1931-1948 History of Ceylon 1956-1972

Ceylon Independent, 1948-1956

Political Status and Administration . In 1948, the Dominion of Ceylon was granted full independence. The constitution foresaw Parliamentary Democracy, an element completely new to a country which had been governed by a paternatistic-authoritarian colonial administration until 1931.
In the elections of 1948, the United National Party (UNP) gained 42 out of 95 seats. In December 1952, PM Don Stephen Senanayake, died in a car accident; he was succeeded by his son Dudley Senanayake. The UNP won the elections of 1952. In the elections of 1956, the UNP suffered defeat; S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike of the Socialist M.E.P. became PM.

Foreign Policy . Upon independence in 1948, Ceylon joined the Commonwealth of Nations; the country joined the United Nations only in 1955; the country's bid for membership in 1948 had been vetoed by the USSR. In 1949, the Ceylonese government refused a Dutch request to be allowed to use the ports of Ceylon by Dutch vessels carrying troops and arms to Indonesia (Britannica BoY 1950). In 1950 Ceylon established diplomatic relations with the PRC.
In July 1950 the Colombo Conference was held, adopting the Colombo Plan, a Commonwealth framework aiding in the economic development of member nations. In 1954 the Conference of Asian Prime Ministers was held in Colombo; Ceylon, while maintaining Commonwealth membership, adopted a policy of neutrality, the role of a "Switzerland of the East" (Britannica BoY 1955). At the Bandung Conference of 1955, the Ceylonese PM John Kotelawala spoke of the threat of expanding Communism. The issue of those Tamils on Ceylon treated as foreign nationals, hence citizens of the Republic of India, continued to be a burden on Ceylonese-Indian reloations.

Domestic Policies . A major problem for the young democracy was the ethnic situation of the island : the population was split into two groups, the majority Sinhalese who adhered to Buddhism (c.69 %) and the minority Tamil (c.21 %), descendants of immigrants from southeast India (Tamil Nadu) who had come to Ceylon during the last 3 centuries and were concentrated in the north and northeast of the island, who adhered to Hinduism. Of the 1,412,000 Tamils on Ceylon in 1948, 562,000 were recent arrivals from the Indian mainland employed on the plantations (Britannica BoY 1949).

The Economy . In the early years of independence, the government promoted Ceylonese replacing Europeans in managerial and executive positions in the economy. The Sri Lankan economy depended heavily on the export of three items, tea, rubber and coconuts.
Tea production was expanded from 140,000 metric tons in 1949 to 220,000 metric tons in 1963, then to stagnate at 200,000 to 220,000 metric tons annually. Tourism grew in importance during the 1950es. From independence, the government pursued the policy of subsidizing rice, with fixed rations per person. Ceylon needed to import rice, as domestic production did not suffice to meet domestic consumption.
B.R. Mitchell has established a table showing the total values of exports and imports in aggregate current values. Exports exceeded imports throughout the period from 1948 to 1956 with the exception of 1952.
The First Five Year Plan had been implemented in 1951-1955, the Second in 1956-1960. The modernization of the port of Colombo had been completed in 1956.

Tamil-Sinhalese Relations . An increase in the price of rice in 1953, following the withdrawal of subsidies, caused riots in August 1953 Sinhalese nationalists regarded themselves the only original inhabitants of Ceylon, the Tamils as foreigners. In 1949 Ceylonese Tamils who had immigrated more recently were disenfranchised.

Social History . From the mid-1950es onward, Ceylon suffered from labour unrest. The port of Colombo, vital to the country's economy, was often targeted by strikes.

Timeline Sri Lanka, from BBC News
Article Lanka Sama Samaja Party, from Wikipedia
Article Don Stephen Senanayake, from Wikipedia
Article Dudley Shelton Senanayake, from Wikipedia
Article United National Party, from Wikipedia
Article Colombo Plan, from Wikipedia
DOCUMENTS Ceylon / Sri Lanka, from World Statesmen, by Ben Cahoon
Historical Population Statistics of Sri Lanka, from Population Statistics, by Jan Lahmeyer
REFERENCE Patrick Peebles, The History of Sri Lanka, Westport CT : Greenwood 2006, KMLA Lib. Call Sign 954.93 P373h
Valli Kanapathipillai, The Repatriation of Indian Tamil Plantation Workers from Sri Lanka to India, pp.326-330 in : Robin Cohen, The Cambridge Survey of World Migration, Cambridge : UP 1995, KMLA Lib.Sign. 304.809 C678c
Article : Ceylon, Dominion of, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1949 pp.154-155, 1950 p.162 [G]
Article : Ceylon, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1951 p.166, 1952 p.162, 1953 pp.157-158, 1954 pp.158-159, 1955 pp.211-212, 1956 pp.150-151 [G]
Article : Ceylon, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book 1952 pp.90-91 [G]
IHS : International Historical Statistics : Africa, Asia & Oceania 1750-2000, edited by B.R. Mitchell, Basingstoke : Palgrave MacMillan 4th ed. 2003

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on May 27th 2002, last revised on May 5th 2007

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