Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Ahmad Arabi Pasha and the Egyptian exiles in Sri Lanka

Revolt, trial and exile

During the 1880s, the Muslims of Sri Lanka were brought into close contact with a head
‘ Arabi pasha,’ the Egyptian nationalist. The Muslims were then at the peak of their economic prosperity and receptive to new influences.’ Arabi was exiled along with some of his brother officers after an Egyptian army uprising. They arrived in Sri Lanka in 1883.they had all become involved in a celebrated revolt against the government of the Khedive Ismail and his successor, Tawfiq,2 Ismail’s follies of palace building and the extravagance of his royal entertainments had plunged his country into financial difficulties. To find new funds, he began to fleece the peasants; but he also became more and more financially indebted to the British and French.ultimately, these two powers were to gain control over egypt.due to his unsound finances, Ismail was then replaced by Tawfiq. Arabi Pasha emerged into prominence at about this time. In the Egyptian army, the highest ranks were monopolized by the Turkish officers; but the lower ranks were held by Egyptian, and the Egyptian officers resented the fact that they wee required to do the more menial takes.the discontented in the army found in the young Egyptian officer ‘ Arabi pasha an eager leader. A nationalist movement grew up around him, which made its target the government of khedive Tawfiq.

By the time he came to Sri lacked, ‘ Arabi enjoyed a wide reputation as a heroic nationalist revolutionary. He had been born in 1840 in horiyeh, near zagazig, in Egypt, the son of a village sheikh and a member of a fellahin (peasant) family with strong religious affiliation. After a short period of study at al-azhar in Cairo, ‘ Arabi was conscripted into the army at the age of 14 and rose up from the ranks. Due to the favor of said pasha, he became a lieutenant at 17, captain at 18, major at 19 and lieutenant – colonel at 20. The khedive Ismail adds him a pasha and allowed him a wife from the khedive’s family. But ‘ Arabi soon espoused the cause of the oppressed Egyptian soldiery and, by standing against the policies of tawfiq, he won widespread support. He became in Egypt a popular and powerful figure, even if only for a short time.3

In 1880’s ‘ Arabi Pasha founded hizab al- watani, the nationalist party, whose object was to unite the peasants and the Turkish elite in Egypt, in order to give forceful voice to their discontent at the autocratic nature of tawfiq’s rule as conducted through his lieutenant, riaz pasha. The slogan of this party was “ Egypt for the Egyptians.” in time the party became the principal opposition to tawfiq’s rule. ‘ Arabi pasha made three demands of tawfiq: firstly, that the ministry headed by riaz pasha be replaced by a nationalist one; secondly, that a constituent assembly be set up; and, thirdly, that the army be increased to 18,000 men. But cookson, the British consul in Alexandria, advised tawfiq to take a firm stand against the army’s demands.

This advice precipitated a major crisis.the khedive decided to arrest the army colonels instead of inquiring into their grievances. They were asked to attend his palace, kasr al-Nile, but, on arrival, were arrested and dismissed from the service. The soldiers of Ali fehmi, who were guarding the palace, however, rescued the colonels and compelled the khedive to dismiss the war minister and appoint mahmood sami pasha in his place. The colonels then marched back to their barracks in triumph.

The Khedive sought to recover from this reverse by attempting to send the regiments of‘ Arabi pasha and Bad –Al – Ala – Whilom out of Cairo, one to Alexandria and the other to dimiyate. mahmudu sami pasha resisted this suggestion and was dismissed. The colonels, on hearing of this, marched their regiments to the abdion palace, and tawfiq once again capitulate. This time he had to agree to the elevation of mahmudu Sami pasha to the post of Prime Minister and of ‘ Arabi to that of under secretary at the war office. The Egyptians seem to have welcomed these appointments, ‘ Arabi was then popularly referred to as “ al – Whaled,” the only one, and “ al –misrl,” the Egyptian. Within tow days, sheriff pasha came to the conclusion that these nationalists enjoyed considerable support, and he felt obliged to appoint mahmudu sami pasha prime minister and ‘ Arabi minister of war.

At this point, Britain became involved in ‘ Arabi’s fate. The deposed khedive Ismail was planning a counter- revolution from Naples. Rumors of a coup spread, so that Arab and his friends became afraid of assassination. It was rumored that 19 officers were planning to murder ‘ Arabi. They were seized and court-martialled, allowed no defense, and exiled to the Sudan. But in July 1882, attacks on foreigners suspected of supporting Ismail grew steadily more servers, and a mob in Alexandria set fire to the city. The French fleet felt compelled to leave Port Said. Public opinion in England was now roused.

