election on party basis
The second State Council had a spell of eleven years from 1936 till
1947. This was mainly due to the intervention of World War II (1939-1945)
when constitutional reforms took backstage. However, the Board of
Ministers agitated for complete internal self-government through
submitted by them in March 1937 for the restriction of the Governor's
powers and the abolition of the Officers of State (Chief Secretary
who was also Chairman of the Board of Ministers, Financial Secretary
& Legal Secretary - they were all British bureaucrats), and
a demand for Cabinet government was rejected. In 1941 the British
Government declared that after the war, a commission would examine
the constitution. While this was greeted with utmost dissatisfaction,
a resolution was passed unanimously by the State Council in 1942
demanding Dominion Status.
May 1943 following a declaration by the British Government, the
Ministers submitted a draft constitution based on the system of
Cabinet Government. Though the Ministers completed a draft constitution
by February 1944, it was later withdrawn owing to a difference of
opinion with the British Government, which appointed a Commission
under the chairmanship of Lord Soulbury (with Frederick Rees &
Frederick Burrows as members) in 1945 to examine the question of
constitutional reform. Its Report was published on October 8, 1945.
several changes had been seen among the personalities in the State
Council. The two leftist stalwarts Dr. N.M. Perera and Philip Gunawardena
vacated their seats in July 1942 for absence from sittings for a
continuous period of three months. They were among other Sama Samajists
who had been detained on an order by Governor Sir Andrew Caldecott
under the Defence Regulations and had been granted leave. No leave
application was made on their behalf when they escaped to India.
ministers resigned following their appointments abroad - Sir D.B.
Jayatilaka as Resident Representative in India (November 1942) and
G.C.S. Corea (later Sir Claude) as the Government Representative
in the United Kingdom (September 1946).
members were unseated on election petitions, one had been expelled
on a resolution passed by the Council, and six resigned in May 1943
following the findings of the L.M.D. de Silva Commission on bribery.
Soulbury Commission recommended a Parliamentary system of government.
The State Council was replaced by a Parliament consisting of a House
of Representatives (Lower House with 101 members - 95 elected by
the people and 6 nominated by the Governor-General to represent
minorities or unrepresented interests) and a Senate (Upper House
with 30 members - 15 to be nominated by the Governor-General and
the balance to be elected by the Lower House).
to the first Parliament were held in August 1947. For the first
time, elections were being held on a party basis. Nine parties put
forward candidates with the United National Party (UNP) fielding
the largest number (98). The UNP had been formed in September 1946
under the leadership of D.S. Senanayake who had risen to the position
of Leader of the State Council and Vice Chairman of the Board of
Ministers succeeding Sir Baron Jayatilaka when the latter went as
envoy to India in November 1942. (Sir Baron died on May 31, 1944
while flying from India where he had fallen ill). The Sinhala Maha
Sabha which had been formed by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike also joined
the UNP maintaining its identity within the latter. UNP was described
by Mr. Bandaranaike as "a coalition party formed for government
three Marxist parties - the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), Bolshevik
Leninist Party (BLP) and Communist Party (CP) - as well as the All-Ceylon
Tamil Congress (TC) and the Ceylon Indian Congress (CIC) opposed
the UNP. Three other parties - Labour Party, United Lanka Congress
and Swaraj Party - too fielded candidates. The largest number (181)
contested as Independents.
in the previous elections where at each polling booth there was
a separate box for each candidate denoting his colour, the 1947
General Election saw candidates being allotted symbols approved
by the Commissioner of Parliamentary Elections. Each individual
party was not given a specific symbol with the result that members
of the same party got different symbols in different constituencies.
Thus there wasn't a common symbol for a party. The voter had to
mark against the name and the symbol on the ballot paper. The symbol
helped the illiterate voters to identify the candidate of his or
her choice. Twenty-four approved symbols were used for the General
of the 89 constituencies, four were multi-member ones - Colombo
Central returning three members and Ambalangoda-Balapitiya, Badulla,
Balangoda and Kadugannawa two each thereby totalling 95 elected
members. On Nomination day - July 26, 1947 - one candidate, H.S.
