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C. P. de Silva

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C. P. de Silva

Leader of the Opposition
In office
30 March 1960 – 23 April 1960
Prime MinisterDudley Senanayake
Preceded byN. M. Perera
Succeeded byDudley Senanayake
Minister of Lands, Land Development and Agriculture
In office
Minister of Power and Irrigation
In office
Minister of Lands, Irrigation and Power
In office
Minister of Finance
In office
28 August 1962 – 8 November 1962
Prime MinisterSirimavo Bandaranaike
Preceded byFelix Dias Bandaranaike
Succeeded byP. B. G. Kalugalla
Member of the Ceylon Parliament
for Polonnaruwa
In office
Preceded byP. L. Bauddhasara
Succeeded byA. H. de Silva
Member of the Ceylon Parliament
for Minneriya
In office
Preceded byseat created
Succeeded byRatna Deshapriya Senanayake
Chairman of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party
In office
Preceded byS. W. R. D. Bandaranaike
Succeeded bySirimavo Bandaranaike
Personal details
Born(1912-04-16)16 April 1912
Died9 October 1972(1972-10-09) (aged 60)
Political partyUnited National Party
Sri Lanka Freedom Party
Alma mater
ProfessionCivil servant

Charles Percival de Silva, CCS (16 April 1912 – 9 October 1972) was a leading Sri Lankan politician and civil servant. He had served as the Minister of Finance, Minister of Lands, Land Development and Agriculture; and Minister of Power and Irrigation,[1][2] and Chairperson of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, and later joined as a senior member of the United National Party.

Born in the southern town of Balapitiya, he was educated at St Thomas' College, Mt. Lavinia and studied mathematics at the Ceylon University College and the University of London. Joining the prestigious Ceylon Civil Service, he served as an Assistant Government Agent in the North Central Province, assisting D. S. Senanayake in his agricultural projects in the province and served as Director of Land Development, in the Ministry of Agriculture under Dudley Senanayake, who succeed his father as Minister of Agriculture when the latter became the first Prime Minister of Ceylon. Falling-out with the younger Senanayake, C. P. de Silva resigned from the civil service.

Entering politics from the newly formed Sri Lanka Freedom Party, he played a major role in S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike's landslide victory in the 1965 general elections and became the top cabinet minister. He missed the opportunity to succeed Bandaranaike as prime minister, when the latter was assassinated in 1959 as he himself was in London recovering from a suspect poisoning. Returning to Ceylon he took over the leadership of the Freedom Party, but failed to unit its different fractions and served as opposition leader for a brief period, before engineering the defeat of the United National Party government. But his bid to form a government failed as the Governor General called for fresh elections.

He succeed in establishing Bandaranaike's widow, Sirima Bandaranaike as party leader and gaining the party a major victory in the 1960 July general elections. Having been sidelined by the Sirima Bandaranaike and her loyalists on cast lines, he lead thirteen Freedom Party politicians to cross over to the opposition and defeating the government in parliament resulting in fresh elections which the United National Party won with his support and became a minister in the national government that followed. A strong advocate of agriculture and rural development, he played a major role in many of the large agricultural development projects in the North Central Province. He lost his seat in the 1970 general election, after having served in parliament for eighteen consecutive years.

Early life and education[edit source | edit]

Born Randombe in Balapitiya to C. R. de Silva, a proctor with a civil practice in Balapitiya and Galle; and Obinamuni Adlin de Silva. He had three brothers and two sisters. His brother A. H. de Silva took over their father's practice and was elected to parliament along with his other brother Merril de Silva, his sister Gladys married R. T. de Silva and the other sister Stella became a pediatrician. His brother Dr L. B. de Silva was a researcher attached to the Medical Research Institute. He was a cousin of Colvin R. de Silva.[1][3]

He was educated at Dharmasoka College, Ambalangoda and St Thomas' College, Mt. Lavinia, where he won the Gregory Scholarship, the Miller Award and became head boy. Thereafter he attend the Ceylon University College where he gained a BSc in Mathematics (first Class) from the University of London in 1933. He thereafter attended University of London for postgraduate studies.[1]

Civil service[edit source | edit]

Having sat for the Ceylon Civil Service (CCS) entrance exam in the United Kingdom, de Silva was admitted in 1935 and on his return to the island was appointed as a cadet in the Jaffna Kachcheri. At aged 23, he was one of the youngest to gain admission to the CCS. Following his completion of training as a cadet, he was appointed as the Assistant Government Agent (AGA) in Puttalam. He was then selected by D. S. Senanayake, Minister of Agriculture to serve as AGA of the Polonnaruwa District in order to carry forward his agricultural projects in the district. In Polonnaruwa, de Silva served under Richard Aluvihare and played a major role in establishing the Minneriya Colonisation Scheme. Thereafter he was posted as Assistant Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture, assisting Senanayake in his agricultural programs. He was then posted as Assistant Government Agent of the Anuradhapura District. In 1945 he was an Assistant Land Commissioner and in 1949 he was promoted to the post of Director of Land Development, under the when Minister of Agriculture, Dudley Senanayake, who was a contemporary at St Thomas' College, having been two years senior. However, after a falling out with Dudley Senanayake, he was appointed Assistant Government Agent of the Kalutara District. Resigned shortly thereafter from the Civil Service and retired to his farm in Tabbowa in the Puttalam District becoming a gentleman farmer.[1]

