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George Jan Lerski

Origins Of Trotskyism In Ceylon

Chapter II
Popular Tribunes in the State Council

Although backbenchers among the sixty-one members, the two Samasamajists were not hampered by any feelings of inferiority or stage fright when the Council convened on March 17, 1936, just a week after completion of the general elections. They took part in the necessary caucuses to organize the work of the House into executive committees, as provided for by the Donoughmore Constitution. The membership of the Council divided itself by secret ballot into seven committees, and each committee elected a chairman. The chairmen were in charge of home affairs, agriculture, local administration, health, education, public works, and communications. The seven chairmen and the three officers of state formed the board of ministers.

According to Professor Singer, the national political elite of Ceylon consists of “anyone either elected or appointed to any of the national legislatures between 1924 and July 1960.” [1] Such definition, however, excludes from the political elite of the country the influential activists of the Buddhist Sangha, or those scholars, writers, and journalists who never cared to contest national elections in Ceylon prior to the social “Revolution of 1956,” which for a decade brought the predominantly Buddhist and Sinhalese educated lower middle class to the foreground. [2]

In addition to the veteran founders of the Ceylon National Congress, such as the leader of the House, Sir D. Baron Jayatilaka, and the Minister of Agriculture and Lands, D.S. Senanayake, the newcomers had to face two brilliant parliamentary lawyers, G.G. Ponnambalam and S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, who for three decades were the chief communal spokesmen of the Tamil minority and Sinhalese majority. But from the very outset Perera made it clear that he was not going to be overshadowed by anyone. At the organizational meeting held on March 20, 1936, as soon as the Governor’s Proclamation was read, he seconded Waltialingham Duraiswamy, the Tamil member for Kayts constituency, to serve as Speaker. The latter was elected over A.E. Goonesinghe’s Sinhalese candidate, C. Batuwantudawe of Kalutara. [3] Perera was also the very first member to address the House immediately after the Speaker’s official announcement of the election of the seven executive committees. He was to remain the most active member of the Council, and took part in every important debate, as shown by the index to the Hansards for the 1936-40 period. He held the floor at least twice as long as any other member of the Second State Council, some of his meticulously prepared speeches lasting as long as nine hours.

Their principal interest being working-class conditions, both Samasamajists were elected to serve in the Executive Committee of Labour, Industry and Commerce, together with another Labour leader, A.E. Goonesinghe. But that committee assignment did not limit the scope of their parliamentary activities to purely socio-economic problems. Their self-assured voices were heard on absolutely every matter of importance, and particularly in connection with the annual Appropriation Bill debate, both in plenum and at the committee level. Moreover, from the very beginning of their presence in the State Council, the two Samasamajists used every effort to implement all the demands of their party’s Manifesto, and by using systematic pressure, were quite successful in a number of issues affecting the wellbeing of the Ceylonese masses. As a matter of fact, most of the welfare state measures in today’s Ceylon were originated by Perera and Gunawardena. As an expert on constitutional matters, Perera was also elected to the Committee on Standing Orders.

As acknowledged by the official historian of the LSSP:

The securing of two seats in the State Council was an invaluable aid to the young Party. The two State Councillors fully utilised the legislature as a forum to propagandize the policy of the Party and to put forward its view on all important questions as they arose. [4]

For instance, on his first day in the Council, Perera gave notice of the following emergency:

  1. In view of the fact that a large number of villagers are reduced to the verge of starvation and destitution because of the unemployment consequent to the closing down of many tea and rubber estates, this House is of the opinion that immediate steps be taken to abolish the assignability of tea and rubber coupons.
  2. In view of the continued impoverishment of the rural areas, this House is of the opinion that the practice of the provision of the midday meal to school children of the Vernacular schools be continued. [5]

The LSSP took special pride in the fact that a million rupees were set apart in 1936 for free noon meals for school children, although they complained later that only a quarter of this sum was spent during the first two years, and that a number of demands were ignored by the local bureaucracy.

In addition to the severe criticism of the political status quo in their well-prepared analytical evaluations of the country’s budgets, they introduced a number of positive measures and made substantial contributions toward much-needed social reforms. With the exception of a few ultraradical motions, they arranged to get increasing support from a number of liberal-minded colleagues in the Council. In particular, they were often supported by D.M. Rajapakse, member for Hambantota; George E. de Silva, the colorful orator from Kandy; B.H. Aluwihare, experienced parliamentarian from Matale; Natesa Iyer, the advocate of Indian estate workers from Hatton; A.F. Goonesinghe, veteran leader of the Labour Party, representing Colombo Central constituency; D.P. Jayasuriya, the almost-silent member from Gampaha; A. Ratnayake, member for Dunbarra; Susanta de Fonseka, Deputy Speaker of the Council, and in certain cases even by the President of the Ceylon National Congress, H.W. Amarasuriya, who represented the southernmost city of Galle.

Besides the constantly attacked members of the Board of Ministers, and the nominated European and Burgher members of the House, the main opponents of the Samasamajists in the State Council were the cool-minded leader of the Tamil Congress, G.G. Ponnambalam, and the rather aggressive Siripala Samarakkody, member for Narammala constituency. The latter even accused the two Samasamajists of being the “honorable members for Russia, or the Communist members for Ruanwella and Avissawella.” [6] While there is, no doubt, some truth in the accusation that they were often speaking to the gallery with the purpose of molding public opinion in favor of independence and socialism, the usefulness of that procedure, as pointed out by Dr. Jennings, was somewhat limited by the fact that (unlike in England) most of the official Hansard publication on the debate was greatly delayed. [7] Although they also occasionally used cheap demagogy in their attacks on British imperialism and native capitalists of “the Cinnamon Gardens,” on the whole their performance, especially that of the somewhat overbearing Perera, was on a high parliamentary level. His Council speeches and interpellations, if collected and published together, would make a voluminous reading, giving not so much a Marxist as a Fabian reformist approach to the vital needs of Ceylon’s economy and to its political superstructure. [8]

It was the much less sophisticated firebrand member for Avissavella whose impulsive attacks on the existing order sounded more like revolutionary agitation. In spite of his usual common sense, it was evidently hard for Gunawardena to restrain his temperamental outbursts and avoid the pitfalls of village-platform speech-making. Indeed, some Council members were greatly annoyed with the belligerency of the socialist newcomers. Siripala Samarakkody, for instance, rose on June 26, 1936 “to coach the honourable member for Ruanwella, as well as the honourable member for Avissawella” and said that “like two jacks-in-boxes ... every day we see them rise to points of order. It is intolerable to see these two members get up as if they were authorities on all possible subjects under the sun ... and waste the time of the House, Sir ... They are playing to the gallery.” [9] The highly temperamental member for Avissavella was called to order by the Speaker of the House for his impassioned interruptions or irrelevent insinuations more often than any other member of the assembly. And he became involved in a fist-fight with his chief antagonist, Major John L.K. Kotelawala, Minister of Communications and Works, after a heated personal argument in the main hall of the State Council’s lobby. According to the account of Straight Left, An Occasional Paper of Suppressed News and Views, the so-called “Inherited Merit” issue brought the lively tea party held on March 8, 1939, to the following dispute:

Comrade Philip: “All this wealth came from underpaying and sweating your plumbage miners and estate employees. You get your comforts and luxuries by denying the most elementary physical needs to thousands of your employees.”
Major Kotelawala: “Nonsense. It is because I’m not just a talker but a man of common sense.”
Comrade Philip: “Rot. That’s the way you got rich. It is not through any intellectual or other ability. The manoeuvring and low cunning of Mr. D.S. Senanayake got for you your Ministership.”
Major Kotelawala: “Enough of your Bolshevism. I am enjoying all the good things in life as a reward for the merit of my father and forefathers. You have not been blessed in this fashion.”
Comrade Philip: “Nonsense. It is not the ’merit’ of your father but wealth of your murdered uncle that you are now enjoying.”
This effectively stripped Major Kotelawala of his pseudoreligious trappings and he sat back in his chair perhaps for once seeing himself as others see him. Then perhaps a vision of his more courageous forebears stirred this descendant into some sort of action, for, while Comrade Philip Gunawardena was drinking a cup of tea he surreptitiously aimed a blow at the Comrade’s head.
However this “fight” was not allowed to go on for more than a few seconds. Three or four persons came running up and held Comrade Philip Gunawardena who was straining for the fight like a thoroughbred before a race. [10]

No wonder that Sir John Kotelawala kept bitter memories of his Trotskyite opponents in the Council, as indicated in his autobiography. [11]

Although there seemed to be no division of labor between the two Samasamajists in their Council performances, and in spite of the fact that Perera displayed a rather irritating habit of “improving” his comrade’s statements, they seemed to work in complete harmony, gaining the nickname of the “Communist twin brothers.” Whatever their personal relationship may have been during those four years of loyal cooperation in the Second State Council, nothing indicated the deep animosity that grew later, during the turbulent war years.

Of the two, Perera was, no doubt, a more skillful dialectician. Even such an expert observer as Sir Ivor Jennings had to admit that the parliamentary opposition was “ably led by Dr. N.M. Perera, who had developed most but not all of the techniques familiar to the Westminster ...” [12], the criticism probably being directed against the latter’s frequently long and repetitious tirades.

But regardless of such minor shortcomings, both Samasamajists greatly contributed to the level of the Council’s debates; they can take pride in having introduced numerous constructive measures that paved the way for their country’s national independence and for the welfare-state system subsequently adopted. Following their party’s platform, Gunawardena and Perera became successful advocates of the liquidation of the feudalistic headman system, abolition of indirect taxation of consumer goods, use of the vernacular in the proceedings of the municipal courts, Ceylonization of the Civil Service, abolition of irrigation rates, establishment of the Central State Banking System, and passage of decisive measures against unemployment.

The essence of the headman institution, which replaced in feudal centuries the indigenous South Asian village committee system, was the pyramidal autocratic structure of the local administration, established primarily for internal revenue purposes. It became increasingly unpopular with the up-country rural population, due to its corrupt practices. The village headman was a local man traditionally endowed with the majesty of governmental authority. He was appointed by a government agent who under the colonial system acted as the district representative of the central government in Colombo. The headman (mudaliyar) was usually selected from the educated local aristocracy to act for a multitude of government departments as their executive agent in the village. [13]

In support of the moderate recommendations submitted by the Executive Committee of Home Affairs on December 1, 1937, Perera enumerated four premises on which the majority report based their conclusions concerning the gradual disappearance of the chief-headman system, namely:

  1. that very many of the present Chief-Headmen are corrupt, or the belief that they are corrupt is so universal and so strongly established that public confidence in the system, as it exists today, is impossible;
  2. that a service of the sort observed would be relatively free from corruption and would be believed by the public to be free from corruption; to be replaced by creation of a probationer service on an improved method of recruitment by examination;
  3. that it is not necessary for an officer performing the duties of a Chief-Headman to possess local influence independently of his office;
  4. that it is not necessary for an officer performing the duties of a Chief-Headman to remain permanently in one division and to possess an ultimate knowledge of that division by reason of his long residence in it. [14]

Perera cited a number of appalling bribery cases and appealed for complete abolition of those paternalistic revenue offices. Gunawardena exposed the most obnoxious feudal structures of the headman system in the remote Uva province, completely monopolized by the two ruling families of the Katugahas and Rambuktotas. [15]

Voicing the unequivocal demands of his party he stated in his first budgetary speech that: “the headman system ... is corrupt from top to toe. Bribery, favouritism, nepotism, all of these evils are found in the headman system. It is my belief-and this is the attitude of my party-that the headman system must go ... lock, stock and barrel.” As an alternative, the Samasamajists proposed relying upon “the local self-governing institutions, by extending the powers of Village Committees, Urban District Councils and other local bodies.” [16]

The class character of that mediaeval structure composed of ninety-odd chief headmen and some 3,500 minor headmen called Korales and Vidane Arachchies became one of the chief targets of the new party’s representatives in the State Council, who branded it as an “administrative machinery which extorts, which bleeds the poor people white.

because daily from 5, 10, 15 cents and upwards are being sucked by the four thousand odd tentacles of this system from the rural peasantry of our land. [17] The Samasamajist speakers constantly emphasized the nepotistic character of the system. Perera attacked that last stronghold of feudalism where “a handful of families dominate the whole show,” particularly in the up-country villages:

you find a family of headmen, the cousin is the headman, the son is a headman, everybody is performing the duties of headman ... It is not performed by one man ... but by the members of the whole family ... harassing the people ... I am willing to accede to the request that it is best to have a man resident in the village appointed provided that he is elected by the people. That seems to me the only safeguard you have but otherwise so long as the real defect lies in this, that these headmanships are handed down from generation to generation. [18]

Although at the first stage, the executive committee’s majority report for abolition of the major headmen was defeated in the Council, gradual abolition was accepted as the rule, but was implemented only after the outbreak of the Second World War. Hence, following the party resolutions, the two Leftists, annoyed with the delay, demanded in every budgetary debate that action be taken by the Board of Ministers in accordance with the Council’s recommendations. For instance, at the third annual conference of the party, held early in 1939, it was resolved that:

The Lanka Sama Samaja Party welcomes the State Council’s decision progressively to abolish the Headman System and condemns the attempts of Mr. D.S. Senanayake and Sir Baron Jayatilaka together with certain feudalists, to sabotage the decision arrived at by the pressure of the masses on the State Council and reaffirms the necessity for the masses behind the LSSP to press forward for the complete and immediate abolition of the Headman System which for over one hundred years has been in the hands of our feudal families an engine of caste and class oppression and terrorism over our peasantry. [19]

