Personal Information
Born:29th January 1871
Died:6th June 1962
Nationality:Sri Lankan
Education:S. Thomas' College, Mutwal (which later became S. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia), Ceylon Law College
Occupation:Member of the Ceylon Legislative Council, 1924, Advocate of the Supreme Court
Title:
Spouse:Sita De Alwis and Vivienne Nissanke
Parents:Charles Edward Bandaranaike Corea and Henrietta Corea (Nee Senewiratne)
 
Victor Corea Monument (Chilaw)
 
Victor Corea Monument (Chilaw) - Wording
 
 
VICTOR COREA

CHARLES EDWARD VICTOR SENEWIRATNE COREA, was the youngest in a family of three boys and two girls. He was born on the 29th of January 1897, to Henrietta (Senewiratne) and Charles Edward Corea who was an eminent Proctor of the Supreme Court practicing in the Chilaw Bar. His siblings were Charles Edgar (C.E.), Dr. Ernest, Agnes and Evangeline. His father passed away when he was but one year old and his eldest brother was six years. It was left to the young widow of twenty one years, to bring up the family.

Victor Corea married Sita De Alwis and had five children, Sidhartha, Carlton, Eric, Sarah and Norman. He later married Vivienne Nissanke and had eight children, Leila, Vickrama, Chandrani, Ratna, Rupa, Lihini, Sri Sangabo and Indra. Owning vast acres of coconut plantation and paddy lands, Victor Corea resided at `Sinhapura’, a sprawling old world, eight bed-roomed house on the Puttalam Road. As part of his efforts to remind the British of the need to respect the rights of the native community, his personal letterhead had a gold print of a lion resting its head on its fore-paws with the motto 'Awake not the sleeping Lion'. 

Victor Corea was educated at the prestigious S. Thomas’ College, Mutwal (which later shifted to Mount Lavinia), at which he excelled in studies and later passed out as an Advocate of the Supreme Court. Considered a brilliant orator, he was well versed in local and international law. His role model was his elder brother, Charles Edgar. Both brothers were members of the Legislative Council. The two brothers formed and led the Chilaw Association, a regional body that played a prominent role in agitating against certain injustices of British colonial rule. Victor Corea had a compelling patriotic yearning to free his countrymen from the bondage of British rule which guided his actions. He launched the `Lanka Tharuna Handa’, setting up his own printing press to educate the people and convey a warning to the British colonial rulers. During the Sinhala Muslim Riots of 1915, Victor and his brother Charles Edgar protected the Muslims in Chilaw from the embittered Sinhala community. He and his brother campaigned for the release of the fighters of the `Temperance Movement’. The brothers fought for reform of the Constitution to free the country from the bondage of British Rule. The brothers were also widely acknowledged for exonerating the people of Chilaw from paying damages to the British Raj, a penalty impose on all citizens of Ceylon. It was at the height of the 1915 riots, that Victor Corea delivered the keynote-address at the Centenary Celebrations of the Kandyan Convention, at Dharmarajah College in Kandy, which event was held with a police cordon around the school.

In 1920, when A. E. Goonesinghe formed the Ceylon Labour Union to fight for the people’s rights, he requested Victor Corea to be its first President, to give it a dynamic brand leadership and an aura of respectability. In 1921, when the British imposed the infamous Poll Tax, decreeing that every male over twenty one years must pay two rupees to the British Government, Victor Corea wrote to the Governor that he would not pay the tax and would have to be arrested. Jailed as R.O.D. (Road Ordinance defaulter) No-3, Victor Corea was put on public display to break huge boulders with a pic-axe, to serve as warning to the general public that not even an Advocate was above the law. Within the jail, he was tasked with beating coconut husks and twisting coir rope. He spurned the special privileges of a bed to sleep on and European cuisine of his choice, offered by the Prison’s Commissioner and forced himself to sleep on the hard wooden plank and eat of the prisoners' diet, saying he was there as a son of the soil to protect the rights of his people. As the crowds thronged the streets to witness the rare spectacle of an affluent Advocate of the Supreme Court fighting the cause of his countrymen and defiantly undergoing the rigorous imprisonment meted out to a common criminal, the British realized that he was gaining unprecedented popularity, abolished the poll tax and released him. Victor Corea came to be hailed as the `Champion of the Common Man'. The villagers of Merawala in Chilaw earned their livelihood through the limestone business, which the British suddenly acquired, depriving them of an income. The village elders marched to `Sinhapura’ and pleaded with Victor Corea to intervene. He did so, and his protest to the authorities restored to the villagers of Merawala, what they had been deprived of. When the beating of the `Hewisi’ (Drums) at the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy was stopped by the British Governor, because it supposedly gave his wife a headache, it was Victor Corea, being a Christian, who rose in protest to tell the Governor that he should remove his wife to any other place, as the beating of the drums was traditional and must continue. He vowed that should the Diyawadana Nilame be reluctant to beat the drums, he would personally come to the Maligawa and beat the drums himself. Knowing him by past conduct to be man of his word, the Governor withdrew his order, most probably knowing that unless he did so, islandwide unrest might well have been a result.

Mahatma Gandhi, who recognized the similarities in his campaign in India and that waged in Ceylon, printed a poster captioned `Fighters for Swaraj’, featuring oval shaped photographs of the busts of all the political giants in India who fought to achieve independence and included that of Victor Corea. A copy of that poster was presented to Victor Corea by Gandhi, in appreciation of his campaign in Ceylon, which added strength to his own campaign in India. Visiting Ceylon, Mahatma Gandhi was hosted to a banquet organized by the two Corea brothers at the palatial home of their sister, `Sigiriya’. The Mahatma stayed two nights at this residence in Chilaw, which is now officially declared a national protected monument under the Antiquities Ordinance.

Victor Corea’s foray into the realm of politics led him to contest E. W. Jayewardene, the father of President J. R. Jayewardene for the Colombo Town North Seat in the Legislative Council of Ceylon, which resulted in his resounding victory. Victor Corea and his brother C. E. Corea were founder members of the Ceylon National Congress, along with E. W. Perera, E. W. Jayewardene, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, Sir P. Arunachalem, Francis De Zoysa and others. 

C. E. Victor S. Corea passed away on the 6th of June 1962 after a brief illness, aged nine one years. In 2008, in appreciation of his fight for justice and the freedom of Ceylon, a life size statue was unveiled adjacent to the District Court of Chilaw by Hilary Prasanna Fernando, the Chairman of the Urban Council of Chilaw. The granite plaque in Sinhala, Tamil and English read as follows:

C. E. VICTOR. S. COREA
29.01.1871 – 06.06.1962
Descendant of Edirille Rala (Dominicus Corea), King of Kotte and Sitawaka
Champion of the People Fought against the British Government
In 1922, opposing the iniquitous poll tax
Was arrested and jailed – made to break rock stones
On the public highway, with the dramatic consequence of
Forcing the State to abolish the poll tax for all time
Advocate – Supreme Court
Member for Colombo Town North – Legislative Council of Ceylon
Executive Committee Member – Ceylon National Congress
First President – Ceylon Labour Union
President – Young Lanka League
Named a National Hero
By the Government of Sri Lanka
For his services to the
People of Chilaw and to the Nation

 

 

 

 



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