He Chaired both first sittings of the State Council and House of Representatives; ran Panamure Elephant Kraal;went missing in 1934: back in 1943 to contest a by-election.
Sir Alfred Francis Molamure who was elected to the Legislative Council [Colebrooke] to represent Kegalle District in 1924, returned unopposed to the first State Council [Donoughmore] representing the Dedigama seat and set a world record by becoming its first Speaker and also in 1947 as the first Speaker of the first House of Representatives [Soulbury]. The State Council was ceremonially opened on July 10, 1931. Election of the Speaker was held three days earlier on 7 July; after a contest with nominated member, Sir Stewart Schneider who received 18 votes, Molamure secured 35.He absented himself from the sittings for three months without leave and lost both the positions of Speaker and the seat (Dedigama) on August 25, 1935. It was stated that he resigned due to ‘undeclared’ personal reasons; ‘kept away’ from politics for a period, but returned to the hustings in 1943 when he was elected at the Balangoda by-election to the State Council.
Although it is the norm for the Speaker to be elected uncontested with the concurrence of the Government and the Opposition, Molamure, MP for Balangoda, had to face an opposition when the first Parliament under Independent Ceylon met in 1947. C. Sittampalam and S. U. Edirimanasingham, the two MPs who proposed and seconded his name, were surprised when the Opposition put forward H. Sri Nissanka, MP for Kurunegala— in the contest that followed, Molamure secured 58 votes while his opponent’s received only 41.
As for the functions of the Speaker, he is not a mere presiding officer; he is the repository of the powers, dignities, privileges and liberties of the representatives of the people –the MPs– and through them the voter at large. In addition to the standing orders, convention and practice powers the speaker’s authority.
Sir Francis resigned from the post for ‘unknown personal reasons’ on 10 December 1934. While conducting proceedings of the Parliament, Molamure collapsed on the Speaker’s chair on January 23, 1951 and passed away on 25th January 1951, before his term of office ended. Advocate, Alfred Francis was a sportsman, who played cricket for S. Thomas’ College. He married Adeline Meedeniya, the daughter of J. H. Meedeniya - Adigar, member, Legislative Council, later she also entered the State Council as Ceylon’s first elected female legislator.
Sir Francis, the Speaker
The Speaker is supposed to maintain strict impartiality; shed all party affiliations respecting the exalted office. Traditionally political parties from the opposition do not contest his seat at subsequent general elections so that he is elected unopposed to Parliament. As a result the Speaker continues in that office. This has not happened in Sri Lanka. The first business in the first session of a new Parliament is the election of Mr. Speaker to preside over the meetings.
Panamure Elephant Kraal
The Kraal is a triangular funnel shaped structure made of timber with a wide entrance ending in a narrow passage. Two enclosures that can accommodate captured elephants are built using timber. Once inside, the captured elephants were tamed and trained for many purposes like carrying heavy loads, to participating in cultural pageants.
Sri Lanka’s last Kraal was held nearly 65 years ago at Panamure, in the Ratnapura District under the patronage of legendary Francis Molamure, in his ancestral virgin forest land. Panamure is synonymous with a bull elephant of magnificent size, which fought defiantly inside the Kraal protecting the rest of the 16 elephants including two females in their fertile periods and one of them had her lover, a strong young bull who followed her into the stockade with the herd. The mammoth Kraal of 200 acres was a sub-urban town that had been there since 1896. It was equipped with its own police station, post office and many businesses to serve the Kraal builder, log cutters, elephant handlers, and many other service men gathered to maintain the structure. Built surrounding a massive water-hole sourced by a natural water spring called ‘Diya Bubula’ the Kraal proven to be the most successful kraal in the first half of 20th century, attracted herds of wild elephants.
Killing of the majestic bull elephant
The visitors for the infamous 1950 Kraal included the Governor-General as well. Violent scenes were witnessed when the matriarch was noosed. The ‘groom’, who was mating the ‘lady’ inside the stockade, reacted to the unexpected tragedy, attacking the tame elephant brought in to assist the ‘noosers’. He broke the one inch thick wire rope twice and had scared the tame tuskers, who were sent in to control the beast. This magnificent young bull is said to have tried to run through the stockade with the herd. He broke free of a wire noose for the third occasion and all attempts to control the animal made him more ferocious.
The experts that included Molamure himself did not have many options; either release the trouble maker at the risk of endangering the Kraal workers and the villages or shoot the tusker. None of the tame elephants dared to go close to this bull and finally it was decided to shoot this majestic elephant. It was a single rifle shot with a SG-4 cartridge that was aimed at between the eyes of the huge pachyderm by a hunter, that brought it down. This cruel act triggered nationwide protests; the reactions so powerful led to emotions and commotions spreading countrywide: the public uproar led to a hot debate in the Parliament. The people’s outcry of this killing was so huge it ensured the survival of all the elephants of Sri Lanka thereafter, as the state was compelled to introduce laws in 1950, banning Elephant Kraals, capture and killing of elephants.
A few huge timber posts of the stockade are maintained as historical mementos and they stand in silent testimony to an episode that had lasting effects in the destiny of the island’s elephants, sixty five years ago.
Losing Parliamentary seat and disappearance:
On January 23, 1951, he suffered a stroke and collapsed while chairing over the sessions in the House of Representatives and was rushed to Central Hospital in an unconscious state, where he passed away 39 hours later on the morning of 25th January at the age of 68. Molamure’s surprise resignation in 1934, and the subsequent ‘undisclosed disappearance’ for a few years, remained a mystery as much as the young and defiant Panamure Pachyderm’s tragic struggle for freedom at Molamure’s Elephant Kraal in 1950. However, the writer was able to unearth the ‘mysterious part’ of his ‘absence and disappearance.’
Sir Francis Molamure, lost his seat and Speaker’s posting in 1934, and was disqualified from contesting for a short period due to an unfortunate incident leading to litigation. He was punished by a Court of Law for involvement in a financial misappropriation of a private fund, while serving in the capacity of its Trustee.
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