Proposal to set up an International Memorial Museum on Colonial crimes in Sri Lanka at the old Bogambara Prison site; Kandy.
Posted on January 30th, 2022

Dr. Sudath Gunasekara  B.A. (Hons) PhD Retired Permanent Secretary to   Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranayaka.

In memory of the brave Kandyan Sinhale patriots who sacrificed, their  lives in battles against three European Invaders, Portuguese, Dutch and English  from (1505 to 1948) to save the Motherland and the Sinhala nation.

(By this essay I propose to the Government of Sri Lanka to set up an International Museum on Colonial crimes from (1505-1948) in Kandy, at the old Bogamabara Prison site, in memory of the brave Kandyan Sinhale patriots who sacrificed their lives in battle against three barbaric and ruthless European Invaders, Portuguese, Dutch and English for Three Centuries continuously from (1505 to 1948) to save their Motherland and the Sinhala Nation)

(Proposed name for the Institute)

International Museum on Colonial Crimes Committed by Portuguese, Dutch and British from (1505-1948) in Sri Lanka :  A Memorial Institute in Memory of the Sinhala Patriots who sacrificed their lives to defend the Motherland from these invaders for, four and half Centuries.”

 Bogambara Prison

This was built by the British in 1874 as the second largest Prison in this country on the model of the famous Bastiile Prison in Paris. Bastiile was built to imprison and suppress those who rose against the French Monarchy. Similarly, this was built by the colonial invader British to imprisoned, suppress and hang the native Sinhala patriots who revolted and rose against the British colonial Government. Bogambara did the same job in Sri Lanka to Sinhalese, what the Bastiile did in France. There was little difference between what happened in Batiile in France and Bogambara in Sri Lanka.

No final Plan to develop Bogambara Prison complex even after 8 years of its closing.

Already 8 years have passed since this prison was closed down in2014. Four Governments since then have been talking high and the Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinha and a number of Ministers, of these governments and officials of different institutions also have visited this site many a time. Much public funds have already being spent on these public shows and many a report have been published, spending millions of public funds without any substantial development to be seen, for 8 long years. Apart from real development isn’t it a tragedy that even after 8 years there is no unanimity among the political masters or the officials entrusted with the job, on what really, they are going to do here.

According to the UDA Final Report: Vol.2 (2019-2020) ‘the redevelopment plan is not finalized yet”

Looking at the long delay in converting this historic place, located right at the center of the historic world heritage city Mahanuwara (Kandy), The Great City /Capital, of the last Kingdom of Sinhale, a glistering jewel of the 2500 years old Sinhala Kingdom, to a useful purpose and more over lack of clarity in the minds of those who are in charge of the project as stated in the UDA report, which says Currently, no decision has been made on who will redevelop the major part of the prison buildings” is really very puzzling. I wonder as to what 4 Governments have been doing for 8 years with so much of talking and public displays. Just like the governments, the management also has been going from hand to hand (Central Engineering Consultancy Services and UDA, the Prison Dept and dept of Archaeology) with different priorities and expertise that are far from the historical, cultural, political and strategic depth of this city and its environs.

In this state of confusion, I am convinced that this will be never converted to a functional level at least for anotherr10 years, as already 8 years have gone waste, under four Governments since 2014. Different Ministers, have come out with different, but stale utopian plans. Neverthelss, still it is at ground level after 8 years, as stated by the UDA. I remember once Minister Malik Samarawickrama of the Yahapaalanaya government said he will convert this place into a five-star Hotel to attract foreign tourists. His plan is now gone for good along with him, fortunately.

PM Ranil also declared open a so-called Cultural Park outside the Prison wall included in the2016 plan. This event was attended by 6 Ministers 2 Ambassadors, Thailand and Japan and about 10 officials. At that time, it was under the Central Engineering Service and UDA. But very little activity is seen around the place since then.  Surprisingly for a layman like me, it looks a ghost prison site now.

At a later stage Champika Ranavaka, Minister of Megapolis visited the place and declared that he will develop this place as a major tourist attraction. This plan was dropped in 2021 May and the Department of Prison also declared it will open a five-star Prison Hotel (a crazy idea) here. Champika’s fairy plans were also disappeared in the air along with him and the Yahapalanaya Government.

