Sri Lanka History Page

Sri Lanka History is incident full. Being an important trade port and oasis of Nature for sea farers of China, Arabia and Europe of the ancient times. Sri Lanka has a fascinating documented history over 2500 years of Civilization. The most valuable source of knowledge for the legends and historical heritage of Sri Lanka is the Mahavamsa (Great Genealogy or Dynasty), a chronicle compiled in Pali, in the sixth century.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Kings Rule

The Kings Rule

This was the system in Place times through out till 1505. John Doily Wrote on his notes �The Kings Power is Massive, He decisions are firm, The ministers may advice him but cannot change his will, he decided to make war or peace, He makes the law.

However a he is not a Dictator, he had a cabinet containing senapathi, mahalekam, purohitha, and bhandagarika. Protecting peasants and religion. He always had to go by traditions. He had a limit of power for anything he does. He had to take advice and intelligence from the maha sanga. If he does not rule this way the public will rise against him.
The King was responsible for keeping peace, protecting the law, Protecting peasants at Durbiksha times, Decease and Rebellions and against Invasions (Para Sathru Akramana).

The King delegated the power to Yuwa raja, his Adipada Senavi and other officials . The king appointed the officers. The local ruling unit was the village. The ruler of the village was called gamika or gamladda. The officers worked for the Kingdom was paid in Lands. They were called Nindagam.

The Early Travelers of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka was the ideal stop over of the Ancient Sea farers saling in the Indian Ocean to east Asia and pasific. The Arheologica evidences prove that Sri Lanka had even has diplomatic relationships with Rome before BC. The Chinese, Arabian, Persian, South and North Indian, Malay were the fisrt traders followed by Portugese, Dutch and British.

Sir Emerson Tennent says
in his well known book on Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
"There are no island in the world that has attracted the attention of authors in so many distant ages and so many different countries as ceylon. There are no nation in ancient or modern times possesed of a language and a literature ... It's nature, beauty, culture, religion, antiquities and productions have been described as well as Greeks, Romans, The writers of China, Burma, India and the geographers of Arabia and Persia; By the medieval voyagers of Italy, France and Germany; By the analysts of Portugal and Spain; By the merchant adventurers of Holland and Topographers of Great Britain."

Pliny (45 A.D)
One of the greatest Roman Historian writes about Sri Lanka in his encyclopaedic work writes

''It had been of long time thought by men in ancient days that Taprobane (Sri Lanka) was a second world"

FA HIEN (414 A.D)
The Chinese pilgrim spent two years in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) mostly at Anuradhapura then a famous center of learning was the furthest point from his home in his 15 year old odyssey.
He writes about Sri Lanka in his works

"This country is an oasis, prosperous and happy; it's people are well-to-do; they all have received the faith, and find their amusement in religious music.

The se-faring nations knew Sri Lanka from very early times because of its positions on the trade routes. The greeks called it Taprobane. Cosmos the greek merchnat from Alexandria gives us the fullest account of Sri Lanka.

"The island being as it is , in a position, is much frequented by ships from all parts of India and from Persia and Ehiopia and it like wise sends out many of it's own and those from remote countries like china and other trading places..."

SINBAD The Sailor in the Arabian Nights
In the middle ages many Christians and Muslims belived that Ceylon was indeed the earthly paradisee to which Adam was consigned after he was expelled from Eden, and Adam's Peak naturally figured in their speculation.

Sinbads narrative was based on recitals of two famous topographers Abouzeyd and Massoudi (9th Century). Sinbad writes in his notes

"I made by way of a devotion a pilgrimage to the place where Adam was confined after his banishment from Paradise and had the curiosity to go to the top of the mountain"

Adam's Peak (Sri Pada)

Before Europeans came to be interested in the island, The Arabs had a virtual monopoly of the trade with Ceylon which they called Zeilan or Serandib. The Arab travellers and seafarers have left their comments on Sri Lanka.

Marco Polo Arrived in Sri Lanka as the escort of the princess Kukhachin the grand daughter of Kabulai Khan on her way to espouse the great Khan of Persia. Marco polo writes

"This, for it's actual size, is better circumstanced than any other island in the world .. the island produces more beautiful and valuable rubies than found in any other place in the world .."

