Appendix IV

Letter from D. S. Senanayake regarding Dominion status to George Hall, Secretary of State for the Colonies, on 16 August 1945

At our meeting on the 9th August, 1945 you were good enough to hand me an advance copy of the Report of the Soulbury Commission and to ask for my observations. I am most grateful for this opportunity of expressing my views before any decision is taken by His Majesty’s Government. I should state frankly, however, that opinion in Ceylon has shifted since the early months of 1944. On the 26th March 1942 the State Council passed a resolution requesting that Dominion Status be conferred on the Island. The Declaration of May 1943 did not go so far, but it would have enabled us to get rid of the Donoughmore Constitution and to place ourselves in an advantageous position for pressing for Dominion status. Accordingly, the ministers accepted the Declaration as interpreted in my statement of the 9th June, 1943. The Ministers’ draft Constitution has, however, been before the public since September 1944 and, with the restrictive clause removed, it has been debated and passed by the State Council as the Sri Lanka Bill. It is now generally agreed that the restrictive clauses are unsatisfactory. Meanwhile, too, His Majesty’s Government has promised full self–government to Burma. There does not seem to be anything in the social or economic conditions, or in the recent history of the two countries, to justify the placing of Ceylon in an inferior position. Accordingly the case that I should like to put before you is the case for Dominion status.

