Rare footage of Dominion Prime Minister of Ceylon D.S.Senanayake with British Prime Minister Clement Attlee at 10 Downing Street in 1948

Rare footage of Dominion Prime Minister of Ceylon, D.S.Senanayake with Dominion Prime Ministers in the garden of 10 Downing Street in London – the official residence and office of the British Prime Minister Clement Attlee. This was filmed in 1948 – just after the ending of World War II and Clement Attlee had won the election defeating Sir Winston Churchill. Accompanying the Prime Minister of Ceylon is Sir Oliver Goonetilleke also in the garden of 10 Downing Street in London.

Rare footage of Ceylon’s first Prime Minister with King George VI at Buckingham Palace in 1949

This is rare footage of Ceylon’s first Prime Minister after Independence, Prime Minister D.S.Senanayake at Buckingham Palace in London with His Royal Highness King George XI and his family including Princess Elizabeth, Princess Margaret, British Prime Minister Clement Attlee. The King received the Commonwealth Prime Ministers in 1949:

When Hollywood rolled out the red carpet for Sir John Kotelawala the Prime Minister of Ceylon

It was 1954. Sri Lanka’s legendary broadcaster Vernon Corea was at the time teaching at Uva College Badulla. He had returned from India when his mother Ouida had passed away. Vernon Corea who was studying at Bishop’s College, Calcutta decided not to pursue ordination. It was also the year that Vernon Corea met fellow English teacher Monica de Silva who also sang in the choir at St. Mark’s Church, Badulla – the vicar at the time was the Reverend Felix Dias-Abeysinghe, a family friend. Vernon and Monica fell in love and were married on the 4th of February 1954 at St.Mark’s Church, Badulla.

The wedding of Vernon Corea and Monica de Silva at St.Mark's Church Badulla - 4th February 1954.

The wedding of Vernon Corea and Monica de Silva at St.Mark’s Church Badulla – 4th February 1954.

Reverend Canon Ivan and Ouida Corea met the Prime Minister of Ceylon Sir John Kotelawala in Temple Trees in Colombo. Sir John's sister Freda married Canon Ivan Corea's cousin, Dr.C.V.S.Corea.

Reverend Canon Ivan Corea has met the Prime Minister of Ceylon Sir John Kotelawala in Colombo. Sir John’s sister Freda married Canon Ivan Corea’s cousin, Dr.C.V.S.Corea.

The Prime Minister of Ceylon in 1954 was Sir John Kotelawala a statesman respected around the world. Sir John knew and met Vernon’s father and mother, the Reverend Canon Ivan Corea and Ouida Corea. Later on in life when Vernon was an announcer at Radio Ceylon he too would meet Sir John Kotelawala. The Prime Minister of Ceylon was also related to the wider Corea Family through marriage. His sister married Dr. C.V.S Corea, cousin of Reverend Canon Ivan Corea. The Prime Minister’s nephew was the distinguished Sri Lankan diplomat, former Secretary-General of UNCTAD and former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dr. Gamani Corea.

This was the first ever occasion of Hollywood welcoming a Prime Minister of Ceylon in 1954. Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia.

This was the first ever occasion of Hollywood welcoming a Prime Minister of Ceylon in 1954. Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia.

1954 was also the year that Sir John Kotelawala visited the United States. According to the US State Department they hoped that the visit would improve US-Ceylonese relations. According to a US State Department briefing:

‘Vice President Nixon’s visit to Ceylon was a great help in strengthening friendly relations between Ceylon. The recent decision to have Prime Minister Sir John Kotelawala visit the U.S. should further improve U.S.–Ceylon relations….’

http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v11p2/d628

Sir John Kotelawala met President Dwight Eisenhower at the White House in Washington.

US President Eisenhower with the Prime Minister of Ceylon, Sir John Kotelawala at the White House in Washington DC in 1954.Photograph courtesy of Lankapura.Com website.

US President Eisenhower with the Prime Minister of Ceylon, Sir John Kotelawala at the White House in Washington DC in 1954.Photograph courtesy of Lankapura.Com website.

Sir John Kotelawala, the Prime Minister of Ceylon had met Vernon Corea's parents, Reverend Canon Ivan Corea and his wife Ouida. Sir John Kotelawala's sister Freda married Canon Ivan's cousin, Dr. C.V.S.Corea. His nephew was Dr. Gamani Corea.

Sir John Kotelawala, the Prime Minister of Ceylon had met Vernon Corea’s parents. Sir John Kotelawala’s sister Freda married Canon Ivan’s cousin, Dr. C.V.S.Corea. His nephew was Dr. Gamani Corea.

