HC Deb 30 November 1938 vol 342 cc405-7
41. Commander Marsden

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can give the ratio of Tamil to Sinhalese representatives under the present and previous constitutions in Ceylon?

Mr. M. MacDonald

No definite ratio was fixed either in the existing or the previous constitution, but in practice the ration of Sinhalese to Tamil members is approximately four to one in the present Council, and was approximately two to one in the previous Legislative Council.

50. Mr. Annesley Somerville

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can give the number of elected members belonging to the different communities in Ceylon, namely, Sinhalese, Ceylon-Tamil, Indian-Tamil, Muslim, Burgher, and European in the State Council of Ceylon, and their respective populations in the country?

Mr. MacDonald

As the answer contains a considerable number of figures I will, with my hon. Friends permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Somerville

In any revision of the constitution which is contemplated, will my right hon. Friend provide for adequate representation for the minorities?

Mr. MacDonald

That is one of the considerations that has engaged the attention of the Governor as well as myself, and we attach very great importance to giving adequate representation for the minorities.

Mr. T. Smith

Can the right hon. Gentleman inform the House when he is likely to be in a position to make some statement with regard to the proposed changes in the constitution of Ceylon?

Mr. MacDonald

I propose to publish despatches on the question which have passed between the Governor and myself, and I hope it will be possible to do that in the very near future, although I cannot give an exact date.

Following is the answer:

The elected members in the present State Council include 39 Sinhalese, seven Ceylon-Tamils, two Indian-Tamils, and one European. At the last census for which figures are available the population figures were approximately as follows: Sinhalese, 6,400,000; Ceylon-Tamils, 517,000; Indian-Tamils, 603,000; Muslims, 285,000; Burghers, 29,000; Europeans, 9,000.

51. Mr. Somerville

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, as a result of the working of the present constitution in Ceylon, the communal tension between various races has in fact decreased or increased?

Mr. MacDonald

While it has been freely stated that the present constitution has resulted in an enhancement of communalism, I would not like to hazard any exact estimate on the matter.

Mr. Somerville

Is my right hon. Friend aware of a recent statement by the Sinhalese leaders that Ceylon belongs to the Sinhalese and that the minorities must support them in all their demands?

Mr. MacDonald

I am not aware of that statement, and I have not seen it.

52. Sir Walter Smiles

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can give the population figures of the Muslim community in Ceylon; and whether this community has been able to secure any elected representatives in the State Council?

Mr. MacDonald

At the last census for which racial figures are available, that of 1921, the Muslim community numbered approximately 285,000. No member of this community has been elected to the present State Council.

Sir W. Smiles

Does my right hon. Friend intend to take any steps to remedy the defects in the constitution?

Mr. MacDonald

As I said in reply to an earlier question, that is one of the matters to which a great deal of thought has been given, and both the Governor and I attach very great importance to proper representation of the minorities.

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