[lg policy] Reflecting on Silent Revolutions What’s in store for Rainbow Revolution of 2015…?

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Fri Feb 2 10:34:54 EST 2018


 Reflecting on Silent Revolutions What’s in store for Rainbow Revolution of
2015…?
2018-02-02 00:00:14
0
294

*The political eagerness to use language as an electoral instigator
contributed to Sinhala becoming the only official language in 1956*

The idea that Sinhala and Tamil shall both be given official language
status after independence was agreed among political leaders until the
eruption of language controversy in 1955. On five different occasions
between 1926 and 1943, first the Legislative Council and the State Council that
was established after 1931, had passed proposals supporting both Sinhala
and Tamil replacing English as the country’s official language. Prime
Minister, D.S Senanayake, unwaveringly stood by this position. His mistake
wasn’t introducing in the five years of his tenure to bring about a
systematic replacement of ‘English only’ with all three national languages
spoken in the island. The political eagerness to use language as an
electoral instigator contributed to Sinhala becoming the only official
language in 1956.



*The 1956 election was fought on the issue of ‘a change from English to
Swabhasha or Sinhalese/Tamil’*

*In 1978, a new Constitution was promulgated by J R Jayewardene using the
5/6th majority at the 1977 elections*


 The 1956 election was fought on the issue of ‘a change from English to
Swabhasha or Sinhalese/Tamil’ as an inevitable requirement with the growth
of democracy. The United National Party (UNP) which governed the first
eight years of post-independent Ceylon under three Prime Ministers—D.S
Senanayake, son Dudley and his cousin Sir John Kotelawala- was careful not
to create fresh problems for the government by attempting to make changes.
This was despite the second tier leadership being under pressure from the
rank and file for a popular ‘Sinhala only’ wave. Fulfilling his electoral
promise to make Sinhala only within 24 hours, the Prime Minister SWRD
Bandaranaike introduced the Official Language Act on 5th June 1956, which
later became one of the darkest days of the post independent Sri Lanka. The
parliament began the Second Reading debate the same day. The SLFP led
Government and UNP opposition were extremely keen in getting the
legislation passed. The Marxist LSSP and the CP strongly opposed it and
risked the lives of their leadership as mobs gathered outside Parliament.


Tamil speaking citizens became anxious about their future. Federal Party
led by SJV Chelvanayagam organized a Satyagraha campaign on the Galle Face
Green before the days proceeding in parliament, only to be manhandled by
misguided mobs.


S.W.R.D Bandaranaike who left the ruling UNP in 1951 and formed a new party
styled Sri Lanka Freedom Party [SLFP], campaigned at the 1956 General
Elections on the cry, ‘Sinhalese only’. However, he included a clause in
his election manifesto which said, ‘Reasonable use of Tamil’ and shown only
in the English copy. As he was gaining popularity, the UNP blundered by
abandoning their earlier stance of parity for Tamil, and adopted a
‘Sinhalese only’ to fall in line with Bandaranaike. SWRD also promised to
nationalise Tea estates owned by Sterling companies, take-over British Air
Bases and evict the British from Trincomalee Naval base. The MEP backed by
main constituent Sri Lanka Freedom Party, swept to power. Bandaranaike soon
realised that the forces which had been released by his victory were
formidable to resist; he found himself the prisoner of his election
promises.

The parliament began the Second Reading debate the same day. The SLFP led
Government and UNP opposition were extremely keen in getting the
legislation passed. The Marxist LSSP and the CP strongly opposed it and
risked the lives of their leadership as mobs gathered outside Parliament


 The nation experienced a tense situation. There was inter-ethnic discord
on the grounds of race while covert clashes erupted on the basis of class.


 At the 1959 SLFP convention held in Kurunegala, the right wing took the
lead in internal party elections; seeing the ‘leftist’ members being
defeated. In May 1959, the Agriculture and Food Minister Philip
Gunewardena, the father of Marxism, resigned. His number two, Senator PH
William de Silva resigned a couple of days later, followed by five other
left-leaning MP’s. Bandaranaike announced a fresh cabinet in June. The PM
was somewhat stressed out and weary, and was cautious in managing ‘fast
track bumps’. Certain quarters who tirelessly worked towards his triumph
were making, unfair moves expecting business favors; upon rejection of such
requests, the frustrated men conspired against him; finally he had to ‘pay
the supreme penalty’ in September 1959, when he was assassinated by an
extremist ‘Buddhist priest’.


 The slain Prime Minister had courageously tried to contain the damage and
enter into an accord with the Federal Party. However, his successors
renounced this pacifying approach and forcefully put into practice the
Sinhala only official language policy in such a manner that Bandaranaike
would have never envisaged or approved. The unfair practices of recruitment
to and promotions in Government service, the armed forces and the
standardized admissions to universities alienated the minorities from
administration.

