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DateLine Sunday, 10 June 2007

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Government Gazette

Chilaw to honour C. E. Victor S. Corea

Forty fifth death anniversary fell on June 6

The 6th of June 2007 marks the 45th death anniversary of the late Charles Edward Victor Seneviratne Corea, Advocate of the Supreme Court, Member for Colombo North in the Legislative Council of Ceylon and the First President of the Ceylon Labour Union. Named a national hero, he played a dominant role in the campaign to achieve independence.

A descendant of Dominicus Corea Edirimanasuriya Vikramasingha Bandara, General of the Sinhala Army who was crowned King of Kotte and Sitawaka by King Wimala Dharma Suriya, Victor Corea was known to be man of steel guts, a fearless fighter who championed the cause of the common man. Amongst his many daring exploits one that stands out in undying memory is his relentless fight to abolish the iniquitous poll tax in 1921, served a jail sentence in thirty days and was subject to hard labour. When orders came that Victor Corea be offered the choice of an European or "native diet" he rejected the offer and chose to eat the diet that was given to everyone else in jail. The food however was so badly prepared that for the first 42 hours in jail, he starved. On his second day in jail the doctor ordered that he be given a pound of bread and a little sugar daily. He spurned the sugar as a luxury and lived on a diet of plain bread. When he broke huge boulders on the public road under the extreme heat of the sun, the poor whose cause he championed came from all parts of the country to see this spectacle... an advocate of the Supreme Court, from an affluent family, working like a condemned criminal fighting the cause of his countrymen. Although his palms were full of blisters he did not bring this to the notice of the jailors and carried on with grim determination to labour and pay the penalty. When the crowds, to see him started increasing with each day the government, observing that the people hailed him as their hero and in order to prevent a breakdown of law and order abolished the poll tax and released Victor Corea from jail, much to the jubilation of the people.

Another daring episode that is connected with Victor Corea is that when the beating of hewisi at the Dalada Maligawa was stopped by the Government Agent, Kandy, who was a Britisher, because it was a source of disturbance to his wife, it was Victor Corea, a Christian, who rose up in protest. He told the Government Agent to remove his wife to any place he liked, and insisted that the hewisi in the Maligawa must continue in accordance with tradition. If the Diyawadana Nilame was not prepared to defy the order and resume the beating of hewisi, Victor Corea vowed to come to the Maligawa and beat the hewisi himself. The newspapers at the time wrote: Since Victor Corea, by that time was unknown to be a man of action who lived up to his word, the Government Agent withdrew his order, fearing that there would be unrest in the country. The beating of hewisi has continued ever since.

Victor Corea and his brother Charles Edgar Corea, were a powerful force not easy to match. Together, they protected the Muslims in the Chilaw area from the wrath of the embittered Sinhalese during the Sinhala-Muslim riots of 1915. The Corea brothers were responsible for completely exonerating the people of Chilaw from paying damages which was a penalty imposed on all citizens of Ceylon. The people of Chilaw were in the exalted position of not having to pay damages owing to the astute leadership given to them by the Corea brothers.

A. E. Goonesinha was Victor Corea's trusted lieutenant and Secretary, supporting him in all his daring deeds. When he was planning on forming the Ceylon Labour Union, and knew for sure that he would come up against stiff suppression from the government, his need was for a bold and courageous leader to be the first President of the Ceylon Labour Union. His choice was Victor Corea who gave the Union a dynamic leadership and a fearless start!

The sad truth is that despite Victor Corea's heroic deeds, too many to mention for want of space, he has not been honoured as yet. During his lifetime he was vehemently against books being written about him, roads being named after him and memorials constructed in his name. He stood by his belief that what he did for his country and its people was inspired from deep within. That alone shows his sincerity. Now that he is not amongst the living he must be honoured lest his deeds he attributed to someone else and cause the political history of this country to be unjustly distorted.

On May 23, 2007, the Chairman of the Urban Council, Chilaw, Prasanna Hilary Fernando summoned a meeting at which the family members of the C. E. Victor S. Corea and the office bearers of the C. E. Victor S. Corea Commemoration Committee discussed with the Members of the Urban Council, the site where the proposed C. E. Victor S. Corea Memorial should be installed. Being an Advocate of the Supreme Court who was at the time of his demise the oldest practising lawyer in Sri Lanka, a site in close proximity to the courts complex was decided on. This will be a landmark in the town and a fitting tribute to one of Chilaw's illustrious sons.

Present at the meeting were: Representing the Urban Council: Chairman Prasanna Hilary Fernando, Past Chairman Mr. Sweeny Perera, Messrs Noel Samaranayake and S. Ameen.

Representing the C. E. Victor S. Corea Commemoration Committee: Secretary Messrs M. Quintus Fernando, JP, M. John Daniel Fernando, JP, Seetharaman Sathyavel, JP.

Representing the Corea Family: Sri Sangabo Corea, JP, Dr. Vijaya Corea, Mrs. Kumari Corea, JP, Deva Corea and Anura Dharmakirti.

 

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