Sir Garnet Wolseley was sent to Egypt to halt the unrest and violence. He occupied the Suez Canal Zone. ‘ Arabi and his associates tried to organize themselves to meet the challenge. Other officers were deployed Bad –Al-Aal-Hilmi was kept at dimyut. Ali fahmi was sent to the cana zone and mahmudu fehmi went to Tel-Al-Kabir to complete the lines there. But before long Ali fehmi was contained and mahmudu Sami captured and made prisoner by a small party of British soldiers. ‘ Arabi pasha was without support and, within forty minutes of desultory fighting, his forces were rounded up by the British. ‘ Arabi himself took refuge in flight. By then a thousand Egyptians were believed to have been killed and wounded. The British gradually brought the riots in Alexandria under control. Soon afterwards, ‘ Arabi was taken prisoner and handed over to the British commander, drury Lowe, in cairo.4 wilfrid scawen blunt and his wife, a grand daughter of lord Byron, were in Egypt during this period. They ere attracted to the study of Egyptian affairs and knew Arabic. When ‘ Arabic pasha became powerful, blunt became his guide, philosopher and frined.5

He now endeavored to help ‘ Arabi by rousing public opinion in England to support him, through the press and through his powerful political contacts. Many British politicians clearly admired ‘ Arabi pasha, whom they considered a nationalist leader, and were concerned about his health and safety.

For example, in the British parliament, Lord Randolph Churchill asked the Prime Minister whether ‘ Arabi’s life was safe, 6 and sir wilfred lawson asked the under-secretary of state for foreign affairs whether there was any truth in the story that ‘ Arabi and the prisoners had been tortured.7

Torture had, it was claimed, been inflicted on mahmudu fehmi, the engineer-general and the thumb screw and kurbush had been reputedly freely used.8 sir Charles wilson, his representative, had visited the Egyptian prisoners often and had reported that there was no truth in these allegations’ future safety and keep them free from torture.9

Other questions were addressed to the prime minister. He was asked whether the government would bear the expense of the defense of the Egyptian officers or whether, as was rumored, wilfrid scawen blunt to the London times.10 Gladstone, the Prime Minister, replied that such expenses could not be ET from public funds.11

The Egyptian government had decided to charge ‘ Arabi and his associates under three counts: firstly, that of pillaging and burning the city of Alexandria; secondly, turning the Egyptian army against the khedive; and thirdly, inciting the people to civil war.12

To support these charges the prosecution proposed to call 140 witness. ‘ Arabi pasha in turn contemplated calling 400 for his defense. To meet the enormous expense of what was likely to be a protracted trial, a public fund, called the ‘ Arabi fund, was floated in Britain. Eminent figures, like lord Randolph Churchill, general CE Gordon and Sir William Gregory made generous contributions, but the fund did not swell up as expected.13

This compelled blunt and his Egyptian friends to try a different tack. ‘ Arabi and the leading prisoners offered to plead guilty to the main charge of rebellion if they were allowed clemency.14 Maude Fem, Jacob Sami, toulba ismath, Abd-Al-Aal-Hilmi and Ahmad abd-al-ghaffar all then pleaded guilty, were formally sentenced to death and then had their sentences commuted to exile. (it is interesting to note that Queen Victoria

Was one of those then in favor of hanging ‘ Arabi Pasha and his friends. She felt that ‘ Arabi was no more than a common rebel against the khedieve.15) various countries were suggested as suitable places of exile for ‘ Arabi to cape colony because of political unrest there. Finally, the British government agreed to send him and his co-conspirators to Sri lanka.17

Soon after the decision was reached, ‘ Arabi and his companions were required to make the following declaration of oath;

We, the undersigned swear by Allah, who gave the qu’ran, and by our personal word of honor, that we will agree to go to the place which the government should designate for us, and to stay there.18

The Egyptian government agreed to the decision to send ‘ Arabi and the other political prisoners into exile, but in ‘ Arabi ‘s case they insisted that he must forfeit his property. As some compensation for this, they also agreed that they would provide a maintenance allowance for is women and children.19

Why Sri Lanka should have been chosen as the place of exile is not known. Obviously it was of importance that it was situated some distance away from Egypt. The rebels would not easily be able to communicate with Egypt, and so ‘ Arabi pasha would find it hard to start another revolution from there. It is possible that a second reason may have been that in Sri Lanka Muslims formed only a minority community and were loyal to the British. ‘ Arabi would not be likely to find enough support there for a revolt against the British government. A third reason for sending the exiles to Sri Lanka may have been its reputation as a peaceful country, politically quiet since 1848, and it was unlikely that the exiles would be able to provoke any general political unrest there. The inhabitants of the country chiefly spoke Sinhalese, while ‘Arabi could speak only Arabic and therefore would not be able to communicate easily with them. One positive reason may also have been influential. Sri Lanka was, of course, well known to Muslims, for whom Adam’s peak was regarded as a sacred mountain. According to the legend, when Adam was cast out from paradise, he placed one foot on the mountain

And the other foot on the sea. Perhaps this association made it seem a suitable place of exile for a Muslim nationalist.