"In this island there is a very high mountain where the tomb of Adam, our first parent, is supposed to be found"

Beruwala a Fishing harbor was the sea port of Early travelers who traveled to the Adam's peak


By the 14th Century Sri Lanks fame was speread in Europe and Arab as the Island of the holy mountains, which made two Italian friars visiting the island in 1329 and 1349 says

"There is also an island called Sillan which is 2000 miles away, there be found an infinite number of serpants and many other wild animals in great numbers , specially the elephants"

This famous traveler wtites in in travel records that he visited Sri Lanka on a pilgrimage to Adams Peak which they believed as the Holy Foot print of Adam their fore father. Many Arabian traders arrived in Beruwala Bay and made pilgrimages to Adams peak via Ratnapura where they have traded Gems.







Second Janaraja Constitution - 1978

The UNP (United National Party) government which was led by the Hon. J. R. Jayawardana came to the power in 1977. With the new government there was again reformation to the constitution with establishment of the executive presidency. It was a rapid change to the constitution, in considering secular values.

At the election in 1977 the UNP government received two third majority, mainly because the adverse economic situation in the country during the reign of Samagi Peramuna. Therefore the main reason of success of the UNP during the election in 1977 was people�s need for a relief.

In 1978 august 31 the new constitution was approved. In new constitution the Country was considered as �Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka�. There some new features.

1. Basically written and non flexible
2. Introduction of executive presidency
3. Still there was the cabinet; So it a mix of cabinet and presidency
4. Cancellation of simple majority method and introduction of proportionally electing system
5. Introduction of referendum
6. Introduction of Ombudsman
7. Extension of the chapter of basic rights and handover the power on rights to the supreme court
8. Establishment of provincial councils

Even with advanced changes the 1978 constitution is not much success one. During the last twenty years after approval of the 1978 constitution there had been seventeen reforms. It indicates weaknesses of the constitution.

First Janaraja Constitution - 1972

Sri Lanka got a dominion type of freedom after 1948. From that up to 1972 Sri Lanka had constitution made by the Soulbery commission. Because of the weaknesses in Soulbery constitution, there was an increased demand for a new constitution at about 1970. With Soulbery constitution Sri Lanka was unable to become an independent republic. There several reasons.

1. Still the Queen of the Britain was the ruler of the country
2. Acceptance of the British Preach Council as Appeal court
3. The Parliament was not completely independent
4. The country was governed with an offered constitution and the parliament was unable to reform it.

Under such conditions the Sri Lanka was still a part of the British. Also Soulbery constitution had weak points that have to be corrected.

1. Presence of non-successful council
2. Absolute authority of the Parliament had been limited
3. Mention on basic rights and government policies were not included

Soulbery constitution was not a will of the Sri Lankan community. Therefore it does not represent the Sri Lankans and there was a necessity of a new constitution. In 1970, the Samagi Peramuna gave a promise at their political campaigns to change the constitution in order to make Sri Lanka an independent republic. Ultimately the Samagi Peramuna got more than two third majority. Dr. Colvin R. De Silva was the minister of constitution. Therefore Dr. Colvin R. De Silva was the president of the constituent assembly. The Soulbery constitution was revoked by the assembly completely. The new constitution was flexible and could be changed by the National Government Council. Some important new features can be seen.

1. It was stated that Sri Lanka was an independent country
2. Introduction of president to the country
3. Establishment of national government council
4. Introduction of a supreme court and appeal court
5. Introduction of constitutional court
6. Inclusion of statements on basic rights and freedom
7. Inclusion of a fundamental statements on government policies
8. Establishment of Government counseling board and State Service Discipline Board
9. Establishment of court service counseling board and a Discipline Board
10. Inclusion of National language, National religion, National Song, National Flag etc. to the constitution.

Unlike the British constitution, the new constitution was a documented. It had mild non documented parts and had all the basics existence and function of the government.

Early 20th Century Political Formations of Sri Lanka 1815- 1948

Calebrooke Commission

In failing to establish a laissez-faire state in Ceylon, British appointed a commission called Calebrooke -Cameron commission. The main concerns of the commission were to eliminating mercantilism, state monopolies, discriminatory administrative regulations and any interference in the economy. Above problems were considered with regard to the Dutch rule and the commission was a major step to eliminate those mal-functions.

Calebrooke Commission showed an increased function during 1830s and 1840s. It's waves spread allover the political, economic and social spheres. Many of the proposals made by the commission, basically on administrative, economic, judicial, and educational were continued for next century.

The commission was recommended to keep country under an one administrative system, and five provinces based on the culture and language of the people. Cameron made the changes in judicial to bring the justice in front of law. In 1633 his concept was granted.

Calebrooke Commission suggested an Executive Council, that to replace and reduce the power of the government. A legislative council to discuss the legislative matters.

The Council consisted three Sri Lankas to represent Sinhalese, Burghers, and Tamils in 1833. During the British colonization the English education was prominent. The Calebrooke Commission emphasized the importance of the education through the local languages.