Echoing these requests, Perera brought the matter up again in the last budgetary speech before his 1940 detention and claimed that “It was definitely decided that the services of Korales and Superior Headmen should be immediately dispensed with ... They are being kept on while all the time they are doing more damage than ever before.” [20]

Another spectacular Samasamajist victory besides the recommended abolition of the headman system that was accomplished through the State Council vote concerned the restoration of the so-called death duty. This was a matter of direct and progressive taxation as opposed to the indirect taxation of the consumer. Philip Gunawardena successfully protested against the abolition of that special estate duty that amounted to handing over two and a half million rupees “to the rich parasites.” Concerned about the financial situation of the country, he reproached the Minister of Agriculture D.S. Senanayake:

the largest amount was paid by estates of Rs. 1.500,000 to Rs. 2.500,000. They were only two such estates and they paid at the rate of ten percent. But they were responsible for Rs. 329,874 of death duty.
Sir, when you examine very closely the question of death duties you will find that it is only the rich that pay. And by relieving his beloved capitalists the Acting Leader of the House did not hand back money to only the rich people of this country but also to the capitalists of England, the greedy sharks of Park Lane, because ... shareholders of companies registered in England paid in lieu of death duties two percent more on their income tax. This additional two percent on their income tax has thus been lost to this country.
Sir, I think that the reimposition of death duties is an absolute necessity ... Our taxation is regressive ... its incidence is heavier on the poorer classes ... Not only must income tax be the cornerstone of our taxation, but death duties also must be at least one of the squat pillars that must bear our financial structure ... if death duties are introduced and the rate is made graduated and progressive with the maximum to reach fifty percent, we are likely to receive in the form of revenue from death duties at least Rs. 3 to Rs. 5 million ... The wealth of this country is accumulating in the hands of a fewer and fewer number of individuals, that the peasants in our country are compelled by the operation of the Land Partition Ordinance, by the activities of the usurious money lenders, to sell their land, and their land is being forcibly sold. To-day those who own land are either chetties or foreign companies or a few land-grabbing new-grown capitalists of this country masquerading as national saviours the actual wealth of this country will pass more and more into the hands of a fewer number of people of this country; and eighty to ninety percent of our people must of necessity be landless, being either workers, lower middle class elements or professional elements of one kind or another; this is the inexorable social law of capitalist accumulation. [21]

Under pressure of the convincing arguments of the Samasamajists and their liberal friends in the Council who sided with them on that particular issue, the death duties were restored. Thus the planters had to continue their payments of heavy real-estate taxes.

But the main economic struggle of the socialist Council members was that against the plague of unemployment. True disciple of the London School of Economics, Perera lectured the Council on the occasion of his first budgetary speech on June 11, 1936:

It is quite clear, Sir, that society, the social system, the economic system, has become so complicated that modern governments are beginning to realise that the individual, the hapless individual is not entirely responsible for the unfortunate situation of the body politic. Therefore people are now beginning to realise that the Government must take steps to help the unfortunate people ...
It is the usual and customary saying that workers grow idle and prefer to stay back and get help from Government ... I do not for a moment deny that there are a very small class of people who would prefer by temperament perhaps ... to be so due ... to circumstances which have conditioned them ... to become rooted in the idle life ... but it will be greatly unfair, by the majority of the people to say that they are unwilling to work, that they would much rather get the dole from Government.
Sir, as a socialist, as a representative in this Council of a Party ... I have no hesitation in saying that capitalism must bear the main blame for the present unemployment ... The residue of labour is always necessary for the efficient working of the capitalist system, because you are continually changing your technical processes.
No attempt has been made in Ceylon so far even to try and find out how many unemployed there are at least in Colombo. And we make no discrimination between the unemployed and unemployable. We indiscriminately give our charity here and there ... But all that merely aggravates the problem.
The workers do not demand charity. The workers are mainly interested ... in getting work. What I am here arguing is not for giving charity but for the formulation of a comprehensive scheme which will provide work for the unemployed, so that the unemployed may be utilized. [22]

Well-read in the new theories of Lord Keynes and aware of the American New Deal measures, Perera advocated major public works and well-planned industrialization of the country. Indeed unemployment—that central socio-economic disease of the modern world—was widespread in the nineteen-thirties even in such a prosperous island as Ceylon. He moved that in view of the large amount of unemployment prevalent both in Colombo and in the outstations, and in view also of the fact that the relief hitherto given to a few of these unemployed has been inadequate, patchy and unsatisfactory and not calculated to solve the problem in a comprehensive manner, this House is of the opinion that immediate steps should be taken to tackle this national calamity in a manner more fitting to its nature and its proportions. [23]

As a result of the parliamentary pressure, a departmental committee was appointed to inquire into and report on causes of unemployment. Its members were the Commissioners for Labour and Local Government and the Director of Education. They circulated a rather amateurish questionnaire among those whom they considered likely to be helpful. The leaders of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party took this opportunity to publish a well-reasoned pamphlet fifteen pages long, ambiguously entitled Unemployment in Ceylon, Samasamajaya Shows the Way Out. It appeared as LSSP Publication No.2, undated, but presumably issued sometime in the middle of 1937 and was sold at a price of 10 cents. Its authors were Dr. Colvin R. de Silva, Leslie S. Goonewardene, and Dr. S.A.Wickremasinghe. They concluded with an ominous quotation from the Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels and recommended the following fifteen measures to meet the gravity of the situation:

  1. Universal Unemployment Insurance.
  2. Establishment of Employment Exchanges.
  3. Introduction of a National Public Works Programme by the State.
  4. Implementation of Local Relief Work.
  5. Standard wage rates to be paid in Unemployment Relief Schemes.
  6. Work of Maintenance-the introduction of Unemployment Assistance.
  7. Establishment of an Unemployment Assistance Board.
  8. Establishment of Instructional Centres and Provision of vocational Guidance for the Unemployed.
  9. Development of Agriculture through state farms and collective farms.
  10. A policy of Industrial Development.
  11. Abolition of Transferency of Tea and Rubber Coupons.
  12. Raising the school-leaving age to 16 years.
  13. Old-age Pensions.
  14. An Eight-Hour Day.
  15. Abolition of Assisted Immigration. [24]

The authors of the pamphlet condemned the inherent contradictions of the market economy as “a vicious circle that capitalism cannot break through” and claimed wrongly that: “All known capitalist methods for solving the unemployment problem within Capitalism have been tried and failed palpably in that classic land of capitalism, the U.S.A. The only country in the world today known to have no unemployment is Soviet Russia with her socialist economy. ” [25]

A major attempt to solve Ceylon’s unemployment problem was made by Dr. Perera in a special debate to implement or reject his own two years’ old motion in that matter, held in June 1938. He explained why he had to dissent from the report submitted by the Executive Committee on Labour and prepared by the ad hoc departmental body arbitrarily appointed by the Minister of Labour. The Samasamajists recommended a more scientific approach. They wanted the establishment of several employment exchanges in the capital city and in the provincial towns so that the actual extent of unemployment could be better assessed. They also urged a large program of national public works. In addition to some industrialization projects (in the fields of textiles and rubber) they suggested the creation of state and collective farms. Evidently at that early stage of the party’s growth its leaders were not aware of the disastrous effects of the Soviet collectivization campaign, and of Trotsky’s strong criticism of Stalin’s economic policy. Once again, in his budgetary speech of August io, 1939, Dr. Perera stressed that the fundamental source of what he termed Ceylon’s “abject poverty” was both rural and urban unemployment. As an emergency measure he suggested “the entire prohibition of immigration into this country.” [26]

The most crucial political issue raised by the Samasamajists in the State Council debate concerned the implementation of the anticommunalist aspect of their party’s program, in order to prevent the anticipated deterioration of relations between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority. Although not so acute as in the late nineteen fifties [27], the mutual animosity was already brewing, instigated by unscrupulous politicians on both sides. It must be admitted to the credit of the LSSP leaders that they were definitely in the forefront of the opposition to chauvinistic bigotry, which was to divide the Ceylonese people so tragically two decades later. In particular they stood firmly against any discrimination toward the permanently domiciled plantation workers. Thus, in the case of the Village Community Bill, they claimed that the proposed ordinance excluded from the universal franchise a large number of hard-working estate laborers, on the basis of racial discrimination against the Tamil workers. To protect the labor market, the SamasamajistS consistently voted against the continued immigration but once the Tamils settled down for good

Common decency demands that those people be treated as human beings ... We only ask that those who are permanently domiciled in this country, those who have permanent interests in this country ... should be given the vote ... not more than 200,000 Indians have been placed on the State Council electoral registers. I submit to the Minister of Local Administration that in order to disfranchise 200,000 Indians under the Village Communities Ordinance, most of whom have been born in this country on the estates, he is going to disfranchise an equal number of Sinhalese labourers. [28]

Even more pointed was the Samasamajist attack on the newly formed Sinhala Maha Sabha Movement led by the Bandaranaike and the Jayasuriya clans, specifically on the explosive question of communal representation; this issue was raised when the report of the Delimitation Committee was discussed on July 5, 1939, with regard to the size of future parliamentary constituencies. Supporting the claims of the Indian community as voiced by Natesa Iyer, the member for Hatton up-country constituency, Dr. Perera stressed in the name of his party that “we are in favour of those residents who intend to remain here in Ceylon as permanent residents and who are here for five years being given the franchise.” [29] This bold stand became one of the principal reasons for the increasing support to the LSSP of the Youth Congress of Jaffna in particular and of the Tamil intelligentsia in general. It also partly explains why the University of Ceylon’s student life is up to this day controlled almost completely by the anti-communalist Trotskyites, who can count on the support of racial, religious, linguistic, and caste minorities. Starting from the premise that the British managed to rule the country by dividing its population so that “they could hold the balance of power and get the maximum of what they want,” Dr. Perera lavishly praised the speech of the Tamils’ able spokesman Mr. Ponnambalam as “one of the best that I have heard in this Council or likely to hear for a long time to come.” He appealed, however, for Tamil moderation instead of for the exaggerated demand of a fifty-fifty ratio.

At the same time Perera blamed “the crass stupidity of the leaders of the majority community” as being responsible for “driving the minority Members in the arms of the ruling power.” Instead of showing some goodwill toward the just demands of the minorities, the leaders of the Sinhala Maha Sabha antagonized them by such statements as “Ceylon is for the Sinhalese.” Dr. Perera warned that by denying that there is a “Ceylonese nation but only the Sinhalese nation” they were playing straight into the hands of London, represented in the prewar years by Sir Andrew Caldecott, the “shrewdest of the Governors”:

These excessive demands of the Tamil community are partly due to our own fault and the majority leadership and partly due to the ... machinations of the ruling power. They have been knocking minority communities and major community against each other and holding the balance of power ... I must say to the credit of His Excellency the Governor ... that ... he has realized, that it is no longer necessary even to pay lip service to the demands of the minority communities ... He knows that the correct thing is to prevent the rising mass movement against Imperialism ... by allying himself ... with the reactionary leaders.

Applying the class-warfare approach, Dr. Perera eloquently stressed that since “there is no Sinhalese hunger or Tamil hunger ... no Sinhalese tax or Tamil tax, the natural division should rather be between the progressives of both communities against all conservatives solidified by the Imperialists. [30] Convinced that only a united front of Sinhalese and Tamils could effectively challenge the British rulers, Philip Gunawardena appealed in his speech on May 9, 1939 for magnanimity on the part of the majority race:

My Party is absolutely against communal representation ... of any nature, of any kind. But, Sir, we have to realise that in this country there is a conflict between the minority and the majority over certain matters and unless or until we settle that conflict it is not possible for us to have a united people demanding freedom.
... After all, cannot the Sinhalese Members be a little more generous? What is the difficulty in having a territorial basis which gives a little more representation to Jaffna Tamils and the Muslim population ... ? The population can be adjusted and if we are a bit generous, I say it is possible to solve the conflict and to win over the Jaffna Tamils and the other minorities to the united demand for real responsible government.

For the rising of tension between the Tamils and the Sinhalese he placed the blame squarely on the Minister of Local Administration, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, who was the

leader of the most communal organization among the Sinhalese, the Sinhala Maha Sabha, the most rabid, the most narrowminded, most chauvinistic organization, which appeals to the lowest and basest instincts of my people ... not a national organization but a tribal one appealing to the most decomposed rubbish of the Sinhalese people.

While emphasizing the dangers of the growing discontent on the part of the main racial minority, the speaker preached for mutual confidence “in order to bring the Tamils to unite with the Sinhalese for the real fight for freedom.” This he believed to be “possible on a territorial basis of representation,” to at least satisfy the demands of the indigenous Tamils from the Jaffna region, if not those of the immigrant Indian estate laborers:

the main problem we are faced with is not the question of occupying the Ministerial seat or having a Deputy Minister to carry your portfolio ... the problem we are faced with is how best and how most effectively to fight the enemy that is in our midst, that is the British Imperialist ...
I must so state the position of my Party on the question of freedom. We stand Sir, I admit, for full independence for this country ... outside the four corners of the British Empire.

