By Monaragala Special Correspondent, Suwapath Deshaya Organisation
The National Event to commemorate the fallen and the victims at the first national liberation struggle 1816-1818 was commemorated at the Sri Piyaratana Pirivena, Weliyaya, Monaragala, Sri Lanka On Saturday 30 December 2023. The function was sponsored by the Colombo based Suwapath Deshaya Organisation with the assistance of many other patriotic bodies. This was the 205th anniversary of the first national liberation struggle of Ceehale under the British.
With the Kandyan Treaty of 1815, the Vaduga Royalty and relatives were banished to India as agreed with the British. However, the unilateral and contradictory actions immediately thereafter by the Governor and British Commander in Chief Robert Brownrigg caused unrest as the Governors actions indicated that the British were using the treaty settlement to take full colonial control of the island, and thereby, to negate the British Protectorate status the Kingdom of Ceehale achieved by the Treaty. The early liberation from the Treaty was planned by the Kandyan Chiefs within an year of signing.
Around the globe, the British had shed native blood mindlessly via incursions and attacks using their naval and weaponry superiority on helpless native people in nearly 150 nations. The Kandyan Treaty made with Ceehale is recognised today as the very first occurrence of the application of the treacherous Right to Protect (R2P) principle.
Prior to the signing of the Kandyan Treaty, our island nation was in deep turmoil and subject to intrigue between three parties – the hated Vaduga Royal families, the disunited Ceehale Chiefs and the cunning British still licking their wounds from the 1802 debacle and their massacre of their entire invasion force at Gannoruwa.This story became the well- researched presentation at the Commemoration Ceremony by the our Keynote speaker Senior Lecturer SumedhanWeerawardena of Peradeniya University. Sumedha expounds in detail the great tragedy of Ceehale with references to native primary sources, the torture and great loss lives caused, and the heroic resistance efforts of our freedom fighters..
This commemoration event was dedicated to those who sacrificed their lives, the Chiefs and inhabitants of Kanda Uda Rata and of the low country laded proprietors, Sinhala men women and children, the Veddah generations, the patriotic Muslims, Malay and Javanese, their kith and kin, who were all subjected to an inhumane ‘scorched earth’ policy.
The British committed every possible human rights violation upon their own declared Protectorate, slaughtering all living beings, human or animal in the Uva Wellassa district. The desperation was such that the British slaughtered native males of 14 years and over, as documented.
The Chief Guest at the Wellassa function was Anuradha Yahampath, President of Suwapath Deshaya, the former Governor of the Eastern Province. She is a leading patriot who had been at the forefront of the anti-terrorism movement from mid 1990s and later working with national patriotic teams all along. The Dhamma Anushashana was conducted by the Venerable Maha Nayaka Thero of the Sri Piyaratana Pirivena, Uva Wellassa Chief Sanga Nayaka Most Venerable Kanda-Uda Panguwe Sudhammabhidhana Mahimi.
In her speech Anuradha Yahampath stated four poignant issues facing the Nation. Firstly, the abjectly tragic condition of todays country comparable to the intrigued times of 1816, which led to the freedom struggle of Monarawila Keppetipola Maha Nilamae. At that time quite similarly, peoples lives were in desperation after
three centuries of western incursions and the proud Nation made a country of beggars seeking relief from even poorer nations.
Secondly, she said starting from the very top leaders our national psyche today needs to change from seeking a helping hand elsewhere, but to strengthen the belief in own strengths, and to cultivate them to be the envy of other nations. She further said we have sacrificed our sovereignty having to import our food basics, and are in an unenviable position unable to produce our own staple foods.
Thirdly, she stated that we need to take an example from the Uva Wellasaa struggle of 1816. They were heroes who fought with their backs to wall, and the did not give up the struggle for two long and desperate years to liberate our land . They were always in readiness to sacrifice their own lives and those of their kith and kin.
Finally, she stressed s on the all-important as aspect of national unity which had been the bane of this land. Such disunity and treachery was displayed openly at the time of the Uva liberation uprising allowing external forces to intrude into our affairs, and for traitors within us to raise their ugly heads.
The Keynote Speech was then given by Sumedha Weerawardena, Senior Lecturer of the Peradeniya University who had made a well-researched presentation with sources derived principally from temple scriptures, mukha-paramparaa (generational knowledge), archives of various nations of the tragedy and the pointing to the abject failure of the Kandyan Treaty of 1815 and the resultant Uva Wellassa uprising within a year in 1816. Mr Weerawardena further elucidated the strong and binding triangular governance structure of the Buddhist Nation, the Buddhist Monks, the King and the People of obligations and responsibilities, a structure lasting over 2,00o years that brought peace and prosperity, and resulted in the development and preservation of an unparalleled Buddhist civilisation.
The speech of Asoka Balasuriya, who was successful in knitting together the entire Uva-Wellassa function and the live wire of the Suwapath Deshaya, spoke and thanked all who had contributed in many ways to keep the patriotic flame in Uva Wellassa alive and help in highly successful function.
Dharshani Lahandapura the General Secretary of Suwapath Deshaya confirmed that Suwapath Deshaya will provide an open forum for all patriots to discuss and debate the way forward for national unity and the countries success. She further said the all national minded people are joining together with this common goal in their mind purposes.
At the end of a ceremonial drummers beat, around 100 names of the fallen Wellassa heroes were then read out.
Nimal Liyanage of Suwapath Deshaya concluded the meeting with the Vote of Thanks listing out all individuals and groups who gave their utmost to make the commemoration function a great success. He further urged all to work towards a suwapath deshayak (a healed Nation), collectively and as well as individuals in a small way to make their contribution, a small example being to reduce the use of the environmental disastrous plastics, and in making an effort of planting vegetables in home gardens.
Wellassa TV crews covered the entire function and their media presentations will be shown over their channels. Mr Ranabahu of Monaragala performed the comperes tasks dutifully to the praise of all. Jagath Chinthaka of Monaragala performed a marvellous sound and video controls task.
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