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Home > Tamils - a Trans State Nation > Human Rights & the Tamil Nation > Somasunderam Nadesan > Senate Speech on Ceylon Citizenship Bill, 1948
Somasunderam Nadesan Q.C.
Ceylon Citizenship Bill
Mr. President, I am very thankful to the Hon. Leader for having extended to me the courtesy of winding up the debate on behalf of those who have taken part in it from the Opposition Benches.
I must certainly congratulate the Hon. Leader on the very able manner in which he presented this Bill, although I must confess that his speech smacked a lot of the academic legal training he has had. Of course, it is rather difficult for one who was nurtured in the law, who has made an academic study of the law to the extent of having the Doctorate of Law conferred on him, to avoid dealing with a subject of this nature in a solely academic fashion.
In various parts of his speech, the Hon. Leader told us that certain countries have certain citizenship laws for one purpose; that certain other countries have certain other citizenship laws for a different purpose. It may be that some countries are worried about their economic condition, whilst some other countries are worried about some other problem. It may be that yet other countries may have a third problem to solve. It may be that some countries are worried about a large neighbour, with a large population.
If one reads the entirety of his speech, one would notice that the Hon. Leader has not categorically stated the reasons that induced the Government to introduce into this Bill certain provisions which are rather peculiar, if I may say so, from the point of view of the jurisprudence of various countries of the world.
The main reason which has brought about this Bill is that the Government wants to exclude as much of the Plantation Tamil population as is possible from becoming citizens of this country...
But, after listening to the entirety of the debate, one cannot help feeling that the main reason which has brought about the form that this Bill has taken is that the Government wants to exclude as much of the Plantation Tamil population as is possible from becoming citizens of this country.
That much, I believe, is fairly clear both from certain incidental references that were made by the Hon. Leader and from the other speeches that were delivered on behalf of the Government. Therefore, it would be correct to say that the provisions such as we find in the Citizenship Bill have been specifically designed to limit the number of Plantation Tamils resident in this country who can claim citizenship under the Bill.
When one fashions a Citizenship Bill for any country, one has to take into consideration the historical circumstances, the composition of the population and the circumstances under which that population came into being. It is only after a study of and due regard for all those circumstances that any responsible Legislature, any responsible Government can formulate proposals for a Citizenship Bill.
We have not been told, either in this Chamber or anywhere else, anything with regard to the composition of the population of this country, the circumstances under which this large immigrants population came into the country, and the historical circumstances attending the question of the immigration of a section of the population.
I venture to submit, with very great respect, that it is absolutely essential that one should be apprised fully of the history of Plantation Tamil immigration into this country before one can possibly frame anything like a Citizenship Bill which has to take into consideration the classification of the citizens of this country. We have not been told that the Government had addressed their minds to that problem.
There is yet another matter which has to be taken into consideration, namely, the undertakings that may have been given by the previous Government of this country to other Governments for the purpose of facilitating the immigration of the Plantation Tamil population into this country.
One has to understand first whether it is a case of the Plantation Tamil immigrants, finding that conditions of employment in this country were favourable, had come to Ceylon only for that purpose, or whether they came here as a result of certain specific undertakings that had been given by the Ceylon Government to the Government of India.
This is a matter which concerns not only the human rights of the Plantation Tamil population in this country, but also the sanctity of undertakings given by one Government to another...
This is a matter which concerns not only the human rights of the Plantation Tamil population in this country, but also the sanctity of undertakings given by one Government to another. I would respectfully submit that no Government can possibly treat those undertakings as mere scraps of paper without being guilty of a gross breach of faith, unworthy of any civilised Government of our time.
Now, if one looks at this problem from that point of view, as I propose to do, it may not be necessary after all on a subject such as this, to try to score debating points. The subject is far too big for a thing like that, and I propose to treat this problem with the seriousness that it deserves, for the reason that it is one of the most important matters with which we have been faced subsequent to the debate that we had on Independence.
It was in the year 1837 that the Indian Government permitted the emigration of its labour to other parts of the world...
It was in the year 1837, that the Indian Government permitted the emigration of its labour to other parts of the world for the purpose of enabling those parts to be developed by British capital. Of course, I am not unaware that in India too there was a British Government, as there was in Ceylon at that time. I might also mention that, though in 1837 the Indian Government permitted emigration to other countries, they restricted that emigration only to Ceylon, for the reason that, socially and ethnologically considered, Ceylon and her population were similar to India and her population and, therefore, there could be no objection to the Indians in India immigrating to Ceylon; they did not, in that year, permit emigration to any other part of the world.
Thereafter, the Indian Government were so keen to prevent the emigration of their citizens to countries other than Ceylon that they even took the trouble of insisting that an Ordinance should be passed in Ceylon preventing any of the Indian emigrants who had come into Ceylon from entering into agreements for service in other parts of the world. That is why, even today, we find in our Statute Book, Ordinance No. 3 of 1847 prohibiting Indians in Ceylon from entering into contracts for service abroad.
The Indian Government, in the year 1847 made certain conditions before allowing Indians to emigrate to this country. One condition as I have already mentioned was that the Indians in Ceylon should not be allowed to enter into contracts for service abroad.
There were certain other conditions on which they insisted, not only before they allowed emigrants to Ceylon, but also before they allowed emigration to other countries thereafter. One of the most important conditions on which the Indian Government have been systematically insisting has been that the emigrants should be accorded complete equality of legal and political status in the country to which they emigrated.
