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The BANDARANAIKES and the BEVENS of HORAGOLLA

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by The Rambler

Horagolla is well known as the location of Horagolla Walauwwa, the home of the Bandaranaike family. As the country seat of the Bandaranaikes it was brought into national prominence with the election of SWRD Bandaranaike as Prime Minister in 1956. A lesser known fact is that Horagolla was also the location of another family, perhaps much less known locally, but with an interesting history, who were the only other land owners of significance in Horagolla. They were the Bevens who owned a 250 acre coconut estate called Franklands and who were the neighbours of the Bandaranaikes in the village of Horagolla.

Local folk lore seem to suggest that the village of Horagolla came to be so named for the forest land dominated by Hora trees (Dipterocarpus Zeylanicus) which grew in the area prior to it being cleared for the cultivation of coconut. It is believed that the original Horagolla Walauwwa was built nearly 200 years ago, around 1820, by SWRD’s great grandfather Don Solomon Dias Bandaranaike (born in 1780) who was granted a 175 acre land by the British Government for his assistance in the construction of the Kandy Road, particularly the section between Colombo and Veyangoda. Sir James Emerson Tennent who was Colonial Treasurer of the time published his monumental two volume treatise “CEYLON” in 1859. In referring to the then existent Horagolla Walauwwa he said “the most agreeable example of the dwelling of a low country headman, with its broad verandahs, spacious rooms, and extensive offices, shaded by palm groves and fruit trees”.

According to Don Solomon’s grandson Sir Solomon Dias Bandaranaike, the building was located on the site where his grandfather found an albino tortoise (kiri ibba) which he thought was a good omen and a suitable site to build his home. Don Solomon and his son and grandson later expanded their land holdings to cover over 3,000 acres of land some of which were maintained as hunting grounds as the area abounded in elephant, elk, and deer. The property portfolio included the Weke Group of about 900 acres of coconut, paddy, and forest land including a hunting lodge.

The wheel turned its full circle over 150 years later when the wife of Don Solomon’s great grandson SWRD Bandaranaike Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Prime Minister of the time in 1974, engaged in a national programme of land reform and reduced the Bandaranaike land holdings to 150 acres.

The progenitor of the Beven family in Ceylon was Drum Major Thomas Beven who arrived in Ceylon from England in the late 18th Century and was part of the 19th Regiment in Ceylon, a unit which was involved in several campaigns to oust the then reigning King of Kandy, Sri Wickreme Rajasinghe, who was finally captured with the help of Adigar Ehelapola. Interestingly, when the British together with Kandyan Chieftain Ekneligoda Dissawe took Rajasinghe as prisoner, among the low country chieftains present was Don William Adrian Dias Bandaranaike, a close kinsman of Don Solomon. Although there is no evidence on record of the role played by Thomas Beven in the regime change that unfolded at the time, the family that he founded has certainly played a significant role in the country in the 19th and 20th centuries.

His only son John married Sophia Maria Koertz whose forbears lived in Ceylon from the 17th century. He fathered a brood of 17 children of whom the fourth in order of birth was John Francis. Popularly known as Francis Beven he was born in 1847 and educated at the Colombo Academy (later renamed as Royal College).where he won the coveted Turnour Prize. He was enrolled as an Advocate at the age of 23 and at the time was one of only 21 advocates practicing in the island. * His mother being of European descent, Francis Beven was a member of the then dominant Burgher community. Beven commanded a lucrative law practice from his early days. He was also associated with the Exaniner newspaper, a bi weekly founded in 1846. It was purchased in 1859 by Charles Ambrose Lorenz reputedly the most highly regarded and famous member of the Burgher community of all time.

At the age of 23, Francis Beven became a co proprietor of the Examiner together with Lorenz and Leopold Ludovici. He was also its Editor for many years developing the paper to be a very influential and powerful voice for the Burgher community at a time when the country was under total British rule. Later the paper took a “pro Ceylonese” stance and was the voice for the entire community. The Examiner together with The Observer and Times were the only English newspapers of that era. As a busy lawyer and Editor of an influential newspaper he was both well known and powerful.

 

He was acting member of the First legislative Council and in the words of JR Weinman writing in 1918 “Francis Beven who hurls his thunderbolts from the Olympian heights of Veyangoda in the form of letters to the various Colombo journals, acted for some time for the late Mr Loos (in the Legislative Council). “F.B” as all Ceylon knows him is a man of great capacity. He is one of the most distinguished old boys of Royal College . Everybody who came in contact with him had the highest opinion of him.”

