Posted on September 12th, 2023


There are four    documents which need to be studied before the discussion on Tamil colonization of Sinhala lands can proceed. They are, Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam Pact, Dudley Senanayake-Chelvanayagam Pact, the District Development Councils Act and the Provincial Councils Act. All four take positions on the subject of Lands and land settlement”.


Bandaranaike – Chelvanayakam Pact, given in full in  Appendix 1,  was signed on July 26, 1957 primarily to avoid a threatened mass satyagraha led by  ITAK against the “Sinhala Only’ Bill. The Bandaranaike – Chelvanayakam Pact was merely an agreement between the Prime Minister and S.J.V Chelvanayakam, head of Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi.  

Prime Minister Bandaranaike suggested that Chelvanayagam should look at the government’s Draft Regional Council Bill to see whether it could be adapted to suit the wishes of Chelvanayagam. That was possible and a joint statement was issued.

The Joint Statement by the Prime Minister and Representatives of the Federal Party [ITAK] on Regional Councils, which is one of the two joint statements issued on July 26, 1957 carries the following clauses: “

(B) That the Northern Province is to form one Regional area whilst the Eastern Province is to be divided into two or more Regional areas.

C) Provision is to be made in the Bill to enable two or more regions to amalgamate even beyond provincial limits: and for one region to divide itself subject to ratification by parliament. Further provision is to be made in the Bill for two or more regions to collaborate for specific purposes of common interest.

F) Colonization Schemes. It was agreed that in the matter of colonization schemes the powers of the Regional Council shall include the power to select allottees to whom lands within the areas of authority shall be alienated and also power to select personnel to be employed for work on such schemes. “

The Regional Councils Bill was published in draft form in the Gazette of 17. May 1957. The Bill   never came up in Parliament, and thus escaped public scrutiny. It disappeared with the disappearance of the Pact. But it has been reproduced in K.M de Silva” Devolution in Sri Lanka: S.W.R.D Bandaranaike and the debate on power sharing” (ICES, Kandy 1996) as Document VII, p 72 –

After the BC Pact was signed, the media reported that Bandaranaike gave a ‘long laboured statement’ on 12.8.57 with the terms of the agreement ‘tucked away inconspicuously at the end~ .Politicians said that now at long last they were able to see what the Pact was about.

Bandaranaike and Chelvanayagam met   again on 14.8.57 then they parted, reported the media.

Chelvanayakam to the North, to explain the Pact to the Tamils and Bandaranaike to the South to pacify the apprehensive Sinhalese, some of whom were already hopping mad regarding other matters pertaining to the ‘rightful position’ of the majority community.

When the Bandaranaike -Chelvanayakam Pact was announced it caused great consternation and also a few titters. It was pointed out that the two signatories ‘did not seem to have the same view of the clauses’. Bandaranaike was evasive about the whole thing, while Chelvanayakam was announcing that the colonization of the North and East by the Sinhalese had been effectively stopped.

Tamil Separatist Movement hoped for much with the BC Pact.  They said the Regional Councils will constitute the unit of devolution. The Regional Councils Bill will provide for Parliament to delegate powers to Regional Councils in relation to certain subjects such as agriculture, co-operatives, lands and land development, colonization, health, education, industries and fisheries, housing and social services, electricity, water schemes and roads.  Also thanks to the Pact, Colonization would not be used to convert the Northern and Eastern Provinces into Sinhalese majority areas.

Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi, declared, at a special session of its National Convention assembled at the Town Hall, Batticaloa, on 28th July 1957 that State aided Sinhalese colonization of the Northern and Eastern provinces will be effectively stopped forthwith.”   Also that there     would be a large measure of regional self-government’ under the proposed Regional Councils Act.

Chelvanayagam’s claim that Sinhala colonization had been stopped    caused ‘great public indignation’ elsewhere.   There was considerable opposition to the Bandaranaike -Chelvanyakam Pact in the rest of the country. The Sinhala Jathika Sangamaya opposed it flatly and unequivocally stating that there were no ‘Tamil lands’ all were ‘Sinhala lands’.