That is a historical fact which has to be remembered before one can possibly consider Bills of this nature in their proper setting.
(Again) as early as March 1875, Lord Salisbury in his Dispatch on indentured labour stated that it should be an indispensable condition of indentured emigration that Indians who had completed their terms of indenture should be in all respects free men subject to no Labour Ordinances and with personal privileges no whit inferior to those of any other class of His Majesty's subjects resident in the Colony. Even in respect of the indentured labour, it was after Governments which wanted the Indian population to emigrate to their countries, had given the necessary assurance that the Indian Government permitted the emigration of their labour.
In 1910, the Sanderson Committee quoted with approval the dictum of Lord Salisbury that the immigrants on completion of their indenture should be free either to settle as free citizens in the Colony...
What is more, in 1910, when the Indian Government appointed what is known as the Sanderson Committee to report on the condition of the Indian labour in various parts of the world, the Committee quoted with approval, the dictum of Lord Salisbury and said:
This Report was published in 1910. I am stating these facts in order to indicate that the definite policy of the Indian Government before they permitted the emigration of Indian labour to any country which required the services of Indian labour was to insist that that country should assure to Indian emigrant labour complete equality of status with the rest of the population.
The system of indentured labour gave rise to a considerable amount of discontent in various parts of the world. In several countries Indian labour was badly treated, for instance, in South Africa, and I remember even our National Congress in 1920 passed a resolution protesting unanimously against the treatment meted out to Indian and Asians in South Africa...
Later, in 1916, Lord Hardinge was responsible for the declaration by which indentured labour was abolished. Thereafter, not satisfied with that, the Indian Government introduced in their Legislature, in 1921, what is known as the Indian Emigration Act, by which they sought to prohibit completely the emigration of all Indian labour to other countries in the world, on account of the harsh treatment that had been meted out to them in certain unfriendly countries.
Of course, at that time the Indian Government did not consider that Ceylon too was one of those countries which would discriminate against Indian immigrant labour. Up to 1921, Ceylon had treated all the Indians in this country and particularly Plantation Tamil labour, on a footing of complete equality with the rest of the population. We had solemnly observed all the undertakings that had been given by us to the Indian Government. What is more, we had in our National Congress meetings vociferously proclaimed our sympathy with Indian labour in places like South Africa where they had been maltreated. Thus, there was no reason for the Indian Government to consider that in Ceylon a people who belonged ethnologically to practically the same group would be treated in a different manner.
I wish to refer at this stage to certain speeches which were delivered in the Indian Legislature when the Indian Emigration Bill was introduced. This is what one of the sponsors - I believe the mover of that Bill said in the Indian Legislature in 1922 - I shall subsequently give the reference to the local Hansard where these matters are referred to:
That was their policy. The Emigration Bill became law in India, and under that Bill emigration to all countries, including Ceylon, was prohibited, unless certain conditions were satisfied.
Plantation Tamil labour came here on a certain basis, on certain undertakings given, not by individuals, but by the Government...
What did Ceylon do on that occasion? That was the memorable occasion on which we sent a deputation ...to Delhi for the purpose of pleading with the Indian Government to remove the ban on emigration of Indian labour to this country.
The Deputation waited on the Indian Government. It pleaded with the Indian Government to raise the ban on emigration so far as Ceylon was concerned. It gave the necessary undertakings in respect of the absolute equality of treatment that would be accorded to Indian labour that would emigrate to this country in regard to conditions of employment and wages. It was at the direct request of the Ceylon Government that the Indian Government raised the ban on emigration of Indian labour so far as Ceylon was concerned, on the basis of the solemn undertakings given. That is a fact.
Plantation Tamil labour came here on a certain basis, on certain undertakings given, not by individuals, but by the Government. Perhaps it may be all right for an individual to tell his employee "Well, I employed you yesterday. No doubt I told you all those nice things and brought you here. Now I do not want you here. You had better go back". But no Government can talk like that to another Government, and also talk of membership of the United Nations Organisation after behaving like that.
You will remember, Mr. President, that after those undertakings were given, Ceylon passed an Ordinance - Ordinance No. 1 of 1923 - to set up the machinery required by the Indian Emigration Act as regards wages, etc. and the Indian Government thereafter exempted Ceylon from the operation of its Emigration Act of 1923.
Finding that those undertakings were rather inconvenient, attempts have been made in several quarters to whittle them down; and responsible statesmen in this country have been heard to say that those were not undertakings in the real sense of the term, that they were pieces of information conveyed to the Indian Government, as a result of which of course the Indian Government permitted the emigration of Plantation Tamil labour into Ceylon.
If you looked the Annual Reports of the Commissioner of Labour, you will see that at page 127 of the Report for 1927, for instance, he makes it a specific point to say that Indians enjoyed in Ceylon all political and legal rights enjoyed by the other races; what is more, that was printed in the form of pamphlets and distributed in India, for the purpose of making those people to emigrate to Ceylon on Governmental authority. So that, after the Ceylon Government conveyed to the Indian Government certain undertakings, and after certain documents were distributed in India, telling the people there that they would enjoy complete political equality with other inhabitants in this country, certain legislation affecting the rights and privileges of those very Indians was brought up.
The question arises, what are the principles that should apply in respect of such legislation? That is a matter with which I shall presently deal.
I say that on that question, despite historical facts, attempts have been made by responsible people in this country to whittle down the undertakings given to the Indian Government at the time the ban on immigration of labour to Ceylon was lifted. In respect of that, I can do no better than refer to the reply given by a person who has been acclaimed as a great lover of Ceylon, as a person who was partly responsible for expediting the achievement of our so-called freedom - I refer to Sir Andrew Caldecott.