Then Minister Keheliya Rambukwella (New Government) on a tour conducted on 21.7.2021 weekend declared that plans were afoot to develop the old Bogambara Prison buildings and its land as a prominent tourist attraction for both local and foreign visitors to the heritage city of Kandy, the Minister said. Sri Lankans, particularly the Kandyan traditional craftsmen and artistes, would be given the opportunity to display their goods within the premises, the Minister said.

Meanwhile the State Minister Ministry of Heritage, Vidura Wickramanayake who visited the place on August 2. 2021, emphasized that a very special mixed project will be established in the premises of the Bogambara Prison and that priority will be given to artefacts of cultural and artistic value which have been protected up to now centered on the last kingdom of Kandy. He also has said the speculations that the old Prison building will be demolish is untrue.

State Minister Wickramanayake further has said that the environment required for artisans who engage in creations highlighting traditional arts which is hereditary to Kandy, will be set up within these premises. He said that the programme will be launched together with the Urban Development Authority, the Department of Archaeology and the Prisons Authority.

The UDA who are supposed to be in charge of this rehabilitation Project (as opposed to doing something novel) on the other hand in their GREATER KANDY URBAN PLAN, Final Report: Vol.2 says.

Main Text Plans ready to develop old Bogambara Prison Complex has said they are planning to convert it to a develop old Bogambara Prison Complex that will be turned into a mixed-use building with public open space in front as tourist attraction center (Details not given. Also, it looks very vague. As they say it will me a mixed project. The details of the composition of the mix are not reveled)

Scanning through all these Mixed stories” overall, it looks to me now, that it is like Alice in Wonderland. I wonder whether all the people who visited the site have fallen through the rabbit hole and are still in Alice’s Wonderland.

My observations

 Looking at all these news reports it is more than clear that even after 8 years there is no final plan or a final decision of development rehabilitation, whatever they call it, on the proposed new Project.  All speakers have highlighted only the conventional, but rather stale, tourist promotion aspect and the service they have in their minds on Kandyan Arts and Crafts. None of them seems to be aware of the existence of the Laksala and the Department of Small Industries, with their Kundasale Sri Narendra Sinha Arts and Crafts Colony and a large number of private shops with a massive Kandyan Arts Center (Incidentally for which I laid the Foundation in 1972 as Assistant Director of the Department of Small Industries Kandy, at that time.) just in front of the Kings wood College, to take care of this sector from late 1950 s.

All these lose talks prove that even after 8 year none of them seems to has a clear idea as to what the overall plan of development for this site should be.  Therefore, it is still in the speculation stage most of them groping in the dark, politicians taking center stage, as a display of cheap political propaganda to attract the votes only. It has been a merry-go round for everybody at public expense.

In this back drop, as I see it, the Bogambara prison site has become a mere theater for politicians for regular cheap political media shows, to deceive the voters, just as they had done in all other fields for the past 73 years, by pretending that they are seriously interested in developing this place on a multifaceted development fairy tale, like the Midsummer Night Dream of Shakespeare, without a clear idea as to what they are going to do with this historically and economically valuable site. The fact that each politician who visited the site had a different approach and a different perception of future development on this site explains the confusion and lack of purpose and clarity as to what the Government is going to do here or in other words it does not have a concrete plan at all in hand and it has just boiled down to a dirty political game only. All of them are still groping in the dark, I think. To me it appears that only Heritage Minister had said something sensible.

However, no one has said anything sensible. Also no one has seen or thought of the historical and political importance of this prison site in one of the darkest chapters of Sri Lankan history where many a conspiracy and crimes have been hatched and committed against the Sinhala Nation and similarly about the light it can throw on the atrocities of expansion of Colonialism and the spread of religion at gun point by the war minded hungry European invaders in the Middle Ages with no mercy on any human being outside their complexion.

Talking about the Prison per se, it is a pity none has taken in to account the importance of the historical and political role played by this prison during the time of repressive colonial administration in designing a plan that display the sacrifices made by the Kandyan peasants and their patriotic[S1]  leaders, the battles they fought and how valiantly they kept all the invaders locked in to a narrow coastal belt for 310 long years until the British succeeded in annexing the Island to the British empire by shrewd and cunning intrigue in1815.

