Nothing to celebrate about a Dominion Status in 4 February 1948. Sri Lanka must celebrate 22 May 1972 Republic Day
Posted on February 4th, 2018

Between 1948 and 1972, Ceylon was independent but remained a dominion status where the head of state was the Monarch of England. At the time of Ceylon Independence George VI was King of England. His daughter Elizabeth II became Queen of England and Head of State of Ceylon from 1952 to 1972. Moreover, UK still held judicial prerogative through the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. In reality there was no independence per se from 1948 to 1972 as then Ceylon had the Monarch as its head. True independence came only after 1972 and that is what Sri Lanka should celebrate.

On 4 February 1948 Ceylon gained independence granted under the Ceylon Independence Act 1947. The Head of State was the British Monarch and she was represented through the ceremonial figure of the Governor General.

Unlike in India, there was no struggle for freedom, no blood shed to demand the country back from the British. All attempts to win back the country was squashed by the British during the 1818, 1848 rebellions.

Post-independence Ceylon too never claimed its original name – Sinhale, the name that the British signed the Kandyan Convention with.

When Ceylon applied for membership to the UN, it was vetoed by Russia on the grounds that Russia felt Ceylon was not a fully independent country. The argument was certainly valid. Sri Lanka remains a member of the Commonwealth of Nations where the Queen is the ceremonial monarch. Burma after its independence left the Commonwealth.

  • The British Monarch from 1948-1952 held the titles His Majesty George the Sixth, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Defender of the Faith.
  • The British Monarch from 1952–1953 held the titles Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas Queen, Defender of the Faith
  • The British Monarch from 1953–1972 held the titles: Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Ceylon and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth

How ‘independent’ was Ceylon when Britain continued to maintain air & sea bases and British officers continued to fill the high ranks in the army? English remained the official language spoken by less than 1% of the population. It was only in 1957 that the British bases were removed. The Official Language Act of 1956 was introduced also with the consent of the UK Privy Council which held its legality. However, the Tamil parties that objected appealed to the UK to revoke the Act though it was turned down. Even the Citizenship Act of 1948 came with the consent of the British!

Another example of how British judicial rule was above the supposed-independent Ceylon was in 1960s during the R v Hemapala (1963) case when Ceylon’s Court of Criminal Appeal ruled that the Privy Council did not have the authority to function as the island’s highest court of appeal. The UK Privy Council overturned the decision in the case Ibralebbe v R (1964) asserting its powers over the Ceylon judiciary. In the 1964 case the UK Privy Council held that though the British monarch held nominal authority in the legislative & executive branches of Ceylon, Britain continued to hold prerogative over Ceylon’s Judicial matters. Whats more the British monarch still held final authority on all legislation – no bill presented to the Ceylon Parliament could become law until it had the Monarch’s royal assent. This was so because the Ceylon Constitution Order in Council made the British monarch a part of Ceylon’s Parliament. So where was this independence and why are we celebrating it?

The clause was reversed in 1972 Republican Constitution with Article 3 asserting that Sovereignty was in the People and in alienable” while Article 13 removed the British monarch from Sri Lanka legislature. Article 5 stressed that Sri Lanka’s new national assembly would remain the ‘supreme instrument of the State power of the Republic’. The architects of the 1972 constitution requested the UK government to note the changes and the new name of Sri Lanka instead of Ceylon and the UK government conceded.

The Ceylon constitution at independence was a model of the UK – legislature had a Senate & a House of Representatives. The Senate was modelled on the House of Lords in the UK. Of the 30 members selected (not elected) half were named by the Monarch’s representative the Governor General.

The Senate was abolished on 2 October 1971 by the eighth amendment to the Soulbury Constitution before the new Republican Constitution of Sri Lanka on 22 May 1972. The House of Representatives was replaced by the National State Assembly in 1972. The House of Representatives initially consisted of 101 members, of whom 95 were elected by vote from the 89 electoral districts and six appointed by the Governor-General. Ceylon’s First Prime Minister was D S Senanayake, he was succeeded by his son Dudly Senanayake after D S Senanayake died in March 1952.

The 1st National election was held in 1947 before independence & under the Soulbury Constitution UNP winning 42 out of the 95 seats.

