Speech made in the Senate on  July 3, 1956

Senator Azeez: Mr. President, the hon. Leader of the House  has just told us that the chief objective of this Bill is to assist the common man to take his due share in the administration of the country. I, as one who also believe in democratic socialism,  agree with that objective but it is precisely my point that that objective is not fully secured by this Bill. And as I proceed I shall show hon. Senators how this particular Bill  which has been brought forward now does not assist all the common men to take their due share in the administration of the country which is their legitimate right.

The hon. Leader also characterised this Bill as a simple Bill, as quite simple Bill. I may say that in the history of legislatures, past and present, of the entire world, this is probably the shortest of Bills ever introduced but fraught with the gravest of consequences. I am not thinking at the moment of the consequences that were witnessed on the 5th June and thereafter but of the consequences that will outlast the present generation.

I have had the privilege of speaking on this same subject on the 8th May when, on the floor of this House, I made my observations on the speech from the Throne. It is my intention in view of many hon. Senators wanting to participate in this debate not to cover  the same ground I covered on that occasion. It is my duty, I feel, Mr. President, to acquaint the Government – after reading the speeches that have been delivered in the Other Place and listening to speakers – of the fact that I am convinced that the present Government do not seem to be aware of the hardships they are causing to a community like the Muslim community by the introduction of the Sinhala language as the one official language of Ceylon in the manner in which it has been brought up by this Bill. It is my contention and I hope to convince you, Mr. President, that this Bill places grave disabilities on the Muslim community who are not Sinhalese- speaking. There may be all sorts of controversies as to what they speak but are not relevant. It is admitted that the Muslims are not Sinhalese-speaking people. Therefore once  this Bill is put into effect, once this becomes an Act, certain disabilities will be caused to them and it is my duty to emphazise those disabilities rather than enter into other side issues which unfortunately for this country have been high-lighted, namely, telegrams sent to Indian leaders by certain persons and telegrams sent to others in Great Britain, and so on. As far as I am concerned these things are utterly irrelevant to the issue because the Muslim community has not sent telegrams to anybody. We will demand justice from this Government; and if this Government does not give us justice, we will demand justice from the people, at the next General Election.

There has been a statement made in the Other Place that the Sinhalese race forms the Ceylonese nation and the others are mere national minorities. I am sure the hon. Leader does not share that view. He will, I am sure, admit that the Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Burghers all form the Ceylonese nation. I am sure the hon. Leader will agree that the Muslim community forms an integral part of the Ceylonese nation. I am saying this because of the utterances of some members of the Government party which are creating a lot of anxiety in our minds and I do hope it will be the task of responsible members like the hon. Leader and the Hon. Minister who is seated by his side (Senator The Hon. Jayasuriya) to ensure that in their party the tail does not wag the dog! People have short memories and some of the members of the Government party are comparatively young, so that it will be proper for me to quote portions from the concluding speech of the present prime Minister when he wound up the debate on the Sri Lanka Bill which he sponsored. This is what he says at column 2062 of the HANSARD 22nd March, 1945:

“ May I here refer to the support that the main principle of this Bill has received from the hon. Nominated Member, (Mr. Jayah) the hon. Nominated Member,  (Mr. Razik) and the hon. Member for Colombo Central (Dr. Kaleel) among the minority members. I say that if any member has brought closer the achievement of agreement among the various sections of the people of this country.”-

He used the words “sections of the people” and not “national miniorities”-

“. . . by an attitude of generosity , where even those with whom he is concerned stand to suffer, I say the fullest credit, must go, more than to anyone among us, to the hon. Nominated Member (Mr. Jayah).

The hon. Nominated Member (Mr. Jayah) has made a speech today that will have a great effect in bringing unity among the people of this country, in bringing sense of reality to this struggle, however it may shape, that we are going to undertake to a obtain a satisfactory measure of freedom.

What have the hon. Nominated Member (Mr. Jayah) and his colleagues, the hon. Nominated Member (Mr.Razik) and the hon. Member of Colombo Central done? There is provided in this Bill a scheme of representations under which I the Muslim community more than any other community in this country might suffer, in the form in which it appears, but yet he himself was so sincerely determined to work for the main idea of freedom that he was prepared to vote for that principle embodied in this Bill.’’

It is very unfortunate that there is an impression in the minds of many people, some distinguished people, that the Muslim community is the one least affected by the language problem. In fact, the present Prime Minister stated this in February 1955 – I am reading from the Ceylon Daily News of 26th February, 1955.

“Muslims need have no fears, Mr. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, Leader of the Opposition, assured the Muslim community in Ceylon that theirs was the one community that need worry least about the language problem which now confronts the people of this country.

Mr. Bandaranaike, who was addressing members of the Young Men’s Muslim Association, at its headquarters in the Fort yesterday, asked them to ‘tell Mr. Azeez that if he will spare me (Mr. Bandaranaike) half an hour, I will remove all his doubts and fears !’’

He was  under impression that the Muslim community suffered least by any change in the language policy and he had been kind enough to issue an invitation, which I unfortunately did not avail of for quite a length of time; but he did give me the privilege of discussing this problem along with others for nearly four hours on 24th May, 1956. He said in February, 1955, that within half an hour he would remove all my doubts and fears; I was with him for four hours – I am quite convinced that he is very anxious to do his best for us in the circumstances but I cannot honestly say that all my doubts and fears have been removed, but still I am hoping for the best.

The Muslim community is affected most, not least, because of the complicated problems of language it has to face. Mr. President, I would crave your permission to read a short extract from the Zahira College Prize Day Report which I was privileged to read last January. It explains why the language problem is more complicated and more troublesome to us. This is what I stated:

It is our conviction that we best serve Sri Lanka not by the abandonment of our culture but by its preservation and promotion, aiming at unity in diversity – political unity in the midst of cultural diversity. On Zahira therefore, devolves a sacred obligation to foster the culture that is distinctively our own. In thus stressing its importance, we are not unmindful of the value of political unity. We believe with Sir Richard Livingstone  that, ‘Men are born to four citizenships. They should be able to  live as good members of their of their family, of their community, of their nation, and of the whole human society’. and that  ‘many of the world’s troubles can be traced to a failure in one or other of these citizenships – to our never mastering the are of living with others, in the family, in the community, in the nation, in international relations’. We also realize  that these four citizenships must co-exist and that the transgression of one of these loyalties must necessarily involve the transgression of the other three. While an Englishman in the United kingdom or an American of Anglo-Saxon descent in the United States could exercise his rights and discharge his duties inherent in these four citizenships through the medium of one single language, namely English, and without the necessity of his having to acquire a knowledge of any other language, we, the Muslims of Ceylon, are in an entirely different and extremely difficult position. To fulfil adequately the obligations cast on us by these four citizenships, we should of necessity acquire a knowledge of four different languages with four different four scripts – the four languages concerned being Tamil, Arabic, Sinhalese and English, each of them with a different background of religion and history. In the case of the Ceylonese Malay-Muslims, the problem is further complicated by the presence of still another language. Malay’’.

Therefore when any change takes place precipitately it becomes a complicated problem to us, and it is not correct to say that we are the least affected; I would say that we are the most affected. We have another peculiar difficulty because our is a community scattered throughout the Island, with its one-third of its members inhabiting the purely Tamil-speaking areas in the Northern and the Eastern Provinces and with the  other  portion, namely two-thirds,  inhabiting the other seven Provinces.  Any language question introduces a new and novel problem to us – how to preserve the solidarity of the community, how to ensure that the political power it possesses or the political influence it possesses is not diminished. That is a problem that has been created because of the present language policy, because the Eastern and Northern Province Muslims – they may be smaller in numbers – but they are the ones who are in a position in to send a fair number of Muslim Members to the House of Representatives, whereas the other portion, namely two – thirds of the Muslims who inhabit the other seven Provinces, cannot because of their living isolatedly, because of their not-

Senator Nagalingam: What about Sir Razik Fareed?

