ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 42
Funday Times- Our Heritage funday times logo

First taste of representative government

The Legislative Council met in this building in Janadhipathi Mawatha (then called Queen Street), Colombo Fort. The building later housed the Senate (after Independence) and is presently occupied by the Foreign Ministry.

An important change in the administration of our country by the British in their early days of occupation occurred in the month of March. The recorded date of the establishment of the Executive Council and the Legislative Council is March 13, 1833. These councils were set up following the recommendation by a Royal Commission of Inquiry appointed by the British government, "to report upon all matters relating to the administration of the government of Ceylon."
The Commission which came to be referred to as the Colebrooke-Cameron Commission (the names of the two commissioners were W. M. G. Colebrooke and C. H. Cameron) was appointed in 1829 and with the release of its report, the civil and judicial administration was reconstituted.

The Executive Council was composed of the Colonial Secretary, the Officer commanding the Military Forces, the Attorney General, the Auditor-General and the Treasurer. The duties of the Council were advisory and the Governor who presided consulted them but was at liberty to disregard their advice.

The Legislative Council consisted of 16 members including the Governor, who presided, and the five members of the Executive Council. Four other official members included the Government Agents of the Western and Central provinces. Six unofficial members were nominated by the Governor – three to represent the Europeans (British residents) and three to represent Ceylonese. The nominated or unofficial members had no right to initiate legislation; they could only contribute to discussion. This was the first step towards giving the people of the country a voice in its administration.

The number of representatives was gradually increased and the balance altered to make it more favourable to the unofficial members. As the years passed, an unofficial member was nominated to represent the following groups of people: The Sinhalese of the maritime districts; the Kandyan Sinhalese; the Tamils; the Mohammedans; the Burghers or European descendants; the European planters; the European merchants, and Europeans generally. The unofficial members were appointed for a term of five years without any remuneration.

The Legislative Council was vested with the power of making laws which, as a rule, had to receive the approval of the Secretary of State for the Colonies (in London) in advance. No public money could be spent without the sanction of the Council.


The Government Gazette

The first issue of the Government Gazette

The first issue of the Government Gazette came out of the Government Printing Office (now known as the Government Press) on March 15, 1802. It was a single page news sheet which was considered as the beginning of the newspaper industry in Sri Lanka.

The news sheet was published because Governor, Sir Robert Wilmot Horton felt that 'great convenience would arise to the public if all Government orders and notifications were known and circulated through the newspaper.' The paper was to contain proclamations, general orders, Government advertisements, judicial and other notifications thought to be beneficial for the public to know.

The 39cm x 40cm news sheet was issued on Mondays.

The Government Gazette is published weekly to this day.


Saradiel is arrested

Saradiel, dubbed as the local Robin Hood, was arrested by the Kegalla Police on March 22, 1864. He was popularly known as Utuwankande Saradiel because of his hideout in the rock-topped forested hill off the Colombo-Kandy road a little away from Kegalle.

Though the British were determined to arrest him because he was waylaying the passers-by on the main highway, it was generally accepted that he was robbing the wealthy merchants and distributing the goods among the poor.

Less than two months after his arrest, he was hanged on May 7.

Incidentally, a teledrama on the life of Saradiel is being telecast now.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.