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FINANCIAL CHRONICLE™ » ECONOMIC CHRONICLE™ » Sri Lanka History is Repeating: The Kotte Era and the Forgotten Chinese Connection

Sri Lanka History is Repeating: The Kotte Era and the Forgotten Chinese Connection

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Senior Manager - Equity Analytics
Senior Manager - Equity Analytics
By Dr. Nalaka Godahewa

Jun 11, 2015 (LBT) - Sri Jayawardanapura Kotte was the capital of Sri Lanka during the 14-15th centuries. This is a very significant period in the history of Sri Lanka. When president J R Jayawardene decided in 1977 to shift the administrative capital of Sri Lanka back to Sri Jayawardanepura Kotte, he would have never thought that after about 30 years, Sri Lanka's history is likely to repeat.

On 18th May 2009, President Mahinda Rajapaksa ended the 30 year long war on terrorism and united the entire country under one flag. The last local ruler to achieve that before President Rajapaksa was the King Parakramabahu VI of Kotte era. President Mahinda Rajapaksa maintained strong diplomatic relationships with the Chinese government during his tenure and so did King Parakramabahu VI. After King Parakramabahu VI, the Sri Lankan rulers didn't pay much attention to China and there were several reasons for that which I will explain later. To overcome their own internal power struggles, many local leaders started seeking the support of western powers such as Portuguese, Dutch and English whose long term objective was to colonize the country and exploit its resources. The most pathetic one among our leaders was King Don Juan Dharmapala (1551-1557) who went to the extent of writing a deed, handing over the country to King of Portugal. But fortunately for Sri Lanka Dharmapala was king only in the name and had no powers with him to transfer. The result of all these betrayals and infighting amongst Sinhalese was that we gradually lost our sovereignty and became a western colony and lost our independence for more than 500 years. Today with Mahinda Rajapaksa gone, country's new leaders have undermined the relationships that Rajapaksa built with China. Currently they are fast drifting towards the West. It is with the hope that western powers will protect them and help them stay in power against a possible Rajapaksa resurgence. While our leaders are fighting each other, the country is heading towards anarchy. Economy is crashing and people are demoralised. Signs are that we will lose the northern part of the country once again and it looks like a matter of time now. History seems to be repeating.

I thought of writing this article highlighting some historical incidents related to the Kotte era which I am sure most of you have read or heard about at one point in time, but may not remember in detail. Once you go through this, you will understand the impact of these historical events to our country and will be concerned of the future as much as I do.

Sri Lanka has a colourful-recorded history. We can identify most of the rulers of our country since the arrival of prince Vijaya in 543 BC. However there are a few gray areas as well. One such example is the period between 1397-1402. During this period there were several regional leaders such as Vira Bahu and Veera Alakeshvara, but it is difficult to identify one powerful king. Then begins the reign of king Parakramabahu VI , who ascended to power in 1412 and ruled the country until 1467. The reign of Parakramabahu VI, which spans over 50 years, was the last glorious period of Sri Lanka’s history with notable achievements in peace as well as in war. This period is known for the unification of the country, economic and cultural revival and also for some of the best diplomatic relationships in the history of Sri Lanka. One such important relationship was the one with with China.

The greatest navigator to visit Sri Lanka from China perhaps was Admiral Zheng He, who visited the country first time in 1405. Zheng He was believed to have been the first sailor to establish a direct sea route between the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans as an alternate to the famous Silk Road by land. Many scholars now argue that Zhen He was the first person to sail around world. His voyages predated Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America by 87 years and were 114 years before Ferdinand de Magellan’s round-the-world voyage. ‘Zheng He’ came to Sri Lanka 6 times and 5 of these visits were during the reign of King Parakramabahu VI. According to historical records King Parakramabahu VI him self visited China twice and send emissaries to China on several other occasions.

Perhaps one of the biggest beneficiary of King Parakramabahu VI's relationship with China would have been his powerful naval force. When King Parakramabahu sent Sapumal Kumaraya to capture Jaffna from Arya Chakrawarthi; the ruler of the Northern kingdom, he could block military assistance from India to Arya Chakrawarthi using his own ships which patrolled the Pork Strait. Those days China commanded the mightiest navy in the world and they were well advanced in marine technology. It is most likely that King Parakramabahu VI got technical assistance from the Chinese to strengthen his own Navy.

