Funday Times - Our History

The struggle for power in Jaffna

By Halaliye Karunathilake, Edited and translated by Niluka De Silva, Illustrated by Saman Kalubowila

1. The missionary Francis Xavier appealed to the Portuguese to punish King Sankili. But they did not take much notice of his appeal. Because his request could not be ignored, the Portuguese sent a contingent of men to Jaffna. But they did not punish the king. They captured one of the king's best ships and brought it to Colombo. Meanwhile the people of Jaffna were also displeased with King Sankili.

2. These people were previously from the Kotte Kingdom, and therefore requested from the Viceroy in Goa that a Sinhala king be made ruler of Jaffna. The Viceroy was troubled. He thought that the people were unhappy because King Sankili had slain many Christians but still had not been punished. The Viceroy Don John de Castro thought deeply about this situation.

3. He felt that he had neglected his responsibilities and his duty towards his religion. And that it was bad for his reputation and position as viceroy. So, he decided to grant the request made by the people of Jaffna. By this time there were two princes who were heirs to the throne of Jaffna. They were already in Goa under the Portuguese protection. One prince was the son of King Buwanekabahu. The other was this prince's cousin. They both had fled during the revolt in Kotte.

4. These two princes’ had embraced Christianity. Their objective was to somehow at sometime, return to Sri Lanka and come to power. The viceroy decided to send one of the two princes back to Jaffna. But the unforeseen happened. The smallpox plague spread like wildfire throughout Goa. Many people fell sick, suffered and died from this dreaded disease.

5. The Portuguese tried very hard to stop the panic caused by this terrible disease. But it was hopeless. The two princes’ of Kotte also caught the plague. All the medicines and treatment given, were of no avail and they both suffered and died. It was January, 1546 A.D. The funeral of the two princes’. was held in Goa. Once again the people of Jaffna requested that a prince of Kotte be made the ruler of Jaffna.

6. The viceroy was now in a difficult situation. There were no more princes.’ from Kotte, to be sent to Sri Lanka. The viceroy decided on a different tactic. There was a prince from Jaffna who had come to Goa seeking help. This prince was given a small army and sent back to Sri Lanka as the ruler of Jaffna. In the meantime the viceroy considered the request made by the King of Kandy for closer ties with the Portuguese. He sent Andro de Souza to Kandy to meet with the king.

7. This was in February, 1546 A.D. A Christian priest was also sent with Andro de Souza. They were accompanied by a contingent of 50 men.

On the way to Kandy, they struck up a conversation with the prince who was travelling to claim the throne of Jaffna. This prince told them the latest news of the King of Kandy. He told them that the King of Kandy had now completely changed his mind.

8. He said that the King of Kandy had once again made friends and allied with the kings of the Kotte and Sitawaka kingdoms. Furthermore, he added that, as these kings were all related to one another, the King of Kandy could not be trusted. On hearing this news, the Portuguese stopped their journey at Jaffna and did not continue to Kandy. Some days passed by. Then an envoy from Kandy, who had been in Trincomalee at that time, came to Jaffna.

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