1954 was also the year that Hollywood rolled out the red carpet to greet the Prime Minister of Ceylon, Sir John Kotelawala during his visit to the United States. US Television stations also covered the glittering Hollywood visit. This was the first ever occasion that a Prime Minister of Ceylon was feted in Hollywood. The top Hollywood Director and Producer Cecil B.DeMille organised a grand dinner at the Beverley Hills Hotel for Sir John Kotelawala and his delegation.Also present at that Hollywood dinner were Philip K. Crowe (United States Ambassador to Ceylon), Vice President of Paramount Pictures Frank Freeman, Ryle de Soyza, Sir John Kotelawala, P. Nadesan (Secretary to Prime Minister), R.S.S. Gunewardene, Gunasene de Soyza (Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs).

The Prime Minister of Ceylon met Hollywood A-list stars Dorothy Lamour, William Holden and Mrs Holden (William Holden had acted in ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’ filmed in Ceylon), Danny Kaye and Mrs Kaye among a whole host of stars. Hollywood toasted the Prime Minister of Ceylon. Cecil B.DeMille was at the height of his popularity in Hollywood.

Cecil B.DeMille hosted the Prime Minister of Ceylon Sir John Kotelawala at a glittering Hollywood Dinner at Beverly Hills Hotel in 1954.

Cecil B.DeMille hosted the Prime Minister of Ceylon Sir John Kotelawala at a glittering Hollywood Dinner at Beverly Hills Hotel in 1954.

Top US Actor Danny Kaye and Mrs Kaye met the Prime Minister of Ceylon Sir John Kotelawala and his delegation.

Top US Actor Danny Kaye and Mrs Kaye met the Prime Minister of Ceylon Sir John Kotelawala and his delegation.

The darling of Hollywood, A list actress Dorothy Lamour met the Prime Minister of Ceylon, Sir John Kotelawala at the dinner.

The darling of Hollywood, A list actress Dorothy Lamour met the Prime Minister of Ceylon, Sir John Kotelawala at the dinner.

Top US actor William Holden and Mrs Holden were at the dinner in honour of the Prime Minister of Ceylon.

Top US actor William Holden and Mrs Holden were at the dinner in honour of the Prime Minister of Ceylon.

Also present in Hollywood accompanying the Prime Minister was the United States Ambassador in Ceylon in 1954, Philip K.Crowe.

The United States Ambassador in Ceylon Philip K.Crow accompanied the Prime Minister of Ceylon on his visit to Hollywood.

The United States Ambassador in Ceylon Philip K.Crowe accompanied the Prime Minister of Ceylon on his visit to Hollywood.

Subsequently Philip K.Crowe wrote to US actor Danny Kaye referring to his meeting with the Prime Minister of Ceylon, Sir John Kotelawala:

The US Ambassador in Ceylon Philip K.Crow wrote to Danny Kaye referring to his meeting with Sir John Kotelawala.

The US Ambassador in Ceylon Philip K.Crow wrote to Danny Kaye referring to his meeting with Sir John Kotelawala.

Sir John Kotelawala was also invited on to the set of the film ‘The Court Jester ‘ with Danny Kaye, British actress now Dame Angela Lansbury and British actor Cecil Parker.

Sir John Kotelawala, Prime Minister of Ceylon saw the filming of 'The Court Jester' and met Danny Kaye, Angela Lansbury and Cecil Parker on the set during his visit to Hollywood in 1954.

Sir John Kotelawala, Prime Minister of Ceylon saw the filming of ‘The Court Jester’ and met Danny Kaye, Angela Lansbury and Cecil Parker on the set during his visit to Hollywood in 1954.

Here’s the official trailer from Paramount Pictures on ‘The Court Jester.’

British actor Cecil Parker met the Prime Minister of Ceylon on the set of 'The Court Jester.' Cecil Parker also acted in the hit 'The Ladykillers.'

British actor Cecil Parker met the Prime Minister of Ceylon on the set of ‘The Court Jester.’ Cecil Parker also acted in the hit ‘The Ladykillers.’

This was the first and probarbly the last occasion where a Prime Minister of Ceylon was feted in Hollywood.

Ceylon’s Minister of Commerce Shirley Corea mentioned by the media in Singapore in 1954

Shirley Corea was Minister of Commerce in the Government of Ceylon in 1954.

Shirley Corea was Minister of Commerce in the Government of Ceylon in 1954.

Vernon Corea’s uncle, Shirley Corea who was appointed Ceylon’s new Minister of Commerce on 11th July 1954 was mentioned by the media in Singapore in November 1954:

http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/newspapers/Digitised/Article/freepress19541109.2.25.aspx

Shirley Corea Minister of Commerce mentioned in Philip Crowe’s ‘Diversions of A Diplomat in Ceylon’ published in 1956

Shirley Corea was Minister of Commerce in the Government of Ceylon.