What began after Parakrabahu VI was a period of uncertainty. Every leader who became king in Kotte was insecure as he was always threatened by another seeking power. Most kings ruled only for a very short period as they were defeated and killed by others. Within a few years since Parakrabahu VI passed away, Arya Chakravarthi returned and captured Jaffna. Soon the North became a separate administration. Country got divided soon in to several kingdoms. Until English took control of the entire island in 1815, no local king could unite the country ever again.

Each and every king who came into power after Parakramabahu VI did the same mistake. They all sort support from Europeans to defeat their local enemies. Starting with Portuguese followed by Dutch and finally the English, all capitalized on this weakness of Sinhala leaders. Having understood the hunger for power among Sinhala leaders, the Europeans always offered help in return for some thing else that they wanted. To understand this lets go back to Portuguese era. When a few Portuguese vessels under the command of Dom Lourenço de Almeida came ashore in 1505, Sri Lanka was divided in to 3 kingdoms; Kotte, Jaffna and Kandy. Having seen the strategic value of the country, Portugese returned in 1518 and King Vira Parakrama Bahu who was ruling kotte at that time thought he could make use of Portuguese to control his enemies. So he permitted them to build a small fort at Colombo. The first Sinhala king to ask military support from Portuguese to face his enemies was Vira Parakramabahu’s son Dharma Parakramabahu VIII. Portuguese offered help but in return wanted permission to expand their fort and also to build a church. Still this didn’t help Dharma Parakramabahu VIII. He was killed by Vijabahu VI who became the next king of Kotte. Vijabahu who became insecure from his own three sons, also sought support from Portuguese. The result was more powers being given to Portuguese and the expansion of their bases across the coastal areas. That didn’t help Vijayabahu too as his three sons killed him anyway. Vijaybahu VI was succeeded by the eldest of his three sons who became King Buvanekabahu VII. This king always lived in fear of an attack from his two younger brothers Raigam Bandara and Mayadunne who ruled Raigam Korale and Seethavaka respectively. Following same pattern as his predecessors, king Buvanekabahu VII relied on Portugese help. He even appointed portugese soldiers as his bodyguards. Buvanekabahu VII was finally shot dead by a Portuguese soldier. The Portuguese claimed this to be an accident but some historians say it was a contract killing assigned by King Mayadunne. During latter part of his reign Buvanekabahu VII asked favour from Portugese to make his grand son Dharmapala the next king against the wishes of his brothers. He sent a golden replica of prince Dharmapala to Portugal to conduct a coronation ceremony for the future king. The prince also accepted catholism and was baptized as Jon Juan Dharmapala. However in reality, King Jon Juan Dharmapala could never rule the country in peace. His uncles constantly tried to attack him and he had to live inside Colombo Fort under the protection of the Portuguese. Jon Juan Dharmapala was one of the weakest kings we ever had and considered by many as the biggest traitor of the Kotte era. He was so depended on the foreigners for his survival that he went to the extent of writing a deed handing over Sri Lankan kingdom to the king of Portuguese.

One can see the similarities in what happened in Sri Lanka during the Kotte era and what is happening in Sri Lanka now. Just like the country got divided and went to anarchy immediately following a powerful leader who united the country in the 14th century, we are currently showing all signs of returning to chaos due to lack of a strong leader who is determined to keep the country united and develop it. Today the main focus of our national leaders seems to retaining power at any cost. Whom do they run to seeking support? Very interestingly, to the Europeans and to the USA. They tend to forget that the western world never helps another country unless there is something in return for them. Our present leaders forget the fact that China is much better equipped than the West to support our development needs. Unfortunately the interests of our leaders are politically motivated and not development oriented. Historically China does not get involve in internal politics of friendly countries.This is why our current leaders are not interested in China.On the other hand, the West would thrive on any opportunity to interfere with our internal affairs. Naturally, our leaders who are only interested in their own political survival, consider Europe and USA to be their friends.. Bending backwards to please the West may definitely help these modern Don Juan Dharmapala’s individual and collective goals. But it will never help the country as a whole.