At the age of 34 Francis Beven had already made a fortune at the Bar especially at the Courts in Kandy where he commanded an extensive practice. A hearing impairment however impeded his further progress at the bar and in 1881, when 34 years old, he chose to try his hand at agriculture. He had earned enough at the bar to purchase a 250 acre coconut and cinnamon property near the Bandaranaike homestead. It is believed that the property was purchased from Mudaliyar DCDH Dias Bandaranaike the father of Sir Solomon and the only son of Don Solomon. Francis named his property “Franklands” and built a comfortable house to which he moved soon thereafter. The Bandaranaikes and the Bevens became firm family friends and neighbours.

Sir Solomon in his memoirs “Remembered Yesterdays” recalls his visit to Europe in 1914 where he met Mr and Mrs Francis Beven also holidaying in London. The family connection may have been so close that Francis Beven’s youngest brother H.O. Beven negotiated with Sir Solomon to lease the latter’s Weke Estate. That transaction soured later and Sir Solomon wrote “I was also compelled to go to law at this period (1915) as a result of some differences with HO Beven, who was the lessee of my Weke Estate. I was very sorry, as we had been friends for a long time. The late Mr W. Wordsworth tried the case (which was decided in my favour, with Beven cast in stiff damages), and I was represented by Mr EJ Samarawickrema (now KC) instructed by Messrs FJ and G de Saram while Mr EW Jayawardene (also now KC) instructed by Messrs Mack appeared on the other side. The case went up in appeal, and the damages were a little reduced.”

Francis Beven seemed to have lived in style emulating the life style of his illustrious neighbour Sir Solomon who was the confidante of successive Governors of Ceylon and known for his lavish entertainment of visiting royalty. With a palatial residence served by a string of domestic staff, Francis was also in the lap of luxury. He had married at the age of 23 and had seven children. The eldest son Francis Lorenz was educated at Royal College (as were his other sons). who on his return from England in 1895 was admitted to Holy Orders and served as Curate of St Paul’s Church, Kandy and later appointed Archdeacon of Colombo. Another son Osmund was a Medical doctor. The third son Alan Karl took to planting and was in charge of Franklands although Francis was still its owner and chief occupant. A smaller bungalow was built on the property where Alan resided with his family. Family lore suggests that despite father and son living in separate houses on the same property, relationships were formal as was customary in Victorian times. When Francis had Alan and family over for a meal for instance, the invitation was on a hand written card served on a silver platter delivered by a liveried butler!!

A brief reference to another sibling of Francis Beven may not be out of place here. The eldest sibling was John George James born in 1843 and died before he was a year old. The next was Thomas Edwin who was later a well known Proctor in Kandy and a Lieut Colonel in the Ceylon Light Infantry. He fathered 10 children among whom were the two daughters Harriet and Florence who occupied the family home “Rose Cottage” on Victoria Drive, Kandy after Edwin died in 1919. In October 1947 the two sisters, then in their late seventies met with tragedy. They employed four servants including a gardener and on that fateful night two intruders broke into their home with the aim of robbing the house. The sisters were strangled and Florence succumbed to her injuries while the elder Harriet recovered miraculously. She however died the following year. Two servants including one named KG Siyadoris who was a trusted servant for over 12 years were charged with their murder but were acquitted after a trial at the Kandy Assizes presided over by Justice C. Nagalingam.

Francis passed away in 1921 at the age of 74 and elder son Lorenz moved into the property which upon Lorenz’s death in 1947 passed on to Alan. Alan’s daughter Molly married Douglas Hennessy, Superintendent of Police better known as the author of the popular memoir “Green Aisles” which wistfully recounted their life in a home built in the middle of the jungle in Horawapotana. The Hennessys later moved to Quetta in Baluchistan after bidding a tearful farewell to their jungle home and pets including a pet bear, and finally retired in Australia.

With the death of Anura Bandaranaike the last surviving direct male descendant of Don Solomon, Horagolla Walauwwa would presumably be now owned by lateral descendants. As for Franklands, Alan willed the property to the Anglican Church and there ended the Bevens’ century old connection with Horagolla. For some years the legal firm of Julius and Creasy managed the property on behalf of the church.

The Bandaranaikes and the Bevens have in their own way played dominant roles in the development of Sri Lanka during colonial days and their generational triumphs and vicissitudes seem to mirror to some degree the hey day of British colonial rule and its ultimate demise. Three generations of Bevens could be identified in the accompanying photo viz Francis, his son Alan Karl and grandson Francis Vandersmagt. The descendants of the Bevens have since chosen to seek greener pastures overseas for their future generations. Francis Vadersmagt, Beven’s son Francis Hildon who migrated to Australia in the 1960s now lives in retirement after a successful career in Melbourne. Hildon like his forbears attended school at Royal College and in his youthful days in Colombo was a skilled spear fisherman and skin diver and prominent member of the old Kinross Swimming and Life Saving Club. The Bandaranaike family however for their part continued to play a dominant role in post independent Sri Lanka, their well known contribution being indelibly marked in the recent history of the country.