Senator Azeez: They cannot send so many; one as against four.

So that it is not a simple problem to us. This may be a “simple” Bill but to us it is not simple; it is very complicated indeed.

The hon. Leader of the House referred to parity and gave his own definition of it. I do not propose to enter into a discussion on that highly controversial subject but I would like to summarize the various solutions that have been offered in the matter of State languages, official languages, into nine categories.

First comes parity as envisaged by the hon. Leader of the House which, I may  say, is parity quantitatively and qualitatively – parity which is almost “fifty-fifty” in disguise. Then there is the other parity which is parity  qualitatively and not quantitatively. Then we have parity with priorities within, as the one defined by one of our former colleagues, Sir Kanthiah Vaithianathan. Then we come to two official languages throughout the Island, and that is in accordance with the  resolution passed in 1954 at the U.N.P. sessions. Next we have two official languages of the Island, meaning regional languages – one language to be the official language in certain parts of the Island  and the  language to be the official language in the other parts of the Island.  Then we come to another category – Sinhalese only with due recognition  of Tamil and fundamental rights in respect of language guaranteed. Then we come to the next category – Sinhalese only while according due recognition  to Tamil in the legislature, administration and education. That phraseology is taken from the memorandum  that was submitted by the present Prime Minister to his Party on or about 12th September, 1955. Then we come to another kind, Sinhalese only with reasonable use of the Tamil language. This, I believe, is the one in the M.E.P. manifesto.

The hon, Leader of the House elucidated it further by saying that only one part has the effect of the mandate. I find it rather  difficult to draw that subtle distinction because the phraseology in the M.E.P. manifesto is “Sinhalese only with reasonable use of the Tamil language.’’ This is the first time I heard that the mandate covers the former part and not the latter part.

Sinhalese only as the official language, with no recognition whatever of Tamil, is the last category and normally I would include this Bill as falling into the last category but for the several assurances given by the Hon. Prime Minister in the Other Place and some  assurances given by the hon. Leader of the House. If they had not given their  assurances, our task would have been very simple because in this categorising we would have placed this Bill in the last category, that is Sinhalese only undiluted, with no sharing of status or power with any other language or languages. But the various assurances, the various statements, that have been made in the Other Place and some of the statements  that have been made by the hon. Leader make the position very difficult indeed for us to place the present Bill in any one of these latter categories. Whether  this particular Bill contemplates Sinhalese only, while giving due recognition to Tamil in the legislature, administration and education, or whether it is a Bill which envisages the reasonable use of the Tamil language, or whether this Bill is for due official recognition of the Tamil language. together  with fundermental rights, we are at a loss to understand. We have been given several  assurances, each  assurance making the position more confused. If I knew  for certain what is meant by these  assurances and what exactly is conoted by the phase ‘‘reasonable use of the Tamil language” I may be able easily to come to a conclussion. But this knowledge is withheld from us. We are asked to accept certain  assurances and I therefore think it is my duty to analyse some of these assurances and to convince you that they mean nothing more and nothing less than that those who have given them are very fair minded persons! But that does not carry us far. We are aware they are fair minded persons, particularly the Prime Minister. We know that he would not be consciously harsh towards the minorities. I shall develop that point further, but I must say I find it very difficult to accept those  assurances in the form in which they have been given.

I believe the hon. Leader said that the term “Official language” is not defined, He asked: “Why are you afraid?” We are afraid because unless this is defined we are at a loss to know to know where we stand. In fact, there was an interuption – the question was asked, “What about a plaint?” The hon. Leader said that a plaint has to be in the Sinhalese language because the Bill is such, but that if that is a question of marriage registration, and so on, they might consider allowing a different language. But can they allow that without first telling us exactly what is connoted by the words ‘‘official language”

In the Other Place. the Hon. Prime Minister said that he could not introduce into the Bill any phrase like “due recognition of the Tamil language” or “reasonable use of the Tamil language” because those are things that cannot be precisely defined. I am an entire agreement with him there. But it is therefore most curious that the words “official language” have not been defined in so important a Bill as this. In other important Bills that have come before this House, the Objects and Reason were printed along with the texts of the Bills, together with Statements of Legal Effect. If there is any Bill that should have the the Objects and Reasons stated and a Statement of Legal Effect included, it is this because it affects the entirely of the nation, because it has been moved with the sole purpose of changing the language of administration of the country. But  the Objects and Reasons have not been stated. There is no statement of Legal Effect given. So that, truly, we are at a loss to understand what precisely the definition of “official language” is. Therefore we are compelled to think that the words “one official language” mean that Sinhalese and no other language will be allowed as an official language. If it is stated that Sinhalese shall be the “the official language” or “an official language” it would be a diffrent matter, but what is stated here is  “one official language”. In these circumstances, when this Bill comes in force, how can marriage registrations be made in any language other than Sinhalese, just as plaint cannot be filed except in one language, the Sinhala language? I do not know how that can be done.

The President: The hon. Leader explained that the Prime Minister is prepared, by regulation or otherwise, to see to such things.

Senator Azeez: I was dealing with another aspect of the matter, but the Prime Minister’s powers cease to exist on 1st January, 1961.

Senator Nagalingam: No, 1960

Senator Azeez: It may be 31st December, 1960, but anyway that is a very minor matter. That is exactly my objection to the Bill. I shall come to this later. The hon. Leader is very solicitous about the minor languages of this country. Unfortunately I do not speak any minor language of this country. I am not a descendant of the Portuguese who have a language of their own, nor can I speak Malay, Sindhi, Gujarati or any of those languages. I must protest against this attitude of putting all languages together because, after all, the Hon. Prime Minister himself was an active participant in the debate on the Motion which was brought up in the State Council by Mr. J. R. Jayawardene in 1944. From 1944, till perhaps now, this very moment the hon. Leader spoke, there was no intention of raising any language other than the Sinhalese and Tamil languages to the status of national languages. Therefore, if the hon. Leader is going to foster minor languages of this country, he has my sympathy, but I am not particularly interested in them. In 1944, all of them participated in the debate. The original resolution was to make Sinhalese the official language, but it was amended to include Tamil as well. Therefore it has been accepted that Tamil should also come in. We do not say that it is a fundamental right that it should be a state language, an official language. But that does not mean we are obvious of the special claims the Tamil language has by virture of its past history and by virtue of the various decisions that have been made from 1944 onwards. I do not think it is correct to say that the Tamil language is in the same position as some other minor language which is spoken in this country. We do not know what precisely is a State language; we do not know what is an official language. I believe they are identical terms. But certainly I hope that the hon. Leader will not deny the status of a national language to the Tamil language. He may deny, but history will not support him.

Some reference, fortunately or unfortunately, has been made to a resolution that I proposed on 20th February, 1954, at the annual session of the U.N.P. The text of that resolution was not given and I crave your indulgence to give the text of that resolution because it might clear a lot of misunderstanding. This was the resolution.

‘‘This Conference reiterates its decision to make Sinhalese and Tamil the official languages throughout the country in the shortest possible time.’’