  1. It is the expressed policy of His Majesty’s Government, and especially of His Majesty’s present Government, to enable the peoples of the Commonwealth to achieve self–government. Ceylon is sometimes described as the “premier Colony”, and if there is anything in that description it can mean only that it should be the first to receive self–government. If it is not yet ripe for this status, there must be some reason for it, and we have so far been given no such reason. The statistics quoted in the appendix to the Soulbury Report seem to me to prove our case. We have a population of 6 million; our annual revenue is over 200 million rupees and our trade is nearly a thousand million rupees; we had a surplus of 15 million rupees in 1942–43 and this year we are budgeting for a surplus of 100 millions; over 4,000 ships, amounting to 10 million tons, use our harbours in a normal year; we have over 6,000 schools with nearly 25,000 teachers and more than 850,000 pupils. The Report draws attention to the progress achieved since we assumed some measure of responsibility in 1931, “particularly in the sphere of social improvement, despite the shortcomings of the form of government” (paragraph 100).
  2. A possible reason for the reluctance of the late Government to accord us Dominion status was indicated in a Declaration made in 1941. It referred to proposals for reform “concerning which there has been so little unanimity”. There was little evidence of unanimity in Canada a hundred years ago when self– government was first given; there was no unanimity in South Africa in 1906 when the Liberal Government made its noble gesture; there was little unanimity in India at the time of the offer made by Sir Stafford Cripps; there was no unanimity in Burma when the recent White Paper was issued. Indeed, we might ask whether progress towards democracy in Great Britain was achieved by unanimity. In fact, however, Ceylon has approached nearer to unanimity than any. Not a single Ceylonese voted against the resolution for Dominion status in 1942: the Sri Lanka Bill was passed by 40 votes to 7, and only three Ceylonese were in the minority. This vote, be it remembered, was not merely a vote for Dominion status, it was a vote for a complete Constitution whose main principles have also been accepted by the Soulbury Commission.
  1. The State Council’s resolution of 1942 was inspired by the offer made to India by Sir Stafford Cripps in that year. It is far from my purpose to deprecate that offer: what we hope is that a similar offer will be made to Ceylon. I shall not be thought to disparage our great neighbour if I say that our educational progress has been much greater and our standard of living much higher. We have had partial self–government based on adult franchise for fourteen years. Ceylonese Ministers have had the sole responsibility for finance and have held seven of the ten portfolios of government during a period which included a major depression and a great war. We have taken our full share in the defence of the Island in circumstances of danger as acute as that which threatened Great Britain in 1940. At the end of the Japanese war we take pride in remembering that Ceylon made the first successful resistance to the Japanese advance, and that it was a joint resistance by the Imperial forces and the people of the Island. For over three years the Ceylonese Ministers and the Ceylonese Civil Defence Commissioner have sat in the War Council and shared with the Commander–in–Chief and the Service Commanders the responsibility for defence and the prosecution of the war against Japan. We provided the headquarters and the facilities required by the South–East Asia Command and the East Indies Fleet. We have supplied ninety per cent of the raw rubber available to the United Nations. For a long period we provided all the plumbago required for the manufacture of munitions of war. For years we have negotiated for the purchase and sale to the United Kingdom of our whole output of tea, rubber and copra. Nearly all the members of the public services, including the Financial Secretary, the Auditor–general, many of the Government Agents, and most of the Heads of Departments are Ceylonese. More than half the judges of the Supreme Court, all the judges of inferior courts, and both law officers, are Ceylonese. We have a University with over a thousand students staffed as to 90 per cent by Ceylonese. All the medical officers in the Island are Ceylonese. The Bank of Ceylon, one of our major financial institutions, is wholly controlled by Ceylonese. We have raised a Ceylon Defence Force and a Ceylon Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve with Ceylonese officers. Our Civil Defence Service, 64,000 strong, was raised and controlled by Ceylonese.
  2. The Constitution which we have worked with such success during the past fourteen years was one of the most difficult ever invented. As long ago as 1933 my predecessor, the late Sir Baron Jayatilaka, drew your predecessor’s attention to its many defects and asked that they be removed. The Soulbury Commission says very truly that the Donoughmore Constitution “had little to commend it”. Opinion in Ceylon would entirely agree with this condemnation. I will spare you a survey of its defects, but one must be mentioned particularly because its consequences may be used as an argument against Dominion status. The Soulbury Commission draws attention to the absence of party divisions on social and economic lines. It does not, however, explain why they are absent. The explanation is that such divisions would have been impracticable under the Donoughmore Constitution. We are divided on social and economic issues as strongly as you are in the United Kingdom: but the Donoughmore Constitution has compelled us to have a perpetual Coalition. The Board of Ministers is not selected for the homogeneity of its social and economic opinions. It consists of the seven chairmen of the seven executive committees. When a committee of seven or eight persons meets to elect a chairman the division of opinion is often very close. The result is that the Board of Ministers is a heterogeneous collection of Ministers, often differing widely in opinion and speaking and voting against each other in the State Council. It is as impossible to work on party lines as it was in Great Britain from 1940 to 1945. The essence of the party system, a homogeneous Cabinet responsible to a parliamentary majority, was forbidden by the Constitution itself. I cannot think, therefore, that the absence of this party system can be an argument against giving us complete self–government with a Cabinet system which will allow parties to develop.
  3. Nor can communal divisions be regarded as an argument against Dominion status. They have not prevented the offer of that status to India, where they are much more important. They are in fact less important even than the Soulbury Commission made them, for in large measure they arise out of constitutional discussions. They are of small importance in ordinary political matters, and the Commission shows that a charge of racial discrimination cannot be sustained: but when constitutional advancement is under discussion each community is inspired by its ancestral loyalties to stake out a claim. Accordingly a Commission conducts its investigations in an atmosphere of artificial heat and, though it generally sees the light behind, it cannot but be affected by the atmosphere. We objected to a Commission in 1941 and again in 1944 precisely for that reason. Once the constitutional question is settled, communal questions will cease to be relevant. What is more, they are in themselves an argument for self–government. The Ceylonese as a whole are accustomed to these differences of race, creed, caste and language and know how to avoid offending susceptibilities: the Englishmen who are sent to govern us do not always possess this advantage. The Soulbury Commission has approved our proposals for representation and the Bill in which they were included was passed by 40 votes to 7, more than half of the minority Ceylonese voting with the Sinhalese and only three Ceylonese voting against. We have thus produced a reasonable compromise which promises a Constitution under which, with complete self–government, we could proceed to tackle our social problems.
  4. These social problems are urgent and important. I need do no more than to quote the Soulbury Report:–

“There are not nearly enough schools to accommodate all the children, and a large number of the pupils do not attend long enough to gain any real profit from the instruction” (paragraph 106);

“Housing conditions, water supplies and proper sanitation urgently demand attention. The death–rate remains unduly high and the infant mortality rate in particular is being only slowly reduced”. (paragraph 110);

“The main problem is that of raising the standard of life …” (paragraph 112)

“in the rural areas depression means a lowering of the standard of life of the peasant cultivators, and the only real solution is to be found in the maintenance of agricultural prosperity. This raises questions of technical improvements in cultivation, co–operation in purchasing and marketing, and–since the population is steadily increasing–the reclamation of land” (paragraph 113).