The next election was in 1952 where for the first time SWRD Bandaranaike who broke away from UNP formed the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. UNP won with 54 seats against 9 seats won by the SLFP.

In the 1956 parliamentary elections the alliance led by the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna won 51 seats while UNP’s seat reduced to just 8. SWRD Bandaranaike became Prime Minister until his assassination in 1959 when power was handed to Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike.

UNP regained power in 1960, 1965-1970, 1977-94, 2002-2004, 2015 to present.

In 1881 the Ceylon Volunteers (CV) which became the Ceylon Volunteer Force and renamed Ceylon Defense Force in 1910. Ceylon entered into the bi-lateral Anglo-Ceylonese Defence Agreement of 1947.

The Defence Agreement of 1947 meant that Britain was under the strategic purview of Britain and British military advisors would be used.  Brigadier James Sinclair, Earl of Caithness became the 1st commander of the Ceylon Army.

The first non-Britisher to become Commander of the Ceylon Army was Maj. Gen. Anton Mutukumaru (A Tamil)

The first internal security operation of the Ceylon Army began in 1952, code named Operation Monty to counter the influx of illegal South Indian immigrants brought in by smugglers on the north-western coast

In 1949 CDF became the Ceylon Army and renamed Sri Lanka Army in 1972.

The current Sri Lankan Navy was established on 9 December 1950 when the Navy Act was passed for the formation of the Royal Ceylon Navy. The term “Captain of the Navy”, introduced in the Navy Act, was changed to “Commander of the Navy”. Captain W. E. Banks CBE, DSC was the first Commander of the Royal Ceylon Navy in 1950. Rear Admiral Gerard Royce Maxwell De Mel OBE was 4th Commander of the Royal Ceylon Navy – he was the first non-British and 1st Sinhalese to head the Navy in 1962 serving till 1970.

The Royal Ceylon Air Force came into being in 1951. Air Vice-Marshal Ekanayake Edward Rohan Ameresekere became the 3rd Commander of the Air Force and first non-Britisher to the role in 1955.

Ceylon Police was established in 1866. Their uniforms followed standards of the British. The post of Inspector General of Police in Sri Lanka can be traced as far back as 1797. Richard Aluwihare became the first non-British Inspector General of Police in 1947. He was knighted in 1950.

When colonial Britain began education system in then Ceylon most schools were affiliated to the Anglican Church. Ceylon Medical School was established in 1870, the Colombo Law College in 1875 the Government Teaching College in 1893. Education was key to creating a west-worshipping group of people to whom leadership would be handed over.

The University of Ceylon was the only university in Sri Lanka (earlier Ceylon) from 1942 until 1972 when it became University of Sri Lanka till 1978 when it was separated into 4 independent universities as the University of Colombo, University of Peradeniya, University of Kelaniya & Vidyodaya University

The Ministry of Finance and the Treasury was formed in 1947,

In July 1948, the Government of Ceylon requested for technical expertise from the United States Government to set up a Central Bank and accordingly, Mr. John Exter, an economist of the Federal Reserve Bank of USA, was appointed to do a study. Based on the recommendations of his report, the Central Bank of Ceylon was formed in 1949 with the Ceylon Rupee being designated the standard unit of monetary value of the country. It was only in 1929 that the Ceylon Rupee was separated from the Indian Rupee. However, the Ceylon Rupee remained pegged to the India Rupee till 1966 after 1966 the Ceylon Rupee was pegged to the US Dollar at 4.76 rupees per 1 US dollar.

Ceylon became a member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on 29th August 1950. In 1951 the Central Bank of Ceylon began to issue paper money starting with 1 rupee and 10 rupee notes. Only in 1963 that the British monarch’s portrait on coins were removed.

In 1972, the country officially became a republic within the. Commonwealth and William Gopallawa became the first President of Sri Lanka.

In 1972, a new Constitution was enacted and the Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka was established on 22nd May with Hon. William Gopallawa as Sri Lanka’s First Non-Executive President while Hon. Sirimavo Bandaranaike continued in office as the Prime Minister. The period immediately following its own constitution also marked the emergence of JVP rebel movement and Tamil armed militancy and one wonders whether these too were part of the scheme of things!

