20 May, 2024


A Refutation Of Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe: Prof A. J. Wilson Was Not The Drafter Of The ‘Obnoxious’ 1978 Constitution

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

On 3 July and 23 August, I wrote two articles criticising Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe first “An Open Letter” asking whether he is ‘For Justice or Summary Justice’ and the second saying that he has ‘No Justification to Remain in the Cabinet.’ None of those were personal or with any personal animosity but for public interest and to put the historical records straight.

In the “Open Letter” my last two paragraphs were the following. 

Let me raise a last point. In your submissions at the beginning of the Salakuna interview you claimed that ‘it was Professor A. J. Wilson who drafted the 1978 Constitution.’ This is completely wrong. I was also surprised why did you make such a claim and then quoted his book ‘The Gaullist System in Asia: The Constitution of Sri Lanka (1978)’ to say that this constitution would end up in anarchy? Perhaps your ignorance.

Your quotation is correct, but your claim about his authorship of the constitution is wrong. If you again go through his Acknowledgements, you might be able to dispel your misunderstanding. In July 1978, he was asked to comment on the Draft Constitution. I was very close to him at that time. He was extremely polite, but his advice was not taken into proper consideration in finalizing the constitution. The constitution was promulgated in September 1978. Please don’t blame him directly or indirectly for this obnoxious constitution.” 

Without heeding to this saner advice, he has repeated his accusation that Professor Wilson was the drafter of the 1978 constitution in his latest article titled “Constitutional Assembly unconstitutional, null and void ab initio” in The Island (1 November 2017). Referring to certain legal obstacles in enacting a new constitution under the Soulbury constitution he said the following.

“Since there were no such barriers in the constitution of 1972, J. R. Jayewardene entrusted the task of drafting a new constitution to one of his allies Professor Alfred Jayaratnam Wilson, a political science expert and the son in law of late Mr. S. J. V. Chelvanayagam, the leader of the TULF. The draft he made was received with the assent of the cabinet of ministers and then presented to the National State Assembly in terms of Article 51 of the 1972 constitution.”

Of course if A. J. Wilson was entrusted with the task of drafting the 1978 constitution, it would have been to the credit of him and the constitution would have been different, in my opinion. However it was not the case. Since this is an important historical matter, I opted to consult Mrs A. J. Wilson (4 November 2017) seeking her opinion who is now living in Ottawa, Canada, at her old age.

The following is the statement she has sent me (9 November 2017) also giving me permission to quote her and her name.

Professor A.J. Wilson served as a constitutional advisor to Sri Lanka’s president J.R. Jayawardene from 1978-83. Professor Wilson was not involved in the preparation or drafting of the constitution for Sri Lanka. Professor Wilson acted as an advisor to ensure that the Tamil voice and views was expressed and heard in the political process.

Let me add that Mrs Wilson was a librarian at the University of New Brunswick and well trained and very professional in her documentation and archival matters. The above statement substantiates what I said previously in my open letter to Dr Wijedasa Rajapaksha.

I do remember Prof Wilson’s visit in July 1978 where I met him at his cousin Dr (medical) Wilson’s place in Colombo. He was asked to comment on the draft. Although we didn’t discuss  the draft constitution, I do remember his not so favourable indications about the draft. The other person present at the occasion was Neelan Tiruchelvam.

It is with much sorrow I recollect his last visit to Sri Lanka in July 1983. On that fateful day, when the communal riots were brewing, President Jayewardene sent him a vehicle asking him to go to the airport well before the scheduled time saying that he (President) cannot assure his security! I received a letter written by him at the airport saying ‘Laksiri, I would never come back to Sri Lanka.’ He never did. I relate these events with the hope that Wijedasa Rajapaksha would not any longer misinform the public with a communal angle.

If he has any doubts about who drafted the 1978 constitution, he should go to the archives of JRJ and the cabinet office and dig into the material. Or he should ask people who are familiar with the circumstances of drafting of the constitution without circulating blatant misinformation. If he has incorporated this wrong information in his doctoral thesis he should withdraw and apologise to the relevant university.         

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Latest comments

  • 4

    Wijeyadasa Rajapaksha is convinced that he is President material. He is trying out the Goebbellian principle “Repeat lies till they become truths”
    He says “The obnoxious 1978 constitution was written by obnoxious AJ Wilson who is an obnoxious Tamil.

