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Home > Tamils - a Trans State Nation > Human Rights & the Tamil Nation > Somasunderam Nadesan > Senate Speech on Ceylon Parliamentary Elections Bill, 1949
Ceylon (Parliamentary Elections) Amendment Bill
Speech delivered during the course of the debate in the first Senate on 17
Racialists masquerading as nationalists...
I listened to the debate with considerable interest, particularly to the speech made by my Hon. Friend who just resumed his seat and that made by my Hon. Friend, who so often disclaims membership of the Sinhala Maha Sabha (Senator Kotelawala).
At the outset, I wish to say that the discussion of an important issue, such as this, is bound to be unnecessarily complicated if we allow ourselves to be led away by considerations which are not really relevant to a full appreciation of what this enactment really means, and what results it is bound to produce in the country in the future.
I deprecate most strongly the attempt made by my Hon. Friend who disclaims the Sinhala Maha Sabha to criticise the arguments of Hon. Senators of the Opposition even before he had listened to them. He said that because some of us are Tamils we might adopt a certain attitude in this matter; and he proceeded to give certain reasons for so saying. No doubt, it is a misfortune that some of us happen to belong to a minority community but I wish to tell him here and now, that there are some of us who can consider matters that come up before this House dispassionately, without being influenced by the fact that we belong to a minority community.
I should also like to impress upon the Members of Government that in the case of the minority community it is sometimes excusable if, in view of the militant attitude that certain members of the majority community adopt, they are rather timid and nervous and express their fears in respect of enactments of a certain nature that are introduced by the Government. That is something which is understandable. But certainly let them not hug the delusion that because they happen to be in a majority they can successfully pretend forever that they are nationalists when really they are racialists masquerading as nationalists.
I should also like to mention that in the other place and elsewhere parties were divided on this Bill but not on communal lines, because some among the Sinhalese community opposed it while others of their number originated it. And there is also the fact, whatever the reasons for it may be, that a number of persons belonging to the minority communities have supported it.
So that, the division of opinion on this Bill itself has not taken place on any narrow, communal, sectional lines. I suppose there are very good reasons for opinion to be divided on this Bill. It is indeed heartening to observe that there are members of the majority community in this country who, despite the fact that their actions and attitude are bound to be misunderstood in places where the Sinhalese predominate, knowing fully well that a systematic campaign has been carried on against them, both by the members of the U.N.P and by others who support the U.N.P in the country, calling them traitors and painting them as persons who are not doing the right thing by the indigenous population of this country, have the courage to stand up and fight for what they consider is right. That is a very heartening circumstance because despite the fact, as I hope to be able to show, that iniquitous legislation of this nature is sought to be put on the statute book by the present Government of this country, there is yet hope for us.
The leader of the Tamil Congress was one of those persons who supported Mr. Senanayake in respect of this Bill and who also voted for it...
Now, my Hon. Friend (Senator Naganathan) cannot forget the fact that if the Plantation Tamil community is in this predicament today, he too is partly responsible .... Let it not be forgotten that the person who only the other day was Leader of the Ceylon Tamil Congress, of which my Hon. Federalist Friend (Senator Dr. Naganathan) was once an ornament, is one of those persons who supported Mr. Senanayake in respect of this Bill and who also voted for it.
Senator Nadesan: If on the 16th of July, 1947, a pledge of this nature could have been given by the Leader of the Ceylon Tamil Congress and if, today, as a Member of the Cabinet, that very same person can support a Bill of this nature, it hardly lies in the mouth of anybody who belongs to the Tamil Community to stand up here and blame Mr. Senanayake. We know very well that, so far as Mr. Senanayake is concerned, he has been throughout his political career - certainly since the inauguration of the Donoughmore Constitution - very consistent in his attitude towards franchise rights to Plantation Tamils.
I refer to this aspect of the matter because there are in this country a large section of the population who, irrespective of considerations of class or race, are willing to take a dispassionate view of this question, for the simple reason that they realise that matters of this nature should not be complicated by any section of the population raising tribal cries and rousing communal or racial passions. This is a matter which has to be looked at and examined with a view to finding out whether the right thing is done by us in respect of a considerably important section of the population who, by their toil, are contributing to the economy of this Island.
When the Citizenship Bill was debated both in the House and in the other place, the Government did not state that the franchise rights of a large section of the population of this country would be taken away...
I was rather surprised when the Hon. Minister of Home Affairs said in the course of his observations on this Bill that he proposed to be very short. In point of fact, after stating that he proposed to be very short he apologised for taking about ten minutes more than he intended. In introducing this Bill, I believe he made one of the shortest possible speeches.
But there is a reason why the Hon. Minister of Home Affairs made such a short speech in introducing this Bill. Apparently, in the view of the government, the disfranchising of this section of the population is not a matter of very great importance; apparently, it is not a matter that has caused them any searchings of heart or difficulties of any kind. With a very easy conscience they have prepared this Bill and they feel, with a sense of smug self-satisfaction, that they are doing the right thing. It is obvious that their opinion is that only citizens of the country are entitled to vote and that therefore they need not take any trouble in explaining the position or justifying it.
It is unfortunate that in a matter such as this the Government should adopt such an attitude, and I shall not be surprised if that was the attitude of mind adopted by the persons responsible for framing the Citizenship Act. It is obvious that there has been a facile assumption on their part, now that the Citizenship Act makes clear who the citizens and who the non-citizens are, that only citizens of Ceylon can have the vote, can have any representation or participation in the Government of the country. That is the only argument that has been advanced by the Hon. Minister who introduced the Bill.
In advancing that reason, the Hon. Minister told us, very briefly, the history of Plantation Tamil immigrant labour and of franchise rights of the Plantation Tamil immigrant population. Before I proceed to deal with what has been so readily assumed as the correct basis of or the exercise of the franchise, namely, that one should be a citizen of the country, I propose to deal with certain aspects of the matter, with particular reference to the history of this question.
It is rather curious that when the Citizenship Bill was debated both in the House and in the other place, no spokesmen on behalf of the Government ever said that, as a result of the passage of that Bill, the franchise rights of a large section of the population of this country would be taken away. What is more, if I may refer to certain observations to which your attention has already been drawn by my gallant Friend, this is what the Hon. Leader is reported to have said when he introduced the Citizenship Bill in this House - Column 669 of Hansard dated August 31, 1948.
So that, Mr. President, the view of the Hon. Leader, when he introduced the Citizenship Bill in this House, was that the question of franchise was quite irrelevant to a discussion of the Citizenship Bill. In other words, we were invited to consider the Citizenship Bill without taking into account the effect of that Bill on this matter. If one of the effects of passing a Citizenship Bill was that the franchise rights of a section of the population would be affected, then that was a matter which had to be considered in arriving at a conclusion as to whether the limitations placed in the Citizenship Bill were fair, reasonable or just. I therefore venture to submit that the Citizenship Bill was considered without due regard to the fact that its passage through this House meant the deprivation of franchise rights to a section of the people. It was in that context that the Hon. Leader invited the Senate to consider the Citizenship Bill.
The Hon. Leader said that the question of franchise was irrelevant when considering the Citizenship Bill. That was a statement made by a trained lawyer who knows what is relevant and what is not. If it was for a moment contemplated, at that point of time, that this Bill was one of the necessary consequences of the passage of the Citizenship Bill, how is it that the Hon. Leader informed us that reference to the franchise was totally irrelevant to the consideration of the Citizenship Bill? If it was then said that this Bill was a necessary corollary to the passage of the Citizenship Bill, this House might have taken a different view with regard to what should be the necessary qualifications for Ceylon citizenship. So that it is pretty clear that, so far as the spokesmen of the Government was concerned, that was the view he then put forward.
I have taken the trouble to go through the Hansard of the other place and I find that not one spokesman of the Government had said on the occasion the Citizenship Bill was debated there, or even when the Indian and Pakistani Residents (Citizenship) Bill was discussed there, that one of the consequences of the passage of that Bill was the determination of the right of franchise in accordance with its provisions.
In this predicament, the Hon. Minister of Home Affairs has been compelled to take refuge in the speech of the (Opposition) Member for Wellawatte-Galkissa. This is the first time that a Government takes refuge in the fact that one of the Members of the Opposition in the other place suspected what the intention of Government was. No doubt, there would have been Members of the Opposition who were prepared to take seriously the observations made by the Member for Wellawatte-Galkissa on that occasion. On the other hand, there might have been Members of the Government Party, or Independents, who might have been disposed to take the view of the Government spokesman seriously.
What I wish to say is that so far as this Bill itself is concerned, it was never envisaged by the Government spokesman, at the time they introduced the Ceylon Citizenship Bill, and the Indian and Pakistani Residents (Citizenship) Bill. I wish to emphasise that it was a sufficiently important matter and should have been brought - and that is what any responsible Government would have done - to the notice of this Chamber before we were asked to subscribe to that piece of legislation. It hardly lies in the mouth of the Hon. Minister of Home Affairs to say now that because the Member for Wellawatte-Galkissa suspected the intentions of this Government, we must have known, as surely as night follows day, that the Government intended to place this piece of legislation on the statute book.
