Jennings’ Notes on the Soulbury Report
Chapter I Notes
PARAGRAPH 9: It will be noted that the Commission does not subscribe to the popular racial history. The Sinhalese and the Tamils are separate social groups having distinct religions, languages and other traditions. The languages, not the races, are respectively Aryan and Dravidian. The number of people classified as Sinhalese at the census of 1946 was 4,415,198, while the number classified as Ceylon Tamil was 804, 950.
PARAGRAPH 10: The Ceylon Moors numbered 358,147 in 1946.
PARAGRAPH 11: The number of Roman Catholics in 1946 was 507,418. The total number of Christians was 603, 235. They were more numerous than the Muslims, who numbered 436, 556. These are final figures. Those given in the note to paragraph 16 are preliminary figures.
PARAGRAPH 12: The number of Malays was under–estimated. In 1946 it was 24, 837.
PARAGRAPH 14: According to the final Census figures of 1946, the number of low country Sinhalese was 2,902,509 and the number of Kandyan Sinhalese was 1,717, 998. The Kandyans were therefore 37.2 per cent of the Sinhalese.
PARAGRAPH 15: The number of Indian Tamils and Indian Moors in 1946 was 816,213. The number of Europeans, on the other hand, was over–estimated by the Commission. It was 5,418. Of these, 2843 lived in the Colombo District.
PARAGRAPH 16: A census was taken on March 19, 1946. The preliminary figures showed the following classifications:
PARAGRAPH 17: This paragraph, so far as it relates to the Sinhalese, is ambiguous. There seems to be no evidence that, literally speaking, caste distinctions are becoming blurred. If people would speak the truth it would be just as easy to collect statistics of caste as it is to collect statistics of race or religion, because inter–caste marriages appear to be as rare as inter–racial marriages. What the commission probably meant was that the caste distinctions produce fewer consequences among the Sinhalese than among the Tamils. This is because the educated Sinhalese, being mainly Buddhists and Christians, are less inclined than the Tamils to defend caste distinctions, which are not in any way inconsistent with Hinduism and indeed are often considered to be part of the religion. Nevertheless, the educated Sinhalese do maintain caste distinctions for marriage purposes. Also, caste is politically important even among the Sinhalese. The Ministers intended caste to be taken into consideration by the Delimitation Commission and thought of it as included under “community or diversity of interest”. It was taken into consideration wherever it was relevant. Thus, two–member constituencies were created at Ambalangoda–Balapitiya, Kadugannawa, Balangoda, because of caste distinction while the boundaries of several others were fixed so as to produce a concentration of persons of the same caste. It will generally be found that candidates throughout Ceylon belong to the castes which are numerous in the respective constituencies: e.g. there are very few Karawa candidates for constituencies which are mainly Govigama.
PARAGRAPH 18: The views of the Donoughmore Commission on communalism are quoted [see IJ quotes this fully below in his notes on Soulbury Report Chapter II in paragraph 31 below]
Chapter II Notes
PARAGRAPH 22: It is also to be noted that communal representation preceded territorial representation by 77 years, though it was at this stage representation by nomination and not by election. The notion that communal representation was invented by the British in order to “divide and rule” is a fallacy derived from nationalist propaganda, which has no doubt done much good in developing nationalism and diminishing communalism, but which preferred to “blame the British” rather than the social conventions of the Ceylonese. The only way to give representation to “the natives” in 1833 was to nominate important members of the important racial groups.
PARAGRAPH 23: This paragraph does not sufficiently emphasise that until about 1880 the demand for representative government came mainly from the Europeans and the Burghers.
PARAGRAPH 24: It will be seen that in 1910 communal representation by election was introduced, though the educated Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims were formed into one constituency, which thus became almost, but not quite, a territorial constituency.
PARAGRAPH 26: The reforms of 1920 did not give representative government in the technical sense, which requires at least one half of the legislature to be elected, whereas only 16 members out of 37 were elected.
It will be seen that the development of representation followed a pattern:
1802: no representation.
1833: communal representation by nomination.
1910: communal representation both by election and by nomination.
1920: territorial representation added to communal representation by election and by nomination.
1924: territorial representation increased and communal representation diminished.
1931: communal representation by election abolished.
PARAGRAPH 27: In stating the competing claims in this way, the Commission no doubt had “balanced representation” in mind. The [All–Ceylon Tamil] Congress scheme gave not only a territorially elected majority but also a Sinhalese majority. The minority scheme would have enabled the British officials to hold the balance in the event of a colonial division.
PARAGRAPH 28: His Majesty’s Government thus accepted the minority contention that there should be 12 officials. The number of members territorially elected was 23, whereas the Congress had suggested 28 and the minorities 19 (i.e. His Majesty’s Government split the difference).The number communally elected was 6, instead of 11 as suggested by the Congress and the minorities, but the number would be increased to 11 as soon as communal electorates could be provided for Muslims and Indians. The minority request for 3 nominated members in addition was rejected. The result was an uninspiring compromise between the opposing points of view. The Constitution for the first time provided representative government in the technical sense.