Taking our stand on that platform, Sir, we realize it is necessary to unite all communities in this country for demanding that claim. I feel that is necessary sometimes to make concessions, generous concessions, to the minority communities. The majority community can afford to make such generous concessions. That is the position that my Party takes. [31]

Such an appeal was fully consistent with that clause of the party’s fundamental objectives that demands the use of the vernaculars, i.e., both Tamil and Sinhalese “in the lower courts of law, in entries and recorded statements at Police stations and the extension of this use to all Government Departments.” It is, therefore, rightly stressed by the Tamil Marxist author V. Karalasingham that the record of the LSSP in relation to the minorities in Ceylon is second to none. In the long years of its existence, the LSSP has consistently championed the just rights of all religious, linguistic, national and caste minorities ... at its very birth the LSSP was pledged to equality of status of the two principal languages of Ceylon. [32]

As a matter of fact, one of the very first utterances of Dr. Perera in the State Council was to expose the hypocrisy of the planting community’s attitude toward the Indian estate laborer in connection with the claims for reparation money from the so-called Indian Immigration Fund. Supporting the stand of their champion Natesa Iyer, Perera stated:

These labourers came out of estates not because they want to have a joy ride to India. It is because ... in the year 1929 the great planting community who are the “foster-fathers” of the poor labourers, reduced the minimum wage and that compelled hundreds of these poor people to go to India. A great deal of tyranny was exercised by the planting community, with the result that they had to go out somewhere . . it is a nice argument to put before this Committee that the Indian immigrant labourer is brought here for the benefit of Indian immigrant labour ... I say that they are brought here for the benefit of the European planters and the planting community; that cannot be gainsaid when you find that they are like old decrepit machines, that they are no longer useful, you put them on to the human scrap heap and then you call them destitute immigrants and say that they must be packed off at our own expense after having served to the best of their ability to fatten European planters in Ceylon. [33]

They failed, however, to win their argument for equal rights for the Sinhalese and Indian laborers in the matter of their fundamental rights of franchise. During the high-level debate of December 9, 1937, on the Village Community Amendment Ordinance, the Samasamajists moved that those Indian laborers who had either been born in Ceylon or were permanently domiciled there and possessed proper certificates of permanent settlement should be considered “for all intents and purposes Ceylonese.” Having taken an unequivocal stand against “any further influx of assisted Indian immigrants” just three months before, Dr. Perera was now adamant in defense of the civic rights of those six hundred and fifty thousand Indian immigrants already in the country. He attacked in Marxist fashion the racially oriented Minister of Agriculture and Lands, D.S. Senanayake:

I was wondering whether he was becoming another Hitler who is so careful of the purity of the Nordic Aryan blood. And the Honourable Minister of Local Administration was speaking on the annihilation of race. But these very Ministers ... would not support us when we brought forward a very vital motion to safeguard the race, that is to restrict immigration ... When it comes to the question of really safeguarding not the capitalist but the poor people the support of these Ministers is not available. It is more important for them to import more immigrants because they must help their capitalist friends ... They want to have as large a surplus of labour as possible. Whether it is European capitalists or the Ceylonese capitalists, there is no difference in that regard. .
I stand and speak as a Sinhalese. I am proud to say that in this matter I have gone to the extent of consulting every possible constituent of mine, and I am proud to say, that every association in my constituency will back me up at every moment on this question ... Far from being afraid of these Indians swamping the people ... in all these up-country areas those Indians are more in touch with the villagers than anybody else.
This fear, this bogey of swamping is entirely imaginary and has been created by a handful of people ... The interests of the Indian labourers and the vast mass of the peasants and workers in this country are the same. The fight is against the capitalist class, whether they are Indians or Ceylonese ... [34]

But that fair amendment to enfranchise the resident Indian (Tamil) estate workers lost by twelve votes. Notably, this time all the Tamil members voted with the two Sinhalese Samasamajists.

Often accused of being cosmopolitan and detached from the rural masses, the Samasamajists actually led the agitation to introduce, on July 23, 1936, two motions concerning the use of the vernacular (Swabasha) in police courts and in lower education. In his speech of January 29, 1937, Dr. Perera emphasized the allegedly sinister role played by the court interpreters and demanded that within two years time the native judges be able to carry on proceedings in Sinhalese or Tamil because

in the lower courts usually people have not the resources to retain lawyers. They want to plead their own case, but they cannot do so because they do not know the language in which the proceedings are held. That is really the cause that goes right to the root of the purity of justice, that is what has made justice so expensive and so unfair in Ceylon.
The courts of justice in Ceylon today so function that they frighten people whether complainant or defendant ... The whole atmosphere is awe-inspiring ... We say that Tamil also should be one of the languages used; we are not saying that only Sinhalese must be used ... No person in Ceylon can seriously accuse me or the members of my party of being communal at any moment, we have consistently fought for the minorities.
I do not know whether it is more difficult for the members of the minority community to study Sinhalese than to study English which is now presumed to be a language with which everybody is familiar ... people who know only Tamil should learn Sinhalese rather than English ... in as much as it would tend to bring about harmony between the minorities and the majority community.
I do earnestly plead that the time has come when we must stop this denationalizing influence and give the poor man his rights.

Dr. Perera believed that a period of two years would be quite sufficient for every judge concerned to master the vernacular or to give up his job as a self-recognition of incompetence: “If a man cannot study the mother-tongue ... within two years, there must be something radically wrong with that gentleman.” [35]

Gunawardena had to acknowledge with gratitude Minister of Agriculture Senanayke’s support for the motion and to admit that due to certain administrative difficulties it might be wiser to extend the required period for language study to three years. Moreover, he urged the Tamils to learn the Sinhalese language:

Sir, the English have been in this Island for over a century and a quarter, and it is time the people of the Island started to get at least the administration of justice in the lower courts conducted in their own language ... I mean Sinhalese and Tamil. If members of the minority communities want to obtain positions of trust and responsibility in this country, it is time they learned Sinhalese and Tamil. . . [36]

The Samasamajist motion was passed by a substantial majority of thirty, with only four “Noes” and one abstention. This marked an important parliamentary victory for the LSSP, well-deserved for its skilful tactics. Dr. Perera also pledged that any petition submitted in the Council be accepted even if written in Sinhalese. This was a vital consideration for the poor villagers who “can express themselves only in their mother tongue,” since the required procedure of “submitting petitions in English would mean having to go to a petitions drawer; without certainty that all they want to say actually appeared in the petition.” When informed by the otherwise sympathetic Speaker that the Standing Order of the Council No.105 specifically demanded that all legislative procedures be fully translated into English, Perera suggested that it might suffice to set out just the gist of the petition in that language. [37]

Related to the official use of Swabasha (indigenous Tamil and Sinhalese) was another nationalistic issue, the Ceylonization of the Civil Service, an important aspect of the wider struggle for complete independence. In this popular demand the Samasamajists often outdid their nonsocialist colleagues in xenophobia. Whenever they could they hit hard at the incompetence or redundance of the civil servants, who were imported mainly from Britain though usually referred to in Ceylon as “Europeans.” (That confusing designation may have been the result of the accumulated experience of all three colonial periods—the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the British.) The Samasamajists, to pinpoint any wavering from the March 1934 First State Council resolution to consider a Ceylonese candidate first, acted as watchdogs on various government departments. This applied not only to the higher administrative posts but also to hospital nurses, railway foremen, or noncommissioned officers in the armed forces.

On the other hand, Perera was aware that the mere replacement of “a white bureaucracy with a brown bureaucracy,” also termed the “infiltration into the Public Service” was not a satisfactory goal in itself. [38] He was of the opinion that instead of bringing English technical experts to train Ceylonese graduates in the island, it would be preferable to send capable young people abroad in order that they get all the necessary training overseas and then bring them back to Ceylon with that valuable experience. The Samasamajists were always particularly sensitive as far as the teaching profession was concerned. In his adamant criticism of missionary schools of October 18, 1939, Dr. Perera reminded that:

An appeal was made in this House and outside of it to all private employers to get rid of their non-Ceylonese and employ the Ceylonese ... If there are grounds for the adoption of the principle of employment of Ceylonese in Government Departments, I say those reasons are a hundred times stronger in their application to educational institutions. It is much more important that the culture which is peculiar to the Ceylonese should be imparted to the Ceylonese by the Ceylonese, that our children should be made to imbibe the nature which is purely Ceylonese in our educational institutions than that they should get a foreign culture imposed by the outsiders ... In the end every child prefers to adore a foreigner at the expense of our own traditions, culture and civilization. That is the direct result of this missionary education that we have consistently fought off. If we want regeneration of this nation we cannot have regeneration by getting outside people to come and impose their culture and a slavish mentality on us. [39]

Although himself partly a product of Christian education as an ex-pupil of Saint Thomas College, Perera evidently was aligning himself in his “fight for entire Ceylonese education in this country” with the nationalistic-oriented elements otherwise his strange appeal for a “purely Ceylonese” culture could hardly be understood. In the same debate he was justly rebuked for such a one-sided concept of Ceylonese culture by the level-headed and versatile member for Matale, B.H. Aluwihare, who retorted with well-taken indignation:

Ceylonese culture is like the Sinhalese people. It is one of the most hybrid things in the Earth. It is born of Portuguese and Dutch culture and it is mixed up to-day with the British. In ancient days it arose on the tree of Veddah culture. It was enriched by the Hindus and the Aryans at the Ganges, and it was then touched by the fervour of the South Indian and the Tamil. I am not certain that we have not been enriched by the thought of the Negroes of Africa. I am not certain that we have not been affected by adventurers and traders from Arabia ... When you ask what Ceylonese culture is, the answer is that the culture has come to us from all the ends of the earth. It has enriched us our vision, our mind, our literature.
Even today a good deal of ... the very idealism of the honourable Member for Avissavella and the honourable Member for Ruanwella is drawn from foreign source ... from the writers of foreign works. [40]

Indeed, without those “evil” foreign influences on the Ceylonese elite there surely would have been no Marxist party born in the land of Sri Lanka. And neither could the dynamic revival of Sinhalese Buddhism, as expressed in D.C. Vijayavardhana’s anonymous book, Dharma-Vijava (Triumph of Righteousness or The Revolt in the Temple), [41] have been possible without the impact of the romantic cultural concepts of Herder and of post-Hegelian Western philosophy. No wonder that in the midst of the national awakening the strong appeal of Dr. Perera to stop the import of European teachers and to streamline the Christian missionary schools carried the day with a substantial majority.

The economics-oriented Samasamajist Council members also made a number of constructive suggestions toward their country’s then non-existent long-range planning. They advocated, for instance, the standard socialist measures of central marketing and central banking, creation of specialized agricultural areas, gradual industrialization, and a cheap system of nationalized transport. Aiming for economic autarky, Dr. Perera was fully aware of the key importance of the rice-production question:

Let us produce rice on a large scale basis and try and make Ceylon self-sufficient. I submit there is enough land under paddy cultivation to-day to make Ceylon self-sufficient if intense farming is resorted to. What is wanted is not to open up fresh paddy fields but to utilize existing paddy fields and employ intensive methods of cultivation. [42]

As European-trained socialists, they strongly recommended the creation of the National Bank of Ceylon, warning that “the European commercial and banking interests in the country have been trying their best to carry on an agitation in England to prevent the coming into existence of the Bank.” [43] But when the actual Bank of Ceylon Ordinance was placed before the Council in February of 1938, Perera complained about the dangerous loopholes and protested against what he termed “an ultimatum that has been given to us. We have to accept in toto or nothing else.” While stressing in his speech of February 15 that they were not opposing the bill in general, in spite of its shortcomings, he stated:

On the vital principle of a State Bank as against the State-aided Bank ... we are definitely for a State Bank ... We want a National Bank of Ceylon run for our own purposes ... in accordance with the modern tendencies in all countries, not excluding, I say, England, strange as it may sound ... A bank can make a vital difference to the economic position of a country and therefore no Government can afford to ignore or neglect the part that the bank plays ... when such a bank can control the money rate and therefore eventually the price level ... The banks existing to-day do not give that stimulus to the indigenous trade of the country ... while the honorable members realize it, they do not seem to have realized that by the establishment of a private State-aided Bank which is to all interests and purposes a private bank, they have absolutely nullified the intention with which they started ... they have committed a great blunder in asking for a State-aided Bank and putting into it a large sum of money..

Having expressed his general skepticism with regard to the possible success of such a capitalist type of venture, Dr. Perera voiced his particular criticism against the rule that a substantial number of shares could conceivably be purchased by non-Ceylonese:

Any person in this country can buy shares. It does not exclude any of the existing banks—they are not independent banks existing for the big banks, not only in India, but also interconnected with the big five in London. Remember also that it has been laid down that all the executive officers of the bank must and should be, as a matter of fact shall be Europeans. [44]

In the committee stage of debate the Samasamajists suggested that a number of young Ceylonese trainees be sent to some of the big banks in England or even trained locally but later complained that the Treasury apparently ignored their request and “considered that all executive officers of the bank at least for four or five years should be chosen by them and from Europeans.” Suspecting that existing local banks in Ceylon would do everything in their power to prevent the growth of the central state bank Dr. Perera recommended a clause be written into the bill that would preclude “non-Ceylonese from buying any shares whatsoever.” In that specific demand aimed at the ultimate economic independence of the country, the Samasamajists aligned themselves with the motion of the President of the Ceylon National Congress, Mr. H.W. Amarasuriya.

Indicating that the required ten-shareholder quorum for a general meeting of the bank was dangerously low, Perera claimed that “the only safeguard that we can have for economic development of this country is to have a State Bank where no outsider can come in.” He looked at the need for a truly national bank from the viewpoint of the vital industrial development of the country, trying, at the same time, to secure some participation of the poorer strata of the Ceylonese population by reducing the price of shares from Rs.100 each to Rs.25 or even Rs.10.