In the entirety of the correspondence that the Prime Minister of India had with our Prime Minister, there is absolutely no reference to the fact that this will be one of the consequential amendments to be placed on the statute book...
That is not all. My Hon. Friend who spoke last (Senator Dr. Naganathan) said that in the entirety of the correspondence that the Prime Minister of India had with our Prime Minister, there is absolutely no reference to the fact that this will be one of the consequential amendments to be placed on the statute book. What is more, at the commencement of each Session we are appraised by the Government of all the important legislation that they intend to pass. This is usually mentioned in the Governor-Generals Speech when he opens Parliament. This is what the Governor-General said in the course of his Speech opening the present session.
which Bill is now before the other place, as a result of the recommendations of a Commission appointed to go into the question of amending the Ceylon (Constitution) Order in Council --
Is there any mention of this Bill in that Speech? This is an important Bill, a Bill which seeks to disfranchise a large section of the population of this country, a Bill which is very important in that it purports to amend a certain section of the Order in Council, a Bill which is as important as the amendment to the Ceylon (Constitutional) Order in Council itself.
In other words, the Government of this country have been adopting a very secretive attitude in regard to this matter. The Government have not even appointed a Commission to go into a matter of such importance which involves the disfranchising of a large section of the population of this country. This Bill was hatched in secrecy and introduced in the other place without giving an opportunity to the people of this country, particularly that section of the population which is so interested in it, to express their views on it. And it is sent here for debate and adoption without public attention being called to it.
The earlier debates therefore, at any rate from the Government point of view, proceeded on the basis that the Citizenship Bill had nothing to do with the question of franchise, that the question of franchise was irrelevant in the consideration of the Citizenship Bill. That is why I say that citizenship was determined by the Government on a certain basis and that it hardly lies in the mouth of the Hon. Minister now to say that because the Citizenship Bill has been passed, this piece of legislation should be enacted.
The Hon. Home Minister referred to the question of Plantation Tamil immigration. The only reason he gave for the Bill, as I said, was that none other than citizens should have the right to be represented in the Government of the country. I hope he will correct me if I have misunderstood him. I understood him to say that only citizens should be allowed to have any hand in the Government of the country.
I desire to clear away certain misunderstandings that have arisen with regard to one fact namely, that if you give these Plantation Tamil labourers the franchise, they will dominate the Kandyan people...
I propose to deal with the observation but, at the very outset, I desire to clear away certain misunderstanding that have arisen with regard to one fact namely, that if you give these Plantation Tamil labourers the franchise, they will dominate the Kandyan people. That is an argument that has been advanced. It is said that, in course of time, these Plantation Tamil labourers might have a preponderant voice in the Government of the country. It is urged that by giving them that right, we would, in some way be helping a set of persons, who are foreigners and not citizens, to dominate the country.
The Hon. Home Minister referred to the fact that right from the year 1910, so far as the people of this country -- be they Indians, Plantation Tamils, Ceylon Tamils or Sinhalese -- are concerned they all had the franchise on the same basis. He then went on to say that at the time of the Donoughmore Commission, a large number of people objected to the grant of the franchise to the Plantation Tamil labourers resident in this country on the basis of five years residence and insisted on a more rigid test. Sir Herbert Stanley was therefore induced to recommend the test of domicile with certain modifications. That is correct.
As I have already pointed out in this House on more than one occasion, despite the fact that the Plantation Tamil labourers were sent to this country from the year 1837 on the basis of certain definite undertakings given by the Government of Ceylon to the Government of India, namely, that equality of status with the rest of the population should be meted to them, a great agitation was carried on by the people of this country in the years 1928 to 1931 to restrict the franchise. It has to be conceded by any fair-minded person that those undertakings were given and Plantation Tamil labourers in large numbers were brought out here.
I agree with the Hon. Senator who spoke yesterday (Senator Kotelawala) that it was an unfortunate predicament in which the people of this country found themselves when large numbers of Plantation Tamil labourers were brought out here and settled in the Central Province for the purpose of working on plantations.
There is not the slightest doubt that in the year 1931, on account of the situation to which Ceylon found herself, the leaders of this country rightly thought that the presence of this large Plantation Tamil immigrant population in the Island, with no guarantee that there would be any control as regards further immigration into Ceylon, was undesirable and that steps had to be taken in the matter.
If that large section of the population were given the franchise, particularly at a time when the Government of this country was not in our hands, when the British Government in Ceylon and the British Government in India could have come to any arrangement they wished land permitted large numbers of Plantation Tamil labourers to come over to Ceylon, it might have resulted in the indigenous population of this country being completely swamped. At that time, therefore, there were very valid grounds for the leaders of this country to ask that the Indian franchise should be restricted.
One has therefore to consider the position of Ceylon from the years 1928 to 1931. At that time we had no power to control immigration. These are factors which have to be taken into consideration in assessing the correctness or otherwise of the stand taken up by certain representatives of the people.
In this connection, I can do no better than refer you to the debate on the Donoughmore Commission Report which took place in the year 1928. In particular, I should like, if I may, to refer to the speech made by the Hon. Mr. C.W.W. Kannangara, which appears at page 1806 of the Hansard for 1928. The figures quoted by the Hon. Mr. Kannangara on that occasion were taken from various reports which I have certified and found to be correct. This is what Mr. Kannangara said:
The increase by births in the permanent population for six years, 1921 to 1927, was 429,848, whereas the increase in the immigrant population during that period was 354,395. That is one factor which Hon. Members who debated this question at the time had before their minds.
Mr. Kannangara went on to say:
That was the situation in 1928. The total population was 5,288,792 and the immigrants population was 885,000. To the immigrant population, there was a yearly addition, at that time, of 74,075.
Now, Mr. President, promises had been made. No doubt, these labourers had been recruited on a certain basis. No doubt, it would have been a breach of faith to depart from the basis on which these labourers were recruited. But here, one was confronted with a substantial problem, a tangible problem, a problem, the magnitude of which it was not possible for people to overlook. Supposing, after five years' residence, you gave the vote to those people on the same basis as it was given to the rest of the population, without any possibility of stoppage of or control over immigration! Well, in course of time, the entire indigenous population, particularly in the Kandyan provinces might have been completely swamped; and the immigrant population might have dominated that part of the country. It is in that context that one has to analyse the reasons that prompted certain persons at that time to oppose the grant of franchise to Plantation Tamils on the same basis as it was granted to other citizens or even on the basis of five years' residence. The Hon. Mr. Kannangara explained the position as follows:
The view then taken was that if immigration continued at that rate and if large numbers of immigrants were permitted to vote on the basis of five years' residence -- this is, of course, a somewhat exaggerated picture -- there was no knowing what the result would be. The entire Kandyan population certainly in the Central Province, would have been completely swamped by Plantation Tamils, if immigration was allowed to continue! That was the view then held. Therefore adequate precautions were taken to see that the immigrant vote was not allowed to swell, and certain restrictions were imposed upon it.
It may be of interest, Mr. President, to refer to your own speech made on November 1, 1928, and reproduced at page 1693 of Hansard for that year because the Hon. Minister for Home Affairs adverted to the fact that you were present at a meeting held at the Town Hall, Kandy, in connection with the question of franchise. This is what you said on that occasion. You prefaced your remarks by saying:
You then went on to say:
The people of this country were confronted with a peculiar problem in the year 1931, the problem being the unrestricted immigration of Plantation Tamil labourers into this country. They thought that if that state of affairs was allowed to continue, there was grave danger of the indigenous population being swamped and the Plantation Tamil immigrant population sending a preponderant number of their representations to Council.
What is the purpose of going into ancient history when we have to face certain hard facts today...
Mr. President, what is the purpose of going into ancient history when we have to face certain hard facts today? What are those facts? Even before the Immigrants and Emigrants Act was passed, we had a valuable report called the Delimitation Commission Report to which the Hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance (Senator Jansz) was also a signatory. That Report gives a large number of figures relation to the various electoral districts and the population of this country. The position is that the total population of this country in the year 1944 - it is on the basis the Delimitation Commission arrived at certain findings - was 6,384,000. Out of that, the Plantation Tamil estate population numbered 674,609. The position in 1928 was that the permanent population had increased by 429,848 as against an increase of 854,395 in the immigrant population. However, since 1928, the immigrant population has gone down to 674,609, whilst the total population has increased from 5,288,792 to 6,384,000.
The position today is that while the total population of this country has gone up by more than 1,000,000 the Plantation Tamil Estate population has declined in numbers. That is an important factor and has to be borne in mind. What is more, the situation today is that we have complete control of immigration? We have passed an Immigrants and Emigrants Act by which we can adjust the number of people coming into this Island. We have absolute control in that matter. So that, we have machinery by which we can make certain that the number of immigrants does not increase. That is another important factor.