Political career[edit source | edit]

Sri Lanka Freedom Party[edit source | edit]

Member of parliament[edit source | edit]

C. P. de Silva was brought into active politics by Herbert Sri Nissanka, who was the secretary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. He contested in the general elections in 1952 and was elected to parliament from Polonnaruwa from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party defeating the incumbent P. L. Bauddhasara.[1]

Cabinet Minister and Leader of the House[edit source | edit]

He was re-elected in the 1956 general elections and was appointed leader of the house in parliament by S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike who then appointed him to his cabinet as the Minister of Lands, Land Development and Agriculture. In the Bandaranaike cabinet, C. P. de Silva emerged as the most senior member after Bandaranaike and served as acting prime minister during the absence of the latter. In 1957, he personally drove a bulldozer to safely breach the Minneriya tank during the 1957 floods.[1]

He became severely ill at a cabinet meeting on 25 August 1959 after consuming a glass of milk and was flown to the United Kingdom for medical treatment. During his absence Bandaranaike was assassinated on 26 September 1959 and Wijeyananda Dahanayake, who was the acting leader of the house was appointed as Prime Minister by the Governor General. De Silva return to the island soon after and was appointed an interim minister only to be removed shortly by Dahanayake.[1]

Leader of the Opposition[edit source | edit]

Although not fully recovered, he became the leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and lead the party in the 1960 March general elections. Weaken by inter-party rivalries, the Freedom Party was able to gain 46 seats while the United National Party lead by Dudley Senanayake gained 50 seats and formed a minority government which lasted only three months. He became the Leader of the Opposition. The government lost the throne speech and Senanayake resigned advising the Governor General to dissolve parliament and call for fresh elections. C. P. de Silva, met the Governor General, Sir Oliver Goonetilleke and stated that he could form a government. Sir Oliver Goonetilleke did not accept de Silva offer and dissolved parliament.

Minister of Power and Irrigation[edit source | edit]

Sri Lanka Freedom Party selected Bandaranaike's widow, Sirima Bandaranaike as party leader for the 1960 July general elections. The party won the election and formed a government, with Sirima Bandaranaike becoming the first women prime minister. C. P. de Silva, appointed Minister of Power and Irrigation, and leader of the house, once again serving as the senior member of the cabinet until, he was surpassed by the prime minister's nephew, Felix Dias Bandaranaike who soon became the prominent figure in the government. C. P. de Silva was soon sidelined by the Bandaranaike's based on cast issues. He briefly served as Minister of Finance in 1962. He established two schools in Minneriya Central College and the Polonnaruwa Royal Central College. He soon faced attacks from within his own party and was criticized in parliament by Jaya Pathirana. Citing the Press Take Over Bill which was aimed at taking over its main critic, Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited by the government, C. P. de Silva lead thirteen SLFP parliamentarians and crossed over to the opposition on 4 December 1964. The government of Sirimavo Bandaranaike lost the throne speech by one vote and a general election was called for in March 1965.[1][4]

United National Party[edit source | edit]

C. P. de Silva joined the United National Party (UNP) and the party won the general elections in 1965. He was appointed Minister of Lands, Irrigation and Power; and the Leader of the House. During his tenor he established the River Valleys Development Board to develop the Udawalawe Project and the introduced the Mahaweli Development Authority Act in February 1970 initiating the Mahaweli Development programme. He had contested from the Minneriya district from March 1960, and was re-elected in July 1960 and 1965. He lost his seat in the 1970 general elections to Ratna Deshapriya Senanayake, having been a member of parliament for 18 years.[1]

Death[edit source | edit]

C. P. de Silva died on October 9, 1972, he was a lifelong bachelor. As per his last wishes, his ashes were dispersed in Minneriya.[1]

References[edit source | edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 C. P. de Silva,advocate of a ‘free society’
  2. Appreciation – C. P. De Silva
  3. "C. P. de Silva — a victim of 'Back Stabbing'". Island. Retrieved 26 February 2020.
  4. Jeyaraj, D.B.S. "How C.P. de Silva Crossed Over With 13 MP's From SLFP Governmenton Dec 3rd 1964". dailymirror.lk. Daily Mirror. Retrieved 3 March 2020.

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