Personal Information
Born:16 October 1866
Died:7 February 1946
Nationality:Sri Lankan
Education:Royal College, Colombo, Law College
Occupation:Member of the Ceylon Legislative Council, 1921 & Proctor
Spouse:Muriel May Seneviratne
Parents:Charles Edward Bandaranaike Corea and Henrietta Senewiratne

CHARLES EDGAR COREA (C. E. Corea) was born in Chilaw on the 16th of October 1866, to Charles Edward Bandaranaike Corea, a prominent lawyer and his wife and Henrietta Seneviratne. The eldest of five children, his siblings were James Alfred Ernest, Agnes, Evangeline Henrietta and Victor. He was just six years old when his father passed away, leaving it to the young widow aged 21 years to bring up her five children single handedly. Charles Edgar Corea was educated at Royal College, where he excelled in studies and cricket and earned a reputation of being a good orator. He won the much coveter Turnour Prize recorded on the Honour Boards of that Institution. A member of the school Cricket XI for six years as a successful bowler, he played in the famous `Nine Runs Match’. Joining the Law College and apprenticing under A. de A. Seneviratne, he passed out as a Proctor of the Supreme Court and following in his father’s footsteps, joined the Chilaw Bar. Turning to Politics, he made a scathing denunciation of the Poll Tax in the `Ceylon Independent’, writing under the pseudonym `Bandar’. Having obtained his warrant as a Proctor, he wrote under his own name, to monitor the administration which was in the hands of the British. 

C. E. Corea befriended and appeared for unfortunate victims prosecuted under the unconscionable law of the Forest Ordinance. This resulted in the Courts upholding his indictment of the iniquitous land laws promulgated by the Government of the day. In order to safeguard the rights of the villagers and work for the political advancement of the country, he organized the Chilaw Association in 1896, attracting the most prominent men in the District, to become for a period one of the most powerful political bodies in the country. A recognized powerful orator, the speeches he delivered were not only printed in full by the newspapers, but also avidly read. The speeches of the other members were of the same excellent quality and what was expressed by the Chilaw Association of which he was Chairman, was taken note of by the Government. It was C. E. Corea, who raised his voice against the Waste Lands Ordinance, and in 1897, the petition of the Chilaw Association was forwarded to the Secretary of State by Lord Stanmore. He was elected to proceed to England and represent the people of Ceylon to lay before the Imperial Government, representations against the `Waste Lands Ordinance’. Although he failed in his endeavour to repeal this law, an interview with the Secretary of State enabled him to secure valuable concessions beneficial to the peasantry. In 1900, he was a pioneer in the country’s struggle for political reform fighting for radical changes in the Constitution. In 1909, with C. E. Corea as its President, the Chilaw Association prevailed on the Secretary of State, `for representative government to replace the official autocracy known as the Legislative Council, established in 1833’. This legitimate request was turned down, but granting more power and privileges to the favoured classes, mostly representing foreign capital. 

(Charlie) Corea defended the rights of the peasants in the `Chilaw Reference Case’, raising the issues of; (1) Whether Ceylon was conquered? (2) Was its Monarchy affective? (3) Was the King Feudal owner of the land? (4) Whether the Ceylon Legislative Council had the right to pass such a law as the `Waste Lands Ordinance? (5) Whether the Ordinance was not a violation of the fundamental rights of the people? Although he lost the case, the publicity evoked and the interest drawn to the Kandyan Convention, had its effect. The appeal filed by him resulted in Chief Justice Wood Renton fining him Rs. 5,000.00 as for contempt, especially as it was filed a few days after the riots of 1915. An ardent admirer, a Muslim named Yusuf, promptly paid the fine and refused repayment, thus giving the lie to suggestions of a few that C. E. Corea was communal minded. Some years, later he scorned to register for a seat created on the elective principle in the Legislative Council, for those educated on Western lines. In 1918, when various nationalistic associations sent delegates to Colombo, he was one of the speakers. Elected to the committee of the Ceylon National Congress the following year, under the presidency of Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam he was a founding member with his brother Victor Corea, E. W. Perera, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan and Francis De Zoysa and was its President from 1924- 1925. 

Unhappy with the reforms doled out to the country by the Order-in-Council 1920 , C. E. Corea raised the cry of non-cooperation though the Chilaw Association, but although agreed upon by the Ceylon National Congress, the moderates led by Sir James Pieris accepted a comprise by the government tabling an undertaking, ` to dissolve the council, after a reasonable trial, say one year’. Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam had publicly admitted his mistake in voting for the compromise, while Sir James Pieris took a little longer, but in turn made a handsome apology to C. E. Corea.

Entering politics, he was elected a member of the first Legislative Council in 1921 without contest, representing the North Western Province. Very much the elder statesman, Charles Edgar Corea gained a reputation as a moderate in the Independence Movement. Corea and thirteen members walked out of the council chamber, resigning their seats in protest of the tactics of the government in the matter of the `Salaries Scheme’. He was re-elected. He then ably seconded the motion for the reform of the Constitution by Sir James Pieris, who used the Memorandum of the European Association to prove that the European community was against reforms that adversely affect their interests. As President of the National Congress, he led a delegation from the Executive Committee to Jaffna, in a bid to heal the Sinhala-Tamil differences on the question of reserving a seat for the Tamils in Colombo. He was an uncompromising enemy of communalism. At the 1925 sessions of the Congress held in Kandy, he moved a resolution, urging that steps be taken to ensure a full measure of self-government at the next review of the Constitution. He was disappointed when Congress accepted the Donoughmore Scheme and advocated a boycott, and when votes were being registered, he indignantly refused. This was the last occasion he appeared on the Congress platform. Typical of his sincerity, he set up five handlooms in his house in Chilaw in 1922, and wore the products of those looms, after Congress passed a resolution that it would introduce a cottage-industry to every household. He was in the forefront of social and religious work with his brothers, Victor and Ernest. A memorandum to the Queen by his sister (Agnes Corea) on the evils of the government’s Excise Scheme, saw him and others rallying in support, resulting in the closure of many taverns and the Registration Ordinance becoming a dead letter in the statute books.

An earnest Christian, he advocated missionary work on national lines and took an active interest in the Ceylon National Missionary Society. 

C. E. Corea developed a close relationship with Mahatma Gandhi and with his brother Victor, corresponded regularly with him on the subject of national independence. The Mahatma, during his visit to Ceylon on the 12th of November 1927, on an invitation extended by C. E. Corea and his brother Victor Corea, travelled throughout the country and spent three days in Chilaw as a guest of the Corea family at `Sigiriya’, where he was hosted to a banquet in his honour. In 1932, invited to address the annual sessions of the Jaffna Youth League, he was unable to attend, meeting with an accident en-route, as a result of which he retired from public life. 

C. E. Corea married Muriel May Seneviratne, and their children were Srikumaradas Charles Shirley, Swarna, Elaine, Doreen, Leila, Charles and Nancy. Charles Edgar Corea died on the 7th of February 1946, two years before Ceylon won her independence on the 4th of February 1948 - a dream he valiantly strove to achieve.

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