That being the case, it is idle for us - some of us have probably been for many years in the thick of this agitation to think that the situation that existed in 1928 still continues. It may be that, in the past, we had associated this question of Plantation Tamil labour with certain data and made certain proposals. Now, although times have changed data have changed and conditions and factors have changed, our mental attitude in respect of Plantation Tamil labour remains unchanged. I would ask Hon. Members of the Government to divest themselves of prejudices and preconceived notions. They should revise their opinions and views which were formed years ago. A new set of circumstances surround them today. They must adapt their views to suit the changing circumstances, and bring them into line with the situation as it exists at the moment.
I might also mention that since the publication of the Delimitation Commission Report, the population of this Island had increased in 1948, according to the Registrar-General's figures, to 7,050,000. The figure in respect of the entire Plantation Tamil population is 700,000; and if you deduct the urban population and others, it comes to 600,000.
Of that Plantation Tamil population, there must be a number of persons who were born in Ceylon, and who can be considered citizens of Ceylon. There may be some who are domiciled in Ceylon but are adversely affected by this amendment.
Now, Mr. President, what I want to show is this. Supposing the entirety of the Plantation Tamil population - I shall deal with citizenship later; that is an interesting question and has to be dealt with in its proper place- in this country is given the franchise, on the same basis on which they enjoy it today, namely, on the basis of domicile, what would be the resulting situation? That is a matter which has to be considered.
The Delimitation Commissioners have, in the course of their report, delved into certain figures and as the position stood in 1944, the total number of Plantation Tamil estate voters registered throughout the Island was 133,012. That was the total number because since 1940, you may remember, the test of domicile was rigidly applied. As a result of the rigid application of the principle, the figure had gone down. In 1942, it was 153,000; in 1943, it was 140,511; and in 1944, it was 133,012. It will therefore be seen that the number had decreased as a result of the rigid application of the test of domicile.
Now, Mr. President, 133,012 is the total number of registered Plantation Tamil estate voters, whereas the total number of voters registered for the entire Island is 2,700,800. In the case of Plantation Tamil labourers, the percentage of registration is 19.9; but in the case of the rest of the Island, it is 45. That is another factor that will have to be taken into consideration. The position has changed. It is suggested that only full citizens be given the franchise and not this section of the community.
Can it be reasonably contended that representatives of these Plantation Tamil labourers will dominate the Councils of State? Can we suggest for a moment that if 133,000 Plantation Tamils in this country are allowed the vote calamity will befall this land? Can it be said that these people will be in a position to do anything injurious to the rest of the inhabitants of this country? Then, why is all this fuss made about them?
One really wants to know what is it that is making the Government - at a time when we have passed an Immigrants and Emigrants Act, when we have full control of immigration when we should cultivate the most friendly relations with our closest neighbour, India, and when time and again, the Ministers of State, have proclaimed on public occasions their great love and respect for the neighbouring continent, India - to resort to these petty acts against the Plantation Tamils in this country. I cannot understand the reason why they should do so unless, of course they take their stand on the basis that, so far as this fair land of Ceylon is concerned, only the citizens of this country should have the right to be represented in the legislature of the land and that they are the only people who can say what should be done and what should not be done.
Mr. President, you might want to know why it is that one asks for some representation for these people. In this connection, I shall presently refer to certain observations made by other persons in another context. But before I do so, I should like to make this position clear. So far as Plantation Tamil labour is concerned it is concentrated in certain areas in plantations, and it has a certain peculiar problem of its own.
Under the Indian law, as soon as any labourer has been away from India for a period more than five years he ceases to be an Indian emigrant and loses his right to any protection from the Indian Government. Most of these labourers, you will be pleased to remember, Mr. President, have been here for a very long time. Hon. Senators may also remember that in 1939 India imposed a ban on the emigration of unskilled labour from India to Ceylon. Since that date no new unskilled labour has come here.
The resulting position is this: Most of these labourers have been here for a number of years and they have a peculiar problem of their own. If they are allowed a voice in the legislature of the country, it may be possible for them ventilate their grievances, and to make known their requirements to the representatives of the people who may be in a position to say whether their demand can be conceded or not. In other words, unless there is representation on behalf of these people, no one will be interested in furthering their welfare, no one will be concerned with safeguarding their interests. It is for that reason that this set of workers, who by their toil are contributing to the economy of the Island and whose presence here is very necessary to us, should have some sort of representations in the legislature of the land; unless, of course, it is against some fundamental law as that propounded by the Hon Home Minister with which I shall presently deal.
In this connection, Hon. Senators will be pleased to remember that the Soulbury Constitution, at any rate, was a Constitution, at any rate, was a Constitution which it may be said, was thrust upon us by the British, and that thereafter due to the valiant efforts, according to Sir Ivor Jennings, of the Hon. Prime Minister and Sir Oliver Goonetilleke, we have been able to emerge from a Colonial Status to Dominion Status. Therefore, there may be certain provisions in that Constitution which are not altogether very satisfactory from all points of view.
But one should not forget that the representatives of our people themselves attempted in 1945 to frame a Constitution for the Dominion of Lanka. We know very well that there was a Bill, popularly known as the "Sri Lanka Bill", introduced in the State Council by I believe Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, as he then was, at the instance of the Board of Ministers with a view to formulating a constitution for a Dominion of Lanka, or for a Dominion of Nations. One would have thought that while that constitution was being formulated, a principle such as this, namely the Plantation Tamil population in this country should be deprived of the franchise or that non-citizens should not be given the franchise, would have been propounded. You will be surprised to hear, Mr. President, that all speakers were agreed on one proposition, namely, despite the fact that the Plantation Tamil labourer may not be a citizen of Ceylon, he should be entitled to a voice in the administration of the affairs of this country.
It will be interesting for Hon. Senators to listen to what they said on that occasion. Those Hon. Members might really ask themselves now whether they actually spoke in that strain. I myself was surprised at some of the observations made by them when I contrast what they then said with their present attitude in this matter. The Mover of the bill, Mr. Bandaranaike, in the course of his speech, said that the Bill provided a constitution for the Dominion of Lanka acceptable to all the people - I am sure that he did not come out with that dictum to withdraw it thereafter - (Interruption)
This is what he said in the early stages of the discussion on the Bill as appearing at page 339 of HANSARD for 1945:
On that basis they framed the constitution and assured to the minorities 38 seats. And let it be noted that among the minorities were classed, on the basis of domicile, those Plantation Tamils resident in this country. They themselves were to be given the vote.
J.R. Jayawardene and S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike...
Now, Mr. President, a gentleman by the name of Mr. J. R. Jayawardene - one cannot recognise him today - has at page 938 of HANSARD for 1945 delivered himself of certain very important sentiments. This is what he said:
You see, Mr. President, he was at that time contemplating not his present connection with the British but secession from the Commonwealth, friendship with India and federation with India. That was in 1945, just four years ago. Then he goes on to say at 940 of the same Hansard:
Then he proceeds to mention that, on that basis, so far as the minorities including the Plantation Tamils, were concerned they would be entitled to certain representation. Now, if it was their intention, and they were framing their own constitution, to deprive the Indian nationals in this country the right of franchise, I submit they would have said so and in none of their calculations with regard to minority representation would they have included the Plantation Tamils electorates certainly not such a large number as 13 or 14 seats for Plantation Tamils.
The question becomes still more interesting when one reads the speech made by Mr. Aluvihare, reported in HANSARD, at page 1454. He had proposed an amendment to the effect that so far as the natives of Ceylon were concerned, they should have the right to vote on a certain basis, one Member being returned for a certain population - I believe, 25,000 or 30,000 - but that, so far as the Plantation Tamil labourers were concerned the population should be larger. In support of that amendment this is what he said:
and this is important-:
So that, we wanted a modification to the effect that the natives of Ceylon -as he called them - should have representation for a smaller number of population than the Plantation Tamils. That is the distinction he drew.
The debate proceeded on that basis, and this specific question of the Plantation Tamil franchise was raised at that time and discussed by these gentlemen who had gathered there for the purpose of framing a constitution for Free Lanka. I shall now quote what Mr. Bandaranaike said, as reported at page 1676 of HANSARD. He objected to the classification of "native" and "non-native" and went on to say:
So that, although Mr. Aluwihare went on the definition of 'native' and 'non-native' and even wanted the different basis, not that he wanted to exclude them, so far as Mr. Bandaranaike, one of the framers of the Free Lanka Constitution of 1945, was concerned, he said that these people who are not Ceylonese will be given the franchise and pointed out three avenues to the franchise.
But today we have achieved freedom. I wonder whether it was the intention of anyone at that point of time, in 1945 to retract, once this country had got a constitution based on the Free Lanka Bill, all the promises and all the statements that had been made. One does not know that. But I loathe to think that that would have been the position with regard to any Hon. Member of the Government. If that had been the position, it illustrates, at any rate, that in the year 1945 the political education of the leaders of this country was not advanced.
Certainly, they have had four years to improve their political education and take lessons on constitutional matters at the hands of their constitutional adviser, who says that he had lectured to the Prime Minister for the last five years. Nevertheless, at that time, they were perfectly content that non-citizens should have the franchise and have it on a certain basis. No one put up his hands in holy horror and said "How can we give the vote to a person who is a non-citizen?" No, they did not do that in 1945, just four years ago.