I do not think anybody occupying that Government Benches will say that Sir Andrew Caldecott was partial to India; that he was not at all concerned with the correctness of the statement he made in reply to those who were trying to wriggle out of those rather, to them, inconvenient undertakings by regarding them as pieces of information. Sir Andrew Caldecott made this statement:
That was the reply Sir Andrew Caldecott gave to those who tried to wriggle out of the position which had been created. Emigration of labour from India for work on Ceylon plantations right throughout the centuries took place on the basis of definite undertakings of political equality given by this Government.
I might also, in this connection, refer to the statements made by the Chief Secretary at the time in the course of the debate on the Ceylon Immigration Bill in 1941. In the proceedings of that debate, recorded in Volume I - of Hansard of 1941 - page 274 onwards - Mr. Wodeman set out the various undertakings given by the Government of Ceylon to the Government of India before emigration from India was permitted. I do not desire to trouble you, Mr. President, by going into those undertakings in detail, but I should like to impress on this Assembly what Mr. Wodeman said finally. He said:
I believe I am right in saying that that is a matter which any country worthy of its name must take into consideration when formulating legislation defining its citizens. I say that because Ceylon had induced a large number of persons from India to immigrate into this country on the basis of certain undertakings which were given to the Government of that country as well as to the persons who immigrated here. Due regard has to be given to that aspect of the matter when you consider a Bill such as this; but there is no evidence at all on the side of the Government to show that they have paid any regard whatsoever to that aspect of the question.
On the unqualified statement made that Ceylon has the right, as every other country, to determine the composition of its population ...when Germany under Hitler, started to de-citizenise the Jews, every civilised country in the world condemned it...
The Hon. Leader very rightly, very appropriately, said that one who viewed the matter disinterestedly, without passion, without preconceived notions, without preconceived theories and prejudices - of course, he meant that everyone looked at the Bill in that way - one would find nothing controversial in the Bill. But I think that if one looks at the Bill without passion without preconceived ideas and theories, one will find that it is of a very controversial nature indeed.
One has to approach the question without such prejudices as the Hon. Leader, in the course of his remarks in introducing this Bill, referred to.
He said that every country has the right to determine the composition of its population, and that nobody could deny our country which is free, that right. I quite agree with him that nobody can deny us that right. Every independent country has that right.
But, Mr. President, that is a right which has to be exercised with due regard to certain principles of natural justice and equity. One should have regard to the earlier historical facts; one should have some regard to the solemnity of the earlier undertakings given, when one says that this Government have the right to determine the composition of its population, when one says that what one proposes to do is to disregard everything else for the purpose of achieving the greatest good of the greatest number of people in whom one is interested.
The other matter that I would like to remind Hon Senators of is this. All the world over problems have arisen, at various times, over the question of emigration and immigration. The problem that now faces us is not one peculiar to Ceylon. This is a problem that has arisen the world over. It has to be viewed in its proper setting; it has to be properly evaluated, and the Government should, after sober and mature consideration, decide on what should be done in that matter.
It is true that freedom of migration has created different problems in different countries of the world...
Now, it is true that migration has created different problems in different countries of the world. For instance, we know the problem that has been created in South Africa. There the problem is one of colour. Ethnologically, the white races consider that they are different from the Asiatic races, and that it is difficult for them to integrate the Asiatic races and become one with them, with the result that a very peculiar problem has been created in South Africa....
Again, one may understand the difficulty with regard to the assimilation of an Indian immigrant population into the population of a people belonging to the Mongolian races. We can understand the difficulties that will arise with regard to the assimilation of such a population which has immigrated into, say, Burma, with, if I may use the expression used by the Hon. Leader the "indigenous population" who have been there for a longer period. People belonging to different races getting together create certain other social problems of a difficult nature which cannot be easily solved.
There is the same problem in America, which was in one sense due to immigration, though it was really the result of slave labour, namely the Negro question. ..
But fortunately for us, the problem of Plantation Tamil immigrant labour in this country is not complicated by any such colour or racial problems. That is a matter which has to be borne in mind because none of the problems that confront the Government of South Africa, or the Government of Burma, or any other Government where these racial and colour problems and conflicts exist, confronts the Government of this country.
When all is said and done, as the Hon. Senator, who disclaims membership of the Sinhala Maha Sabha (Senator Kotelawala) stated yesterday, we are a thoroughly mixed population, everyone of us, whether we are from the Tamil Provinces or Sinhalese Districts. Down the centuries, persons have come from various parts in India, particularly South India, and settled down in the various districts of this Island, and they have been integrated into the rest of the population. Of course, those persons who settled down in the Northern Provinces or in Jaffna got assimilated into the Tamil-speaking population, others who settled down farther South got assimilated into the Sinhalese-speaking population. They settled in the villages, and by a gradual process they took unto themselves the habits of the people with whom they lived and adopted their language and were assimilated.
If Hon. Senators are interested enough to refer to the Gazette of 15th May 1830, they will find a description of the life of the ancestors of some of the most prominent Sinhala nationalists leaders in Ceylon today. Their ancestors were Tamils, but today their descendants are ardent Sinhalese nationals! That is how the process of assimilation has been going on....
In India too there has been a large mixture of population. The so-called Aryans, Dravidians, and various other races that permeated into South India have been mixed. But most of us, when we go to other parts of the world are called Indians because physiognomically and ethnologically we belong to that race. There is no racial distinction between Indians and ourselves.
