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Friday, 22 May 2020 - 23:18
48 years since Sri Lanka became a republic - (Video)
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Independence - 1948
February 4, 1948 was the day when Sri Lanka gained independence. On February 4, 1948, the sun dawned on Sri Lanka as an independent nation from the rule of the British Crown for over 133 years. Ceylon was granted independence as the Dominion of Ceylon. Dominion status within the British Commonwealth was retained for the next 24 years.

Therefore what we received was a Dominion type of Freedom. The king or queen of Great Britain continued to be the head of state in our nation. His or her country's representative was recognized as the Governor-General.

Accordingly, several of the administrative powers of the Free Ceylon were still subject to the British Crown.

Independence - 1972
However, Sri Lanka achieved complete independence and freedom 48 years ago on a day like today. The Dominion Independence in 1948 became a complete independence with the new Republican Constitution that came into being which was introduced in 1970, by the ‘Samagi Peramuna’ that came in to power. May 22, 1972 became a historic day for Sri Lanka when the final link of the chain that bound us to the British imperialists was cut off and a totally independent Republic of Sri Lanka was born. 

The new Republican Constitution
The new constitution marked the change in status of the land and its people. The constitution changed the country's name to Sri Lanka from Ceylon, and established it as an independent republic. The new Republican Constitution, which completely liberated our motherland from the British Crown, was promulgated on 22 May 1972, exactly 48 years ago on a day like, today. This was accompanied by a complete departure from the Soulbury Constitution. Ever since that day we are known as the Republic of Sri Lanka which was formerly known as Ceylon.

The preamble to the constitution read as follows;

WE THE PEOPLE OF SRI LANKA BEING RESOLVED IN THE EXERCISE OF OUR FREEDOM AND INDEPENDENCE AS A NATION TO GIVE TO OURSELVES A CONSTITUTION WHICH WILL DECLARE SRI LANKA A FREE SOVEREIGN AND INDEPENDENT REPUBLIC PLEDGED TO REALISE THE OBJECTIVES OF A SOCIALIST DEMOCRACY INCLUDING THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS OF ALL CITIZENS AND WHICH WILL BECOME THE FUNDAMENTAL LAW OF SRI LANKA DERIVING ITS POWER AND AUTHORITY SOLELY FROM THE PEOPLE DO ON THIS THE TENTH DAY OF THE WAXING MOON IN THE MONTH OF VESAK IN THE YEAR TWO THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTEEN OF THE BUDDHIST ERA THAT IS MONDAY THE TWENTY SECOND DAY OF MAY ONE THOUSAND NINE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-TWO ACTING THROUGH THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY ESTABLISHED BY US HEREBY ADOPT ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.

Unitary state
Accordingly, Sri Lanka was identified as a unitary state in Chapter I of the constitution which read “Sri Lanka (Ceylon) is a Free, Sovereign and Independent Republic. The Republic of Sri Lanka is a Unitary State. In the Republic of Sri Lanka, Sovereignty is in the people and is inalienable. The Sovereignty of the People is exercised through a National State Assembly of elected representatives of people. Sri Lanka became a fully independent state after the 1972 Constitution.

Foremost place for Buddhism
The Constitution also provided Buddhism foremost place as stated in Chapter II of the Constitution “The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster Buddhism, while assuring to all religions the rights granted by sections 18 (1) (d)”.

The ‘Bo’ flag was also included to the four corners of the national flag.

New chapter on Fundamental Rights

The introduction of a completely new chapter on Fundamental Rights, something the Soulbury Constitution did not carry. The section read as follows;

18. (1) In the Republic of Sri Lanka –

(a) all persons are equal before the and are entitled to equal protection of the law;

(b) no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or security of person except in accordance with the law;

(c) no citizen shall be arrested, held in custody, imprisoned or detained except in accordance with the law;

(d) every citizen shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and the freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching;

(e) every citizen has the right by himself or in association with others, to enjoy and promote his own culture;

(f) all citizens have the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association;

(g) every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, including publication;

(h) no citizen otherwise qualified for appointment in the central government, local government, public corporation services and the like, shall be discriminated against in respect of any such appointment on the ground of race, religion, caste or sex; Provided that in the interests of such services, specified posts or classes of posts may be reserved for members of either sex:

(i) every citizen shall have the right to freedom of movement and of choosing his residence within Sri Lanka.

(2) The exercise and operation of the fundamental rights and freedoms provided in this Chapter shall be subject to such restrictions as the law prescribes in the interests of national unity and integrity, national security, national economy, public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others or giving effect to the Principles of State Policy set out in section 16.

(3) All existing law shall operate notwithstanding any inconsistency with the provisions of subsection (1) of this section.


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