Colvin R. de Silva

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Hon. Dr
Colvin Reginald de Silva
Colvin R. de Silva.jpg
Minister of Plantation Industries
In office
31 May 1970 – 2 September 1975
Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike
Succeeded by Ratnasiri Wickremanayake
Member of the Sri Lankan Parliament
for Agalawatte
In office
Preceded by Anil Moonesinghe
Succeeded by Merill Kariyawasam
Member of Parliament
for Wellawatte-Galkissa
In office
Preceded by S. de Silva Jayasinghe
Succeeded by Constituency abolished
In office
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by S. de Silva Jayasinghe
Personal details
Born 1907
Died 1989 Colombo
Nationality Sri Lankan
Political party Lanka Sama Samaja Party
Alma mater King's College London,
University of Ceylon,
Royal College Colombo,
St. John's College Panadura
Occupation Politician
Profession Lawyer

Colvin Reginald de Silva (1907– 27 February 1989[1]; commonly known as Colvin R. de Silva) was a former Cabinet Minister of Plantation Industries and Constitutional Affairs, prominent member of parliament, Trotskyist leader and lawyer in Sri Lanka. He was one of the founders of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party – the first Marxist party in Sri Lanka.

Personal life[edit]

Colvin R. de Silva was born in Balapitiya. His father Dr O.A. de Silva, was a registered medical practitioner attached to the Department of Health. His elder brother was Walwin de Silva, a civil servant.

He received his education at St. John's College Panadura and at the Royal College, Colombo and. He then went on to study at the University College, Ceylon. He gained his PhD from King's College London for his thesis: Ceylon Under the British Occupation, later published as a book. Dr De Silva died on 27 February 1989. A Sri Lankan news source credits him with coining the famous response to the slogan The Sun never sets on the British Empire: "That's because God does not trust the British in the dark."

Political career[edit]

During the Second World War he fled to India, after escaping from Bogambara Prison, where he had been imprisoned for anti-war activities. In India he became part of the leading nucleus of the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India, Ceylon and Burma (BLPI). After the war he returned to Ceylon and became the main leader of the Bolshevik Samasamaja Party. In 1947 he was one of five BSP candidates who were elected to parliament. His constituency was Wellawatte-Galkissa. After the reunification of LSSP and BSP, de Silva became an important leader of LSSP.

In 1952 he lost the Wellawatte-Galkissa seat to the United National Party candidate, S. de Silva Jayasinghe, but regained it at the subsequent parliamentary elections in 1956. During the passing of the Sinhala Only Act, he spoke his famous last words: "Do we... want a single nation or do we want two nations? Do we want a single state or do we want two? Do we want one Ceylon or do we want two? And above all, do we want an independent Ceylon which must necessarily be united and single and single Ceylon, or two bleeding halves of Ceylon which can be gobbled up by every ravaging imperialist monster that may happen to range the Indian ocean? These are issues that in fact we have been discussing under the form and appearance of language issue." His predictions came true a few years later with the formation of LTTE and subsequent civil war between the LTTE separatist movement and the Sri Lankan government.[2]

De Silva was responsible on behalf of LSSP for the liaisons with the Fourth International. He was elected to the International Executive Committee of the International, a position he held until the LSSP was expelled from the International.

In 1964 de Silva had urged against the LSSP joining the government, but unlike others who stood by that line he stayed in the party.

He won the Agalawatte parliamentary seat in a by-election in 1967 and in 1970. In 1970 he became the Minister of Plantation Industries and Constitutional Affairs in the cabinet of Sirimavo Bandaranaike. His tasks included drafting the new republican constitution of Sri Lanka, which is seen by Kumari Jayawardena as the first constitutional enshrinement of Sinhala chauvinism which had previously been limited to statute law. He served until 1975, when his party was dismissed from government following a split.He lost his seat at the 1977 parliament elections along with all the leftists who contested.

After death of Dr NM Perera The LSSP leader Colvin became the leader and the party nominated de Silva as its presidential candidate in 1982. He finished 5th and only polled around 1% of the votes cast, as the election was polarised between the ruling United National Party and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party – the latter being backed by almost all the other left parties. In 1987 he led a protests against the ban on May Day rallies in Sri Lanka and suffered a serious burn injury to one of his feet due to a tear gas cartridge that was thrown at the protesters by the police, which troubled him till his death.In 1988 his party came to an alliance with three other leftist parties to form United Socialist Alliance(USA) from which he was nominated as a national list member of parliament(MP). He died a few days prior to taking his oath as an MP under USA.

Legal career[edit]

In the court room, he enjoyed an unparalleled reputation as a criminal lawyer of great distinction. He appeared in virtually every high-profile criminal trial of his day. In the Sathasivam murder case, his exceptionally brilliant cross-examining skills resulted in the acquittal of his client, while in the Kularatne Murder case appeal, it was his intimate knowledge of the law of circumstantial evidence that saved the accused. With the advent of Fundamental Rights litigation, Dr. de Silva also appeared in many such cases before the Supreme Court, most notably in the Vivienne Goonewardena assault case.


  • De Silva, Colvin R., Ceylon Under the British Occupation, 1795–1833 First published 1941. Reprint: Delhi, Vedam Books, 1995


  1. ^ Wickramaratne, Jayampathy (27 Feb 2014). "Remembering Colvin And Abolishing The Executive Presidency". Colombo Telegraph. Retrieved 6 July 2018. 
  2. ^ COLVIN — TROTSKYITE, HUMANIST AND THE WITTIEST Daily News Lanka - November 15, 2017

External links[edit]