Flashback to Independence
February 4,1948 Sri Lanka regained political freedom from the shakles of
British Imperialism when King George VI despatched his brother Duke of
Gloucester as his representative to transfer power from Westminster to
Already, there the first Parliamentary general election was held in
1947 to elect one hundred and one (101) members for 95 electorates on
first past the post basis.
The 95 electorates included multi-member constituencies:
Colombo Central three (3) seats;
Ambalangoda - Balapitiya two (2) seats;
Badulla two (2) seats and so on which made up 101 elected members of
Parliament to represent the 95 seats.
The Prime Minister enjoyed the privilege of recommending six members
to be appointed by the Governor-General to represent the unrepresented
What a feeble performance by the Prime Minister. Had not the
Governor-General an iota of common sense to think whether those remnants
of British imperialism really represent ‘unrepresented interests’ or
The first appointed members of the 1947 parliament were:
F. H. Griffith,
J. Aubrey Martensz,
J. W. Oldfield,
S. A. Pakeman and
G. R. Whitby.
Imagine their performance to the ‘unrepresented interests’.
Gratiaen resigned on being appointed a puisne Judge While Martensz
resigned on December 29, 1948 a few months after his appointment. G. R.
Whitby resigned early 1948 owing to illness.
This comprised in a nutshell shows the path the leaders of the day
steered our newly independent nation towards progress and prosperity.
Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, Independent Lanka’s first Minister of
Health and Local Government and the Leader of the House of
representatives delivered his address of Thanks to Duke of Gloucester.
Being a visionary he professed that the aspirations of the majority
should be given due recognition in order to make the regained political
freedom a success. Mr. Bandaranaike presented his Address of Thanks
after Duke of Gloucester lowered for the last time the Union Jack and
hoisted the Lion Flag of the Free and Independent Nation.
The Lion Flag that was hoisted on that historic occasion was the two
thousand year old ancient flag, of this resplendent country. The sacred
flag was unadulterated with green and saffron stripes.
During the British period the Lion Flag was removed to the Chelsea
Hospital Museum. From there national patriot E. W. Perera brought the
Lion Flag following a relentless struggle with the British.
He could not carry his written representation since every scrap of
paper was read and scrutinised by the British at the time of departure.
He got the letter stitched to the sole of his shoe and travelled to
The National Radio starts the day with two excerpts of Mr.
Among other matters, he says, political freedom must go hand in hand
with the economic freedom, freedom to educate the children, facilities
to live in salubrious environments and a whole gamut of facilities which
the common man was denied during the alien rule.
The British grossly denied education to the villager. During the
entire rule of the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British - totalling
four hundred and forty-three miserable years from 1505 to 1948, not a
single two-storeyed building was put up for village schoolchildren.
The British rule started with King George III (1815-1820) and
continued their sway under eight monarchs until Lanka jumped out of
their treacherous clutches in 1948.
Upto that historic year, we had George IV 1820-1830; William IV
1830-1837; Queen Victoria 1837-1901; Edward VII 1901-1910; George V
1910-1936; Edward VIII 1936 who abdicated the British Throne in favour
of marrying Mrs. Simpson; George VI from 1936.
Queen Elizabeth II ascended the British Throne in 1952. By that time
much water had flown under our bridges. Of course we recognized Her
Majesty as the Head of the Commonwealth of Nations of which we are a
Lanka was not the only Asian country that regained freedom from the
British in 1947 and 1948. India, Burma (Myanmar) made astounding
impression on the Asian scene following their newly won freedom.
Myanmar in particular sent out all those non nationals who were
living as illegal immigrants. The country was made absolutely free and
safe to the people who spoke and understood the country’s language and
All those who were willing to share the common aspirations were
provided with equal facilities in all spheres of activity.
In India, the British treachery paid its most heinous crime when they
returned to the teeming masses of India, a bi-furcated land called
Hindustan and Pakistan.
Before India became free from Britain, already Pakistan had been
carved out as a Separate Nation.
Later, a third country came into being in the Eastern Part of India.
That was Bangladesh. Lanka, however, was too small (in size) a country
for the British to divide into fragments.
The British created artificial divisions among the Sinhala people and
Tamil people, created artificial problems between Northern Tamil and
Eastern Tamil people, created communal differences among the Tamil
speaking and Sinhala speaking people.
When the unsophisticated, non-English educated Sinhala carpenters
from the South enjoyed a lucrative furniture business in the North, the
Tobacco merchants, banana boutique keepers provided the best of Jaffna
cigars and home grown banners from Chunnakam.
Then nobody had any language problem, learning and speaking each
others languages with thorough proficiency. The petty politicians-those
nobodies who wanted to be somebodies took up the language as an ‘issue’
to hoodwink the masses and to enter the mainstream of politics.
As a result the country began to face crisis after crisis. The
learned, educated and the national conscious men and women came to be
side-tracked. Their due positions were doled out to foreigners.
For instance, Sri Lanka’s first university was handed over to an
Irish, Sir Ivor Jennings; another foreigner Dr. H.W. House was imported
to head the Directorate of Education.
To be continued