There was also opposition from three set of trade unions, Sri Lanka Independent Industries and Commercial Workers Union, Central Council of Ceylon Trade Unions and the Federation of Socialist trade Unions.

 At a public rally of the UNP at Victoria Park, Colombo, Dudley Senanayake opposed the ‘Regional division of Ceylon on racial grounds’ and the establishment of a ‘state within a state through Regional Councils’

Dudley Senanayake, speaking  before the UNP at Sri Kotha queried  Is it right to develop vast irrigation and colonization schemes and hand them over for the exclusive settlement of one race, the Tamils, under Regional Council scheme – when it should benefit the entire nation. The gravity of this concession will be felt when one realizes that most of the major irrigation and colonization schemes such as Heda Oya, Magalawaturan Aru, Yan Oya, Padaviya, Malvatu Oya and Mahaweli Ganga are situated mainly or wholly in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.”

However, the Sinhala community on the whole, failed to see the gravity of the colonization clauses in the BC Pact. Their concern was with Sinhala Only. Lankadipa of 26 July 1957 carried the following headline: Satyagraha Ne. bhasha prasnaya gana ekanga wei.’ But the Lands Ministry knew better and in October 1957, decided   to bring all state sponsored major colonization schemes directly under its control.

J.R. Jayawardene organized a march to Kandy to protest the B-C Pact. The march to Kandy and the subsequent Satyagraha launched by representatives of the Sinhala Jatika Sangamaya and Sri Lanka Sangha Sabhava, created a sea wave of opposition to the B-C Pact. In the face of mounting pressures, from the Sinhala public as well as the Buddhist clergy, on 9th April, 1958   Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike publicly disowned the agreement that he had entered into with Chelvanayagam and the agreement was publicly torn up.  

 Bandaranaike issued a statement regarding the B-C Pact and its abrogation on 15.4.58, where he said Another question that arises is the real intention of the Federal Party. Were they genuine in regard to the agreement they reached with me? Were they only looking upon it as a first step towards something else? If so what is that something else? ” The ‘something else’ was of course, the creation of a Tamil state.

The Tamil Separatist Movement never forgot the B-C Pact. They keep recalling it.


Chelvanayakam submitted a set of ‘minimum demands’ to the UNP and SLFP when they both failed to get an absolute majority at the General Election of March 1960. UNP got 50 seats, SLFP 46 and ITAK 15. Chelvanayagam’s statement said that this was on invitation from the two parties. I think that this is unlikely, because the demands, it appears, were summarily rejected.

These ‘minimum demands’ included the cessation of planned colonization of the traditionally Tamil areas with Sinhalese people” and the creation of a separate Tamil region in Ceylon. These, it seems, were not accepted by either party.  see Appendix 3.         


The Dudley Senanayake- Chelvanayagam Pact’, given in Appendix 2, was made in March 1965. The agreement which was between the UNP and the Federal Party was never officially released, but the agreement appeared in the newspapers later. The Pact was dismissed contemptuously   as a ‘horse deal’ to gain votes. 

The Dudley- Chelva Pact was the result of ITAK negotiations after the March 1965 General elections.  The initiative, it sees was taken by ITAK. At this election no party got a clear majority. UNP had      66 seats, SLFP had 41 and ITAK had 14. ITAK held the balance of power.

ITAK started to negotiate with both SLFP and UNP. The negotiator was Murugesu Thiruchelvam. Thiruchelvam conducted these parallel discussions secretively and reported only to Chelvanayagam, said DBS Jeyaraj. The other ITAK leaders were not informed.  UNP and SLFP we are told did not know that ITAK was talking to both.  I think that this was most unlikely.

A meeting was set up between Dudley Senanayake and S.J.V. Chelvanayagam at the Turret Road (now Dharmapala Mawatha) residence of Dr. M.V.P. Peiris. Dudley was accompanied by J.R. Jayewardene, V.A. Sugathadasa and Esmond Wickremesinghe. ITAK delegation was Chelvanayagam, Dr. E.M.V. Naganathan, S.M. Rasamanickam, V. Navaratnam and M. Thiruchelvam

UNP was agreeable to three of the ITAK demands, namely use of Tamil language in administration, use of Tamil in courts,  and de-centralization of power to the north and east, UNP  also  agreed to set  up District Councils.