  • 3

    wije is a smart cookie if gota does not give up his American citizenship he is waiting in the wings to become the jo s presidential candidate with the help of the sangha army

  • 2

    Thank you Dr: Laksiri for this clarification.
    Wijayadasa Rajapakse is a Bodu Bala Sena type.
    It is very unlikely whether WR has read The book by Prof; A .J. Wilson, The Gaullist System in Asia among the many others,which I am taking the liberty to give below.
    a] Politics in Srilanka 1947- 1973.
    b] Electoral Politics in an emergent State: The Ceylon General Election of May 1970.
    c] Problems in National Integration: Essays in honour of Morrison – Jones.
    d] The Break-up of Srilanka: The Sinhalese- Tamil conflict.
    e] S.J.V. Chelvanayagam and the crisis of Tamil Nationalism. 1947- 1977.; A Political Biography.
    f] Srilankan Tamil Nationalism: Its origin and Development in the 19th and 20th centuries.
    g] The Post-Colonial states of South-Asia: Democracy, Development and identity.
    This is about all I KNOW. Perhaps, you would know better.

    Is Wijedasa Rajapakse doing a Suggestio falsi and suppressio veri?
    Suggesting the false and suppressing the truth.
    He has a racist Political Agenda no doubt!

  • 1

    Tks. Dr.LF. Very informative.

  • 1

    Wilson was a consultant to JRJ in constitutional matters. The role he played in drafting the 1978 Constitution remains unclear although to claim that he authored the 1978 Constitution is incorrect.
    His comment on the constitution was: “There is little doubt that the framers of the constitution had in view the example of the Fifth French Republic when they planned on the powers and position of the elected President… What Jayewardene was after was a stable Executive, which would not be easily swayed by pressures from within the legislature or outside. The outcome in the end was a President who in many ways can, in certain circumstances, be more powerful than his French counterparts.”
    Wilson, who was reluctant to say that the Constitution made JRJ a virtual dictator, was mostly approving of the Constitution including the opening up of the country to foreign predators.
    Wilson, a staunch supporter of the UNP and associated with hard-line anti-Left thinkers in the UNP, could not have been adviser to JRJ until 1983, if his loyalty to JRJ was suspect in the slightest way.
    Notably, he was also the political broker who, along with Neelan Thiruchelvam, sold the worthless DDCs to the gullible leaders of the TULF in 1981.

  • 1

    Prof. Laksiri, you found fault with me for bringing up the matter of alteration of demographic pattern in eastern province. I wish to bring to your notice about a demonstration held by Tamils against annexing of Tamil villages to Kathankudi council. It will start as a benign endeavour of expanding a council area, but subsequently Tamils will be given trouble by the council controlled by Muslims and forced to sell their lands and quit the area, making it a fully Muslim area. This has happened in Kalmunai which was a Tamil majority town, with Tamils living in the central area and Muslims living in the periphery. Without consent of Tamils previous government annexed Muslim villages around to make Kalmunai a Muslim majority town. Now some section of Muslims want Sainthamaruthu taken out and formed into a separate council. This is the reason why I said, Tamils must rule eastern province to stop such injustices which Sinhala government is turning a blind eye to curry favour for Muslim votes. You are asking Tamils to go to courts on these matters without considering the cost involved and delay in obtaining justice. if you are a honest and fair minded person please advocate measures to bring justice to Tamils in eastern province, who have suffered most since independence, by being pushed to a third class status in their own land.

    • 1

      SankRalingam, you are an out and out communalist. What does it matter to anybody if the Muslims,Tamils or Sinhalese are in a majority or minority in Kalmunai?Do you realise that the Sinhalese who were the majority community in Colombo not long ago, are now in a minority.
      Have the Sinhalese people begun a communal war on such issues? You are simply provoking the very tolerant Sinhala people to becoming racial bigots and create unnecessary communal tension. Your comments and communal attitude are deplorable.

      • 0

        This time the doctor is only having a bash at the Muslims.
        Tamil nationalists have a great knack for making enemies of potential allies of the ordinary Tamil people.

      • 1


        “SankRalingam, you are an out and out communalist.”

        How about you, a bigot, racist, a Sri Lankan redneck, …………………. ?

  • 2


    I fully agree.
    These Muslims who came over to the Eastern Province as refugees somewhere in the 16th century are now attempting to encroach on the traditional Tamil areas.
    The patience of the Tamils is being tested! Even the IS would not be able to contain the Tamil backlash!

    • 1


      How about the Sinhalese and Tamils who came mostly from South India, saw and concurred this entire island? Your justification for Sinhalese and Tamils is that both Sinhala/Tamil pirates, land grabbers, looters, members of Veleikkara Padei (Mercenaries) ……. thugs ………………… came to this island before 16th century.

      Its is not a good convincing rational excuse, actually hypocritical.

  • 0

    Are you serious about “Tamil backlash” after witnessing the lead up to Mullivaikkaal 2009?
    However, there has never been a shortage of Tamil tongue lash.

  • 0


    There would be Heat Transfer. Not Sinhala- Tamil as @ Mullivaikal.
    It would be Tamil- Muslim Heat Transfer!
    There also has never been a shortage of Tamil tongue in the cheek!
    From when did you become a Muslim sympathiser?

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