Now, the question was asked as to why that resolution was introduced at that particular stage and in that particular form. The reason was that in January, 1954, there was an Indo-Ceylon Agreement in which the phrase ‘‘the language of the area’’ was used. Unfortunately, I have not got the text of that agreement, but the world ‘‘the language of the area’’ were used and there were some who sought to give the interpretation to that proposal that Tamil and Sinhalese shall be the official languages of Ceylon, that Tamil would be the official language in one part of Ceylon and Sinhalese would be the official language in another part of Ceylon.

The President: Who had that impression?

Senator Azeez: Some Members of the U.N.P. were under the impression that a certain amount of confusion would be created by the use of the words ‘‘the language of the area’’ in an official document; that some persons might legitimately consider that that would mean having Tamil in certain areas and Sinhalese in certain other areas in Ceylon. That would have affected the Muslims most because they reside in both areas and I was particularly interested therefore in obtaining a clarification and moved a resolution in that form at that U.N.P. Conference.

Senator Nagalingam: It was worthless.

Senator Azeez: I shall not be diverted by these interruptions as I wish to carry on with the history of this matter uninterrupted. Therefore this resolution made it crystal clear that there were not going to be official languages in terms of areas, but that there were going to be two official languages. The words ‘‘parity of status’’ were never used by me. I never envisaged parity nor was I ever happy when the term ‘‘parity of status’’ came into use and when my Sinhalese friends interpreted that term as ‘‘fifty-fifty’’ in disguise. I used to tell my Tamil friends –

Senator B.I. Palipane: There was no disguise; it was ‘‘fifty-fifty’’.

Senator Azeez: Senator Palipane says there was no disguise. I used to advise my Tamil friends not to use the term ‘‘parity of status’’ and my resolution never contained that phrase. Then this question of parity of status became very acute as a result of the official disregard of the Tamil language on the occasion of the  opening of Parliament by the Queen on 24th June, 1954. Mr. G.G. Ponnambalam sought to move and Amendment to the Throne Speech, to the effect that provision should be made in the Constitution by which Tamil would be assured of a position of complete equality with Sinhalese as one of the official and national languages. Senator Nadesan dealt with that aspect of the question when commenting on the Throne Speech, and I do not want to go into that again. All that I desire to stress is that it started an acute controversy throughout the country. The Muslim community had to take note of the controversy agitating the country, the feeling expressed and the tension created.

Therefore, on 11th December, 1955, the All-Ceylon Muslim League held a symposium on the language question. It invited various parties. We had the representatives of the S.L.F.P., the  V.L.S.S.P., etc,. and the Ceylonese National League which advocated English as the only official language for many years to come. We were benefited by the discussions, and we gained valuable experience.

On 18th December, 1955, we had a Joint Conference of the All-Ceylon Muslim League and the Moors’ Association, and we passed a resolution which is relevant to my approach to this Bill. This was the resolution we passed in December, 1955:

‘‘That Sinhalese be accepted as the only State Language with due official recognition being given to Tamil and English, and provided that fundamental rights of the minorities in respect of religion, culture, language, etc. are incorporated in the Constitution.’’

That resolution was ratified by the Central Council of the All-Ceylon Muslim League on 8th January, 1956. On 11th January, 1956, two sets of representatives from these two organizations met and considered whether that particular resolution should be moved as an amendment to the U.N.P. resolution at the Kelaniya conference. There was a diversity of view. Some opposed the proposal of an amendment, and felt that an interview should be sought with the then Prime Minister, Sir John Kotelawala, to find out whether he had in mind the giving of due recognition to Tamil and English, and incorporating fundamental rights. At that time the idea was that there was going to be an amendment to the Constitution. Some felt that there should be an amendment moved at Kelaniya; others felt that an assurance from the then Prime Minister would be sufficient, and that there was no need for an amendment.

On 19th January, 1956, a deputation waited on the then Prime Minister, led by Dr. Kaleel, then Minister of Labour. The necessary assurance was given by Sir John Kotelawala to the Muslim League and the Moors’ Association, and those who represented these bodies in that deputation pledged their support to the U.N.P. after that assurance was given.

The assurance was that the Bill to be brought forward by Sir John Kotelawala, when he was voted to power, would conform to the requirement that due recognition be given to Tamil and English, and that fundamental rights would be incorporated in it. At that time the S.L.F.P. said that they had the reasonable use of Tamil in view.

On 17th May this year, we had a glimpse of the Bill that was being prepared by the present Government. The newspapers of 17th May had details of the Bill. The Bill as it appeared on 17th May was not acceptable to us. Between the publication of the details of the Bill on 17th May and the publication of the present Bill, some vital clauses, providing for some recognition of Tamil, had been omitted. The present Bill is worse than the draft Bill which appeared on 17th May.

When the draft of the Bill appeared in the papers, we passed a resolution on 20th May, three days after the draft was published. This was the resolution:

‘‘Whereas the All-Ceylon Muslim League in December, 1955, passed a resolution  ‘that Sinhalese be accepted as the only State Language with due official recognition being given to Tamil and English, and provided that fundamental rights of the minorities in respect of religion, culture, language etc., are incorporated in the Constitution.’

And whereas the draft Bill which has been approved by the Sinhala Only Committee of the M.E.P. does not give due official recognition to the Tamil and English languages. 

And whereas no steps have been taken to incorporate in the Constitution the Fundamental Rights of the minorities in respect of religion, culture, and language. 

And whereas the draft Bill violates the fundamental language rights of the Ceylonese Muslims, 

And whereas the immediate change over to Sinhalese as the official language and the completion of the process before January, 1960, denies to the Muslim the opportunity of participating fully in the life of the country and imposes on them disabilities and disadvantages’’

All the effect this resolution appears to have had on the Government was that instead of January, 1960, they made it 31st December, 1960. They probably thought that the Muslims are so capable of acquiring a new language quickly that twelve months would make all the difference to them! We are not claiming parity. We wanted opportunities for participating fully in the life of the country, and our quarrel is that the Government does not give us time to cope with the situation. They are over-hasty. To conclude my quotation from the resolution.

‘‘This Central Council of the All-Ceylon Muslim  League hereby unequivocably declares that it cannot accept a Bill in terms of the proposed draft’’.

This resolution was passed on 20th May, and on 24th May we had the honour of an invitation from the Prime Minister to discuss this resolution and the language problem with him. We met him in the morning. We spent four hours with him. We expressed our point of view fully. He saw our difficulties, but that same evening Mr. F.R. Jayasuriya commenced his fast to death. He was good enough to call off his hunger strike on the 26th, and on the 28th he had the privilege of attending a meeting of the Parliamentary Group of the M.E.P. It is not for me to discuss the purport and manner of his fast which are well known. Although Mr. Jayasuriya’s  friends may think that no language owed so much to one individual as the Sinhalese language to Mr. Jayasuriya, history, I am sure, will give a different verdict.

The Bill became truncated and incomplete – whether as a result of 

Mr. Jayasuriya’s action or not, I do not know. The Bill became less satisfactory to us.

After the draft Bill was published, the Working Committee of the All-Ceylon Muslim League passed this resolution on 8th June:

‘‘The Working Committee while regretting its inability to support the Official Language Bill in the form in which it has been introduced by the present Government in the House of Representatives on June 5, 1956, reaffirms the League’s acceptance of Sinhalese as the only State Language of Ceylon.’’

The President: The sitting is suspended for 30 minutes.

Sitting accordingly suspended at 4.30 p.m., and resumed at 5 p.m.

