Governor Robert Brownrigg, BUTCHER of Uva-Wellassa
Posted on February 4th, 2015

by Shenali D Waduge

Slaughter every man, woman, and child (including babes suckling at the breast)” were the orders given by Governor Robert Brownrigg (3rd British Governor of Ceylon from 1813 – 1820) to Maj. Gen. 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 region was the granary of the Kingdom of Kandy before it was annexed by the British in 1815 under an Agreement now known as the ‘Kandyan Convention’ entered into with the Traditional Chiefs of the Kandyan Kingdom. No sooner was the ink was dry after the signing of this Treaty that the British Colonial Government began to dishonour this Agreement in both spirit and substance that it led to a popular uprising of the people led by the Kandyan Chiefs in 1818 that nearly brought the collapse of the British Colonial Government in Ceylon.

The British used a scorched earth policy including mass murder and genocide of innocent Sinhala civilians to crush this rebellion. A scorched earth policy is a military strategy which involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area. It is a military strategy where all of the assets that are used or can be used by the enemy are targeted, such as food sources, transportation, communications, industrial resources, and even the people in the area.

Robert Brownrigg arrived in then Ceylon at the age of 53 to take over as Governor of Ceylon from Maitland his predecessor. Brownrigg had no experience of civil administration, and no previous contact with oriental people when he arrived in 1812. These shortcomings did not affect colonial rule largely on account of John D’Oyly who had mastered the Sinhalese language and who corresponded with the Kandyan chiefs.

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 and 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 to annex the Kandyan Kingdom, Brownrigg was made a Baron in 1816. D’Oyly was rewarded by making him a Resident of Kandy.

The genocide committed by the British to quell the uprisings between 1818 and 1822 by slaughtering every man, woman and child including babies suckling at the breast, in the Uva Province (Badulla and Moneragala districts) goes down as notable examples of British crimes against humanity. Uva occupies a prominent place in Sri Lanka’s history for the first recorded visit of The Buddha to Sri Lanka was to Mahiyangana, South of Uva.

British human rights campaigners now pointing accusing 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.

Britain’s shame

The Britain that today 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 British that are now demanding demilitarization in Sri Lanka may like to note that the auxiliary force that was brought as reinforcements from India in 1818 only left Ceylon in 1920 – after 102 years and we wonder how many women were raped and were left with child!!! 10,000 Sinhalese Buddhists are said to have been killed in battle.

The people of Uva were very proud people as they had also fought against the Portuguese and the Dutch.

The entry of Herbert White, a British Government Agent in the (Compendium of Uva) Journal reads as follows: there is no record of the population of Uva after the rebellion. No record is left about Uva before the rebellion. If thousands died in the battle field they were all brave fighters. If 4/5 of the remaining population after the rebellion is considered as children and the old, the damage done is unlimited”.

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? Simply said neither UN nor the Human Rights Council existed at the time is simply not an excuse. 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 in modern context omit how the irrigation systems of the duchies of Uva and Wellassa the rice-bowl of Sri Lanka were systematically destroyed under British Government orders. Wellassa which means ‘WelLakshsa’ – Lakh of paddy fields, was brought to ruin by the British.

The British who preach now 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 17 who rebelled against the British, termed them ‘traitors’, and confiscated their properties by Government declaration. 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 behoves the Government to declare an official memorial for them.

The people of Sri Lanka need to know who their true heroes are:

  1. Keppetipola, former Dissawe of Oova (Uva)
    2. Goadagedara, former Adikaram of Ouva
    3. Ketakala Mohattala of Ouva
    4. MahaBetmerala of Kataragama in Ouva
    5. KudaBetmerala of Kataragama in Ouva
    6. Palagolla Mohattala of Ouva
    7. Passerewatte Vidane of Ouva
    8. Kiwulegedera Mohottala of Walapane
    9. Yalagomme Mohotalla of Walapane
    10. Udamadure Mohottala of Walapane
    11. Kohukumbure Rate Rala of Wellassa
    12. Kohukumbura Walauwe 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.
Monarawila Keppetipola Disawe

The British that now claim to stand for righteousness and seek the 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 (what today resembles extraordinary renditions), 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 and Sinhalese Lascorins. The 1818 rebellion was crushed by bringing Indian Tamils (Sepoys) from the Madras Presidency (Tamil Nadu).