The Samasamajists were also perturbed by the unsavory role of the private money-lenders, the Chettiars (popularly referred to as “Afghans”), who were known for their excessive interest on loans and ruthless methods in their dealings with the indebted villagers. In view of the mass poverty the Samasamajists were not too keen on the launching of the National Savings Movement, and quoting such theoretical authorities as Lord Keynes or the Viennese economists, they recommended rather the developmental expenditure as an alternative to saving.[45] Subsequently, their two lonely voices of protest to the Savings Certificates (Amendment) Bill, which increased the limits of gilt-edge securities, were registered in the November 1939 vote.

In their programmatic defense of the average consumer, they were consistently opposed to any form of indirect taxation. While advocating the increase of the direct income tax unit rate, Dr. Perera stated that it is “iniquitous to continue the tax on rice.” [46] Conveniently quoting the opinions of the founders of the 1917 Ceylon Reform League, Philip Gunawardena argued:

Nearly 18 or 20 years ago, I remember listening to the speeches of the late Sir James Pieris ... and Sir P. Arunachalam. They said that the incidence of taxation in this country fell very heavily on the poorer sections of the population. It is only the President of the Ceylon National Congress, the Hon. H.W. Amarasuriya, that is still loyal to these principles. The Congress Ministers have betrayed these principles.
It is true, Sir, that in recent times the introduction of the Income Tax and Estate Duty and other direct taxes has, to some extent, compelled the rich to bear a certain share of the burden of taxation: but ... the major portion of taxation is today borne by the poorer sections of the population. It is from the indirect taxes that the major portion of our revenue comes.
It is not by protection that we must learn to compete if we are to compete at all with rice-producing countries like Siam, Burma and India. It is by cutting down costs, it is by producing ten bushels per unit, where we are getting only two bushels today ... that we can compete with rice-producing countries ... [it] cannot be done by protective measures.

He appealed consequently to the Board of Ministers to shift the tax burden to the shoulders of the wealthy people:

I say the rich people of this country and the rich people that come to this country from other countries to exploit the resources of this island are capable of bearing a very much heavier burden than what they bear today. If they can pay an enormous graduated income tax in England, we have a right to ask them to pay that amount of money to the revenues of this country ... and not to the British Exchequer. [47]

This same xenophobic attitude marked Gunawardena’s speeches in favor of the increase of the income tax unit:

the Europeans have come to this country for one purpose alone, to take as much profit out of this country as possible.. They have come here to exploit at the cheapest rates of wages possible the people of this country and to take back the profits of the rich to the parasitic renter class that lives in the South of England and allow them to enjoy them.
I support heartily the proposal for the increase in the unit rate of income tax ... it was possible to introduce income tax into our financial measures only after the introduction of adult franchise, that is very significant ... For over forty to fifty years the main incidence of taxation was on the poorer sections of the people.
The railways were built, the roads were built, and everything that you can think of in this country was built at the expense of the poorer people of this country. [48]

One can only wonder: where would Ceylon be today without British investment in the very infrastructure of the island? Evidently the anticolonial posture of the leading LSSP spokesmen blinded them and prevented their being able to evaluate objectively all the pros and cons of British capital investment in such essential fields as transportation, education, and sanitation. Indeed, not many new roads, raillines, hospitals, and orphanages were added in Ceylon during the first two decades of her independence from British “exploiters.”

Another point of attack on the economic implications of the imperial system concerned the problem of direct trade relations with neighboring India, in connection with the preferential tariff issue. The Samasamajists were supporting India’s demand for direct negotiations with Ceylon, to be initiated without delay, preferably in Bombay. Philip Gunawardena asked the Council to support the motion for such direct relations and argued:

Let us not look to England as the most important market for our products. I have not the slightest doubt that the English market has reached the saturation point. The exports to England are very largely fictitious exports because a fair portion of those goods is re-exported to firms in other countries. Therefore there is no reason why we should consider London as the central emporium of world trade ... It is time we began to look towards India and the Far East ... Within ten or fifteen years there will be a demand in India itself for some of the raw products of this country that are now being consumed by European markets. [49]

He meant specifically a possibility for rubber exports to India, while Dr. Perera envisaged increased shipments of copra. The latter claimed that the supply of this product needed then by India from Ceylon should not be considered as static, since “all the available land has not been planted with coconuts.” He pointed out quite rightly that as much as three-fourths of Ceylon’s total surface was for all practical purposes underdeveloped, with great potential for increase in a more varied coconut-plantation planning. [50] The motion for the appointment of a native Ceylonese trade commissioner in India was passed with an overwhelming (almost three-to-one) majority on June 10, 1936. That vital question was discussed again in September of the same year in connection with the State Council’s instructions for sending a special trade delegation to England. The debate gave Dr. Perera a good chance to attack the Secretary of State for the Colonies for his refusal to grant Ceylon the right of direct negotiation with India, which he, Dr. Perera, considered as a typical attempt on the part of the imperial government to make Ceylon’s exports just a tool in bargaining.

The Samasamajists resented the treatment of Ceylon and other colonies by the Dominions at the 1932 Ottawa Conference called by Whitehall to adjust tariff and trade relations within the Empire. They claimed that as a result of the acceptance of the Imperial Preferential Tariff the quota on cheap Japanese textiles was “forced down the throats of the Board of Ministers against the interests of the poor people of the country,” raising subsequently the cost of living. Moreover, in retaliation for these British measures, the European markets began to close up, whereupon the Commonwealth countries failed to reward such accommodating colonies as Ceylon:

What the Dominions granted to us is really of no value; and what the Colonies granted to us was absolutely of no consequence ... We export to Australia tea to the value of Rs.8.777.000 ... We get no preference from Australia on our tea ... then we export rubber to the value of Rs.9.992.000 we get no preference whatsoever. We export fibre to the value of Rs.149.000—no preference. coir yarn to the tune of Rs.55.000—no preference ...
The potential market in foreign countries is much greater that the potential market in the British Empire ... We tied ourselves ... and placed ourselves at the disposal of the Secretary of State for the Colonies and let him in his mercy grant what he thought just and fair toward Ceylon. [51]

Evidently more aware than other Sinhalese politicians of the affinity of economic interest with India, the Samasamajists wanted joint protective action with Ceylon’s big neighbor against that very imperial preference system:

It is true that the Indian Government is dilly-dallying with the question of preference ... We can speak with a certain amount of authority because we are more or less in touch with what might be the leading party in India before very long, and we can definitely say that India is not going under the new Constitution to tolerate the extension of Imperial Preference for even one day ...
I do not think it can be argued that India will tomorrow retaliate against us if we do not have imperial preference after the end of January. The common interests of Ceylon and India are too great to be easily brushed aside. [52]

Consistent in their defense of the poorer consumers, particularly where the basic staple food (rice) was concerned, the Samasamajists were at the same time advocating various constructive measures for economic growth in Ceylon, not only in the general field of industrialization but also in communications with the outside world. Speaking in favor of the proposed air mail scheme, Philip Gunawardena argued on February 9, 1937:

we are ready to support this measure because any speeding up in the means of communication is an advantage to this country simply because the Chamber of Commerce and European interests will benefit for a number of years-we are not going to stand in the way of the speeding up of the communications of this Island.
I am afraid if this measure is rejected that Singapore and other commercial centres will be at an advantage over the commercial centres in Ceylon. Colombo our chief commercial centre, will be at least two days behind Singapore and other countries from the point of view of communication and you can understand how our chief competitors, Malaya and other countries in Asia will be able to communicate with the consuming markets very much quicker than Colombo.
I am supporting this not because it is an Empire Air Mail Service, but because it is an Air Service and it means the quickening of communications of this Island. [53]

As a matter of fact, their stand in economic affairs was usually more of a genuine patriotic than a doctrinaire, socialist character, with such exceptions as Dr. Perera’s call for collectivization of the 30,000 acres of land designated for intensive rubber planting. The nationalization of the sale of petrol, which became, twenty-five years later, of great importance in Ceylon-American relations, could be considered primarily as an anti-imperialist measure that was necessary to reduce the exorbitant prices and to cut the profits of the foreign companies. For the same reason, they opposed, on August 26, 1937, without much success, the ten-cent-per-gallon increase on the petrol duty:

We are not satisfied with having the price of petrol fixed at Re. 1.25 per gallon. We want the Board of Ministers to make it one rupee or even less in order to develop this country ... the Board of Ministers should take up the question of having a monopoly of the petrol trade and have all the profits of that trade credited to the State ...
I do not think the future of this country is going to depend entirely on agriculture. The standard of living cannot be improved seriously unless the country is industrially developed. [54]

The annual analysis of the appropriation bills provided the Samasamajists with excellent opportunity for over-all political discussion. Repeatedly they made good scientific use of the socio-economic surveys of selected regions that indicated the abject poverty of the Sinhalese rural population. Those reports of the Department of Commerce and Industry, which used the modern statistical approach, were helpful indeed in going to the very roots of economic inequality and the serious plight of the heavily indebted village families, who often lived below the subsistence level.

Whenever the so-called “supplementary estimates” were submitted by the ministers directly to the House, Dr. Perera invariably criticized that unorderly way of bypassing the budgetary rules. The same applied to the “token vote” method. Well-trained in the fundamentals of parliamentary procedure, he also protested on August 24, 1936 against the recurrent policy of storing the surpluses:

The people who pay these surpluses are not the rich. It is the poor who pay either by reduction of wages or by way of indirect taxation or by paying higher prices for articles.
These surpluses must go to the poor people ... It is a fond imagination that the greater the surplus, the greater apparently is the prosperity of the country ... The prosperity of a few people in the Cinnamon Gardens or in other posh places is not synonymous with the prosperity of the country ... It is not the national dividend, but the individual dividend to the income of the meanest person of the country, that matters.
We must not follow the normal business procedure of passing on surplus balances from one year to another. If we have a surplus in one year, that surplus must be earmarked either for payment into the Sinking Fund set apart to wipe out the national debt, or for expenditure on some specific object or objects. [55]

Again in 1937 he skillfully attacked the budgetary policy of the aging Leader of the House, Sir Baron Jayatilaka:

I am very dissatisfied with the present system of finances ... this habit of using your surplus revenue ... in one particular year, as revenue in subsequent years has created a veritable confusion in our public finances. A great deal of the uncertainty at the present moment and a certain imposition of taxes are all due to this bad system of budgeting ... It has been found that by virtue of these surpluses you have gone on increasing expenditure year by year without any corresponding revenue on the other side to balance in any particular point of time.
If we compare the normal revenue and the normal expenditure we will find that there has been a huge deficit of 241/2 million up to September 1937 since the Board of Ministers assumed office.

Last year there was a surplus of six million ... The Leader of the House always budgets for a deficit. He expects a surplus of three million from normal savings ... but normal savings cannot be taken into account because throughout the year you have Supplementary Estimates ... Year after year there have been increases in the amounts voted on Supplementary Estimates. [56]

Finally, in his analysis of the 1939-40 Appropriation Bill, Dr. Perera bluntly accused the Board of Ministers of presenting a “panicky ... Budget” just to suit the “money-barons of the City of London”:

This idea of a surplus, this accumulated surplus handed down from year to year is a besetting sin of the Colonial system of budgeting ... It certainly makes confusion worse confounded when you mix up the surpluses with normal revenue ... That was the one criterion by which the Colonial Office and the London money-market could gauge the solvency of this country.
Obviously Whitehall and the officials were only interested in Ceylon so far as it provided them a place for safe investment ... That is the reason why the Colonial Government, the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the London money-market were anxious to have a surplus ... as an index to the capacity of the Colony to keep on paying interest ...
Sir, it is a recognized principle in democratic countries that from year to year they should definitely raise revenue, for each year they should definitely earmark how this revenue is to be spent ... the only means by which we can keep a fair check of the executive, on the Government. There has been a long struggle in democratic countries against the idea of accumulated surpluses ... It is now recognized as axiomatic that a country must always try and balance its normal revenue and its normal expenditures—that is the true criterion we can adopt—and not these surpluses passed from year to year. [57]

The above quotations amply prove Dr. Perera’s mastery of budgetary techniques and their underlying theories. Maybe he already saw himself in those early days of his political career as the future Minister of Finance, which he actually became in June of 1964 (to serve, though for less than a year, in Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s left-of-center coalition government). Similarly, that dedicated tribune of the rural masses Philip Gunawardena may already have aspired in the late 1930’s to his future role of Minister of Agriculture, which he became in the 1956 Mahajana Eksath Peramuna cabinet of his once political adversary S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike. He was then also the future author of the 1958 radical Paddy Land Bill. On every occasion, he attacked uneconomical colonization schemes, particularly that of the distant Minneriya (the name of the ancient water tank), the pet idea of the Minister of Agriculture. He ridiculed D.S. Senanayake for behaving like the modern version of the medieval Sinhalese king, Parakrama the Great, because of his grandiose ambitions to irrigate the vast dry zone of the North Central Province, while neglecting to assist the much more feasible paddy culture in the wet Western Zone. In his strong criticism of the Aided Land Colonization Report, Gunawardena argued on February 24, 1939:

This Report is a shamefaced admission of failure of the colonization policy of the Minister of Agriculture from 1931 to 1939. It is possible to bring into cultivation within a year ten to fifteen thousand acres of paddy in these (Western) Provinces if proper irrigation and damage construction work are tackled ...
In my own area, daily, acre after acre of paddy land is being covered up with sand and silt from the neighbouring estates but the Minister is interested only in the “large” schemes for whose construction you have to import Ruston-Byarus machines and other things ... but in the protection of paddy ... peasant cultivators, by the building of dams and bunds and things of that nature, to protect the already cultivated lands, he is not interested, because Parakrama never cultivated those lands. It must be in the “big” areas round Minneriya and Topawewa, which have “historic” names that he desires to carry on these activities. Where the ordinary villagers live, where the population is thick, well one would find it difficult to build up a name by aiding in a small way, by the expenditure of two to three thousand rupees.