The life of ‘ Arabi Pasha and the Egyptian exiles in Sri Lanka

All the exiles and their families, with the exception of Abd-Al-Ghaffar and his family, left Suez on 27th December 1882 in the specially chartered ship S.S. Marriott’s. They were put under the charge of Maurice bye, an Englishman in the service of the khedive.

He was assisted by salimattalah, a Syrian. Two of the exiled officers, Abd-Al-Aal and toulba, were not accompanied by their families. ‘ Arabi pasha’s first wife, a friend of Lady Gregory, also remained behind, as she was expecting a child. The secretary of state informed the governor of Sri Lanka, Sir James r. London, by telegram:

Twenty, seventh December – Egyptian exiles proceed Colombo. Provide temporary quarters and funds avoiding unnecessary expense. Will ultimately choose residence in the island. Eight chiefs, seventeen male children, nineteen wives and female children. Total fifty-eight. Dispatch follows.20

This was followed by another telegram, which indicated that only 7 chiefs and a grand total of 54 were comin. ghaffar and his family made up the difference.21

The arrival in Sri Lanka of these distinguished Muslims, nationalists, patriots, revolutionaries, inevitably became an event of popular interest and was to have long-term effects on the local Muslim community. It was clear from the outset that the colonial government treated the exiles as people of some importance and was cautious in their dealing with them. On 3rd january, 1883 the Ceylon times reported that lake house, the property of the business firm loose and van cuylenberg, had been engaged by the government for ‘ Arabi pasha.22 next day it reported that a telegram had been received asking the government to provide quarters for ‘ Arabi pasha and his seven companions and that Messrs. Venn and company had engaged lake house, haarlem house, braybrooke lodge, struan house. And probably.

The Ceylon times seems to have obtained this information even before the government agent of the western province (Mr.F.R.Saunders) under whose authority they came. On 4th January, Mr.Saunders inquired from the colonial secretary whether the information given by the newspapers was correct. Several people who had houses to sell had made inquiries from his, he recommended to the government two particular houses and added that there were others available too. The savings bank had a large house, the whist bungalow, with extensive grounds, which the trustees would be glad to let and which would be a most suitable residence for a large party.not far from it was another house, belonging to the estate of the late Mr.Daniels, which had been offered. The house contained 14 bedrooms and had 20 to 30 acres of land attached to it.24

Mr.F.R.Saunders felt that the choice of a residence should be make with care. He suggested- obviously with security in mind-that the exiles must “ desire retirement and seclusion,” rather than seek “ the most fashionable and conspicuous parts which I have heard mentiond.25 but he was over-ruled. The governor asked the colonial secretary to inform Saunders that it was considered undesirable to place these exiles in seclusion, and that lake house, haarlem house, struan house and braybrooke lodge had been selected. Ultimately, however, the exiles, were, like any other refugees, to be allowed to choose their own residences in the island.26.

On 10th January 1883, the chartered ship, SS Marriott’s, anchored in Colombo harbor, the master attendant (caption donnan) and port surgeon (Dr.Garvin) boarded the vessel. The lieutenant governor, sir john Douglas, and the clerk of the executive council, G.T.M. O’Brien, followed them aboard, and it was agreed that the exiles would come ashore the next day.27 the excitement, which their arrival occasioned, was verywidely reported. On 11th January, the local Muslim community gathered in large numbers on both sides of the road from the harbor to the barracks, a distance of nearly a quarter of Amile. At this date, there were supposedly 97,775 Muslims in the island. 32,208 of who lived in Colombo, and a considerable number must have turned out on this occasion.28

According to government orders. The exiles were ultimately allowed to reside in any part of the island except the northern and eastern provinces. The restriction did not apply to the wives. Children and dependants of the exiles. Who could travel as they pleased, within and outside Sri Lanka.The exiles were to be under police Surveillance.Coming directly under the inspector-general of police, and it seems that the remoteness of the northern and eastern provinces was seen as preventing effective supervision. Hence the limits on their travel within the country.29

After their initial enthusiastic reception, the exiles attracted attention wherever they went and whatever they did. On Friday, 12 January 1883. ‘Arabi paid his first visits to the maradana mosque in Colombo. On this occasion the local Muslims followed him in a procession. In April, too, some Muslims went in a procession to Lake House to call on him. This type of attention was paid not only to ‘Arabi but to the others also. The government thought that this sort of enthusiasm would go after a short time. They claimed to see the attraction wearing off and hoped there would soon be an end to it.