Other cruel British officers who served in Ceylon were Lieut. J. MaClaine of the 73rd regiment (he enjoyed having breakfast while viewing Sinhalese being hanged), Lieut. Col. Hook was ready to hang any officer whom he suspected to be a rebel or collaborator.

Scorched Earth tactics banned under the Geneva Convention

The strategy of destroying the food supply of the civilian population in an area of conflict has been banned under Article 54 of Protocol I of the 1977 Geneva Convention. The relevant passage states:

It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove, or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies, and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive”.

British Scorched Earth tactics and crimes against humanity in other wars

British Lord Kitchener used scorched earth policy during the latter part of the Second Boer War (1899–1902) when the Boers not conforming to classic military defeat when their two capital cities were captured, adopted the first modern form of what we know today as guerrilla warfare, in order to rid their republics of the British. In response the British ordered destruction of the farms and the homes of South African civilians in order to prevent the still resisting Boers from obtaining food and supplies. An eloquent description of this comes from an Army officer at the time (Phillips, Lisle March (1901) with Rimington in the Boer War. London: Edward Arnold). This destruction left innocent women and children without means to survive since crops and livestock were also destroyed.

It was the British and not the Germans who first established large scale Concentration Camps. The existence of British run concentration camps was exposed by Emily Hobhouse who toured the camps and began petitioning the British government to change its policy. In an attempt to counter Hobhouse’s activism, the British commissioned the Fawcett Commission, that confirmed Hobhouse’s findings. Negligence by the British, lack of planning and supplies and overcrowding led to much loss of life. A decade after the Boer war P. L. A. Goldman officially determined that an astonishing number of 27,927 Boers died in the concentration camps: 26,251 women and children (of whom more than 22,000 were under the age of 16), and 1,676 men over the age of 16, of whom 1,421 were aged persons.

Boer civilians watching British soldiers blow up their house with dynamite: Boers were given 10 minutes to gather belongings.

British duplicity

The British Governments throughout its infamous colonial history had always applied double standards. The duplicity of the British Government in calling for accountability in Sri Lanka is best illustrated by its own handling of the ‘Chilcot Inquiry’ which investigated the conduct of the UK government and military in relation for the invasion of Iraq. This inquiry ran from November 2009 until February 2011 and it cost approximately £7.5 million, but its Report is not yet made public for fear of the huge embarrassment it would cause to both the British Government and British military once its contents are released. What is Britain now preaching against Sri Lanka with blood on its hands?

Irrespective of the outcome of the vote at UNHRC in Geneva, the Government of Sri Lanka must no longer hesitate to immediately appoint a fully fledged Commission of Inquiry to investigate British crimes in Ceylon during the colonial period (1796 – 1948), seek evidence from the public and then once the findings are announced if they are revealing of British crimes against humanity, take approximate steps to seek reparations from the Government of Britain for the damage and destruction caused to Sri Lanka together with an unconditional apology and penance that are long overdue.

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.

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12 Responses to “Governor Robert Brownrigg, BUTCHER of Uva-Wellassa”

  1. ranjit Says:

    Very valuable article but it’s too much for our readers because how much you wanted to show them about the patriotic heroes of the past to the current population they will not understand because they damn care about the past or future except themselves and their big belly. They got their salaries increased and their food items,Transport fares were reduced and that is more than enough for them. This is a fools paradise and Ranil is the Saradiel and MY3 is Andare.

    The Portuguese, Dutch and British now the Americans. UNPer’s love these guys. Para Sudda never did anything good to our Sinhala nation in the past or now but our Sinhala traitors still believe in them and try to sell our country and wealth in exchange for luxury lives for themselves and for their families. They talk about the past history but never learn anything from past mistakes. Our tears are in vain OH MOTHERLANKA.