In the same speech he accused big business of being only after the high returns from rubber, tea, coconuts, or cacao plantations while refraining from any investment in paddy, “not an economic crop under capitalism.” [58]

As already mentioned, another field in which the Samasamajists expressed highly nationalistic views was education. Dr. Perera, who years later during World War II wrote in jail an inspiring booklet entitled Free Education, preached an all-embracing state system of schooling, and Gunawardena fought for “a bold policy of taking over all the schools by the State.” [59] In an obvious attempt to make themselves acceptable to the Buddhist-oriented Sinhalese lowermiddle class, Perera supported, in the name of his party, the proposed Education Bill and proclaimed that

A religious atmosphere for Buddhist children is not a Roman Catholic atmosphere. Their religious atmosphere is a Buddhist atmosphere ... we have been very slack in providing all the necessary Buddhist schools ... if this country could have its own way we would like to have no English schools at all but Sinhalese schools right through the country. Sinhalese will be the only language, not a foreign language imposed on an unwilling nation ... if that had been granted to us, then there would have been no necessity to go to those missionary bodies ...
There are nearly 500,000 Buddhist children, and they should be educated not in Christian but in Buddhist schools. Accordingly, the 113,000 Hindu children should be educated in Hindu schools, the 28,000 Muslim children should be educated in Muslim schools, the 78,000 Roman-Catholic children should be educated in Roman-Catholic schools and the 13,000 other children should be educated in Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian schools and so on. [60]

In the field of higher education, Dr. Perera’s contributions were in more than one respect to shape the destiny of the future University of Ceylon, the Alma Mater of almost the entire Ceylonese intelligentsia. The criticism of the University College, which was founded by the British authorities in 1921, was mainly directed against its colonial character. “I want a University which is untrammeled by the fetters of Imperialism which I regret to say the present University College is not ...,” exclaimed Philip Gunawardena in the budgetary debate of August 21, 1936. [61] The Samasarnajists blamed the principal of the College, Professor Marrs, for lack of interest in the planned growth of that pioneering institution of higher learning, so that it could become a full-fledged university with all the necessary departments. In an obvious bid to stir the radical-minded students, Perera delivered an unveiled political attack on the college administration in his speech of September 23, 1936:

We have produced a large number of etiolated, spineless clerical servants. We have made very fine for Imperialism ... The Principal of the University College does not tolerate any independence in a student ... we have not produced a single scholar yet. The University College has an ideal Criminal Investigation Department atmosphere about it. The head of the Department has spies in every lecture room to see whether students are talking good sort of stuff ... The student who attempts to have any ideas is a marked man ... The poor man who came top in the Civil Service Examination has not been given a chance to go into this service because he was not recommended by the Principal of the University College ... Unless and until we mend these matters by getting rid of the third rate Lecturers and the third rate Professors and getting rid of the Head of the Department, we will not have a good University College. [62]

Because of his own academic background, Dr. Perera was particularly interested in the Department of Economics, which he conceived to be the strategic training-ground for future leaders in the economic and political development of the country. Apparently he was approached to take a university post. Having exercised influence on the economics syllabus, he refrained from accepting the teaching position, so as not to be accused of merely creating the chair for himself.

He emphasized the need for study of world economics and claimed to be instrumental in creating the new post of Assistant Lecturer of Economics for that special purpose, though it happened against the wishes of the principal. He also charged that the Professor of Economics, Indian scholar Dr. Das Gupta, tried to introduce an almost useless course on “Ceylon Economics:”

The present head of the Economics Department will not take the trouble to read up-to-date books on Economics; and he wants to start a course by which he can escape the troubles of preparing students for the B.Sc. course by coaching them in such subjects as General Principles of Economics, Economics History, Economic Statistics and Statistical Methods, Economic Geography, Economic History of Industry, Trade and so on.
The principal says that Ceylon pupils are not fit to take the B. Sc. Economics course ... If you teach Ceylon Economics you will have a very much lower standard; and worse still it is going to be a very serious obstacle for students in Economics who want to go to any other University to do research ... This course is absolutely of no value.

Dr. Perera rightly praised the high caliber of the students: “I have experience of more than one University and I say that the Ceylonese student is as quick as any other student from any University of the World.” [63] He criticized, however, the promotions system of the University College, which should have been based “on merit alone and not because somebody has been lecturer for so many years.” He also recommended strongly the creation of a separate Office of the Registrar. In voicing his dissatisfaction with the existing state of affairs, Perera moved for reduction in the personal emoluments of the top University College officers. He also criticized the curriculum, which according to him overlooked the fields of economics and history of Ceylon while “a useless subject like English” seemed to be favored by the authorities.

Similarly, Philip Gunawardena voiced his displeasure with the college library, which according to him was “well stocked with books on Moral Philosophy, which seemed to be a favorite subject of the Principal. With regard to other subjects like Political Science and Economics the Library is not well equipped.” [64] Their keen interest in the well-being of the students and in high teaching standards certainly paid dividends to the party, as the future University of Ceylon has been ever since those pre-World War II days of the University College the real stronghold of Trotskyite political influence.

In one of his last utterances before the 1940 detention, Dr. Perera voiced his support for the creation of two universities, one in Colombo and the other at the newly selected site by the botanical gardens in Peradeniya, four miles south of the up-country sacred city of Kandy. [65] Always eager to comment on any detail concerning higher education, even on such matters as the appointments of professors of Sanskrit or zoology, Perera viewed the chair of economics as being of special importance for his country’s progress. Therefore he spoke against renewing the appointment of the incumbent Das Gupta:

There are so many outstanding Jews who would have come. There is Professor Bonn, an outstanding international figure in the Economics field. It is absurd, when for the salary offered you could have got a first class man like that you should go and appoint a potty man like Dr. Das Gupta. [66]

Most likely, Perera was looking for a more Marxist-oriented economist although in principle he was opposed to importation of any foreign scholars.

Dr. Perera used an always-appealing economic argument that a number of graduates were clamoring for employment, particularly in the Jaffna region, while foreign teachers were being imported. Though hardly involved in regular classroom work, Dr. Perera claimed to derive his views from personal experience: “I know because I am in the teaching profession.” [67] Very critical of the government’s scholarship policy and contrasting economic necessities of the state with the needs of individual students, the learned member for Ruanwella recommended research scholarships for advanced students in social sciences and industrial subjects, instead of the prevailing emphasis on classics, English, and the arts in general. Regardless of his own British degree, he suggested that Germany, even Nazi Germany, should be considered for specialized studies, following the good example set by the persistent Japanese: “In Berlin you find Japanese ... by the score ... It is a common saying that Japanese are some of the worst linguists in the world, and it was amusing to see the struggle they made to study German ... for definite trades like the textile trade and chemical trade.” [68] With regard to university entrance scholarships, Perera advocated that preference be given to students who did not have sufficient wherewithal over “the sons of the well-to-do who can well afford to have the University education,” or can even proceed to “England to pursue their studies whether they get a scholarship or not.”

Philip Gunawardena, with the need for Ceylon’s industrialization in mind, recommended an expense of “two or three Lakhs for developing the technical College to the status of a full-fledged Engineering College.” He was also in favor of the well-conceived centralization of technical training, “not only from the point of view of producing the efficiently trained technicians that we badly need, but in the sense of economizing the revenue of this country.” [69]

As a partisan of an over-all general training combined with attention to individual talents, Dr. Perera argued in August 1938 against the narrow rural education:

I hear some children are taught how to scrape coconuts, how to grind chillies ... the children must get a general training before they can be in a position even to imbibe the latest scientific ideas about agriculture.
It is vital, Sir, not to treat all children in a school on the same basis; their aptitudes differ, their outlook differs and their temperaments differ. You have to treat a child as a single unit. If that is so, it is no use giving this mass rural bias.
On the contrary I venture to submit that this new scheme is another endeavour to keep these children ... in permanent vassalage. [70]

He appealed for allocation of more funds for the elementary education of some 1,100,000 children, out of which he claimed less than 700,000 were actually provided with schools. Though it would be hard to enumerate all the initiatives and specific motions of humanitarian character on the part of the Samasamaja State Councillors, at least a few of them deserve attention. Their two constituencies, located along the Kelani River in the wet west zone of the country were particularly affected by the recurrent floods during the southwestern monsoon season. In order to help the suffering victims Perera and Gunawardena moved on May 26, 1936, to adjourn the Council in order to undertake emergency relief steps, necessitated by the continued rise in the flood level. [71] In a related interpellation, Philip Gunawardena claimed that careless “clearing of virgin forest for upcountry plantations has resulted in frequent and widespread floods in as much as these clearings cause the silting of river beds ...”

LSSP spokesmen took a firm stand against capital punishment when that issue was debated in November 1936, using the well-known arguments of John Stuart Mills’ utilitarian school of thought and those of the Christian social reformers:

By taking the life of a man, even because that man happens to take somebody else’s life, society would not be acting correctly.
Even as Christ said, “He that hath no sin, let him cast the first stone” ... the duty of society is to remove the causes that lead to such murders ... fortunately there has been an advance in the psychological study of crime.
It has been proved ... that crimes of this type are due to environmental circumstances, are due to various social factors, social conditions and various other causes-even to the psychological atmosphere in which the child has been nurtured in its young days ... people commit crime not so much for anything inherently wrong in them but because they are victims of social conditions. If that is so you must give every chance to human beings to reform themselves ... The duty of society is to give them every chance by improving conditions ... by creating conditions which will not drive them to commit acts of crime.
I repudiate the suggestion that poor people are the criminals by nature, but ... in 99 per cent of the cases the poor man ... goes to jail and there associates with so-called hardened criminals and comes out with a criminal mentality ... It is ignorance that leads people to commit crimes. [72]

Perera dismissed the cliché-thesis that capital punishment has value as a deterrent; in his opinion it was rather the lifelong imprisonment that would serve as a better deterrent because being “incarcerated ... for a number of years stands as a permanent stigma on the family and his relations.” He cited modern Holland and the Scandinavian democracies as telling examples, where, following the abolition of the death penalty, a remarkable decline of homicide was witnessed, with the general amelioration of social conditions as the main preventive; he then cited Nazi Germany where, having reintroduced capital punishment, ideologically they “adhere to the creed of violence.” Concluding the case, Dr. Perera convincingly argued

that there is no such class as criminal class ... Poverty and ignorance are the main factors ... They are not criminals by intent, by nature ... It is unfair to say that a man is going to be a murderer all his life long, because he had committed one murder for some reason or other. There are in Ceylon people who employ thugs and so-called murderers in order to extend their lands.
Every religion would want to give a man a chance. It is said that Christ said that there was rejoicing in Heaven when there was one repentant sinner.
I cannot understand this Buddhism or this Christianity that preaches civilized murder for the murder of a man ... In the name of society, you must preserve human beings, give them a chance to improve ... a chance of redeeming themselves ... In England, the Labour Party has definitely voted for the abolition of capital punishment and my honourable friend the member for Colombo Central (A.E. Goonesinghe), who is the local representative of the Labour Party must also definitely vote for the abolition of capital punishment. The people in England who were consistently opposed to the abolition of the death sentence are the obscurantist, ignorant conservatives ... [73]

In spite of such a forceful tirade the Samasamajists lost in the final vote by a margin of twelve votes. Nevertheless the fact that as many as sixteen members joined them in the not-too-popular cause was no doubt partly due to Dr. Perera’s grand eloquence. With the same reformist zeal he pressed for improvement in prison conditions on the occasion of the debate on the Prison Ordinance Rule:

I do not think there should be any restriction whatsoever as to what books they read. A prisoner must be able to read whatever book he or she wants ...
Nor am I satisfied that a case has been made out for the use of body belts and ankle straps ... If a person is violent, solitary confinement is all that is needed. If he is mentally deranged ... the place for him is the Lunatic Asylum ...
I wish earnestly to bring to the notice of the Minister, a book entitled Walls Have Mouths. He will get plenty of information from it how to tackle prisoners in a more enlightened way. [74]

And again, on his very last day in the State Council, on May 31, 1940, Dr. Perera voiced his protest against the newly proposed prison regulations:

We must observe some limits to this idea of saving money at the expense of helpless prisoners. Perhaps this little money that a prisoner earns is the only thing left to him when he comes out ...
It is proposed to reduce the amounts payable by half. When the prisoner comes out he will find that the cost of living has gone up by twenty to thirty per cent.
The position is this, the prisoner has to be there for six months, he has to qualify himself by good conduct; after that he gets 75 cents a month, which they are prepared to cut down by half to 38 cents a month. Mind you it is only 75 cents a month! I can understand if it is 75 cents a day.
It is absolutely ridiculous for us to save Rs.3000 or Rs.4000 from those prisoners ... [75]

Following Dr. Perera’s argument the Council opposed that particular schedule of new prison rules.

