Remembering the Uva Wellassa Rebellion
Posted on December 17th, 2018

By Lakshman I. Keerthisinghe Courtesy Ceylon Today

The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion – Frederick Douglass -American Author

Around two centuries ago our ancestors launched a heroic struggle against the mighty British Empire in an uprising in order to gain freedom from British colonial rule. Reminiscences of that struggle still haunt the minds of patriotic Sri Lankans. As quoted by J.B. Muller in his dissertation ‘Anglophiles, Eurocentric Arrogance and Reality’ –The Island 5 November, 2010 Samuel P. Huntington had stated quite correctly: ‘The West won the world not by superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organised violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do.’ The British who have now assumed the role of great human rights defender along with United States supported by the United Nations Human Rights Commission accusing Sri Lanka of alleged human rights abuses during last stages of ethnic conflict when the LTTE was vanquished by heroic Sri Lankan armed forces, conveniently forget, great human rights abuses committed by them in the colonies that they were administering.


Sometime ago there were media reports that British parliamentarians have called on their government to boycott that year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka due to alleged human rights violations. To remind the British of their past actions in Sri Lanka consider what J.B. Muller states in the dissertation quoted at the outset referring to the General Order issued in 1818 during the British Colonial Rule in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) to put down the rebellion in Uva-Vellassa as follows: Kill every man, woman and child including the babes suckling at their mother’s breast. Destroy all dwelling houses. Burn all crops. Cut down all fruit trees. Slaughter all cattle; take what meat is necessary to feed the troops and burn the rest. Destroy all reservoirs, canals and channels.

Poison the wells. Lay waste utterly the countryside denying any relief whatsoever to the rebels.” Muller further states: This order was carried out, laying waste Uva and Vellassa, a destruction from which it is yet to fully recover.” British writers commented that every tree from Ratnapura to Badulla was devastated; there were hung bodies of rotting human beings that gave off a revolting stench. The word ‘genocide’ was coined in the 1940’s meaning the wiping out of a people, but if this wasn’t genocide then, what is?” This is the manner in which the British who have now become human rights crusaders against Sri Lanka dealt with a rebellion by the Ceylonese people at that time.

The British should first establish a Committee of Inquiry to investigate their own vicious scorched earth policy they used to put down rebellions in the colonies in the British Commonwealth and human rights violations committed by the British troops under the General Order given in 1818 and historical evidence available on the devastation they caused in 1818 (200 years ago) in Uva Wellassa during the rebellion. Wellassa (Wellakshaya in Sinhala) was composed of hundred thousand paddy fields yielding a substantial crop, which has not yet recovered from the scorched earth policy of the British. If the proponents of the Channel 4 video were present at that time they could have recorded horrific scenes of babes suckling at their mother’s breast being snatched by British soldiers and their throats being slit in the presence of their wailing mothers, who were then shot.

Setting fire to acres and acres of golden paddy fields resplendent with crops resulting in the wanton destruction of the fruits of hard labour of the poor Sri Lankan farmers all of whom were killed then would have met the eyes of the Channel 4 team. 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 Conventions.  The British invaded this peaceful little island, known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean and robbed it of all its wealth in the form of tea, rubber, coconuts and coffee. They improved the infrastructure in the form of roads, railways and so forth, not for the love of the local population but to improve the economy for their own benefit.

In conclusion, the Sri Lankan Government should establish a Commission of Inquiry into the human rights violations and economic devastation caused in Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, during British Colonial Rule and based upon findings of such an inquiry call upon the Government of the United Kingdom to pay suitable compensation for those atrocities committed by the British during their rule. The British, with their dubious history on protection of human rights should leave other Sovereign Nations in the World to find their own solutions to any human rights violations in their lands.

 (The writer is an Attorney-at-Law with LLB, LLM,  MPhil.(Colombo)[email protected])

One Response to “Remembering the Uva Wellassa Rebellion”

  1. Nimal Says:

    This is utter rubbish where imaginations running riot.1818 riot and 1848 incidents were done by cruel leaders who were trying grab power for themselves and they never had any interest for the people of the country, just like all the rascals running our countries in the third world. Until the colonials came we never had a public toilet,Perahara,danselas and the Wesak.It was all given to us by the colonials. We all had a glorious time with the colonials running the country and they were so good some of our ancestors volunteered to fight in their wars in places like Gallipoli.
    After 70 years of our own so called independence and what we have is utter disarray in our culture, people struggling to make a honest living, people are restricted to their country with severe visa restrictions to developed countries while a few crooks privileged enough to enjoy life fully. Honestly we need another 1818 and 1848.We have turned our true history upside down and the fake patriots live in the Western countries and writing tosh.

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