  2. Peter Schalk Says:

    It would be an excellent article if the author would not use important historical information for political ends which is that the British have no right to criticize the Rajapaksa Government because of their duplicity. The British duplicity should be revealed even in other cases, but this does not disqualify the British from revealing and criticizing crimes of the Lankan Government. Each party is fully responsible for the crimes it has committed. It is not possible according to the law to level out one crime with another. – I read with great interest Shenali D Waduge’s articles as exemplary cases of Sinhala ethnonationalism. Why not trying to write articles which keep an academic standard? I can see that she is capable of doing so.

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    Good write up, Shenali. Thank you. You have highlighted the ex-Colonial power that is most powerful.

    I think the present win by our cheating Fascist govt is there because of some kind of FEAR that Lanka was going too much with regional politics and economics.

    Question to ‘Peter Schalk’ or more likely UK Tamil : Is going with BRIC countries (as done by MR govt) going too Left and leaving behind ex-Colonists of Lanka ?

    It is ex-Colonist lovers who have come in the guise of Fascists, into power through cheating !

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    I should say :

    It is ex-Colonist lovers who have come in the guise of Saviors (but really Fascists), into power through cheating !

  5. SenaD Says:

    Shenali D Waduge said:
    “The Statute of Limitations does not apply to Crimes against Humanity. We demand Britain come clean on its crimes in all of the colonies.”

    “The British who preach now 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).”

    That is the British way of saying not what they mean or not meaning what they say.

    ” Unfortunately, every post-independent leader continues to flout this key commitment.”

    This is because all of them were Macaulay’s children, or their having adopted ‘multi-faith’.

    Shenali, the facts you bring are unfortunately not common knowledge among the Sinhala people is mainly due to the subject of history having been removed from school curriculum.

    ranjit Says:
    February 4th, 2015 at 7:53 am
    “Sinhala traitors still believe in them and try to sell our country and wealth in exchange for luxury lives for themselves and for their families.”

    Even the events that resulted in the Kandyan Convention were due to ‘perceived grievances’ being exploited by the traitors, that seems to be a time invariant principle of traitors.

    Peter Schalk Says:
    February 4th, 2015 at 8:52 am
    ” It is not possible according to the law to level out one crime with another. – I read with great interest Shenali D Waduge’s articles as exemplary cases of Sinhala ethnonationalism.”

    You see a Sinhala ethnonationalism, because you seem to read it from an ethno-centric view point whatever your ethnicity is, because Shenali has done none of the sort.

    She is saying that “a prostitute is preaching the virtues of monogamy”!.

  6. Nimal Says:

    Very depressing to read but must look to the future like other progressive countries once colonized. One time colonials seems to have the best system around at present and we must have it can’t live in the past like the jihadists.

  7. SenaD Says:

    Nimal Says:
    February 4th, 2015 at 5:33 pm
    “One time colonials seems to have the best system around at present”

    Of course they do, because of the loot accumulated from the colonies over centuries!

    The ordinary public in those countries did not have emancipated lives until recently (in terms of age of a country). They had used slave labour even in their own countries, certainly before the empire wars of the late 1930s. That social structure started to open up in the UK and other European countries after that war; even the NHS in UK came into being after that.
    I believe that a little opening up of the social structure in the North of Sri Lanka also resulted from the military adventure of the LTTE, a possibly lasting positive contribution from the LTTE to the Tamil society.

    China could develop rapidly (over a short period of 7 decades), because they had continuity and stability of administration despite gross errors made on the way and rampant corruption that reduced the efficacy. If they had ‘democracy’ as India had over the same period the vast humanity (over 600 million) would not have been rescued from abject poverty. India can be hailed as the ‘largest democracy’ in the world, but it is of any relevance only to the well-to-do people living there; the rest are struggling to keep their heads above the water. The same applies to Sri Lanka.

    If MR could continue with his programme of development of all the areas of the country, some prosperity could come to the average individual Sri Lankan.

  8. Fran Diaz Says:

    NImal says ““One time colonials seems to have the best system around at present”. It was good only for them and their admiring followers. Not the bulk of people in those countries.

    Colonial Rule is good for all Fascism lovers. Colonists used the ‘divide & rule’ principle to the detriment of the vast majority of Lanka. Is this fair ?

