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Kumar Sangakkara’s Cowdrey Lecture: “The Spirit of Sri Lanka’s Cricket” (Part 3 of 7)


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Kumar Sangakkara delivering the Cowdrey Lecture  at Lord’s at the invitation of the MCC on July 4, 2011.
Kumar Sangakkara delivering the Cowdrey Lecture at Lord’s at the invitation of the MCC on July 4, 2011.

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On July 4, 2011, at the invitation of the MCC, Kumar Sangakkara, the former Captain of the Sri Lankan Cricket Team, delivered the Cowdrey Lecture  at Lord’s  titled “The Spirit of Sri Lanka’s Cricket – A Celebration of Our Uniqueness”.

This video is part 3 of Kumar Sangakkara’s hour-long speech. It is accompanied by its transcript.

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Transcript of  Kumar Sangakkara’s speech
Race Riots and Bloody Conflict (continued)

I did not realize the terrible consequences of my friends being discovered and my father reminded me the other day of how one day during that period I turned to him and in all innocence said: “I hope this happens every year for it is so much fun having my friends to play with every day.”

The JVP-led Communist insurgency rising out of our universities was equally horrific in the late 1980s. Shops, schools and universities were closed. People rarely stepped out of their homes in the evenings. The sight of charred bodies on the roadsides and floating corpses in the river was terrifyingly commonplace.

People who defied the JVP faced dire consequences. They even urged students of all schools to walk out and march in support of their aims. I was fortunate to be at Trinity College, one of the few schools that defied their dictates. Yet I was living just below Dharmaraja College in Kandy where the students who walked out of its gates were met with tear gas and I would see students running down the hill to wash their eyes out with water from our garden tap.

My first cricket coach, Mr D.H. De Silva, a wonderful human being who coached tennis and cricket to students free of charge, was shot on the tennis court by insurgents. Despite being hit in the abdomen twice, he miraculously survived when the gun held to his head jammed. Like many during and after that period, he fled overseas and started a new life in Australia. As the decade progressed, the fighting in the north and east had heightened to a full-scale war. The Sri Lankan government was fighting the terrorist LTTE in a war that would drag our country’s development back by decades.

This war affected the whole of our land in different ways. Families, usually from the lower economic classes, sacrificed their young women and men by the thousands in the service of Sri Lanka’s military.

Even Colombo, a commercial capital that seemed far removed from the war’s frontline, was under siege by the terrorists using powerful vehicle and suicide bombs. Bombs in public places targeting both civilians and political targets became an accepted risk of daily life in Sri Lanka. Parents travelling to work by bus would split up and travel separately so that if one of them died the other will return home to tend to the family. Each and every Sri Lankan was touched by the brutality of that conflict.

People were disillusioned with politics and power and war. They were fearful of an uncertain future. The cycle of violence seemed unending. Sri Lanka became famous internationally for its war and conflict.

It was a bleak time, where we as a nation looked for inspiration – a miracle that would lift the pallid gloom and show us what we as a country were capable of, if united as one, a beacon of hope to illuminate the potential of our people. That inspiration was to come in 1996.

An Identity Crisis

The pre-1995 era during which Sri Lanka produced many fine cricketers, but struggled to break free of the old colonial influences that had indoctrinated the way the game was played in Sri Lanka.

Even after gaining Test Status in 1981, Sri Lanka’s cricket suffered from an identity crisis and there was far too little “Sri Lankan” in the way we played our cricket.

Mahadevan Sathasivam (Source: sportskeeda.com)
Mahadevan Sathasivam (Source: sportskeeda.com)

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Although there were exceptions, one being the much-talked about Sathasivam, who was a flamboyant and colourful cricketer, both on and off the field. He was a cricketer in whose hand they say the bat was like a magic wand.

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Duleep Mendis (Source: sportstoday.lk)
Duleep Mendis (Source: sportstoday.lk)

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Another unique batsman was Duleep Mendis, now our chief selector, who batted with swashbuckling bravado.

Generally, though, we played cricket by the book, copying the orthodox and conservative styles of the traditional cricketing powerhouses. There was none of the live-for-the-moment and happy-go-lucky attitudes that underpin our own identity.

We had a competitive team, with able players, but we were timid, soft and did not yet fully believe in our own worth as individual players or as a team. I guess we were in many ways like the early West Indian teams: Calypso cricketers, who played the game as entertainers and lost more often than not albeit, gracefully.

Arjuna Ranatunga’s Leadership

What we needed at the time was a leader. A cricketer from the masses who had the character, the ability and above all the courage and gall to change the system, to stand in the face of unfavourable culture and tradition, unafraid to put himself on the line for the achievement for a greater cause.

