s discussions.”