    In the old days, the Plantations industry owners went along with the Brit Fascist rule. They also imitated the Brit Class system, servants and all, with ‘upper crust afternoon tea’. I have nothing against having home helpers, but not live in. Afternoon tea is ok too, but not in a snobbish upper crust way. Also, purely English speaking home owners were the order of the day. It was only the Buddhist overlay in society that saved our people from total annihilation under Brit rule.

    Are CBK & Ranil nostalgic for those Fascist times ? Are they spitefully dividing the country using Pres. Sirisena (‘the Compassionate One !! per Daily Mirror cartoonist) ?

    People forget that America too was a Brit colony, Fascist colonial Brit rule with Black slaves.

  9. Ananda-USA Says:

    Dear Nimal,

    I want to AGAIN offer Japan and Thailand as two countries that had very sophisticated civilizations of their own, and acquired the technological expertise to match those of the West, WITHOUT having the “dubious benefit” of being COLONIZED BY THEM. (Please IGNORE your bad experiences in Japan; they are not RELEVANT to this discussion.)

    The United States was probably the FIRST BRITISH Colony to WIN their Independence from Britain in 1776. Despite a Civil War, in which the former Colonial Master threatened to intervene, a century later, the United States has done prettey well after kicking out them out, don’t you think? The USA has had over 200 years to develop independently, and Sri Lanka only 67 years. Give us at least EQUAL TIME to do better using our own wits!

    I also want to point out, that during the 4-5 centuries since Sri Lanka came into contact with Western Colonialists, we are STILL TRYING to overcome the EFFECTS of Colonization, whereas Japan that was NEVER COLONIZED has raced ahead to become a first world nation.

    Furthermore, NONE of the nations that were COLONIZED by Western Nations, and which gained independence after the Colonial Western Nations were SEVERELY WEAKENED by World War II, have yet become First World Nations!


    The Uncle Tom ELITES of these countries who allied themselves to, and SLAVISHLY SERVED, the White Masters have no doubt BENEFITED ENORMOUSLY from their LAPDOG status, but what about the VAST MAJORITY … the TEEMING MILLIONS … of ordinary citizens who have NOT BENEFITED in EQUAL MEASURE?

    What ABOUT them? Don’t they COUNT in your ASSESSMENT of OVERWHELMING benefit!

    Your should THINK DEEPER, Dear Nimal, and develop a FAIR & OBJECTIVE BASIS for assessing the BENEFITS of COLONIZATION to the TEEMING MILLIONS who colonized and not the FEW Elites who joined them in the exploitation of their own people!

  10. Ananda-USA Says:

    Dear Nimal,

    I want to add to my previous CRITICISM of the “BENEFITS OF BEING COLONIZED”.

    There are at least TWO BROAD CATEGORIES of countries that were COLONIZED that we must consider separately.

    1. In the FIRST CATEGORY are countries that were DENSELY POPULATED, with a highly “civilized” societies of their own, strong reliogions capable of mustering resistance to the Colonialists tehologically, politically and sometimes militarily as well. In those countries, although the Colinialists succeeded in conquering them, they were largely UNSUCCESSFUL in either DENUDING the land of its indigenous people, or of ASSIMILATING them completely into their own IMPORTED culture.

    Most colonized countries of Asia, such as Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia, Indochina, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle Eastern Muslim states, of North Africa, and Equatorial Africa fall into this category. Some countries of South Africa fell prey to the Missionaries of the Colonial invaders, but succeeded in surviving the eradication of their peoples.

    In many of these countries, REVIVALS of the local culture and religions were SPEARHEADED by local political leaders and religious figures to RESIST and TURN BACK the Tide of Europeanization. Today they can all be considered to have RETAINED their “Indigenous Cultures” with a thin layer of European Colonial influence. Today, their populations are largely indigenous and their ECONOMIES largely belong to the DEVELOPING (Second) WORLD and even the UNDEVELOPED (Third) World.

    That thin layer consists of the best features of what they learned from the Colonisers, particularly in organization of national administrations, in modern technology, and in the European Languages that open windows to the external world. That thin layer, however, does not represent benefits that COULD NOT HAVE BEEN ACQUIRED without the EXPLOITATIVE BURDEN of COLONIZATION, as the case of Japan exemplifies.