The Indians who settled in some of the coastal districts of this Island 30 to 40 years ago and who spoke the Tamil language, are today speaking the Sinhalese language. They took to the Sinhalese language, adopted Sinhalese names, and Buddhism so easily that they have got assimilated with the rest of the population, and they have now become one with the rest of the population.
But unfortunately, in the case of the Plantation Tamil labourer, a peculiar problem was created. That problem was created in this manner. Plantation Tamil labourers came to this country in very large numbers for the purpose of serving on the plantations, but instead of being permitted to settle down in village settlements, from where they could have gone to work on their estates, they were segregated in lines on estates, away from the general trend of life; away from the rest of the population, with the result that they have not got assimilated as they otherwise would have been.
But if one looks at the problem one will find that the real reasons why Plantation Tamil labour has not been assimilated into the rest of the population, as was the case with other Indian settlers anterior to them, is because we did not provide them with the necessary conditions for such assimilation. That is the only reasons; there is no other reason at all. In point of fact, if such condition has been provided, I say that this Plantation Tamil labour population today, would to a large extent perhaps, have been speaking a different language; and from a humanitarian point of view all their problems would have been very satisfactorily solved.
The Hon. Deputy President draws my attention to the fact that Major Orde Brown, in one of his reports, referred to the necessity for such village settlements, to enable the Plantation Tamil labourers to lead a more natural life in this country. However that may be, what I wish to emphasise is this; if, out of the surplus money produced by their toil we had taken the trouble to provide this labour with village settlements, by this time that labour would have been completely assimilated with the rest of the population, and that would have conduced considerably to the unity and strength of our country. But unfortunately, that has not happened. That is a situation which can always be remedied, but I am afraid that the Citizenship Bill is a Bill which will militate against the assimilation of that Plantation Tamil population. This is one of the reasons why I am opposed to this Bill.
D.S.Senanayake in 1928: "We do not want to differentiate. We do not want to discriminate. We do not consider that Indians are aliens. Let them become our citizens and not citizens of any other country; then we will welcome them"...
(Here) I can do no better than refer to the speech made by the Hon. Mr. D. S. Senanayake as he then was, in the course of the discussion on the Donoughmore Commission proposals in the State Council. This is what he said in the course of his speech:
That was in the year 1928. "We do not want to differentiate. We do not want to discriminate. We do not consider that Indians are aliens. Let them become our citizens and not citizens of any other country; then we will welcome them".
That was the theme of the speech made by the Hon. Mr. Senanayake in the year 1928. It establishes two propositions; firstly, that there is no social or racial objection to the assimilation of the Plantation Tamil population in this country or to the granting of citizenship rights to them; secondly, that if the entirety of the Plantation Tamil population in this country, even at that time, were willing to make Ceylon their home and were prepared to disown any other citizenship but Ceylon citizenship, there would be no objection to the entirety of the population being assimilated into Ceylon citizenship.
At that stage no economic reasons were advanced against the assimilation of the Plantation Tamil population. Only one condition was laid down and that was "Become part of ourselves, become Ceylonese and then share in the Government of the country".
Now, Mr. President, this is a bona fide declaration of policy by an acknowledged leader of this country, which was made at a very important moment in the history of this country. Is not the Government bound, in any Citizenship Bill that it evolves, to honour observation of that nature, coming as it did from such a quarter?
Nor is that all; as recently as 1947, in the course of the debate on the White Paper proposals, this is what the Hon. Mr. Senanayake, as he then was, said:
That is the important declaration of policy made on a historic occasion by the acknowledged Leader of the country. Mr. President, it is important for us to see if that solemn declaration of policy, which was enunciated on the occasion of the historic debate in support of the White Paper proposals, has been honoured in this Citizenship Bill.
Nor is that all; that declaration of policy really succeeded, as the Hon. Deputy President indicated the other day the representations that were made by the Hon. Mr. D. S. Senanayake in the course of private conversations which he had with the Soulbury Commissioners when they were here, as will be clear and apparent from what appears in the Commissioners' Report. The particular paragraph was also referred to by the Hon. Deputy President. This is what the Commissioners say:
D.S.Senanayake in 1947: "If you live here, we will embrace you"...
How did the Soulbury Commissioners discover that the Government of Ceylon already had the desire to integrate the Plantation Tamil community and to make them part and parcel of a single Ceylonese nation?
The only Member of the Government of Ceylon at that time who had anything to do with the Soulbury Commissioners during that period, and who made representations to them, was the Hon. Mr. D. S. Senanayake. And it is but right and proper to say that, so far as the Government of Ceylon was concerned, at the particular point of time that the Soulbury Commissioners came here, they clearly and unequivocally indicated to them that they had the desire to integrate the Plantation Tamil population and to make it part and parcel of a single Ceylonese nation. It is consequent on that - when the historic debate in the State Council took place in respect of the White Paper proposals that the Leader of the then State Council, on that occasion, said with reference to the Plantation Tamils here, "If you live here, we will embrace you".
Mr. President, if we look at this Citizenship Bill with this background, namely, the Government's stated desire to integrate the Plantation Tamil community and to make it part and parcel of a single Ceylonese nation, what do we find? I do not propose to deal at this stage with the question of citizenship by birth or citizenship by descent. I am only concerned with the question whether even in the meagre form in which this Bill has been drafted, effect has been given to this desire to integrate the Plantation Tamil population and to make it part and parcel of a single Ceylonese nation; or in other words, whether effect has been given to this dictum. "If you live here, we will embrace you".