Crew Maclum Amendments

In 1910, there was a distinct change in constitutional council. The number of members were increased to a twenty one. Eleven of them were officially appointed and other ten were non-official. Out of non-official members, six were appointed by the governor, for different races and remaining four were elected.

One of the important steps in Maclum reforms is establishing the right for ballot. It was given to a limited number of people depending on their asserts and level of education, which all with right of ballot in the country were about four percent. The four of non-official members, elected with limited ballot, included with two Europeans, one Burger and one Sri Lankan, who was Ponnambalam Ramanathan.

Another main step was establishing the financial committee. The important issue is this committee included the colonial secretary, colonial treasurer, revenue controller and all the non-officially elected members. The financial committee was able to control the revenue, at the time where there are no constitutional meetings. Non-officially elected members were allowed, for some extent, to involve in ruling.

However, there were no much changes in governor or in constitutional council. But the Maclum reforms were unable to satisfy the Sri Lankan, so there were clamors requesting for power and positions. This was a great annoyance to British because Second World War also started at this period. During this time Sri Lankan clamors were well organized. The Sri Lankan National society gave the leadership to most of the clamors. Sri Lankan National society in 1919, presented a set of constitutional reforms. It was included, increment of members constitutional council up to fifty, a divisional representation, handover the control of budget to the legislature, and electing both official and non-official members of executive council are some of the suggestions. Taking those in to consideration again there was a reformation in 1920, called Manning Reforms.

First Manning Reforms

A clear change in First Manning Reforms is increment of the number of members in constitutional council up to thirty seven. Fourteen of them were officially appointed and other twenty three were non-official. First time in Sri Lankan history, the non-official members became the majority.

Sixteen of non-official agents were elected from with limited ballot, the remaining seven was appointed by the governor. When electing sixteen of non-official agents, in spite of electing regarding the race, it was also introduced the divisional representation. Out of sixteen of non-official agents, ten were elected divisionally, that is three from western province and each from other provinces. There were no much change to the governor�s position. Three non-officials were elected to the executive council; however they were unable to exert much pressure.

Still the Sri Lankans were not satisfied and a set of changes were presented by the Sri Lankan National society. Those suggestions included;

1. Constitutional council with forty five members
2. Twenty of them needed to be elected from poling divisions
3. Selecting eleven for minority by nomination
4. Selecting a speaker to Constitutional council from the members
5. Consisting the executive council from three officials and three non-officials
6. Lower the qualifications for right of ballot

While these changes were introduced by Sinhalese leaders of Sri Lankan National society, the Tamil leaders introduced their own changes. Taking these changes into consideration the, it was presented to the colonial secretary by the governor Manning.

Second Manning Reforms

Under Second Manning Reforms, the number of members of the constitutional council were forty nine. Only twelve of them were officials, where as other thirty seven were non-officials. Out of non-officials, twenty nine were elected, and others were nominated by the governor. The head of the constitutional council were handed over from the governor to a selected member. Main idea behind this was to keep the governor as a counselor. But still the authority of the country was the governor.
Executive council was upgraded to ten members and four of them were selected from non-officials of constitutional council. But the other six officials were powerful enough to suppress the non-officials.

Second Manning Reforms had more weaknesses. The legislature was a weak institute. There were non-officials more than three times, that of officials. But it was not a much constrain to the governor, due to racial difference between members of non-officials. The power and responsibility was separated; that is non-officials had no much power, and therefore Sri Lankans had responsibilities with no power.

Separation between constitutional council and executive council was a greater constraint, which should have had solidarity. Even four members from the constitutional council were selected to the executive council, they had no much power.
Presence of both racial representation and divisional representation made conflicts between races, which was advantageous for British rulers. Even twenty nine was elected by ballot, the number of people with right to ballot is lower. The power of the governor had to be reduced, since Sri Lanka was unable to use their minor power.

These weaknesses were presented to the colonial secretary by the governor Huckliford. Eventually the Donoughmore Commission was sent to the Sri Lanka.

Donoughmore Commission 1937

In 1927 a royal commission under the Earl of Donoughmore arrived in Sri Lanka to find out why the representative government as charted by 1924 constitution had failed and make changes to over come the shortcomings. The commission proposed international adult franchise and an experimental system of government to be run by executive committee, to amend the shortcomings.

The proposed donoughmore constitution proclaimed in 1931 to accommodate these new proposals in government, was a unique document that provided Sri Lankans with self-government. The document assign the highest level of authority to the British Governor. The legislative branch of the government, the State Council functioned in both an executive and legislative capacity. Seven committees performed executive duties. Each committee consisted of designated members of the State Council and was chaired by an elected Sri Lankan, who was addressed as minister. The board of ministers was formed with three British
officers of ministerial rank along with seven Sri Lankan ministers. The British ministers totally handled responsibility for Defense, External affairs, Finance, and Judicial matters.

The Donoughmore Constitution implemented in period of experimentation in participatory democracy. The executive committees did not tend to development of national political parties. As a result the Great Council of the Sinhalese (Sinhala Maha Sabha) was originated. The Sinhala Maha Sabha was the strongest proponent of this resurgent ideology. Other communal grounds also tend to organized political parties including the Burgher Political Association in 1938,The Ceylon Indian Congress in 1939, and the All Ceylon Tamil Congress in 1944.

Soulbery constitution

In 1944, a committee leaded by Lord Soulbery arrived Sri Lanka according to the statement made by Sri Lankan ministers. The commission enquired the existing constitution and submitted a report to British government. The report was mainly similar to the Sri Lankan minister's propositions.
A new Government constitution was arranged based on the Soulbery propositions. An election was conducted according to the new legislation in 1947 and decided to negotiate with the electing government and give a dominant status. Soulbery legislation consisted following behest.

1.1947 Lanka Independence act
2.1947 Lanka Independence Royal order
3.1946 Lanka Governance Royal order

The Soulbery constitution was spread with in 25 years and put the basement to the 1st Republic constitution.

Arabian Traders in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka was called as taprobane and serandib as Arabian Travelers. Arabian traders have visited Sri Lanka mainly for gems, spice and on other main reason.

IBAN BATUTA a famous traveler has visited Sri Lanka simply to climb Adams Peak which they believed as the Holy Foot print of Adam. Many arabian traders arrived in beruwala and made pilgrimages to Adams peak via Ratnapura where they traded Gems.

With the portugese taking control of the west coast the Arabian Traders reach the country through Baticaloa. The Traders sold Horses, Silk and Gold Jewelry.

Many traders got married to local women and some even served the King of Kandy. The Ancient Mosque by the sea at Beruwala was established by Arabian Traders many centuries ago.

Many Sri Lankans believe that Sinbad the sailor was here in Sri Lanka and he traveled to Ratnapura for Gems and Climbed the Sacred mountain Sri Pada as a Pilgrimage worship Adams Foot Print.

British came

When the British came to control the whole island after 1815 they established a quite distinctive imprint on the island's society and economy. this was most obvious in the introduction of plantation agriculture. during the British period coffee took over from cinnamon, but by the beginning of the 20th century, even though coffee had largely been wiped out by disease, plantation agriculture was the dominant pillar of the cash economy. Rice production stagnated and then declined, and Sri Lanka became dependent on the export of cash crops and the import of food. In 1948 it was only producing about 35% of its rice need.

The colonial period also saw major social changes take place. Under the Portuguese and then the Dutch the development of commercial activity in the coastal lowlands encouraged many "low country" Sinhalese to became involved in the newly emerging economic activity. In a process which continued in the early British colonial period, the low country Sinhalese became increasingly westernized, with the widespread adoption of an English education and the rise of an urban middle class, while the kandyan Sinhalese retained far stronger links with traditional and rural social customs. Despite British reforms in 1833 which introduced a uniform administrative system across the whole of Ceylon, wiping out the distinctive Kandyan political system, a contrast between Kandyan and low country Sinhalese persisted into the modern period.

However , an even more significant change took place in the 19th century. British commercial interests saw the opportunities presented for the cultivation of cash crops. cinnamon and coconuts had been planted by the Dutch and became particularly important, but the after 1815 coffee production was spread to the kandyan Hills. Despite ups and downs production increased dramatically until 1875, when a catastrophic attack of a fungus disease wiped out almost the entire crops. It was replaced, particularly in the higher regions by tea.

Labour had already begun to prove a problam on the coffee plantations, and as tea spread the shortage became acute. Farmer has shown how private labour contractors were recruited to persuade labourers to come to Ceylon from the Tamil country of South India. between 1843-1859 over 900,000 men woman and children migrated to work as indetureed labour.

The cost of their transport was ducated from their wages after they had arrived, and they could not leave until they had repaid their debt. Immigration on the scale created a massive change in the ethnic mix of the Highlands, with a qarticularly significant effect on the kandyan farmers, whose land was increasingly hemmed in by the spread of estaes. the indian timals however remained entirely separate frome the Sinhalease, returning to south India whenever possibel and sending cash remittances home