18th June 2000

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Census time

Friday, March 1, 1901 will be Census Day. This will be the fourth census after Ceylon became a Crown Colony in the British Empire. Firm data in relation to the population of Ceylon begin with the first decennial census of 1871. Conducted on March 27 that year, the population figure is given as 2,400,380.

Earlier, the Dutch census of 1789 had given a figure of 817,000 in the maritime territory of the Dutch East India Company, and Bertolacci had estimated the population of the settlements in 1806 as 700,000. The Census directed by Governor Barnes gave a population for the whole island of only 889,584 persons.

A 15% (359,358 persons) increase was recorded at the second census held on 17 February 1881 when the total figure stood at 2,759,738. Another 9% (248,051) increase was shown at the 1891 census held on February 26. The population then was recorded as 3,007,789.

Provincial administration

For administrative purposes, the country had been divided into nine provinces since 1889 - Western, Central, Southern, Northern, Eastern, North-Western, North-Central, Uva and Sabaragamuwa. Earlier, by the Minute of October 1, 1833, five provinces were established - Western, Central, Northern, Southern and eastern. The NWP was constituted in 1845, the NCP in 1873, Uva in 1886 and Sabaragamuwa in 1889.

The provinces, except the NCP and Uva, are sub-divided into 18 districts - Colombo, Kalutara, Kandy, Matale, Nuwara Eliya, Jaffna, Mannar, Mullaitivu, Galle, Matara, Hambantota, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Kurunegala, Puttalam, Chilaw, Ratnapura and Kegalle. The provinces and districts are each in charge of a Government Agent or Assistant Government Agent, an officer of the Civil Service which is a body recruited by open competition at a literary examination in England, and supplies all the higher posts in the Administration and the Judicial Service, except some of the offices in the Executive Council and the Supreme Court.

A stupendous task

A report in the Independent states: Official instructions have just been issued by the Government of India for taking the decennial census on Friday, March 1,1901. The selection of the date is determined by several curious considerations. 1st March is not, for one thing, an auspicious day for marriages nor does any feast or ceremony fall on that day to call the people away from their homes. The moon is not at the full until the 5th so that while on the 1st there will be light enough to enable the enumerators to do their work, the people will not ordinarily have gone to the sacred rivers to attend the lunar bathing festivals.

It is an undertaking almost of startling magnitude this, of enumerating the social condition, age and caste of nearly 300 million of people in a single night.

Note: India's population reached the billionth mark on May 11, 2000.

Sleepers for the north

'SS Munro' brings in 32,000 sleepers for the Northern railway. They are to be loaded to Kankesanthurai.

Graphophones for sale

Colombo Apothecaries announce the availability of Graphophones described as "an ideal instrument for home entertainment". Several models are available for sale - Eagle Rs. 40; Columbia Rs. 80; Grand Rs. 150 and Universal Rs. 300.

–Media Man

Jumbo mumbo

By Hiranthi Fernando

The young African el ephant, Joao at the Dehiwela Zoo was allegedly injured by the keepers during his bath, leaving 25 goad wounds along his trunk. At an inquiry initiated by Director S. Gunasena, it was concluded that the keepers acted in self-defence when the elephant attempted to attack them. The matter rested there.

"No attempt has been made to find out why this animal, who had never attacked anybody, should attack its keeper," said Sathwa Mithra President Sagarica Rajakarunanayake, who has taken up cudgels in defence of the elephant. She had received information on May 20 that one of the African elephants in the Zoo had been attacked several times with the goad, by Head Keeper Wimalasena the previous day and that Assistant Director Ms. Malsinghe was a witness.

According to Sagarica, she visited the Zoo the next morning and saw the elephant, who had several patches on his trunk daubed with a purple medicine. There was no official she could speak to at the time. On May 21, failing to contact the Director, she complained to Deputy Director Jayaratne about the attack.

"He was vague about the incident," says Sagarica. "I then faxed complaints to the Director as well as the Minister and Secretary about the alleged attack and asked for a fair inquiry."

When Sagarica finally spoke to the Director, he informed her that an inquiry had been initiated and promised to send a copy of the records and a week later, she received a copy.

"I was quite shocked when I read it," she said. "I find the evidence of even where and when the incident took place, contradictory. The Assistant Director who witnessed the incident has stated that she happened to pass by the bathing place with Acting Curator Amitha Perera, when she saw the elephant attempting to attack the keepers.

However, she says she was not present when the keepers injured the elephant. The keepers have stated that it had happened while going for a bath.

"I was also shocked to find that the person who witnessed it and whose evidence had to be recorded was the very person appointed to conduct the inquiry. Finally, all concerned joined together to heap blame on the elephant. This is what usually happens in the Zoo when there is a conflict between the management or keepers and the animals."

She says, "This elephant is only about 10 or 11 years old and has been looked after by Keeper Wimalasena from the time of his arrival at the Zoo. It seems strange that the elephant attacked him without any reason or provocation. The four keepers say the elephant jumped at them while on the way to the bath. They shouted commands and failed to quell him, so they had to strike him. They admit having struck him 25 times.

"The Assistant Director has said in her evidence that she saw the elephant trying to attack the mahouts. She did not see the keepers striking the elephant. However, having seen the elephant trying to attack the keepers, she went on her way and took no action to send help or report the matter immediately."

At the inquiry, it had also been stated that the bathing place is dangerous and a threat to the lives of the keepers since there is no exit in case of attack. "They have bathed the elephants here for the last seven or eight years. They are now in the process of constructing a new bathing place. If there was danger, why did they not take the matter up?" Sagarica questioned.

Sagarica expressed fears that the elephant would be ill-treated. This incident took place two days before Vesak.

"Despite our traditions of compassion, these dumb animals get no compassion or justice," she says

The Zoo Director confirming that the incident took place on May 19 says he had been away at the time. The next day, when the Assistant Director informed him that the African elephant was wounded, he had ordered an inquiry immediately.

"The inquiry revealed that at 3 p.m. on May 19, four mahouts had taken the two African elephants for a bath. At the bathing place, according to the evidence recorded, the elephant tried to attack the mahouts.

"The Assistant Director and the Acting Curator who happened to pass by had seen the elephant trying to attack the keepers and the keepers trying to control the elephant. The mahouts had admitted that they had to use the goad to defend themselves. Because of this reason given I could not take any action against them," he explains.

The Director accompanied us to the stall where Joao was tethered. The elephant, whose wounds are now healed, stood swaying from side to side. "One cannot predict the behaviour of animals because some have sudden tempers. However, it is the first time I have come across something like this," Mr. Gunasena said.

Taking into account the 'good behaviour' of Joao who has never attacked anybody in his 11-year stay at the zoo, the question remains whether another inquiry is warranted to find out the facts behind the incident.

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