Then, Mr. President, I wish to read to you the observations made by Mr. J. R. Jayawardena on that occasion. They are found at page 1679 of HANSARD for 1945 and read as follows:
In 1945, Mr. J. R. Jayawardena was very much concerned when Mr. Aluwihare wanted to define a native as a person born and domiciled in Ceylon. Then it was asked why a person who was born here and who had lived here for 75 years could not become a native of Ceylon. But today we are told that, apart from the question of citizenship, a person can live here for 75 years and be domiciled but that he cannot get on to the electoral register and avail himself of the franchise.
If one looks at this matter from the point of view of equity and justice...
I refer to these matters purely because sometimes people get intoxicated with power and forget the principles they stood for. Then they are prone to imagine that because they have power, it could be exercised in any way they like. It may be that occasions such as this they should be reminded of the sober moments they once had before they were intoxicated with power. They expressed these views when they were sober. The resulting position then is that from the economic point of view and also from that of non-domination of any section of the population by the Plantation Tamil vote, there is absolutely no reason why the franchise should not be extended to these Plantation Tamil labourers.
And if one looks at this matter from the point of view of equity and justice, it is but right and proper that people who have ceased to be emigrants under the Indian law, who are concentrated for good in certain areas in this country, and have problems peculiar to themselves, must have the opportunity of sending representatives to Parliament, irrespective of the question whether they are able to become citizens as a result of the very rigid provisions both in the Ceylon Citizenship Act and in the Indian and Pakistani Residents (Citizenship) Act.
And what is more, as late as 1945, the acknowledged leaders of this country were also of that view. Nothing has happened during the last 4 years for them to change that point of view. If anything, they should continue to hold that view because India has become free and we should try to cultivate the friendship of India. We should do nothing which is likely to be considered as a reflection on her nationals who have settled down in this country. We should endeavour to maintain as close and friendly relations as possible with India.
An argument has been advanced, and I propose to meet that argument and convince this House that there is no merit in that argument, that nobody but a citizen, as defined in the Citizenship Act, should have the franchise...
But, Mr. President, an argument has been advanced, and I propose to meet that argument and convince this House that there is no merit in that argument, that nobody but a citizen, as defined in the Citizenship Act, should have the franchise. It was stated by the Hon. Home Minister, in the course of his opening remarks, that they did not want anybody but citizens of Ceylon to influence the Government of the country. I am free to concede that in most countries in the world, except perhaps England, the position is that the right with the right of citizenship. There is no doubt about that.
But at the same time one has to have regard to certain circumstances, namely, that in most countries in the world citizenship is not granted on the same rigid basis on which it is granted in Ceylon. Again, in most countries in the world there do not exist problems similar to the one which has been created in Ceylon as a result of certain historical circumstances into which one need not enter at this stage. In other words, when enacts certain legislation, one has to have due regard to the peculiar circumstances of this country. It is not possible nor desirable to apply here wholesale certain views or principles that prevail in certain countries.
Let us take, for instance, the United States of America. Any person born there becomes a citizen of the United States, though he may be born of foreign parents. In such a country, if they say that only the citizens shall have the franchise, no serious difficulty is created for the reason that if anybody wants to live there permanently and children are born to that person, the children automatically become citizens of the country.
As a matter of fact, I should like to give in this connection certain figures from the American Census taken in 1930. The total population of America in 1930 was about 122,000,000. Out of that 11,000,000 were Negroes. Of the balance white population of 111,000,000, no less than 39,000,000 were of foreign stock, and among the latter, there were 13,000,000 who were foreign born and 25,000,000 who were born in America and of foreign parentage. Now, these 25,000,000 persons born in America of foreign parentage, became citizens of America under their laws. That is the position. Persons who had gone to that country were given an easy method of becoming citizens. And in such a country, if you make the franchise rights co-extensive with citizenship rights, so far as workers are concerned, they are amply safeguarded. Because the moment they become citizens, they exercise the franchise and safeguard themselves. But can you conceive of a situation in America of 25,000,000 persons living, working, labouring and sweating without being given the opportunity of becoming citizens or of exercising their franchise? I say "No".
Various observations have been made of the conditions prevailing in England. It was said that in days gone by she had a vast Empire and that therefore, for the purpose of safeguarding the unity of that Empire, it was essential for England to make everybody a British subject owing allegiance to the British Crown.
Under the British Nationality Act of 1948, we see the following definitions:
Then it goes on to provide another status:
The countries referred to are Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Newfoundland, India, Pakistan, Southern Rhodesia and Ceylon.
You will see Mr. President that it creates a status of Commonwealth citizen and another status as citizen of United kingdom and Colonies and lays down certain requirements governing such status. I may mention that a person may be a commonwealth citizen of the united Kingdom and Colonies. So, Britain has departed from the principles adhered to by her up to date and has created two types of status known as British Commonwealth citizens and another known as United Kingdom citizens. These are two different things. We too have been threatened with a Commonwealth Citizenship Act but we have not yet seen it because, apparently the Legal Draftsman thought that this matter should have priority. Having created these two different types of status, in 1949 England passed the Representation of the People Bill. This is what that Bill says at Section 1:
The term "British subject" is the same as "Commonwealth citizen". I have already referred to that. They have created another status called United Kingdom citizenship. People who are entitled to vote are those persons who have the necessary residential qualification but who are British subjects or Commonwealth citizens or citizens of the Republic of Ireland, which by the way, is supposed to be outside the Commonwealth.
So that, so far as the British people are concerned, they were never of the opinion that the right to vote should be restricted only to United Kingdom citizens. They viewed the problem from a different angle. They find that there is nothing inconsistent in their permitting all British subjects and all citizens of the Irish Republic from voting at the elections held in England, provided they have resided in England, like anybody else, for the requisite period. They do not confine the right of voting to United Kingdom subjects.
Now, one knows very well that Ireland is very close to England and that a large number of Irish people cross the channel and go to England to live and work there. Some of them may return to Ireland; that problem is there and, without the slightest doubt, it affects even persons who belong to the Irish Republic.
The fashionable argument that was advanced in the days of the Donoughmore era in regard to this question was: "Oh, England is not faced with a big problem such as ours. Here we have an immigrant population that is swelling in numbers. We have no control over that immigration. How can we give these people the vote? We will soon be swamped by them?" But that argument is not available any more to the Members of the Government Benches. We have now taken all the necessary precautions. That immigrant population is limited, and we know very well that the total number of Plantation Tamil voters in 1944 was only about 133,000, as against nearly 2,700,000 voters in the entire electoral registers of the Island. That fashionable argument of old is therefore no longer available to them.
Therefore, I ask, is there any reason why we should not follow the English precedent, particularly with a view to seeing that we preserve some sort of cordiality among the various nations which comprise the Commonwealth and what is more, with a view to doing meagre justice to a section of the population out of whose labour we were able to have all the paraphernalia that we see in the Island today? There is not the slightest doubt that Member after Member, even Ministers of the Government, have been constrained to admit that no small part of the material prosperity which this country enjoys today is due to the sweat and labour of the Plantation Tamil labourer. They are now seeking to take away from these people a right which they had enjoyed for the last 18 years. Surely, when there is this precedent, there is no reason why we should, in a case such as this, deprive the Plantation Tamil labourer of his right.
In England, it is not as difficult for a person to become a British citizen as it is for a person to become a citizen under the Ceylon Citizenship Act. Nevertheless, England has given all citizens of the Commonwealth and citizens of the Irish Republic the right to vote. We, who pride ourselves in the establishment of institutions modelled on those obtaining in England and who boast of freedom and democracy, have every reason to adopt a principle which has been found satisfactory under present-day conditions in a country like England.
Nor is that all. Have this Government, which pretend to adopt the principle that nobody but a citizen should have representation in the legislature of the land or participate in the administrative affairs of the country, really given effect to such a principle? Have they really done so? In this connection, I propose to refer to something which will show the absolute mala fides of this Government and conclusively establish the fact that this Government are prepared to embark on the most discriminatory legislation possible and that on the flimsiest of grounds; nay more, that no one can confidently expect justice and fair play from the Government.
I wish to refer to Article 11 (2) of the Ceylon (Constitution) Order in Council, which says:
Now, this is a very innocuous provision with regard to six Members being appointed to the House of Representatives. Three of the Appointed Members represent the Burgher community. I am now going to address myself to this aspect of the matter.
It should not be understood that I am, in any way opposed to European representation in Parliament. It is very necessary for us to go into the history of this bit of legislation and see how it is being implemented. In other words, in the Constitution there is provision for the appointment of six persons to represent any important interest in the Island which is either not represented or inadequately represented.
The Soulbury Commissioners dealt with this question at page 40 of their Report. This is what they said:
Having said that at page 83 of their Report, paragraph 315, they had proceeded to observe as follows:
Anyway, we have a gallant Senator who is certainly not a 'mouth-piece' of the Governor who appointed him - and if all Nominated Members acted in similar manner there is more hope for the Senate.