Arjuna Ranatunga  (Source: espncricinfo.com)
Arjuna Ranatunga (Source: espncricinfo.com)

This, much-awaited messiah, arrived in the form of an immensely talented and slightly rotund Arjuna Ranatunga. He was to change the entire history of our cricketing heritage converting the game that we loved into a shared fanatical passion that over 20 million people embraced as their own personal dream.

The leadership of Arjuna during this period was critical to our emergence as a global force. It was Arjuna who understood most clearly why we needed to break free from the shackles of our colonial past and forge a new identity, an identity forged exclusively from Sri Lankan values, an identity that fed from the passion, vibrancy and emotion of normal Sri Lankans. Arjuna was a man hell-bent on making his own mark on the game in Sri Lanka, determined to break from foreign tradition and create a new national brand of cricket.

Coming from Ananda College to the SSC proved to be a culture shock for him. SSC or Sinhalese Sports Club was dominated by students from St. Thomas’ and Royal College, the two most elite schools in Colombo. The club’s committee, membership and even the composition of the team were dominated by these schools.

Arjuna himself has spoken about how alien the culture felt and how difficult it was for him to adjust to try and fit in. As a 15-year-old kid practising in the nets at the club, a senior stalwart of the club inquired about him. When told he was from the unfashionable Ananda College, he dismissed his talents immediately: “We don’t want any “Sarong Johnnie’s” in this club.”

As it turned out, Arjuna not only went on to captain SSC for many years, he also went on to break the stranglehold the elite schools had on the game. His goal was to impart in the team self-belief, to give us a backbone and a sense of self-worth that would inspire the team to look the opposition in the eye and stand equal, to compete without self-doubt or fear, to defy unhealthy traditions and to embrace our own Sri Lankan identity. He led fearlessly with unquestioned authority, but in a calm and collected manner that earned him the tag “Captain Cool”.

The first and most important foundation for our charge towards 1996 was laid. In this slightly overweight and unfit southpaw, Sri Lanka had a brilliant general who for the first time looked to all available corners of our country to pick and choose his troops.

The Search for Unique Players

Arjuna better than anyone at the time realised that we needed an edge and in that regard he searched for players whose talents were so unique that when refined they would mystify and destroy the opposition.

In cricket, timing is everything. This proved to be true for the Sri Lankan team as well. We as a nation must be ever so thankful to the parents of Sanath Jayasuriya and Muthiah Muralitharan for having sired these two legends to serve our cricket at its greatest time of need.

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Sanath Jayasuriya (Source: itmes.com)
Sanath Jayasuriya (Source: itmes.com)

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From Matara came Sanath, a man from a humble background with an immense talent that was raw and without direction or refinement, a talent under the guidance of Arjuna that was to be harnessed to become one of the most destructive batting forces the game has ever known. It was talent never seen before and now with his retirement never to be seen again.

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Muthiah Muralitharan (Source: theguardian.com)
Muthiah Muralitharan (Source: theguardian.com)

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Murali came from the hills of Kandy from a more affluent background. Starting off as a fast bowler and later changing to spin, he was blessed with a natural deformity in his bowling arm allowing him to impart so much spin on the ball that it spun at unthinkable angles. He brought wrist spin to off spin.

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Next → Kumar Sangakkara’s Cowdrey Lecture (Part 4 of 7)

← Previous: Kumar Sangakkara’s Cowdrey Lecture (Part 2 of 7)

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Execution of 27-year-old Henry Pedris 100 Years Ago in Colonial Ceylon


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Map of Ceylon (1914)
Map of Ceylon (1914)

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A hundred years ago, on July 7, 1915, at the height of the anti-Moor riots, the firing squad of the 28th Battalion of the British Punjab Regiment, executed 27-year-old Duenuge Edward Henry Pedris at the Welikade Prison. The young man, a Captain of the Colombo Town Guard (CTG) was a prominent socialite and scion of one of the richest families in colonial British Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).

On May 28, 1915, a petty incident in the town of Gampola in Ceylon, triggered a spate of communal riots between the Sinhalese and Muslims. It is now known as the ‘anti-Moor riots’ or ‘the 1915 riots’. Like wildfire, the riots swept through several districts of the Central, Western and Southern Provinces.

The Muslims in Kandy Town decided not to allow any perahera (procession) of the Buddhists beating the traditional drums, flutes and using any other musical organs to disturb worship at their mosque. But, on the following full Moon Poya Day of Vesak, the Buddhists held their usual perahera, following the usual route. When the perahera was passing the Mosque, a group of irresponsible Muslims  jeered and threw stones at the passing pageant. There was a pandemonium. The Buddhists retaliated resulting in a free-for-all leading to a conflagration.

