Rehabilitation of King Sri Vikrama Rajasinha
Date : 2006-03-04
@- Asian Tribune -
On the 18th February 1815, Sri Vikrama Rajasingha (1798- 1815), the last serving monarch of Kandy was arrested, and subsequently transported to Vellore, India, where he died on 30th January 1832 at the age of 52. This was the darkest day in the history of the country - a defining moment. On the very day we lost the last independent out-post to the Britishers in a humiliating manner.
A "Black-day" in our history, thereby we learnt of the cut throat competition of the Kingdom’s chieftains competing amongst many others, treasonably curried favor to win over power and authority from the colonial masters, bringing down the independent kingdom conclusively, by which they forced the surrender of our peoples’ destiny into the hands of the foreign invader.
The historical records show how the Kandyan chiefs ignobly licked the boots of the British for their own self advancement. Also shows, how our chiefs became party to the "PR" (Public Relations) exercise, subtly crafted and carried on until the fall of the Kingdom. When the British became the masters of the whole island, it took them another long period of time- till February 4, 1948 to leave the country for ever.
Kandyan chiefs were appointed by the ruling monarchs to assist in the day to day administration of the kingdom. King was the fountain of their power and status. Pleasure of the monarch was the rule of the land. However, chiefs turned out to be most treacherous, acted against the wishes of the monarch to attain their own greed, sell aggrandizement, lust for power and to settle their pernicious power politics.
Our historians, who lived during the British colonial regime, towed the British line of thinking, whilst recording about the annexation of the Kandy kingdom. Knowingly, or else unwillingly, they became prey to the British public relations exercise. They wrote that the British relieved the people from the tyrannical rule of the last king. A clever ploy designed to annex the independent state.
Unfortunately, even after gaining independence from the British colonial overlordship, our historians have failed to rehabilitate Sri Vikrama Rajasingha, the last king who put his life on line to defend the country's independence. Treacherous legacy of the Kandyan chiefs may be still haunting the minds of our historians as the last vestiges of former chiefs are still active in the country’s politics and holding sway of the country’s independence, freedom and unity to ransom following the footsteps of their treacherous ancestors who worked hand in gloves with the last British Colonial Masters for their personal gains. They might be harboring malice and bias against restoring the due place to the last King of Kandy, because the bulwark of independence was a "Nayakar," an Indian origin, though the son of the soil.
A lost heart
Earlier, on the 8th February 1815, the First Adigar Molligoda crossed over to the British camp at Ganetenna and pledged to support the foreign aggressor. The British governor ordered the troops on all routes to concentrate on to the capital city of Kandy. When the King learnt that his chiefs were deserting him one after another, he found that he could not withstand the onslaught of the combined forces of the British and of those betrayed chiefs, and became dejected over his vulnerable position, lost heart and fled from the capital to Medde Maha Nuwera.
On 11th February, Lt. General Sir Robert Brownrigg, the commander in Chief of the British forces in the island and the Governor, issued a proclamation that "provinces of Three and Four Korales and Sabaragamuva with all their royal rights and dependencies were become and were declared to b e integral parts of the British possessions in the island of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and were received under sovereignty of His Majesty the King of Great Britain."
This announcement was the prelude for the attack on Kandy and for taking possession of the kingdom. Even the above proclamation failed to deter the chiefs of Kandy from supporting the Britishers whose intention became clear that they were bent on acquiring the Kandyan Kingdom for their own interests and not to turn them on to the Chiefs of Kandy. It all happened when on 12th February 1815, the British Division, the advance guard under Major Willerman entered the deserted capital and took possession of the town of Kandy.
On 14th February, the British Governor Sir Robert Brownrigg himself entered the city and made the ancient palace of the Kings of Kandy as his headquarters.
On his order, a detachment was sent with Lieutenant Mylius and Ehelepola, the erstwhile first Adigar, to capture the King. On the way on pursuit of the King, a detachment of Tamils contested the pursuers, but were defeated.