To highlight that China does not usually get involve in internal politics of a country let me bring an example from the Kotte era it self.

Admiral Zheng He came to Sri Lanka 100 years before the Portuguese who arrived in 1505, 233 years before the Dutch who arrived in 1638 and 397 years before the British who arrived in 1802. He came in a fleet of 317 ships with 27,800 sailors, which would have been the largest naval fleet world had ever seen. Despite the size of this army when Zheng He landed in Sri Lanka Zheng He was confronted by a local ruler who some historians believe to be Veera Alakeshawara. Instead of treating the visitors kindly he attacked the visitors. The history books say aout of 100s of countries visited By Zheng He it was only in Sri Lanka he was attacked and that was a serious miscalculation on the part of our king. Chinese responded and it took only 6 days of battle for Zheng He to defeat the local armies and capture the Kingdom and also to arrest the king. Remember three western colonial powers who wanted to colonise the country had to wait more than 300 years from 1505 -1815 to achieve this feat. But what did the Chinese do after capturing the king ? They didn’t colonies the country as that was never their intention of visting Sri Lanka. So they took the captured and his family to China and presented them to the Chinese Emperor who pardoned the Sinhala King. But the emperor asked him to appoint someone else more suitable in his family to rule the country. Accordingly a prince was selected from among the group and he was brought back safely to Sri Lanka by the Chinese. Some historians think Parakaramabahu VI was this chosen successor. Others argue that Parakaramabahu VI killed Veera Alakeshawara’s successor and ascended to the throne. Immaterial of what happened in local politics after this historical battle between the Chinese and the locals where China showed its military might, they never interfered in Sri Lankan politics thereafter. Instead they maintained very good diplomatic relationships Sri Lanka for the next half a century.

Not many Sri Lankans know about this important event in the history only because of the ‘let go’ approach adapted by the Chinese after capturing the kingdom. I feel it is important that our generation and future generations know this history and appreciate the implications.

So after 7 centuries we can now see history repeating. The modern day Don Juan Dharmapalas are doing the same damage, the Kings of Kotte Era did to this country.

Courtesy -


Senior Manager - Equity Analytics
Senior Manager - Equity Analytics
Something that is also to be mentioned is that Present Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's maternal family is directly connected to Parakramabahu the VI's gene pool and here is the reference , book by J.H.O. Paulusz titled 'The Tudugala Family' the book shows the family tree of maternal forefather's of Present Prime Minister Ranil's maternal Grand Father Sri Lankan Media Baron D.R.Wijewardene is coming from the family of Tudugala Appuhamy - Disava of Sabaragamuwa in 1674 -75 and Tudugala Appuhamy's father Tudugala Madduma Rala (Disava) was born to Bandara of Suriya Bandara; where Suriya Bandara's father Maha Tikiri Adahasin's father Mayadunne is the second son who was born to Kiraveli Princess of Sri Rajasinha (Manikkadavara) when Kiraveli princess maintained an infamous secret Relationship with Sri Rajasinha's brother Vijayabahu the (VII) 7th whilst Sri Rajasinha (Manikkadavara) and Vijayabahu the 7th are 3rd and 4th son of Vira Parakramabahu (VIII) 8th in which case Vira Parakramabahu (VIII) 8th is Sri Parakramabahu (VI) (1412-1467) the 6th's second son...the intorduction of the book is written by then Minister of State Hon. J.R. Jayawardene (later became first Executive President of Sri Lanka) who is related to Wijewardenes.

Sri Lanka History is Repeating: The Kotte Era and the Forgotten Chinese Connection 11392710

Sri Lanka History is Repeating: The Kotte Era and the Forgotten Chinese Connection 10708_10

Sri Lanka History is Repeating: The Kotte Era and the Forgotten Chinese Connection 11401210