In the police administration report of 1883, it was observed:

The advent of Ahead ‘Arabi and other Egyptian exiles to out shores was the cause
Of some excitement among the native population, prior to and after their arrival and
Particularly on the day of landing. The novelty, however soon wore off and the exiles
Now move about attracting scarcely any attention.30

This may have been partly true regarding the local interest in them; but ‘Arabi continued to hold a special attraction for visitors to the city. He was on one occasion likened to the upland tortoise. This tortoise was a very large one of unknown age, living in the uplands of Mutuwal. All those who called at Colombo supposedly endeavored to see both.

Sortly after their arrival, the governor, Sir James Longden, interviewed the exiles at queen’s house in Colombo. His object was to become personally acquainted with them and to learn if they desired to remain permanently in Colombo or instead preferred to remove into the interior. The possibility of the exiles shifting to kandy, the interior capital,

Ahmad Arabi Pasha and the Egyptian exiles in Sri Lanka may have been under consideration by the government.31 at the interviews, ‘Arabi pasha acted as spokesman for the others. He asked for two further houses, one for Abd-Al-Aal-himi pasha and the other one for toulba ismath pasha, who were both staying with him at Lake House. He also requested an English education for his children and the attention of an English doctor for his family, and he complained of the inadequacy of their allowances. Immediate steps were taken to meet most of these requests. Houses were soon found, for example. For both Abd-Al-Aal-Hilmi and Toulba Ismath Pasha.32

In the meantime, there were many sympathizers in England who kept up the pressure on the government. They asked particularly what the status of the exiles was in Sri Lanka. Mr. Labouchere, the Member of Parliament for Northampton, broached this subject. Lord Edmund fitmaurice answer:

‘Arabi Pasha is not retained as a prisoner, but remains in Ceylon in accordance with a solemn undertaking in writing, which was signed by himself and witnessed by his European counsel, to the effect that he would remove to any locality indicated by the Egyptian government and remain there until invited to change his abode.33

This clearly applied to the others as well, for they all gave this undertaking on oath and signed the declaration.

When ‘Arabi Pasha arrived in the island he had with him one son and one wife, a girl of 17 years. His first wife, the friend of Lady Gregory, had Ofcourse. Stayed behind. Soon after his arrive, ‘Arabi endeavored to get his first wife to join him, but she did not want to leave Egypt. The position with regard to her right to join her husband was made clear in November 1883 by Evelyn barin:

The Egyptian government says that they certainly have no objection to this arrangement being carried out, but that madam ‘Arabi pasha has stated that she has no wish to leave egypt.34

She apparently did not change her mind, for the four wives who ultimately returned with ‘Arabi to Egypt was said to be "Chaffer" (i.e. Bedouin Arab) women. But there is no certainty on this point. The wives and children, of course, possessed the freedom to move from Egypt to Sri Lanka and back again, and their movement is not easy to trace.35

Since there were no places in suitable English boarding schools available, the government decided to allow the sons of the exiles to occupy vacant places in the government’s normal school, whose principal was Mr.Hill. They were allowed these places “free of rent for the time being. “The boys came under the care of one Mr.James. Two sons of Abd-Al-Aal-Hilmi attended Gorton school. Maradana, in Colombo. The girls attended English Christian schools. Later, when they move to kandy, the sons of ‘Arabi pasha and toulba ismath attended kingswood college, kandy.36 it was perhaps through these arrangements that ‘Arabi came to recognize the paucity of modern educational provision for Muslims in Sri Lanka.

The governor of Sri Lanka, Sir James longden, took a personal interest in the reception, accommodation and well being of the exiles.37 in February 1883. The secretary of state asked him to allow the general military information, which the exiles might possess regarding the Egyptian war. The governor thought this a valuable suggestion.38 he was also willing to devote attention to the exiles’ medical needs, placing them under the care of a European physician, dr.white.39

With regard to the complaint of the exiles that their allowances were inadequate, however, no immediate response wasgiven. They remained dependent upon the first allowances of the Egyptian government, which had arranged with the imperial ottoman bank of Alexandria to pay each exile a sum of å30-15s, -4d.per month.40

The Egyptian government took some time to settle the problems regarding the property owned by the exiles and the property jointly owned by them and their wives. Until this was settled, a fair and final distribution of any increase among them was not possible. But on the recommendation of the governor, Sir James Lingden, an interim increase was eventually made.41

In 1883 the proposed increase in ‘Arabi pasha’s allowance came up for discussion in parliament.42 Labouchere the member parliament for Northamton, raise the question. Sir Edmund fitzmaurice answered that the Egyptian government, with great liberality, had granted an increase of 2500 per year, to be distributed among the exiles according to their needs and a further sum of å220 per month for the maintenance of ‘Arabi who was the poorest. Parliamentary agitation clearly helped to bring results.