Ceylon Government Gazette Extraordinary dated Wednesday 22th February 1815 (Government Gazette was first published on Monday 15th March 1802 when there was no newspapers in Sri Lanka and it also functioned as a sort of a newspaper) published the "Bulletin of Intelligence" regarding the capture of the King. The Government Gazette Notification reads as follows :
"Devout thanks are due to Supreme disposer of events, who has enabled His Majesty’s Forces in this Colony in short space of forty days without the loss of a single individual, to overturn a Tyrannical Government which for several generations has oppressed the people of the Interior Provinces in the Island of Ceylon."
"A dispatch has just reached His Excellency the Governor and Commander of the Forces from Mr. D’Oyly, communicating the important and pleasing Intelligence that the King of Kandy with two of his wives was yesterday surrounded by the people of Dombera in conjunction with some armed Kandyans sent by the Adigar Eyhelapola in the precincts of the village of Medde Maha Nuwera in the Province of Dombera and taken Prisoner. His Mother and 2 remaining Wives were at Hanweyllie (a short distance from the same place) and had been sent for with conveyances an escort."
The King was captured with two of his Queens in the house of Udupitiya Aratchi at Gallhavatta a mile beyond Medde Maha Nuwera. Resistance shown by a few King’s faithful attendants was easily overcome. Captors insulted and maltreated the King. The Monarch who was the symbol of sovereignty and independence was captured, bound, plundered of his valuables, humiliated and dragged with greatest indignity by Ehelepola’s men and on the n ext day D’Olyly took the King in his custody. King's mother and the other two Queens were captured at Hanvalla.
Sri Vikrama Rajasingha retorted at his captors, inter alia "Had my people behaved as they ought to have done, I would have shown you whether I was a man or woman. Twice during my reign have you obtained possession of the town of Kandy, and twice have you been very glad to get out of it." Britishers were afraid to keep the King in the Kingdom. They removed him under to Colombo, where he reached on 6th March. This was the last nail in the coffin of the independence.
The last nail
For the first time, the British East India Company's forces under the command of Sri Edward Hughes set sail for Sri Lanka and captured the fort of Trincomalee on 5th January 1782. And six days later, the fort of Oostenberg was taken by assault. On 25th August 1782 the French fleet arrived at Trincomalee under the commande of Bailli de Sufferen, attacked the British forces occupying the Trincomalee fort.
British surrendered on 30th August, followed by the surrender of Fort Oostenberg on the next day. The two Forts remained in the hands of the French, till the Peace of Paris in 1783, when they were restored to British, who in turn, restored them back to the Dutch on the same day.
In 1794, the French Republic conquered Holland and promulgated a Batavian Republic. The hereditary Stadholder of Holland, Willian IV of Orange Fled to Great Britain. This made Britain to declare war on Batavia. This was construed as the opportune movement by the British East India Company, when its Council met on 12th July 1795, to attack the Dutch in Sri Lanka to take over their territories.
Meanwhile Stadtholder was persuaded by the British host to issue an order to admit the British troops and ships in Cape of Good Hope and Sri Lanka to prevent the colonies from being seized by the French. Exiled Stadtholder issued the following instruction to J.P. Angelbek, the Dutch Governor of Sri Lanka:
"Noble and Most Honored Confidante, Our Trust and Well Beloved,"
"We have deemed it necessary to address you this communication and to require you to admit to Trincomalee and elsewhere in the Colony under your rule the troops of His Majesty the King of Great Britain which will proceed there, and also to admit into the harbors or such other places where ships might safely anchor the warships, frigates and armed vessels which will be dispatched on behalf of His Majesty of Great Britain; and you are also to consider them as troops and ships belonging to a power that is in friendship and alliance with their High Mightinesses, and who come to prevent the Colony from being invaded by the French."
Initially, the Dutch decided to accept the instruction of their Stadtholder, but later the Dutch Council in Sri Lanka received information that the change in the constitution of Holland had been made with the consent of the people and they were bound to stand by the Republic. Therefore, they decided not to submit to the orders of their exiled Stadholder, but resolved to defend their possessions.