 None of these politicians or the officials have had the slightest idea of the important role played by the Kandyan peasants, who suffered and died inside these walls helplessly, for fighting against the enemy,  and their unique braveries in defending the motherland and the Sinhala nation for 310 years, not only in protecting the Kandyan Kingdom but also the whole country and the Sinhala nation surrounded by the mighty Indian Ocean.

 In fact, in my view the new project that is to come up here should be dedicated to the memory of that great people, who are now completely forgotten and even their descendants criminally betrayed by everybody, including the politicians who are clueless about what their ancestors had done to save this land for us and moreover their own pristine heritage as a world class nation.  These politicians and officials who do not know that they had a glorious past live and fly high in an empty European made air balloon taking this country and the Sinhala Nation to imminent disaster. So how can people like that ever conceive a meaningful plan to make the best use of this wonderful site?

The best example I can quote to prove the ignorance, disregard, the callousness and jealousy the present- ay politicians have towards these great people (Kandyans) who saved the country and the Sinhala nation from Western Colonial invasions is the abolition of the Department of Kandyan Peasantry Rehabilitation and the Kandyan Area Development Authority in Jan 2014 by the present Minister of Finance Mr. Basil Rajapaksa, who still have double allegiance by being a dual citizen (1 America and 2 Sri Lanka)  to establish his pet Project  Divineguma in 2014. by closing down three important institutions started by previous governments namely, a) The Kandyan Peasantry Dept and the Kandyan Area Development Authority and the Janasaviya.   

Therefore, any Development Project designed for this site should be a Master piece that could take the world by surprise on the darker side of Colonialism and also that could pave the way for the countries in Asia Africa and Latin America, for political, economic and cultural liberation from the neo-colonial suppressions and oppressions   

I also suggest that this memorial institute is divided in to three separate sections to demonstrate each colonial period separately vide; Portuguese Wing, Dutch Wing and the British Wing to enable the visitors to see the scales of crimes done by each colonial power to this country. Such a division will make it easy to compare and differentiate the crimes each power had done and also understand the commitments for liberation betrayals of the natives of each period.

As such any project designed to this site should be able to expose the darker side of the barbaric, inhuman and savages’ European colonialism that reflect the true colonial history on this tropical Island.

A multifaceted approach preserving the Kandyan architecture.

All other activities like public Parks, Libraries, tourist shops, cafeterias, Cinema Halls, Conference Halls, Exhibition Halls, lecture theaters should be cited separately nice landscaped. All the new buildings should be designed in the traditional Kandyan Architecture to preserve the indigenous Sinhala architectural designs.

 In my view the development of this place should expand beyond the stale and common tourist promotion mania of average men. I suggest that it must also encompass a broader academic scope. So that it could be a gold mine for researchers and students of different types of colonialism in one place, both medieval and the present times, so that it could turn out to be an academic center par excellence in the Indian ocean, -the path way to the East and the West from ancient times. So that it will attract thousands of researchers and scholars from all parts of the world both the West and the East, thereby opening a super highway for earning Foreign Exchange as well.

No one involved in this project so far seems to have noticed the potentials of developing this historic place, on these lines as a center of attracting academic interests in studying how medieval colonial expansion has transformed and changed this modern world. How colonialism was responsible for the present day socio-political, economic and human mess and conundrums arisen from the ills of colonial policies to the victim nations and how to find workable solutions to such ailing white manmade problems due to the perpetuation of the same medieval colonialism in the modern world even today and arrest the neo-colonialism intruding in different forms into the affairs of the exploited countries like Sri Lanka.

As such the establishment of a museum of the model proposed here   could be a world famous research center for scholars the world over on colonialism and its impact on reshaping and transforming the old world and how colonialism has implanted the aggressors religion, language and culture at gun point and thereby destroying the native and replacing the local cultures that has disturbed and destroyed the global equilibrium that was brought about by environmental diversity where each nation respect the other man’s culture that might have far reaching effects on our co-existence on this planet  and WORLD peace, sans the present day global tension and unrest by practicing the ‘Matsya nyaaya as preached by Kautillya, where the stronger swallows UP THE WEAKER.