Any Ceylonese could add to the list. Nothing is said, for instance, of the problem of establishing industries, to raise the standard of living and provide for our growing population. So long as we are disrupted by constitutional discussions we cannot deal adequately with these questions. The only solution is to place the whole responsibility fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the representative[s] of the people, as in Great Britain.

  1. 8. The real conflict over constitutional issues is not between the Sinhalese and the minorities but between the Ceylonese and His Majesty’s Government. That conflict arises only because His Majesty’s Government refuses to accord to us the complete self–government which almost every Ceylonese, without distinction of race, caste or creed, believes to be his due. It is a conflict which has been kept wholly within constitutional limits. We have not sought to force British opinion to agree with us. We have endeavoured to persuade by argument and to demonstrate by co–operation that Ceylon might be the first of the tropical Dominions, the first of the oriental peoples to be admitted to complete equality, the first to benefit by that policy of raising dependent people which British parties announce in their election programmes. There has been no rebellion in Ceylon, no non–cooperation movement, and no fifth–column: we were among the peoples who gave full collaboration while Britain was hard–pressed. Ireland obtained Dominion status; India has been promised it; Burma is being offered full self–government within the Commonwealth; but Ceylon gets none of these. The inevitable conclusion would be as unwelcome in Ceylon as in Great Britain.
  2. 9. The Declaration of May 1943 promised internal self–government with restrictions relating to defence and external affairs. Burma, on the other hand, has been promised complete self–government subject to the making of an agreement about defence. We cannot understand why the distinction should be drawn. It surely cannot be said that we have proved less competent or trustworthy than the Burmese during the war against We do not grudge the award to Burma, but we are tempted to ask whether any restrictions would have been imposed on Ceylon if some of the Ceylonese Ministers had assisted the Japanese and a Ceylonese National Army had fought against British troops. We prefer to give an interpretation more creditable to the late Government and to assume that the difference lies in the importance of Ceylon as a base and as a link in the chain of Imperial communications. If this is so, it is our misfortune and not our fault. We are, however, fully aware of the fact. We have not sat in the War Council for three years without learning the implications of Ceylon’s strategic position. We are also aware that it is or may be a position of some danger to ourselves. We should be ready and anxious to give all the assistance and all the facilities that His Majesty’s Government might require provided that we were also given control of our own country. We are at least as anxious as His Majesty’s Government to have the Island properly defended. We know that we cannot defend it alone; on the other hand, we know that it cannot be adequately defended without our assistance. I am ready to pledge my colleagues and the State Council to any reasonable agreement about defence as an integral part of an agreement for Dominion status.
  3. This method would assure Great Britain of a friendly people and a friendly Government, another Dominion, on the sea and air routes to Australia and New Zealand. It would assure Great Britain of naval and air bases that would dominate the Indian Ocean. I submit, with all the earnestness at my command, that the method prescribed by the Declaration of 1943 will not. The limitations imposed by that document were clearly inspired by distrust. In paragraph 357 of its Report the Soulbury Commission makes this plain. It speaks of the possible contingency of the non–co–operation of the Ceylon Government in the defence policies of His Majesty’s Government. In the case of the Dominions, His Majesty’s Government meets that contingency by providing them with full information and consulting them whenever their interests are specially affected. That, I submit, is the only method likely to be effective for securing full collaboration from Ceylon and making use of the facilities which Ceylon offers. The method prescribed by the Declaration will not, unless the same information is provided and there is full consultation. In Part IV of our draft Constitution we tried to provide a system which would work with the least possible friction. The Soulbury Commission has modified it in such a way that not merely friction but even opposition is much more likely to arise. Your advisers will surely tell you that it would be difficult to have two Governments in Ceylon in wartime, the one