According to the resolution adopted by the British government in Madras on 7th July forces were sent to Trincomalee under the command of Colonel (James) Stuart. No sooner the Dutch resolved to defend their possessions, the British troops broke ground on 18th August, after three days on 26th August a breach was made and they summoned the Dutch to surrender. The terms of the capitulation were given below, as shown in original writing which is still extant :
"The garrison of Trincomalee, in consideration of the defence they have made, will be allowed to march out of the Fort with Honors of War, drums beating and Colors flying, to the Glacis, where they will ground their arms and surrender themselves prisoners of war, the officers keeping under swords. Private property will be secured to them, but all public property, papers, guns, stores and provisions of every kind must be delivered up in their present conditions to the officers appointed by us to receive them."
"The garrison to march out and British troops to be put in possession of the Fort in one hour after the Capitulation is signed, and two officers of the garrison of the rank of Captain to be delivered immediately as hostages for the performance of this agreement."
"These are the only terms, we the undersigned officers commanding His Britannic Majesty's Forces, can grant. Major Fornbauer, if he accepts the condition, will sign this paper and return it by the officers he sends as Hostages within half an hour from the time he received it."
"Given under out hands, in the Camp before Trincomalee this 26th day of August 1795."
Sgd: Peter Rainer J.Stuart."
It was signed by Fornbauer and duly returned and Trincomalee passed into British hands.
On the same terms, Fort Ostenberg which commands the harbor was next besieged and capitulated on 31st August.
Major Fraser led a detachment to Batticalo, which surrendered on 18th September.
Point Pedro was occupied on 27th September and on the following day the Dutch Commander Raket surrendered the Jaffana fort to Stuart. On 1st October 1795.
Captain Monson occupied Mullaitivu while Captain Burton Gage Barbut captured the Fort and the Island of Mannar on 5th November and on 13th November Captain Bowser occupied the fort of Kalpitya.
With the intention of capturing the remaining Dutch settlements, Lord Hobart, the governor of Madras decided to seek the cooperation of the king of Kandy. He chose to send Robert Andrews of Madras Service to Kandy. Andrews met King Rajadhi Rajasingha and discussed the draft of a treaty. The discussions failed to consummate a mutual agreement, but Andrew proposed that the king should depute his delegates to Madras with authority to enter into a treaty.
Accordingly Migastenne and Denagamuve arrived on Madras as King’s ambassadors on 29th December, while preparations were being made at Ramnad for the expedition to capture Colombo. After prolonging discussions, Andrew succeeded in persuading the ambassadors to sign 12th February 1796 a treaty with 13 articles.
Meanwhile, the British army that reached Negambo on 5th February 1796, began to advance passing Ja-ela and arrived within four miles of Colombo without the slightest resistance.
The Dutch sent troops to Pass Betal (Wattala), Hendala and Grandpass and it appeared that they were on a defence arrangement, but the British crossed the river unopposed and the Dutch forces fell back into the Fort. The only single incident of resistance by the Dutch reported was that of Lt. Col. Raymond of the Luxembourg regiment, who lost his life while checking the British advance. The British captured Korteboam, marched to Kaymans Gate driving the Dutch forces and occupied Pettah.
The Dutch abandoned their positions, withdrew to the Fort. On 14th February, Major Andrew demanded the surrender. Subsequently the Dutch decided to surrender their possessions in the island. At ten O’clock on 16th February 1976, all settlements of the Dutch East India Company were surrendered to the British. According to British Colonial office report, 2 British soldiers were killed and 15 injured, in their military operation to capture Colombo.
The British East India Company appointed Colonel James Stuart (1795-1796), the officer commanding the British forces in Sri Lanka as the Chief Civil Authority, followed by Welbore Ellis Doyle (1796-1797). On his sudden death, Peter Bonnevaux was appointed.
He was followed by Brigadier General Pierre Frederic de Meuron (1979- 1798). Administration of the British territories in Sri Lanka was under the Governor of Madras in Council and was administrated from 26th February 1976 and terminated on 12th October 1978.
Meanwhile, on July 1798, the British Government decided to take over the administration of Ceylon from East India Company. The first proposal was to take over the government of Ceylon completely under the Secretary of State and Ferederic North was appointed as the first civilian governor and commander of the armed forces. Though North arrived in Bombay in July, due change of plan, he took charge of the country on 12th October 1798.