Ismail (Ind.) was returned uncontested to the Puttalam seat. In
all, 361 candidates handed in their nominations. Ninety-eight of
them were from the UNP. There were instances when members of the
same party contested the same seat. In Polonnaruwa, for example,
five of the six candidates were from the UNP.
except five elected members of the State Council sought election
to the House of Representatives. One State Councillor Dr. A.P. de
Zoysa (Colombo South) handed in his nomination papers for two seats
- Colombo North and Wellawatta-Galkissa. He lost both. Among the
contestants were three females - Florence Senanayake (LSSP-Kiriella),
Ayesha Rauf (Independent-Colombo Central) and Srimathie Abeygoonewardena
(CP-Ambalangoda/Balapitiya). Among the professionals contesting
was one member of the medical profession - Dr. A. Ratnapala contesting
elections stretched for 19 days between August 2 and September 20.
Ten constituencies polled on the first day. Among the winners was
the UNP leader, D.S. Senanayake (Mirigama) who polled 26,762 votes
against LSSP's Edmund Samarakkody (10,673). In Jaffna it was a tussle
between Home Affairs Minister A. Mahadeva (UNP) and Tamil Congress
leader G.G. Ponnambalam. Jaffna decided on Ponnambalam. In Galle
W. Dahanayake (BLP) who was to be a colourful personality in several
Parliaments later, beat H.W. Amarasuriya (UNP) and at Matugama,
Independent candidate Wilmot A. Perera beat Education Minister C.W.W.
most interesting contest was in Colombo Central which went to the
polls on the last day with the other electorates in Colombo. There
were 55,994 voters in this three-member constituency. Fifteen contestants
were in the fray. The election was on a Saturday and after a whole
day's counting, the results were announced on Monday. A.E. Goonasinha
(Labour - 23,470 votes), T.B. Jayah (UNP-18,439) and Pieter Keuneman
(CP-15,435) were elected. There were 3,489 spoilt votes.
all, 131 candidates forfeited their deposits having failed to poll
the required 1/8 of the votes cast. All three candidates of the
Lanka Swaraj Party lost their deposits. The United Lanka Congress
contested two seats and failed to gain either.
the end of the elections, the Party position is as shown in the
box below. While the largest majority (26,854) was obtained by S.W.R.D.
Bandaranaike (UNP-Attanagalla) in a straight contest with Chandra
Gunasekera (LSSP), the smallest majority (22) was by K. Don Sugathadasa
(Ind-Welimada) in a three cornered contest. Stephen Seneviratne
(UNP-Polonnaruwa) polled the least number of votes (45).
Of the three women candidates, only one, Florence Senanayake (LSSP-Kiriella)
Sir Henry Monk Mason Moore called upon the leader of the party with
the largest number of seats, UNP's D.S. Senanayake to form the government.
With the six nominated MPs and the support of some Tamil Independent
MPs, he formed the Government with a Cabinet of 14 ministers. While
PM Senanayake also held the portfolios of Defence and External Affairs,
S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike was appointed Leader of the House in addition
to being Minister of Health & Local Government. Dr. N.M. Perera
became the Leader of the Opposition.
the first meeting of the House of Representatives on October 14,
1947, A.F. (later Sir Francis) Molamure was elected Speaker with
a majority vote 58-41 (with two members declining to vote) against
the Opposition candidate H. Sri Nissanka. R.A. de Mel became Deputy
Speaker defeating Wilmot A. Perera 52-47. Appointed MP, J.A. Martensz
was unanimously elected Deputy Chairman of Committees.
the months that followed, there were several changes due to the
unseating of MPs following election petitions, resignations and
deaths. The death of Speaker Molamure in January 1951 saw Albert
F. Peries (Nattandiya) becoming Speaker.
the Senate, Sir Gerard Wijeyekoon was elected President in a contest
with C. Coomaraswamy 14-13. Peri Sunderam was elected Deputy President,
also with a majority vote of one, against C.A. Gardiner.