Shirley Corea was Minister of Commerce in the Government of Ceylon.

Diversions of a Diplomat in Ceylon  - the memoirs of US Diplomat Philip Crowe.

Diversions of a Diplomat in Ceylon – the memoirs of US Diplomat Philip Crowe.

Philip Crowe was the US Ambassador in Ceylon, his first appointment as Ambassador from 1953-1956.

Philip Crowe was the US Ambassador in Ceylon, his first appointment as Ambassador from 1953-1956.

Vernon Corea’s uncle Shirley Corea who was Minister of Commerce in the Government of Ceylon was mentioned by US Diplomat, Philip Crowe in his book ‘Diversions of a Diplomat in Ceylon,’ published in 1956. Philip Crowe writes:

‘Except for a few rock massifs from which one can see safely, it is a law of the park that the animals must be viewed from cars. Accordingly, we split our party into two troops and sallied forth in the dawns and sunsets;for from first light to about eight a.m. and from four to twilight are the best times. Then the heat of the day is gone and the jungle dwellers are moving. The animals have become so used to the sight of the cars that they pay little attention to them. A person on foot, however, would make them very nervous and, in the case of the bear or elephant, perhaps dangerous. There are exceptions. Recently, the Honourable Shirley Corea, Minister of Commerce, was chased in a jeep by an unimpressed pachyderm….’

https://archive.org/stream/diversionsofadip007986mbp/diversionsofadip007986mbp_djvu.txt

Chandra Dharma Sena Gooneratne from Ceylon

When Vernon Corea was an announcer at Radio Ceylon in Colombo in the 1950s and 1960s he had met Chandra Dharma Sena Gooneratne who at the time was an official working at the United States Embassy.The old US Embassy building was located on the seaside in Kollupitiya, Colombo-3 driving towards Galle Face. Not many people knew about Chandra Dharma Sena Gooneratne who caused a sensation when he was studying at the University of Chicago in the 1920s.

Chandra Dharma Sena Gooneratne worked as an advisor in the old US Embassy on Galle Road, Colombo-3 in Ceylon in the 1950s and 1960s.  Photograph courtesy of the South Asian American Digital Archive.

Chandra Dharma Sena Gooneratne worked as an advisor in the old US Embassy on Galle Road, Colombo-3 in Ceylon in the 1950s and 1960s. Photograph courtesy of the South Asian American Digital Archive.

He came across racism in the deep South at the time. In order to circumvent this Chandra Dharma Sena wore a Turban and informed everyone that he was from Ceylon.

Chandra Dharma Sena Gooneratne wore a turban when he was a student in the US in the 1920s in order to avoid racism in the deep South.

Chandra Dharma Sena Gooneratne wore a turban when he was a student in the US in the 1920s in order to avoid racism in the deep South.


People viewed him as a mysterious, exotic figure from the island of Ceylon. He captained the University of Chicago Polo Team and was a member of the ROTC. Chandra Dharma Sena Gooneatne went on to complete an M.A. and Ph.D while he was in the United States of America. He went on the Chautauqua lecture circuit, taking the student from Ceylon across different towns around the Midwest in the late 1920s to 1930s. He lectured on Mahatma Gandhi and the push for independence in India, Rabindranath Tagore and the need to abolish the caste system in India. We don’t know whether he talked about Ceylon in his lectures – US Newspapers reported rather extensively on the exotic student from Ceylon. He was described by one newspaper in Ohio as “beautifully clothed in his native garb.” Newspapers said he could hold an audience with his magnetic appeal and personality.

There is not a lot of information about Chandra Dharma Sena Gooneratne but he ended up as an adviser in the US Embassy in Ceylon in the 1950s and 1960s.Dr. Chandra Gooneratne was mentioned in a book written by a US Ambassador Philip K.Crowe in 1956 called ‘Diversions of a Diplomat in Ceylon’:

https://archive.org/stream/diversionsofadip007986mbp/diversionsofadip007986mbp_djvu.txt

Read an interesting article on ‘The Tan Stranger from Ceylon,’ from the South Asian American Digital Archive in the United States:

http://www.saadigitalarchive.org/tides/article/20140708-3618

‘How Turbans Helped Some Blacks Go Incognito In The Jim Crow Era’

http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/07/19/332380449/how-turbans-helped-some-blacks-go-incognito-in-the-jim-crow-era

‘Scholar from Afar’ an article from the University of Chicago Magazine:

http://mag.uchicago.edu/scholarfromafar

‘Throwback to 1920s: Race In America From A Foreigner’s Perspective,’ from NBC News

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/throwback-1920s-race-america-foreigners-perspective-n157741