    2. The SECOND CATEGORY of Colonies consists of those countries in which the indigenous population did not have the STRONG cultures, ORGANIZED religions, or the military strength to survive into a Post-Colonial Era. In these countries, systematic GENOCIDE was carried out against the native population, and LARGELY replaced with European immigrants from the “Mother” countries. Their TEEMING POPULATIONS were LARGELY wiped out; only traces of these once proud peoples exist today in protected areas serving the tourist trade of the Europeans. Today, the populations of these countries are of European extraction, and their ECONOMIES belong to the DEVELOPED (First) WORLD!

    This SECOND CATEGORY of countries, include the United States and Canada (native Americans wiped out and replaced by Europeans and African slaves), Australia (Native “Aborigines” wiped out and replaced by British convicts, and later other European settlers), New Zealand (Maoris wiped out and replaced by Europeans). There are some others as well. These nations are not we normally refer to as COLONIZED NATIONS; they were De-Facto EXTENSIONS of their Colonizing European “Mother” countries.

    The FACT that a FEW countries that WERE NEVER COMPLETELY or PARTIALLY COLONIZED …. such as Japan and Thailand … exist today to GIVE LIE to the NOTION that COLONIZATION is NECESSARY for people to SURVIVE as THRIVE as a FIRST WORLD Nation.

    Finally, the VAST DISPARITY in Development & National Wealth (on a Per Capita Basis) between these CATEGORIES of formerly COLONIZED nations, PROVES two FACTS beyond reasonable doubt:

    A. It is TOTALLY UNNECESSARY to be COLONIZED to rapidly develop and become a FIRST WORLD nation, capable of COMPETING toe-to-toe with Western Colonizing nations.

    B. The HUGE disparity between the TWO CATEGORIES of colonized nations is PROOF that different COLONIAL administrative policies were in play. In the FIRST CATEGORY to ONLY ECONOMICALLY EXPLOIT because inflicting a GENOCIDE proved to be not feasible, and to PREVENT the rise of ECONOMIES capable of COMPETING with the West, and in the SECOND CATEGORY to ELIMINATE the INDIGENOUS people, REPLACE them with immigrants from EUROPEAN countries, and to PROVIDE the ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE that would TRANSFORM them into “European” countries lying outside Europe.

  11. Independent Says:

    Peter Schalk,

    I suggest , rather than trying to evaluate academic value of these articles by Shenali , you should read them a like human being with a heart.
    This article is touching a corner of enormous suffering inflicted upon humanity from Aboriginal Australia and Canada to British India. “Duplicity” is to too good of a word here, hypocrisy could have been slightly more appropriate.

    Yes, all should criticise, crimes but criticism alone is of no use. You should be pressing the British government to conduct an international impartial inquiry in to millions of people killed in most brutal way to spread their hollow supremacy all over the world, create conflicts and make a living out of it.

    You, if British or English , should be donating 90% of you salary to those impoverished natives and their generations to come, just enable them to eat something and drink some water, as your salary is not worth that much if those nations were left alone by the British.

  12. Nimal Says:

    I am truly sad for the original natives all the countries still occupied by the colonialist. Then there comes a time where we have to SADLY accept for the greater good of all the people on this planet. If we dig more deeper then what about the animals who have lost their lands and even their lives for the greed and genuine needs of mankind. After all places that is being colonized is also homes to likes of us.
    With respect to Thailand and Japan,great wars in Europe weakened the economies of the former colonials that prevented further expansion. They were the lucky ones.
    I was one who joined hands with other students in London campaigned against Southern Rhodesia and SA but it seems to me all in vain, if you care to listen to the black Zimbabians now settled in UK.They will tell you whom they prefer. Even the villains who stole vast sums in Africa is embarrassed the lack of liberty and economic benefits to their people back home.
    One can talk till the cows come home about a religion or history to the suffering people and they wouldn’t be listening as their issues are bread and butter that non in the websites ever want to discuss, show how detached the bloggers are from reality.

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