 In addition to what I have discussed above the proposed museum complex will also have separate sections to display

1 Visuals of brutalities committed by colonial invaders

Like murder, arson, vandalism, destruction of religious places slaughter of cattle, wanton destruction to the environment, large scale deforestation on the hill country, destruction of irrigation canals, village Tanks, destroying home gardens and paddy fields, economic bases social institutions removal of valuable books, ola leaves, artifacts, science and indigenous knowledge like Ayurveda

Instances of Destabilizing political harmony by discriminatory methods like giving minorities special privileges, discrimination against the Sinhala majority setting Tamils and Muslims against them, planting Indian nationals right at the centre of the country giving rise to a new Indian Tamil civilization to destroy the territorial integrity of this Sinhala country.

Introducing new laws for the minorities while denying the natives their own and imposing Roman Dutch Law on them. Robing the native land by repressive legislation like Encroachment on Crown lands Ord of 1840, Temple Lands Ord of 1853 and the Wasteland Ordinance of 1897. They also destroyed the age old native political, legal, administrative and social institutions and replaced them with systems   completely alien and inappropriate to the traditions of the colonies. The proposed Museum should provide a store House of information on these subjects.  

A special committee to study each of these aspects and prepare a comprehensive sectoral plan for each section

The Govt must set up a special committee to study each of these aspects and prepare sectoral plan for each section. Within this programme we also can have provisions for Hotels, Sale centers, Theaters, conference halls, craftsmen at work to demonstrate how medieval Sinhala Craftsmen work in their villages, Exhibition halls, libraries. In fact, this museum should be developed as a museum complex. This could be the first of its kind on studies on colonialism in the whole world. The entire site of 14 acres should be nicely landscaped and buildings should reflect Kandyan Architecture. I suggest the following statues should also be erected in prominent places to add colour, decor and pride of a nation that had a Great heritage.

Monaravila Kepetipola Disava, Ehelepola Disava, Pilimatalava Adhikaa

rama, Meegastenne Adikarama, Viira Madduma Banda  Wariyapola Sumangala and Kadahapola Thero and Welivita Sangharaja Thero,  Puran Appu.,Gongalegoda Banda Saradiyal Sirima Bandarnayaka and Tennakoon Wimlananda, Nittawela Gunaya and Thittapajjala Suramba, so that they will add colour, dignity and pride to a nations past. Keppetipola Disava walking with a hunch back looking for Independence of his motherland in Mauritius Isle in conversation with his French care taker.

1Use the traditional Temple painting technique in narrative form for Wall Paintings.

2Miscellaneous items that could be incorporated to enhance the historical and cultural values.

3 All displays should be arranged in a way that pays the nation’s highest  gratitude and honour to its heroes who fought against the enemies to defend the Motherland and the Sinhala nation and their religion and sacrificed their loved ones and everything they had and finally their lives  in the name of the motherland and its people. during one of the darkest chapters of Sri Lanka’s history

4Exhibit Sinhala weaponry and war techniques they used in battle against the invader

5 A fully equipped library to House documents pertaining to the 1505-1848 period with a competent library staff.

6 A research unit in collaboration with the Peradeniya University

7 A Theatre for regular display of Kandyan Dancing and Folk Drama for tourists

Finally, I also propose to set up a Special Committee of experts in Sri Lankan and World Colonial History. Pertaining to the period mentioned (1505-1948) with a mixture of experts in History, Architecture of this country, State Craft and  Kandyan Law, Sinhala Legal system and state craft, Indigenous Agriculture social system etc.


Few names I would like to suggest to this Committee. Emeritus Professor Gerald Peiris, Senaka Weeraratna, Asoka Badarage, Senali Waduge, Ariyawansa Jayakodi, Palitha Ariyaratna,Wansaratna Senaanayaka,

Ex-Officio members

GA Kandy, Commissioner of Prisons, Mayor of Kandy MC or his Representative, Two scholarly Representatives from Malwatta and  Asgiriya Sects, Someone to represent the VC of Peradeniya University, Diyawadana Nilame. a Representative from the UDA, A Rep from the Ministry of Heritage and Com of Archaeology

(The services of the writer are also available if they want it, 

on request)


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.



Copyright © 2022 All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress