Sri Lanka Genealogy Website
Federalism & the Kandyans
By Charitha Ratwatte – Colombo
At the time the Kande Uda Rata Rajadhaniya was ceded to the British Crown in 1815, it consisted of, 21 Divisions, of which the 12 principal ones were called Disawani and the rest, Rataval.
The Disawani were (1) The Four Korales, (2) The Seven Korales, (3) Uva, (4) Walapane, (5) Udapalatha, (6) Nuwara Kalaviya, (7)Matale, (8)Sabaragamuwa, (9)The Three Korales (10) Wellassa, (11) Bintenna, (12) Tamankaduwa.
The Rataval were: - (1) Udunuwara, (2) Yatinuwara, (3) Tumpane, (4) Hewaheta, (5) Uda Bulatgama, (6) Kotmale, (7) Harispattu, (8) Dumbara, and (9) Pata Bulatgama.
The colonial administration ruled the island in three distinct parts, three ethnic based administrative structures, Low Country Sinhalese, Kandyan Sinhalese and Tamil.
In 1829, the British established the Colebrooke-Cameron Commission
to review the colonial government of
(1) Central Province- consisting of the central Kandyan Disawani of Uva (upper part), Walapane, Uda Palatha, Matale, Three Korales, Bintenna, Tamankaduwa and the Rataval of Udunuwara, Yatinuwara, Tumpane, Hewaheta, Uda Bulatgama, Kotmale, Harispattu and Dumbara
(4) Southern Province- composed of the Maritime Districts of Galle, Hambantota, Matara and Tangalla, and the Kandyan Disawani of Uva ( lower part), and the Disawani of Sabaragamuwa and Wellassa,
Province- composed of the Maritime Districts of
The Kanda Uda Rata Rajadhaniya was thus dismembered.
Further dismemberment took place when in 1845 the North Western Province was carved out of the Western Province, the Maritime Districts of Chilaw and Puttalam and the Kandyan Disawani of Seven Korales.
In 1873 the
In 1886 The Uva Province was created from parts of the
In 1889 the
Map from, Robert Knox.
Captain Robert Knox in his book a Historical Relation of Ceylon
While administratively the distinct Kandyan identity was disaggregated in this manner, on the aspect of the Kandyan Law there was a similar dilution. The proclamation of the Kandyan Convention of 2nd March, 1815, clause 4, provided that ‘….. Saving ….to all classes of people ……..their civil rights and immunities, according to the laws, institutions, and customs established and in force amongst them.’ In terms of this the Kandyan law applied to all persons living within the Kandyan Provinces. In the case of Mongee v.Siarpaye, in 1820, the Board of Commissioners which adjudicated disputes in the Kandyan Provinces determined that a form of marriage peculiar to Kandyan Law, Binna marriage, applied to the case, although both parties were Muslims. Similarly in Kershaw v. Nicoll the Supreme Court held the Kandyan Law should be applied to all litigation in the Kandyan Provinces. However, this was overruled by the full bench of the Supreme Court in William v. Robertson, in 1886, which held that Kandyan Law was a personal law applicable to Kandyan Sinhalese only. The outreach of the Kandyan Law to all residents of the former Kande Uda Rata Rajadhaniya was thereby diluted.
The Waste Lands Ordinance of 1897 declared that in affect all
lands for which there was no legal title which could be proved was waste land
which vested in the Crown. In the Kandyan Provinces only Buddhist religious
institutions and those others who had received Sannasas from the Kandyan King,
who owned all lands in the Kingdom, could produce such title documentation.
Common village land was held and cultivated in terms of common custom and practice.
All such lands were appropriated by the Colonial government and sold for a
pittance to British colonial officials, business men, Burghers and Sinhalese from
The Moslems living in the Kande Uda Rata Rajadhaniya had also some
unique features. Frank Modder in his Principles of Kandyan Law (1914) wrote
about the Kandyanized Moors and the fact that they married in terms of Kandyan
Law and that Mohammedans perform
But in 1852 the Mohammedan Code was extended to Muslims living in the Kandyan Provinces in all matters between themselves.
At one time Federalism was seen as a system of government which would help the Kandyan people and other ethnic groups to preserve their identity, distinct customs and life style, while living in one nation with multiple ethnicities.
S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, speaking in
In 1927 the colonial government appointed a Commission, chaired by
Lord Donoughmore, to report on the situation in
The Commissioners responded to what they called the Kandyan Claim in a separate and distinct chapter of their Report. They expressed sympathy for the concerns expressed by the Kandyan Sinhalese but rejected the claim for a federal Ceylon mainly on the basis that the country needed to be united, ethnic and regional identity needed to be transcended and that what was most important at his stage of Ceylon’s constitutional evolution, leading towards independence from Britain, was a philosophy of a united Ceylonese mentality.
In 1938, British colonial civil servant, Leonard Woolf, who had
served in Ceylon, in the district administration, in Kandy, Jaffna and
Hambantota, and therefore had worked with all communities and in all
geographical regions of the country, based on his experience, proposed a Swiss
However none of the proposals to protect the unique and traditional culture and nature of the Kandyan people and other ethnicities ever saw fruition .
Notwithstanding this dilution of the Kande Uda Rata Rajadhaniya
and the resultant alien influences, to this day the Kandyan people have been
able, with much difficulty, to maintain a unique identity and in some cases as
in marriage, Buddhist and other traditional cultural rituals spread their
customs to the Sinhala people living in the former
The difficulties and travails faced by the inhabitants of the
Kandyan Provinces, in 1951 led the government of the day to appoint the Kandyan
Peasantry Commission to obtain an overall picture of the social and economic
life of the Kandyan Peasantry in what can be described as the Kandyan heartland,
the Central and Uva Provinces, most affected by the development of the
plantation economy, and to ascertain the measures that should be adopted to
ameliorate their conditions. The particular matter specifically looked at were:
- land holdings, housing, education, communication, medical facilities,
employment –both agricultural and non agricultural and benefits under social
Notwithstanding the pious hopes of the Donoughmore Commissioners, the unitary nature of the 1948 Soulbury Constitution, the 1972 Republican Constitution, the 1978 Executive Presidential Constitution, the Provincial Councils created by 13th Amendment to the Constitution of 1987, this philosophy of a united Sri Lankan mentality has clearly not yet evolved.
The obvious larger than life evidence of this are the numerous efforts, through Sri Lanka’s political history, to solve the governance issues arising from a multi ethnic mixture of ethnicities.
The Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi at its first National Convention in April 1951 articulated the desire of the Tamil people for a federal union with the Sinhalese. In 1957 by the Bandaranayke –Chelvanayagam Pact, the Federal Party agreed to accept proposals for establishing Regional Councils as a first step to achieve its political goal of a federal state. The Pact was later unilaterally abrogated.
Next in 1965 was the Dudley –Chelvanayagam Pact. This was negotiated before the 1965 General Election an entered into soon after the election. Its purpose was to deal with certain problems of the Tamil speaking people and to ensure a stable government after the election. The Pact was abandoned after three years without any progress being made.
In 1970, Parliament acting on a mandate to enact a new
constitution received at the general election, functioned separately as a
Constituent Assembly to debate and adopts a draft constitution. The Federal
Party submitted proposals to the Assembly in the form of a Memorandum and a
Model Federal Constitution. The Memorandum proposed five separate units, (1)
the Raja Rata, (2) the Kandyan provinces of Uva, Central and Sabaragamuwa, (3)
the Southern and Western Provinces, (4) the
This was followed by the TULF adopting its Vadukkodai Resolution in May 1976, which marked the commencement of the struggle for the establishment of a separate state of Tamil Eelam. This Resolution marked the commencement of the struggle for the establishment of a separate state of Tamil Eelam. While there have been many demands for Tamil independence before, this Resolution articulates, in the clearest terms for the first time, the demand for an independent state for the Tamil Nation based on their historical habitation of the Northern and Eastern Provinces. The assassination of Alfred Duraiyappah, Mayor of Jaffna by the LTTE in that year, signaled the start of a war which would end only in May 2009.
After 1976 there were several attempts at solving the issue. On was
through Decentralization – the District Development Councils Act of 1980, which
also failed. Subsequent to the 1983 riots, an Indian diplomat G. Parthasarathy
negotiated an arrangement by which this existing District Development Council scheme
was to be converted into a Regional Council scheme. There emerged broad
agreement on what Parthasarathy negotiated between the GOSL and, TULF and CWC,
except on the issue of the merger of the Northern and
Subsequently, after the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh
bodyguards, there were two meeting between the GOSL, the TUNF and the militant
These four Thimpu Principles have since been the cardinal principles with regard to a negotiated settlement to satisfy Tamil aspirations.
These principles contain concepts and terms which were ambiguous, vague and had no clear or fixed legal meaning. They could be interpreted to mean a separate independent state or only substantial autonomy within an existing nation state.
