Sri Lanka in the 1970’s

Sri Lanka in the 1970’s

Parliamentary democracy, one of the oldest in South Asia, has been subjected to a series of tensions which have changed its nature somewhat. According to GETZIPCODES, the government of Mrs. Sri Lanka Bandaranaike, in power since June 1960 and oriented towards the left, first of all subjected private schools to state control, despite the opposition above all of the Catholic minority. But he soon had to devote all his attention to the northern districts, where the introduction of Sinhala as the only official language had provoked violent opposition from the Tamil-speaking population. A movement of civil disobedience degenerated into acts of violence and the government, after outlawing the Federal Party, an expression of the Tamil population, ended up proclaiming in

Meanwhile, the government had emerged unscathed from a coup attempted by senior army and police officers, nipped in the bud. Governor General O. Goonetilleke, in office since 1954, was suspected of being involved and had to leave office, replaced by W. Gopallawa. The problem of Indian residents in the North (descendants of immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries), which was a source of friction with the government of India, was solved with the agreement of 30 October 1964; out of about one million Indian natives, about 525,000 had to be repatriated to India over a period of 15 years; 300,000 would have received Sinhalese citizenship; the position of the remaining 150,000 would be revised later. The treaty gave rise to some friction and its implementation suffered considerable delays; but it was confirmed and perfected in later chords (1968). Meanwhile, the government continued with nationalizations: life insurance, fuel distribution, etc. Although the base had been expanded in 1954, the government suffered a severe defeat in the 1965 elections. Dudley Senanayake, head of the United National Party, formed a center-right coalition cabinet, which devoted its activities mainly to agriculture and to the private sector of industry. But already in 1966 he attracted the violent opposition of the influential Buddhist clergy, for having made some linguistic concessions to the Tamil community. Although the base had been expanded in 1954, the government suffered a severe defeat in the 1965 elections. Dudley Senanayake, head of the United National Party, formed a center-right coalition cabinet, which devoted its activities mainly to agriculture and to the private sector of industry. But already in 1966 he attracted the violent opposition of the influential Buddhist clergy, for having made some linguistic concessions to the Tamil community. Although the base had been enlarged in 1954, the government suffered a severe defeat in the 1965 elections. Dudley Senanayake, head of the United National Party, formed a center-right coalition cabinet, which devoted its activities mainly to agriculture and to the private sector of industry. But already in 1966 he attracted the violent opposition of the influential Buddhist clergy, for having made some linguistic concessions to the Tamil community.

The elections of 1970 brought the Sri Lanka Party back to power, supported by Communists and Trotskyists; Mrs. Bandaranaike was again prime minister, and the situation has evolved rapidly since then. By unanimous vote the new Parliament was transformed into a constituent assembly and the new constitution was promulgated on May 22, 1972. Ceylon became the republic of Sri Lanka, with a unicameral Parliament holding legislative and executive powers; the president of the Republic, with purely protocol functions, was appointed by the prime minister; first president was Governor General Gopallawa.

Most of the tea and rubber plantations, the oil industry, part of the export trade, most of the newspapers were nationalized. In spite of this, the government was opposed from the left, and in March 1971 a “Guevarist” insurrection broke out, led by the Popular Liberation Front, made up mostly of students. The guerrilla warfare took hold in certain areas of the countryside, but was soon limited and suffocated with the proclamation of a state of emergency; however, isolated gangs survived until 1973. The economic situation had become difficult, due to the decrease in demand for the main products: tea, rubber, coconut; to this was added the budget deficit, demographic pressure, the formation of an intellectual proletariat, rising unemployment. Furthermore, the proclamation of a unitary republic had met with opposition in the North, where the Tamils ​​demanded the transformation of Ceylon into a federal state and only partially allowed themselves to be appeased by the concession of the use of their language in the courts. In the July 1977 elections, the ruling party was severely beaten by the National Union Party, whose leader, Junius R. Jayawardene, was responsible for forming the new government. In October, an amendment to the constitution of 1972 modified the political system in a presidential sense, according to the French model; economic policy has encouraged foreign investment and replaced state monopolies with a system of controls that leaves room for the private sector. A new Constitution entered into force in September 1978: the denomination of the state is now that of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka; the official language remains Sinhala, but Tamil is recognized as a national language; the 1977 amendment is confirmed, with the extension of the powers of the Presidency.

In foreign policy, Ceylon, in keeping with its internal tendencies, has maintained particularly cordial relations with China, especially after the visit of Chinese Prime Minister Chou En-lai in 1964. This policy was accentuated with the return to power of the left in 1970 The governments of North Korea and Vietnam and East Germany were immediately recognized; and in 1972 Bandaranaike went to China, where they obtained a loan on good terms. This policy also continued with Iayawardene.

Sri Lanka in the 1970's

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