PARAGRAPH 30: The paragraphs in which the Donoughmore Commission analysed the situation are worthy of quotation in full:–
“The most striking characteristic of the Ceylon constitution is the divorce of power from responsibility. The unofficial members, who are not responsible for the conduct of public business, enjoy an overwhelming majority in the Legislative Council; the official members, who are so responsible, are in a permanent minority. The official members owe no allegiance to the Council and are irremovable except by the Governor, in whom all executive authority is vested. The unofficial members, though in complete control in the council, are denied the prospect of assuming office themselves, Thus, on a counting of heads, those who have the controlling votes in the Council are not called upon to bear the responsibility for their decisions: those who have to bear the responsibility are without the controlling votes.
A normal requirement of the parliamentary system of government is that the element which supplies the Executive should be able to command a majority in the legislature, or if it cannot do so should give way to its opponents. Judged then by the accepted standards of parliamentary practice, a constitution such as that of Ceylon is a reductio ad absurdum. But it must be remembered that the representative institutions of the world have reached no final or definite form, that conditions wary from country to country and from continent to continent, imposing each in their own sphere special or peculiar limitations on the parliamentary system, and that the history of modern constitutional development is one continuous record of attempts to adjust accepted parliamentary practice to the realistic requirements of social and economic progress. It is no longer enough to criticise a constitution on the debatable grounds of political theory without examining the peculiarities of its environment. If we survey the political field in Ceylon we find that there is a complete absence of any party system among the elected representatives of the people, a consideration which, while a serious handicap to the development of responsible parliamentary institutions, was expected to lessen the embarrassment of a Government called upon to administer the country with a minority in the Legislative Council. Much depended therefore on the manner in which the grant to the elected representatives of a controlling voice in the Council was interpreted. It was true that it transferred the balance of power from a responsible Executive to an irresponsible Legislature, an experiment which could not be without risk; on the other hand the very extent of the power entrusted to them made the elected members in a real sense co–partners in the Government. It was clear that without their active co–operation the Government would be helpless, but it was equally clear that they were as anxious as the official members to promote the good government of the country and would not be likely to withhold that co–operation. The system thus promised a means of educating the unofficial members in the arts of government and the complexities of public business, and of providing them with that training which would enable them in future years to assume responsibility for the administration of the Island. In the meantime the closest and most intimate contact was ensured by the constitution which, by depriving officials and unofficials alike of the power to act independently of each other, was calculated to produce an atmosphere of mutual assistance and goodwill.
It would therefore be too much to say that the constitution could not be worked efficiently under any circumstances; had these expectations been fulfilled there can be no doubt that the results would have been wholly admirable. There was, however, a factor to which too little attention had been paid and which was destined to exercise a far–reaching effect on the situation. The constitution, which could only be smoothly worked on a basis of co–partnership, placed the elected members on the horns of a dilemma. If they acknowledged their co–partnership would they not be regarded as having abandoned their claim to manage their own affairs? If they refused their co–operation would they not lose that education and training in the arts of government which made so strong an appeal to them, and forfeit the confidence which His Majesty’s Government had clearly shown in their moderation and sense of responsibility? For years they had pressed for reforms which would make them masters in their own house, and for the continuance of that pressure they were naturally dependent on public support. To accept an instalment only, even under protest, might weaken their case in public estimation and might even deprive them of the right to continue their campaign which was based largely on the deficiencies of the Government” [Donoughmore Report, pp. 18–22]
PARAGRAPH 31: The case against full responsible government made by the Donoughmore Commission is set out below:–
“There were witnesses, chief among whom were the delegates of the Ceylon National Congress, who indicated that full responsible government, whether or not involving the grant of Dominion status, must be the immediate goal of any constitutional advance in Ceylon; but the fact that the Ceylonese politicians have not yet had an opportunity of showing their executive ability as Ministers in charge of Departments seems to have produced a measure of agreement that some less drastic change as an immediate step will be in the best interests of the ultimate political future of the Island. Had the inhabitants of Ceylon presented greater appearance of unity and corporate spirit, one obstacle to the grant of full responsible government would have been removed. Not only is the population not homogeneous, but the diverse elements of which it is composed distrust and suspect each other. It is almost true to say that the conception of patriotism in Ceylon is as much racial as national, and that the best interests of the country are at times regarded as synonymous with the welfare of a particular section of its people. If the claim for full responsible government be subjected to examination from this standpoint it will be found that its advocates are always to be numbered among those who form the larger communities and who, if freed from external control, would be able to impose their will on all who dissented from them. Those on the other hand who form the minority communities, though united in no other respect, are solid in their opposition to the proposal. A condition precedent to the grant of full responsible government must be the growth of a public opinion which will make that grant acceptable, not only to one section, but to all sections of the people: such a development will only be possible if under a new constitution the members of the larger communities so conduct themselves in the reformed Council as to inspire universal confidence in their desire to harmonise conflicting interests, and to act justly, even at a sacrifice to themselves.
Here we must observe that modern facilities for the acquisition and distribution of exact statistical information have provided a searching test of government. In the face of statistical returns, which speak for themselves, Governments can no longer hope to satisfy their critics by facile protestations and assurances in general terms, and in cases when such returns do not already exist consent must be given sooner or later to their production. The new Council will therefore enter upon its duties with the certain knowledge that the results of its work will necessarily be reflected year by year in the records of the statistician and that it must abide by the verdict to which such records may give rise.