At every opportunity the Samasamajists fought for improvement in sanitary conditions. For instance, there was the case of the Avissavella Hospital, which, according to Gunawardena’s interpellation of September 22, 1936, “does not have an infectious ward at present, and patients suffering from infectious diseases are crowded together with ordinary patients.” [76] With a far-fetched plan for a costly welfare state in mind they were pressing for a qualified medical staffing of the village dispensaries and for a better supply of trained midwives. Dr. Perera requested in his maiden budgetary statement of September 21, 1936, that there should be at least one doctor for every 5,000 people in Ceylon, the ratio in England allegedly being one per 300 people. He also proposed that the state should pay more to the apothecaries and the nurses. [77]

Claiming malnutrition of the rural masses to be the main cause of the malaria epidemic’s tragic dimensions, the LSSP prided itself on authorship of the country-wide campaign for midday milk feeding of school children, intended to strengthen their resistance against the disease-carrying mosquito bites. Suspicious that the Standard Oil and the Shell Companies might seek to benefit from an oil-pouring campaign, Gunawardena voiced his skepticism:

Unless you are ready to spend millions for oiling operations throughout the whole country within a few months, it is not going to help us ... if you spend half this amount ... for pouring milk down childrens’ throats you’ll be most effectively controlling malaria ... unless you raise the physical vitality of our people ... unless you reduce malnutrition, nothing can be achieved. That can be done only by raising the income of our peasantry ... only by that method the anti-malaria measures can be successful. [78]

A more sophisticated argument was voiced by Perera, who spoke on the basis of his own and his party’s pioneering field experience in the antimalaria campaign:

The last malaria epidemic cost us Rupees six Million and more. Now in order to prevent malaria from becoming endemic we are only going to spend a paltry sum of Rupees 500,000.
If I may take a little pardonable pride, The Sama Samaja workers did take some part during the malaria epidemic and I think we have issued a report; and if the Honourable Minister of Health goes into the details given, he will find that it is a question of vitality more than anything else.
Ask for Rupees five million and not Rupees 500,000 ... and the country will be willing to grant it. We are going to have a rural reconstruction scheme and we are going to have a scheme for feeding school children. Then if you give milk to children, you will find that malaria would be reduced. [79]

The sum of Rupees 800,000 originally provided for school-feeding, in the 1936-37 budget was much too small, according to Perera, who quoted as a Ceylonese authority in the general field of philanthropy “a very responsible gentleman, Wilmot A. Perera.” This gentleman stated that this could supply “only one eighth of the number of children on the roll in a school,” whereas “in vernacular schools we find more than three quarters of the children to be very poor and they all require this meal given free.” Dr. Perera suggested that to avoid embarrassing situations for the distributing teachers, the sum provided for feeding purposes should be substantially raised by two million through “the reimposition of Death Duties, if only for feeding these children.

Children cannot come to school when they have no meals. When feeding is carried on, attendance will improve.” Actually, one million children needed to be fed in the schools, according to the rough 1936 estimates of the Samasamajists, who were the first to advocate “the formation of the parentteachers associations in every school,” primarily for active participation in this particular operation. Evidently distrustful of at least some of the distributors Dr. Perera suggested: “Let these associations know the amount of money allowed to each school in the interest of the children. That will act as a check on the teachers.” [80]

Parallel to the school feeding program was the LSSP proposal to provide all poor children with necessary textbooks at state expense. On June 9, 1936, Dr. Perera moved in Council that:

In view of the fact that a good number of the poor children in the villages are unable to attend school because of their inability to buy necessary books, this House is of opinion that all such children should be provided with books by Government without the delay and discrimination now usual in the supply of free books. [81]

Both Samasamajists were equally ready to serve any individual petitioner and a great number of humanitarian Private Member’s motions were brought to the Council’s attention by them. Typical was the following, presented on May 30, 1940 by Dr. Perera:

I beg to present petition from Amandakanda Arachchige Nonnohamy of Kapugoda Maggona. The petitioner says that she is the widow of the retired caretaker of the Paiyagala Village Tribunal. The Government has granted ... the children a gratuity of Rs. 27.50. She states that this meagre sum is hardly sufficient in view of the fact that her husband had served the Government for twenty-seven years, and she begs that this gratuity be increased. [82]

Another classic example of that type of parliamentary service was a collective petition involving the recurrent issue of planters’ reprisals for trespassing; submitted by the learned member for Ruanwella November 17, 1936, it read:

I present a petition signed by sixty villagers of Kannangama in Atulugam Korale ... the estate which is situated in the middle of the village is an unfenced one and indiscriminate shooting of the cattle takes place there, causing considerable hardship to the poor people of the place. [83]

Preoccupied with social justice and with the political struggle for Ceylon’s independence, both LSSP representatives took part in almost every debate. They were interested in matters even so distantly related to their increasingly Trotskyite philosophy as that of catering to the extreme Buddhist sensitivity. While not quite in the Marxist spirit it probably proved to be good politics to move that:

Since the proposed augmentation of the Labugama Reservoir would involve an area of about 4,500 acres comprising 9 villages with a total population of 8,000 people and therein a sacred Dagoba, three Buddhist temples and many other valuable buildings, this House is of the opinion that Government should not accede to the request to acquire this land compulsorily, but should suggest to the Colombo Municipal Council to seek other means of increasing the water supply to the City of Colombo. [84]

Dr. Perera, a Marxist, surpassed the most bigoted members in his interpellation of December 2, 1936:

Will the minister for Home Affairs please state –
(a) Whether he is aware that lately another incident has taken place in Polonnaruwa which has deeply wounded the religious susceptibilities of the Buddhists of Ceylon?
(b) Whether he is aware that a European lady and gentleman have taken photographs standing on a statue of Lord Buddha?
(c) In view of the fact that the protective measures taken after the first Polonnaruwa incident have apparently not been adequate to take to safeguard objects held in veneration by the Buddhists from such wanton defilement? [85]

While admitting his incompetence in the general matter of Buddhist relics Dr. Perera stated in the debate held on April 4, 1940: “I do not think that any sane Buddhist will seriously object to a suggestion that a representative body consisting of leaders of the Sangha and of the Buddhist laity should decide this question.” When he said, however, “I personally am not competent to decide this question,” Mr. Aluwihara could not restrain himself from the sarcasm that it happened to Dr. Perera for the “first time,” to which the latter retorted “And I hope the last time.” He unabashedly continued his argument by voicing:

Strong repudiation of the statements made by the honourable Member for Nuwara Eliya and some others who tried to cast, in some hesitant way, aspersions on a Pirivena like the Vidyalankara Pirivena ... that ... made a great contribution ... to the Buddhist renaissance we are witnessing today in this country ... I sincerely hope that honourable Members who are thinking of a place for depositing these relics will not rule out even a place like the Vidyalankara Pirivena.

Some representative body should decide this matter, instead of these relics being handed over to a particular section. There are recognized leaders in the Sangha whom we venerate and whom we recognize and surely they are competent to tackle this question? [86]

These strange-sounding Buddhist utterances of popularity-seeking Dr. Perera were made shortly before the first Asian Marxists began to claim some philosophical affinity in epistemology and in socio-ethical approaches between the two systems, laying like “Leuke” the doctrinal foundation for what is now called in mainland China the “Buddho-Marxism.” [87]

Apart from some minor inconsistencies in their Council performances, the Samasamajists took their vote most seriously and tried to defend, as any liberal-minded parliamentarians in the West would, their constitutional rights acquired under the Donoughmore system. They were always at the forefront of any defense of the Council’s privileges, be it those of its members or of its elected officers. This was particularly evident in their support of the Deputy Speaker’s authority when his integrity was questioned in a Times of Ceylon editorial of January 24, 1938. They demanded that, in absence of the Privilege Bill, the government be called upon to refuse to grant any further advertisements in that particular press unless the journal published a full and unqualified apology for offending the Chair:

Sir, the State Council is the highest authority, the highest institution in this country, and the highest in the institution must be safeguarded against vilification by any paper whatever even as the courts of justice are safeguarded from vilification. That is the elementary right of every democratic state; and in the name of democracy you must safeguard that right.

Dr. Perera’s motion was passed with an overwhelming majority. [88] Following the established customs of the Westminster Parliament, the Samasamajist eagerly defended the Speaker against the unjustified criticism. In his opposition to the motion of Mr. S. Natesan, on March 9, 1937, Perera warned:

I think honorable members of this House cannot be too careful in their attempt to maintain the prestige of our Speaker. It must be clearly understood that the Speaker’s main function is to safeguard the interests of the private members of this House, the backbenchers of this House.
We have elected a Speaker to represent us. We have elected him by our own free choice and we must place confidence in him if we are going to carry on the business of the House ... It would be a sorry spectacle if every member introduced a motion, contradicting the decision of the Speaker at every turn. That will make it impossible for us to carry on the business of this Council.

His appeal resulted in a smashing defeat for the criticized motion, which questioned the Speaker’s ruling. [89]

In the budgetary debate of the same year Perera stressed the need for an autonomous clerical service for the State Council, “separate from the executive, and independent service in keeping with the independence of the legislature, as we find in other countries where there are democratic parliaments.” In particular, he advocated that there be a Deputy Clerk and an increase in the stenographic staff, in view of the growing volume of legislative work. [90]

Opposing the so-called certification declaration, which amounted to arbitrary interference by the Governor in making direct representations to the Secretary of State for Colonies in London, Philip Gunawardena claimed on June 1, 1937: “Whatever rights we have under this Constitution—obviously they are very meagre rights—we should attempt to conserve ... as the authors of this particular Constitution intended.” [91]

They considered their attendance in the State Council to be of supreme importance, as stated by Dr. Perera: “Under all circumstances nothing short of actual illness should possibly impinge upon that duty.” This he emphasized in opposition to the amendment moved in February 1940 by Mr. Wille, the nominated Burgher member, that the State Councillors be excused from attending the work of the Council if their presence was required by the Courts. In the best tradition of Montesquieu, the by-now openly Trotskyite solon argued vehemently for the separation of powers:

If I am summoned to be present in Court, and if there is work in this Council I will refuse to go, and I would prefer to be handcuffed and taken to jail than attend Court when there is work in this Council ... let us not lay down that a Member can absent himself from the Council sittings to attend Court, because we will be for one moment laying down that this legislature is subordinate to the Courts. [92]

Even more adamant was his stand on the question of military service for the elected members of the Council, whose primary consideration should always be to represent their respective constituencies:

If any honourary Member honestly feels that at a moment of crisis he should serve the Forces and that he should be a member of the Military ... he should resign his seat in this House.
If we are in the war zone, perhaps the State Council might not function. But I do state that we cannot, in a war which is taking place 5,000 miles away permit Members to leave this all important work for the work of apparently guarding some place which may never have been attacked ... a Member of State Council cannot be replaced ... unless there is an election ... [93]

They were strongly opposed to any carrying of arms within the Council chamber. Dr. Perera expressed his indignation on May 12, 1937, rising on a point of privilege:

You will remember that in the House of Commons under no circumstances can anybody wear lethal weapons whatsoever, whether they come in uniform or not. I humbly submit for your consideration that even when moving on Address of Loyalty to His Majesty it is always the custom to come in military uniform but without the lethal weapons. I desire that you order that all such lethal weapons be removed from the Chamber. [94]

The Samasamajists were unsurpassed in their alertness to possible encroachments on parliamentary privileges in what Dr. Perera termed on December 1, 1938 as the constitutional struggle between “the permanent bureaucrats and the elected representatives of the people.” He reminded the Council that in England “the same struggle was carried on for centuries between the House of Commons and the Crown.” Whereas in Ceylon, “That is the struggle that we have to carry on between the Governor’s Government and the elected representatives.” [95] Naturally, of utmost importance to them was freedom of speech in the chamber. Arguing against any limitations under the emergency Powers and Privileges Bill to that fundamental legislative right, Dr. Perera lectured the House on January 25, 1939 that:

The history of every Legislative Assembly is the history of a continuous struggle between the Executive and the Legislature, and I do not think it is going to be different in this ... colony where you have an irresponsible bureaucracy ... In performing certain functions and duties in this Assembly on behalf of the people of this country Members have to boldly speak out honestly and conscientiously what they feel about certain men and matters, without having to fear all the time they might be brought up in Court for no reason at all. [96]

Foreseeing what might happen under emergency circumstances, they were fighting for their own parliamentary immunity, and for preservation of the constitutional rights of the Council as a whole. When the question of the revision of the Donoughmore Constitution was raised in the unofficial Ceylonese-British discussions, Philip Gunawardena reproached the Board of Ministers on March 24, 1937 that they:

had no right whatsoever to enter into conversations with the Governor or the Secretary of State without taking the members of the Council into their confidence. They should have come before the House with concrete proposals for the reform of the Constitution. They should have submitted the minimum demands that the Board of Ministers were prepared to make on behalf of the people of the Island for national freedom; they should have indicated to the House what their minimum demands were, what their maximum demands were, the points on which they were going to bargain with the Secretary of State.

That is the position that an honest patriotic Board of Ministers, interested in the real freedom of the people, would have taken, but ... a cabal, a coterie of families calling themselves a Congress, have no right whatsoever to speak for the people of the island.

He expressed also his apprehension that the Tamil members of the Council might “have a right to suspect and distrust ... this Sinhalese Board of Ministers” which has formed “an unholy alliance with the European vested interests in this country.” As the official LSSP spokesman, Philip Gunawardena asserted:

My party takes the position that we are prepared to support any delegation that goes to England to ask for complete national independence for this country ... We are also prepared to support any demand for the further democratization of the Constitution of this island.

In the same speech, however, he voiced his serious doubt whether any reforms could be granted by Whitehall so long as Commonwealth affairs were in the care of the “hardheaded diehard ... the most reactionary National Government that has come to existence in England ... nothing will come of those representations.” At the same time he expressed hope that the Labour Government might soon replace the Tory Ministry—the change which according to the Samasamajists could enhance the possibility for substantial reforms:

We do not have much confidence in the British Labour Party, but we do feel that the British Labour Party has certainly more sympathy toward the Colonial people than the Conservative Party of England, and we believe that if Ministers or Delegates from this island are going to England it is very much better for them to confine their activities, their speaking, their attempts, to influence the members of the Labour Party and address themselves to the Socialist Party led by Sir Stafford Cripps and others, to the Independent Socialist Party led by Mr. Baxton, Mr. Brockway and others and to the Communist Party in England led by Mr. Bridgeman of the Anti-Imperialist League. [97]

No doubt the leading British Marxists were at the time in touch with the London representative of the LSSP, Dr. Wickremasinghe.