concerned with defence and the other with civil government. Either you must have collaboration from the civil government or you must treat Ceylon as hostile territory and impose upon it a military occupation. The process of governing by Governor–General’s Ordinance will work only if they dealt with such unimportant matters that nobody thought it worth while to bother about them. In all normal cases a Governor–General’s Ordinance would produce a constitutional crisis of the first magnitude. This would certainly be so under the Soulbury scheme. No responsible Minister would remain in office while a Governor–General was giving orders to subordinates behind their Minister’s back; nor could responsible Ministers retain office while the Governor–General was spending Ceylon funds, raised by them, in order to carry out a policy of which they disapproved.
  4. Our scheme is certainly better than the Soulbury scheme, but the only satisfactory arrangement – satisfactory to either Government – would be one in which the Ceylon Government was collaborating with the Imperial Government. This can be achieved only by making the Ceylon Government fully responsible and entering into an agreement for the provision of mutual assistance in time of war and of such facilities in time of peace as might be required to that end. It would be, in short, a defensive alliance between the United Kingdom and a self–governing Ceylon. If His Majesty’s Government still feels that we cannot be trusted, the simple solution is to give self–government but to provide for the taking over of the administration of the Island in the event of default on our agreement.
  5. It is, however, not legal powers that will be needed, but the full collaboration of a free people. If you provide the freedom, the people will provide the collaboration. In 1906 the new Liberal Government took a much greater risk. They gave complete self–government not to a people which had been helping British troops against a common enemy, but to a people which had been waging war against His Majesty. Ten years later there was a South African “rebel” general in the War Cabinet; and a quarter of a century later the Union of South Africa, under the same rebel general, was an essential link in the communications of the army that marched from Egypt to Berlin. We cannot offer you a rebel general–the experience of South Africa and Burma seems to suggest that it would be easier if we could–but we do suggest that an act of faith and generosity, such as the Liberal Government was inspired to do in 1906, will cement the bonds between our peoples. It will indeed do more. It will add to the powers of the British Commonwealth of Nations. It will place another Dominion in a most important strategic position, half–way between England and Australia. It will complete the triangle in the Indian Ocean. Nor is this all. It will show the dependent peoples all over the Empire that your professions are not mere professions, and that it is possible for a people which, a hundred years ago, was almost completely lacking in educational facilities and was compelled to live on a very low standard of life, to achieve the status of a Dominion within the British Commonwealth of Nations.
  6. I doubt if I have put my case in all its strength. I am oppressed with the difficulty of stating it adequately. The problem of Ceylon is one only of the many problems which will face the Government of which you are a member. For us, however, it is the fundamental problem. Until it is solved we cannot begin to face the many questions that confront us in that other Island, Milton’s “Utmost Isle”. I should welcome an early opportunity to reinforce my argument personally. The Constitution which was submitted to you in February 1944 requires only a little alteration to convert it into a Constitution for a fully self–governing Ceylon. It would be easy for me to have a revised draft prepared and at the same time to incorporate the amendments suggested by the Soulbury Commission. If after discussing the matter with me you agree that it would be worth while, I should be glad to have such a draft prepared. I appreciate that any decision to confer Dominion status on Ceylon would require legislation by Parliament: but if it were decided to consider this question I should not wish to have self–government held up. If, therefore, His Majesty’s Government was not prepared to confer Dominion status on Ceylon without further consideration, I should suggest that our draft Constitution, as amended, be put into operation by Order in Council and the general responsibility transferred to the Dominions Office. While the new constituencies were being delimited, the question of Dominion status could be raised with the Secretary of State for the Dominions.


  1. I turn now to the specific recommendations of the Soulbury Commission.

I have no objection to any of them except as detailed below.