This Bill refers, first of all, to citizenship by descent and, thereafter, to citizenship by registration...
This Bill refers, first of all, to citizenship by descent and, thereafter, to citizenship by registration. But, for the purpose of clearing up certain difficulties that have been created, reference was made to some Citizenship Bill for Indian residents which is to come up in the future.
With regard to that, I wish to state straightaway that, apart from what some enterprising newspaper has published in its columns today, which may be right or which may be wrong, we do not know very much about those proposals. Even if we do know something about those proposals, I wish to emphasise that this has nothing to do with this question, which I propose to examine at present in order to ascertain whether this Bill gives effect to the declared policy of the leaders of this country on certain important matters.
It may be that, subject to difficulties with regard to proof, a certain number of Plantation Tamil labourers in this country will be able to establish that they were born in Ceylon and that their fathers were also born in Ceylon. Then, of course, they become citizens of Ceylon.
The next Clause goes on to say that if a person is born after the appointed date, he shall have the status of a citizen of Ceylon by descent if, at the time of his birth, his father was a citizen of Ceylon. That is what it says. In other words, if an Plantation Tamil was born in Ceylon and if, after the appointed date, a child is born to him, that child cannot become a citizen of Ceylon by descent. Why?
If you are anxious to integrate the Plantation Tamil population, and if it is your declared policy not only to integrate, but also to "embrace" the Indians if the occasion arises, why is it, I ask, that you are preventing the integration of the Plantation Tamil population by postulating an appointed date and saying that if you are born thereafter you shall not become a citizen by descent?
If the earnest desire of the Government is to integrate that population, and if the Government have any regard for the words of their leaders spoken on solemn occasions and for the representations made by them to certain Commissioners who came to this Island, one would have thought that a person could become a citizen of Ceylon if his father was also born in Ceylon. Supposing you had a provision like that - that any person can become a citizen of Ceylon if he was born in Ceylon, and his father was born in Ceylon, or his paternal grandfather and paternal great-grandfather were born in Ceylon? It would mean that at any point of time if the Plantation Tamil labourers in this country have children born to them in Ceylon, at least those children will become citizens of this country.
Apart from questions of citizenship by birth and citizenship by descent, even if this rigid test of having two generations is made applicable without any appointed date being fixed, then it would automatically result, in process of time, in the Plantation Tamil population and their descendants who are genuinely settled down here being integrated and becoming citizens of Ceylon. Of course, no one is going to suggest that somebody from India is going to rush down to Ceylon to give birth to a child for the purpose of that child becoming a citizen of Ceylon. It will be a clear indication, if for two generations there have been children born in this country, that there is some amount of permanent settlement, and therefore, that one can consider them citizens by descent.
Why is that provision absent from this Bill? Leaving aside all questions of citizenship by birth, jus sanguinis, jus soli and all the rest of it, why is such a feature absent from this Bill? Is it consistent with the declaration of policy of the leaders of this country? If it is not consistent with those declarations of policy, can we, as a deliberative body, be a party to an enactment of this nature? This is a question which has to be very seriously considered.
It has been said times without number, by various people on various occasions, that this unfortunate Plantation Tamil labourer, who has been brought down to this country and who himself is as much the victim of circumstances as the Sinhalese villager who is said to have been ignored and completely neglected, has come here and usurped the rights of the Sinhalese labourer whose lands have been expropriated and given over to various companies for the purpose of developing the tea plantations by the feudal chieftains of those areas.
Although, in point of fact, neither the Plantation Tamil labourer nor the Sinhalese villager is to blame, because both of them are in much the same situation, both being victims of circumstances, for some mysterious reason it has been stated that the Plantation Tamil labourer, the humble Plantation Tamil labourer, is in some manner or other more responsible than anybody else for having created the present problem; whereas in reality that poor man was brought into this country and made to work for this country.
It has been said that the Plantation Tamil labourer keeps away from the rest of the population...
It has been said that the Plantation Tamil labourer keeps away from the rest of the population, and that he is segregated in estate lines, far away from the others. That is so; but who is responsible for it? Is that man in a position to buy a piece of land for himself, and put up a house, and live like the other villagers with a view to assisting the country in this process of assimilation? These are the conditions which we ourselves provided for him. It is we who segregated him. It is we who have created for him those very conditions, which have prevented him from being integrated with the rest of the population, and it hardly lies in our mouths to say that they do not unite with the rest of the people and that they remain all alone by themselves far away on estates. It is we who created those conditions for him, and it is we who must remedy those conditions.
Instead of doing that, we get up on public platforms and proclaim that we are not responsible for their mode of living. We are not responsible for their coming here and living in isolation on those estates; as if they themselves chose that mode of living. After doing that ourselves it hardly lies in our mouths to say that it is their fault that they do not identify themselves with the rest of the people in this country.
What is he to do - this poor man? He is far away on some remote estate in isolation, in his cooly lines. He get up early in the morning at the beat of the thappu, goes to his muster roll and, after his name is taken down, gets about his daily duties, working through the day and in the heat of the sun, from dawn to dusk. When his work is over, he goes back to his lines, sleeps and gets up the following morning to go through the same old routine. Perhaps on a Saturday or Sunday he goes to a nearby boutique or to a shop where he gets mercilessly fleeced, and then gets back to his lines, once again to start the same old round.