Meanwhile further claims were made by all fehmi, yacoub sami, and mahmudu sami and were sent to the secretary of state by the governor with his own observations upon them.43 this necessitated yet another careful examination to ascertain whether their allowances were sufficient. While this was going on, writs were being served upon them by the Egyptian government concerning their property interests in Egypt. This added to their discomfort and made the rapid settlement of their financial affairs imperative. In Britain the memoranda of the three exiles were therefore carefully scrutinised.44

All Fehmi’s memorandum reached the Prime Minister along with the comments of Lady Augusta Gregory, the wife of Sir William Gregory, who had earlier been governor of Sri Lanka (1872-77). Of Madam Ali fehmi, Lady Gregory stated.

This poor woman was of good family and position in Egypt, has been a devoted wife and brought up her children carefully and well (I speak from personal knowledge). It is heart-breaking to her to see her husband and children in absolute poverty and she must indeed be driven to despair when she thinks of leaving them and going away alone in broken health to relieve them of the burden of he support.45.

Madam Ali Fehmi’s description of her own plight is even more touching:

I have parted with everything I had, selling my things under their value, till now I possess nothing whatever by which to support life. I am reduced with my children to remain within doors. Not having proper clothes for myself and my children whom you saw at cairo.46

The governor confirmed this:

She has been compelled to dispose of much of her trinkets and she and her daughter cannot leave their homes because they have no suitable dresses in which to appear.47

According to Madam Ali fem, å30 were not sufficient to maintain the 14 persons of her household for more than 30 days.

Sir William Gregory, assisted by the inspector general of police, made a particular study of the contents of the memoranda. Gregory, who had seen the inside of Ali fehmi’s house. Observed that “it was absolutely destitute of furniture.48

The contents of yacoub Sam’s memorandum puzzled the secretary of state. And clarification of certain points became necessary:

I am to observe that lord Granville is not able to judge whether å10 per month may be considered a proper house rent to pay in Ceylon for a person in his position, but his lordship does not think that a horse and carriage, a gardener, and a watcher, which are items in upon as reasonable requirements for one representing himself to be without private income.49

Sir William Gregory pointed out that yacoub sami was not living in luxury and that he needed a watcher and a gardener and had to pay a house rent of å10 per month. In the case of mahmudu Sami, it was established that his wife had a private income of about å300 per year. He, at least, was not considered to be in difficulties.

After studying their cases, the inspector general sounded distinctly sympathetic.

They live very quietly and inexpensively in much the style in which a lieutenant colonel commanding an English regiment would live there. If this is considered a suitable style for those who are expashas and ministers and before were colonels, at the lowest, then their incomes are hardly sufficient, and those of six of them might be increased from RS, 4,000/- to RS, 5,000/- per annum, Arabi’s left at RS, 6,000/- as at present.50

Owing to the difficulties of assessing the real value of the property held by the exiles and their wives. And since the property possessed by some of the exiles’ wives was only expressed in land. Of which the annual value was not known, the egyptian government found it hard to make its final decision. Eventually it decided to treat each exile as being equally devoid of private means unless it could be proved that this was not so.51 accordingly,’arabi pasha’s allowance was raised by å19-4s. –8d. a month and the allowance of the others by å7-4s, -8d. on the instructions of the imperial ottoman bank, the chartered mercantile bank of india paid these increases bryce, the under secretary of state for foreign affairs, replied that all the exiles now recived å435 a year, except ‘arabi pasha, who received å600 a year.52

The British authorities suspected that there was some opposition to the more generous treatment of ‘arabi:

I am disposed to agree with the inspector-general and to believe that there is a strong feeling of dissatisfaction among the others at arabi being pensioned more liberally.

