Sri Lanka was the model British crown colony that made the transition from dependence to sovereign status without rancour or violence. Transfer of power was in stages and the island’s political elites were, unlike in the case of other volatile societies in Asia and Africa, voluntarily put through a gradual process of political education and experience which taught them to exercise power with moderation and democratic fervour. It was the same with the electors, the island being the first among colonial territories to have universal franchise, years before independence, as early as in 1931. The Buddhist ethos and a continuing process of modernisation even up to present times have, through the years, contributed in no small measure to generate that tolerance and accommodation which are so necessary for the satisfactory functioning of parliamentary government. Our chapter dealing with the problems of Ceylonese society spells out in detail this process of give and take, of compromise and middle-path solutions which have in fact been the guidelines of Sri Lanka’s political development since the beginning of the twentieth century. Whereas in other societies, communal and religious strife have become endemic and more the rule, in Sri Lanka these have, with one or two exceptions (the Sinhalese Buddhist-Muslim disturbances of 1915 and the Sinhalese-Tamil riots of 1958), been kept within the bounds of constitutional agitation, and on occasion extra-parliamentary but non-violent protests.
KeywordsForeign Policy Political Elite Sovereign Status Political Education Parliamentary Government
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