Another consideration, the significance of which will, however, disappear if the recommendations contained later in the Report are adopted, lies in the size of the electorate, which at present numbers some 200,000 or 4 per cent. of the population. The grant of a responsible government to an electorate of these small dimensions would be tantamount to placing an oligarchy in power without any guarantee that the interests of the remainder of the people would be consulted by those in authority. It seems hardly necessary to observe that His Majesty’s government is the trustee not merely of the wealthier and more highly elements in Ceylon but quite as much of the peasant and the coolie, and of all those poorer classes which form the bulk of the population. To hand over the interests of the latter to the unfettered control of the former would be a betrayal of its trust. Yet the full significance of this seems to have escaped the notice of many witnesses who put forward the claim for full responsible government but were opposed to any extension of the franchise.
Attempts were frequently made, by those anxious to meet this argument and to minimise the relative importance of executive experience, to draw analogies from British political history. But these were in no case apposite. For it may be answered to those who urged as a precedent the passing in the interests of an oligarchy of the Reform Bill in 1832 or who pleaded the assumption of office without previous Ministerial experience by the Labour Government in 1924 that the followers of Earl Grey and of Mr Ramsay MacDonald had been well trained in affairs, on the bench or in the counting house, in local government bodies or in Trade Union councils, respectively. That the Ceylonese are in the process of acquiring a keen grasp of public affairs cannot be gainsaid; but their training has had to be undertaken ab initio and the comparatively small part which they have played up to date in the financial and commercial life of the Island has provided no solid basis for their tuition.
On the wider issues of Imperial relationships, including responsibility for the defence of the Island and the security of its inhabitants, we need make no comment here since these are not strictly relevant to a discussion of the form of government best suited to the internal requirements of Ceylon. The general considerations which we have adduced, however, have sufficed to convinced us that the grant of complete responsible government is under present conditions impracticable.
This is a conclusion which we have no doubt will commend itself not only to the minority communities but to a majority of the Sinhalese themselves. But what measures short of full responsible Government can be proposed? It has been very clearly stated by many representative public men in Ceylon and by the spokesmen of various organisations, who gave evidence before us, that anything in the nature of divided responsibility, anything of a “diarchic” character, to use a well–known term, would be doomed to failure. Against this, many other important witnesses, while condemning a system which would involve the division of the budget and so impair the control of the Council over finance, were convinced that a scheme whereby responsibility would be shared between officials and unofficials represented the only practicable step. They foresaw the risks involved in the devolution of undivided responsibility on a body of men who would be without previous experience of high office or even of minor office, in the administration of important public departments. These two opposite points of view were strongly and ably put before us by men of considerable weight in the country.” [Donoughmore Report, pp. 31–33]
The reasons for the abolition of communal representation were given thus by the Donoughmore Commission:–
“It was generally admitted, even by many communal representatives themselves, that the communal form of appointment to the Legislative Council was a necessary evil and should only continue until conditions of friendliness and acknowledgment of common aims were developed among the different communities. It is our opinion, however, that the very existence of communal representation tends to prevent the development of these relations, and that only by its abolition will it be possible for the various diverse communities to develop together a true national unity.
Communal representation in Ceylon has no great antiquity to commend it, and its introduction into the constitution with good intention has had unfortunate results. As has already been suggested, it tends to keep communities apart and to send communal representatives to the Council with the idea of defending particular interests instead of giving their special contribution to the common weal. We very gladly recognise that most, if not all, of the communal representatives have risen superior to this natural tendency and have shown an interest in matters affecting the general welfare of the Island. We believe, however, that if these same representatives were elected, as we hope they may be, as territorial representatives, they will be able to give a fuller contribution, unhampered by having to be constantly on the watch, fearful of the antagonism or the oppressive action of the other communities.
We might have been encouraged to suggest the retention of some communal representation if there had been evidence of any diminution in the supposed necessity for it. We found however, that not only did those who already had communal seats desire that the number of these should be increased, but also that a number of other communities, religions, castes and special interests not at present represented, came before us claiming that it was necessary for them to have seats in the Legislative Council and that they were as much entitled to this privilege as those who already possessed it. The result was that, so far from the demand being reduced, increased and new claims were put forward which would have made the number of communal seats more than 50, instead of the 10 already existing. Our investigations show that the desire for communal representation tends to grow rather than to die down, and in these circumstances, it being in itself admittedly undesirable, it would seem well to abolish it altogether while the number of seats involved is still comparatively small.
