C. Suntharalingam

Chellappah Suntharalingam (Tamil: செல்லப்பா சுந்தரலிங்கம்; 19 August 1895 – 11 February 1985) was a Ceylon Tamil academic, politician, Member of Parliament and government minister.

C. Suntharalingam

செ. சுந்தரலிங்கம்
Chellappah Suntharalingam.jpg
Minister of Trade and Commerce
In office
Succeeded byH. W. Amarasuriya
Member of the Ceylonese Parliament
for Vavuniya
In office
Succeeded byT. Sivasithamparam
Personal details
Born(1895-08-19)19 August 1895
Died11 February 1985(1985-02-11) (aged 89)
Vavuniya, Sri Lanka
Political partyUnity Front of Eelam Tamils
Alma materUniversity of London
Balliol College, Oxford
EthnicityCeylon Tamil

Early life and familyEdit

Suntharalingam was born on 19 August 1895.[1][2][3] He was the son of Chellappah and Meenachchi from Urumpirai in northern Ceylon.[1] He was educated at St. John's College, Jaffna and St. Joseph's College, Colombo.[1] In 1914 he entered the University of London from where he graduated with a B.Sc. honours degree in mathematics.[1] He then went on to Balliol College, Oxford from where he was awarded a double first in mathematics tripos.[1]

Suntharalingam hailed from a distinguished family and had four eminent brothers: C. Nagalingam, a Supreme Court judge, was acting Governor-General of Ceylon in 1954; C. Panchalingam was a medical doctor; C. Amirthalingam was Director of Fisheries; and C. Thiagalingam was a leading lawyer.[2][4]

Suntharalingam married Kanagambikai Ambal, daughter of M. Kanagasabi.[1] They had two sons (Gnanalingam and Sathyalingam) and four daughters (Lingambikai, Lingavathy, Lingamani and Lingeswari).[1]


The first Cabinet of independent Ceylon. Suntharalingam is on the far left.

Suntharalingam was selected by the Indian Civil Service but chose instead to join the Ceylon Civil Service in 1920.[1] He resigned from the civil service to become vice principal of Ananda College.[4][5][6] He then joined Ceylon University College as professor and first chair of mathematics.[1][4][7] He was called to the Bar from Gray's Inn in 1920, becoming an advocate and practising law in Ceylon.[1]

Becoming interested in politics, Suntharalingam retired in 1940 and entered politics.[1] He tried unsuccessfully to enter the State Council during by-elections in 1943 and 1944.[1] He stood as an independent candidate in Vavuniya at the 1947 parliamentary election. He won the election and entered Parliament.[8] He was persuaded to join the United National Party led government and on 26 September 1947 he was sworn in as Minister of Trade and Commerce.[1][9][10] He supported the controversial Ceylon Citizenship Act of 1948 which deprived citizenship to 11% of the Ceylon's population but when division was called on the second reading of the Indian and Pakistani Residents Citizenship Bill on 10 December 1948, Suntharalingam walked out of Parliament.[2][4][11] Prime Minister D. S. Senanayake asked for an explanation but Suntharalingam resigned from his ministerial position instead.[2][4][12] Suntharalingam became a champion for the rights of Ceylon's Indian Tamils who had been made stateless and disenfranchised by Sinhalese dominated governments after independence.[2][4] He observed that "if the Buddha were to come to the country today, he himself would be deported" (Buddha was from India, the Sinhalese were Buddhists).[2][13]

Suntharalingam resigned from Parliament in 1951 as a protest against the adoption of the Sinhala kodiya (flag) as the national flag.[12] He was the only candidate in the ensuing by-election and consequently returned to Parliament.[12][14] He was re-elected at the 1952 parliamentary election.[15] Suntharalingam vehemently opposed the attempts to make Sinhala the sole official language of Ceylon, stating during the June 1955 throne speech that, if the changes went ahead, Tamils would demand "a separate independent autonomous state of 'Tamil Ilankai' composed of Tamil speaking peoples in Ceylon".[2][16] He boycotted Parliament from August 1955 in protest against the Sinhala Only Act.[16] After three months of absence he forfeited his seat in Parliament.[16] He won the ensuing by-election and returned to Parliament.[14][16] He was re-elected at the 1956 parliamentary election.[17]