Origin of Wijewardenes of Maternal side of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's family , in Sri Lankan history when former Prime Minister Sirimavo took most of the land assets and enterprises of Wijewardenes, Ranil's father Esmond Wickremesinghe was the top Journalist and Editor who helped J.R.Jayawardene and Wijewardene's to come back to power which is why D.R.Wijewardene personally liked Esmond marrying one of his daughters and which is why to date UNP and our country is some way or the other is run by Wijewardene relatives largely except for Ranasinghe Premadasa.In Sri Lankan history former Attygalle - Don Charles Gemoris Attygalle from Madapath Salpita Korale who was a supplier of plants and spices to Europeans and British founded Kahatagaha Graphite reserves and became the richest Sri Lankan in that era under British and the largest land owner of country whilst Gemoris Attygalle's wealthy daughters Alice was married by John Kotelawala Senior (Father of Sir John Kotelawala, Senator Justin Kotelawala, Freda Kotelawala - married to Dr.CVS Corea and Grand Father of Lalith Kotelawala) , Lena married Colonel Godfrey Wijesinghe Jayawardene (Uncle of J.R.Jayawardene) and Ellen married F.R.Senanayake and the only son of Gemoris Attygalle was killed by Senior John Kotelawala's articulated famous historical Conspiracy of 'Neinage Sooduwa' in a 'Land and Wealth Deal'. In the biography of Lalith Kotelawala he notes that since Ellen became the heir to the historical 'Maha Gedara' of Gemoris Attygalle and since Ellen was married to F.R. Senanayake (Brother of first Sri Lankan Prime Minister D.S.Senanayake) most top political decisions of the country until 1970's were taken at weekly held Sunday Dinner they had at Gemoris Attygalle's 'Maha Gedara' where Senanayakes, Kotelawalas, Jayawardenes and Wijewardenes met when Lalith Kotelawala used to be a young child.And J.R.Jayawardene was the son of Helen Wijewardene and Justice Wilfred Jayawardene where Helen Wijewardene is sister of D.R.Wijewardene so the final conclusion to date eventhough many say that Ranasinghe Premadasa and Mahinda Rajapaksa wanted to be Kings, Sri Lanka from 1948 was ruled by a bloodline connected to the Sri Vira Parkramabha VI (6TH) the King From Senanayakes to Jayawardenes, Wijewardenes and Wickremesinghes whilst in between Bandaranaikes were more British friendly and were inter-related to Senanayakes and Jayawardenes and Wijewardenes whilst this time they used a another rural bloodline of Sirisenas (who were established by D.S.Senanayake at Polonnaruwa under Govi Janapada scheme when Sirisena's father returned to Sri Lanka after serving for British forces at World War 2) to take power to defeat a rural Sri Lankan bloodline Rajapaksas since Rajapaksas was emerging as a stronger power gaining Sri Lankans people's mandate.So coming back in Sri Lanka the only two Presidents who defeated Senanayakes, Wijewardenes, Wickremesinghes and Bandaranaikes who were British friendly was only Ranasinghe Premadasa and Mahinda Rajapaksa!

References are here 


Associate Director - Equity Analytics
Associate Director - Equity Analytics
ඉතාම පුදුමයට කරුණ වන්නේ මොඩර්න් දොන් ජුවන් ධර්මපාල ලාද සිය ජාන උරුම යෙන් තමන්ට පැවරුන  ක්‍රියන්විතය කිසිදු වෙනසක් හෝ පැකිලීමක් හෝ ලැජ්ජාවක් නැතිව එදා ලෙසටම කරගෙන යාමය​.  ඒ අයට ආවඩන ගැත්තන් ද  එදා මෙන්ම මෙදාද ඒ ලෙසම නිර්මාණය වී ඇත​. 

අදද ඒ අය ගන්නා සියලු පියවරයන්  තම මුතුන් මිත්තන් කල ලෙසම පාවාදීම් , නිවට වීම් , යටත් වීම​, ආ වැඩීම් මිස වෙන යමක් නැත​.  ජාන හා වර්ණදේහ පරිණාමයක් නොවී ඒ ලෙසම එන්නේ කෙසේද​? 
පරිනාමය නැවතී ඇත්ද ? 

ඉතිහාසය ඊළඟ චක්‍රයට ප්‍රති නිර්මාණය වීම ඇරඹී ඇති බව නම් නිසැකය​.   
අවසානය කුමක් වේද ? 
1815 2015  වෘත්තයේ එකම  ලක්‍ෂයක් ද ?

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