(1) Franchise (Chapter X.) There is no difference of opinion as to the desirability of maintaining adult franchise. The Commission also agrees with the Ministers that the present Order in Council, as interpreted, does not carry out the intention of its framers. The fault, we consider, lay in the drafting as well as in the administration, and I agree with the Commission that the administration should be improved. I do not think it is necessary to discuss the revision of the Elections Order in Council at this stage. We are anxious to get rid of the Donoughmore Constitution as soon as possible, and it is already 18 months since we submitted our scheme. Numerous amendments to the Elections Order, on the lines of S.P. XIV of 1938, are required. I suggest that the first elections be held under the 1931 Order. The matter can then be fully considered by the new Legislature. Nobody, as far as I know, denies that “there is a body of Indians in Ceylon, who, by birth and by long association have so identified themselves with the affairs of this country that their interests are no different from those of the indigenous population” (paragraph 239).

(2) Immigration. (Chapter XI). I see no objection to the proposed power of reservation in respect of British subjects who are normally resident in Ceylon, provided it is in the form proposed in paragraph 236 and not in that proposed in paragraph 242. Also, it should not apply to those who have entered the Island unlawfully, nor to persons who have been lawfully deported.

(3) Representation. (Chapter XIII). I have no objection to the proposal in paragraph 272 provided that it is not carried to extremes. This might be done by prescribing either a minimum or a maximum. In view of the fact that some of the constituencies in the sparsely–populated provinces will be small, I suggest the fixing of a maximum of 75,000 population.

(4) Second chamber (Chapter XIV). The question of the Second Chamber is as highly controversial in Ceylon as it is in Great Britain. The vote on the Sri Lanka Bill showed that there is a majority in the State Council against a Second Chamber and we know that we could never secure a three–quarters majority for a Constitution containing a Second Chamber. We therefore followed the example of Southern Rhodesia. It should perhaps be pointed out that, in addition to Southern Rhodesia, some of the Provinces of Canada and of the States of Australia follow the unicameral system. In view of the State Council vote, it would seem desirable to leave the matter to the new legislature, as we proposed. If, however, a Second Chamber were provided, I should have no objection to the type proposed. With regard to its powers, the precise language of the Parliament Act should be used. In view of the interpretation given to the definition of “Money Bill”, however, it would be desirable to broaden it somewhat so as to bring ordinary taxing Bills, including Bills relating only to customs and excise, within its provisions. The term of office of a Senator seems to me to be far too long. It might involve us having a high proportion of aged Senators. I suggest a term of six–years, one third retiring every two years. There might be difficulty in forming a government (as with the Labour Party in 1924 and 1929) if two Ministers and two Parliamentary Secretaries had to be in the Senate. I suggest four Ministers or Parliamentary Secretaries. (5) First chamber. (Chapter XV). There appears to be some discrepancy between Chapter XV and Chapter XIII. It would, in my view, be undesirable to fix the number of members at 101, for then, on a redistribution some seats would be extinguished, and these might be seats normally filled by minority members. I suggest, therefore, that Articles 13 and 15 of S.P. XIV be allowed to stand. This may be the Commission’s intention, but it is not clear. I also prefer our wording of Article 17. While we anticipate that normally the nominated members would be Europeans and Burghers, we are anxious not to draw racial distinctions, and we hope that (as in 1931 and 1936) Europeans and Burghers will not think themselves precluded from standing as candidates for territorial constituencies, nor such constituencies precluded from electing them. The opportunities will be greater under the new Constitution. This is one of the many cases where the Commission overemphasises communalism. It may be pointed out that constituencies mainly Sinhalese by racial composition have three times elected Europeans. Further, it would be difficult for the courts to interpret “European” and “Burgher”. They are incapable of legal definition.

(6) The executive. (Chapter XVI). I should prefer Article 43 of S.P. XIV to remain as it stands so as to leave the number of Ministers under the control of Parliament. The State Council would not wish to leave the number at the discretion of the Prime Minister, and there might be a tendency to increase the number for party or personal reasons.

(7) The governor–general. (Chapter XVII). I am not sure what is meant by the phrase “discriminatory in character” in clause (ii)(d) of paragraph 332. Any tariff is necessarily discriminatory against overseas producers. If the phrase is intended to cover “differential duties”, as in the present Instructions, I suggest that experience has shown it to be undesirable. In any case it is inconsistent with the Declaration of 1943. I also disagree with clause (vi) of paragraph 332. Article 10. of S.P. XIV requires a two–thirds majority for constitutional amendments and, with the new system of representation, thus provides ample protection for minorities. I see no other reason, why His Majesty’s Government should be concerned with the form of Government in Ceylon. I am unable to agree with the recommendation at the end of paragraph 334. It would prevent the legislature from taking the initiative in reforming an organisation which had become inefficient or corrupt. It is surely enough to require “approval”.