Was bryce’s view, especially as ‘arabi did not share any of his increase with the others.53

Since the exiles were precluded from earning a living in sri lanka.the allowances meant much to them. Strangers, as they also were, in aforeign land. Their style of living, the size and standard of the houses they rented and their establishments. All depended on this. They felt it necessary to maintain a certain position among their co-religionists and obviously wished to be free from monetary embarrassments. At first they had to depend entirely on these allowances. Later they became better off when their wives wealth became available to them.54

If cored to be careful, they were not exactly poor.the allowances they received, Rs. 6,000/- ‘arabi and Rs. 4,350/- each for the others, compared favourably with the salaries of the sri lankan public servants of standing. Their allowances brought them in line with an army colonel, whose salary was Rs. 5,400/- O a chief surveyor, Rs, 4,000/-, a lieutenant colonel, Rs, 4,800/- and a cadet in the civil service, Rs, 3,750/-.55

After Abd-al-Aal Fehmi’s death. The exiles asked to be allowed to share his allowance. The egyptian government, however, having raised their allowance once, decided not to make any more increases, and, in 1892, the governor was informed by the secretary of state that her majesty’s government was not prepared to press the government of egypt to depart from its decision, nor itself to increase the allowances.56 After this, no further appeals for increases of allowances were made.

Foreign and local visitors

In sri lanka, ‘arabi pasha was subject to frequent intrusions on his privacy, not always of a pleasant nature. Prominent personages as well as ordinary mortals dropped in to see him. ‘arabi endeavoured to meet all who called among the early callers were the russian count. Boutourlini, who came with lord gifford to interview him. As more and more people called on him. It was observed:

All the distinguished personages that call here will no doubt look upon arabi as a local sight that ought to be seen, but we shall not be surprised if after a little while arabi was not at home to his nimerous callers.57

But ‘arabi pasha continued to see his visitors. In 1884, the australian touring cricketers, led by w.l.murdock, made a point of calling upon him.58

The visitors were often gracious and were kindly received. In august 1890, Dr.F.Idrisawa brought for ‘arabi a book. Written by tokaisaasosi bearing the title, “ The memoir of arabi”. Caroline corner, who wrote an account of her visit to sri lanka, recorded that she saw ‘arabi, “seated on his prayer carpet, with the holy qur’an his inseparable companion by his side.”59

Mr.C.H.Z. Fernandou, a local political figure, also recorded a visit he had made, when he was only 6 years of age. ‘arabi pasha made him sit in front of him and spoke to him of the love one should have for one’s country.incedents of this kind suggest that the exiles were widely respected and, through muslim, were regarded with affection even by local buddhists, hindu and christians. Their presence must undoubtedly have raised the consciousness of the local muslim community and increased its sense of solidarity.

The exiles took advantage of all the opportunities to impress which came their way, one early example of their active participation in a public function was the reception they gave to the blunts, who came especially to see them. Wilfrid scawen blunt and his wife arrived in the island, aboard the S.S.Goorkha, in October 18883. The exiles, their co-religionists and other well-wishers gathered at colombo harbour and accorded the blunts a most cordial welcome. Welcome speeches were made by two lawyers, messrs.Siddi Lebbe and fidelis perera. The blunts were then taken in a procession to their bangalow. Thirty carriages took part in the drive. Seventy guests sat for breakfast that morning. On 9th november, the blunts were given a dinner at lake house. Places were laid for 120 guests, and the catering was done by themetropolitan hotel, “in a manner becoming to muslims.” Lake house was at its most splendid. The garden surroundings were illuminated and decorated, and the police band played music. This was followed a few days later by a breakfast party at the residence of Mr.M.S.J.Akbar at kew gardens, slave island, colombo.60

These kindness to visitor were not entirely altruistic. For all the note of sustained gratitude and celebration which accompanied their visit, in the
month or so which the blunts spent in sri lanka they were given every opportunity to see for themselves the type of life which the exiles led, and what they had to contend with. In fact. The exiles seldom missed an opportunity to place their case before the eyes of influential members of the british community.

It is clear that the exiles always yearned to get back to Egypt. They made use of every opportunity they got to effect their release. They made it a point to meet important visitors to the island, acquaint them of their unhappiness and ask them to use their good offices. As a result, rquestions were regularly raised in the british parliament regarding their release. In 1885. Justin Hently McCarthy asked whether, in view of the prevailling situation in egypt, ‘arabi pasha could be recalled. Gladstone, the Prime Minister, replied that Her Majesty’s government could not accept the suggestion.61

Again, in 1886, Labouchere asked the under secretary of state for foreign affairs, “Whether he will use his good offices to bring the exile of these gentlemen from their native country to a speedy close.”62 The under secretary, bryce, replied:

Considering the causes which led to the deportation of these exiles and the consequences which might follow their return to egypt, her majesty’s government can hold out hope that they will use their good offices in the way suggested.63

