ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 38
Funday Times- Our Heritage funday times logo

When Sri Lanka's population was less than three million

Countries throughout the world hold periodical censuses of population to determine the aggregate number of persons in the country and their local distribution. In Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then known) the first census using what was then considered modern techniques, was held in 1871 under the superintendence of W. J. Macarthy. That marked the commencement of decennial censuses i.e. census held once every ten years.

Records state that the population in 1871 after the first census was 2,400,380. By the time the second census was held on February 17, 1881, the population had increased to 2,759,738 recording an increase of 359,358 or 15%. The next 10 years saw a 9% increase to 3,007,789 at the 1891 census held on February 26 that year. At the turn on the century, the recorded figure was 3,565,964 – an 18.6% increase in 10 years.

The early censuses were conducted through enumerators working under the direction of the Government Agents, who were the provincial administrative heads, and their District Assistants. The particulars were furnished on schedules left at each house to be filled by the householder. The schedules asked questions relating to sex, age, occupation, race, religion, whether married, place of birth, relationship to head of family and particulars of any illnesses. Details of the dwelling house including particulars of the roof, walls and accommodation were also recorded.

It is interesting to note that in certain districts, the details were written on ola leaves and transcribed later into the schedules.

There was some reluctance in giving details for fear of taxation since a rumour spread that a new tax was being introduced. In certain districts the census had the effect of increasing the number of marriages registered, as a rumour was prevalent that the object of the census was to know the number of unmarried youths to be sent over to Europe "to fill the gaps caused by the last war," the Franco-Prussian War of 1870!


Promoting the growing of trees

Arthur V. Dias stamp

A simple man who had a passion for planting useful trees was born on February 11, 1886. He was Arthur V. Dias, popularly known as 'kos maama' for his yeoman service in distributing thousands of jak seeds islandwide and popularising the planting of jak. It was a highly successful campaign for self-sufficiency in food for the people, which prompted Prime Minister Sir John Kotelawela to provide special facilities to send his parcels of jak and other seeds free by post.

Son of a much loved duo from Panadura, Mr. & Mrs. Jeramias Dias, he was among the pioneers of the nationalist movement for reforms and independence. He was also a keen member of the Temperance Movement. He published two newspapers - 'The Independent' and 'Swadesha Mitraya' to promote the nationalist cause.

He died on July 31, 1960 and was honoured with the release of a stamp on July 31, 1986.


Chamber of Commerce is formed

The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce building in Fort until the office was shifted to Navam Mawatha

The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce is the oldest and leading organisation representing the private sector in the country. The decision to form the Chamber was taken at a meeting held on February 20, 1839, "by a considerable number of the mercantile community favourable to the establishment of a Chamber of Commerce in the Island of Ceylon."

A five-member committee was appointed to draw up a constitution. They were leading members in the mercantile world – E. J. Darley,
J. Armitage, G. Crabbe, S. Vertue and C. D. Parlett.

A meeting was convened for March 25, 1839 when the Chamber was founded.

The main exports at the time were coffee, cinnamon, coconut oil and arecanuts.

Imports comprised rice and other grams, cotton goods, wines & spirits, and clothing.


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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.