Senator Azeez: Mr. President, I find it extremely difficult to cast my vote in favour of this Bill for what it contains and what it does not contain. In the first place, it contains just one date which throws on us a lot of hard-ship, that is, ‘‘the thirty-first day of December, 1960.’’

Before I come to that I must also stress that this Bill is silent with regard to the status of the Tamil language, and I have already pointed out to you that the Tamil language, by virtue of its history, deserves an entirely diffrent place from that being a minor language.  But the hon. Leader envisaged in his speech – in fact, the present Prime Minister in his memorandum of September 1955 also did envisage –  some kind of status being given to the Tamil language in the spheres of  legislation, admininstrastion, education and examination. If I remember right, he was not so solicitous about the minor languages at that time, and perhaps even now, as our present Leader who thinks probably that it is his duty to foster those languages which might die but for the his timely intervention and special help.

The term “official language” has not been defined and, therefore, it is very difficult for us to know exactly what the implications of this Bill are. I think the hon. Leader stated that he would not mind allowing registration of marrriages and deaths taking place in a language other than Sinhalese even after 31st December, 1960. But the position is not so simple. What about the proceedings of the Kathi courts? Under the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, there are a set of judical officers called Kathis, many of whom do not know any language other than  Tamil, and who are now allowed to have their records in Tamil.

Senator The Hon. Silva: I think I explained that the Bill will not affect the special provsions of the law. There is a special provision with regard to Kathis which this Bill will not affect.

Senator Azeez: I am not Lawyer, but when I read the clause:

The Sinhala language shall be the one official language of Ceylon:,

I understand no other meaning except there being one official language. We would have been very happy if that provision had been incorporated in the Bill. After all, the Legal Draftsman is quite competent to translate that idea into legal form, and I would have been very willing to vote for this Bill if such provision were made statisfactorily.

Senator S. Nadesan: That is because lawyers also must live.

Senator Azeez: Lawyers must live but I am only concerned with the hardship that is likely to be caused to people who cannot employ expensive lawyers This is more confusing because statements are made in various forms by various Ministers. Here is one statement by the hon. Leader of the House in the Other Place.

The President: If the hon. Senator says that the Bill does not provide for the language. What language is going to be?

Senator Azeez: The Bill provides clearly what the official language is going to be as soon as it is passed. We have not still technically passed it. But it says that in such very clear and uniequvocal terms that I gained the impression that unless there is an Amending Act, this would have an overriding effect because at the moment we do not have any legislation; specifying that a particular language is the official language of Ceylon. This is ad hoc legislation: there are certain Acts where mention is made of documents being kept in Sinhalese or Tamil or English. But as far as I am aware, there is no legislation in existance today which makes English the one official language. As a matter of fact, there are subsidiary official languages today. Even during the colonial days, although English was the dominant or primary official language, it is my submission that there had been subsidiary official lanugages – not Malay and Gujerati and Sindi, and so on, but Tamil and Sinhalese – and, may I say, enjoying parity of status whatever its worth.

Senator The Hon M.W.H. de Silva: What about English?

Senator Azeez: English was the principal official language. Having been a member of the Government Service once upon a time, I know that the village headmen were allowed to have their official records in Sinhalese or Tamil. But the whole point is, there should be some meaning in making a language the one official language of Ceylon. Otherwise, one could have taken some administrative steps. As a matter of fact, before this Bill was introduced, some Ministers had taken steps on their own.

Senator Nadesan: That is illegal.

Senator Azeez: That was illegal. That is being legalized.

Senator Nadesan: Even now it is illegal. Only the Prime Minister can make it legal

Senator Azeez: If the hon. Leader’s assurance had been embodied in this Bill, if his statement had been transformed into legal form, then, of course, I would have been satisfied. But now as it is, my own impression is – and the words justify my impression is – that on and after 1st January, 1961, the Kathi courts, and so on, cannot have their records in a language other than Sinhalese. If it is otherwise, I will be happy; but that is not the meaning that I see in this Bill. For example, statements are made by Ministers. This is a statement by the hon. Leader of the House in the Other place made at Kalmunai. This is from a report in the Times of Ceylon of 17th June, 1956. He is alleged to have told the people who were gathered there that the language Bill meant nothing more than the replacement of English by Sinhalese and that Tamil would continue to occupy the place which it held in the Island from time immorial. Obviously, this is a contradiction of the Bill because English was an official language along with two other official languages. If that was the intention of the Government, we would have expected them to say that Sinhalese shall hereafter continue to occupy the place that English occupied in the sphere of administration, education and so on. Why are they not so clear? They are giving assurance after assurance. I shall deal with the assurances at a later stage. 

Another difficulty is that English was never a national language. It was an official language; but Sinhalese is a national language.  So is Tamil. The difficulity becomes rather worse on account of these distinguishing features. Merely to say that Sinhalese is going to substitute  English carries us no further because Sinhalese is the language of 70 or 80 per cent of the people of this country, and except for the members of the Burgher community who are small in number and who speak English, the others do not speak English as their language. So that, the position is entirely different. I personally feel that we should not be lulled into a false sense of security by this statement that Sinhalese is to replace English because it is not so stated in the Bill.

The hon. Leader of the House referred to the medium of instruction and said there is absolutely no intention of this Government to make my changes in the medium of instruction. But the problem is not so simple as that. What is going to be the medium of examinations, examination in  respect of the future Civil Service. Clerical Service and other Government employment? That question has not been answered. Now we are asked to take the assurance of the Prime Minister and other Ministers and give our assent to this Bill. When that question was pointedly referred to – I believe I am in order in reading the statement of the Hon. Minister of Education, because this is a subject that belongs to him – this is what he said:

That  is a detail that will have to be worked out. I have already said, of my hon, Friend did not understand me, that I shall place before the Hon. Prime Minister the results of all the investigations we have made. I even pointed to the example of a question paper that was being answered in three languages and was being marked and listed for purposes of results without showing any differences. Therefore, the answer to the question of the hon. Member for Vavuniya is that whatever results we have achieved will be placed before the Hon. Prime Minister so that he will be in a position to say how exactly future public examination should be conducted. -[official REPORT, REPRESENTATIVES, 8th June, 1956; Vol 24, c 1047,]"

He says “We will look into  the matter.” As far as we are concerned, it is a vital matter because in 1945 – I believe, on 11th September, 1945 – there was a regulation framed by the Education Department and the then Minister of Education setting out what the medium of instruction should be. At present some childrens are being educated in Tamil. some in Sinhalese and some in English. Those are the three languages recognized as the media of instruction. The Government says, as far as the medium of examinations is concerned, they shall consider the matter, they shall go into the details – and they call that an assurance. I wish  to know the real effect of the words. “I shall consider the matter, I shall give my anxious consideration to the matter.’’ As for as the medium of instruction in concerned, all the assurances the Government have given us is that they will work out the details, they will study everything and do what right in their opnion.

The hon. Leader said that the medium of instruction has no connection with the official language. That is exactly  the point at which I differ vitally from the Government. The official language cannot be dissociated from the medium of instruction, from the medium of education, from the medium of administration, from the medium of the local authorities, etc. It is too vital a matter. As I said, the Bill just covers  one aspect of the matter and the rest are unwritten assurances given in various shapes and forms, some on the floor of this House, some at the other Place, some at publc meetings. As far as we are concerned the medium of examination is so vital. The Leader of the House might say, “We are not interfering with instruction,” but it is not so simple as all that.