But there was strong disagreement on the subject of land alienation and settlement. ITAK insisted that the demography of the north and east should not be altered by State aided colonization of Sinhala settlers. ITAK called it Sinhala colonization of the traditional Tamil homeland”. ITAK demanded that only Tamil speaking people should be settled in colonization schemes in the north and east. Dudley Senanayake vehemently objected to this. The discussion   stalled, but ITAK support was necessary for the UNP form a government.

Esmond Wickremesinghe suggested a compromise. It was suggested that when irrigation schemes were implemented in a district and agricultural settlers were given lands, priority should be given to people of the same province. Thereafter priority should be given to people from adjacent provinces. This compromise was acceptable to both sides. The DC Pact was signed.

The D-C Pact said that the Land Development Ordinance will be amended in the granting of land under colonization schemes.  The following will be observed in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. (a) Land in the Northern and Eastern Provinces should in the first instance be granted to landless persons in the District. (b) Secondly – to Tamil -speaking persons resident in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, and (c) Thirdly – to other citizens in Ceylon, preference being given to Tamil citizens in the rest of the Island.”

Dudley Senanayake became Prime Minister.  He kept the contents of the D-C Pact a secret. The marriage between ITAK and UNP did not last long. The District Councils Bill, was presented to Parliament in June 1968, and was rejected.

M. Thiruchelvam resigned from the government in November 1968 when Senanayake over-ruled Tiruchelvam’s decision to appoint a committee to look into declaring Fort Fredrick, where Koneswaram temple was located, into a Hindu sacred area. According to DBS Jeyaraj, the chief priest of Tammankaduwa had objected to such a declaration, stating that it would result in the area getting “into the hands of those who are neither Sinhalese nor Buddhists”. ITAK then left the UNP government and sat in the Opposition.

The D-C Pact was forgotten by everybody except the Tamil Separatist Movement which regularly referred to it.


District Councils   was revived in another form in 1980 when JR Jayewardene was President. The idea of setting up District Council would have been put to him by   A.J. Wilson and Neelan Thiruchelvam who were close advisers to JR. They would have told him exactly how they wanted it done as well, but JR remembering that District Councils were rejected in Parliament in 1965, would have decided not to publicize the District aspect and also not to act on it alone.

In August 1979, President JR Jayewardene appointed a ‘Commission of Inquiry” which was expected to report on how economic development could be achieved through, District Ministers and Development Councils.

The Commission was asked, inter alia, to determine the subjects that would come under the DDC, to look at the relationship between DDC and Central government, and suggest how DDC could supervise the work of the local authorizes.  Among the subjects to be supervised was village irrigation schemes” and settlement under major irrigation schemes”.

 The Commissioners   were Victor Tennekoon (Chairman) AJ .Wilson, Neelan Thiruchelvam, JAL Cooray, NGP Panditeratne, KM de Silva, A C.M. Ameer,,M R Thassim,, MA Azeez and  K. Navaretnarajah. The   inclusion of A.J. Wilson and Neelan Thiruchelvam was significant.

The public were suspicious of this sudden desire to create District Development Councils. They suspected that this was a move towards a separate Tamil state. The Commission   recognized this. The Commission said in its report, that that when they called for   contributions from the public, views had been expressed under the belief that our task is to find a direct solution to the  [Tamil]demand for a separate state.

The Development Councils Act No. 35 of 1980 was passed by Parliament. The Act was titled Development Council Act”, leaving out the word ‘District’ in the title, but the body created was known as District Development Council.

24 DDCs were created.  The DDCs consisted of elected members and local Members of Parliament. District Ministers were also created.  Legislation was passed to abolish the Town Councils and Village Committees and to transfer their functions to the new DDCs. The schedule of subjects which came under the DDC included Land use and land settlement.

