Let’s remember Keppetipola and other heroes
Posted on September 15th, 2015

K. Godage Former Ambassador Courtesy Island

September 9, 2015, 9:16 pm
Year 2018 will mark the two hundredth anniversary of the first uprising against the British rule in 1818 in the Uva-Wellassa. This region was known as the granary of the Kingdom of Kandy before it was annexed by the British in 1815 under the ‘Kandyan Convention’.

Even before the ink on the treaty was dry the British Colonial Government began to violate it in both spirit and substance. This led to a popular uprising led by the Kandyan Chiefs in 1818 and subsequently in 1838 in Matale. Those rebellions almost brought the collapse of the British Colonial Government in old Ceylon.

What was the response of the British government to the Wellassa uprising? Orders were given by Governor Robert Brownrigg (3rd British Governor of Ceylon from 1813 – 1820) to Maj. Gen. Hay MacDowell in 1818 to’slaughter every man, woman, and child (including babes suckling at the breast)’. Savage violence unleashed against civilians left the people in the agriculturally rich grain growing region of Uva-Wellassa of then Ceylon in a state of famine and starvation.

The British used scorched earth policy including mass murder and genocidal violence to crush that rebellion. It would be recalled that Kandy was occupied by Feb. 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, where 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 March2,1815 stipulating the conditions under which the British Crown would administer the annexed Kkngdom. 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 the ‘Resident of Kandy’. The genocide committed by the British to quell the uprisings of 1818, 1822 and 1838 in areas like Badulla, Moneragala and Matale 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 massacres including the Madulla Massacre and the razing and annihilating of entire villages. In the entire Uva region the males including boys were killed in revenge for resisting British imperial occupation under Brownrigg. No paddy or chena cultivation could be undertaken for 10 years due to lack of man power.

Davy’s records reveal that during an inspection of the Uva region with Brownrigg they had not seen a single person or house for seven days. Britain that preaches human rights and demands accountability and upholding of universally accepted standards on human rights ought 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 very proud as they had also fought successfully against the Portuguese and the Dutch and defeated them.

Britain not releasing the Chilcott Report which exposes the war 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. 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. 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 160 years for the Sri Lankan Government to recognise 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 remember our true heroes. They were

1 .Keppetipola, former Dissawe of Uva 2. Godagedara, former Adikaram of Uva3. Ketakala Mohattala of Uva 4. Maha Betmerala of Kataragama in Uva 5. Kuda Betmerala of Kataragama 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 ofWellassa 12. Kohukumbura Walauwe Mohottala of Wellassa 13. Bootawe Rate Rala of Wellassa 14. Kohukumubura Gahawela Rate Ralaof Wellassa 15. Maha Badullegammene Rate Rala of Wellassa 16. Bulupitiye Mohottala of Wellassa 17. Palle Malheyae Gametirale of Wallassa and the heroes of the Matale rebellion Monarawila Keppetipola Disaw.

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 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 British Governments throughout its infamous colonial history has 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 £7.5million, 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? Meanwhile, Robert Brownrigg must be condemned for his war crimes other excesses 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 and again in 1838 Matale rebellion.


Former Ambassador


2 Responses to “Let’s remember Keppetipola and other heroes”


    Honorable, former ambassador K. Godaga, Your article is excellent and timely, but one flaw. Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe II was a cannibal. He raped Ahalepola Desawe”s wife in public. Then he ate her liver and the stomach while she was alive. Then killed the children Maduma Bandara was the bravest. British arrested him. it is recorded history that British too 800 front line troops to arrest him. Then got a British doctor to inject him chloroform. He had to put on a cage because if he escaped he could have eaten any one. This cage was moved towards the road to build the, then Insurance Corporation during Mrs. B’s time. To transfer him to south India British tied him up and made him craw on to the bridge. A metal plate was fixed on to his mouth. Once he got to India British made a similar cage. he was only fed in the morning and afternoon time at night he was only give pieces of bread. His wife was made to have sex standing outside the metal fence. British Doctor monitored the action. He created a Sanga Raja (Ranil Punk wanted create a Sanga Raja but both Mahanayakes opposed it) when Sanga raja saw him eating a child alive he ran away and hid in the jungle but this cannibal’s body guards found him and put the sanga Raja in jail. British released the Sanga Raja after capturing Kandy. I cannot understand why so much truth is left out of this cannibal’s history by the learned author. He later died of pneumonia. One of his ancestors wrote book stating that he was only patriot at that time challenge the British. author’s name was De Silva. The book cover had big photo of the Cannibal with a big sword.

  2. Nimal Says:

    I am glad that people like Kapitapola eliminated as the likes of them would have subjugated us to continuous misery that was there since our medieval history.I am glad that the colonials given us the infrastructure we still enjoy.Let me simply point this a bit for readers.
    Just look at the old pictures of Ceylon where one could see the old films of Chattam st,Main st or any other streets that the colonials constructed and compare that with the old Galle road which is primitive,dusty and mainly NARROW.
    Compare that to the present streets in Colombo and use the Rickshaws as a gauge to measure the main roads in Colombo during colonial times.One will agree that the Colonials,acting like real Buddhists have shown consideration,tolerance and intelligence for the future of the well being of the country,though it’s not theirs made roads that is wide enough to place 18 rickshaws abreast,where such extravagance could have raised eyebrows in the ranks then.But they jolly well knew the economy of the country would expand exponentially accompanied by a very healthy population that one day could create a very high Rickshaw jam. Therefore they made very broad roads with a great foresight.
    Yesterday we were driven on the way to Kandy on the Baseline road and we were stuck in very heavy traffic for over one hour taking us 5 hours to get to Kandy.This problem of traffic seems to be every where in Colombo and even Kandy and major towns where the Traffic lights just installed is making matters worse.Having a colonial mindset and their education,where my job in the digital hierarchy and security have discovered the humble traffic system is part of the bus transport management system in London,surveillance system and many other facilities of various agencies and this particular case of congestion the traffic lights are controlled my a very efficient computer system so linked that is very much in synchronous with the traffic lights so that it will enable the smooth flow of the traffic ion the highly congested areas.
    Given us the Sri lankans a chance to play with the system,we have used our very horrible instincts of greed,selfishness and intolerance where a such a good example is where for the last 30 years have been investing on a land,doing little bit at a time and since I moved into the hill,every one of wealth have been putting up houses but on the 30ft road reservation where in one place it is only 13 feet wide allowing me no room to bypass a small car.One can see our p-eople don’t think like the colonials who are true Buddhists in every aspect while we are just the opposite.
    So getting rid of tyrants like Kapetiopola,must thank our lucky stars where we enjoyed a stable and a decent life,which the ugly tyrants similar to our horrible ancestors are now trying bring back the misery to the humble people,where the few privileged and their lackeys seems to bring back the medieval times.Hope the Colonials or their types will come back to help our people and it is wrong to write nonsense from the comfort of the countries of the colonial types and say what is good for us in the island.Good day to you’ll from rainy and cold Kandy,hoping for better tomorrow.

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