Problems in a Plural Society

  • A. Jeyaratnam Wilson


Sri Lanka is a mosaic of ethnic, religious and social groups in which the Sinhalese Buddhists (Low Country and Kandyan) form the sizeable majority.* This majority had been neglected during the long years of western rule. Nor were their grievances looked into with sympathy by post-independence governments of the 1948–56 phase.


Prime Minister Official Language Eastern Province Plural Society Caste Group 
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  1. 1.
    Central Bank of Ceylon, Survey of Ceylon’s Finances 1953 (Colombo 1954),Google Scholar
  2. and Central Bank of Ceylon, Survey of Ceylon’s Consumer Finances 1963 (Colombo, 1964). See also Dr M. A. Fernando’s ‘Employment in the Rural Sector’, Ceylon Daily News, 30 May 1971, and ‘The Educated Unemployed’, Ceylon Daily News, 2 June 1971. Both articles are extracts from a Central Bank Survey published in the Central Bank Bulletin (April 1971).Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    For detailed information, see D. L. Jayasuriya, ‘Developments in University Education: The Growth of the University of Ceylon (1942–1965)’, University of Ceylon Review, Vol. XXIII (April–October 1965) Nos 1 & 2, pp. 83–153.Google Scholar
  4. Also Sir Ivor Jennings, ‘Race, Religion and Economic Opportunity in the University of Ceylon’, University of Ceylon Review, Vol. II (November 1944), pp. 1–13,Google Scholar
  5. S. J. Tambiah, ‘Ethnic Representation in Ceylon’s Higher Administrative Service 1870–1946’, University of Ceylon Review, Vol. XIII (April–July 1955), pp. 113–34,Google Scholar
  6. M. A. Strauss, ‘Family Characteristics and Occupational Choices of University Entrants as Clues to the Social Structure of Ceylon’, University of Ceylon Review, Vol. IX (April–July 1951), pp. 125–35Google Scholar
  7. and Bryce Ryan, ‘Status Achievement, and Education in Ceylon: An Historical Perspective’, Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. XX, No. 4 (August 1961), pp. 463–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 9.
    See also Department of Census and Statistics, Survey of Rural Indebtedness in Ceylon 1957 (Colombo, 1959). This survey estimated the total indebtedness in the rural areas at Rs 516 million or about Rs 424 per rural family, a figure which at that time constituted about 34 per cent of annual income or 9 per cent of the value of property owned by the family. Even in 1957 the greater percentage of loans was taken for consumption purposes. 44.1 per cent of the Rs 516 million borrowed was from friends and relatives. 39.03 per cent of loans in the 1963 Survey (p. 127) was from friends.Google Scholar
  9. 17.
    See S. U. Kodikara, Indo-Ceylon Relations since Independence (Colombo, 1965), p. 111. Note, at its ninth annual sessions in April 1949, the C.I.C. condemned the provisions of the Ceylon Citizenship Act as ‘humiliating, discriminatory and anti-social’ and the qualifications required under the Indian and Pakistani Residents (Citizenship) Act as being ‘complex and involved, and beyond the capacity of workers with little or no education’ (ibid.). The latter assertion was, considering the educational and literacy standards of the Indian population, factually correct.Google Scholar
  10. 24.
    See press communique issued by Ministry of Defence and External Affairs, Ceylon Daily News, 23 July 1970. From May 1970 (after the U.F. government took office to February 1973, 86,687 Indians were granted Indian citizenship (till December 1972) of whom 58,276 were repatriated to India (till January 1973) while 36,740 were granted Sri Lanka citizenship (till January 1973). See text of press conference by the deputy minister of defence and foreign affairs in Ceylon Daily News, 22 February 1973. Note, the U.F. government and the Ceylon Daily News in its editorial of 19 February 1973 alleged that the Dudley Senanayake ‘national government’ had been lax in implementing the Indo-Ceylon Agreement of October 1964 in view of the U.N.P.’s alliances with the C.W.C. and the F.P. For a refutation of this charge see ‘U.N.P. and Indo-Ceylon Pact’ by Dudley Senanayake and the editor’s reply to Senanayake in Ceylon Daily News, 23 February 1973.Google Scholar
  11. 36.
    For a detailed account on Sinhalese caste structure, see Bryce Ryan, Caste in Modern Ceylon: The Sinhalese System in Transition (New Brunswick, N.J., 1953).Google Scholar
  12. 44.
    See, for instance, the speeches of Sir P. Arunachalam, one of the foremost of the Ceylon Tamil leaders in the first quarter of the twentieth century, in S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike (ed.), The Hand Book of the Ceylon National Congress 1919–1928 (Colombo, 1928), pp. 70–97 and 118–43.Google Scholar
  13. 47.
    For a detailed account see Michael Banks, ‘Caste in Jaffna’, pp. 61–77 in E. R. Leach (ed.), Aspects of Caste in South India, Ceylon and North-West Pakistan, Vol. 2 (Cambridge, 1960).Google Scholar
  14. 51.
    For further information see The Bauddha Jatika Balavegaya (the National Organisation for the Protection of Buddhism), Catholic Action: A Reply to the Catholic Union of Ceylon (Colombo, 1963). See also statement by L. H. Mettananda, President of the Balvegaya, denouncing Prime Minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike for appointing Roman Catholics to a number of important positions in the public services, in Ceylon Daily News, 30 July 1956.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© A. Jeyaratnam Wilson 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Jeyaratnam Wilson
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of New BrunswickCanada
  2. 2.Department of Economics and Political ScienceUniversity of Sri LankaSri Lanka

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