Victor Corea – was a great freedom fighter of Sri Lanka. He was Vernon Corea’s grand-uncle. C.E.Corea, Victor Corea and Dr J.A.E Corea were brothers. Sri Sangabo Corea writes a tribute to his father in the Sunday Observer in Sri Lanka.
Tribute to a father:
C. E. Victor S. Corea
by Sri Sangabo Corea
A descendant of Dominicus Corea, also known as Edirille Bandara, General of the Sinhala Army who was crowned King of Kotte and Sitawake, Victor Corea always displayed an indomitable will and valour which were traits of his ancestors”.
According to the newspapers, “his popularity, after abolishing the poll tax, was so widespread that he could have contested and won any seat in the country.” At the zenith of his power he decided to contest E. W. Jayewardene (a close relative) for the Colombo Town North seat in the Legislative Council of Ceylon in 1924 and won the seat by a comfortable majority.
Very few people of the present generation are aware that Victor Corea was the forerunner and the pioneer of the labour movement in Ceylon. He had the rare distinction of being the first President of the Labour Union which culminated in the formation of the Labour Party of Ceylon, the first political party to be formed in Ceylon. A. E. Goonesinha who succeeded him later was his second-in-command.
Being the driving force behind the Young Lanka League, Victor Corea started his own printing press at his office in Sinhapura, Chilaw and published the Sinhala journal “Lanka Tharuna Handa” in order to inculcate the national feeling and a distaste for what was alien and foreign, as was done by Mahatma Gandhi in India and Anagarika Dharmapala in Ceylon.
When Mahatma Gandhi came to Ceylon he visited Chilaw to attend a banquet that was hosted by the Coreas at “Sigiriya” the house that belonged to Victor Corea’s sister and husband. Here, Mahatma Gandhi presented a colour poster under the headline Fighters for Swaraj that featured all the national heroes of India each in oval shaped bust size photographs to Victor Corea as his photograph too was included in the poster amongst the political giants of India.
This alone was a glowing tribute to the campaign for freedom, initiated by Victor Corea that was somewhat similar to the campaign conducted in India.
When the beating of hewisi at the Dalada Maligawa was stopped on the orders of the Government Agent who was a Britisher, it was Victor Corea Single handedly who defied the order and threatened to beat the hewisi himself if the Diyawadana Nilame did not order the temple to resume the beating of the hewisi.
Victor Corea told the GA in no uncertain terms that he should change his residence if the noise is disturbing his household instead of changing religious traditions that have been coming down from the time of the Sinhalese Kings. Since Victor Corea was known to be a man who lived up to his word, the GA fearing a revolt, revoked the order.
Even at 90 Victor Corea was the oldest lawyer practising in Chilaw, Kuliyapitiya and Puttalam courts. His meteoric rise to eminence as a lawyer made him almost an institution and young lawyers, even today recall how his voice reverberated in the courts when arguing a point in law.
This was clearly demonstrated when he vehemently opposed the payment of an enhanced salary to the Inspector-General of Police, Herbert J. Dowbiggin who was responsible for the massacre of innocent Sinhalese in the 1915 riots.
In the political arena whenever a rift occurred between the North and South Corea never permitted the rift to widen into a gulf. Many a time he crossed the Elephant Pass and stretched his hand of friendship to the Tamil leaders and the rift became a bedrock of goodwill at all times.
The Urban Council, Chilaw, sometime back unanimously decided to construct a Memorial in honour of Victor S. Corea. The Memorial is comprised of a statue of C. E. Victor S. Corea, in a standing posture against an imposing backdrop illustrating in relief, highlights of his services to the nation which has now been completed and is ready for installation.
Both statue and backdrop produced by Kalasoori Weerakkody has been given a copper finish and its visual impact is very inspiring.
Victor Corea, has been named a National Hero by the Government of Sri Lanka and the purpose of the Memorial is that, present and future generations will draw inspiration from what he has done to the people and the country during his time.