The Samasamajists were worried that the reforms of the imperfect Donoughmore Constitution might lead only to the strengthening of the Governor’s powers at the expense of the popularly elected State Council. In the undated party pamphlet Towards a Dictatorship, Dr. de Silva clearly explained the opposition to the British reform proposal of June 1938, aimed, according to him, at undermining the democratic processes begun by implementation of the universal franchise and introduction of the executive committee system. The brochure quoted Perera’s motion:

That this Council disapproves and rejects the reform proposals contained in the Governor’s Dispatch of June 13th 1938, as being reactionary and retrograde in that they are calculated:
(a) to enhance the Governor’s Powers and facilitate the exercise thereof by creating a parallel Governor’s Government independent of the State Council.
(b) to undermine and limit the value and effect of the universal franchise, both by the abolition of the Executive Committee System and the substitution therefore of a so-called Cabinet System and by simultaneously taking the control of the services completely out of the hands of the representatives of the people.
Accordingly this House specifically condemns and rejects:
(1) the proposal to perpetuate the wide enhancement of the Governor’s Powers and the change in the manner of their exercise affected by the Order-in-Council dated 23rd November 1937;
(2) the proposal to cause the Officers-of-State to retire from the State Council to Queen’s House as being calculated to create a Governor’s Inner Cabinet which is not responsible to the people or the Legislature, and which must inevitably clash with the Cabinet (if created) or the Board of Ministers (if preserved)
(3)the proposal to abolish the Executive Committees and to substitute therefor a so-called Cabinet System as being calculated to reduce even the present responsiveness of the State Council to popular demands;
(4) the proposal that the Governor should nominate the Chief Minister and in consultation with him the other Ministers as being designated to free the Ministers from continuous democratic control by removing the present power of the State Council to elect its own Ministers;
(5) the proposal to make the Public Services Commission “independent” of the people and their representatives thus derogating from the State Council its rightful power to control the administration and its personnel. [98]

The points formulated in Dr. Perera’s official protest became guidelines for further action when the whole issue of constitutional reform was formally discussed in the Council in March 1939. In particular the LSSP members decided to defend the representative-type government with the executive committee system. While struggling for the largest possible margin of freedom for the popularly elected representatives against any increase in the Governor’s powers, Dr. Perera made the basic reservation that “So far as the LSSP is concerned we are not satisfied with responsible government. We stand out for national independence.” He stressed, however, that it is “another heresy” to claim that “without the Cabinet System we cannot have a responsible government.” Correctly arguing “that every democracy need not have the Cabinet System” and proving a good grasp of the presidential democracy, Dr. Perera praised the committee system of American democratic assembly:

The President of the American Republic cannot be touched, He cannot be moved, unless it is done by referendum, for four years, and that Cabinet is his own Cabinet, his own friends, and it cannot be moved by anybody except the new President. He is not responsible to anybody, not to the Legislature. Does he say that in the United States of America there is no democracy, no responsible government? The form of Government is immaterial. The question of independence has nothing to do with it. Democratic questions can have various forms ...

Dr. Perera also expressed the fear that the reforms might end with the creation of an “inner cabinet” composed of the British officers of the state, namely the Financial Secretary, the Legal Secretary, and the so-called Chief Secretary, which would in fact act beyond the control of the elected State Council. [99]

Philip Gunawardena, in his speech against the proposed constitutional reforms, delivered on May 9, 1939, fully endorsed the arguments of his party colleague and concluded with the following unequivocal statement:

Sir, coming to the question of the Reform proposals, we are opposed to them in toto. We say, definitely, that they be a set-back to the democratic government of this country ... that they increased powers of the Governor, with the “Inner Cabinet” of Advisers and officers-this combined machinery is an attempt to throw back the freedom movement in this country, and for this reason we oppose the Reform proposals of the Governor.
We look at the international situation ... The time has come when secrets have to be kept away from the masses. The Executive Committee System prevents secret manoeuvreing, secret sales of the country’s rights to foreign companies. That check to some extent, is provided by the Executive Committees, because they go into various matters that come for consideration before the Executive Committees. For instance, Sir, there is a proposal to hand over the rice-milling industry in this country to a firm of European interests-Steel Brothers. These are the beginnings of that graft and corruption which is an invariable accompaniment of so-called capitalist democracy. We have had coupon frauds by the hundreds and thousands.

With less expertise than his polished party comrade Dr. Perera, Philip Gunawardena continued his incoherent tirade against the cabinet system which

Makes it easy for graft and corruption of the worst order that one can see only in countries like the United States of America and a few other countries. Under the Cabinet System of Government you will get graft and corruption without real power in the hands of people to drive out the Cabinet Ministers and others ... under the Cabinet System of Government. [100]

The arguments against the cabinet system became more pointed and less emotional in the detailed debate that followed on July 11, 1939. In a rather sarcastic discussion of organized political life in Ceylon, Dr. Perera, with his Anglo-Saxon experience in mind, claimed that “A Cabinet with collective responsibility can only function effectively where there are two ... political parties alone in the political system.” On the other hand, Ceylon, not having yet reached the stage of political maturity, suffered from communalist fragmentation:

In the Parliamentary sense there are only two parties in this country ... the Lanka Sama Samaja Party, and the Queen’s House Party ... But in the Queen’s House Party there are a large number of groups headed by ... the Minister of Local Administration ... he does not seem to understand what a cabinet stands for or what a political party is ...
I cannot but deplore the results of the proposed Cabinet System. We shall not have two parties but large groups of communal parties ... The countries that adopt the Cabinet System with collective responsibility almost invariably ended by having dictatorship ... Yugoslavia, Roumania ... Italy.

The Samasamajists seemed to be particularly worried that under the proposed system their politically underdeveloped country might fall again into a situation where inexperienced ministers would be left at the mercy of shrewd heads of departments imported from England. Warning against naive acceptance of the cabinet type of government Perera argued:

In England the Ministers have supreme control over the subordinates. There they have centuries of experience before them. But here we are so to say at the threshold of our political existence; and our political system has been so shaped, that the Ministers are really powerless and are in the hands of Heads of Departments and Officers of State ... with an artificial majority created for the purpose of continuing that system ... conditioned by the fact that Deputy Ministers are to be here ... It will be the Cabinet that serves the purpose of His Excellency the Governor and the Secretary of State for the Colonies, to preserve intact a certain political bloc in power so that they can withstand as long as they can the rising of a particular section against Imperialism. Dr. Perera blamed the actual leader of the Sinhalese Board of Ministers, D.S. Senanayake, for maneuvering the whole movement toward constitutional reform so as to “be able to have co-ordinated policy and carry out things swiftly” under the cabinet system, hoping “to bring about the political Millenium in the country.” [101]

Philip Gunawardena, as an avowed supporter of the executive committees, continued the violent attack the following day:

Under the conditions in which we are forced to live in this country under the Imperialist system of government it is absolutely necessary for every Minister to have the full backing of every Member of the House if we want any work through ... If you vote for the Cabinet System, you will be introducing into this country an oligarchical system of government ... four or five families in this country, three or four individuals who will be willing to act as puppets, as sycophants to the Imperialists ... I have not the slightest doubt about ten or twelve families dominate the economic, social and political life ... and uncultural illiterates from these wealthy families are beginning to wield enormous political power.

According to the member for Avissavella, it was the Governor himself, “perhaps the cleverest man who came to this country, as far as the Imperialists are concerned,” who was behind the ideas to abolish the executive committees. He served the members of the State Council with the following revolutionary warning:

If the Cabinet is introduced, I make bold to say that the struggles that we now have in this parliamentary Council will be shifted outside of it, to the streets, to the factories, and to the fields ... [102]

The Samasamajists were supported in their defense of the executive committee system by the Tamil members of the Council, who were afraid they might be bypassed in the Cabinet arrangement which favored the Sinhalese majority. As rightly pointed out by A.S. Namasivayam, Tamil authority on Ceylon’s parliamentary system,

One of the practical advantages of the system ... was that it substituted for the single minister of the Cabinet form of government, a ministry in commission which brought minds to bear upon each question. It was also found that the delay resulting from discussions in Council was sometimes a healthy check on hasty legislation, and very necessary safeguard in a unicameral assembly. The system was also useful as a school of political education. [103]

As recalled by Sir Charles Jeifries “the big point” of Sir Andrew Caldecott’s dispatch of June 13, 1938, to the Secretary of State, Mr. Malcolm McDonald, was its

Definite conclusion that the Executive Committee system must go ... Because Ministers owed their office to election by Committees, their authority was derivative and therefore intrinsically weak ... Only by the adoption of Cabinet government did Sir Andrew consider that the development of a healthy party system could be fostered. The success of democracy in Ceylon, he wrote, depends in my view on the discipline and drive which party loyalties can alone infuse into democracy ... [104]

It is evident that the new Governor, who was specifically instructed by the Secretary of State “carefully to examine the Constitutional situation,” was somewhat committed to introduce the cabinet system, but not for the sinister motives attributed to him by the sanguine spokesmen of the LSSP.

In spite of their convincing zeal in the matter, the Samasamajists could not align more than seven Council members to vote with them in protest; three others abstained. Gunawardena additionally opposed the proposed appointments of Deputy Ministers. He suggested instead that the number of the full Ministers could well be reduced to five, having in mind, no doubt, the liquidation of the three despised Officers of State from the United Kingdom.

Another crucial structural issue was that of the increase or decrease of the Governor’s powers. The Donoughmore Constitution which was popularly believed to grant “seven tenths of freedom,” followed the recommendation of the British commissioners that the Governor’s “executive powers must be diminished in direct ratio to the advance made toward responsible government, [105] whereas the reform proposals implied “that the Governor can refuse to assent to Bills.” Such unqualified powers of reservation were defiantly opposed by the anti-imperialists in the Council.

Dr. Perera formally moved that “the Governor’s power shall be abolished” and consistently argued against the socalled power of certification. “So far as we are concerned, all officers of the Public Service should be brought within the purview of this House.” Other members who courageously supported Perera’s motion (seconded by Gunawardena), were George E. de Silva, A.E. Goonesinghe, D.P. Jayasuriya, J. Kuruppu, D.M. Rajapakse, and S. Samarakkody; Dr. A.P. De Zoysa and Mr. A. Mahadevan abstained. In his last utterance in connection with the constitutional reforms, on July 1, 1938, Philip Gunawardena in the name of the party opposed altogether the Royal Commission:

I have absolutely no faith in Royal Commission or Commissions from England of whatever kind. It is only when the British Government is in difficulty that it sends out Royal and other Cornmission to the Colonies and the Dominions in order to strengthen her position, not in order to advance the position of the people of the Colonies ... Therefore as far as our Party is concerned we are definitely opposed to any Royal Commission ... We feel that the only competent body to decide on a Constitution for the Island is a constituent assembly of the people of the Island. That is the only authority that can decide on a Constitution for this Island. [106]

With all fairness it must be admitted that their uncompromising opposition to the British Raj was long tolerated by the authorities. But with the outbreak of the war in 1939 the two Samasamajist Council members began to attack the defence measures of the government, becoming at the same time directly involved in labor unrest. They were both arrested on June 18, 1940, under the emergency Defence Regulations, together with Dr. Colin de Silva. The Governor officially informed the Council of the emergency action in the following communication:

The Honourable,
The Speaker of the State Council, Colombo
Colombo, 18th June 1940
Sir, I have the honour to inform you that I have found it neccessary to make orders under Regulation 1 (1) of the Defence (Miscellaneous No. 3) Regulations directing that the following members of the State Council be detained: Mr. Don Philip Rupasinghe Gunawardena, Dr. Nanyakara Pathirage Martin Perera
I have, etc.
Sgd. A. Caldecott, Governor [107]

Hansard recorded that “The Clerk of the State Council has received information from the Members referred to in this Message that they have been detained in the Welikada Jail.” [108] The Leader of the House made the following statement in connection with the Governor’s message:

The detention Orders were made by His Excellency in virtue of certain Defence Regulations dated the 3rd June, 1940. The actual regulation under which the order was made reads as follows:
1 (1) If the Governor has reasonable cause to believe any person to be of hostile origin or associations or to have been concerned in acts prejudicial to the public safety or the defence of the Island or in the preparation or instigation of such acts and that by reason thereof it is necessary to exercise control over him, he may make an order against that person directing that he be detained.

Sir Baron Jayatilaka explained that he was consulted by the Governor in his capacity as Minister of Home Affairs and that subsequently the matter was submitted to the Executive Committee, which by a majority vote “advised” the Governor “to make these regulations in the form in which they were promulgated.” So far everything seemed to be done lege artis but on June 17, the day of the catastrophic capitulation of France, the Inspector General of Police placed before the Minister of Home Affairs “certain information and recommended that detention orders should be made against certain persons including the two Members of this Council.” Sir Baron failed to explain, however, that emergency regulations restrained him from confiding that “certain information” in the Council. He did indicate though that the recommendation of police authorities was based at least in part, on acts committed subsequent to the promulgation of the regulations.” He also said that the same, evidently alarming, information reached the Chief Secretary from a different (undisclosed) source. [109]

Pressure for reprisals against the Samasamajist rebels was exerted by those British planters who were World War I veterans. Their accusation of sedition in time of war was forwarded June 8 through unofficial channels to Field Marshall Lord Birdwood with a request that the latter should hand it to the new Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Lloyd.

