I have written no less than three times requesting that the road named after the butcher of Uva-Wellassa, Brownrigg, be changed and it was appropriately changed subsequently to Keppetipola Mawatha.
British human rights campaigners now pointing fingers at Sri Lanka have forgotten the Madulla Massacre that led to razing and annihilating of entire villages. In the entire Uva region the male population above the age of 18 were killed in revenge for resisting British imperial occupation under Governor Brownrigg
The West, at the behest of non-resident Tamils now living in countries there, has been promoting attacks on our country by claiming “gross” HR violations. Our HR record certainly is not what it should have been but who (or what) is Britain in particular to point a finger at us – for when they point a finger at us they should know that there are three pointing at them. After Blair, of Iraq mass murder fame, came for his holiday of sorts, I decided to recall what they did here when they ruled our country and cite one instance alone to make my point.
“Slaughter every man, woman, and child (including babes suckling at the breast)” were the orders given by Governor Robert Brownrigg (third British Governor of Ceylon from 1813 – 1820) to Major General Hay MacDowell in 1818. It is the edict that left the people in the agriculturally rich grain growing region of Uva-Wellassa of then Ceylon, in a state of famine and starvation.
Uva-Wellassa was the granary of Kandy before it was annexed by the British in 1815 under the ‘Kandyan Convention’. No sooner than when the ink dried after the signing of this Treaty, the British Colonial Government began to dishonour this Agreement, in both spirit and substance; it was that which led to a popular uprising led by the Kandyan Chiefs in 1818, which nearly brought the collapse of the British Colonial Government in Ceylon.
Kandy was occupied by February 14, 1815 using only 3,744 British troops. The King of Kandy Sri Wikrama Rajasinha was taken prisoner on February 18 at Gallehewatte in Dumbara and deported to Vellore, South India. He died in 1832 while his only son (born in exile) died in 1843. That Sri Lanka was not conquered is proved in the Act of Settlement read at the Convention on March 2, 1815 stipulating the conditions under which the British Crown would administer the annexed Kingdom. The ceding of Kandy ended Sinhalese independence of 2357 years.
In recognition of his ‘achievement’ of helping Britain annex Kandy, Brownrigg was made a Baron in 1816. D’Oyly was rewarded as the ‘Resident of Kandy’.
British human rights campaigners now pointing fingers at Sri Lanka have forgotten the Madulla Massacre that led to razing and annihilating of entire villages. In the entire Uva region the male population above the age of 18 were killed in revenge for resisting British imperial occupation under Governor Brownrigg. No paddy or chena cultivation could be done for 10 years due to lack of man power. Davy’s records reveal that during an inspection of the Uva region with Governor Brownrigg they had not seen a single person or house for seven days.
The Britain that preaches human rights and demands accountability and upholding of universally accepted standards on human rights needs to recall some of the orders given by men, Britain knighted, in recognition of their services to Her Majesty the Queen during Imperial colonial rule.
The people of Uva were a very proud people as they had also fought against the Portuguese and the Dutch.
Britain not releasing the Chilcott Report which exposes the crimes of Blair and Bush is no surprise. The British human rights champions have conveniently avoided acknowledging how their troops killed all cattle, animals, burnt homes, property, burnt grain, cut down their coconut, jak and breadfruit trees, agricultural crops and fields and even salt that the people possessed? The Statute of Limitations does not apply to Crimes against Humanity. We demand Britain come clean on its crimes in all of the colonies.
British “human rights preaching” omits how the irrigation systems of Uva and Wellassa, the rice-bowl of Sri Lanka, were systematically destroyed under British Government orders. Wellassa which means ‘Wel Lakshsa’. 100,000 paddy fields were ruined by the British.
The British who preach about honouring commitments made may like to ask how they betrayed the core terms of the Kandyan Convention, in particular the assurance given to protect Buddhism as state religion (Article 5 of the Convention which refers to the inviolability of the Buddhist religion). Unfortunately, every post-independent leader continues to flout this key commitment.
Governor Robert Brownrigg who issued the gazette notification on January 1, 1818 condemned all 18 who rebelled against the British, termed them ‘traitors’, and confiscated their properties. They were declared ‘Rebels, Outlaws and Enemies of the British’. It took over 180 years for the Sri Lankan Government recognize them as ‘National Heroes’ and it is about time that the Government establishes an official memorial for them.
The people of Sri Lanka need to know who their true heroes are. They were:-
1. Keppetipola, former Dissawe of Uva
2. Godagedara, former Adikaram of Uva
3. Ketakala Mohattala of Uva
4. MahaBetmerala of Kataragama in Uva
5. KudaBetmerala of Kata ragama in Uva
6. Palagolla Mohattala of Uva
7. Passerewatte Vidane of Uva
8. Kiwulegedera Mohottala of Walapane
9. Yalagomme Mohotalla of Walapane
10. Udamadure Mohottala of Walapane
11. Kohukumbure Rate Rala of Wellassa
12. Kohukumbura Walau we Mohottala of Wellassa
13. Bootawe Rate Rala of Wellassa
14. Kohukumubura Gahawela Rate Rala of Wellassa
15. Maha Badullegammene Rate Rala of Wellassa
16. Bulupitiye Mohottala of Wellassa
17. Palle Malheyae Gametirale of Wallassa.
18. Monarawila Keppetipola Disawe
The British that now seek high moral ground wherever possible need to be reminded how they treated Madugalle Uda Bagada Nilame who was dismissed from office, arrested without being given the opportunity to bid farewell to his family, while his residence was publicly burnt on Governor Brownrigg’s orders, possessions confiscated and sold with proceeds going to a British pension fund.
What must also be mentioned here is that the British army in Ceylon comprised Europeans, Javanese, Malay, African troops, Indian sepoys. The 1818 rebellion was crushed by bringing Indian Tamils (Sepoys) from the Madras Presidency (Tamil Nadu).
Robert Brownrigg must be condemned for his crimes in Ceylon even at this late stage because that is a historic duty that posterity owes to our freedom fighters and national heroes who sacrificed their lives and liberty in the Uva-Wellassa based war of independence in 1818.