Heart of the land | Daily News

Heart of the land

The ‘Lion Flag’ that was flying over the Kandyan Provinces for many years was hauled down with the signing of the Kandyan Convention on March 2, 1815, and it had thereafter become a forgotten history. The great patriot, E. W. Perera was the pioneer to discover where the Flag was deposited. In his book on ‘Sinhalese Banners and Standards’ written in the beginning of the 19th Century, he states that “I discovered the missing banner at the Chelsea Hospital’.

In September 1945, JR. Jayewardene was the first to raise in the State Council the question of using the Lion Flag as the Official Flag. Three years later, he drafted a Motion to the effect that: “That this House is of opinion that the Royal Standard of King Sri Wickrama Raja Singhe depicting a yellow lion passant holding a sword in its right paw on a red background, which was removed to England after the Convention of 1815, should once again be adopted as the Official Flag of Free Lanka” and persuaded the then M. P. for Batticaloa, A. Sinnalebbe to propose the Motion for discussion in the House of Representatives on January 16, 1948.

Prime Minister, D. S. Senanayake said on the Motion:

“We claim the Flag to be a Sinhalese Flag although we inherited it from a Tamil King. By hoisting this Flag let us show Britain that they have transferred sovereignty to us, and let the people outside know about it. If we are to have a Flag hoisted on Independence Day, it must be this Flag and no other Flag”.

On February 12, 1948 the Lion Flag that was hoisted by the Prime Minister in the presence of H. R. H. the Duke of Gloucester was identical with the one hauled down at the same spot on 2ND March 1815, 133 years earlier.

On March 6, 1948 the Prime Minister appointed a Committee consisting of (1) S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike (Chairman), (2) Sir John Kotelawala, (3) J. R. Jayewardene, (4) T. B. Jayah, (5) Dr. L. A. Rajapakse, K. C., (6) G. G. Ponnambalam, K. C., and (7) Senator S. Nadeson to advise him on the question of National Flag of Ceylon.

Dr. S. Paranavitane, Archaeological Commissioner, was appointed as the Secretary of the Committee and he functioned in that capacity from the second meeting held on June 12, 1948.

Amicable reconciliation

The general consensus among the members of the Committee was that the ‘Lion Flag’ should be the National Flag of Ceylon with suitable modifications made therein. Though the Committee had been addressing to this task they were unable to suggest a solution as there existed no unanimity. A meeting was held for the purpose of considering a Draft Report, informing the Prime Minister that the members of the Committee were unable to agree.

The majority community was obdurate in maintaining the size of the Lion Emblem without it being reduced.

G. G. Ponnambalam brought about a last minute compromising formula to the effect that two strips of saffron and green should be adapted to the Lion Flag in the proportion of 1:1:5 and the other members readily agreed to the proposal but Senator Nadeson gave a dissenting Report.

Accordingly, the Committee has on February 13, 1950 approved the Lion Flag with certain modifications, a design of which was annexed thereto, marked Plate XV, signed by all members except Senator Nadeson. In the design, there are two vertical strips, green and saffron, of equal size, each being in the proportion of one to seven of the entire flag. Thus, the ‘Lion Flag’, with modifications as appearing in the Plate XV annexed to the Report, was adopted as the National Flag of Sri Lanka.

It is notable that Tamils were always willing and ready to come to compromise their sentiments in search of a durable solution and in the end they were exploited by manipulated mechanisms of the politics of the majority.

Many do not know that saffron and green represent the Tamils and the Muslims respectively. It is the common understanding that the Lion Flag is the National Flag.

Nadeson’s Report

In the dissenting Report, Nadeson stated that ‘The suggestion I made was that the yellow border which according to the proposed flag separates the saffron strip and from red strip should be completely eliminated. In the result the flag would have been comprised of green, saffron and red strips in the proportion of 1:1:5 with the Lion on the red strip and with the yellow border surrounding the entirety of the flag and encompassing the two strips within the yellow border’.

Nadson observed that “In my view, this design if adopted far from being a symbol of national unity will be symbol of our disunity. Once the committee agreed that the national flag should be devised by modifying the Lion Flag, one would have thought that any strips adopted for the purpose of satisfying the minorities will be integrated with the Lion Flag and that these strips will not be an appendage to the Lion Flag. Anyone looking at the proposed Flag will see that the Lion Flag is preserved in all its integrity and outside that Flag two strips are allotted to represent the minorities”.

He observed further that ‘Neither do we desire that one community should be segregated from another. Why then do we want to segregate the saffron and green strips, which are provided to satisfy minority sentiments outside the borders of the Lion Flag? In my view the suggestion that I have made does not entail the sacrifice of any vital part of the Lion Flag and thus cannot offend Sinhalese sentiments’.

Four Bo-leaves

The four bo-leaves that are found in the present National Flag were not in the Original Flag that was recommended by the National Flag Committee upon meticulous examination of the public opinion and study by themselves of the various aspects and issues involved therein. The four bo-leaves were inserted in the 1978 Constitution by President JR Jayewardene, without a word of deliberation to project that Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country. By about 1976 the Flag Research Centre reported that the internal dimensions of the overall Flag and the colours therein were not properly specified and accordingly agitated for some time to rectify the alleged shortcomings in the Flag. Consequently, JR Jayewardene, as President gave mandate to the Sri Lanka Standards Institution to lay down the standard to ensure the Flag to uniform size, design and colour.

It is unfortunate that the Leaders of the majority community, who from time to time make utterances of embracing the minority, feel reticent to correct the National Flag as suggested by Senator Nadeson in his dissenting report. Would it be corrected in the New Constitution as suggested by Nadeson?

Why then speaking of one country and one people without translating it into action? 

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