1948-1956 History of Ceylon Sri Lanka since 1972

Ceylon 1956-1972

Political Status and Administration . In the elections of 1956, the UNP suffered defeat; S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike of the Socialist M.E.P. became PM. In 1957 a committee was charged with deliberating a republican constitution. In 1959, Prime Minister Solomon Bandaranaike was assassinated - not by a Tamil, but, of all people, by a Buddhist monk; again the state of emergency was declared. In 1960, two elections were held, the first won by the UNP; however parliament was dissolved and the SLFP (Sri Lanka Freedom Party, lead by Srimavo Bandaranaike, widow of Solomon Bandaranaike) was elected into office. In 1964, S. Bandaranaike formed a new cabinet, which was composed of SLFP and LSSP (Trotskist Communists) ministers. The UNP won the elections of 1965; in 1970 the SLFP won the elections, Bandaranaike returned to power, at the head of a coalition consisting of the SLFP, the Trotskist LSSP and the Bolshevist CCP. In 1971 the Maoist People's Liberation Front organized a rebellion; the state of emergency was declared, the rebellion suppressed (c.1,200 dead). In 1971 the senate was abolished. In 1972 the country was renamed Sri Lanka, became a Republic.

Foreign Policy . 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 relations, until both countries in 1968 agreed on the partial repatriation of the 800,000 Tamils in question.
In 1956 Ceylonese U.N. delegate Claude Corea visited Moscow; in 1957 Ceylon established diplomatic relations with the USSR, Poland and Romania. In 1970, Ceylon established diplomatic relations with North Korea, North Vietnam and East Germany, and severed diplomatic relations with Israel. The North Korean embassy was accused of having been involved in the rebellion of 1971.

Domestic Policies . In 1956, Sinhala was declared national language. The death penalty, suspended in 1956, was reintroduced in response to the assassination of PM Bandaranaike in 1959. In 1961, Sinhala replaced English as the country's official language. In 1962 a plot to overthrow the government was uncovered.
The Republican constitution of 1972 granted Buddhism the status of privileged religion.

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.
B.R. Mitchell has established a table showing the total values of exports and imports in aggregate current values. From 1957 to 1960, in 1964 and from 1966 imports exceeded exports in value. Total annual export figures were at an annual average of between 1.4 and 2 billion Rupees in 1950 to 1972. (IHS pp.543, 549).
The First Five Year Plan had been implemented in 1951-1955, the Second in 1956-1960. Following the election of the M.E.P. in 1956, the Second Five Year Plan was cut short, and replaced by a Ten Year Plan 1959-1968, based on socialist policies, foreseeing not only the expansion and diversification of the country's economy, the expansion of its infrastructure, but also the nationalization of numerous industries and the establishment of a welfare program. Progress was made in regard to the construction of water reservoirs, irrigation schemes and reforestation. From 1958, Ceylon received Soviet economic assistance. In 1960, government-assisted schools and insurance companies were nationalized. The military airfield of Katunayaka was rededicated Colombo International Airport in 1960. The nationalization of the assets of foreign oil companies in 1962 had resulted in the termination of U.S. aid in 1963. A drop in tea prices in 1966 adversely affected the Ceylonese economy, as did the closure of the Suez Canal due to the Arab-Israeli War of 1967. A world shortage of rice caused the government to reduce the rice ration. Colombo International Airport was opened in 1968; the country's tourism industry expanded. In 1968 the Ceylon Rupee was devaluated, the country's first oil refinery taken in operation.

Tamil-Sinhalese Relations . In 1956 Sinhala was declared the (only) national language. While under the British administration, Tamils filled many of the positions in the lower administration, the Tamil group (traditionally better educated) now found themselves discriminated against by state administration. In May 1958, Tamil-Sinhalese riots left 158 dead; the state of emergency was declared. In 1961, Sinhala was declared the country's official language, replacing English. Tamil organizations, in responce, launched a civil disobedience campaign, and the state of emergency again was declared, which lasted until 1963. The year 1965 is regarded the begin of the Tamil separatist movement (Britannica BoY 1984).
Parliament in 1966 passed the Tamil Language Regulations, intended as a concession to the Tamil minority, in order to decrease tension. However, demonstrations in Colombo resulted in the state of emergency being declared again. In 1966 sundays were declared no longer to be public holidays; they were replaced by Buddhist poya days; a decision which reflected the (Buddhist) Singhalese domination of the island state and was resented by the (Hindu) Tamil minority.
In 1968 India and Ceylon agreed on a partial repatriation of the c.800,000 Ceylon Tamils who had been categorized as recent arrivals and hitherto been denied Ceylonese citizenship. The Republic of India was to take about two thirds, while Ceylon was to grant her citizenship to the remainder.

Social History . In 1958, the foundations for a pension fund, health and unemployment insurance were laid.
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. In late 1964, a major cyclone killed c.750 and left c.300,000 homeless.

Timeline Sri Lanka, from BBC News
Article Lanka Sama Samaja Party, from Wikipedia
Article Dudley Shelton Senanayake, from Wikipedia
Article United National Party, from Wikipedia
Article Colombo Plan, from Wikipedia
Article Sinhala Only Act, 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, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1957 pp.209-210, 1958 pp.146-147, 1959 pp.147-148, 1960 pp.147-148, 1961 pp.156-157, 1962 pp.139-140, 1963 pp.254-255, 1964 pp.232-233, 1965 pp.223-224, 1966 pp.176-177, 1967 pp.193-194, 1968 pp.188-190, 1969 pp.189-190, 1970 pp.191-192, 1971 pp.183-184 [G]
Article : Ceylon, in : Americana Annual 1957 pp.141-142, 1961 pp.127-128, 1962 pp.125-126, 1963 pp.130-131, 1964 pp.132-133, 1965 p.143, 1967 pp.154-155, 1968 pp.142-143, 1969 pp.156-157, 1970 pp.180-181, 1971 pp.196-197 [G]
Article : Ceylon (Sri Lanka), in : Americana Annual 1972 pp.186-187, 1973 p.178 [G]
Article : Ceylon, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book 1961 p.60 [G]
Article : Ceylon, in : The Statesman's Year-Book 1970-1971 pp. 399-405 (data of 1969-1970) [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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