Although communal representation was continued in the last revision of the constitution, a step in the right direction was taken by giving communities a territorial as well as a communal vote. This may have involved an apparent unfairness to the majority communities in that it gave a member of a minority community two and sometimes more votes. It has, however, succeeded in paving the way for the elimination of communal representation altogether, by giving the communal electorates the opportunity of realising the common interest which they possess with their fellow–Ceylonese in the divisions in which they reside. The new conditions will thus be more easily understood and appreciated than would otherwise have been the case.” [Donoughmore Report, pp. 99–100]
Finally, the reasons for extending the franchise were given as follows:–
“The number of registered voters in 1924 was 204, 997 which is 4 per cent. of the total population of five millions. Even when the number of women and of those below 21 has been deducted from the total population, it will be seen that the franchise is at present exercised by a relatively small number of persons. It was also brought out in the course of evidence that the Rs. 50 per month income qualification ruled out a large number of property less workers whose income was much below that figure. It was a point of interest that the Ceylon National Congress – whose deputation included prominent Sinhalese members of the Legislative Council– while putting forward strong demands for full responsible government expressed themselves as desiring no extension of the present franchise. This view of the Congress, it is understood, was afterwards modified but it was in rather remarkable contrast to that of certain other witnesses who opposed the grant of full responsible government but were in favour of lowering the franchise and were even prepared to give special representation to the lower–paid workers. One of the British members of the Legislative Council went further and advocated manhood suffrage at 25. The leaders of the Tamil (Hindu) community were generally in agreement with the Congress spokesmen in deprecating any further extension of the franchise, and they, too, desired the granting of full responsible government. The Ceylon Labour Union, on the other hand, put forward a strong plea for manhood suffrage, on the ground that very few of its 40,000 members had a vote. It was obvious that the nationalist leaders of Ceylon desired to work full responsible government with an electorate from which the greater proportion of the people were necessarily excluded. They even hinted that a lower franchise would involve a risk of bribery and corruption.
In view of the backward character of social and industrial legislation in Ceylon, which has no provisions for relieving destitution, no workmen’s compensation, only the most elementary of factory regulations, and no control over hours and wages in sweated industries, a good case could be made out for regarding the extension of the franchise as more urgent than any increase of responsible government. When a considerable increase in responsible government is being recommended, therefore, the question of the franchise becomes of first importance.
If we consider how recent is the development of democratic institutions in the East, and the centuries of patriarchal and feudal government in these countries, the attitude of the Sinhalese and Hindu leaders is not altogether surprising. The various social strata have for so long been definitely marked off, the transition from the lower to the higher has been practically impossible, and no one has questioned the supreme right of one or of a few to dominate the lives of the multitude. There are gratifying signs that the rigidity of these social divisions is lessening. Democratic and electoral institutions are being accepted and even demanded, but the modern principle of political equality that goes with them has not yet been fully grasped. In view of the history of Great Britain and other countries, this is not to be wondered at, but, at the same time, we could not recommend a further grant of responsible government unless that government were to be made fully representative of the great body of the people.
The importance of the principle is reinforced by considerations of expediency. We have already indicated our belief that a wider franchise would expedite the passing of such social and industrial legislation as is now in force in every progressive country. We believe also, contrary to some of the views that have been put before us, that corruption and manipulation of the electorate are made more difficult the larger that electorate becomes. In British constitutional history, each extension of the franchise has diminished corruption, until today it may be said to be non–existent. Further, we feel that there is considerable justification for the argument that only by exercising the vote can the political intelligence to use it be developed.” [Donoughmore Report, pp. 82–84]
Chapter III Notes
PARAGRAPH 36: This paragraph reads somewhat unfairly to the Sinhalese leaders. In most countries “citizens” or “nationals” are defined by law and all such persons possessing the necessary qualifications (age, sex, residence, etc.) are enfranchised. Others i.e. foreigners, are not enfranchised, though there is a procedure by which they can be naturalised and thus secure the franchise. For instance, a person of Spanish origin has no right to vote in France unless he takes the steps necessary to make himself a French citizen, even if he has resided in France for 40 years, speaks French like a Frenchman, has married a French woman, and brings up his children to be French. In Ceylon as in most other parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations, there was no local or territorial nationality: all persons born or naturalised within the Commonwealth were “British subjects”. Thus, if the franchise was based on nationality Englishmen, Indians, Australians, and so on were entitled to the franchise on the same basis as Ceylonese. In fact, the definition of “British subject” was made wider in Ceylon than elsewhere, for it included the subjects of Indian States like Travancore and Cochin, though they were not British subjects by English law. The problem would not arise if the British subjects from overseas were comparatively few, as they are in the United Kingdom: but in parts of the central province and provinces in Uva and Sabaragamuwa they were so numerous as to be able to outvote the Kandyan Sinhalese. Moreover, not all of them were persons who had adopted Ceylon as their home and would make themselves Ceylonese if they could: on the contrary many of them had their families in India and even more intended to retire to India when they have saved enough money to do so. Accordingly, the Sinhalese wanted the franchise limited not to Ceylonese but to British subjects who had an “abiding interest” in the country. It happens that most of the British subjects resident in the Island who would not come within this provision were Indians, but it is wrong to construe this attitude as a prejudice against Indians. Nor need it be cited, as it appears to be in paragraph 37, as an example of communalism. The Sinhalese had not objected to domicile as a test, provided that it was administered properly. They did not want to define “Ceylonese citizens” as persons of Sinhalese or Jaffna Tamil stock.