Suntharalingam founded the Eela Thamil Ottrumai Munnani (Unity Front of Eelam Tamils) in 1959.[4][5][18] At the March 1960 parliamentary election Suntharalingam, contesting as an independent as the Eela Thamil Ottrumai Munnani wasn't a registered party, was defeated by T. Sivasithamparam, another independent candidate.[19]

Suntharalingam published Eylom: Beginning of the Freedom Struggle; Dozens Documents in 1963 in which he became one of the first Ceylon Tamils to call for an independent Tamil state, which he called Eylom:[20][21]

I propose to invite those Eyla [Eelath Thamils] Thamils who accept the policy that the time has come for the partition of Ceylon and for the restoration of the Thamil state that existed before the Treaty of Amiens of 1802, to come forward and join the fight for the Freedom and Independence of the Eyla Thamil Nation.

Suntharalingam contested the 1965 parliamentary election as an independent candidate but was defeated by the All Ceylon Tamil Congress candidate T. Sivasithamparam.[22] He contested the 1970 parliamentary election as an independent candidate in Kankesanthurai but was defeated by the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi candidate S. J. V. Chelvanayakam.[23]

Suntharalingam spent his later years in Vavuniya where he died on 11 February 1985.[1][4]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Arumugam, S. (1997). Dictionary of Biography of the Tamils of Ceylon. p. 214.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Bertram, Bastiampillai (20 August 2005). "C. Suntharalingam – reminiscences". Daily News (Sri Lanka). Archived from the original on 18 October 2012.
  3. ^ "Directory of Past Members: Suntheralingam, Chellappah". Parliament of Sri Lanka.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Rajabalan, Raymond (March 2009). "First Among Us – Part 3A" (PDF). Monsoon Journal. 3 (10): 40–41.
  5. ^ a b Sivanayagam, S. "One Hundred Tamils of the 20th Century: C.Suntharalingam". Tamil Nation.
  6. ^ de Silva, Pramod (30 October 2011). "Ananda College at 125: A beacon to society". Sunday Observer (Sri Lanka). Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  7. ^ Ceylon University College Prospectus 1936-37. Ceylon University College. 1936. p. 6.
  8. ^ "Result of Parliamentary General Election 1947" (PDF). Department of Elections, Sri Lanka. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 September 2015.
  9. ^ Rajasingham, K. T. "Chapter 12: Tryst with independence". Sri Lanka: The Untold Story.
  10. ^ "First cabinet had only 14 ministers". The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka). 23 September 2007.
  11. ^ Rajasingham, K. T. "Chapter 13: A nightmarish British legacy". Sri Lanka: The Untold Story.
  12. ^ a b c Rajasingham, K. T. "Chapter 14: Post-colonial realignment of political forces". Sri Lanka: The Untold Story.
  13. ^ Wilson, A. Jeyaratnam (1994). S. J. V. Chelvanayakam and the Crisis of Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism, 1947–1977: a Political Biography. University of Hawaii Press. p. 48.
  14. ^ a b "Summary of By-elections 1947 to 1988" (PDF). Department of Elections, Sri Lanka. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 December 2009.
  15. ^ "Result of Parliamentary General Election 1952" (PDF). Department of Elections, Sri Lanka. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 September 2015.
  16. ^ a b c d Rajasingham, K. T. "Chapter 15: Turbulence in any language". Sri Lanka: The Untold Story.
  17. ^ "Result of Parliamentary General Election 1956" (PDF). Department of Elections, Sri Lanka. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 September 2015.
  18. ^ "Do we need to be told what to do?". Ceylon Today. 23 May 2012.
  19. ^ "Result of Parliamentary General Election 19 March 1960" (PDF). Department of Elections, Sri Lanka. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 July 2015.
  20. ^ Rajasingham, K. T. "Chapter 20 - Tamil leadership lacks perspicuity". Sri Lanka: The Untold Story.
  21. ^ "The Prophesy of Mr. C. Suntheralingham". Ilankai Tamil Sangam.
  22. ^ "Result of Parliamentary General Election 1965" (PDF). Department of Elections, Sri Lanka. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-12-09.
  23. ^ "Result of Parliamentary General Election 1970" (PDF). Department of Elections, Sri Lanka. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 December 2009.