The government delegation, through its leader, H.W. Jayewardene
Q.C. rejected the first three principles on the grounds that they necessarily
implied the destruction of a united
In 1987 the GOSL took a more aggressive military position and Vadamaratchi in the so called LTTE heartland was captured. The Government of India was alarmed and pressurized the GOSL to stop its military campaign and enter into the Indo-Lanka Accord of July 1987. This agreement resulted in legislation, the 13th and 16th Amendments to the Constitution and the Provincial Councils Act no.42 of 1987. This step did not settle any issues, and the constitutional conundrum and the on / off war continued. There were sporadic attempts to sort out the problem- a Committee Chaired by Member of Parliament Mangala Moonesinghe (1993), the GOSL’s proposals of 1995, 1996, 1997, and 2000.
After the Parliamentary elections of 2001, and the Cease Fire
Agreement, after a conference at Oslo, Norway, there was an Oslo Communiqué of 2002-
in which it was said that ‘the parties
agreed to explore a solution founded on the principle of internal self
determination in areas of historical habitation of the Tamil-speaking people,
based on a federal structure within a united Sri Lanka.’ However the complications of
In 2003 the GOSL made a proposal for Provisional Administrative Council, in 2004 the LTTE proposed an Interim Self Governing Authority for the North East.
After the disastrous Tsunami of 2004, the GOSL proposed a Post Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS). However the Supreme Court, on a petition filed by the JVP MP’s, held that the provisions of the P-TOMS violated the constitution on the aspects of Parliaments control over expenditure.
In 2006 the GOSL summoned an All Party Conference (APC) to design a political settlement to the ethnic conflict. This APC established an All Party Representative Committee (APRC). The GOSL also appointed a Panel of 17 Experts to assist the APRC. The Experts called for public proposals and over 700 were received. But the Experts were split and in December 2006 released a Majority Report and Minority a Minority Report.
Among the proposals in the Majority Report, an innovative one to establish an Autonomous Zonal Council (AZC) in the Nuwara Eliya District and a ‘non territorial Indian Tamil Cultural Council ‘(ITCC) for the Tamils of Indian origin. However the Minority Report only suggested a Department for the advancement of Tamils of Indian origin.
IN 2007, on January 8th, the chair of the APRC, Dr. Tissa Vitharna, issued a report which he claimed was a synthesis of the Majority and Minority Reports. On Indian Tamil Affairs he proposed that there should be a Cabinet Minister at the Centre, a Provincial Minster in the Central, Sabaragamuwa and Uva Provinces, supported by a non territorial assembly consisting of the MP’s, MPC’s and some nominated members .
In May 2009 Velupillai Prabhakaran and the top rankers of the LTTE were killed.
On January 26th, 2010 the people of Sri Lanka elected a new President. The people of the Kandyan Provinces voted in large numbers for him.
At this time when our constitutional development is on a threshold of a new era, the Kandyan people are surely entitled to a special arrangement which will help them to nurture, preserve, strengthen and develop their special characteristics, customs, rituals and traditions they have protected over centuries.
The proposals in the 2007 Tissa Vitharna Report to the APRC, come
to mind, where under paragraph 13:- ‘Meeting
the Aspirations of the Indian Tamils, under paragraph 13.5:- All members of Parliament and Provincial Councilors from the
different Provinces, belonging to the Indian Tamil Community shall be members
of the Indian Tamil Cultural Council(ITCC). In addition there shall be five
nominated members. All members of the ITCC shall be appointed by the President
It is proposed that a similar Council, should be established by the Constitution, called the Kande Uda Rata Sanvidhanaya be created for the Sinhala and Muslim representatives elected to Parliament and the Provincial Councils from the 12 Disawani and 9 Rataval constituting the Kande Uda Rata Rajadhaniya, as at 1815, in addition the Diyawadana Nilame of the Dalada Maligawa, the Basnayake Nilames of the Satara Dewales, at Senkadagala Kande Mahanuwara, the Maha Kataragama Devale in Uva and the Saman Devale in Ratnapura, should be ex officio members. The Higher Appointments Commission, proposed by paragraph 6:1 (d) of the Tissa Vitharna Report should appoint five other persons of repute and eminence, three of whom shall be women and three under 30 years of age, on to the Sanvidhanaya, from among voters resident within the limits of the Kande Uda Rata Rajadhaniya as at 1815, to whom the Kandyan Law applies, as defined in s.11 of the Kandyan Scholarship Fund Act no. 25 of 1971.