The Soulbury Commissioners continued their recommendations as follows:
And then they go on to recommend nomination.
Now, it may, in this context, be interesting to see what the sponsor of the Free Lanka Bill said in regard to the matter of representation of Europeans. I propose to refer to the speeches he made when he introduced the Bill on behalf of the Ministers of the last Government. There was a proposal made by Mr. G. A. H. Wille, that the number of representatives on behalf of Burghers and Europeans should be increased from six to seven, and that there should be communal electorates. This is what Mr. Bandaranaike said.
They did not mind an increase -
that is, the Soulbury Commission -
And, when Mr. Wille wanted a specific number reserved for Burghers and a specific number for Europeans, Mr. Bandaranaike would not agree. This is what he said as appearing at page 1718 of HANSARD:
That is to say they could leave the provision as it is until the election and thereafter adjust the question of nomination.
Thus, you will be pleased to see, Mr. President, the Free Lanka Bill gave the Europeans in this country nominated seats, so that their interests may be represented in Parliament; and the Soulbury Commissioners made a similar recommendation. Thereafter, so far as the European community is concerned, it has been represented in Parliament by certain members of the community whose names were possibly submitted to the Hon. Prime Minister by the various associations interested in the European community.
I was referring Mr. President to the fact that, under Article 11 (2) of the Ceylon (Constitution) Order in Council, there is provision for the appointment by the Governor-General, after any general election, of six Members to represent important interests in the Island. I also referred to the earlier history of the matter as outlined both in the Soulbury Report and in the observations made by the Mover of the Sri Lanka Bill.
On behalf of the Board of Ministers, it was urged that this provision was meant to ensure to the European community in the Island some sort of representation in the legislature of the land. You will also notice that, in point of fact, that was why a number of persons were nominated to represent the European community in the legislature. In the result, the principle contended for by the Hon. Home Minister, that people who are not citizens of Ceylon should not have representation in the legislature of the land, has not been applied in the case of Europeans. That principle is being invoked only for the purpose of depriving a section of the Plantation Tamil population in this country of the rights of franchise. That this Government do not propose to deprive the Europeans, who are non-citizens, of the advantage of representation in the legislature is also shown by the fact that there are proposals already in the other place to amend certain provisions of the Ceylon (Constitution) Order in Council for the purpose.
What are those proposals? Under Article 12 of the Ceylon (Constitution) Order in Council, only a person who is qualified to be an elector shall be qualified to be elected or appointed to either Chamber. So, once the present Bill becomes law, only those persons who are qualified to be elected under it can be elected or nominated to either the house of Representatives or to the Senate. In other words, a person who is not a citizen of Ceylon will not be eligible to sit either in the Senate or in the House of Representatives.
The Government are faced with a certain difficulty: they want to continue to nominate certain persons to represent the Europeans, who are not citizens of Ceylon, though they profess to be very anxious to see that nobody but citizens shall exercise the franchise. Accordingly they propose to amend Article 12 of the Order in Council in such a manner as to enable not only persons who are qualified to be electors, namely, citizens of Ceylon, but also Commonwealth citizens to be elected or appointed either to the Senate or to the other place. That is the provision they seek to bring forward.
This is what is stated in the Objects and Reasons in respect of the proposed amendment to the Ceylon (Constitution) Order in Council:
Now, the strategy is obvious. We know that in England any Commonwealth citizen can be a voter and also stand for election to Parliament. We are now making a provision in respect of persons who are qualified to be elected to Parliament. We say that any Commonwealth citizen who has resided in Ceylon for five years is entitled to be elected or appointed to Parliament, provided that citizens of Ceylon are given a corresponding right in the Commonwealth country from which the person to whom we extended the privilege comes.
In other words, all Englishmen in Ceylon, who cannot be citizens of Ceylon today, can become citizens of Ceylon if that becomes law. If the Ceylon (Constitution) (Amendment) Order in Council is passed by a two-thirds majority of the House of Representatives, Englishmen can stand for election to the House of Representatives or they can be appointed or elected to the Senate.
The question then arises: How is it that this Government, which have always been so keen on allowing only citizens of Ceylon the right to participate in administering the country, now say that they do not want to confine that right to Ceylon citizens? They are so solicitous about the Europeans that in the proposed legislation they are making necessary provision to enable them to nominate to Parliament non-citizens of Ceylon, provided our citizens given a similar right in the Commonwealth countries from which they come!
The reason for this is obvious. The Government want to continue to give representation by nomination to the Europeans who are not citizens of Ceylon. That is the policy of this Government. In respect of the Europeans community in this country, the Government are quite prepared, despite the fact that they are not citizens, to allow adequate representation in the legislature. And this is the Government which say that some vital principle is involved in extending the franchise to persons who are not citizens!
You may remember the reason why nomination has been adopted as a method of securing representation for Europeans in this country. It is because of the impossibility of carving out electorates capable of returning persons to represent European interests. Therefore nomination has been introduced as a device by which the Europeans could have adequate representation. On the other hand in the case of the Plantation Tamils, it was possible to carve out electorates from which they could send their own representatives to Parliament.
The Mover of the Sri Lanka Bill deplored the fact that it was not possible to make suitable arrangements for Europeans themselves to elect their representatives to Parliament. So far as this Government are concerned, it is idle to pretend that they are sincerely interested in preserving the vital principle that nobody who is not a citizen of Ceylon should participate in the governmental affairs of this country. They are willing to concede to the European community the right to participate in the affairs of the government. They are seeking to amend the Order in Council in such a manner as to enable them to appoint to the legislature of the land persons who are not citizens for the purpose of safeguarding certain special interests. And it was only the other day that two individuals - I do not know whether they have applied for citizenship rights or are citizens of this country already-were nominated to this very House for the purpose of safeguarding some special interests.
So far as the Government are concerned, there is no question of any principle being involved if they concede the right to vote to persons who are not citizens. That is what I desire to emphasise. As they are willing to concede the right of representation in the legislature of this country to persons who are not citizens of Ceylon, there is absolutely no reason why the same right should not be extended to the Plantation Tamil labourers here. In the case of Plantation Tamil labourers, there is no need for nomination for the reasons that they live in certain particular areas and it is possible for them to send the representatives of their choice.
What then is the resulting position? I propose to deal with the matter on this basis: It may be that there are certain Plantation Tamils in the country who are able to pass the rigid tests imposed on them by the citizenship enactments and get into the electoral registers. On the other hand, there may be a large number of persons - primarily Plantation Tamil labourers - who cannot become citizens of Ceylon through either the Ceylon Citizenship Act or the Indian and Pakistani Residents (Citizenship) Act.
Now, what is the reason for the Government telling only the Plantation Tamils that unless they become citizens, they cannot have their elected representatives in Parliament, when they are willing to concede such representation to another class of non-citizens, namely, Europeans? It may be argues that, so far as the Plantation Tamils are concerned, some of them can become citizens and even Ministers. But what about that class of Plantation Tamils who cannot become citizens? Supposing there is a body of Plantation Tamils who cannot become citizens, why is it said that they should not be represented in the legislature of the land? You postulate the position that only citizens are entitled to representation but you immediately violate it by permitting Europeans, who are non-citizens to be nominated to the legislature. There is absolutely no reason, on principle, why you should not grant the same right to the Plantation Tamil labourers in this country even though they cannot be citizens. It is idle to pretend that the representatives of those Plantation Tamils who are citizens are also representatives of those Plantation Tamils who are not citizens.
The discriminatory nature of this legislation is therefore apparent. It is no use pretending that this legislation is not discriminatory. It discriminates between two sections of non-citizens of this country. On the one hand, it discriminates in favour of Europeans who are non-citizens of the country; and, on the other, it discriminates against the Plantation Tamils. So far as can be seen from the provisions of the Bill to amend the Ceylon (Constitution) Order in Council, they do not appear to discriminate between non-citizens who happen to be Europeans and those who happen to be Plantation Tamils. Therefore, it hardly lies in the mouth of the Hon. Minister of Home Affairs to say that citizenship is the basis on which representation in the legislature of the Island would be permitted.
In this connection, I should like to ask a question. When it is proposed to permit, by amendment of the Ceylon (Constitution) Order in Council, a person who is a Commonwealth citizen to be elected or appointed to Parliament why should provision not be made for a Commonwealth citizen to be a voter, provided reciprocal concessions are given in the Commonwealth countries to which our nationals go? There is no reason at all why such a provision should not be included in the proposed amendment. If it is only a question of reciprocal concessions, the simplest thing is to say that so far as Commonwealth citizens are concerned they will be given the vote, provided the country from which they come will extend a similar concession to Ceylonese.
Senator the Hon. Mr. Wijeyeratne: There may be only 50 Ceylonese in such country.
