Thursday, July 13, 2017

On framing our Constitution

Featured image courtesy ConstitutionNet

DEVANESAN NESIAH on 07/12/2017

On Independence Day we had a Constitution framed primarily by a British academic, Sir (then Dr) Ivor Jennings in the mid-40s. In formulating this document he consulted Prime Minister D.S Senanayake, Sir Oliver Goonetellike and others as and when he considered it to be necessary. The superficiality of the consultation is revealed in the response of 8, October 1949 (copied below) of Prime Minister Senanayake to Jennings on receiving a complimentary copy of “The Constitution of Ceylon”;
Dear Dr. Jennings,
Thank you very much indeed for the complimentary copy of “The Constitution of Ceylon” which I am looking forward to reading at my leisure. I have no doubt it will be very pleasant reading for me.
Yours sincerely,
sgd. D.S Senanayake
That Constitution is usually referred to as the Soulbury Constitution because Ceylon had not yet attained independence and Lord Soulbury was the Governor General. It was essentially a British product, in the drafting of which neither the population nor even the Members of the State Council had a significant hand. In this respect it is very different to those of many other Constitutions, notably of India and South Africa.