Suppose all the papers connected with examinations were to be in Sinhalese, certainly you are placing an insuperable obstacle in the path of the boy who has not studied in Sinhalese as the medium. Therefore, we cannot be vague about the matter. All that I can do is to quote a passage from Shakespeare which indicates what a vital connection exists between the offical language and the medium of examination. This is the quotation:

You take my house when you take the


That doth sustain my house; you take my


When you do take the means whereby I


When you manipulate your medium of education in a particular way, you are certainly placing as obstacle in the path of a Tamil-speaking boy persuing his studies in his language as the medium.

I have seen statments in the Press where it is envisaged that higher education in Ceylon after 1961 should be pursed in the Sinhalese language. That is to say, a Tamil-speaking boy will start his education in the Tamil medium, but as he goes to the VI standard or Senior Prep. he will be expected to switch on to the Sinhalese medium. That is what I read in the Press.

Senator Nadesan: The Tamil boy  can go on in the English language.

Senator Azeez: But he will he denying himself opporunities of employment, opportunities like what Senator Nadesan had. Unlike Senator Nadesan, my profession is such that I have to deal with the growing generation. I say that they will be very much handicapped unless the Government decided that the medium of examination will be so arranged as not to unduly handicap the Tamil-speaking boys.

Senator Nadesan: Government will give them land.

Senator Azeez: There is nothing whatever said about the medium of instruction. The statement of the Hon. Minister of Education is not one which we can accept. He said the Government had an open mind, that they had not come to a conclusion. They have not given an assurance that the Tamil-speaking boy will not be handicapped or even not unduly handicapped. I for one am prepared to accept that vague assurance.

I was trying to find out for myself why the particular year 1960 was selected and not any other year. Someone said it was because as election has to  take place in 1961 unless something unfortunate befalls the Government before that. I was not too happy  about the reason and I read for myself the statement made by the Hon. Prime Minister. He has given us a reason why 1960 was selected. This is what the Hon. Prime Minister, in introducing this Bill, said:

What is the time required to make the change-over – I am talking apart from the language of the miniorities – to change over from English, what is the period? The hon. Minister of Justice, in consulting the Supreme Court of Court Judges, was informed by them-of course provided that certain thingd were done, interpreters were provided and so on -that they could make the change in four years, and we took the the supreme Court as the body where it would be most difficult to effect a change. Therefore we fixed a date that exceeds four years; that is to say 31st December, 1963.[official REPORT, REPRESENTATIVES, 6th June, 1956; Vol. 21, c. 839]"

Senator Nadesan: The whole of that is wrong.

Senator Azeez: Some questions were put on the floor of this House by the former Minister of Justice(Senator E.B.Wikramanayake) and some answer was given. But it was stated that in the public interest the correspondance could not be tabled.

Senator Nadesan: In the interest of the Prime Minister.

Senator Azeez: I do not know what exactly were the reasons that made him take that step, but it was clear from the statement of the hon. Leader that, provided certain interpreters were available, provided certain things were done, it would be possible.

Senator Nadesan: Possible to have the record.

Senator Azeez: But what about the pleaders? I refer to those who plead before the Supreme Court. It is very strange in fact, as far as the Supreme Court is concerned, that the Official Languages Committee has made this statement, which it  is appropriate at this stage to quote. The statement, as a matter of fact, is quoted at column 690 of the House of Representatives HANSARD of 19th October, 1955. It read as follows: 

The Select Commitee of the State Council visualised this when it stated, We have to proceed with the greatest caution.The history of other countries which have gone through the phase that is now upon us when the national languages supplanted by a foreign tongue were struggling to gain ascendancy, tell us that the courts have been the last citadel of the foreign language."

In other words, it is accepted on all hands – even the Constitution of India has accepted it – that the most difficult place where the new language could be introduced is the Supreme Court.

The hon. Leader talked about records, about pleaders pleading in their own language and getting in interpreted by somebody for the benefit of the judge where the judge did not know the language of the pleaders, but he did not make any reference to the translation of the various legislative enactments. I say that because I envisage that after 1961, if there is a pleader who knows only Sinhalese and no other language, in terms of this Bill, of the sprit of this Bill, by virtue of the mandate that has been given this Government, he should not be compelled  to get hold of the translator to read a set of legistative enactments – 

Senator Nadesan: It will solve the unemployment problem.

Senator Azeez: Well, I can envisage an ironic situation where a lawyer who is very proficient in the Sinhalese language, as proficient as the Muslim Minister in the present Government, but who, unlike the  Muslim Minister does not know the English language pleads in the Supreme court. What is he expected to do? That is a matter that has not been dealt with. What I say is, in respect of the most difficult sphere of administration, the  most difficult  place where you can have Sinhalese, you have fixed on 1960 for the switch-over. Therfore by implication, in every other aspect  of administration this switch over could be possible much earlier, but it has been accepted everywhere -in the Indian Constitution, in the Select Committee Report – and history has proved it, that the place where it is most difficult to introduction a new language is the Appeal Court or the Supreme Court. If I remember right, in Egypt, where they had Arabic in all the various courts, they could not avoid French or English in their highest tribunal.

So, in that state of affairs, if you have fixed 1960 as the time for the switch over in respect of the Supreme Court, then I take it that in the other spheres of administration you could switch over much earlier. That is why we are very much concerned and perturbed because the position is that 1960 is the last date; it is not the first date. So that the some of the members of the Muslim community must be prepared, as soon as this Bill is passed, to posses a knowledge of Sinhalese which they cannot acquire in that style, in that manner and in that quick time.

Now, I would like to ask the hon. Leader one simple question – I am not a lawyer – a commonsense question. You say that the courts will have to keep their records in Sinhalese by 1st January, 1961, but you are allowing the pleaders to plead in their own language. Is it easy for them to do that?  Are you not creating difficulties? Supposing you  made it 1971? If you 24-hours mandate can be 1960 cannot that mandate be 1970? Either you have it in 24 hours or you have it in reasonable time. We were under impression that the intention at one time was to switch over to Sinhalese within 24 hours. Later, an explanation as given that within 24 hours the Government pledged itself to have a target date.  I accept it. But if you can have 1960 as the target date why cannot you have 1970 as the target date, particularly when it is pointed out to Government the various hardships that are caused to a set of people who are not Sinhalese-speaking?

Senator The Hon M.W.h. de Silva: The Hon Prime Minister stated that the date would be extended if necessary. 

Senator Azeez: When the date is sufficiently extended, I will be the first to speak, squally at length, in acceptance. Till the date is extended, I cannot accept it. 

I will also read the particular passage where the Hon. Prime Minister spoke about the date.

Senator Nadesan: The Prime Minister’s assurance

Senator Azeez: Here is the assurance and the particular passage to which, I believe,  the hon. Leader referred.

May I say now, as this stage, that it is our intention, as far as possible, to make that change wherever possible, but if in the course of our proceeding in  implementation  we find on sufficient ground and data that the change-over just cannot reasonably be made during that time, we will not hesitate to come before the House and the Country for passing the necessary amendment to the Bill with the facts before us.’’  [Official REPORT, REPRESENTATIVES, 6th June, 1956; Vol. 24, c. 840.]"

I ask in all earnestness, have I not shown the hon. Leader our difficulities? So, why does he not consent to an amendment now? The Hon. Prime Minister says, “If is  just cannot reasonably be made.” According to whose reasoning? According to the Government’s reasoning. Do they think that our Muslim boys are so linguistically made an created specially that they can take to any language in such quick time? But that is not so; it simply cannot be done. Within four and a half years they cannot acquire proficiency in a new language. Our proctors, our advocates who have been practising for such a long time cannot adapt themselves so quickly to the change-over. They may have to plead with interpreters, understand with the help of interpreters and read records also with th help of interpreters. I do not know of any country in the world either in the past or the present, and I am sure not even in the future – with the kind of arrangement where the judge must have an interpreter, the lawyer himself must have an interpreter, and where the books are in a language which is not the official language.