For generations they have toiled and struggled along in this fashion; and they live and die on those estates just as their fathers and ancestors lived and died on the plantations before them. If he is ejected from the lines on one estate he gathers his few belongings together and goes to another estate which is always ready to receive him and preserve him in that same state of isolation; and if he is ejected from that estate, he goes to yet another estate, and so on.
It is indeed ironical that anybody who has the interests of this country at heart should stand up and tell the Plantation Tamil labourer, who has by the sweat of his brow contributed to the wealth and prosperity of this country, "You do not take part in the social activities of this country; you are segregated in a cooly line and therefore we will not give you citizenship rights." That is not justice; that is not fair play. Those are the very conditions which we ourselves have created, and we are making use of them for the purpose of depriving a very large number of people, who have been responsible for the present prosperity of this country, of citizenship.
That argument does not take one anywhere; the question of identification with the interests of this country does not take one anywhere. It is all very well with the Indian businessman who can identify himself with the rest of the population, who can invest on property here, who can buy palatial mansions in Colombo, who can throw parties, invite people and lead a social life - he can mix, mingle and identify himself with the rest of the population. That is possible in his case; but then he is not a person who is so very keen about citizenship of this country.
An Hon. Senator remarked that the Indian businessman is here for a specific purpose. There is nothing wrong in that. I suppose that even as we are entitled to live in this country and apply ourselves to various vocations, businesses, and so on, and make money, anybody else who is allowed to be in this country is entitled to do the same. It is hardly fair to call such a person an exploiter. After all, he is here to render certain services, and he makes a certain income thereby. He makes money. He is not worried about citizenship at all; he is not interested. Although he identifies himself with the rest of the population of this country, he is not concerned about citizenship. He knows the art of getting on, and he will get on. He does not want Ceylon citizenship. Indian citizenship is quite enough for him.
In discussing this problem it is paramount, it is all-important, that we should clearly have in mind this distinction – the distinction between the Indian commercial class and the Plantation Tamil labour class on the plantation.
It is as a result of our confusing the interests of the Plantation Tamil population on the plantations with the interests of the Indian commercial class that there is such a great deal of prejudice in the minds of our people against Indian themselves.
If our people are told that the Plantation Tamil labourer on the plantations is a humble individual like any of us; that for generations past he has contributed to the prosperity of this country, though he himself does not know the magnitude of his contribution to the economy of this country; that he is not the same person as the grabbing Chettiar money lender who lent some money to your grandfather and got hold of his property; that he is a totally different person; that he is the person whose toil has increased the national wealth of this country; that he has not had the full benefits of his labour to which he would have been entitled in any socialist state; that he is the person whose toil has been responsible for the material advantages that we see in this country today - if our people are told of these things, they will have no prejudice against the individual Plantation Tamil labourer... This method is hardly a method by which one can say one was honouring one's undertakings or one's words.
The way of imagination, humanity, and justice...
(There is a) way of imagination, humanity, and justice.
I am referring to this purely for the purpose of indicating, apart from the consideration of questions of citizenship by birth, the jus sanguinis, jus soli, and so on, that the clear and definite intention of the Government is to prevent the integration of the Plantation Tamil population; otherwise why should not any Plantation Tamil who is born in this country, whose father was also born in this country, at any point of time be a citizen of this country? Other countries which have this immigration problem have solved the problem by giving citizenship by birth.
If, of two alien parents, a child is born in America, that child immediately becomes a citizen of America; not before an appointed date, but at any point of time. If we want to have a more rigid test, why not say, "Not only you, but your father also should have been born in Ceylon"? Why limit it to a date? Why should not that continue for all time, so that the immigrants population may get more and more assimilated with the rest of the population? That is a question which this Chamber would do well to consider. That is an important questions which calls for consideration.
The past Governments of the country - to some extent we had a share in the Government, but to a large extent our policy was dictated by other people - are partly responsible for the creation of this acute problem because they did not provide the necessary conditions for these Plantation Tamil labourers to settle down and integrate themselves with the rest of the population. But if we have the necessary imagination, we can still solve the problem. We have the power to solve the problem, and it can be solved by giving them the necessary conditions, instead of trying to prevent their assimilation into the rest of the population.
In this connection, the Hon. Leader asked a very important question only the other day. He gave certain figures. I subsequently verified those figures, and I propose to give the actual figures as they are today. According to the 1946 Census Report, the entire population of this country was 6,658,999, of which I have obtained the actual figures from the Registrar-General's Office since then. The estimate figures up to January 1948 are:
That is the present position. So that really the Indian population is one-tenth of the total population.
Now, out of this Indian population of 700,000 one has to exclude the commercial class who have come here, not on the basis of any undertaking, but for their own purposes; who are not concerned about this Bill so much; who can look after themselves, and who will be quite content with Indian citizenship. One is only concerned with this helpless population which came here years ago and which slaved and worked on the plantations for many years, under difficult and trying conditions.
That is the real position, and it will be correct to say that out of this population of 700,000 Indians, about 600,000 are estate labourers. I believe, that it has been stated by the Soulbury Commissioners, or in some other report, that this population is about equally made up of men, women and children; that is there are 200,000 men, 200,000 women and 200,000 children. Of course, children will be born and some of the older folk will die. That is the position.
As I stated earlier, no argument has been put forward on the basis of any racial or social difficulties to the assimilation of this population. In fact the pronouncements of the present Prime Minister would indicate that there is no such difficulty. He has said, "We love them and admire them".