Senator Nadesan: I hear the Hon. Minister of Home Affairs say that there might be just 50 Ceylonese in the other country. Then, I ask, what is behind this reciprocal concession? Is it seriously thought that Ceylonese are going to sit in the Parliaments of the various Commonwealth countries, or seek election to the Parliaments of those countries? Why are the Government so keen on securing for citizens of Ceylon the concession of being able to sit in the British or Canadian Parliament? The Proposed amendment to the Ceylon (Constitution) Order in Council provides that it is that class of persons, not qualified to be electors, who will yet be eligible for election or appointment; that is, persons who are citizens of a Commonwealth country and who have resided in Ceylon for five years. The privilege will be extended only to citizens of a Commonwealth country which admits Ceylon Citizens to membership of its legislature on similar terms.
What a pretence! For the purpose of permitting Europeans to be nominated to the legislature to safeguard their interests, the Government bring in another condition that is, provided the country from which they come gives reciprocal concessions to Ceylonese. Apparently, the Government are very keen on securing for the people of Ceylon the benefit of being able to sit in the Parliaments of Canada, Australia and other Commonwealth countries! That is apparently, what the Government are keen about! But that is not the case.
Was there a demand on the part of any person in this country that he should be given the right to sit in the Parliament of the various Commonwealth countries? Is anybody in this country keen about such a right? Does anybody want it? Of what use is it to us? Is there a single citizen of Ceylon who wants to go and sit in the English, Canadian or Australian Parliament? We are not interested in that. And is that such a vital concession that we should make it reciprocal. Certainly not. The reason is obvious. In England, any Commonwealth citizen can be elected a Member of Parliament. After this Bill becomes law you will still find that under the Order in Council any person who is not a citizen of Ceylon cannot possibly be nominated to either Chamber.
The Government are up against that difficulty. They want to solve that problem by making it possible for any Commonwealth citizen to be elected or appointed, provided that the country concerned gives us reciprocal rights. In other words, this is a manoeuvre to enable them to continue to nominate Europeans interests in this country. This manoeuvre is solely for that purpose.
Therefore, it is fairly clear, if one looks at this Bill from that point of view, that there is no substantial principle of citizenship involved in it. So far as this Government are concerned, they are not taking the steps to see that only citizens have representation in the legislature of this country. And, what is more, they want to permit Commonwealth citizens to be nominated. I say, that, looked at from whatever point of view, this Bill is thoroughly discriminatory. It discriminates between two classes of non-citizens in this country.
The matter does not end there. What is the effect of disfranchising a large proportion of the Plantation Tamil electors who are in the Kandyan provinces? You may remember that seats in respect of each province are given on the basis of the entire population. That is provided for under Article 41 (2) of the Order in Council which says:
Therefore, under Article 41 (2) the number of seats allocated to each province will be on the basis of the population of that province. In allocating seats to the Central, Sabaragamuwa and Uva Provinces, the Plantation Tamil labourers in those areas were taken into account. And if you now pass any enactment by which a large section of these labourers are deprived of the franchise, then those seats will go to the rest of the inhabitants in those provinces. In other words, only the Kandyans will have the benefit of those seats.
Mr. President, one would have thought that in bringing legislation of this nature before Parliament some attempt would have been made in the proposed amendment to the Constitution to alter the provisions or Article 41. But no such attempt has been made. As a matter of fact, I said earlier that the presence of the Plantation Tamil population today, and the granting to them of the franchise, will not in any way result in the Kandyans being swamped. In respect of that I need only cite to you the Report of the Delimitation Commission. This is what is stated at page 24 of that Report, paragraph 70:
The majority community under its two categories of Low-country Sinhalese and Kandyans can return members of their choice as shown below:
The Position today in the Kandyan provinces is that, as a result of the Plantation Tamil population having been taken into account, the Kandyans who were entitled on a provincial basis to 27 seats and on an all-island basis to 25 seats now enabled to return Members their own choice in 36 electorates.
Senator the Hon. Mr. Wijeyeratne: Who is responsible for inaccurate prophecy?
Senator Nadesan: It is not an inaccurate prophecy; it is an accurate prophecy.
The position, so far as the Delimitation Commission Report goes, is that the Kandyans are in a position to return Members of their choice in 36 electorates. The fact does remain that though the Kandyans do not have full confidence in the Low-country Sinhalese, the Low-country Sinhalese are nevertheless chosen by them. What the Delimitation Commissioners have stated is that in 36 electorates the Kandyans can return Members of their choice. They do not say that Kandyans should return Kandyans. As things are today in the Kandyan provinces, though on a population basis they are entitled to only 27 electorates, they will be enabled to send Members of their choice to 36 electorates. This is what the Delimitation Commissioners say in paragraph 65 of their Report:
So far as the Plantation Tamils in these provinces are concerned, as a result of the rigid test that is applied, their voting strength is reduced. Though they were given a good number of seats on a population basis, they are not able to return that number; and Members meant for them are returned by the Kandyans. That is the position today.
The majority community which already has a weightage of nine seats in the Central, Uva, and Sabaragamuwa Provinces - will get further representation...
Now, a further restriction is sought to be imposed on them. As non-citizens they are to be disqualified from voting. It is said that they have no right of franchise, that only citizens shall have the right of franchise. Obviously, it is the intention of the Government to leave Article 41 of the Ceylon (Constitution) Order in Council alone because in the various amendments which they have proposed there is no indication whatever that they intend to touch Article 41, notwithstanding the specific statement by the Delimitation Commissioners and notwithstanding the fact that they are fully aware that a reduction in the voting strength of the Plantation Tamils would mean that a larger number of seats than they are entitled to would go to the Kandyans.
Consequently, the Kandyans who already have a weightage of nine-the majority community already have a weightage of nine seats in the Central, Uva, and Sabaragamuwa Provinces - will get further representation. That is how the recommendation of the Soulbury Commissioners and the undertakings of the Board of Ministers with regard to weightage for the minority communities are observed. One would almost think that this measure is an attempt on the part of the Government to give the Kandyans in the Kandyan provinces more weightage than they now enjoy.
Otherwise, one cannot conceive of any responsible Government bringing forward legislation of this nature without taking steps to have the Constitution amended in the proper way. It is also interesting to note that so far as the Ceylon (Constitution) Order in Council is concerned, any amendment to it must have a two-thirds majority in the other place. And one would like to know why legislation of this nature is introduced before the necessary amendments to the Order in Council are made. It would be time enough after all these anomalies have been removed, and after Government are in a position to see that the Ceylon (Constitution) Order in Council is amended in the proper way, for the Government to introduce legislation of this nature. What guarantee is there that an amendment to Article 41 of the Ceylon (Constitution) Order in Council, which requires a two thirds majority, will be passed.
The Kandyans have already been given weightage according to the recommendations of the Delimitation Commission. The Commissioners have referred in their report to a certain anomalous position in the Kandyan provinces, but even so it is sought to accord the Kandyans an increase in the number of seats from 25 to 36 and thereby enable them to send in more representatives to Parliament. When one considers these matters, Mr. President, one is constrained to think that there is no sense of justice on the part of Members of the Government.
After all, the Ceylon (Parliamentary Elections) Order in Council is inter-related to the Ceylon (Constitution) Order in Council, and when it is sought to amend the provisions of the one independently of those of the other, anomalies of this nature are bound to occur. It is indeed surprising that Government do not properly look into all these matters before bringing up legislation of this nature.
I ask, in all earnestness, is it the intention of Government that Article 41 of the Ceylon (Constitution) Order in Council should stand as it is? If that is so, are they not perpetrating a gross injustice by allocating to the Kandyans in the Central Province even more seats than they now have by depriving the Plantation Tamils of the seats that they have been given? So far as the Kandyans are concerned, they can always return to Parliament candidates of their choice. They did not ask for weightage, they asked for fair representation as they are a large community. I venture to submit that this is a piece of legislation that we cannot possibly consider. It is not based on any sense of justice. Despite the definite warning given by the Delimitation Commissioners, who specifically drew attention to the anomalous position as regards the Plantation Tamil labourers in the Government are now seeking to make that position worse.
This Government is prepared to give representation to non-citizens, who are European planters in this country, by nomination - but not to Plantation Tamils
Finally, Mr. President, this Government are prepared to give representation to non-citizens, who are European planters in this country, by nomination. They have already taken the necessary steps in that regard.
On estates where European planters work there are large numbers of Plantation Tamils, who also contribute, in their own way, to the prosperity of this land. The Government say that so far as the labourers are concerned, they will not be given the right to send in representatives, unless they are citizens of this country. In other words, this Government are prepared to treat the capitalist, the employer in one way and the labourer in another way.
According to the views of the Government, so far as the legislature of the land is concerned, the planting community are to be allowed to ventilate their grievances to put forward their demands and to ask for certain safeguards or criticise any matter they consider inimical to their interests. But so far as the Plantation Tamil labourers working on the plantations are concerned, they should be deprived of that right unless they become citizens. Why this discrimination between capital and labour, Mr. President?
Why this discrimination between employer and employee. What is more, I say that the 10,000 Europeans in this country - that number has now been reduced to 6,000 or 7,000 - have been promised and are being given three seats in Parliament to safeguard their interests? - (Interruption).
I am corrected: I am told the number is four. Perhaps I was making a mistake.
