The record of the oral evidence taken at the public sittings of the Donoughmore Commission in 1928, on the Constitution of Ceylon was auctioned at the world renowned auctioneers in London, Sotheby's, on Thursday, 27 June 1996 for a reserve price of eight hundred Pounds Sterling, The buyer was a Japanese collector of valuable literary property who remained anonymous.
This rare piece of evidence, which had never been published before, consisted of four volumes in cyclostyled typescripts and in duplicated form. The buckram binding of the four volumes carried the word, " Library House of Lords", on its upper covers, in gilt with morocco gilt labels on covers and spines.
Inserted in volume One was a letter on Downing Street headed paper indicating its presentation of this set to the Library of The House of Lords, to be made available for public reference in accordance with the recommendation of the special Donoughmore Commission.
Accompanying these volumes was the published version of Ceylon. Report of the special Commission on the Constitution , signed by Lord Donoughmore, Chairman of the Committee ( bound in half morocco, 8Vo, 1928) in which it stated:
" It had been our hope to present to you in companion volumes to this report a verbatim record of our proceedings in public sessions ... We regret that the high cost of printing has precluded the adoption of this course. We are, however, forwarding duplicated copies of this material with the recommendation that a complete record, which the public may be free to consult, should be made available both in London and Ceylon" .
In 1924 The Secretary of State for Colonies announced the appointment of a special commission under the Chairmanship of The Earl of Donoughmore to visit 'Ceylon' and "report on the working of the existing Constitution and on any difficulties of administration which may have had raised in the connection with it; to consider any proposals for the revision of the Constitution that may be put forward and to report what, if any, amendments of the Order in Council, which was in force, should be made".
The report of the Donoughmore Commission was presented to the British Parliament in July 1928. As soon as it had been received and studied in ' Ceylon' a series of debates was initiated in the Legislative Council, on 27 September 1928.
On 14 November 1928, a critical point was reached when the Governor, Sir Herbert Stanley intervened, on the instruction of the Secretary of State for Colonies. He informed the Council that ' the recommendation of the Commission must be regarded as a whole and that amendment which touched matters of principle would therefore not be accepted'.
One of the most important issues, which could be regarded as a mile-stone in the constitutional reform in 'Ceylon' was the introduction of the Universal franchise which had been enjoyed by a privileged few according to their literal and communal basis.
it was the general consensus among the expatriate Sri Lankan community
in London that the records contained in these four volumes would have
immensely helped the Sri Lanka Government at this very juncture when its
full concentration is focused in making amendments to the existing
Constitution. London Diary was informed by a reliable sources that
President Kumaratunge had been very keen to acquire these records from
the Sotheby's auction, for a reserve price, but Archeological
authorities have advised the President that copies of the same records
were available in Sri Lankan archives.