* The other advocates in 1870 were James De Alwis, C. Britto, R. Cayley, Muttu Coomaraswamy, Harry Dias, W.D. Drieberg, J.H.Eaton, J.W. Ferguson, Nicholas Gould, C.S.Hay, C.A. Lorenz, R.F.Morgan, O.W.C. Morgan, R.H.Morgan, P.P.Mutukrishna, Louis Nell, P de M Ondatje, D. Purcell, J. Van Langenberg, and C.C. Wyman.

(Courtesy elanka, Australia’s premier website for Lankans Down under)



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Sinharaja world heritage

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Conservation Outlook Assessment: Significant Concern

By Professor Emeritus Nimal Gunatilleke

Continued from Yesterday

 

Water diverted from Ampanagala reservoir to Muruthawela will be used to meet the irrigation deficit of Muruthawela and Kirama Oya systems and the balance will be transferred to Chandrika Wewa, through existing LB canal of Muruthawela scheme up to 13.8 km and a new canal of 17.0 km. After that, the water requirement of Hambantota harbour is to be transferred to Ridiyagama tank through the Walawe river and Liyangasthota anicuit. However, due to the extreme length of the diversion through the three-river basins of Nilwala, Kirama Ara and Urubokka Oya, it will lead to a massive conveyance losses of the diverted water while on the way to the Walawe basin. Furthermore, enormous costs associated with its construction, a failure to fully realise the intended outcomes due to a shortage of water budget will simply be a burden that Sri Lanka cannot afford with her current economic condition, according to Eng. Prema Hettiarachchi. It may be worth recording that the water ingress into the grouted tunnel of the Uma Oya near Ella has still not been fully repaired, even though the Uma Oya project is nearing completion. An expensive lesson to be learnt on the nature of the weathered geological structure, lineaments and implementing its unexpected and costly mitigatory measures which will eventually to be paid back by this and future generations of tax payers of this country.

According to the Irrigation Department web site postings, Mahaweli Consultancy Bureau has initiated the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), but due to the unavailability of concurrence of the Forest Department, revised TOR has not been issued by the CEA. Therefore, due to the unavailability of updated TOR, the EIA study has been delayed.

Environmentally, the most contentious issue highlighted in the news media is the proposed construction of a RCC dam at Madugeta to build a reservoir for which around 79 ha of forested (and some agricultural) lands in Sinharaja and a portion of prisine riverine forest in Dellawa would be inundated. On the Sinharaja side of the proposed Madugeta reservoir (right abutment) at present there are home gardens and small-scale tea plantations in addition to good riverine forests. In contrast however, proportionately a larger area of luxuriant forest of Dellawa, which is a part of the new ‘Sinharaja Rain Forest Complex’ would go under the chain saw for this reservoir construction (left abutment). The Geo-engineering report of May 2019 on GNDP has revised the siting of the dam to a more favourable location with supposedly reduced impacts but they forewarn that the three core-drilling along the proposed dam axis that had to be temporarily abandoned due to protests made by the villagers, need to be completed to confirm the geological suitability for the dam site.

 

Are there any Environment-Friendly Alternative Options?

As an alternative site for a dam on Gin Ganga, Eng. Nandasoma Atukorale (Specialist Engineer [Hydropower]) has proposed a location at the confluence of Mahadola with Gin Ganga at the village of Mederipitiya, way back in 2006. According to him, the riverbed at this site is 261 masl and have a catchment area of 132 km2. He proposes the construction of a 35 m high concrete gravity type dam that would form a reservoir with a storage capacity of 65 million cu.m and a potential discharge of 320 million cu.m of water annually which could divert 293 million cu. m of water to the SE Dry Zone. Most importantly, this region passes through a relatively narrow section of the river which is ideally suited for a dam according to him. However, geological suitability and socio-economic impacts of local communities need to be investigated, beforehand.

Quite interestingly, Eng. Athukorale claims that ‘although it is not economically very attractive, another 200 million cu.m of water could be diverted to the Nilwala basin by constructing a dam across Gin Ganga at the downstream of the confluence with Dellawa Dola at the village of Madugeta, with an 8000 m long tunnel which could be considered at a later stage provided further water shortages are experienced in the area’.