An Hon. Senator: Six
Senator Nadesan: No, out of that number, there are two Burgher representatives; but four are European representatives who are nominated to Parliament for the purpose of safeguarding the interests of the members belonging both to the planting and commercial communities who are non-citizens of this country.
But the entire Plantation Tamil labour population numbering 133,00 voters according to the electoral registers, and who contribute, if I may put it very modestly, as much as these commercial and planting interests to the prosperity of this country, have only seven representatives in Parliament to put forward their grievances. I wonder, whether one can, by any stretch of imagination, say that seven is too large a number, considering the interests that are involved, and particularly in view of the fact that the entire estate labour population in this country is 600,000. Of course, there were the supporters of the Ministers' Memorandum who thought of sending in 14 representatives on behalf of these people, but they could not do it.
Is it right and fair that employers should have representation in the legislature of this country, even though they may be non-citizens, but that workers should be deprived of the franchise on the basis that they are non-citizens? One would have thought that any Government with a sense of justice would have meted out similar treatment to both employer and employee. Is it right and proper that the legislative machinery should only be influenced by persons who represent the employers and not by persons who represent labour.
Of course, my learned Friend will reply: "Oh, they can become citizens and send in representatives." But my argument is this: What about those labourers who will continue to work on these plantations who have no opportunity of becoming citizens? Why do you have this test of citizenship only in the case of the Plantation Tamil labourers when you are willing to afford representation to Europeans who are non-citizens and give them as many as four seats, and when you are willing to propose an amendment of the Constitution with a view to achieving that object?
Quite unashamedly and unabashedly, you are willing to go through the pretence of saying that you intend to give Commonwealth citizens the right of nomination and election because you are keen on seeing that reciprocal treatment is meted out to your nationals in other parts of the Commonwealth. No, Mr. President, a Government which puts legislation of this nature on the statute book is not a Government we can ever hope to satisfy. No Government actuated by a desire to do justice, by a desire for fair play could have introduced such discriminatory legislation.
I have looked at this Bill from every point of view. I have examined it to see whether the protestation of the Minister of Home Affairs that citizens only shall have representations in the legislature of this land is correct. I have been at pains to see whether this government have the slightest intention of putting that idea into effect.
What is the idea behind this proposal to amend the Ceylon (Constitution) Order in Council? Why is it that Europeans who are non-citizens are given the opportunity of representation in the legislature but not the Plantation Tamils? Is it quite patent that this is an anti-working class Bill. It is deliberately designed to discriminate against the Plantation Tamil working class population of this country. It is a Bill designed to prevent the voice the Plantation Tamil labourers from being heard in the legislature of the land. It is a Bill so designed that only the voice of the employers is heard in the legislature of the land, in spite of the fact that they are non-citizens. The Plantation Tamil labourers are doomed to remain voiceless.
How can any person, with any sense of responsibility, say that seven Members in Parliament are too many to represent the entire of the Plantation Tamil population on the estates? How can anyone say with reason that as many as four seats should be given to a community of a mere 10,000 but none for the entire Plantation Tamil population of 600,000?
This Bill makes it perfectly clear that the Government have embarked upon a policy of discrimination in respect of a section of the population, in spite of the fact that some were born here, have worked here and still continue to contribute, in no small measure, to the prosperity of the land...
This Bill makes it perfectly clear that the Government have embarked upon a policy of discrimination on a section of the population, in spite of the fact that some were born here, have worked here and still continue to contribute, in no small measure, to the prosperity of the land. Is it a population which can be treated with impunity? The Government cannot afford to treat European nationals the same way as they treat the Plantation Tamil nationals in this country. They apparently imagine that so far as the Europeans are concerned, their franchise must be preserved at all costs and on all accounts. They apparently think that they can forsake the love of India, the culture of India and the leaders of India, but on no account are they prepared to treat the nationals of England on such a discriminatory basis. Mr. President, is that not a short sighted-policy? Is that not an inhuman policy which goes against the principles which any civilised Government today must profess and adopt.
Have not the Government said, time and again, that they are the people who can really lead labour in this country? Have they not said that the Marxist groups are misleading the labourers in this country? Have they not boastfully declared that they are the new-found champions of labour and the socialist order in Ceylon? Are these then the first fruits of Independence? Is this not an attempt to crush a voiceless population? Do not the Government want the voice of this population to be heard at all?
Of course, whoever replies on behalf of the Government will glibly say that the necessary facilities have been afforded this population to become citizens under the Plantation Tamil and Pakistani Residents (Citizenship) Act, and it will be asked: Why do they not become citizens under that Act? But have not the representatives of Government in this Chamber and elsewhere proclaimed time and again, through the press and in their speeches that the Plantation Tamils in this country are not domiciled, that they have one foot here and one foot in India, that the majority of them cannot become citizens, and that these stringent devices are being adopted for the purpose of ensuring that only those who have a permanent interest in this country become citizens?
Have they not proclaimed, times without number, that the majority of Plantation Tamil inhabitants in this country cannot become citizens under these laws because they have one foot in India and one foot here? How many times have we heard them speak of Plantation Tamils having one foot in Ceylon and the other in India.
If we have continued to employ these men who have one foot in Ceylon and the other in India all these years and they have contributed and are contributing to our wealth and prosperity, they must have an effective voice or, at least some slender voice, in the legislature of the land so that their interests may be safeguarded. They do have interests which must be safeguarded. If these people, who are non-citizens and who have interests to be safeguarded, are not given representation, how is it that you are giving representation, to those other non-citizens who have invested their capital here? It is presumably because they have certain interests to be safeguarded, you want their voice to be heard. Then why do you not give representation to those non-citizens who are workers, who are labourers, and whose only vested interests are their labour and conditions of labour and employment?
Is it suggested for a moment that bank balances and not people are the things that count? One would have thought that the Government, which speak in terms of socialism, would have considered labour as vital in ingredient as capital, or probably as the most important factor in the economy of the land; that these workers would be placed on a certain pedestal and given certain rights, particularly in view of the fact that they have been here with us for the last 18 years, and enjoyed certain privileges. But the Government are attempting to take away from the employees a privilege, the enjoyment of which gave them certain meagre rights, of having their voice heard in the legislature of this country.
It was only the other day, when I looked through the list of nominations to this honourable House - I should not be understood as casting a reflection on any Hon. Senator - I sought in vain to find a single Plantation Tamil nominated. Not one Plantation Tamil non-citizen has been nominated to this House. Why, Mr. President? Why should not an Plantation Tamil non-citizen be nominated to this House? Are there not businessmen among them? Have they not estates in this country?
Senator de Zoysa: They do not want to become citizens.
Senator Nadesan: Why has not one non-citizen Plantation Tamil been nominated? There again, one sees how the mind of the Government works. They discriminate at every stage, even in respect of matter or this nature. Apparently, so far as the Members of the Government are concerned, they have looked at this matter from a certain point of view. They imagine that they can, with impunity, do violence to every principle of natural justice.
But we are in a Buddhist country! We are in a country, I believe, where a large section of the people believe in the theory that there is a reaction to every action; they believe in the karmic theory. It is not for long, Mr. President that one can mouth pious platitudes about the teaching of the Buddha and various other matters and continue to perpetrate injustices of this nature. And it is unfortunate that one of the first fruits of Ceylonese independence should be the attempted deprivation of the elementary rights of a section of the population in this country who, by the sweat and toil, have contributed immeasurably to the prosperity of this land. It is that which makes one sad.
Only the other day, the Governor General said this is the course of his Speech:
What platitudes are these! I suppose this is the way in which one expects to conduct the affairs of a great people and get away with it. Mr. President, a certain tolerance is necessary. After all, it is only the other day that we were given the right to carry on our own affairs. I can understand our enacting legislation such as the Immigrants and Emigrants Act, I can understand even the passage of the Citizenship Act. I can also understand the necessity for even the Indian and Pakistani Residents (Citizenship) Act. None of those Acts deprived the Plantation Tamil labourers of the opportunity of voicing their grievances.
Only the other day labourers on certain estates struck work. It may be that the labourers were in the right or it may be that the employers were in the right. I do not know the facts but what I wish to say is this: If in the legislature of the land the employer can make representations and get certain things done, is it not correct and proper that the labourer too should be given some sort of representation to safeguard his interests as well? I am sure that even the employers of labour will admit that there should be such representation. That will ensure effective collaboration between the employer and employee, capital and labour. It was only yesterday that my gallant Friend (Senator Colonel Wright) deprecated the efforts of this Government to disfranchise the Plantation Tamil labourer.
It is claimed that this is a Labour Government, a Socialist Government. Without as much as turning a hair they want to pretend that this legislation is brought forward to safeguard the interests of the people. I say this legislation is contemplated to silence the voice of the Plantation Tamil labourers, to prevent them from being heard. It does nothing else.
I have taken longer than I intended with regard to the examination of this Bill. I have endeavoured to point out certain facts, and I earnestly trust that, even at this moment, in view of the protestations of this Government to continue their cordial relations with India, they will not put on the statute book any legislation which can reasonably be construed as discriminatory between two sections of the population of this country who are not citizens. I would also ask them to consider this: Once they concede that the Plantation Tamil labourers have contributed by their toil to our welfare and that the presence of Plantation Tamil labourers is necessary for the economy of this land, and once they permit these people to continue to work here, there is absolutely no reason at all why they should not be given some voice in the legislature of the land, some opportunity to express their grievances, if not anything more.
