Gaveshaka starts a new series - significant events of the month in the years gone by...
It happened in March
Weekly news in the Government Gazette
March 15, 1802 marks the day when the Government Gazette came to be printed as a regular weekly publication. It was, in fact, considered as a newspaper at a time when there was no newspaper printed in Ceylon, as the country was then called. It continues to this day carrying official government notices.

Divided into four columns, the first issue mentioned in the "Prospectus of a Weekly Newspaper called THE CEYLON GOVERNMENT GAZETTE", that it will contain Proclamations, General Orders, Government Advertisements, Judicial and all other Notifications, "that it may be deemed beneficial for the Public to be informed of".

It was also to carry "Advertisements of individuals announcing public or private sales, Notices of lost goods, Arrival & Departure of ships, Births, Marriages & Deaths; & all other Matters, that may, with propriety, come under the name of Public Advertisement".

It was to be published every Monday "before twelve o'clock in order that it may be dispatched by post on the day of publication free of postage to all parts of the British Territories in Ceylon". It was priced at two Rix dollars, the currency used at the time. Advertisements had to be paid for according to the number of lines.

A printing press established by the Dutch in 1737 was used to print the Government Gazette. It was the only press in the country and had been taken over by the British when they captured the maritime provinces in 1796. It was repaired and used by the British for their printing.

It was during the time of Dutch Governor Gustaff William Baron Von Imhoff (1736-40) that the first printing press was set up mainly for the purpose of printing books in Sinhala "for the promotion of Christianity among the natives, so that the New Testament may be printed in that language". The first ever book to be printed in Sinhala contained 41 pages and was titled the "Singaleesch Gebedde-Boek". It carried morning and night prayers among the religious text.

The Kandyan Convention
March 2, 1815 was a significant day for the country when the independence of the Sinhalese ended following the cessation of the Kandyan kingdom to the British. On this day, the Act of Settlement, referred to as the 'Kandyan Convention' was signed by the chieftains of the Kandyan Court. While the sovereignty of the Kingdom was vested in the British Crown to be exercised through the Governors of Ceylon, the chiefs and headmen appointed by the British Government were to retain "the rights, privileges and powers of their respective offices".

Educationist L. E. Blaze in his book 'History of Ceylon' describes the event: "A convention was held in the Audience Hall of Kandy, on March 2, 1815. Sir Robert Brownrigg (the Governor) occupied the principal seat and the Kandyan chiefs came in according to the rank. First and alone entered Ehelapola, who was received with special honour and given a seat at the governor's right hand.; for it was he who had begun the revolt against the king, who had urged the British to take Kandy, and who had secured the capture of the king.

After him came Molligoda and then the disavas and other chiefs. A treaty was read both in English and Sinhalese, and formally agreed by all present. By this treaty Sri Vikrama Raja Sinha was deposed and the Kandyan kingdom was declared to belong to the British Crown; Buddhism was to be held inviolable, and its temples and priests were to be protected and maintained as they had always been; the laws of the country were to remain unaltered and the king's revenues were to be levied as before.

"The British flag was then hoisted, and the firing of cannon announced the establishment of British rule in Kandy. The Kandyan independence was now at an end. The ancient rule which had lasted for over two thousand three hundred years now definitely gave place to foreign sway".

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