 

Now that the proposed Madugeta reservoir is receiving heavy criticisms from the environmental front, wonder whether Mederipitiya option proposed by Eng. Athukorale could be revisited for the diversion of Gin-Nilwala river water to the SE Dry Zone.

In a research paper titled ‘Comparison of Alternative Proposals for Domestic and Industrial Water Supply for Hambantota Industrial Development Zone’ Eng. Prema Hettiarachchi makes a comparison among three irrigation projects Kukule Ganga, Gin-Nilwala and Wey Ganga to convey water from the SW wet zone to SE dry zone.

She proposes yet another option that is probably still on the drawing boards to be considered which is the Wey Ganga diversion in Ratnapura District. According to her, this could meet the industrial and drinking water requirement (154 MCM + drinking water) of Hambantota metropolitan area at a significantly lower cost and with less damage to the environment. Further, there is a possibility of augmenting this scheme by diverting a part of Kalu Ganga catchment at a later stage.

Eng. Hettiarachchi further states that ‘by comparing the workload, it could be estimated to be nearly one third that of the Gin-Nilwala diversion. The Wey Ganga diversion can be carried out at a significantly lower cost by local agencies. That can also address the water scarcity of Hambantota metropolitan area including the requirements of international harbour and proposed industrial development zone with the relatively less environmental damage which is a major issue with respect to large scale projects. Construction period will also be less since the workload is less and can be carried out by the local agencies’.

What I have strived to show with this detailed irrigation engineering information available on public domain in the form of research publications, is that the Madugeta reservoir option is not the only one available for taking water from the wet zone rivers to the SE Dry Zone which is indeed a legitimate requirement for agricultural and industrial development of that region.

Pre-feasibility studies have been conducted on these options since 1968 and a considerable wealth of technical information is already available with the Irrigation Department. Apparently, according to knowledgeable irrigation engineers, there are more environmentally friendly, and cost-effective options with greater assurance of water conveyance to the SE Dry Zone available for consideration. It is often the case that during pre-feasibility studies of these large engineering projects, environmental concerns are given the least priority. Steady supply of water during extreme drought events which are becoming more frequent depends very much on the nature of the vegetation cover of the watershed area. These environmental aspects need to be critically evaluated before such costly projects are designed. As an example, although, the major engineering work of the Uma Oya project has been almost completed, its cost-effectiveness is yet to be seen with a denuded watershed, a potential of heavy soil erosion on top of the unexpected heavy expenditure on tunnel boring and other engineering works.

Biologically speaking, the Dellawa Forest Reserve is an integral part of Sinharaja Rain Forest Complex representing the pristine climax forest vegetation of SE wet lowlands and provide a vital connectivity link to adjoining Diyadawa forest of equal significance via the remains of Dombagoda forest. Therefore, clearing a riverine strip of this forest for the construction of Madugeta Reservoir would lead to an irreparable and irreplaceable damage to its characteristic riverine/flood plain forest vegetation.

On the other hand, pledging a reforestation initiative of a much larger area with Hevea rubber as a compensatory measure proposed by the political administration is totally unacceptable. Preserving intact forests in protected areas has no substitutes or replacements. Furthermore, the Natural Heritage Wilderness Area act and the binding articles of the UNESCO Convention on Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage to which Sri Lanka is a signatory, clearly state that causing direct or indirect damage to a natural heritage is legally not permissible.

In summary, the Sinharaja World Heritage Site is already in a state whose biological values are threatened and/or are showing signs of deterioration and significant additional conservation measures have been recommended to restore these values over the medium and long term. Adding more threats like the construction of reservoirs inside protected areas at this stage would inevitably downgrade the values further to a ‘critical conservation outlook’ which is not what the citizenry of Sri Lanka and the world at large would acknowledge as ‘sustainable development’.

The author of this article is a member of the National Sustainable Development Council of Sri Lanka and he thanks Dr Jagath Gunathilaka of Peradeniya University for providing the geotechnical information described herein. The author can be contacted at .)

 

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US seeking way out of Afghan killing field

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As the Biden administration makes its initial moves to extricate the US’ remaining security forces personnel from Afghanistan, it would do well to ponder on former US President John F. Kennedy’s insightful comment on foreign policy: ‘Domestic policy can only defeat us; foreign policy can kill us.’ This is a rare nugget on the nature of foreign policy.

Considering the high costs, human and economic, a country could incur as a result of blundering on its foreign policy front, Kennedy could be said to have spoken for all countries. However, there is no denying that the comment is particularly applicable to expansionist powers or ‘hegemonic’ states.

