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Dr. Colin R. de Silva: 

A crusader for the rights of the voiceless

The 16th death anniversary of Dr. Colvin R. de Silva falls on February 27. A leader par excellence, politician parliamentarian, Cabinet Minister Constitution maker. Trade unionist, historian, thinker, writer, orator and apart from all these characteristics Dr. Colvin Reginold de Silva was a man of intellectual calibre.

A crusader for the rights of voiceless and oppressed, and a doyen of Lanka Sama Samaja Party, he who was born on February 16, 1907 had just passed his 82nd birth anniversary and was about to re-enter parliament as a nominated United Socialist Alliance (USA) member of Parliament, when he fell ill and passed away on February 27, 1989.

A brilliant product of St. John's College, Panadura and Royal College, Colombo distinguished himself as a both scholar and sportsman young Colvin entered the Ceylon University College in 1924 on a scholarship and entered the kings college, London in 1926, where he obtained his doctorate in Philosophy in 1932 and called to bar from Lincoln's Inn.

He was the youngest of his day to take a Ph. D and he was among the first Sri Lankan ever to visit the Soviet Union during his student days in England.

His doctorate Thesis "Ceylon under the British Occupation" 1795-1833 was published when he was held in Bogambara Prisons under the defence regulations of war time.

It was researched on and presented to the London University when he was still in his twenties and yet not a marxist. However this thesis remarked that he was destined to go against British rule when he was back in this country.

After academic triumphs in London, he arrived in Hulftsdorp as a fresher. There he proved his efficiency at a very short time. He entered the twin arenas of politics and law.

His speeches from platforms, the benches of Parliament or Bar varied in tone and content but not in excellence of drafts on delivery.

The introduction of the constitution in 1972 as the minister of plantations industry and constitution affairs under the prime minister Mrs. Sirima Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike, was proof of the excellence of his draftings.

He entered the mass movement as a working class leader who led the struggle of workers at Welllawatta Weaving Mills in 1932 and remained the mass leader of the radical trend after forming the Lanka Sama Samaja Party.

When some conflicts were arising within the party he took side, firstly against Stalinism with fellow Trotskyists and secondly as a Bolshevik against papalist trends.

By this time he had excelled not only as the leading agitater of the Ceylonese working class but also as the revolutionary pamphleteer. In the next period up to the mid fiftees what he wrote remains as a legacy of revolutionary literature of the country.

He excelled in the Court of criminal appeal and his arguments, both on the law and the facts were always indication of the great preparations he had made in the study of his briefs when his clients facing serious criminal charges.

He excelled in his defence in the Sathasivam murder case which earned for him the plaudits of his admirers for his dramatic performances.

He was always conscious of his responsibilities towards the Bench. He never for a moment did he stray from his path of duty. He won for himself and kept throughout his distinguished career the confidence and the respect of the Bench.

He first entered the Parliament in 1947 as the Member of Parliament for the Wellawatta-Galkissa constituency as the nominee of the Bolshevik Leninist Party of which he was the leader.

He lost his seat in the general election held in 1952 as the memories of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party. In 1956 he again won this seat Dehiwala-Galkissa (the former Wellawatta-Galkissa).

Dr. de Silva who lost the seat in Parliament at the general elections held in March 1960, re-entered at the general elections held in July the same year.

When Mr. Anil Moonasinghe was unseated in the Agalawatta constituency in 1967 Dr. de Silva contesting it re-entered the Parliament with a majority of 343 votes.

After he entered the Parliament at the general elections held in 1970, as the Member of Parliament for Agalawatta, he held the Ministry of Plantation Industry and Constitution Affairs, largely responsible for drafting the 1972 Constitution.

- Walter Wijenayaka

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