Posted by: lrrp | May 31, 2008

Commemorating Portuguese Rule

There is more to add to the description given in P. Sugathadasa’s article in the Opinion column of The Island (1/10/03)

Hieronymus Gomez writing on the 29th of December 1609 gives the following account of one of the expeditions sent by Azavedo to Sinhalese held territory:

“Two hundred men, women and children were taken. Gathering them all into a field. Simon Correa, a Sinhalese Captain (a Catholic convert) gave orders to beat them to death. The poor people all kept together like sheep, without a sigh or a groan. A Portuguese Captain noticed that there were among them some innocent children in the arms of their mothers and since he could do nothing to save their temporal lives, he wished to give them spiritual life and hence he baptised them all. They were afterwards beheaded to give them a more lenient death.” Ceylon Antiquary II, 22. Simon Correa was an ardent admirer of the Jesuits as his instructor de Azavedo and presented to them [the Jesuits] a coconut garden.” (Paul E. Pieris, Ceylon and the Portuguese p. 173)

There is more about Azavedo –

The Portuguese historian Manuel de Faria y Souza wrote —

“When he (Jeronymo de Azavedo) was acting in Ceylon as lord of war, he used to oblige women to throw their own children in to stone-troughs and pound them in them, as they would spices in brass mortars, without any mitigation of the cries uttered by those innocent under the blows that fell and without any pity for the hearts of mothers who saw themselves made the cruel executioners of their own souls. As soon as they had reduced (the children) to paste, he had the women beheaded as if they had not obeyed him”.

Finally the Portuguese were expelled and this was how they lamented the loss of the island.

“Of all the great and lamentable losses and ruins of the Portuguese State in East Indies, the greatest and the most painful in the opinion of all well qualified to judge, was the loss of the island of Ceylon, because of the fruitful and most rich and in every respect the most happy kingdom which was thereby lost, the enormous expense incurred on that conquest and the bloodshed and lives which it cost on the Portuguese nation: all of which came to naught by our mismanagement and is as forgotten, so far as a remedy is concerned, as the grief is remembered.

The reasons for the above wail is given by the Portuguese historian Father De Queyroz.

(Father De Queyroz S.J.), “This is not a question of herrings and codfish, but of diamonds, pearls, seed pearls, rubies, gold, silver, pinchbeck, copper, (white and black), cloves, cinnamon, pepper, cardamoms, gallingale, musk, silk, tapestry, wrought cloth and other immense riches and manufactures, which God distributed over these vast regions and seas and which the industry of the natives can greatly increase, were it not for the tyranny of their princes. And he who is the master of these, at least by commerce, cannot fail to astound the world”.

“They found in Ceylon”, as Paul Peiris writes, “a contented race and a fairly prosperous country…. and it is melancholy to reflect that they succeeded in producing nothing but chaos. Out of a long list of high-born Hidalgos whom Portugal sent to Ceylon, it is difficult to point to one name as that of an enlightened statesman and high-principled administrator…

It is clear that the first European invader left a desolate land to the ‘natives’.

While the Portuguese lamented the loss of this island, we who became heirs to a devastated country after the Portuguese rule may be lamenting their departure.

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