Edmund Samarakkody

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Honourable
Edmund Samarakkody
MP
එඩ්මන්ඩ් සමරක්කොඩි
Edmund Samarakkody.jpg
Member of the Ceylonese Parliament
for Dehiowita
In office
1952–1960
Preceded by Reginald Perera
Succeeded by Soma Wickremanayake
Member of the Ceylonese Parliament
for Bulathsinhala
In office
1960–1965
Preceded by Bibile Fonseka
Succeeded by Mangala Moonesinghe
Personal details
Born (1912-04-19)19 April 1912
Died 4 January 1992(1992-01-04) (aged 79)
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Political party Revolutionary Workers Party
Alma mater Ceylon Law College
Profession Lawyer
Ethnicity Sinhalese

Edmund Peter Samarakkody (19 April 1912 – 4 January 1992) was a Ceylonese lawyer, trade unionist, politician and Member of Parliament.

Early life and family[edit]

Samarakkody was born on 19 April 1912.[1][2] He was educated at S. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia.[3][4] After school he joined the Ceylon Law College, qualifying as a proctor.[3][4]

Samarakkody married his first cousin Dagmar Samarakkody.[3][4] They had a daughter (Chulanganee) and a son (Nahil).[3]

Career[edit]

Samarakkody became a proctor of the Supreme Court in 1936 and started practicing law in Badulla.[2][3] He then worked at the Mount Lavinia bar for over four decades.[2]

Samarakkody became involved in anti-imperialist nationalistic politics in the early 1930s when he joined the Colombo South Youth League (CSYL), an affiliate of the All Ceylon Youth Congress.[5] In 1933 Indian workers at the Wellawatte Spinning and Weaving Mills went on strike and were supported by the CSYL.[5] The strike was undermined by A. Ekanayake Gunasinha and his Ceylon Labour Union which used Sinhalese blacklegs to break the strike.[5] In the 1920s Gunasinha had been the first to organise labour in Ceylon.[5] Colvin R. de Silva, Leslie Goonewardena, Philip Gunawardena, Samarakkody and S. A. Wickramasinghe established the Wellawatte Mill Workers Union with de Silva as its president.[5]

Samarakkody was one of the founding members of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) in December 1935 and was elected to its executive committee.[2][4][5] He took a leading role in militant leftist action, including the strikes at Vavasseur Coconut Mill and the Colombo Commercial Company Fertiliser Works in 1937, the latter for which he and Goonewardena were arrested.[4] The LSSP was beset with internal divisions - militants within the party (Colvin R. de Silva, William de Silva, Goonewardena, Vernon Gunasekera, Philip Gunawardena, Robert Gunawardena, N. M. Perera, Samarakkody etc.) formed the "T" group (Trotskyist) which sided with Leon Trotsky in the International Communist whilst Stalinists (P. Kandiah, M. G. Mendis, A. Vaidyalingam, Wickramasinghe etc.) formed formed another group.[5] The Stalinists were expelled from the LSSP in 1940 and went on to form the United Socialist Party (later reconstituted as the Communist Party of Ceylon) in 1941.[4][5][6]

When World War II broke out in September 1939 the LSSP opposed the "second imperialist war".[3][4] The LSSP played a major role in a wave of strikes in 1939/40 and consequently it was proscribed in 1940 and its leaders Colvin R. de Silva, Philip Gunawardena, Perera and Samarakkody arrested in June 1940.[4][5][7] Goonewardena evaded arrest and went into hiding.[5] The quartet were imprisoned at Welikada Prison but after staging a hunger striker they were transferred to Bogambara Prison.[4][5][7] The four LSSP leaders, aided by sympathetic prison guards, escaped from Bogambara on 7 April 1942 and whilst de Silva, Gunawardena and Perera fled to India Samarakkody went into hiding in Ceylon.[5][7]

In India the LSSP leaders merged their party with the Bolshevik Leninist Party of the United Provinces and Bihar and the Bolshevik Mazdoor Party of India to create the Bolshevik–Leninist Party of India, Ceylon and Burma (BLPI) in April 1942 with the LSSP as its Ceylonese branch.[4][5] De Silva, Gunawardena and Perera were arrested by the Indian police in 1943 after being betrayed by Stalinist called Shukla and deported back to Ceylon.[5] Other LSSP members (Hector Abhayavardhana, Doric de Souza, Leslie Goonewardena, Vivienne Goonewardena, V. Karalasingham, Allan Mendis and Bernard Soysa) stayed behind in India to build up the BLPI.[5]

Samarakkody was re-arrested in 1944.[5] De Silva, Philip Gunawardena, Perera and Samarakkody were prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to six months in prison.[5][7] Samarakkody lost his civic rights and his license to practice law was suspended for two years.[7] Towards the end of World War II in 1945 Gunawardena and Perera broke from the BLPI and resurrected the LSSP as a separate party.[3] De Silva, Leslie Goonewardena, Samarakkody and Soysa remained in the BLPI.[5]

Samarakkody's civic rights had not been re-instated after the end of the war but the government amended the law which allowed Samarakkody to contest parliamentary elections.[7] Samarakkody stood as the BLPI candidate in Mirigama at the 1947 parliamentary election but on was defeated by D. S. Senanayake, leader of the United National Party and future Prime Minister.[8][9] In 1948 the BLPI merged with the Congress Socialist Party to create the Socialist Party.[3] The BLPI's Ceylon branch became a separate party, the Bolshevik Samasamaja Party (BSP).[3] The BSP and LSSP merged in 1950.[5] Philip Gunawardena, who opposed the merger, left the LSSP and founded the Viplavakari Lanka Sama Samaja Party (VLSSP).

