Funday Times - Our History

King John's suggestions
This article is part of a continuing series on the ‘Mahavamsa,’ the recorded chronicle of Sri Lankan history
By Halaliye Karunathilake, Edited and translated by Kamala Silva, Illustrated by Saman Kalubowila

1. There were two leaders appointed to the group of envoys, who were to visit Lisbon, to meet King John III. They were Sri Radharaksha Pandit and Salappu Arachchi. A golden statue of Prince Dharmapala, was to be taken to Portugal. This was with the intention of getting it crowned by the King of Portugal. In 1542, these envoys who were taking the statue, left for Lisbon. On March 12, 1543, they reached Lisbon.

2. The Sri Lankan envoys met King John. They were accorded a very warm welcome. They were provided with superior board and lodging. Later a council of the elite of that country was convened and there the statue of Prince Dharmapala was crowned, in their presence. All who were assembled there, accepted Prince Dharmapala as the only heir to the throne.

Then King John III stood up and proclaimed, "Prince Dharmapala is the future king of Sri Lanka. We should take upon ourselves the responsibility of providing security to this prince."

3. The elite accepted all this. At this meeting a document about the prince was also released. All were happy to read it. In the midst of all this, the Sri Lankan envoys made a request for assistance to propagate Christianity in Sri Lanka. For this purpose they wished to have the help of the clergy. The one who was the happiest, at this request, was the king. He was a staunch supporter of Christianity.

4. "It's with pleasure, that I am sending the clergy, along with you," said the king. The king thought that King Buwanekabahu too may embrace Christianity. He strongly believed that if the king of a country became Christian, his subjects too would naturally follow suit. King John, who was overjoyed, got this event of Prince Dharmapala's coronation, carved in a box made of elephant tusks. That was presented to the Sri Lankan envoys.

5. Our envoys accepted it with thanks and handed over a letter from Sri Lanka, to the king. This letter contained a description of the wrong doings of the indisciplined Portuguese. In this letter a request was also made to the king, to enforce rules to punish them. The king read the letter with concern, and accepted the contents. He agreed to enforce laws to punish the wrongdoers.

6. The following are the rules laid down. It was prohibited to take goods from either King Buwanekabahu or his subjects, without making the necessary payments. The Portuguese who violated this rule, were to be punished. They were debarred from making ships or any sails. Even if they were to buy land, it was compulsory for them to pay taxes, just as the locals do. They were bound to perform whatever service they were assigned to. Employment of a Sri Lankan boy or girl for any menial job, was strongly prohibited.

7. The king's officers had the power to supervise them and to see that these rules were respected. These officers should be allowed to inspect any ships that left the shores of Sri Lanka. All these rules were meant to suppress the wrong doings of the Portuguese.

8. This was advantageous to the Sinhala people. King John III sent two of his suggestions too. They were to King Buwanekabahu. One was requesting the king to employ Thammita Suriya Bandara and his descendents in the king's service, as the Chief Nilames. The second was about Anthony Pereira, who had gone to Lisbon. He was to be given the post of the Royal Translator, for as long as he lived.

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