The riots spread to Matale, Kegalle and even to Colombo. The Sinhala people harassed the Muslims throughout the country, leading to many deaths and loss of property. The Muslims sustained heavy losses.

The Right Honourable GCB PC, 21st Governor of Ceylon.
The Right Honourable Sir Robert Chalmers, the 21st British Governor of Ceylon.

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Sir Robert Chalmers, the 21st British Governor of Ceylon, feared he might lose control of the colony. He mistook the riots as a Sinhalese-Buddhist movement to oust the British from Ceylon, through mass violence. So, the British Colonial establishment waged war on the Sinhalese-Buddhists.

The British used untrained volunteers recruited from commercial establishments, shops, factories, and plantations, to suppress the riots.

Punjab Regiments, 1911. Watercolour by Major Alfred Crowdy Lovett (1862-1919). Copyright National Army Museum.
Punjab Regiments, 1911. Watercolour by Major Alfred Crowdy Lovett (1862-1919). Copyright National Army Museum.

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The soldiers of the 28th Battalion of the Punjab Regiment brought from India to help quell the riots, along with the volunteers unleashed a reign of terror in villages occupied by Sinhala Buddhists. They shot hundreds of civilians on sight and hauled up hundreds of innocent people before the military courts.

According to the available British records, 86 mosques and 17 Christian churches were burnt or damaged, around five boutiques and shops looted, 35 Muslims killed, 198 injured and four women raped. But unsubstantiated claims say thousands of Sinhalese died of bullet wounds.

Captain Duenuge Edward Henry Pedris

Our protagonist, the young Duenuge Edward Henry Pedris at first attended Royal College Colombo. Later, he joined St. Thomas’ College. He excelled in sports and cricket. He was a member of the school’s first eleven cricket team. After some time, he returned to Royal College where he again played cricket and took part in sports activities.

Hendry Pedris riding 'Rally' (Source: en.wikipedia.org)
Hendry Pedris riding ‘Rally’ (Source: en.wikipedia.org)

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After he finished school, Henry Pedris was much interested in horse riding. He excelled as a horseman  and had a wide knowledge about horses. A Russian Prince gave the Pedris family a horse named “Rally”. Henry rode the horse with the composure of a prince which made the minions of the British rulers envious of him.

Once, at a cinema hall, a British official walked in and demanded his seat. Henry refused and said that he too had paid the same fare and would enjoy the film from that seat.

Lanka calling

When World War I broke out, the British mobilized the Ceylon Defence Force and raised the Colombo Town Guard (CTG), a regiment of volunteers to defend Colombo if attacked.

His father, Duenuge Disan Pedris, had great hopes for his son’s future. He wanted his only son to take over his business enterprises and become a leader in the business sector. But Henry Pedris opted to join the Colombo Town Guard as a private. He was the first Sinhalese to enlist to the new regiment. His excellence in marksmanship and horsemanship made him a commissioned officer in the administrative (mounted) section. Within a year, he was promoted to the rank of Captain. Though Henry Pedris was by no means anti-British, he was much envied by the British because of this promotion and his immense wealth.

During the ‘anti-Moor riots’, Captain Henry Pedris was responsible for the defense of the city. He was successful in disbanding several rioting groups after peaceful discussions.

The shooting incidence in Pettah

On June 1, 1915, when Henry Pedris was at his shop on Main Street, Pettah,  a  mob of Moors advanced towards his shop. Pedris came out with a gun and fired six shots into the crowd. One of the bullets hit police constable Seneviratne in the head.

Sir Solomon Dias Bandaranaike KCMG JP.
Sir Solomon Dias Bandaranaike KCMG JP.

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Many British and jealous Sinhalese henchmen led by Sir Solomon Dias Bandaranaike, the Maha Mudaliyar (chief native interpreter and adviser to the Governor), wished Henry Pedris and his rich family ill. They brought charges against him. They accused Henry Pedris of inciting people to march to Colombo from suburban Peliyagoda. He was also charged with shooting at the Moorish mob and attempted murder of constable Seneviratne, even though the constable survived.

The British officers and Punjabi soldiers  raided the Pedris’ residence on Turret Road.  They then broke the doors and almirahs and rifled the whole house, searching for any incriminating documents. They arrested Henry Pedris and incarcerated him in the Welikada Jail.

On June 2, 1915, Martial law came into effect throughout the country. Due to the rigor of the enforced martial law, normalcy returned within ten days. However, the Martial law was in force until August 30, 1915.

Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan (Source: archives.dailynews.lk)
Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan (Source: archives.dailynews.lk)

On July 1, 1915, a military court tried Henry Pedris. Sir Hector Van Culenburg, the elected Legislative Council member pleaded for Henry Pedris. Many prominent citizens and educationists, both British and Ceylonese alike, including Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan appealed against the judgment. An appeal was also made to King George V.

Governor Sir Robert Chalmers and the Inspector General of Police, Herbert Layard Dowbiggin, were adamant that Henry Pedris should die.  They wanted to make the swift execution of Captain Henry Pedris a lesson for the  ringleaders of the anti-British movement.

The three presiding military judges declared Henry Pedris guilty and branded him a traitor.

The Ceylon Observer of July 5, 1915, records the death sentence passed on Henry Pedris. He was charged with “treason, shop-breaking, attempted murder and wounding with intent to murder.

The military court sentenced him to death by firing squad and set July 7, 1915, as the date of execution, without any form of appeal.

The British rulers imprisoned more 86 prominent Sinhalese leaders, members of an emerging Ceylonese élite for ‘waging war against the King‘ and abetting the riots against ‘His Majesty’s Moorish subjects.‘ Among the arrested were D. S. Senanayake, D. R. Wijewardena,  F. R. Senanayake, Edwin Wijeyeratne, D. B.Jayatilaka, Dr. Cassius Pereira, Dr. W. A. de Silva, E. T. De Silva, F. R. Dias Bandaranaike, Dr. C. A. Hewavitharana, H. Amarasuriya, A. H. Molamure, A. E. Goonesinghe and several others.

Execution of Captain Henry Pedris

At 7.30 a.m., on the day of the execution, Additional District Judge Arthur Charles Allnut, a graduate of the Oxford University and a member of the Ceylon Civil Service, ordered that the 86 Sinhala-Buddhist notables to  line up in the veranda outside L-Hall in Welikade Prison, and watch Henry Pedris walk to his death.

Captain Henry Pedris dressed in his Town Guard uniform, but stripped of his rank, marched with his head held high and chest forward. At the site of the execution, they strapped him to a chair.

Before his execution, Henry Pedris requested that he be shot by a Punjabi firing squad, and not a British squad, as the Punjabi soldiers were Non-Christian and Asians. Allnut acceded to his request. He ordered the soldiers of the 28th Battalion of the Punjab Regiment brought from India, to carry out the sentence. Captain Duenuge Edward Henry Pedris rejected the blindfold offered to him. He faced the Punjabis without any fear.

After the execution, F. R. Senanayake on seeing the limp body of Henry Pedris slumped in the chair to which he was strapped, vowed that he would initiate a concerted struggle to free the country from British colonial rule.

The prison authorities then took the blood-soaked chair on which Captain Hendry Pedris sat when shot to the prison cells to warn the incarcerated Sinhalese leaders, including D. S. Senanayake, the  future first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, that they could be next.

Burial of Captain Henry Pedris

Duenuge Disan Pedris (Father of Henry Pedris)
Duenuge Disan Pedris (Father of Henry Pedris)

Mallino Pedris (Mother of Henry Pedris)
Mallino Pedris (Mother of Henry Pedris)

The British refused to hand over the body of Henry Pedris to his grieving parents who wanted to accord their dead son a Buddhist burial with attendant religious rites.

Before burying the body of Henry Pedris, the British rulers declared Martial law for the first time in the whole island.

They transported the body of Henry Pedris to the Kanatte cemetery in great secrecy at midnight in the midst of martial law. The British had come to know that his father Duenuge Disan Pedris had owned several family burial plots at the General Cemetery at Kanatte in Borella. They chose one of these plots for the burial. It was the only burial not recorded in the General Cemetery registers or any other official register, since 1910. For the first time, the British rulers declared Martial law in the whole island.

Duenuge Disan Pedris had not only lost his only son, but he also lost two of his sons-in-law who were also incarcerated in the Welikada Prison. Though disheartened, he was silent as he did not want any more of his family members imprisoned by the British.

Most Ceylonese viewed the execution of 27-year-old Duenuge Edward Henry Pedris as unjust. The Sri Lankan patriotic leaders took the cue from his death and projected him as a martyr. His death motivated the pioneering patriotic leaders of the liberation movements organize themselves and strive for a concerted campaign to liberate the country from the harsh British rule.

The execution of Henry Pedris and the many unjustifiable and arbitrary  brutal acts committed by the British during the 1915 riots hastened the formation of the Ceylon National Congress on December 11, 1919 by members of the Ceylon National Association (founded in 1888) and the Ceylon Reform League (founded in 1917).

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