PARAGRAPH 38: The correspondence was published as Correspondence regarding the Constitution of Ceylon, cmd. 3419, 1929.
PARAGRAPH 42: It is not entirely fair to say that the boycott of the election in the Jaffna Peninsula was due to the abolition of communal representation. The Commissioners nowhere pointed out that the system of territorial representation without weightage involved not merely the loss by the minorities of the advantages which they had over the Sinhalese under the previous Constitutions but actually caused them to be under represented. What is more, the boycott was begun by the young Tamils, many of whom objected not merely to the under–representation of the Tamils but also to the very considerable limitations on self–government imposed by the Donoughmore Constitution. They are now older and wiser and know that their action was a mistake: but they need not be branded as communalists. It must be remembered while reading this paragraph and other paragraphs that Englishmen (and even Welshmen like Sir Frederick Rees) often fail to understand communalism because they have no experience of it. It is possible to be both a communalist and a nationalist. This is not to defend communalism, which is unscientific, unreasonable and undesirable.
PARAGRAPH 43: The reference to a “certain body of opinion” may perhaps suggest a small section of opinion, or even a section of Sinhalese opinion. It is therefore necessary to point out that those of the [N.M.] Perera resolutions which proposed the abolition of the restrictions on self–government were carried unanimously, except that which claimed “the exclusive right of legislation for the peace, order, and good government of the Island” to be “a vested constitutional right of the people of Ceylon”. This excepted motion was carried by 41 votes (34 Sinhalese and 7 minority members) against 4 (three Europeans and one Burgher). One member, a Muslim, declined to vote. Though the Ceylonese were not agreed as to who should govern Ceylon, they were virtually agreed that His Majesty’s Government should not.
PARAGRAPH 44: See State Council Debates, 1932, vol. 2, pp. 1494–1884.
PARAGRAPH 45: It should be remembered that the Board contained five Sinhalese (Sir Baron Jayatilaka and Messrs C. Batuwantudawe, Kannangara, Panabokke and Senanayake), a Muslim (Mr H.M. Macan Marker) and an Indian (Mr P. Sunderam).
Chapter IV Notes
PARAGRAPH 56: There was no boycott in the Jaffna Peninsula. The Pan–Sinhalese Ministry was arranged by getting at least four Sinhalese on each Executive Committee and arranging for whom they were to vote.
PARAGRAPH 57: Without attempting a defence of the Sinhalese leaders, it should be pointed out that one of their objects was to force His Majesty’s Government to assent to a change of the Constitution. Another method would have been non–cooperation, but this would have involved postponing all attempts to improve the social and economic position of the people. The problem was how to force a reform of the Constitution without causing a breakdown.
PARAGRAPH 59: The Ministers’ memorandum was published as Correspondence between the Ministers and the Government regarding the Ceylon Constitution, March–May, 1937, Sessional Paper XI of 1937. It contains a review of the steps taken by the Ministers and the Senate Council since 1931.
PARAGRAPH 60: The comments by Sir Reginald Stubbs have not been published.
PARAGRAPH 65: Sir Andrew Caldecott’s views on representation are worthy of quotation in full:–
“I have made known my opposition to what is called here the ‘Fifty–fifty demand’. This is that seats in the State Council should be apportioned half to ‘the majority community, i.e. the Sinhalese, and half to ‘the minority communities’. I am similarly opposed to a ‘sixty–forty demand’ and to any other form of fractional representation on a race basis. The elected seats must in my opinion continue to be filled on a territorial franchise though (as will emerge later in this despatch) I would gladly see the electoral areas so constituted as to afford a chance of more seats for members of minority communities. It is commonly said that the Donoughmore Constitution has resulted in an enhancement of communalism, but in justice to the Commissioners it must be remembered that (Report, page 102) they recommended 65 elected seats (which would have given greater minority representation) and had nothing to do with subsequent reduction to 50. My reason for opposition to the fifty–fifty demand or to any modification of it is that any concession to the principle of communal representation would perpetuate sectionalism (which I believe to be anathema to thinking people in Ceylon of all races) and preclude the emergence of true political parties on true political issues. To ease the present position by affording a chance of more seats for minority candidates is one thing: to introduce the principle of representation of communities on any mathematical formula is quite another”. (Paragraph 5) [S.P. XXVII of 1938)]
His specific recommendation was that a Committee be appointed “To consider the present electoral areas of the Island and to advise what changes or additions could be reasonably made with a view to affording more chances for the return of candidates belonging to the minority communities and to securing adequate representation of the Kandyan rural interest”. He did not specifically recommend ten extra seats for this purpose, but thought that the committee would find itself able to recommend not more than that number.
It may be pointed out, by way of anticipation, that the Ministers of 1943 and the Soulbury Commission carried out the principle of this recommendation, though on a somewhat larger scale. They provided 101 seats of which 70 were allocated on a population basis, 25 on a basis of area (which meant that they enured mainly to the minorities and the Kandyan rural interest), and 6 to unrepresented groups (i.e. Burghers and Europeans).