As the examples above clearly reveal there is nothing special about 4 February 1948 to be celebrating yearly as ‘independence’. Final decisions remained in the hands of the British Monarch and this status quo ONLY changed in 1972 with the new Republican Constitution that removed all provisions where the British Monarch ruled over the island. The only mistake made was not returning to the name Sinhale which the British changed to Ceylon.

In bringing down representatives of the present British Monarch to ‘celebrate’ 1948 supposed ‘independence’ we are only ‘commemorating’ the British rule over our island.

We should ideally be celebrating 22 May 1972 and not 4 February 1948.

Moreover, there is little point in spending lavishly on cerebrations if leaders are servile to foreign nations and have no nationalism or patriotism in them.


Shenali D Waduge

7 Responses to “Nothing to celebrate about a Dominion Status in 4 February 1948. Sri Lanka must celebrate 22 May 1972 Republic Day”

  1. Vaisrawana Says:

    That’s a very reasonable proposal, Shenali.

  2. Nimal Says:

    How elegantly our leaders dressed tell much about or culture then but now it’s in the gutter.

  3. Nihal Perera Says:

    Unfortunately, these white-ass licking Kalu suddas (like above), are suffering from a massive dose of inferiority. They cannot see how their white colonial masters treated the locals like dirt, while looting our nation to build a colonial empire.

    Now we can see how pathetic these Sinhalese “Coconuts” (brown outside, white inside) are the way they try to glorify their white masters, and their defunct and bankrupted empire.

    It boggles my mind WHY some Sinhalese are eternally stuck in this mentality of inferiority complex, and are unable to appreciate, or be proud of our culture which is neither inferior nor superior to any other culture in the world. Every culture has its positives and negatives. We hardly see Chinese, Japanese, Indians, or Tamils for that matter dissing their culture the way some Sinhalese do.

    How in the world our country is going to prosper and move forward, if all we do is spit on our country, its culture, its people, while glorifying and praising a defunct and a bankrupted colonial power that looted, divided, and destroyed many colonies – leaving messes to sort out for generations to come…?

    The last thing Sri Lanka needs after 70 years of independence is to have the parasite members of the world biggest welfare family of a bankrupted Monarchy, as the chief guests. These so called royal family members are nothing but parasites, living off British tax payer’s money. If Brits want to support them its their problem, not ours.

    Do you see any other former colonies inviting these royal parasites to celebrate their independence..? I rest my case.

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    Shenali is quite right.
    22 May 1972 must be made Republic Day – for real and meaningful celebrations !

  5. Christie Says:

    Hi all we were under British as well as Indians.

    British the absentee Land Lord left.

    The Indian parasites are still here and India continue to appoint our administrators starting in 1956.

    Banda’s family, followed by JRJ and now Sirisena.

    We are being brainwashed by India and Indian parasites.

  6. Lorenzo Says:

    DO NOT measure people by the dress.

    Some politicians wear national dress in SL but they change to western dress at the airport to go to USA.


  7. Naram Says:

    Shenali – great article, Interesting photographs, which brings to mind the aborted army/ police coup of 1962 to topple the lawfully elected government of Sirimavo Bandaranaike. I recall a much publicized later revelation by Sir John Kothalawela in a private conversation to Neville Jayaweera that linked Dudley Senanayake too as another party involved in the initial stage of the coup. Another face, Sir Oliver Gunatillake too left the Governor General position under a shadow in the subsequent period to be replaced by William Gopallawa. In 1966, Privy Council set all the accused who were found guilty by Sri Lankan courts free, on a technical point, which took place in the time of Dudley Senanayake’s premiership.

    One of the key accused F C de Saram too was highly praised by Sir John in that same interview with Neville Jayawera for stoutly taking all the blame and not spilling the names of himself or Dudley as fellow conspirators. To square the circle the deposed Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayake who famously spoke of incompetence of our army confusing Pamankada and Alimankada and latly a bout of amnesia regarding the transactions that brought him a luxury apartment for occupation from Bond Scam operators too is said to be a progeny of the same F C de Saram. Recent biography of P de S Kularatne by K Pieris brings to life the stormy undercurrents that exposed the coup and the role P de S K played, inducing his son in law DIG Stanley Senanayake to expose the coup plot to political authorities at the time.

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