The Exiles’ Petitions to the British Government

In 1887, ‘arabi pasha, ali fehmi and yacoub sami publicly demonstrated their loyalty to the british by participating in queen victoria’s jubilee celebrations held in colombo. With messrs, arabi, yacoub sami, ali fehmi stepped out and in a sad and solemn manner walked past the pavilion.64

This matter was also brought up in the British parliament by Pickersgill, the member of parliament for bethnal green who asked the secretary of state for foreign affairs whether his attention had been drawn to this procession and whether there was any truth in the reports. He also asked whether ‘arabi and his friends had formed part of the procession as captives of war or as subjects of the queen. Sir Henry Holland, the secretary of state, answered that the troops did not form any part of the muslim procession. About 2000 school children and members of the muslim community including the exiles, had participated, but entirely volunatarily.these three exiles had presented an address to the governor to be sent to the queen. This contained expressions of loyalty, of congratulations and also of gratitude for the gracious treatment accorded to them in sri lanka.65

The exiles never gave up sending petitions to the British government requesting their release. In 1888 a petition was sent to the queen and forwarded to the consul-general in egypt, but no reply was received. The secretary of state indicated to the governor of Sri Lanka the attitude of the Egyptian government:

But it is scarcely to be expected that the Egyptian government will be favourable to the release of those persons whose presence in egypt they would regard as a danger to public tranquility, and lord salisbury does not think that it would be either right or politic to press them to permit it against their judgement.66

In 1889 the matter of the exiles’ health came up in parliament. William Redmond, member of parliament for fermanagh, asked the under secretary of state whether Arabi Pasha had complained that the climate of sri lanka was injurious to him and whether because of this he wanted a transfer to another country.67 Sir James Ferguson house,in horton place, cinnamon gardens, and continued there till he moved to Kandy in 1892.68

Abd-al-Aal-Hilmi moved from Lake House to the retreat and from there to braemar house, where he lived till his death in 1891. Mahmudu Fehmi moved out to struan house, and then to the retreat at Matakuliya, a house belonging to Mr.Daniels. From there he moved to St.Helen’s Cotta Road, Borella. Mahmudu sami went to reside in Kandy. Very soon, others followed him. Mahmudu Fehmi, however, stuck on at St. Helen’s cotta

1. Obtained from the book written by Arthur C. Dep. on Arabi Pasha.
2. The title of “Khedive” was changed to “Sultan” during the First World War and this was later changed to “King.” see al-kassab, Khalil Ibrahim mohamed, “ a comparative study of industrial relations in Iraq, Egypt and Syria.” (Unpublished Ph.D. – Edinburgh 1972) p.23.
3. Ms. no. 141394 (Arabic) Hadwadith al –Atihasit –fi-Misr Mint’ Rikhyana’ir (account of the Egyptian revolt of 1881 – 1882), (S.O.A.S) PP. 12.
4. for a detailed account, see blunt, wilfrid scawen, secret history of the English occupation of
Egypt, (lond.1895), pp. 20-417; see also, afar lute al-say, Egypt and crummier (a study in
Anglo-Egyptian relations), (Lon. 1968), PP. 1-22.
5. blunt, wilfrid scawen, secret history of the English occupation of Egypt (Lon., 1895), p – 170
6. Hansaed, vol. CCLXXIV, British parliamentary debate Oct – Nov 1882, pp., 1113 – 114.
7. lbid
8. blunt, wilfrid scawen,secret history of the English occupation of Egypt) Lon., 1895), p. 416
9. hansard, vol. CCLXXIV, British parliamentary debate, Oct, - Nov. 1882, pp. 1101 –1102
10. London times, 24 Oct. 1882.
11. Hansard, vol. CCVXXIV, British parliamentary debate, Oct, - Nov. 1992, PP 207 –211.
12. lbid., p. 210
13. blunt, wilfrid scawen, secret history of the English occupation of Egypt (Lon., 1895)
PP. 543-44.
14. Bid. P. 471.