I should be prepared to deny the statement in paragraph 336. The matter was considered by the Conference on the Operation of Dominion Legislation in 1929, and it was agreed that the Dominions should have the powers to legislate extra–territorially. Confusion arises not so much where the express power is given as where only the power to legislate for peace, order and good government is given; for under the latest decisions of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council this includes a power to legislate extra–territorially, but of uncertain extent. This is a lawyer’s point, but we do not want to spend money on litigation.

I have already discussed Defence and External Affairs in general terms. We do not like Part IV of our draft, which seems likely to lead to endless difficulties unless it became a complete dead letter. However, I like the Commission’s version even less.

We had a clear idea as to the manner in which the system would work if His Majesty’s Government insisted on it. The Governor–General would have the necessary powers, but he would exercise them through Ministers, above all through the Prime Minister, who would hold the portfolios of defence and external affairs. His legislative power would enable him to impose the necessary obligations on Ministers. There would, however, be no dyarchy. The provision of funds out of the revenues of the Island would be made by the Ministers and the Legislature, not by the Governor–General. The Ceylon Defence Force and the Ceylon Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve would be provided by Ceylon in agreement with His Majesty’s Government. The officers of the Ceylon Government, including the naval, military and Air Force Officers, would be under the control of Ministers as in Great Britain. The Commission proposes to upset this comparatively simple scheme, and to substitute a complicated scheme which I am not able to follow in some of its details and with which I am quite unable to agree. Apart from my general objections to the whole scheme, I have no objection to a power being reserved to His Majesty in Council for the following purposes:–

(1) To legislate on External Affairs or Defence as defined for the purposes of Governor–General’s Ordinances;
(2) To revoke or amend the Constitution where, owing to the inability of the Governor–General to secure a Government responsible to the House of Representatives, it appears to His Majesty that there has been a break–down of the constitutional machinery.

I accept the former because, if there is to be legislation which is not passed by the Legislature, I would prefer to have it enacted by the King in Council rather than by the Governor–General. I accept the latter because it will enable the Ceylon Ministers to resign if the Governor–General abuses his powers.

I am unable to agree on the following points:–

(i) The removal of the definition of External Affairs (paragraph 337). I should be glad to discuss this definition if it appears unsatisfactory. I should add that the qualification of “External Affairs” for the purposes of reservation is not extended by the Commission to legislation by the Governor–General, who can apparently legislate by Ordinance on any matter excluded from reservation by clause (ii) of paragraph 332. I am quite unable to agree with this enormous extension of the Governor–General’s power.

(ii) The reservation to His Majesty in Council of an unlimited power of constitutional amendment (paragraph 337). The Commission appears to be in error in stating that this is “usual” where powers of self–government are conferred by Order in Council.

(iii) Consultation of officers of the Ceylon Government by the Governor–General behind the backs of their Ministers. (paragraph 341).
(iv) The general power to legislate during wartime or any national emergency other than inability to obtain responsible Ministers (paragraph 351). We have just had experience of war conditions, and I see no reason why self–government should be destroyed in wartime.

(v) The removal of the Ceylon Defence Force and the Ceylon Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve from the definition of “Defence”. (paragraph 353). If His Majesty’s Government wishes to wage war in Ceylon against the wishes of the Legislature, it should provide its own troops, not use Ceylonese forces.
(vi) The imposition of a charge upon Ceylon funds by Ordinance (paragraph 354). I see no purpose in making an agreement for allocating cost unless it is assumed that both sides will carry out the agreement. The Commission does not recommend that Ceylon have the power to compel the people of Great Britain to pay under the agreement.
(vii) The power of the Governor–General to appoint or dismiss officers and to issue instructions to officers (paragraphs 354 and 355).
(viii) The withdrawal of Article 39(4), (paragraph 356). The Commission appears to have misunderstood this clause, and I am quite willing to consider the drafting, provided that the principle (which is correctly stated by the Commission) is retained.