PARAGRAPH 66: Sir Andrew Caldecott enumerated the defects of the Executive Committee system as follows (paragraph 13):–
“(a) Administration has become cumbrous and dilatory. The Committee agenda, which I regularly see, are inordinately overloaded, with a result loss of perspective. At the meetings much ado is made about small things, while big questions receive too summary a treatment.
(b)Administration has become centrifugal; each Committee goes its own way without any common direction or control.
Where overlapping is recognized and a matter dealt with by more than one Committee procedure becomes still more cumbrous and dilatory.
(c)The fact that the Ministers owe ministerial office to their having been elected by the Committees as their Chairmen means that they have no common allegiance. Their authority is not original but derivative, and therefore intrinsically weak.
(d) Even though collective responsibility for financial measures has been vested in the Board of Ministers by……….the Order–in–Council the initial preparation of the estimates has been entrusted to the responsibility of the Executive Committees by………..the Statement of Administrative Procedure……….The Board wields the blue pencil but it does not mould the budget.
(e) To summarise this summary there is no determining, coordinating, eliminating, controlling or designing force behind the administrative machine; everything depends upon bargaining and compromise. As a result there can be no fixation and concentration either of policy or of responsibility. “ [S.P. XXVII of 1938)]
PARAGRAPH 72: Almost the whole of State Council Debates (Hansard) 1939, Volume II is given up to the debate. The Commission’s summary again exaggerates the communal aspect. There is no justification for assuming that when Sinhalese speakers asked for a greater measure of self–government for the Ceylonese they did so because the power would fall mainly into the hands of the Sinhalese. When the United Kingdom Government, consisting mostly of Englishmen, makes an agreement with the Ceylon Government, it is not assumed that the Englishmen think only of the benefits to the English and ignore the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish. Nobody suggests that the Ceylonese are as integrated as the people of the United Kingdom or denies that there was some communalism among the Sinhalese, but the Commission’s view was somewhat warped, partly by the novelty (to them) of communalism, and partly by the inevitable bias of the evidence presented to them. The Ministers had regularly and correctly asserted that the visit of a Commission would increase communalism.
PARAGRAPH 73: Mr G. G. Ponnambalam unfortunately spoke at such great length – his speech lasted from March 15, 1939, to the evening of March 21 – that it is not easy to find a quotable extract, but the following passages may help:–
“Self–government is one thing, but a deliberate progression towards self misrule, a deliberate march towards an accession of power to coterie, a clique, a junta, or cabal, is another thing (p. 888)………Self–government is as much our concern………as it is the concern of our Sinhalese brethren. We do definitely anticipate the time when this country would have marched towards and attained self–government within the Empire……..
I look upon Ceylon as a rich mosaic of finely–studded gems. I do not accept this theory of homogeneity, artificial homogeneity, of uniformity, because it does not exist……. We are a composite of different races and nationalities…and the rights of every component part must be accepted and the claims recognised if this country is to march on for the highest good of the greatest number if not of the people as a whole (p. 889)…………
His Excellency the Governor before he deals with the machinery of government disposes of in one line what he has chosen to call the fifty–fifty demand, a crude arithmetical formula. The demand, so far as I am aware…has been for balanced representation, for representation on the basis that no single community should be in a position to out–vote a combination of all the other communities in the Island. This does not necessarily mean a fifty–fifty basis. It might mean more or less. His Excellency must have been aware…that what was contemplated…was not a reversion to communal representation, not a demarcation or reservation of communal seats, not even a reservation of seats in joint electorates for particular interests, but a re–demarcation, a re–delimitation of electoral boundaries…in such a way as to permit members of the minority communities, if they feel so disposed for some time to care to return members belonging to their other communities so that the major community should not be in a position to out–vote the other communities (p. 894)…….”
(Mr Ponnambalam claimed that this demand for balanced representation had been made by the Tamil Maha Jana Sabha in 1921 and by other Tamil bodies at a later date: see pp. 894–897).
“To keep a discontented minority or minorities……, to prevent the return of members representing minority communities is to prevent the minority communities from taking their full and proper share in the government…to keep them…with a feeling of discontent…suspicion…and distrust against the majority community….always on the look–out for something that may be done against the interests of the minorities definitely and perpetually to keep them apart…….I appeal to the leaders of the major communities…to satisfy our demands and remove the misgivings engendered….in the last seven or eight years, and then they will find out whether the minorities would not as in the past be in the vanguard of the national movement (p. 898)……
If the various sections of the people…are to develop the virtues of compromise and cooperation, one condition precedent…is a feeling of inter–dependence, a feeling that any single community by itself will not be able to administer the Government…….Under a balanced scheme of representation, we do not for a moment contemplate ……relegating the Sinhalese to a minority. At the worst, in a Council of 68 members, they would have 34 members……’Thirty–four members belonging to one community united by a common language, united in most cases by a common religion, united by a common culture and a common tradition, as opposed to another 34 members, consisting of a number of thoroughly heterogeneous groups…..I ask you, ‘What have the Sinhalese to fear?’