 The 24 DDCs started functioning on 1 July 1981. 83 Town Councils and 549 Village Committees were abolished. The DDCs didn’t live up to expectations.[1]Tamil Separatist Movement blamed the government for not letting the DDCs go ahead at full speed. Development Councils Act was repealed in 1989 by Act No 14 of 1989.

APPENDIX 1 Bandaranaike – Chelvanayakam Pact 26 July 1957

Part A

Representatives of the Federal Party had a series of discussions with the Prime Minister in an effort to resolve the differences of opinion that had been growing and creating tension.

At the early stages of these conversations it became evident that it was not possible for the Prime Minister to accede to some of the demands of the Federal Party.

The Prime Minister stated that, from the point of view of the Government, he was not in a position to discuss the setting up of a Federal Constitution, or regional autonomy or any step which would abrogate the Official Language Act.

 The question then arose whether it was possible to explore the possibility of an adjustment without the Federal Party abandoning or surrendering any of its fundamental principles or objectives.

At this stage the Prime Minister suggested an examination of the government’s Draft Regional Council Bill to see whether provisions can be made under it to meet, reasonably, some of the matters in this regard which the Federal Party had in view. The agreements so reached are embodied in a separate document.

 Regarding the language the Federal Party reiterated its stand for parity but in view of the position of the Prime Minister in this matter they came to an agreement by way of an adjustment. They pointed out that it was important for them that there would be recognition of Tamil as a national language and that the administrative work in of the Northern and the Eastern Provinces should be done in Tamil.

 The Prime Minister stated that as mentioned by him earlier it was not possible for him to take any steps that would abrogate the Official Language Act.

 Use of Tamil

 After discussions it was agreed that the proposed legislation should contain recognition of Tamil as the language of a national minority of Ceylon and that the four points mentioned by Prime Minister should include provision that, without infringing on the position of the Official Language as such, the language of administration of the Northern And Eastern Provinces be Tamil, and any necessary provision be made for non-Tamil speaking minorities in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

 Regarding the question of Ceylon citizenship for the people of Indian descent and the Citizenship Act, the representatives of the Federal Party forwarded their views to the Prime Minister and pressed for an early settlement.

The Prime Minister indicated that this problem would receive early consideration.

 In view of these conclusions the Federal Party stated that they were withdrawing their proposed satyagraha.

 Part B

 1. Regional areas to be defined in the Bill itself by embodying them in the Schedule thereto.

2. That the Northern Province is to form one regional area whilst the Eastern Province is to be divided into one or more regional areas.

3. Provision is to be made in the Bill to enable two or more regions to amalgamate even beyond provincial limit; and for one region to divide itself subject to ratification by Parliament. Further provision is to be made in the Bill for two or more regions to collaborate for specific purposes of common interests.


4. Provision is to be made for the direct election of Regional councillors.

Provision is to be made for a delimitation commission or commissions for carving out electorates. The question of MPs representing districts falling within regional areas to be eligible to function as chairman is to be considered. The question of Government Agents being Regional Commissioners is to be considered. The question of supervisory functions over larger towns, strategic towns and municipalities is to be looked into.


 5. Parliament is to delegate powers and specify them in the Act. It was agreed that regional councils should have powers over specified subjects including agriculture, cooperatives, lands and land developments, colonisation, education, health, industries, fisheries, housing, social services, electricity, water schemes and roads. Requisite definition of powers be made in the Bill


6. It was agreed that in the matter of colonisation schemes the powers of the regional councils shall include the powers to select allottees to whom land within their area of authority shall be alienated and also power to select personnel to be employed for work on such schemes. The position regarding the area at present administered by the Gal Oya Board in this matter requires consideration.


 7. The powers in regard to the Regional councils vested in the Minister of Local Government in the draft bill to be revised with a view to vesting control in Parliament wherever necessary.

 8. The Central Government will provide block grants to the regional councils. The principles on which the grants will be computed will be gone into. The regional councils shall have powers of taxation and borrowing.  