The only reason that can possibly be urged against the assimilation of the entirety of these 600,000 workers on the plantations - I am taking the whole lot now - is that it is bad for the economy of this country. The argument is that there is a huge economic problem. The only serious argument that has been urged on behalf of the Government in support this Bill, which will deprive a large section of the Plantation Tamil population of citizenship by descent, is that economically Ceylon will suffer; that we cannot afford to do it.
Now, it is for Hon. Senators to consider whether there is any justification for a statement such as this. These Plantation Tamil labourers are working on our tea and rubber estates. Nearly three fifths of the land of this country, or more - I speak subject to correction - are still undeveloped. We have large colonisation schemes and major irrigation schemes in various parts of the country, for which we are deeply thankful for the present Minister of Agriculture as well as his predecessor, the Prime Minister, who was largely responsible for the introduction of these schemes which will benefit a large section of our population provide them with a livelihood, and also contribute to the wealth of the country.
The Plantation Tamil labourers who are working on the tea estates, and also most of those, who are employed on the rubber estates, constitute a well disciplined labour force. They have been working on estates all these years, and they are used to that kind of work. It is a labour force which we have not replaced all these years with a force of our own. The number involved is only 600,000 out of a total population of 7,000,000. Is it seriously contended that these persons, who are doing valuable work - unlike the Chettiar money lenders and other Indian commercial gentlemen who come here only for the purpose of making money and extracting money from the people of this country - is it seriously contended that these persons who, by their toil and sweat contribute also to the wealth of this country, do not constitute a valuable advantage to the economy of this country? Can it be considered that their presence here is detrimental to the interest of this country? Far from it.
I go further and ask you, Mr. President, what is better for a country? Is it better to have in a country its own citizens, integrated as one unified population, who are given all facilities to settle down, to work for the country and toil on the plantations taking a pride in their toil, or is it better to have hired workers from a foreign land who have no status at all in this country?
We are certainly a freedom loving people, and surely Mr. President, is it not the very essence of freedom that every person who works and toils in the country should have the right of liberty and citizenship? Is it not a matter of great internal weakness or danger for a country to have a large section of foreign workers who do not owe allegiance to the State but are there solely for the purpose of working? Is it not very necessary, both in the interests of economy as well as security, that those workers who are necessary for our well being, should be integrated and made citizens of the country?
After all, we cannot say that we are unable to do it for economic reasons and get away with it. It is futile to argue that there are any economic reasons. IF there are nay economic reasons they are all in favour of the contrary. If these Indians are made citizens of this country - there are only about 200,000 families when one comes to think of it - and they are given little plots of land and huts to live in is it not likely that even the meagre remittances that are now being sent out of this country to India will cease altogether and that gradually and over the years they will become completely integrated and form part and parcel of a single nation? Has it not happened in the case of innumerable Indians today?
Therefore, the statement that there is some mysterious economic reasons that is responsible for this Government saying that these people cannot be integrated cannot bear examination for one moment. It is for that reason that I say that there is this problem, but the Government are seeking to solve it in the wrong way entirely. The right way to solve it is to make every endeavour to integrate these persons and make them part and parcel of the country, and to make them work on the plantations or elsewhere as one unit of a united nation, and not as foreign workers from a foreign land.
In America they had a similar problem, but how did they solve it? You know very well, Mr. President, that a large number of workers from various parts of the world, particularly Europe flocked to America. The Americans knew only too well that, if they had a large foreign settlement in their country, it was a source of danger to them. Therefore they said that all children, whether they were children of aliens or not should become American citizens so long as they were born in American soil. That is how they solved the problem.
The Hon. Leader asked what the position would be if 6,000,000 Russians settled down in England and presented the Government of that country with a problem. Not only 6,000,000 Russians, but persons from various other countries too in Europe went to England and settled down and they were all integrated in course of time and finally they did not go as Russians or as Norwegians, but they called themselves Britishers. Fortunately they were all of the same colour; and the situation that confronted the Americans was not present in their case.
Let us consider how the Americans tackled the problem. I have some statistics from the 1930 Census. According to those figures, the population of the United States of America, in 1930 was nearly 122,000,000. Our of this some 110,000,000 were white persons - persons belonging to the white races - and there were some 11,000,000 Negroes. Out of the 110,000,000 white persons the number of those who were of foreign stock was 39,000,000. That was in 1930. Our of that, the foreign born were 13,000,000 persons, and there were 25,000,000 persons born in America of foreign parentage.
You will see, Mr. President, that out of a population of 112,000,000 in America, in the year 1930, there were 25,000,000 persons who were born of foreign parents in America. Nobody at that point of time thought of raising any economic cry against the assimilation of those persons. And if you want to know why they were integrated, I may say that it was because that was the one way of safeguarding the interests of the State. What is more out of that population, that was integrated, you will find that there were as many as 5,000,000 Germans, the Norwegians, Swedes and Danes numbering about 2,000,000 persons. That is the way in which countries that have immigration problems solve them.
Our problem, comparatively, is not very difficult of solution and I say that the way in which our problem should be solved is by introducing some Citizenship Bill which will give the most ample opportunities to the present Indian population of this country, who have made Ceylon their home, to be integrated. I venture to submit to the Government, in all earnestness and s one who himself is a sincere lover of this country, that, even as a matter of concession, the whole question can be effectively solved if only the government will contemplate the desirability of making all persons born in this country, at any point of time, citizens of this country, provided their parents were born in this country or their grandfather or great-grandfather were born in this country, and delete this provision of an appointed date.
