Royal People

A dedication to those wonderful people who served Royal Primary School & Royal College, in Sri Lanka, since 1835, and, who will be remembered for their committment, sincerety and unselfishness.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Henry Pedris

Captain Duenuge Edward Henry Pedris (August 16, 1888 - July 9, 1915) was the son of a leading businessman in colonial Ceyon (present Sri Lanka) who was executed by British officials for his alleged incitement of racial riots in 1915. His execution at a young age was viewed as extremely unjust by most Sri Lankans, and it hastened the movement towards independence for Sri Lanka and provided motivation to those who pioneered the movement.

Early life
Henry Pedris was born on August 16, 1888 in Colombo, Sri Lanka , the youngest of five children and the only son of Duenuge Disan Pedris and Mallino Pedris. Both his father and uncle N.S. Fernando Wijesekara were leading businessmen of the time, and his family was among the wealthiest and most influential in Sri Lanka.

Pedris first attended the Colombo Academy (later renamed as Royal College) situated in the Pettah. From there he joined St. Thomas' College where he excelled in sports and shone as a good cricketer, playing for the school's first eleven cricket team. After some time he returned to Royal College where he again played cricket and engaged in other sporting activities.
Pedris was a teetotaler and his father had great hopes that Pedris would one day take over his business enterprises and become a leader in the commercial world. However after leaving school Pedris opted to join the Colombo Town Guard instead of joining his father in his business,there he quickly raised through the ranks to become a captain.

Sinhalese Muslim Riots
It is reported that during the widespread and prolonged Sinhalese-Muslim Riots of 1915,the British Governor came down with a heavy hand on the Sinhalese community and declared Martial law and ordered the Police and the Army to arrest and imprison several prominent Sinhalese leaders. Among those imprisoned were D. S. Senanayake, D. R. Wijewardena, Dr. Cassius Pereira, E. T. De Silva, F.R. Dias Bandaranaike, H. Amarasuriya, A.H. Molamure and several others. Capt. Pedris was among them.

The vanity and jealousy towards Capt. Pedris and the rich Pedris family of both the British and their Shinlaies henchmen was so great that false charges were drawn up against Capt. Pedris and he was court-marshaled. He was found guilty, declared a traitor and was sentenced to death by firing squad. Many partitions were made on his behalf by many prominent British and Ceylonese alike. An appeal was made to HM King George V. The execution was promptly carried out to prevent these action from taking any effect. On 7 July 1915 (the day is considered ominous by Sri Lankans ever since) Capt. Pedris was striped of his rank and executed by firing squad. Its said that he refused the blindfold offered to him, requesting to face death fearlessly. After the execution in keeping with military tradition, his body was buried in a unmarked grave against the wishers of the his family. In 1987 Capt. Pedris’s grave was unearthed and the remains where verified as his and reburied with military honors (it is said his father knew exactly were his son was buried).

Capt. Pedris’s death was also meant as a warning for other Ceylonese leaders who where leading the Independence struggle. After the execution the blood soaked chair on witch Capt. Pedris was shot was taken to the prison cells that contained many Sinhalese leaders including D. S. Senanayake and shown to them with the warring that they would be next.

A Court inquiry that followed found Pedris not guilty and his and his family name cleared.


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