THE ECONOMIC CONTRIBUTION
The de Soysa family was the most well-known of the pioneering native entrepreneur class that boldly adapted to the new economic as well as technological and cultural changes that came about in 19th century Ceylon, an extension of the changes that generally occurred across many parts of the world in the 19th century. They not only understood and mastered these trends, but were able to both benefit and extend the boundaries of opportunities previously unavailable to the natives. Active participants in the modernization of the country and admired for their social responsibility, encouraging many to venture into the plantation, mining, exports and manufacturing sectors, gearing towards an early process of industrialization.
The Soysa brothers establishes of one of the first Sinhalese mercantile enterprises in Kandy.
At auction, they secure the franchise for the management of several industries such as the ferry service between Peradeniya and Kandy, the supply of consumer goods to several up-country regions like Ramboda, Hava Eliya, Nuwara Eliya, the Engineering Department and the management of the Kadugannawa tavern.
Revolutionizing the transport services between the seaports and the plantations with the introduction of cart transportation. The Soysa brothers offered a faster and a more reliable service to the existing porter and thavalam transport at less than one third the price. (10 000 carts??)
Jeronis de Soysa initiates and personally funds infrastructure development projects such as roads and bridges in the Central, Western and North-Western Provinces. In 1839 he completes the road from Galle road to Kospalankissa and several roads in Chilaw district.
These projects were undertaken after the abolition of the traditional rajakriya system of free compulsory labour.
Between 1832 and 1847, at auction, he succeeded in holding the franchise for all Central Province taverns, which were then located at commercial hubs and towns.
During the plantation era, taverns sprang up along the main roads and towns. They were patronized by the low-country transport contractors and the workingmen of the emerging industries including in the field of infrastructure development. Unlike in the Kandyan kingdom where there were restrictions on the consumption of alcohol, it was a common commodity consumed by the low country population. The Bhughers were largely the community allowed to profit from the tavern industry during the Dutch era. The moneyed Chetties and some Mudalyier families who came to prominence during the Dutch era and had access to free labour were the first to venture onto the arrack trade during the British era, before the dominance of the Moratuw-Panadura families. By 1847, Jeronis de Soysa had curtailed his investment in the profitable arrack franchise, becoming perhaps the first to so voluntarily.
Inauguration of the Bank of Kandy, the first native-owned bank in an era where the European owned banks were reluctant to extend credit to native entrepreneurs and the high interest rates of the Nattakutti Chettiyars.
Jeronis de Soysa becomes the first native coffee planter by outbidding George Bird, known as the 'father of Ceylon coffee' and brother of Col. Henry Bird, the Commandant of Kandy. The Korale officer of the region had suggested this to Babasingha Vedhamahathya, as he was then known, based on his reputation and ability.
Reviving agriculture subsequent to the destruction following the Kandyan Convention and the rebellions of 1818 and 1848 through the rebuilding of the reservoirs. In 1848, the year of the Matale Rebellion, saw Jeronis de Soysa complete the restoration of the ancient Malulla tank of Hanguranketa.
Others include, the Talatuoya, Naranvila, Gonagama and Kandewela tanks in the Central Province as well as in Rathmalana, Western Province. Unknown to many, the the Thalathuoya road from Kandy across Haragama to Hanguranketha and Walapane was was built a cart-able road by Jeronis de Soysa. It was before a footpath.
The reinauguration of the Bank of Kandy. To this end Louis Peiris Sr was sent to England to master modern banking methods. With a branch at Fort, the headquarters at Dalada weediya later became East China restaurant, now several shops including Fashion Bug.
Charles Henry de Soysa becomes the first native tea planter, before most Europeans. 'Ceylon tea' literally put Sri Lanka on the map by making it a household name across the world.
''The tea fields of Ceylon are as true a monument to courage as is the lion at Waterloo'' - Arthur Conan Doyle
Alfred Model Farm established to promote agricultural innovations and diversification. (The premises survives as the Royal Colombo Golf Course and the Colombo General Crematory).
Inauguration of 'CH de Soysa Exports', the first company registered by a native, mills, factories, graphite mines, warehouses and commercial premises.
For the promotion of the carpentry industry and to fulfill the economic needs of the carpenters of Moratuwa a co-operative model was introduced and sponsored by CH de Soysa. Co-operatives are jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprises empowering the community.
Fascilitating the construction of the Lunawa Railway station
Ceylon Agricultural Association formed. As it's president, CH de Soysa guides the association in empowering the native entrepreneurs. Measures adopted include delegations to Europe to establish direct business contact and access to foreign markets. In addition to the knowledge gained and agencies established towards this process, a campaign was also begun locally to abolish the paddy tax.
The successor to the organization, the Ceylon National Association, of which CH de Soysa was a member, but not it's president campaigned for the expansion of the railways. De Soysa's focus had been 'economic' and was not qualified in legislative politics, though his son AJR de Soysa would go on to become it's first member to be appointed to the Legislative Council in 1911.
Charles Henry de Soysa becomes the first native member of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce
AJR de Soysa becomes the first native to be appointed to the Colombo Harbor Board.
Innaugaration of the Bank of Colombo by THA de Soysa and associates.
De Soysa & Co. established by Sir Wilfred de Soysa.
Terence de Soysa's initiative in selling rubber to China on terms highly favourable to us becomes the basis of the mutually beneficial 'Rubber-Rice Pact' between Ceylon and China in 1952. In 1954, he becomes the first Sri Lankan Chairman of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.
Cecil de Soysa, the first chairman, sets up the Ceylon Tourist Board.
Along with the loss of economic status of the country, which was one of the best is Asia around the time the country became the Dominion of Ceylon (1948), when Singapore modeled it's development on Colombo, many in the entrepreneur class faced rapid decline with the adoption of drastic political and economic changes.