Mr. Dudley Senanayake and Mr. S. J. V. Chelvanayakam met on the 24-3-1965 and discussed matters relating to some problems over which the Tamil-speaking people were concerned, and Mr. Senanayake agreed that action on the following lines would be taken by him to ensure a stable government:

(1) Action will be taken early under the Tamil Language Special Provisions Act to make provision of the Tamil Language to be the language of Administration and of Record in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Mr. Senanayake explained that it was the policy of his party that a Tamil-speaking person should be entitled to transact business in Tamil throughout the island.

(2) Mr. Senanayake stated that it was the policy of his party to amend the Language of Courts Act to provide for legal proceedings in the Northern and Eastern Provinces to be conducted and recorded in Tamil.

(3) Action will be taken to establish District Councils in Ceylon vested with powers over subjects to be mutually agreed upon between two leaders. It was agreed, however, that the government should have power under the law to give directions to such councils under the national interest.

(4) The Land Development Ordinance will be amended to provide that citizens of Ceylon be entitled to the allotment of land under the Ordinance.

Mr. Senanayake further agreed that in the granting of land under colonisation schemes the following priorities be observed in the Northern and Eastern provinces (a) Land in the Northern and Eastern provinces should in the first instance be granted to landless persons in the district. (b) Secondly, to Tamil-speaking persons resident in the Northern and Eastern provinces. (c) Thirdly, to other citizens in Ceylon, preference being given to Tamil residents in the rest of the island. [2]

APPENDIX 3 ( edited)

 A statement obtaining the minimum demands submitted to the leaders of the UNP and SLFP on 30.3.1960 by SJV Chelvanayagam on behalf of the Federal Party when both parties failed to get an absolute majority after the 1960 March elections and sought the support of the FP to form a government.

The results of the General election have demonstrated that that the Tamil speaking people of Ceylon have endorsed in overwhelming numbers their acceptance of the policy and objective of my party, which can be briefly stated as follows

  1. The replacement of the present unitary constitution by a federal constitution which recognizes the autonomy of the Tamil speaking areas.
  2. The restoration of the Tamil language  to its rightful place enjoying  parity with  Sinhala as the official language of the country
  3.  The granting of citizenship rights to  Tamil persons of Indian origin who are settled in Ceylon.[estate Tamils]
  4. The cessation of planned colonization of the traditionally Tamil areas with Sinhalese people.

 Acceptance of the matters on which agreement is effected between ourselves should be indicated in the Throne Speech and there after implemented by legislative action which should be complete within three months

  1. Granting of regional autonomy for the Northern and eastern provinces by the creation of one regional body for the Northern Province and one or more regional bodies for the eastern province with the right of these bodies to amalgamate. Power to be delegated on such regional bodies for specific subjects such as agriculture, cooperatives, land and land development , land alienation and colonization, irrigation,    education,  health, industries, and fisheries housing and social services, electivity , water schemes and road. Pending the           establishment of the regional bodies state  aided colonization referred to above  is to be suspended
  2. Tamil to be recognized statutorily and administratively as the national language of the Tamil speaking peoples in Ceylon. Tamil is to be made the language of administration and of the courts of law in the northern and eastern provinces…. The right of Tamil spoken people throughout Ceylon to be educated in the Tamil language in all stages upto and including the university and the right of entry to the public services by competitive examination in Tamil to be statutorily recognized. Every Tamil person should be entitled in law to transact business and correspondence with the government in all parts of Ceylon in Tamil. All legislation, gazette notifications, government publications, notices and forms should be in Tamil also.
  3. The citizenship act to be amended ……
  4.  Till such time as the question of citizenship and franchise of the estate Tamil population is settled… representation in parliament to be provided by nomination …. [from] Ceylon Indian Congress.

 Points not covered by the foregoing paragraphs will be settled by negotiation between the government and the party. ( end)

 (Source.  KM de Silva. Managing ethnic tensions in multi-ethnic societies. p 400)  CONTINUED

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Local_government_in_Sri_Lanka

[2] https://peacemaker.un.org/sites/peacemaker.un.org/files/LK_650324_Dudley%20Senanayake%20-%20Chelvanayakam%20Pact.pdf

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