It was only yesterday that the one time Sinhala Maha Sangha member, who is now the Honorary Treasurer of the U.N.P. (Senator Kotelawala), stated this in regard to Plantation Tamil labourers: "If they do not want to stay, let them go back. Why are they here?"
It is all very well today for anyone to say that, but I would ask for my Hon. Friend, when he is tempted to say such things, to remember the great religion he professes. I would ask him to consider whether it is fair on his part to address a remark of that nature to a humble Plantation Tamil labourer who has lived and worked and toiled on our plantations and who has no where to go. Leaving the estate means to him starvation and death. To address a remark of that type to such a humble citizen is, I repeat, not the proper way to approach one's duty as a Member of this honourable House.
All labour legislation the world over is for the purpose of safeguarding the rights of labour. Of course you can say: "If you do not want to work, get away." That is a theory which was promulgated years ago, but today mankind has become more civilised, and no one talks of labour in those peremptory terms.
Without being insulting, may I ask if the Hon. Senator will tell the members of the European community in the country: "You are not citizens. You shall not be given representation for the purpose of safeguarding your interests. If you do not want to be here, get back or get out."? I am sure, he will not. Of course, it is unfair to speak in those terms when dealing with people of our own status, people who don the same costume, speak the same language and live the same way. When we have to tell them that, we feel it unjust. After all, they have come here, and when they ask for some form of representation, it is very wrong on our part to turn round and ask them to get back.
Senator Kotelawala: On a point of personal explanation Mr. President, I did not say "Get back". I said they should be like the French workers in Belgium. When they do not want to work, they go back; they do not ask for political rights.
Senator Nadesan: The simple position is this. It may be that my Hon. Friend did not mean it. I am very glad to hear that and I accept his explanation that he did not intend to convey the impression which I, unfortunately, gained when I listened to his speech. I am rather surprised that in this honourable House anyone should get up and give expression to a sentiment of that nature. However, I am very glad to hear that the Hon. Senator did not really intend to convey that wrong impression.
Of course, he now seems to be enamoured of the argument of French workers going to Belgium and getting back. I did not feel that that was a matter which I need deal with because it was outside the province of the speech I had mapped out for myself. Of course, with regard to the point he made, the difference is this: The labourers who go from France to Belgium and work there form seasonal labour. Between seasons, these labourers go from one country to the other; and having worked there during the season, they get back. For a matter of that, there is Irish labour which goes to England and gets back. That is seasonal labour. But they do not have in Belgium, for instance, a resident, labour population brought out to work there as we have in Ceylon. They do not have that problem.
In those countries, they work and get back for the weekends. There is no question of a resident labour population in those countries such as we have here. That is really the distinction. Supposing a number of labourers, when they find some work available here, come from India and work here and as soon as that work is over get back. In respect of that sort of labour, which really migratory labour, no one can possibly ask for citizenship rights. It would be absurd for citizenship rights to be asked on their behalf. But here we are dealing with a different class of labour and it is with that class of labour and it is with that class we are concerned. These labourers are really domiciled but they would not be able to show that they are entitled to rights of citizenship.
I have, in my own way, tried without any prejudices to examine this piece of legislation. I fail to understand why this Government should not, first of all have given the citizenship enactments a trial. One would have thought that, in respect of legislation of this nature, the Government would have given the laws that have already been enacted a little more time and ascertained how they worked. After passing the Citizenship Acts and the Immigrants and Emigrants Act, the Government should have waited for some time to see what the resulting situation would be. They should have waited to see how the Plantation Tamil labourers would be represented at the next general election, how many Members they would be able to return, and what precisely the state of affairs in the country would be. Thereafter, in the fullness of time and after having watched the situation, Government may find necessary to take certain steps.
Even in taking such steps, one would have thought that in matters such as citizenship enactments or, particularly, amendments to the Constitution, the Government would, have discussed them with Members of the Opposition with the view to ascertaining whether it would be possible to have some degree of agreement in respect of fundamental principles and then framed legislation.
If, on the other hand, there is a large section of the people who are opposed to legislation of this nature, one would have thought that prudence itself demanded the avoidance of such controversial legislation, unless, of course, the Government are not concerned about causing harm to the economy and to the people of the country. If this legislation is not passed, there is no danger of such grave harm. Why I say that is for this reason: The Hon. Leader is confident that the U. N. P - Government may continue in power for a very long time. That is what he intended to convey yesterday in an interjection.
Senator the Hon. Mr. Wijeyeratne: Have you any doubts?
Senator Nadesan: Apparently, the reason why they have no doubt is because they are able to get this legislation passed. One does not know whether this Bill is a venture for the purpose of disfranchising the Plantation Tamil labourers and thereby investing the U.N.P - Government in power for all time. Possibly, that is the reason why the Hon. Home Minister is so very confident. Otherwise, one does not see any justification for such confidence.
One also does not know whether the United National Party are having some other weapon already prepared, with which to disfranchise some other section of the population and entrench themselves more and more in power and concentrate solely on increasing their power so that, in course of time, they could convert this Government into a sort of Fascist regime. Otherwise, I have never known of any parliamentary party in the world being so confident of the position that they will be able to continue in power for all time, which apparently is the conclusion to which the Hon. Leader and the Hon. Home Minister have arrived. One does not know what they are conspiring and what they are doing for the purpose of entrenching themselves solidly in power for all time.
Of course, we know fully well that such things are not possibly where there are party systems of government. Sometimes there are the most unexpected reverses, as history has proved to us. We know how Winston Churchill and his party were overthrown when they were at the height of their power and the Labour Government tool control of affairs. That took place when the people had the greatest confidence in Winston Churchill and was most unexpected. As I said, these are matters over which one has no control unless, of course, one adopts every possible device for disarming one's opponents, such as, disfranchisement of sections of the population, and so on -
Senator Sundaram: Like Hitler!
Senator Nadesan: - in order to make one's position secure. Unless one resorts to those methods, ordinarily where party systems of government prevail, there may be chances of parties holding other views coming into power when such questions as citizenship laws, amendments to the Constitution, and so on, will once again become matters of controversy. Once again the party that loses will bide their time and put matters back when they come into power and then, once again, things will be in a state of flux.
I venture to submit that in respect of fundamental matters such as these, especially if there is very great opposition to legislation, it is prudent on the part of any responsible Government to stay their hand and to say that they would reconsider the matter.
I have endeavoured to show Members of the Government that no great harm can be done if they stay their hand. One the other hand, if they persist in this legislation they will be doing incalculable harm to the prestige of this country. They will be going behind the statements which were made by Hon. Ministers on more than one occasion during the debate on the Sri Lanka Bill. They will be going behind the very basis of the Constitution. They will be going behind the solemn pledges given by the leaders of the country on more than one occasion. What is more, they will be going contrary to the dictum which the Soulbury Commissioners themselves laid down in paragraph 238 of their Report, which runs as follows:
that is what I want to emphasise -
Now, Mr. President, I ask, have not all the Members of the legislature, except the Nominated Members, been returned on the basis of a certain franchise right which has been given to the inhabitants of this country? Have not their constituents enjoyed as much as rights as the Sinhalese, as the Muslims, as the Ceylon Tamils and the Plantation Tamils who were on the register? Have not those unfortunate Plantation Tamils themselves voted for the return of some Members to Parliament? Having been returned to Parliament on that basis, as persons representing not Sinhalese, or Ceylon Tamils or Muslims but the Plantation Tamil constituents on the electoral register, for some of them to now say that they are going to discriminate against the very section of the population on whose votes they were returned is most unjust.
The Soulbury Commissioners fondly hoped that Ceylon would follow democratic traditions the world over; and they fondly believed that the duty of the elected representatives to voice the claims and protect the interests of their constituents in all matters including "the rights and privileges of citizenship", regardless of the community to which they belong, would constitute a real safeguard. It is the duty of every Elected Member to safeguard the rights of his constituents in respect of the franchise. I ask Hon. Senators whether they are fulfilling that duty and safeguarding the interests of the constituents who returned them to Parliament when they seek to disfranchise a section of the people who returned them?
After all, are seven seats in Parliament too big a price to pay for a contented labour population on the estates; is it too big a price to pay for establishing our prestige in the eyes of the world, so that people may regard us always as persons who can be trusted? Is it too much of a price to pay for showing the world that all the affection towards the Plantation Tamils, which our leaders proclaimed from house-tops, was not mere platitude, that we desire to do everything possible to safeguard the interests of the Plantation Tamil labourers here? Is it too much of a price to pay for the friendship, goodwill and affection of India, who is our great neighbour?
I think I have said enough. But even at this last moment I appeal to those on the Government Benches to see that at least tardy justice is rendered and that they do not discriminate against these Plantation Tamil labourers for no reason at all and without any advantage to themselves. I thank you.