1970


Nationalisation of insurance companies affiliated to foreign interests;
nationalization of petroleum owned by British and US to set up the Ceylon
Petroleum Corporation, however, deteriorated our relations with Western
powers. The US Government retaliated by threatening to withdraw assistance
to the island, and in fact they did.


For the first time the term ‘Non-alignment’ was used in describing the
foreign policy of Sirimavo’s Government. It was a policy of non–alignment
with super powers and neutralism; her Government’s relations with all
countries were friendly. Sirimavo had the courage to thwart US moves to
station through US Seventh Fleet some nuclear task force units in the
territorial waters of the island.


 Dudley Senanayake’s 1965-70 ‘National Government’s attempt to solve
Language issues through the introduction of district councils proved
catastrophic to its popularity. In 1966, SLFP led leftist opposition
demonstrated against the move causing a Buddhist monk being shot at by
Police at Kollpitiya.


 With the SLFP coming into power in 1970, they replaced the Order in
Council of 1946 with a new Constitution adopted at the Constituent Assembly
held in 1971/1972 at the Navarangahala of the Royal Primary School in
Colombo. The 1972 constitution changed the country’s name to Sri Lanka from
Ceylon, and established it as an independent sovereign republic.


The 1972 constitution had many shortcomings. The non- representative and
non- inclusive nature of its drafting process was one such drawback. The
committees entrusted with the responsibility of drafting were populated
with members of the Government. Drafts of resolutions were prepared under
the purview of Dr Colvin R. de Silva and a group of senior SLFP MPs, and
the leadership of the LSSP and CP. The Federal Party withdraw itself from
the Constituent Assembly in mid 1971 citing the above and other reasons.
The UNP complained about the lack of consideration given to recommendations
made by the opposition, stating that they would not vote in favour of it.
Surprisingly, lack of safeguards made for the country’s minority, their
basic rights, religion and language- even having done away with the
provisions included in the 1948 Constitution. ‘Foremost place for Buddhism’
which wasn’t there in the 1948 constitution was introduced to dupe the
Buddhists.


 Sirimavo, the woman who took Sri Lanka to the world in 1960 as first woman
Head of State, repeated her feat when she hosted and took up the
Chairmanship of the 5th NAM [Non - aligned Movement’s Summit] held in
Colombo in 1976 in the presence of 86 heads of state. The framework for “a
new International Economic Order” was the action programme of the
conference, which was one of the most important contributions of the
conference.

1977


The first Republican Constitution lasted for only 5 years. The UNP, which
assumed power in 1977, introduced an Amendment to the 1972 Constitution on
20 October, 1977 creating an Executive President who would be the Head of
the State and Head of Government.


In 1978, a new Constitution was promulgated by J R Jayewardene using the
5/6th majority at the 1977 elections. Sri Lanka was re-named the Democratic
Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. The new Constitution continued the
immunity of the President, ministers were to be appointed by the President,
and he would need to consult the PM only if necessary. Although
constitutionally the President has to be elected at an election, under new
Provisions in respect of the first President, the person who holds the post
of PM at the time of the new Constitution coming into effect, would be
considered the elected President. The new constitution, which came into
effect on 7 September 1978, granted the president sweeping—and almost
dictatorial—powers. He moved the legislative capital from Colombo to Kotte
and opened up the economy.


JRJ had held a Referendum in 1982 to extend the period of Parliament for a
further term of 6 years. The foreword to the proposal seeking the mandate
of the People for such extension said, ‘to ensure for a further term the
stability necessary for the continuation of the programme undertaken for
the advancement and progress of the People of Sri Lanka’


The amendment sought to ‘continue until August 4, 1989’ received the
‘approval’ at a highly rigged vote of the people. He knew that if an
election was held in terms of the Constitution after 6 years under the new
PR system, it would not have produced the ‘required stability’ needed by
JRJ. Thus with the ‘winning’ of the Referendum, he received what he wanted.
Between 1983 and 1988, 11 amendments, all at his whims and fancies had been
made to the Constitution.


To his credit, the Mahaveli, the largest multipurpose development programme
in the history of the Island, which would have lasted about 30 years, was
accelerated to be completed within its term of office of first 6 years.


-- 
=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+

 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

-------------------------------------------------
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/lgpolicy-list/attachments/20180202/347c4f57/attachment-0001.html>
-------------- next part --------------
_______________________________________________
This message came to you by way of the lgpolicy-list mailing list
lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu
To manage your subscription unsubscribe, or arrange digest format: https://groups.sas.upenn.edu/mailman/listinfo/lgpolicy-list


More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list