HISTORY TEACHES US MANY LESSONS
Posted on November 18th, 2009

by Lt Col (Retd.) Anil Amarasekera

When I wrote the article “ƒ”¹…”United we stand divided we fall’ I could see trouble brewing ahead with an effort by vested interests to divide the nationalistic forces. It is now fast reaching the boiling point with the resignation of General Sarath Fonseka from the post of Chief of Defence Staff. That there has been a lot of love lost between President Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse and the former Commander of the Sri Lanka Army, General Sarath Fonseka, is obvious to the man on the street and it is not my intention to add fuel to the already burning fire by finding fault with one party or the other. That is exactly what the vested interests would want at this point of time to destabilize, divide and rule this country by making the political forces in power dance to the tune that they would decide to play.

I have read in the past few days many articles by journalists. Some of them have exposed hidden facts that are very true but by exposing such facts they have only deepened the rift between the two parties and have not contributed in any way towards reconciliation. Most of these articles have found fault with either General Sarath Fonseka or with the President or with both parties and in the process created doubt and mistrust in the minds of the reader towards one party or the other or with regard to both parties. Is this what we require at this point of time when we have defeated the world’s most ruthless terrorist organization and is on the threshold of establishing a unitary nation that needs to regain its prosperity once more to become that island paradise?

The LTTE it must be said was defeated by a combined effort of many. They include not only the President, the Secretary of Defence, the three service Commanders and the service personnel, the IGP and the Police Force, the Director General and the personnel in the Civil Defence Force but also the patriotic general public and expatriates of our nation. Therefore it would be wrong for one person, be it the President or General Sarath Fonseka, to claim that the victory was achieved due to his and his effort alone, forgetting the fact that it was a combined effort that made this victory possible. To evaluate one persons contribution against another’s is also futile, for it will only add to further misunderstandings. One drop of water however big it may be cannot and will not form an ocean. It is many drops of water that go to from an ocean.

Many journalists who write on the subject are unaware of the deep involvement of vested interests to destabilize this country through distorted facts, now that their proxy the LTTE has been convincingly defeated. Elaborating on such distorted facts will only further confuse the reader and add to the already brewing misunderstanding between the President and General Sarath Fonseka. Other journalist may even be in the pay of this vested interests to misrepresent facts and thus to deepen the rift between the President and General Sarath Fonseka. What a reader should understand is that only a fraction of this conspiracy to destabilize our nation will ever be exposed at the surface, while deep within there is much more to such hidden conspiracies. They are no different to an iceberg that floats with only a fraction of it exposed on the surface while much of it will remain submerged. The reader like a passenger in the ship Titanic believes that the ship can never be sunk by even an iceberg, until the iceberg hits the ship and the rest becomes history.

History on the other hand teaches us many lessons if we care to study and understand them. The Sinhala Army under the leadership of the Adikars and Dessaves were supporting the last king of Kandy Sirivikkamarajasiha (1798 to 1815) during the initial stages of his reign. Therefore when a British expeditionary force marched to the hill country to conquer the Kandyan kingdom, the Sinhala chieftains advised the king to withdraw from Kandy. The Sinhalese army then having allowed the British expeditionary force to enter Kandy surrounded them, cut off all supplies and reinforcements from finding its way to the besieged British troops and completely annihilated this force. It was such an overwhelming and humiliating defeat that the then Colonial Secretary in Britain sent out an order for the remaining British troops in Ceylon to leave the island forthwith. However, Lieutenant General Robert Brownrigg had by then requested and received assistance of over two thousand five hundred men as reinforcement s from the British government in Madras and this enabled him to request for the cancellation of the order to withdraw British troops from Ceylon.

The king swollen headed after the defeat of the British expeditionary force became outrageous and barbarous in his conduct towards some of his unoffending subjects who travelled to the Maritime Provinces held by the British for trade as they had been accustomed to do. He turned out to be such a despotic tyrant that he went to the extent of murdering his first Adikar Pilamatalawa in 1809, on some frivolous pretence accusing him of treachery. It must be mentioned at this point that it was first Adikar Pilamatalawa who helped him to usurp the throne in 1798. Eheylepola Dessave was next appointed as the first Adikar. Before long he too was similarly accused of treachery and had to deflect to the Maritime Provinces under the British for protection. It was then that the king decapitated Eheylepola’s children and forced his wife to pound their bleeding heads in a mortar after which her own throat was cut and her body cast into the Kandy Lake.

