DS Senanayake in the Final Stages of the Independence Struggle

Batapola Man**

Michael, I thought [your article on “Battleships Down: Early Signs in the Decline of British Imperial Power across the Span of the Indian Ocean”] is a very insightful piece that opens up an important and (as far as I know) unexplored dimension of the comparative Lanka-India route to Independence. I am not going to post these comments online because they will just encourage the abusive trolls.

  1. Might one add that the only significant local military force, the Ceylon Light Infantry, was sufficiently dominated by the plantocracy that it would likely be fairly effective in suppressing any serious local Quit Ceylon mobilisation?
  2. Is it possible that one reason for the savage colonial response to the events of 1915 was exactly that the colonial authorities knew they could get away with it because they held all the military cards, and did not need to be concerned about an adverse political response?
  3. While DS Senanayake was presumably a very accomplished insider politician, he really had almost everything going for him in support of his strategy of total cooperation in the British war effort:
  • The alternative of non-cooperation was unattractive, and would likely have led to the kind of unrest that the LSSP could and would have exploited.
  • The threat of the Marxist alternative was one that the Brits were bound to take seriously, on both economic interest (plantations etc) and geo-strategic grounds.
  • The strength of anti-Indian sentiment was such that there was little support at any level for emulating Quit India/non-cooperation.
  • While he could not totally trust the Brits to reward him after the end of the war, not to have done so would have been such a gross betrayal that even the Brits would have thought twice before doing it.
  1. In retrospect, it seems that it would have been crazy to have done things differently.

Or are these all obvious points that I have just reinvented?


** Authorship: The  Batapola man is a senior scholar who has several works on Sri Lankan politics and sent me these thoughts as a personal note. S/he has accepted my request for the MEMO to be placed in the public realm as an anonymous set of thoughts: for the reason that it broadens the debate ….and encourages others to address both Vinod and myself.

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Filed under British colonialism, communal relations, historical interpretation, Indian Ocean politics, island economy, life stories, politIcal discourse, power politics, security, self-reflexivity, sri lankan society, truth as casualty of war, world events & processes, World War II

One response to “DS Senanayake in the Final Stages of the Independence Struggle

    “There is an error in your graphic in the doc containing Batapola Man’s article – DS is shown with the 1972 Lion Flag. The first dominion flag, the one which was raised in 1948, was the Lion Flag without the two stripes at the hoist, and the inside corners of the border had spear points, not bo-leaves.”
    [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Sri_Lanka#/media/File:Flag_of_Ceylon_(1948%E2%80%931951).svg ]

    RESPONSE from EDITOR: The illustrations were a hurried grab from internet by the Editor and not by the “Batapola Man”. They serve as picturesque embellishments not precise instruments. The LION FLAG in whatever form is the Lion Flag.

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