When we had balanced representation under the last Constitution, had they anything to fear? Was there a single occasion when the minorities joined together to barrack them or to defeat their aims?……. If honestly what is intended is complete unity, if what is wanted in the evolution of a party system…on inter–communal lines, then the condition precedent to that would be the existence of a state of affairs in which one community could not form a communal party and be able to assume power….. The moment there is a balance in the matter of representation, people who think alike on political and economic questions – of all communities – will get together. The diehards, the conservatives, the un–changers will get together. The extremists will get together, and there would also be a centre bloc of fairly progressive people…..But as long as you do not allay the fears of the minorities….you will never get the formation of parties…… (pp. 1004–5).”
PARAGRAPH 79: See Correspondence of the Board of Ministers with the Secretary of State and the Governor, Sessional paper XIII of 1943.
PARAGRAPH 82: The resolution of 26th March 1942 deserves greater prominence. It was the Ministers’ mandate for the demand for Dominion status which eventually they succeeded in obtaining.
Chapter V Notes
PARAGRAPH 84: The words “of course” are intended to justify the argument of the Secretary of State (Sessional Paper XII of 1944, p. 5) that the Declaration of 1943 did not alter the substance of the Declaration of 1941 but merely gave it “greater precision”. The Ministers took an entirely different view of the Declaration of 1943 and their interpretation was not [Missing].
[earlier paragraphs are missing]
This provision would not be peculiar to Ceylon, for it has been in operation in all dominions with responsible government and still is in some. In such territories it has acquired a definite and limited meaning which would have to be applied in Ceylon. Furthermore, if such a provision were inserted in Instructions to the Governor of a self–governing Ceylon its force would be weak compared with its force in the present Instructions. It is applied at present on the advice of Officers of State by a Governor with powers ample enough to put the policy of the British government into operation. In a self–governing Ceylon the Governor would have no advisers save the responsible Ministers, and if he chose to exercise the power to the prejudice of Ceylon, he would run the risk of being unable to find Ministers prepared to work the Constitution as he interpreted it. We think it unlikely that the power would be abused, but if it were we feel sure that the responsible Ministers would know what action to take.
(4) The restrictions in relation to defence and external affairs are in quite another category. We have already mentioned that the Declaration does not assert that defence and external affairs would be withdrawn from the scope of self–government. These subjects would be transferred from the Chief Secretary to the responsible Minister. In respect of certain closely defined matters of defence, however, the Governor would have an independent power of legislation in order to enact any direction from the British Government and he would also be instructed to reserve Bills dealing with any of those matters. In respect of external affairs he would have a similar power of legislation and would be instructed to reserve Bills other than those giving effect to Ceylon’s trade agreements with other parts of the Commonwealth. We appreciate that Ceylon is not yet in a position to defend herself against aggressive powers. On the other hand, we do not believe that the Island can be defended without the assistance of her people. The Declaration acknowledges the valuable contribution which Ceylon has made and is making to the war effort of the British Commonwealth and the United Nations. There is no reason to suppose that it would fail to render a similar contribution n if unfortunately similar circumstances should arrive again. For this reason we do not think that special provisions relating to defence and external relations are necessary. We regret therefore that we are not to be regarded, as Canada and Australia are regarded, as potential allies in any just cause.
(5) Imperial forces were stationed In the Dominions until they were fully prepared to take over the whole burden of their defence. Any Imperial forces stationed in Ceylon would be for our protection as well as for the protection of the Commonwealth as a whole. The legislature would, however, determine what proportion of the cost should be borne by Ceylon. Unless the whole cost were to be met by Great Britain, therefore, the cooperation of the legislature would be necessary. Nor does the Declaration contemplate that the external relations of the Island would be exclusively in the hands of Great Britain. The British Government would have the direction and control, but the initiative would rest with the Government of Ceylon. This would be true of trade agreements with other parts of the Commonwealth and, where any such agreements were concluded by the Government of Ceylon with other parts of the Commonwealth, with the approval of the British Government, the Governor would not be instructed to reserve the Bills giving effect to them. Where it was convenient for Ceylon, to be separately represented, as to New Delhi, there is nothing to prevent such a step being taken. It is essential to remember, too, that international agreements often relate to matters of internal civil administration, which are specifically left by the Declaration to the responsible ministers. In all matters of external relations, therefore, the responsible Government of Ceylon could make its influence felt and its wishes respected. The status of Ceylon would be quite different when a Minister is responsible from what it is now, when external relations are vested in the Chief Secretary.
(6) Even in respect of defence and external relations, therefore, the Declaration marks a definite advance. It does not promise everything for which we have asked. We do not like the qualifications which we have mentioned. We think however that the offer should be accepted in the belief on the one hand that the qualifications are unnecessary and on the other hand that they would decay from disuse as similar qualifications have decayed elsewhere. We also wish to point out that the responsible Government, and that Government alone, will be entitled to speak for Ceylon in the conferences of the British Commonwealth and the Councils of the Nations.
(7) We would add that every matter which is not defence or external affairs can only be regarded as a matter of internal civil administration for example the determination of the composition of the population of Ceylon, protective duties, trade and shipping subject, only as regards trade and shipping, to the reservation considered in paragraph three above.