One of the instigators of that intervention, T.Y. Wright, surmises in his revealing autobiography that the net result of the planters’ Memorandum was that “instructions were sent to the Governor to take action” and some of the accused leftist politicians “were sent to prison.” [110] The main accusation against the two Councillors seemed to be that they participated in some antiwar activities between June 3 and June 17. At the Governor’s request, a confidential conference was held on June 17, 1940 with the Chief Secretary and Sir Baron Jayatilaka concurring “in the making of the orders which His Excellency made.” Subsequently the Leader of the House informed the Council that “the persons detained have a right to object both to His Excellency and to the Advisory Committee. They have been informed of their rights and His Excellency after consultation with me has appointed a Committee.” [111]

The House reaction to this news was mixed. It met on June 26, and D.M. Rajapakse, a courageous friend of Gunawardena and Perera, gave notice of the following bold motion, seconded by the independent-minded member from Matale, Mr. Bernard Aluwihare—#8220;That this Council is of the opinion that the conditions of Internment of Political prisoners should be made less cruel and more pleasant.”

One can assume that at the very least those who made such a motion must have paid a visit to their imprisoned colleagues. Moreover, on June 27, Rajapakse moved that a leave of absence be granted to the detained Samasamajists “under Article 15 (f) of the Order in Council for three months from June 25, 1940, since it is physically impossible for [them] to attend Council or Executive Committee Meetings.” That motion of professional solidarity on the part of the member for Hambontota was seconded by A. Ratnayake, member for Dumbarra, [112] and the leave was granted by the Council on August 14, 1940, when an extension of the leave of absence was needed. D.M. Rajapakse paid this glowing tribute to the Samasamajist solons:

Honourable Members are aware that I gave notice of this motion in the later part of June, and I felt that most honourable Members were in sympathy with this motion ... The two colleagues whose absence is keenly felt in the discussions of the House were perhaps the hardest workers in the State Council, particularly during the last four and a half years [italics added], and I say Sir, that they deserve well of this Council and the country.

A. Ratnayake, another loyal friend of the Samasamajists, raised a good legal argument against the eventual forfeiture of their seats:

I want to meet an argument which was urged by certain Members against this motion. It was that if indefinite leave were given to these two Members, the constituencies that they represent would suffer for want of representation. I want to remind the honourable Members that once we are elected to any particular constituency we represent, not the constituency alone, but the whole Island and I respectfully submit, those constituencies will not be unrepresented in that sense. All of us here represent the interests of the whole Island. [113]

The nominated and European members spoke against the motion for leave of absence, while most of the Ceylonese State Councillors, including even such bitter opponents of the intransigent Samasamajist policy as Messers Samarakkody, Abeygunasekera, and Jayah, supported it. H.R. Freeman, the English planter representing the ancient Sinhalese capital of Anuradhaputa, demanded the resignation of Perera and Gunawardena who had, according to his judgment, violated the oath of allegiance to the King. The nominated Burgher member G.A. Wille asked that they be released after a solemn declaration “that for the duration of the war they will cease from all propaganda which tends to be subversive of the peace and security of the State.” [114]

Most vindictive of all was the statement of the veteran unionist A.E. Goonesinghe who, in addition to representing the Colombo Central constituency, was also the representative of Ceylon for the British Labour Party. He denounced his leftist competitors for “making no mean effort to disorganize organized labour, to inculcate revolutionary ideas in these organizations and men ... [115] E.R. Tambimuttu, member of the House Affairs Committee, disclosed that the Samasamajists had been granted “the opportunity of giving an undertaking that they would not during the war act subversively to good order;” apparently that was the only condition asked from them to open the door of the prison, but they firmly refused to give such an undertaking, to which B.H. Aluwihare retorted with indignation “Not at the price of their soul!” It was surely not fair, as remarked by A. Mahadevan, to demand that active politicians completely recant under the condition “Give assurance and you will be let off.” [116] Another Tamil member, R. Sri Parthmanathan, representing the Mannar constituency, referred to his two colleagues patronizingly as being rather foolish because they were young and appealed for forebearance: “The time will come when the honourable Member for Ruanwella will be one of the brightest ornaments of this Council. He is a highly educated man and holds a Doctorate of the London University ... the two detained Members are not criminals. They want a little rest.” [117]

In support of the leave of absence the member for Kandy, George de Silva, pointed out that in the model Westminster system parliamentarians “enjoy the privilege that is being claimed for the two Members of this House in question ...” British members of Parliament who happen to be detained “are kept in custody, receive allowances, and their seats are not forfeited ... Under these circumstances, Sir, I cannot understand how any honourable Member of this House who understands liberty can oppose this motion.” [118]

Even F.W. Abeygunasekera, who admitted to being a party to the confinement of his two colleagues “in a large and lonely barracks in Kandy,” felt that there was no harm in passing this motion. [119] The most outspoken was B.H. Aluwihare, who surmised that “nearly every Member in this House at the bottom of his heart says ’Down with Imperialism!’” In his noble appeal for tolerance as a “test of our fitness for democracy” he pleaded that “we should not assassinate our political opponents” and expressed humanitarian anxiety about “the people detained without trial, without a specific statement of reasons on grounds that may vary very widely from members of the Board of Ministers.” [120]

The motion was passed by a large majority. Only twelve members, mostly nominated ones, voted against it. The main target of the Samasamajists’ attacks in the Council, D.S. Senanayake, Deputy Leader of the House, tactfully abstained. Thus thirty-three members of the Second State Council paid great tribute to the Trotskyite solons, indicating by their votes for extension of the leave of absence that the detained leftists were considered to be diligent and vigorous champions of national independence and social justice. Both Perera and Gunawardena served well and in a grand style the uneasy cause of parliamentary democracy in that remote tropical island in the Indian Ocean.



[1] Singer, The Emerging Elite, p.52. He admits that his is “an arbitrary boundary” but indicates only one notable exception, D.R. Wilewardena, the influential owner of the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon (the so-called Lake House press concern)

[2] Cf. G.C. Mendis, Ceylon Today and Yesterday, pp.123-32.

[3] Hansard (1936), pp.3-4

[4] Goonewardene, op. cit., p.5.

[5] Hansard (1936), pp.26-27.

[6] S. Saniarakkody, Hansard (1936), p.3027.

[7] Sir W. Ivor Jennings, Comments on Independence (Colombo: The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon, Ltd., 1948) p.32.

[8] Oliver, op. cit., p.43ff.

[9] Hansard (1936), pp.769-70.

[10] Fistcuff in Council: That ’Certain Remark,’ Straight Left: An Occasional Paper of Suppressed News and Views, 1 (1939), pp.1, 4.

[11] Sir John Kotelawala, An Asian Prime Minister’s Story (London: George G. Garrap and Co. Ltd., 1956), p.62.

[12] Sir W. Ivor Jennings, The Constitution of Ceylon (London: Oxford University Press, 1951), p.128.

[13] Wriggins, Ceylon: Dilemmas of a New Nation, p.41.

[14] Hansard (1937), p.3913.

[15] Hansard (1936), p.1388.

[16] Gunawardena, in Hansard (1937), p.3965.

[17] Ibid., p.3915.

[18] Resurgent Ceylon, I (1939), p.8.

[19] Hansard (1939), p.2895.

[20] Hansard (1936), pp.1386-87.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid., pp.601-3.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Colvin R. de Silva, Leslie S. Goonewardene and S.A. Wickremasinghe, Unemployment in Ceylon: Samasamaja Shows the Way Out (Colombo: LSSP Publication No.2, 1937), inside back cover.

[25] Ibid., p.15.

[26] Hansard (1939), pp.2893-95, passim.

[27] Cf. Tarzje Vittachi, Emergency ’58: The Story of the Ceylon Race Riots (London: André ljeutsch, 1958) and B.H. Farmer, Ceylon: A Divided Island (London: Oxford University Press, 1963).

[28] Perera, in Hansard (1939), p.2230.

[29] Ibid., pp.2298-99.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Gunawardena, in Hansard (1939), pp.1387-go, passim.

[32] V. Karalasingham, The Way Out for the Tamil Speaking People: The Minority Problem and the Ceylon Revolution (Colombo: Young Socialist Publication, 1963), pp.36-37. It seems, however, that the author exaggerates the impact of Lenin’s demand for “complete equality for all nations and languages” by claiming that: “In making this declaration in favour of the equality of status of Sinhalese and Tamil, the LSSP was merely giving effect to the principle enunciated by Lenin ...” With all due respect to Lenin’s avowed stand on self-determination of nations, the world in general and smaller nations in particular owe at least as much in that respect to Woodrow Wilson and his World War I advisers.

[33] Hansard (1936), pp.73-76, passim.

[34] Hansard (1937), p.4148.

[35] Ibid., pp.176-78, passim.

[36] Ibid., pp.188-89.

[37] Hansard (1938), p.1693.

[38] Ibid., pp.2053-54.

[39] Hansard (1939), p.4245.

[40] Ibid., pp.4251-53, passim.

[41] D.C. Vijayavardhana, The Revolt in the Temple or Triumph of Righteousness: Dharma-Vijaya (Colombo: Sinha Publications, 1953). The author indicated on the title page that the book was “composed to commemorate 2,500 years of the ’Land Race and the Faith.’”

[42] Hansard (1936), p.2167.

[43] Gunawardena, ibid.

[44] Hansard (1938), pp.470-82, passim.

[45] Perera, in Hansard (1939), pp.4751-2.

[46] Hansard (1938), p.3309.

[47] Hansard (1937), pp.1283-84.

[48] Ibid., p.2109.

[49] Hansard (1936), p.521.

[50] Ibid., p.429.

[51] Perera, in Hansard (1936), pp.937-40, passim.

[52] Ibid., p.3275. Dr. Perera probably voiced the hopes of the LSSP in connection with the formation of the Socialist Party in India with which “the favored relations were excellent in late 1936.” Cf. Goonewardene, op. cit., p.7.

[53] Gunawardena, Hansard (1937), p.255.

[54] Perera, in Hansard (’937). pp.2044-46, Hansard (1938), pp.2312-17.

[55] Hansard (1936), pp.1068-71, passim.

[56] Hansard (1937), pp.2057-59, passim.

[57] Hansard (1939), pp.2878-80, passim.

[58] Ibid., pp.664-65.

[59] Hansard (1938), p.2318

[60] Ibid., pp.3760-63, passim.

[61] Hansard (1936), p.2508.

[62] Ibid., p.2509.

[63] Ibid. I fully share this high opinion of the intelligence of the Ceylonese students on the basis of my teaching experience in a number of Asian and Western countries.

[64] Ibid., p.2517.

[65] Hansard (1940).

[66] Hansard (1939), p.4065.

[67] Ibid., p.4246.

[68] Hansard (1937), pp.1183-84.

[69] Hansard (1938), p.2330.

[70] Ibid., p.2070.

[71] Hansard (1936), p.260.

[72] Perera, in Hansard (1936), pp.3049-51.

[73] Ibid., p.3058-59, passim.

[74] Hansard (1937), p.1059.

[75] Hansard (1940), pp.1153-55.

[76] Hansard (1936), p.2388.

[77] Ibid., pp.2339-53.

[78] Ibid., p.2371.

[79] Ibid., pp.2379-80.

[80] Ibid., pp.2470-73, 2733-44.

[81] Ibid., p.442.

[82] Hansard (1940), p.1092.

[83] Hansard (1936), p.2896.

[84] Perera, Ibid., p.259.

[85] Ibid., p.3157.

[86] Hansard (1940), p.805.

[87] Cf. Leuke (wartime pen name of S.N.B. Wijeyekoon), Gautama Buddha and Karl Marx: A Critical and Comparative Study of Their Systems of Philosophy (Colombo: Vijaya Publishing House, 1943).

[88] Hansard (1938), pp.242-61.

[89] Hansard (1937), pp.561-63.

[90] Ibid., pp.2197-98.

[91] Ibid., pp.1325-26.

[92] Hansard (1940), pp.159-60.

[93] Ibid.

[94] Hansard (1937), p.1084.

[95] Hansard (1938), p.4084.

[96] Hansard, pp.103-6, passim.

[97] Hansard (1937), pp.858-60.

[98] Colvin R. de Silva, Toward a Dictatorship: The Governor’s Reform Proposals Explained (Colombo: The Lanka Sama Samaja Party, n.d.), p.13.

[99] Hansard (1939), pp.786-99.

[100] Ibid., pp.1390-92.

[101] Ibid., pp.2481-83.

[102] Ibid., pp.2501-3.

[103] A.S. Namasivayam, The Legislatures of Ceylon 1928-1948 (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1951), pp.l00-1.

[104] Jeifries, Ceylon: The Path to Independence, pp.81-82.

[105] Weerawardena, Government and Politics in Ceylon, 1931-1946, pp.38

[106] Hansard (1939), p.2653.

[107] Hansard (1940), p.1176.

[108] Ibid.

[109] Ibid., p.1179.

[110] Y. Wright, Ceylon in My Time, 1889-1949 (Colombo: The Colombo Apothecaries Co., Ltd., 1951), pp.163-67.

[111] Hansard (1940), p.1178.

[112] Ibid., p.1268.

[113] Ibid., p.1511.

[114] Ibid.

[115] Ibid., p.1515.

[116] Ibid., p.1522.

[117] Ibid., p.1514.

[118] Ibid., p.1513.

[119] Ibid., p.1520.

[120] Ibid., p.1517.

Chapter 3

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