15., Hamilton’s diary, 23 Sept., British library.
16. C.o.78/3618, Tel, foreign office to duffer, 25 Nov., 1882,28 Nov 1882.
17. C.o. 30/29/141, ponsonby to Granville, 22 Nov. 1882.
18. S.L.N.A., no. 4/158, secretary of stare to the governor, dispatch no. 32, 17 Jan 1883. Translated from Arabic by the author.
19. C.o. 78/3856, duffer to Granville, 19 Nov. 1882.
20. S.L.N.A., no. 4/157, secretary of state to the governor, dispatch no. 28,28 Dec., 1882.
21. S.L.N.A., no. 4/157, secretary of state to the governor, dispatch no. 35,30 Dec., 1882
22. Ceylon times, 3 Jan. 1883.
23. Ceylon times, 4 Jan. 1883.
24. S.L.N.A. no. 6/6566, letter of government agent, western province to the colonial secretary dated 4 Jan. 1883.
25. lbid.
26. lbid.
27. S.L.N.A., no. 5/213, governor to secretary of state, dispatch no. 42, 13 Jan. 1883.
28. S.L.N.A., no. 5/213, governor to secretary of state, dispatch no. 42, 13 Jan. 1883.
29. S.L.N.A., no. 6/8856, letter of the inspector general of police to the colonial secretary,
19 may, 1890.
30. S.L.N.A., no. 6/7432, letter of inspector general of plaice to the colonial secretary 15. May 1883.
31. S.L.N.A, no. 4/158, governor to the secretary of state, dispatch no. 41, 30 Jan. 1883.
32. S.I.N.A., no. 4/158, governor to the secretary of state, dispatch no. 67, 21 Feb. 1883.
33. hansard. Vol. CCLXXVI British parliamentary debate, Feb- mars. 1882, p, 305.
34. S.L.N.A. no. 4/162, secretary of state to the governor, dispatch no. 14, 20 Nov. 1883.
35. S.L.N.A. no., 4/157, secretary of state of the governor, dispatch no. 142, 28 Dec 1887.å

36. S.L.N.A. no., 6/6668, letter of acting director of public instruction to the colonial secretary, 21, Feb. 1883.
37. S.L.N.A. no. 4/158, secretary of state to the governor, dispatch no. 67, 21 Feb. 1883.
38. S.L.N.A. no., no 4/158, secretary of state to the governor, dispatch no. 67, 21 Feb 1883.
39. S.L.N.A., no. 6/6668, letter of acting director of public instruction to the colonial secretary, 20, Feb. 1883.
40. lbid
41. S.L.N.A., no. 4/158, governor to the secretary of state, dispatch no. 69, 21 Feb 1883.
42. hansard, vol. CCLXXI, British parliamentary debate, 2 Jul, 1883, p. 39
43. S.L.N.A., no. 4/165, governor to the secretary of state, dispatch no. 385, 19 Dec., 1884.
44. lbid.
45. S.L.N.A., no. 4/165, governor to the secretary of state, dispatch no. 385, 19 Dec., 1884.
46. S.L.N.A. no 4/166, governor to the secretary of state, dispatch no. 39, 28 Jan. 1885.
47. lbid.
48. S.L.N.A. no 4/166, governor to the secretary of state, dispatch no. 39, 28 Jan., 1885
49. S.L.N.A. no 4/162, governor to the secretary of state, dispatch no 274,14 Jan. 1884.
50. S.L.N.A. no. 6/7264, letter of the inspector general of police to the colonial secretary,
17, Sept., 1885.
51. S.L.N.A., no. 4/162, inspector general of police to the colonial secretary, despatch no
14, 16 oct., 1883.
52. Hansard, vol. CCCIV, British parliamemtary Debate, 26 Mar-17 Apr, 1886, p 103.
53. S.L.N.A., no 4/275 secretary of state to the governor, despatch no. 245, 17 August. 1884.
54. lbid.
55. C.B.B., 1886, (Colombo, 1886), p. 85.
56. S.L.N.A., no, 4/275, secretary of state to the governor, despatch no. 15, 21 Jan 1892.
57. Ceylon times, 9 Feb., 1883.
58. Ceylon times, 10 Apr, 1884.
59. Corner, Caroline, The Paradise of Adam, (lond., 1908), pp. 206 – 216.
60. Mr. C.H.Z. Femando was also a member of the legislative council. See C.B.B., 1930
(Colombo, 1931), p.d.1.
61. Hansard, vol. CCXLIV,British parliamentary Debate, 18 Nov., 1884-3 Mar 1885, p 1177.
62. Hansard, vol. CCCIV, British parliamentary Debate, 26 Mar-16 Apr 1886, p. 103.
63. Hansard, vol. CCXXXII,British parliamentary Debate, 2 Mar – 21 Mar, 1888,p 1272.
64. Ceylon times, 27 Jun, 1887.


At 12/24/2007 03:01:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent piece of work. It was very hard to find an article of this great man in the Web. Now it has made my task easy.


At 12/24/2007 03:28:00 PM , Blogger Fazli Sameer said...

Thank you and your most wecome. The articles were collected and compiled by my paternal Grandpa over the years. His father, SLM Haji Ismail Effendi, my paternal Great Grandpa was a very close associate of Arabi Pasha in Ceylon during that time and it was he who smuggled the letter from Arabi Pasha to his family in Egypt during his visit to North Africa, Turkey, and the Middle East.


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