Sensible opinion is likely to be of the view that the US decision on quitting Afghanistan should have come very much earlier; may be a couple of years after its bloody misadventure in the conflict and war-ridden country. Considering the terribly high human costs in particular the US’ 20 long years in Afghanistan have incurred, the US could be said to have committed one of its worst foreign policy blunders, overshadowing in severity the blood-letting incurred by the super power in Vietnam. However, in both theatres, the consequences for the US have been of unbearable magnitude.

The US death toll speaks for itself. At the time of writing more than 2,300 US security forces personnel have been killed and over 20,000 injured in Afghanistan. Reports indicate that over 450 Britons have died in the same quagmire along with hundreds of similar personnel from numerous other nationalities. Apparently, it took an exceptionally long period of time for the US to realize that Afghanistan for it was a lost cause.

The lesson that the US and other expansionist powers ought to come to grips with is that it would not be an ‘easy ride’ for them in the complex conflict and war zones of the South. The ground realities in these theatres are of mind-boggling complexity and Afghanistan drives this point home with notable harshness. Power projection in South-west Asia and persistence with its ‘war on terror’ were among the apparent prime objectives of the US in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq but what the US did not evidently take into consideration before these military involvements were the internal political realities of these countries that are not at all amenable to simplistic analyses and policy prescriptions.

The Soviets ought to have come to grips with some features of the treacherous political terrain presented by Afghanistan in the late eighties but their principal preoccupations were related more to the compulsions of the Cold War. Simply put, the Soviets were bent on preserving the ‘satellite’ status of Afghanistan and their war effort was aimed at this in the main. Preparing Afghanistan for democracy was not even least among the Soviet Union’s concerns, of course.

However, the same does not apply to the US. The latter helped the Mujaheddin in the task of getting rid of the Soviet presence in Afghanistan but its aim was also to have a US-friendly regime in Kabul that would be a veritable bridgehead of US power and influence in the region on a continuous basis. In other words, the US expected the regime which replaced the Soviets to be pro-Western and essentially democracy-friendly. The US did not in any way bargain to have in Afghanistan Islamic fundamentalist regimes whose political philosophies were the anti-thesis of democracy as perceived in the US and practised by it.

However, the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban regime which eventually came to power in the mid-nineties in Afghanistan, once the Soviets withdrew, defied all Western expectations. As is known, the Taliban was not only repressive and undemocratic but was staunchly opposed to everything Western. There were no hopes of the Taliban working towards Western interests. Besides, the US did not expect to see in Afghanistan a country dangerously divided on ethnic, tribal and religious lines. The problems of Afghanistan have been compounded over the years by the coming together of the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda and these groups have world wide Islamic fundamentalist links.

It has been the aim of the US to have in Kabul religiously moderate, pro-democratic regimes but as developments have proved over the past few decades these administrations have not been in a position to hold out against the Taliban. In fact, it is the Taliban that is veritably at the helm of power in Afghanistan currently and years of futile attempts at trying to contain the Taliban have brought home to the US and its allies that they have no choice but to talk to the Taliban in order to secure some respite to effect ‘an honourable exit’ from the bloodied land. This is where matters stand at present.

However, as pointed out by commentators, it is the Afghan civilian population that has suffered most in the decades-long blood-letting in the country. Conservative estimates put the number of Afghan security forces personnel killed in Afghanistan at around 60,000 to date and the number of civilians killed at double that figure.

Accordingly, the Afghan people would be left to face an uncertain and highly risk-riddled future when the last of the US security forces personnel and their allies leave Afghanistan in September this year. The country would be left to its own devices and considering that the Taliban will likely be the dominant formation in the country and not its legitimate government, the lot of Afghan civilians is bound to be heart-rending.

There is plenty to ponder on for the US and other democratic countries in the agonies of Afghanistan. One lesson that offers itself is that not all countries of the South are ‘ready for democracy’. This applies to very many countries of the South that already claim to be democracies in the Western sense. Southern ‘democratic’ polities defy easy analysis and categorization in consideration of the multitude of identity markers they present along with the legitimacy that they have achieved in the eyes of their states and populations. What we have are dangerously volatile states riddled with contradictions. Relating to them will prove to be highly problematic for the rest of the world.

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The Soul

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The Soul (also known as Ji hun) is based on the sci-fi novel ‘Soul Transfer’, written by Jiang Bo in 2012. The novel was widely popular and inspired director Cheng Wei-Hao to adapt the tale into a movie. The story is about a married couple who are determined to uncover the truth behind strange activities in their community. According to the official synopsis for the film from Netflix, while investigating the death of a businessman, a prosecutor and his wife uncover occult secrets as they face their own life-and-death dilemma. The film stars Chang Chen, Janine Chang and Christopher Lee among others.

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