ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 32
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British troops move to annex Kandy

Governor Brownrigg 1812 - 1818

January 1815 was a very significant month in the history of Sri Lanka. It marked the beginning of the end of the country's independence. With Kandyan chieftain Ehelepola seeking assistance from the British to oust King Sri Vickrama Rajasinghe, events unfolded for the British to capture the Kandyan kingdom.

Historian L. E. Blaze describes the story thus: "It happened about this time that ten Moor traders, who were British subjects, were barbarously ill treated by Sri Vickrama who charged them with being spies. They had gone into a Kandyan village to trade with the people as usual, when they were unexpectedly seized and taken to Kandy.

Here their arms, ears and noses were cut off by the king's orders and seven of them died in consequence of this. The remaining three were driven to Colombo and on hearing their story the governor decided to declare war at once against the Kandyan king. Another reason for fighting was that the Kandyans had crossed the river at Sitavaka, which was the dividing limit of the Kandyan country and plundered the inhabitants who were British subjects.

On the tenth January 1815, Sir Robert Brownrigg issued a proclamation setting forth the reasons which compelled the British to declare war against Sri Vickrama Rajasinghe. This proclamation stated definitely that the war was not a war against the Kandyan nation but against the tyrant who oppressed them; who had 'by the violation of every religious and moral law, become an object of abhorrence to mankind.’ The Kandyan people were promised full protection of person and property so long as the British advance was not opposed by them.

Their religion should be held sacred, their chiefs should preserve their accustomed ranks and dignities, and their ancient laws and institutions should be maintained.

The British troops marched from Colombo the next day, January 11 and on February 14th they entered Kandy in triumph. They met with scarcely any resistance, for the king was hated by most of his subjects and few would fight on his behalf. "


Birth of a Prime Minister

Independent Sri Lanka's fourth Prime Minister Solomon West Ridgeway Dias (S. W. R. D.) Bandaranaike (1899-1959) was born on January 8, 1899.


Son of Sir Solomon Dias Bandaranaike from Horagolla, Veyangoda, he went to Oxford University in 1921, read classics and law, passed out as a barrister, was rated the best debater in the Oxford Union Society, and was elected to the posts of Secretary (1923) and Junior Treasurer (1924) - a remarkable achievement for an Asian. Returning to Sri Lanka, he joined the Ceylon National Congress, got elected first to the Colombo Municipal Council (1927) and then to the State Council (1931), founded the Sinhala Mahajana Sabha (1937) and was involved in the formation of the United National Party (UNP).

In the first Parliament (1947) he served in the UNP Cabinet as Minister of Health and was Leader of the House until 1951 when he resigned his portfolio and founded the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). Returning to Parliament at the 1952 general election, he was Leader of the Opposition. Having formed the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP), he won the 1956 general election inaugurating the era of the common man. As Prime Minister he made significant changes in post-independence politics, making Sinhala the official language in place of English, taking over the air and naval bases from the British, initiating a non-aligned foreign policy, establishing diplomatic relations with Russia and China, converting the two leading 'pirivenas' - Vidyodaya and Vidyalanka - as universities and embarking on a policy of nationalisation.

Prime Minister Bandaranaike was shot by a Buddhist monk on September 25, 1959 and he died the next day.


Colombo municipal elections

First elections to the Colombo Municipal Council took place on January 1866. There were nine seats in all and five were contested. Several meetings were held to canvass for votes. Six of the elected members were Burghers.

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Copyright 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.