Gaveshaka discusses early happenings
Significant events in May
An English newspaper
On May 3, 1837, the 'Ceylon Chronicle' newspaper was first published. The publication of newspapers independent of Government began after the arrival of Sir Robert Wilmot Horton as Governor in October 1831. Within three months of his arrival, the 'Colombo Journal' was started under the auspices of the Government. It was edited by George Lee, the Superintendent of the Government Press where it was printed.

On February 4, 1834, a group of European merchants in Colombo started 'The Observer and Commercial Advertiser' which attacked Governor Horton's government. It was to defend the administration that the 'Ceylon Chronicle' was started privately aided by the Governor and conducted by "a Committee of Gentlemen". The newspaper was edited by Rev. Samuel Owen Glenie, the Colonial Chaplain of St Paul's, later Archdeacon of Colombo. He retired after the Bishop objected to him being associated with the newspaper and he was succeeded by George Lee who was by then Postmaster-General, as editor. The newspaper did not last very long and folded up on September 3, 1838.

The press used by the 'Chronicle' was bought up by one Mackenzie Ross who started the 'Ceylon Herald' four days after the 'Chronicle' ceased publication. This paper also opposed the Government until in 1842 it was bought up by James Laing, the Deputy Postmaster in Kandy who supported the Government. By and large the press took the cause of the British planters and merchants and helped this class to press their claims on the Government.

While the early English newspapers did not last very long, the 'Observer' survived and remains the oldest English newspaper in the country. It is interesting to learn how the paper introduced itself to the public on February 4, 1834. "The first number is furnished gratis, inviting those who are inclined to favour a free Press to become subscribers… at 12 shillings a quarter. We appear before a public, fully aware of the difficulties we have to encounter, and from whom we hope for every indulgence, encouragement and support…

Pioneer in the trade union movement
Trade unionist, politician and diplomat Alexander Ekanayake ( A E ) Goonesinghe was born on May 1, 1891 in Kandy and after having his early education ay Dharmaraja College, Kandy, moved over to St. Joseph's College, Colombo. Generally regarded as the father of the country's trade union movement, he was the founder secretary of the Young Lanka League. He organized a public meeting of the League in 1915 to record its protest at the completion of 100 years British rule.

In 1918, he conducted a resistance movement against the levy of the poll tax and was forced to break metal for the construction and repair of roads for refusing to pay the tax. While breaking metal he saw at first hand the bitter plight of the workers and formed the Ceylon Labour Union in 1922. In the same year, the poll tax was abolished.

Goonesinghe championed the cause of the workers for the next 30 years.
He entered politics as a member of the Colombo Municipal Council of which he became Mayor in 1940. He was a member of the State Council and was elected MP for Colombo Cenrtal in the House of Representatives in 1947. He became Minister without Portfolio in the D. S. Senanayake Cabinet. A keen Buddhist activist, he later served as Ambassador in Indonesia and Burma. He died on, August 1, 1967.

Saradiel's end
On May 7, 1864 Utuwankande Sardiel who was arrested on March 22, 1864 was hanged. He was only 29 years of age at the time. Though he was arrested a couple of times, he managed to escape. He was first captured in 1862 by Abdul Cader by the brother-in-law of Baba Sara, the village constable of Utuwankanda. As he was being taken to Colombo in a bullock-cart, in the company of Haramanis, his step-father, he escaped into the jungle and Baba Sara was dismissed from the post of constable.

When he was at Utuwankanda, several attacks were made on the rock but he could not be captured. It is said that a force of 3000 men were used to capture him. He and a friend were found in a house at Mawanella playing cards when they were arrested. That was the end of the daring life of Sri Lanka's Robin Hood.

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