If that appointed date proviso is removed, that in itself will go a great way towards the assimilation of large sections of these persons in course of time. In the meanwhile, something can be done for the amelioration of their conditions of life, and working conditions, with a view, as far as possible, to helping rather than hindering, their assimilation. In that direction lies the part of true statesmanship; in that way lies the only manner in which we can possibly honour the undertakings given by us and the declarations made by us. Instead of that, this Bill has been introduced in the teeth of all that we have said in the past.
In this connection, I desire to refer to another matter, and that is the question of immigration and restriction of future immigration into this country. All of us are agreed that that is not a controversial matter at all, and I do not think there is any party in this country, except perhaps one, which has any objection to a provision restricting future immigration into this country. I do not think there is any party in this country which will have any objection to a quota being imposed in respect of persons who are employed in Indian business houses in this country, and I do not think there will be any objection to those Indian business houses being compelled by law to include a certain number of Ceylonese among their employees.
If my Hon. Friend will not interrupt me, I will tell him why I made that reference. It was said that the proposed Immigrants and Emigrants Bill is one of the Bills which is connected with this whole question. When I referred to that Bill, I may say, if my Hon. Friend will bear with me for a while, that I did so for the purpose of showing that the question of controlling immigration into Ceylon has nothing whatsoever to do with the question with which we are now concerned, namely, the citizenship Bill. The precise point that the Hon. Senator was at pains to indicate was the point that I myself was trying to bring out in reply to the statement of the Hon. Leader, and indicate that the question has nothing whatsoever to do with this. I am very glad that the Hon. Senator who interrupted me, has taken my view that that question is totally irrelevant to a consideration of this Citizenship Bill and I hope that when it comes to voting too on this matter he will support me although he will be going against the leaders of the Party to which he belongs.
That has nothing to do with this Bill. So that from that point of view, Mr. President, and also so far as India is concerned, as from the year 1939 she has stopped all further emigration of unskilled labour. And although India has not put a stop to the emigration of commercial persons and businessmen, I suppose we can take steps to effectively prevent that very soon. Notwithstanding the fact that I personally and quite a number of us, agree with that, the main problem really is within a very narrow compass, and is not going to be complicated by a further influx of Indians into this country. That is a localised, limited and ascertainable problem. But the question that we are concerned with is in regard to these 200,000 Plantation Tamil families who are on the plantations.
How do other countries face these problems....
I want to take the matter a step further. Arguments have been advanced on this side of the Chamber - and I need not repeat them - that in most countries, particularly countries to which people have emigrated, the principle of the citizenship law applicable is the principle of jus soli and not the principle of jus sanguinis.
The International Labour Office has collected a number of authorities on Migration Laws and Treaties. This is what they say in regard to how the problem of the nationality of the children of immigrants if faced in different countries of the world:
Then they say further on:
Then they say:
How do other countries face these problems? While the country of origin seeks to claim anybody who goes out of it as its citizens, the country into which these people have migrated seeks to integrate them by giving them every facility to be integrated, because the existence of a large alien element in the population raises difficulties which can be avoided only by facilitating in every way the assimilation of these elements.
That is how countries, with problems similar to ours, solve their problems. Either we must profit from the way in which these problems have been tackled elsewhere, or we must examine those problems without prejudice, without passion, without preconceived notions, and then ask ourselves the question, "Well are we not possibly pursuing the wrong path; are we not possibly trying to solve this problem the wrong way? Is it not detrimental to Ceylon that we should have a large alien population in this country?" Those are the questions that we must ask ourselves.
We must profit by the example of other countries; we must be willing to learn from the examples of other countries. That is the only way in which one can possibly hope to arrive at a satisfactory solution of a problem such as this. I realise that the difficulties are no altogether of our own creation, but at the same time there should be a statesmanlike approach to a problem such as this. There should be some regards for the position of these people.
I desired to speak at slightly greater length, Mr. President, but I promised the Hon. Leader that I would give him the opportunity of replying to this debate today, so that the matter may be concluded, I therefore do not propose to take much longer.
Supposing the principle for which we have contended - that is the principle of jus soli - is applied for all time, what follows? Today if it is applied, out of the entirety of 600,000 Plantation Tamil labourers in this country, 50 per cent, that is, 300,000 may be eligible for citizenship. The other 300,000 may not be eligible; they may possibly be eligible for citizenship by registration for which of course provision may be made in the future under some other enactment. But so far as citizenship by descent is concerned, the only effect of applying the principle of jus soli is that an additional 300,000 men, women and children will become citizens of this country by descent.
Can it be seriously contended by any reasonable person that that is going to be subversive of the economic interests of the people of this country? The answer stares one in the face. The entirety of the Plantation Tamil population on the plantations are contributing to the economic wealth of this country; they are not an economic weakness at all. It will be a weakness and nothing else if we fail to integrate them.
I have finished, Mr. President. All that I can say is that to my mind this problem is being approached in a very short-sighted fashion. This problem is partly due to the fact that the Plantation Tamil estate population were not given conditions under which they could have been integrated with the rest of the population. But it is a problem which can be solved in a different way, and it will be a great source of weakness to this country if we do not solve the problem by taking every step to integrate that population. I say that we should honour our undertakings to the Indian Government, and we should stand by the promises given by the Hon. Prime Minister on more than one historic occasion. The Plantation Tamil labourers in this country have contributed and are contributing to its economic prosperity. They are a source of economic strength and not an economic weakness. It will be a weakness on the part of the country if we fail to integrate them with the rest of the population.
I thank you, Mr. President.