(8) The acceptance of a Constitution satisfying these conditions is dependent upon its approval by three–quarters of all the Members of the State Council excluding the Officers of State and the Speaker. This is a difficult condition but we believe the State Council possesses the larger patriotism that transcends sectional differences. We propose therefore to draft a Constitution in accordance with the interpretation to the Declaration which we have given in the foregoing paragraphs. If we feel that we can commend it to the country, we shall, in due course, submit it to the State Council in the belief that it will obtain the necessary support. We shall do our best to secure the requisite majority, but not at the expense of the future welfare of Ceylon. We should like to make it plain however that if we fail we shall not stop there.
(9) The Declaration states that the Commission or Conference which will examine whether our draft Constitution satisfies the Declaration cannot meet until victory is achieved. We do not regard this condition as necessarily binding. The war may enter a phase in which consideration of these constitutional problems will become possible earlier. We therefore propose to make the draft with all possible despatch. The undertaking will, however, give us an additional reason for hoping that victory will not be long delayed.
(10) We have given the Declaration the interpretation that we think it is intended to bear and we propose to inform the Secretary of State theft we are proceeding to frame a Constitution in accordance with our interpretation.
It will be seen that it is not correct that the Leader asked that a number of points be elucidated. He stated that this was the Minister’s interpretation of the document and that they proposed to frame a Constitution on that basis. For further correspondence see ibid. pp. 5–6 [most likely this reference is to Sessional Paper XII of 1944]
PARAGRAPH 86: The second sentence reads as if it was a remark by the Ministers: it is however, a comment by the Commission: see paragraph (5) of the Ministers’ statement quoted above.
The suggestion in the last sentence is completely without foundation. The phrase was in my draft and was an attempt to express Mr D.S. Senanayake’s views. The solution of constitutional difficulties by agreement is, happily, in the British tradition; but British commentators usually fail to realise that the situation is quite different in a dependent country. If British parties do not agree there is chaos, and “the larger patriotism” therefore compels them to agree. But if communal parties in India or Ceylon did not agree the British government prevented chaos. Any group could thus prevent agreement by refusing to compromise. What is more it could always hope to get more from the arbitration of what Gandhi called “the third party”, the British Government, than it could get by compromise. All groups were thus all groups encouraged to resist a compromise, and the more the British Government called for agreement the less likely it was. Mr Senanayake was prepared for any reasonable compromise, but did not believe that Mr Ponnambalam either would or could accept anything less than “balanced representation”. On the other hand, he knew that the Ceylon Tamils were patriotic citizens who, if compelled to take the choice between a reasonable Constitution giving much wider powers and the Donoughmore Constitution would choose the former. He proved to be right. The efforts made by Mr Bandaranaike and others to reach a compromise were fruitless. Mr Ponnambalam continued his opposition to the bitter end. But after the debate on the White Paper all communities except the Indians supported Mr Senanayake’s motion, which was carried by 51 votes to 3. This vote by the Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burgers and Europeans exhibited what Mr Senanayake meant by “the larger patriotism”.
PARAGRAPH 87: It should be added that the Secretary of State did not at this stage indicate that the Ministers had based their discretion on a false interpretation of the Declaration.
PARAGRAPH 88: This particular variation of the Declaration of 1943 was announced in the Minister’s Statement of June 8, 1943: see paragraph (9) quoted above. The Commission no doubt mentioned the point because the Ministers had accused His Majesty’s Government of varying the Declaration. It is not easy to see the reason for the statement in the last sentence of the paragraph.
PARAGRAPH 89: There is no published evidence to support the reference to “a careful assessment”; but the Commissioners had no doubt read the confidential telegrams, which were not available to the Ministers. The curious fact that this statement was first communicated to the Ministers without the sentence referred to in paragraph 90.
PARAGRAPH 91: This paragraph shows how little the Commissioners’ understanding of the political situation. The main obstacle to more complete self–government, in the Ministers’ view, was the Secretary of State. They felt certain of being able to get a three–quarters majority for a reasonable Constitution, provided that it gave a much larger measure of self–government. It is quite untrue that they “knew that the (minorities) would not agree to go as far in the direction of Dominion status as the Ministers desired”. The Jaffna Tamils and the Muslims have always claimed that they were as anxious for Dominion status as the Sinhalese (of Mr Ponnambalam’s statement quoted in the note to paragraph 75). The State Council had voted for Dominion status in 1942, only the Burghers and the Europeans opposing the Ministers followed the procedure which they believed to be laid down in the Declaration: and in fact they thought that this procedure had been laid down because Sir Andrew Caldecott and Sir Robert Drayton appreciated the political situation.
PARAGRAPH 92: The “misunderstanding” is explained, so far as it can be explained on the material available to me, in Part II, Chapter 4 of this book.
PARAGRAPH 93: Mr A. Mahadeva wanted a Royal Commission to determine representation, but agreed on all other points. He has since said that the Ministers were prepared to accept a proposal put forward by him, but the Tamil members of the State Council were not prepared to accept it. His position in his own community was, of course, extremely difficult, since most of the other Tamil representatives were supporting “balanced representation”, on which no compromise was possible.
PARAGRAPH 95: The Ministers’ Draft, with its explanatory memorandum.
PARAGRAPH 97: The inference is correct.