|Saturday, 20 March 2004|
K.M.C.'s first meeting - 138 years ago
Events leading to the consolidation of Britain's suzerainity over the Udarata and Senkadagalapura dates back to the Treaty of 1766 between the Dutch Governor and the King of Senkadagalapura. It has been vividly described by Dr. Colvin R. de Silva as follows: "The treaty of 1766 made the Kingdom of Kandy an island within an island, a land locked dominion without means of direct egress to the sea. Divorced from all progressive influences and deprived of all contact with the outer world, it tottered to its fall in 1815."
The King with his Royalty and Ministers in Kandy had his domain over the Eastern and Northern Provinces excluding the maritime provinces had to build the Kandy City to accommodate his Ministers, nobles and the aristocracy in such a way that common folk had no interest in the city except the veneration of the Sacred Tooth Relic brought back to Kandy on the persuation of the Bhikkus on 24th April, 1815.
After the rebellion of 1848 and the Waste Lands Ordinance, and the formation of the Ceylon League Sir Richard Morgan, the Queen's Advocate suggested that the democratic contents in local administration with liberal ideas should be the basis on which to set up local bodies in principal towns.
Municipal Councils Ordinance No. 17 of 1865 was approved by the Governor Sir Herculous Robinson and the first meeting of the Kandy Municipal had its first meeting on 20th March, 1866.
It is noteworthy that the Municipal Administration of Bombay and establishment of Municipal Councils in Ceylon, in Colombo, Kandy and Galle had almost identical features. Kandy City, which already set up an orderly administration by the King of Kandy was an advantage with few streets and buildings occupied by the nobles and the aristocratic families.
The impact of the rebellion and the determination of the British rulers to set up orderly institutions for the rule of the Colonies inspired them to set up the Municipal Councils in Sri Lanka then known as Ceylon. The first Chairman was Mr. F. B. Templar, Government Agent of the Central Province with C. L. Vanderwall James Van Langenburg, William Jayatilleke, (elected). Captain H. Byrde, J. F. Churchill were the other members. Charles Hay was the first Secretary.
The Civil Servants and the Heads of Departments who came out to Ceylon and India were the cream of the British Civil Service and in their Service in these countries they demonstrated their skill in the administration of the Colonies, so much so that they were promoted to higher offices in other Colonies.
In the first Municipal Councils' Ordinance there was limited provision for the election of members. The principal qualification was property qualification with not less than five pounds Sterling in value.
There were no allowances or salaries paid to members of the Municipal Council. Offences committed within the City were tried by a Bench of Three Councillors who were called Bench of Magistrates. By-laws and Regulations were framed by the Councillors who were well qualified and had legal and administration experience.
The elective principle in local administration was further widened in 1887, 1910 and with the Donoughmore Reforms, the elective principle was further widened. The administration of Kandy was in the hands of the Government Agent and the experienced members of the Departments, Works and the Medical Department.
The first elected Mayor of Kandy was Sir Cudah Ratwatte, in Colombo it was Dr. S. Saravanamuttu. The efficiency of administering local bodies Colombo, Kandy and Galle was at a high peak could be attributed to the nominated members who were well qualified in their sphere of professional standing, whose advice was of paramount importance.
In this aspect of the administration, Kandy Council had the good fortune to have had outstanding persons as Mayors and Commissioners and a competent staff and their profound interest in the City enabled it to graduate as the only City in Sri Lanka worthy of calling a Heritage City.
- Cecil Jayasinghe, Kandy.
Produced by Lake House