Courtesy Reuters

A New Constitution for Ceylon

THE British Crown Colony of Ceylon is in the throes of constitutional change. Many people think that this great island is part of India. In fact, its administration is wholly separate from that of India and its status is quite different.

Communal differences are not as sharp in Ceylon as in India, but they are serious; and the prospect of the virtual disappearance of British control over the internal administration has produced vociferous demands from the minority groups for constitutional safeguards. According to racial origin, the population of Ceylon was classified by the 1931 census as follows: Sinhalese, 3,473,030; Tamils, 1,417,477; Moors, 325,913; Burghers and Eurasians, 32,315; Malays, 15,977.

The Sinhalese -- descendants of warriors from the north of India who overcame the aborigines of the island -- are seen to comprise roughly two-thirds of the population of approximately 6,000,000. The Tamils, who came from south India, are divided into "Ceylon Tamils" and "Indian Tamils." The former, numbering now about 700,000, have been in the island almost as long as the Sinhalese, and centuries ago had their own kings. They have eagerly taken advantage of educational opportunities and are strongly represented in the learned professions and the public services. Of the Indian Tamils, the majority are estate laborers; the remainder are found in nearly all walks of life -- skilled labor in factories and workshops, domestic servants, contractors and financiers.

The Moors, the most numerous of the smaller communities, are probably the descendants of Arab traders who intermarried with the Moslems of south India and Ceylon. They are engaged in trade and agriculture. The Malays are descendants of the soldiers of the Malay regiments employed by the Dutch and the British. The Burghers -- descendants of the officials and employees of the Dutch East India Company -- were until recently predominant in the professions and in the government service. The British community controls the larger commercial, financial and industrial enterprises. Exclusive of the members of the armed forces temporarily stationed on the island, the British community numbers about 15,000.


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