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Fernando, Quintus Godfrey (1973) The Minorities in Ceylon, 1926-1931 With Special Reference to the Donoughmore Commission. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00033667

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Abstract

The purpose of this study is to shed light on the behaviour of the ethnic, caste and religious minority groups in Ceylon during the five years of investigations, consultations and debates that culminated in the Donoughmore Constitution of 1931; and also to inquire whether communalism - the political form of the minority problem - was actually aggravated during this period. Based on criteria of ancestral origin, social organisation and religious belief, which are the chief sources of division of society in Ceylon, and, for that matter, in South Asia generally, the study considers the following minorities: the Kandyan Sinhalese, the Tamils, Indians, Muslims (Moors and Malays), Burghers and Europeans as ethnic minorities; all the non-Goyigama and non-Vellala caste groups as caste minorities; and the Christians as a religious minority. As a preamble to a detailed study of the period under review, this work also considers briefly the years 1912-1925 which witnessed the political stirrings of a new Western-educated elite, drawn from virtually all the communities, and the Government's decision to expand and strengthen communal representation. This raises a question how far separate representation encouraged the growth of communalism by providing wider opportunities for the political elite to appeal to the latent communal feelings of their communities. A major question is the extent to which the activities of the Donoughmore Commission provided a forum for, or even provoked, a struggle between communal groups seeking advantage for themselves. A corollary is the degree to which the background and disposition of the Commissioners were significant: Lord Donoughmore, the Irishman, believing that the Irish issue should be 'settled by consent' rather than by force of arms; the Cornishman Butler thinking that the Duchy of Cornwall was 'completely separate from England'; and Shiels, the Scottish Fabian, fervently believing that Scotland should have a separate existence. It may be questioned whether the deep awareness of their own minority condition was not reflected in their investigation and analysis of the minority problems in Ceylon, Attention is paid to the evidence offered to the Commission and the interest groups which presented it, as a basis for grasping the nature of Ceylonese communalism; and for establishing a possible correlation between the nature of Ceylonese elites and the minority problem. Finally the question is asked why, when the Commissioners' diagnosis, that communalism was the malaise of Ceylonese society, was similar to that of Montagu and Chelmsford in India they should have chosen unlike the Indian Reformers to abolish communal representation and to introduce universal suffrage. Besides the written and oral evidence before the commission, the materials for this study were drawn from official sources, private papers and diaries, and contemporary newspapers and journals.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00033667
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 17:18
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/33667

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