19th October 1997


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History of the Ceylon Police

"Do not tear my ears but take the ear rings"

The following is yet another excerpt in our continuing series of excerpts from the book The History of the Ceylon Police by former Inspector General of Police A.C. Dep.

In southern province gambling was a popu lar pastime in all the Districts. "There is a strong disposition for gambling among the inhabitants of this and the Matara and Hambantota districts", reported the Government Agent Southern Province. And the District Judge of Ambalangoda district, for whom gambling was a problem was unable to distinguish between public and private gaming.

The only report on policing in answer to the Colonial Secretary's circular of July 1836 available, is the report of District Judge of Ambalangoda (Kirkenbeck). He suggested that the Superintendent of Police Colombo should have 4 to 6 Assistant Superintendents to assist him in supervision. He wanted the constables and peons paid salaries. He also recommended that Police Vidanes should have sergeants under them.

Ambalangoda District

In 1838 the District Judge, due to the number of murder cases, robberies and other crimes which were reported, was convinced that there was an increase of crime. He stated: "I consider that crime has rather increased in the district - I attribute it to the great number of ill-disposed persons in the District,who are addicted to gambling and hard drinking and who in the garb of responsibility encourage thieves, robbers and cattle stealers and incite their inferiors to every species of atrocities. The non-existence of the night patrols or rather to want of an efficient Police Establishment, tends greatly to facilitate nocturnal depredations by those alluded to".

In 1842 he considered the situation to be so bad that he wanted a Military force to pass through the area on the pretext, of going to guard the Custom House "but in reality to cooperate with me and under the guidance of the Mudaliyar of Bentota and other headmen to scout the village and haunts of the gang of robbers which infests this District and endeavour to apprehend them". This request was flatly refused. However the ineffectiveness of the headmen was shown off when two murderers, Eddis Appu and Sinho Appu with a bad character named Kurupuncha were seen in Induruwa daily.

In August 1844 Kirkenbeck was appointed Police Magistrate of Balapitimodera.

The Galle District

In 1834 Cornelius William Jansz was the Bazzar Constable. There was a Constable at Kaluwella and another very likely in the Fort. How many constables there were in Galle is difficult to say.

In 1834 a raid was conducted on the House of the Mohandiram and Principal Headman of Galle, for arrack. The Mohandiram's wife seeing the raiding party dashed a bottle of arrack against a jar and ran out raising an alarm. The Police Vidanes who were in the raiding party found a chatty with a quantity of arrack. The Mohandiram destroyed this before they could seize it. However the Mohandiram was charged for a breach of Regulation 22 of 1820 and removed from office.

Cattle thefts in Galle was reduced due to the issue of permits. Galle had a Friend-in-need Society to help the Poor. The Police and headmen provided the information. Besides the Constable of Galle helped in collecting the Assessment Tax for which he was paid 15s.

In 1844 the District Judge - Algernon Stewart was appointed Police Magistrate, Galle. He wanted a Police clerk and 2 Peons.

The Alipoot District - Alupotha

Here Captain Rogers was the District Judge. In 1834 he asked for a Constable for Kataragama chiefly to check on tavalams passing through the district from Magampattu to the Kandyan provinces. This was for checking on the smuggling of salt. By May Henderick Wiresinha was functioning as Constable and reporting monthly on the price of rice in the area. ln 1836 a parrah of rice cost 3s., a parrah of paddy Is. and a parrah of salt 4s. 6d.

In September 1836 the Assistant Government Agent wanted to hold an Elephant Kraal at Wellasse or Nilgala with the hope of providing elephants for the Survey Department. For this the people of the Kuruwe caste were necessary.

The Hambantota District

In 1836 Constable Baba Hakim Mutaliph asked for increased emoluments and not getting this resigned. He had been in service since 1833 and due to his duties, could not do anything for himself and his family. The Government Agent,

"in consideration of the exceeding worthiness of the man" stated as follows: "the constables services are of nearly equal value in a revenue as in a Police point of view - and his information and activity are invaluable in the adoption of measures for the protection of revenue - and which with the many temptations afforded at Hambantota is a matter of great consequence". After he took over lawlessness had ceased. The townsfolk asked that he be given an assistant. It is not known whether he changed his mind and continued in the post.

The Constable who was functioning in 1839 produced before the District Judge two men who failed to do the patrol and also failed to arrange for substitutes. They were punished but it was held in appeal that the District Judge had no power to punish without a Police Ordinance being proclaimed.

The Northern Province Gambling was no problem in the districts of Mannar, Jaffna, Vanny, Mullaitivu and Nuwara Kalawiya. The abolition of the Gaming rents had no effect at Mannar, the people being, little addicted to gambling. There were no gaming houses in the other places. Regarding Cattle thefts, the District Judge wanted the Regulation 3 of 1814 extended to cover sheep and goats. He wanted the Constables and Police Vidanes to send him the duplicates of the certificates issued hy them.


Had as Constable Mathes Puvimanasinghe, paid; £1-10s a month. The Pearl Fishery held in 1830 was a much disturbed one with cases of assaults, robberies and burglaries.


There were constables and Police Vidanes functioning here. The District Judge wanted copies of Ordinances relating to Police matters sent for circulation among them. The District Judge P. F. Toussaint felt that it would be good if a burgher Head Constable and 2 peons were stationed where a Distric Judge functioned. Mention was made of John Speldewinde who was the Constable of the Pettah in Jaffna.


Though this offence was now rare there was a case from Kayts in January 1841. In this case robbers entered the house of Mootatamby of Nanativu and tore his ears and removed 4 gold rings inspite of his cries of "Do not tear my ears but take the ear rings by loosening them." They next entered his wife's room and removed the Jewellery from her and her grand-daughter. The son escaped and informed the Police Vidane. When he collected his men and got there the thieves had crossed over to the other side. Mootatamby was in a state of shock and could not identify the thieves.

Security for Good Behaviour

The District Judge of Mallagam was in habit of getting bad characters to give security for good behaviour. He explained his practice to the Colonial Secretary thus:- "It was deemed necessary to require security for good behaviour from the person therein alluded to, as he was a notorious rogue and lives chiefly by stealing-he has before given security".


Here the patrols were being neglected and to stop this trend fines were inflicted and sometimes people were imprisoned for 15 days. .

Nuwara Kalawiya

Here cattle thefts were no problem. But the District Judge (Mylius) had trouble with elephants. These animals were numerous and the destruction of crops was great. Very often they killed people. He recommended that the destruction of elephants be allowed for a limited period.

The Eastern Provinces

In 1835 the District Judge (H. R. Scott) came to a stage when he could not get at the Constable when required. He then wanted to employ a Messenger to get at the Constable. The Constable Maartensz was inefficient and never available when required. On two occasions the asthmatic Scott was called from his sick bed to quell disturbances. On the first occasion a detail of Sepoys attacked three European sailors and Scott had to personally make arrests. He seized 3 men who were immediately rescued from his custody by the others, while the Peon paralysed through fear looked on.

In the next instance, when Mr. Quinton arrested a man who abused him, a gang of men gathered and tried to rescue the man and Quinton clung on to the man and thwarted their efforts. Here, too, Scott had to go to his assistance. Scott, naturally contended that he could not act always like this while the paid Police Constable stayed at home.

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