Samarakkody stood as the LSSP candidate in Dehiowita at the 1952 parliamentary election. He won the election and entered Parliament.[10] He was re-elected at the 1956 parliamentary election.[11] He stood as the LSSP candidate in Kesbewa at the March 1960 parliamentary election but failed to get re-elected.[12] He stood as the LSSP candidate in Bulathsinhala at the July 1960 parliamentary election. He won the election and re-entered Parliament.[13]

Whilst Ceylon's main political parties, the United National Party (UNP) and Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), together with the VLSSP, supported the Sinhala Only Act, the leftists, led by the LSSP, opposed the act.[5] In May 1960 LSSP leader Perera proposed that the party form a coalition government with SLFP.[3] Samarakkody led a group of LSSP members opposed the proposition.[3] De Silva, de Souza, Goonewardena and Soysa initially opposed Perera's proposition but eventually abandoned their beliefs and supported the move.[3] The LSSP joined the SLFP government in June 1964.[5][14] LSSP members who opposed the move (Meryl Fernando, Karalasingham, Samarakkody, Bala Tampoe etc.) left the LSSP and formed the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (Revolutionary) (LSSP(R)) with Samarakkody as its secretary.[3][5][14] In December 1964 the LSSP(R)'s two MPs, Fernando and Samarakkody, together with several rebel SLFP MPs, voted for an opposition amendment to the government's throne speech, defeating the government and precipitating the dissolution of Parliament.[5][14] Fernando and Samarakkody's action proved controversial within the LSSP(R) as they had in effect supported the capitalist UNP which would go on to win the 1965 parliamentary election.[3] The LSSP(R) supported Fernando and Samarakkody's action but some members who opposed it (Karalasingham and the Sakthi group) left the LSSP(R) and rejoined the LSSP in 1966.[3]

Samarakkody stood as the LSSP(R) candidate in Bulathsinhala at the 1965 parliamentary election but failed to get re-elected.[15] Samarakkody fell out with LSSP(R) leader Tampoe and in 1968 left the party, together with Fernando, and founded the Revolutionary Sama Samaja Party (renamed Revolutionary Workers Party in 1973).[3][16][17]

Samarakkody was also a member of Dehiwela-Mt Lavinia Urban Council and served as its chairman.[3][7] During the Sri Lankan Civil War Samarakkody was one of only a few Sinhalese who spoke up for the Tamils, whom he considered were oppressed by Sinhalese bourgeoisie, and their right to self-determination.[3] Samarakkody died on 4 January 1992 at Colombo General Hospital.[2][18]

Electoral history[edit]

Electoral history of Edmund Samarakkody
Election Constituency Party Votes Result
1947 parliamentary[8] Mirigama BLPI 10,673 Not elected
1952 parliamentary[10] Dehiowita LSSP 8,848 Elected
1956 parliamentary[11] Dehiowita LSSP 14,954 Elected
1960 March parliamentary[12] Kesbewa LSSP 7,433 Not elected
1960 July parliamentary[13] Bulathsinhala LSSP 10,103 Elected
1965 parliamentary[15] Bulathsinhala LSSP(R) 278 Not elected

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Directory of Past Members: Edmund Peter Samarakkody". Parliament of Sri Lanka. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Botejue, Vernon (4 January 2011). "Tribute to Edmund Samarakkody: Politician and trade union leader". Daily News (Sri Lanka). 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Fernando, Meryl (27 January 2002). "Shunned power for principles". The Island (Sri Lanka). 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Birth Anniversary : Edmund Samarakkody - stormy petrel of revolution". Daily News (Sri Lanka). 19 April 2002. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Fernando, Amaradasa (5 January 2002). "Edmund Samarakkody kept faith to the last". The Island. 
  6. ^ Wriggins, William Howard (1960). Ceylon: Dilemmas of a New Nation. Princeton University Press. p. 127. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Botejue, Vernon (5 January 2011). "Edmund Samarakkody's 18th Death Anniversary: Politician and trade union leader". Daily News (Sri Lanka). 
  8. ^ a b "Result of Parliamentary General Election 1947" (PDF). Department of Elections, Sri Lanka. [dead link]
  9. ^ Sri Kantha, Sachi. "Edmund Samarakkody (1912-1992): The Sanest Sinhalese Voice". Ilankai Tamil Sangam. 
  10. ^ a b "Result of Parliamentary General Election 1952" (PDF). Department of Elections, Sri Lanka. [dead link]
  11. ^ a b "Result of Parliamentary General Election 1956" (PDF). Department of Elections, Sri Lankaa. [dead link]
  12. ^ a b "Result of Parliamentary General Election 1960-03-19" (PDF). Department of Elections, Sri Lanka. [dead link]
  13. ^ a b "Result of Parliamentary General Election 1960-07-20" (PDF). Department of Elections, Sri Lanka. [dead link]
  14. ^ a b c "Leftists join the government". The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka). 22 June 2008. 
  15. ^ a b "Result of Parliamentary General Election 1965" (PDF). Department of Elections, Sri Lanka. [dead link]
  16. ^ Alexander, Robert J. (1991). International Trotskyism, 1929-1985: A Documented Analysis of the Movement. Duke University Press. p. 192. ISBN 0-8223-0975-0. 
  17. ^ Kearney, Robert N. (1971). Trade Unions and Politics in Ceylon. University of California Press. p. 115. ISBN 0-520-01713-7. 
  18. ^ "Edmund Dies" (PDF). Lanka Guardian. 14 (18): 2. 15 January 1992.