In 1505 landed in then Sinhale, the Portuguese, the first of the European Christian explorers. Thereafter, came the Dutch and finally the British who gave an independence with dominion status in 1948. Sri Lanka is marking the 70th anniversary of an independence from foreign rule by inviting a representative and relation of the Queen that ruled then Ceylon from 1815 to 1948 & under dominion status upto 1972 when Sri Lanka became a true republic. Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and the Countess of Wessex have been invited as Chief Guest for this occasion by the Sirisena-Ranil Government.
During its heyday the British Empire controlled 90% of the world’s countries. Britain has invaded all but 22 countries in the world
The mindset of colonial imperialists was depicted in the words of Winston Churchill himself.
“We are not a young people with innocent record and a scanty inheritance. We have engrossed to ourselves — an altogether disproportionate share of wealth and traffic of the world. We have got all we want in territory, and our claim to be left in the unmolested enjoyment of vast and splendid possessions, mainly acquired by violence, largely maintained by force, often seem less reasonable to others than to us”
All that Britain preaches to the world, Britain denied to every human they forcibly “owned & controlled”. The Britain that today promotes itself as a beacon of human rights may be ashamed of the policies it adopted – robbing land transferring them to cash crops & stealing resources, burning down villages, seizing and raping women & children, hanging prisoners without trial (Lt. J. Maclaine pastime was watching Sinhalese men being hung while having breakfast), starving locals to death, infecting natives with smallpox, getting natives addicted to opium and alcohol, importing non-natives & birthing an ethnic problem, killing elephants for sport (Samuel Barker) are just a handful of crimes the British does not wish to remember & refuses to account for.
The culture & heritage of the Sinhale nation was systematically diluted by instilling Western cultures which were projected as being ‘better’ & those that followed them were favoured over those that did not. To fortify this, education was designed to inculcate & nurture those who would adapt & adopt western-thinking, non-dharmic culture & lifestyle breeding a group of natives who would willingly despise and look down upon their heritage culture & history. That legacy continues still.
However, there were people who understood the writing on the wall and realized the need to win back land forcibly confiscated. The Uva Rebellion (1817), the Madulla massacre where British are yet to account for killing anyone above the age of 8.
Millions of people across the world had been subjugated by these Western European exploring invader occupiers. Many of these former colonies continue to suffer from the divide & rule policies left as a legacy of colonial rule. Great Britain some say should pay the victims of imperialism $58trillion but will a payment remove the scars though Germany continues to pay Israel for the Holocaust.
While the Kenyan Mau Mau won a historic case claiming compensation from Britain, with the British Foreign Secretary William Hague announcing a payout of £20 million in 2011, in 2013 David Cameron then British PM visited the very scene where the 1919 British massacre of 379 people by British forces, but his statement fell short of any apology, in 2015 Indian MP Shashi Tharoor also called for reparations from Britain for the deaths of 29m.
What confounds the issue of accountability, apology & reparations is that there are many who falsely believe that imperialism provided development & civility little forgetting that every train, road and infrastructure developed was only to facilitate the plunder of resources en route to Britain. To understand better Viceroy Lord Curzon’s statement is noteworthy “British rule may be good for us: but it is neither equally, nor altogether good for them” The racism of Cecil Rhodes is acceptable still, in fact those that killed natives were even honored and given titles! Cecil Rhodes believed natives were inferior while Kipling & many others held the view that the British mission was to ‘civilize’ natives.
A timeline of some of those atrocities will shock any
- 1817 – Lt. Maclaine given authority to kill anyone without trial. Assist Commissioner of Badulla (Braybrooke) notes reveal the manner natives were killed. Lt. Maclaine is infamously known for having breakfast while watching Sinhalese men being hung!
- 1818 diary of Sergeant Calladine Not a single day passed without burning a village and killing the Chingalese men. We didn’t take prisoners.”Dr. John Davey of British Army declares that by 1821 there were no children of patriotic families in the hill country/Uva-Wellassa.
- 1807 Governor Maitland’s letter to GA Matara “use this carefully and secretly, reliance of Buddhism and philosophy of Matara Buddhists must be destroyed. In Matara, Bhikkus are more powerful than village chiefs, make sure all chiefs are Christian”.
What is the purpose in inviting a representative of the British monarchy as chief guest to mark a country’s independence from that very monarchy?
Sri Lanka’s guest at its 70th independence is the Queen’s 3rd son Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex. While his itinerary is being set by the British High Commission and Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry the Prince & his delegation should make a visit to the Exhibition of Paintings depicting the Colonial Crimes of the 3 colonial occupants in Sri Lanka since 1505. The exhibition titled ‘Resonance of the Massacre 1818-2018” was held at the Sri Sambuddhathva Jayanthi Mandiraya in December 2017 and the organizers led by Dr. Chamila Liyanage are presently taking the exhibition around the island for all to see.
The exhibition of paintings is presently on display in Gampaha and Prince Edward having studied history at Cambridge University would be keen to see these works of art. Moreover, since Prince Edward has his own production company he may well consider running documentaries of imperial British Empire and its rule over 90% of the world in a documentary that depicts before and after scenario of these decolonized countries.
We hope that the British High Commission & the Sri Lanka Foreign Ministry include a visit to the Resonance of the Massacre Painting Exhibition on display in Gampaha for the visiting Prince Edward and his royal delegation.
Resonance of the Massacre 1818-2018
Art Exhibition on Colonial Crimes
Sri Subadraramaya – Galahitiyawa – Ganemulla
Dr. Chamila Liyanage