These are difficulities to understand which there is no necessity to wait for a certain measure of time; these are difficulities which stare us  in the face. With a little imagination, with a little common sense, they can be invisaged right now. The Government says that the Bill can be amended later when the change – over “just cannot reasonably be made,” but as far as the difficulities are concerned, they are as clear as daylight. It is impossible to expect a person to acquire proficiency in a new language in such quick time. Of course, if it is the kind of proficiency, that is expected of a salesman or a hawker, it can certainly be acquired; but if it is the standard expected a professional man, it simply cannot be done.

Now  reference was made to a circular that was sent by the hon. Leader in respect of the law students. The hon. Leader was perfectly logical, and in fact I must congrautulate him on having sent on that circular, because I found the Bill unfolded in that circular. The implication is very clear that Muslim law students who will acquire a certain knowledge –

Senator The Hon M.W.h. de Silva: Not a circular

Senator Azeez: I am sorry, it was a letter.

Senator Nadesan: He had no right to send that letter.

Senator Azeez: Anyway he has given his interpretation of the Bill –

Senator The Hon M.W.H. de Silva: Anybody has a right to suggest.

Senator Nadesan: I do not think so. The Minister in charge of the Bill is the Prime Minister.

Senator The Hon M.W.H. de Silva: This was long before the Bill.

Senator Azeez: I am sorry, it was a letter.

Senator Nadesan: That makes it worse.

Senator Azeez: Senator Nadesan has, as usual, interrupted me to say that the hon. Leader had no right to send a circular, or letter, or whatever it is, to the Incorporated Law Society. I am not concerned with that aspect of the  matter.

The President: I do not think it is the Incorporated Law Society. It is the Council of Legal Education.

Senator Azeez: The Council of Legal Education. I thank you, Mr. President, but I am not concerned, as I said, with that aspect. What I say is that this letter to the Council of Legal Education, whether it is legal or illegal – if it had not been illegal, it would have been much better – this letter or circular or whatever it is, gives us an idea of the kind implementation of this Bill envisaged by the hon. Leader, and I say that he is perfectly logical thank him for his elucidation, because of this Bill is passed, the Muslim boy who does not possess any knowledge of Sinhalese has to acquire a certain knowledge of the Sinhalese language within a very short space of time; and with the kind of rigorous examination that this body holds – you know, Mr. President, that all these professional bodies hold very strict examinations – they do not pass all the candidates, as is done at the Training College  under the new arrangement. Unlike the present Government which is very generous and pass all the candidates, Council of Legal Education do not pass all candidates; so that, the boys who are non-Sinhalese-speaking will find it very difficult to become proficient in Sinhalese in such a hurry.

Senator Nadesan: The Director of Education holds the S.S.C. So, they will pass.

Senator Azeez:  If the assurance is given that all the candidates who take up the S.S.C. from Zahira College wil have the same luck as the trainees at -[Interruption]

The President: I would wish the hon. Senator not to listen to the interruptions but go on with his speech.

Senator Azeez:  I thank for of your advice and I shall follow it.

All that I say is, we are grateful to the hon. Leader for giving us an indication of how this Bill is likely to be implemented; so that  the kind of requirement that is contained in this letter is more valuable to us than the many assurances given in other places and by other persons. All that I say is, the net result of this Bill interpreted in this way would be to make political illiterates of a generation of our community. I use that phrase in all seriousness. We are going for a generation to be political illiterates in our own country, and with that kind of implication I cannot naturally support this Bill. Of course, if you want one to be a sycophant of the Prime Minister, if you want one to hear  the things he wishes to hear rather than the things he should hear, one can say, “Do it”; but I cannot do that. I am very sorry  I cannot do that. I have to place before the Prime Minister and the hon. Leader our difficulities and give them correct information.

I would like to add that there are several Muslims who have come to me after seeing this Bill and sought my advice whether they should not emigrate to Pakistan or to Malaya or to Indonesia, particularly those who have many children. They are perturbed. Of course, I know some hotheaded members of the M.E.P. would say. “That is exactly, the kind of result we want from this Bill”, but I know that the sober elements of that party do not desire thay type of result.

Let us to take the example of the Malay Union, which is an association that accepted the Sinhalese language as the only official language without any condition regarding due recognition of fundermental rights. All they wanted was 15 years’ time, but they are now protesting that they cannot cope with the provisions of this Bill.

Many references have been made to these  assurances. I first refer to the  assurance given by the Hon. Minister of Education in regard to the medium of examinations. When he was told what would happen, he said that he would look into the matter carefully and that he would give it his most anxious consideration. So that, we have to take him on trust without knowing exactly what he is going to do.

The Prime Minister has given several assurances. Before I try to analyse what those assurance would or do mean, let us remind ourselves that the Prime Minister has his own limitations, not in point of knowledge or stature or eminence, but limitation by virtue of the fact that he is a popular Prime Minister, a democratic Prime Minister who has to consult his party, who has to do things according to mandates given to him. He cannot isolate himself from pressure groups within and outside  his party, and we have seen that happening. We only hope and pray that his influence grows stronger daily in the party because we know he is not an extremist and is fair-minded; but we are always fearful of the forces of extremism in his party, because the extremists have forged a new weapon, ‘‘namely glucose fasting”. With this new weapon , anything can happen. The Prime Minister, in his personal capacity, can give an assurance but when the Prime Minister, in his capacity as the leader of a popular party, as the leader of a people’s Government, gives an assurance, he gives it with certain limitiations. That is one defect. Even if he were a dictator, we may not find it possible to accept assurance from him. Now he gives assurance, limited as he is by the conversion of party mandates and Parlimentary Government; but even if he were a dictator we would not be able to accept his assurance because this is what he has said in the Other Place: 

‘‘I think it is not a matter of political condemnation of a person that he may have changed his views on important points. I believe a many good people have done that in the history of this world. [official REPORT, REPRESENTATIVES, 6th June, 1956; Vol. 21, c. 839]"

An Hon. SENATOR: Who said that?

Senator Azeez:  The Prime Minister himself. 

New facts may emerge on which he may change, new conditions may arise, whereas if these assurances are clothed in legal phraseology and embodied in a Bill, you cannot change them because you will have to go the House and face a debate. Therefore my position is, in any case it is not fair for our Prime Minister to expect us, those of us who belong to minority communities, to accept assurances of this nature when they are given in respect of problems and questions which are of such vital consequences to us and when those assurances are subject to the limitations I have indicated.

I would like to read another assurance that is contained in his speech:

‘‘…. on the further assurance that I gave them and which I give now, namely, that when this Bill is passed I intend to be the Minister in charge of this subject.’’ -[Official Report Representatives, 6th  June, 1956; Vol. 24 c. 841.]"

But he can only frame regulations within the ambit of this Bill and it says he cannot frame regulations after 1st January, 1961. So, our griveance, the wrong that has been inflicted upon us, is that by this switch-over you do not give us time to cope with the new official language. Therefore this assurance has relevance only to the regulations which can be framed within the ambit of this Bill and which will cease to operate on 1st January, 1961.

Then, he has given another assurance, that he will make this change-over ‘‘of course, wherever it is possible without causing hardship.’’ Who is to define ‘‘wherever it is possible’’? We have already pointed out our hardships as the Bill stands at present. So, that assurance also does not take us very far.

Here is another passage that is very relevant:

‘‘There are various other points like that which we have to take up. Instead of thinking of all that now and trying to introduce these things into the Bill, we felt that the wiser course was to address our minds in detail to each and every one of those problems where they arise.’’

As far as we are concerned, the problems have already arisen, have been studied and explained; but according to the Hon. Prime Minister, he will take action whenever and wherever they arise, the implication being that they have not arisen already. I know it is difficult. He goes on to say:

‘‘I know four languages myself: I will be very happy if I knew more. But I would like to assure my hon. Friends in this House that those are details on which I do not think they should try to pin me down….. ’’ – Official Report Representatives, 6th June, 1956; Vol. 24 c. 847.]

He gives the assurance of bieng fairminded, of being quite conscious of the rights of the minorities. He gives the assurance that he considers the Muslims also an integral part of the Ceylonese nation. But when you ask him what exactly he proposes to do, how he is going to solve this difficulty, his answer is, ‘‘Give me time, do not pin me down’’. What we say is, ‘‘Why do you not give us your solution and ask for our assent? You know we are in the dark; you do not tell us how you mean to solve it.’’

I cannot understand these assurances because I have never felt that the present Prime Minister is not fair-mined, is not democratic. It is not necessary for him to say so. But the point is on questions of this nature, what I may honestly and truly consider fair, another person may not consider fair, another person may not consider fair. It is something like what is jokingly said of the Honours student and the S.S.C. student in history. The S.S.C. student thinks that the first global war was a war between right and might whereas the Honours student thinks, or should think, that it was a war between one conception of right and another conception of right. The Germans had their conception of right and the English and her allies had their conception of right.

I am not denying that the hon. Leader and the Hon. Prime Minister and other Minsters are not fair-minded and do not have our interests and the interests of the country at heart. But what I do contest is that on certain matters and problems their conception of right may conflict with our conception of right. Therefore, the necessity may and does arise to resolve those conflicts. This one-sided conception of right does not help us in any way. You are not helping us in any way by saying that you will endeavour to the best of your ability to be fair-mined.

The President: Would it be correct to say that the hon. Senator is not against Sinhalese being made the official language but that his objection is that more time should be given before it is made the official language?

Senator Azeez:  I was, in fact, hoping to deal with that aspect in my concluding remarks. That is my main objection. The other question of ‘‘due-recognition’’ is also there, on which the Bill is silent. But apart from being silent on the point, the Bill also imposes on us a terrible hardship.

Unfortunately for our country and the minorities, this question has been treated as if it were a conflict between two races. The prestige, status and race aspects have been highlighted to the deteriment of certain other important aspects. Having been in the Administrative Service, I myself would like to view this matter from another aspect. I feel that the implementation of this Bill is going to result in a breakdown of the administration, and that is a very vital matter. I understand that a team of Government Parlimentary Party Members are going to India and it is our earnest hope that they are going there with the intention, not of educating India as to how things can be done quickly and within the shortest possible time, to educate India and particularly the Indian Prime Minister, but with the intention and the idea of educating themselves. They should have gone there before this Bill was introduced. I trust they are going after reading that section of the Indian Constitution which deals with the problem, which is fundamentally a negation of the kind of practice they have adopted and followed here. Unfortunately, the Indian people do not believe in ‘‘simple ’’ Bills, they want complicated Bills, so in their Constitution there are a number of sections dealing with the language question. Sections 343 to 351 deal with this question; and I hope that the team that is going to India will carefully read that section of the Indian Constitution which deals with the Supreme Court. If they are going with open minds we will be very happy, but we do not know whether they are going with the intention of converting India to their way of doing things. The hon. Senator seated by my side is very keen that I shoud read that section of the Indian Constitution which deals with the Supreme Court, namely, Section 348; so I shall read it:

‘‘348 (1) Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this Part, until Parliament by law otherwise provides-

(a) all proceedings in the Supreme Court and in every High Court,

(b) the authoritative texts-

(i) of all Bills to be introduced or amendments thereto be moved in either House of Parliament or in the House or either House of the Legislature of a State.

(ii) of all Acts passed by Parliament or the Legislature of a State and of all Ordinances promulgated by the President or the Governor or Rajpramukh of a State and

(iii) of all orders, rules, regulations and bye-laws issued under this constitution or under any law made by Parliament or the Legislature of a State, 

shall be in the English language.’’

Senator Palipane: Thereafter?

Senator Azeez:  There is no ‘‘thereafter’’. In other words, they have given unlimited time to the Indian Government. But I suppose there is a peculiar logic which is appealing to the Government Parlimentary Party, namely, the smaller the country, the shorter the time necessary. I do not think that stands to reason.

Coming back to the point I was about to deal with, namely, the breakdown in the adminstration, there is a passage which I should like to quote from The Madras Hindu. Actually, it contains the views of the Madras Government submitted, I think, to the Language Commission. It is a memorandum to the Commission appearing in The Madras Hindu of 18th January. I do not want to read the entire passage; I shall only read the relevant portions of it.

‘‘In the light of this preliminary explanation the provisions of Articles 343 and 344 of the Constitution regarding the official languages of the Union may be summarised as follows:

(1) English should be the prinicipal official language of the Union up to January 26, 1965. Hindi should be the the subsidiary official language up to the same date.

(2) Hindi should be the principal official language of the Union from and after January 26, 1965.’’

And this should interest my hon. Friend Senator Palipane:

‘‘If, at any stage, Parliament considers it necessary it may by law, provide that English should continue to be used, but only as a subsidiary official language. The change-over on a State-wide basis is seen to involve a considerable amount of preparatory work as well as a certain amount of dislocation. It is considered desirable to avoid this, when the machinery of administration is already strained in the effort to implement the National Five Year Development Plan in this State and such activities as the National Extension Service and Community Projects which promote the welfare of the people more concretely than a change in the official language.’’

So, as far as India is concerned, they have an ambitions economic programme; and if I understood the manifesto of the M.E.P. they also have an ambitious economic programme for Ceylon. But India is alive to the danger of slowing down the administration when an effort has to be made to reorganize the country on progressive economic lines. But in Ceylon these are minor details and so we can have Sinhalese only as the State language by 1960 !

What is the implication in the Bill stating that Sinhalese shall be the only official language? I imagine that all documents, all files, will be kept in Sinhalese. If all records in the Supreme Court will have to be kept in Sinhalese, I believe it is the intention of the Government, it is the implication of the Bill, that the language in which the files and official records will be kept should be Sinhalese. I am told that some Cabinet Ministers are not very fluent in Sinhalese or that they cannot read Sinhalese so well. I do not know what is going to happen to them. Of course, there is the traditional answer ‘‘Have interpreters and translators and perhaps readers.’’ I know that there are Permanent Secretaries who were recruited in a different age, under a different set of conditions, who are not at all proficient in the Sinhalese language although they have passed the so-called First and Second Examinations. I know that they may be able to give orders to peons and talk a few words in Sinhalese, but many of them cannot write a Cabinet Paper in the Sinhalese language. So, what is the remedy this Government proposes for these difficulties?

Speaking of interpreters and translators, have we got a sufficient number of such persons in this country who are billingually proficient?

Senator Nadesan:  What about S.S.C. passed students?

Senator Azeez:  Yes, there are so many of them, and it is a good thing if they get employment, but they cannot translate satisfactorily because, in the first place, official terminology will give them a good deal of trouble and they are not bilingual. This is the type of situation that is going to arise.

Is it necessary for our Prime Minister to wait till an administrative breakdown occurs for him to find a solution to this problem? Are we not fair in expecting him to einvisage the difficulties that are bound to arise and provide for them straightway?

The Minister of Finance has made some statements on this subject. I do not want to quote them because I want to finish my speech by six o’clock. There is the famous radio speech of his in reference to public servants in which he uttered words to this effect: ‘‘We are not going to do things in a hurry, we will be very reasonable and considerate to all. We have no intention to disturb the promotion prospects of public officers. We are aware of the fact that you entered the service under different conditions.’’ All this is very fair of him, very nice of him, but while on the one hand there is this Bill by which you have to complete the switch-over into Sinhalese in the whole administration by the end of 1960, on the other hand you are promising all the public servants that you will not compel them to learn sufficient Sinhalese or expect them to hasten their study of that language, or even go out, perhaps with a pension, if they cannot cope with the situation. This is utterly contradictory.

I say, Mr. President, they cannot have it both ways. We behold a dilemma. Either they have to be fair to the Public Service and keep them, or face an administrative breakdown. And if the assurances of the Finance Minister mean anything at all, the administratration is going to break down. In this connection, it is interesting to consider what an eminent Sinhalese scholar like Mr. Julius de Lanerolle has said. He himself has been and administrator and he has put it so well that I desire to quote from an article he wrote to the Times of Ceylon of 6th June 1956:

‘‘When I asked Mr. Bandaranaike about this matter, he told me that he fixed the time-limit in order to enable him to review the position within the life-time of the present Parliament.’’

 That itself is not very fortunate. If things go on normally, the Government is going to be on the eye of a General Election at the end of 1960. Those of us who have followed current history and politics will realize that these are not things that can be done on the eve of  a General Election. You cannot extend the time-limit for the operation of this Bill beyond 1960 by bringing up an amendment at that stage. I say, therefore, that if you are sincere you are most unwise in fixing this particular date.

Senator Nadesan:  They can extend the same promise to the electorate in 1960.

Senator Azeez:  In that case, the people will be disillusioned. The people will open their eyes and see how the promises made to them have been carried out. Sometimes, Mr. President, justice is done in unexpected ways.

I go on to quote Mr. Lanerolle:

‘‘In that case, a provision to that effect should have been made in the Bill itself, as has been done in the Indian Constitution. For otherwise, the ever-pressing hurry, on top of the numerous complications looming large, will thoroughly demoralise the services. That is why I maintain that any time-limits should not be fixed without making the necessary investigations.

In  these circumstances, not only the Tamil offficers, but a very large number of Sinhalese officers themselves will find it extremely difficult to satisfy the exacting demands of the administration in such functions as minuting, etc.

The Tamil officers who were all these years qualifying for the change both in Tamil and Sinhalese will find it well-nigh impossible to switch on to Sinhalese alone within that time. Nor will it be an easy task for the departments concerned to undertake the training of all these Tamil officers. 

If the administrative machine fails one of these days owing to the confusion and chaos caused by these sudden conversions, the Government will have none but themselves to blame.’’

If is is only a question of the Government’s difficulty, then we would not be concerned so much, but unfortunately the people will suffer more. On the other hand, the people will not have the economic relief that has been promised to them. The Government will be busy the whole time trying to work the administration that they will not be able to spare any time to give their mind to the economic programme which they placed before the country. I wonder whether it is the idea of the richer sections of the M.E.P. to slow down that economic programme in this fashion. I hope that is not the case.

Let me quote Mr. Lanerolle further

‘‘On the other hand, if the Government agrees to make some systematic use of the bilingual work already done in the two Language Departments, some respite can be afforded to the Tamil officers whose co-operation is absolutely necessary for the well-being of the adminstration.’’

I do not want to quote further than that. Mr. Lanerolle makes it quite clear that we are heading for chaos in the adminstration and, if that happens, he says, it will be entirely due to the fault of the Government.

Mr. President, we were at one stage prepared to accept Sinhalese as the only official language, but we are unable to support this Bill for the reasons I have set out. I am reminded of a story our own Prime Minister related when he wound up the debate on the Throne Speech in 1947 as the Leader of the House of Representatives. He was referring to the combination of the Indian Members and the Leftists. History has many surprises. But let me go on to the story. I quote his own words:

‘‘I would just remind my hon. Friend, Mr. Speaker, of a very fine but very terrible tale in one of the late Mr. W.W. Jacob’s books called ‘The Monkey’s Paw. Let him read it and learn its moral. Briefly, the tale is this: There was a shrivelled monkey’s paw which possessed a most potent charm. Anyone who which grasped it firmly in his hand and whispered a request would have that request granted; but also there was such a curse attached to that charm that the request granted; very often came in a way that was much more disastrous than the actual attainment of the prayer. This monkey’s paw came into the possession of a humdrum Englishman of the lower middle-class. He knew, of course, of the legend attached to it. He was sorely tempted to try it. He only wanted a small thing – a matter of £100 in order to purchase some long desired household needs of his wife. He thought, as the request was small, the curse would not work. He took the monkey’s paw in his hand in a moment of courage and he breathed his prayer for a hundred pounds, and he got it. His only son, a worker in a factory went the following day to the factory. He was caught in the machinery and died a horrible and agonizing death. The mangled remains of the son were brought to the house of the couple with the regrets of the manager of the factory and the assurance of the payment of £100 as compensation.’’

We accepted Sinhalese as the only official language and we have got this Bill. That poor man wanted £100 and got it through the death of his son. If we pass this Bill, it will make political illiterates of a whole generation of us. That man in the story did not know what was going to happen to his son but we do know what is going to happen to us as a result of this Bill. It is therefore not possible for me to vote for it. I therefore hope and request that now that our difficulties have been pointed out in clear terms, this Government will strive to make amends quickly. I do not propose to send a telegram to Prime Minister Eden or to anyone else because I am quite confident that if the present Government does not do justice, the Sinhalese people who voted this Government to power will, when they find that an injustice has been perpetrated, and when they are given the opportunity of choosing the next Government grant us redress, will not delay or deny us justice.

It being 6 p.m., proceedings on business under consideration were interrupted under the Standing Order.

Debate adjourned; to be resumed tomorrow.

On Question, Motion agreed to; the Senate dividing – Ayes, 19; Noes. 6:


  • de Silva, Senator The Hon. M.W.H.
  • Jayasuriya, Senator The Hon. A.P. 
  • Wijesinghe, Senator C.
  • Amarasuriya, Senatotr T.
  • Cooray, Senator E.J.
  • de Mel, Senator R.A.
  • de Saram, Senator J.E.M.
  • Jayasena, Senator P.M.
  • Jayasundera, Senator Sir Ukwatte.
  • Kannangara, Senator E.W.
  • Kotelawala, Senator Justin.
  • Molamure, Senator Lady
  • Palipane, Senator B.I.
  • Peiris, Senator Dr. M.V.P.
  • Rodrigo, Senator Sir Philip.
  • Senanayake, Senator Dr. J.E.
  • Siriwardana, Senator Hector de Zoysa.
  • Soysa, Senator Sir Bennett.
  • Wanninayake, Senator U.B.


  • Azeez, Senator A.M.A.
  • Kanaganayagam, Senator S.R.
  • Nadesan, Senator S.
  • Pararajasingham, Senator Sir Sangarapillai.
  • Wilson, Senator John.

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