Generally the Commission assumes as it admits in slightly different words (para– graph 357), that the Ministers will not “play the game”. It would be much simpler, I think, if His Majesty’s Government would assume that we are reasonable beings, grant full self–government, and make an agreement about External Affairs and Defence as in Burma. I do not know any reason which leads His Majesty’s Government to suspect that we are less trustworthy than the Burmese.

There are certain other points in this Chapter:–

(a) I am unable to agree that Article 40 (d) is inconsistent with the Declaration (paragraph 338). We understood the Declaration to refer to merchant shipping legislation and to ships registered outside Ceylon. Is there any reason why we should not have our own shipping services?

(b) I do not see any serious objection to allowing the question of reservation to be submitted to the Supreme Court. This would surely be a better solution than the Commission’s solution of having a general election (paragraph 339).

(8) The Public Services. (Chapter XVIII). The Commission appears to me not to realise the difference in the attitude to the public services which will be produced by the removal of the control of the Secretary of State. At present a public officer is responsible to a “foreign” Government. In future he will be responsible to the Ceylon Government. The Commission has also misunderstood the draft Constitution (see paragraph 379). Article 64 is limited in its terms because the powers relating to the public services will be governed by Article 36. I have, however, no other comments to make on this Chapter except on the suggestion in paragraph 383 that the administration of the public services should be transferred to the Ministry of Finance. I suggest that this be left to be decided under Article 44. The analogy drawn with Great Britain breaks down owing to the fact that the Prime Minister, as First Lord of the Treasury, · and the Chancellor of the Exchequer are both Treasury Ministers. We shall presumably have nothing comparable in Ceylon. I should also point out that there have been abuses of Article 88 of the Order in Council of 1931 and that its provisions should be modified. This is a question which I will take up when the question of drafting is raised.


  1. 16. You will see from the above comments that the differences which are likely to be fundamental relate to Defence and External Affairs. I am sure that your advisers will agree that the Commission’s scheme would work in wartime only if we gave full collaboration, in which case these powers would be unnecessary, or if the whole civil government were taken over by the Governor–General or the Commander–in–Chief. It is a scheme which assumes a break–down. Indeed, the break–down may occur immediately, for I doubt if the State Council will accept this scheme. On the other hand, I am sure that the Council would agree to any reasonable scheme for the defence of Ceylon and the security of Imperial communications if it were accompanied by a grant of full self–government leading to Dominion status as soon as the necessary discussions had taken place. The Commission’s scheme is based on distrust of the Ceylonese or, as they call it, the contingency of the “non–cooperation of the Ceylon Government in the Defence policies of His Majesty’s Government.” The way to secure our cooperation is to ask us to cooperate and to give us a Constitution, framed by us, under which we can cooperate. It was not by imposing limitations on the powers of their governments that the cooperation of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa was obtained. We know how essential is Imperial assistance in defence: but we suggest that our active assistance was also valuable. It happens that these words are being written while the whole Commonwealth, and indeed the whole civilised world, is celebrating the victory over Japan. I hope it will not be forgotten that the orders for the surrender of Japanese troops in Malaya and Burma are being sent from the capital of the last Sinhalese kings, that the fleet which will steam into Singapore steamed out of Trincomalee, and that the aircraft which patrol the skies of Malaya and Sumatra are based on Ceylon. Is it worthwhile to force on us a Constitution which assumes that the cooperation which has been so readily forthcoming during the past five years will in future be replaced by non–cooperation? Is it not better to establish a new Dominion on the sea and air routes to Australia and New Zealand, in an Island which guards the whole Indian Ocean? Burma and Malaya and British North Borneo will be freed, in one sense, in a few days. Will not His Majesty’s Government, in another sense, free Ceylon also? The conversion of Ceylon into a Dominion would show that this was not a war between Imperialist powers anxious to maintain their domination but that, on the side of the United Nations, it was a war to enable all the peoples of the world, including all those which have hitherto been dependent on them, to achieve freedom and self–respect.

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