Opinion

500th anniversary of Portuguese invasion
Salute our heroes!

Grand preparations are being made to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Portuguese. The worst chapter of the proud history of our ancient land begins with the advent of our first European colonial masters. Do we have to ‘celebrate’ this event? It is akin to Romans inviting the descendents of Goth and Visi Goths for a grand celebration to commemorate the sacking of Rome.

There should be no objection for Sri Lanka in renewing relations with Portugal. But by commemorating the arrival of a brutal colonialist, we must not disturb our valiant ancestors in their graves, who perished in battles to defend their motherland against the foreign invader. The souls of our innocent men, women and children, who were brutally massacred for their meagre possessions, the children who were tossed and bayoneted, the children who were thrown to the crocodiles, must be venerated and held sacrosanct in our hearts and minds.

Those who do not learn from lessons of history are condemned to re-live it.The experience of Sri Lanka is that the three European Colonial powers, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the English with whom they had understandings, agreements, or treaties had all gone back on their word and deceived the unsuspecting Sri Lankans. Portuguese who negotiated for a piece of land the size of a hide of an ox and put up a fortress in no time. Their expeditions consisted of soldiers, adventurers, friars and chaplains. They came with the sword in one hand and the holy cross in the other. Every Temple was an abomination: from that of the "Thousand pillars" at Swami rock to thevenerated shrine in the southern city of Dondra (Devinuwara).

All that came on their way was destroyed, desecrated by acts of unheard and unseen barbarity for which all Sri Lankans stood alike aghast with horror. A hundred and fifty three years after the Portuguese first landed in Sri Lanka (1505 ) they were expelled from the country. They left the Sinhalese a broken race, with their ancient civilization brought to the verge of ruins, and their scheme of life well neigh destroyed.

The present generation is not aware of the dark chapter of our history:dropping the study of History from the school curriculum has kept them in the dark. History should be brought back to schools as a subject of study and children taught about the true history of our nation.

In 1630, Dom Costantiono de Sa, undertook an expedition against King Senerat’s capital at Badulla. On August 18 the Portuguese entered Badulla, sacked and burned the town down. On August 21, 1630 the Portuguese began the return march to Colombo, but were attacked by the Sinhala army at Randeniwela, near Wellawaya. The Sinhalese won an overwhelming victory. De Sa who was shot with an arrow by a Sinhala soldier, had his head severed. His head was brought before the king Rajasinghe the 2nd and displayed. Out of the Portuguese force of 5000 soldiers and local Lascarins, only 130 men survived and surrendered.

A similar fate befell on General Diago de Mello de Castro at Gannoruwa in1638. All his troops except 33 Portuguese soldiers were killed in battle. The King Rajasinghe the Second was overjoyed at this victory and offeredhis golden throne and sword to Dodanwela Devalaya. After this battle, the Portuguese abandoned all hopes of conquering the Kandyan Kingdom.

The Portuguese were beaten at Mulleriyawa in 1624. Here Rajaisnghe the 2nd with his father Senarath and cousins Kumarasinghe and Wijepala fought bravely.

We should celebrate these victories. All patriots should flock to the sevictorious battle fields, and pay our respect to our brave ancestors.

Let the spineless government celebrate the 500th anniversary of the arrivalof the Portuguese, in their homes if they like but not at the expense ofthe Sri Lankan people. Instead, we shall gather at Randeniwela, Gannoruwa and Mulleriyawa, and light thousands of Pahans in memory of our fallenheroes.

Tilak Wijewardene
Australia


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