The stage was thus set for the British to create dissent between the king and the Sinhalese chieftains. The mastermind behind fueling this dissent was John D’Oyly the British government interpreter of the Sinhalese language, who had won the confidence of many chieftains and Mahanayake Theras. The British, who were convincingly defeated in battle in 1803 by the Sinhalese, were able to capture the King with little or no bloodshed receiving support from some of the Sinhala chieftains. Thereafter the Kandyan kingdom was ceded to the British by the Sinhala chieftains on the 2nd of Mach 1815, through the Kandyan Convention. The name of the ceded country mentioned throughout the Sinhala text of this International Treaty is called Sinhala, the name by which the island was known through the centuries. The letter and spirit of the Convention was never observed by the British colonial administration. This resulted in two rebellions. One was in 1818 and the other was in1848. British were able to crush both these rebellions in the most ruthless manner. What conspired is best explained in the words of an English Doctor serving in the British Army, Dr. John Davy in his writings, “ƒ”¹…”An Account of the Interior of Ceylon 1983,’ reprint pp 245-247.

“When a district rose in rebellion, one or more military posts were established in it; martial law was proclaimed; the dwellings of resisting inhabitants were burnt; their fruit trees were often cut down, and the country was scoured in all directions by small detachments, who were authorized to put to death all who made opposition ,or were found with arms in their hands”¦.When one considers this rebellion and its consequences, one almost regrets that we ever entered the Kandyan country”

One reason for the fall of the Kandyan kingdom was the fact that the king lost his head after defeating the British expeditionary force. Another reason for the fall of the Kandyan kingdom was the split that was engineered very surreptitiously by John D’Oyly between the king and his first Adikar Eheylepola. Therefore the lesson that you and I can learn from our own history is that a misunderstanding between the head of state and an important chieftain can destabilize a country and spell destruction and ruin to that nation. On the other hand when misunderstandings do occur, if reconciliation is possible between the head of state and an important chieftain, a nation can march forward towards prosperity. Let me therefore give another lesson from our own history to prove this possibility, by focusing your attention to the reign of king Mahasena (334 AD to 362 AD). His achievements in developing our country during his reign of twenty seven years are second to none.

King Mahasena who was misled by some lawless and evil Bhikkhus from Abhaygiri vihara destroyed the splendid Lohapasada seven stories high and carried away the material to construct additional buildings for the Abhaygiri vihara. Many other buildings of the Maha vihara were also destroyed for the very same purpose. One of the chieftains Meghavannabhaya, the best friend that the king had, saddened by the behavior of the king, gathered a rebel army in the Malayarata to punish the king for this wanton destruction. However before the battle, chieftain Meghavannabhaya decided to have one last meal with his best friend king Mahasena. Therefore with some very delicious food he went forth alone by night to meet the king and have dinner with him. When the king had eaten with perfect trust all the delicious food Meghavannabhaya had brought, the king asked his best friend why he had become a rebel. He informed the king that it was because the Maha vihara had been destroyed. The king admitted his fault and promised to reconstruct the Maha vihara to its former glory. They were thus able to reconcile their differences and avoid battling with each other the next day.

Let me conclude by reminding the readers that among the great kings who built ancient irrigation systems in this country, which even modern day technology may find difficult if not impossible to achieve, the name of King Mahanasena stands in the forefront as the king who constructed most of these irrigation works. He was able to achieve such a great success because there was unity and no division after he recoiled with his best friend and restored the Maha vihara.

One Response to “HISTORY TEACHES US MANY LESSONS”

  1. Priyantha Abeywickrama Says:

    This is an interesting article. I believe that we should totally ignore the history that we heard after the invasion by Buddhist missionaries that worsened all our divisions and brought us to current sorry state. With other invasions our country is led to a sort of garbage heap headed by all sorts of vermin. As humans, we have a fatal flaw in our design that produced this division, which could not be resolved by all known means during old days without systematic termination of their own kids, a non event during those days given their pro-life postures, which contributed to our demise. However, what happens around us today should be considered as a good omen for our future wellbeing thanks to means now available to overcome this menace. Our own creation of one-man rule has gone the full circle from the best possible solution during ancient times to the worst imaginable solution typifying the natural decadence concepts. The current set of leadership belonging to every denomination of the society has to be extinct (put down) to see any progress given their vested interests that overtake their bounden duties. Every one of them seems to work according to their own plan as the owners of the country making deals with aliens (India, Pakistan, USA, China etc.) who got their own divisive interests. It is the time for the rightful owners to claim the land while the rats fight each other to their own detriment burning down their own houses.

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