previous instalment disclosed how Leslie Goonewardene filed a
Habeas Corpus application, citing Vivi’s father, Don Alanson
Gunatilake, as a respondent requiring him to produce the
‘corpus’ (Vivi) in court to determine whether, she was being
kept by her father against her free will and how she, through
her lawyers J. R. Jayewardene instructed by Corbet Jayewardene.
(J.R.’s brother who later became a Buddhist priest and took the
name Sedawatte Dhammaruchi) filed papers in support of Leslie’s
The Judge after listening to submissions made by
counsel of both parties decreed that Leslie and Vivi were a
matching couple and Dr. Gunatilake, as Vivi’s father, should
give the young couple his blessings.
When the court decided in favour of the young
lovers, Dr. Gunatilake flew into a rage and rushed to the office
of Labour Leader A. E. Gunasinghe, an avowed opponent of the
L.S.S.P., to place a statement in the newspaper ‘Sinha Handa’
published by Gunasinghe.
Dr. Gunatilake who gave an account of the
proceedings of the case said in his statement that Marxists were
a set of people who were arrogant and who had no respect for
Gunasinghe readily published Dr. Gunatilake’s
statement and the doctor bought 500 copies of the paper and
distributed them free at Boralugoda.
Unable to go to her parent’s home, ‘Vivi’ after
the court gave its verdict in favour of Leslie, proceeded to the
house of Mr. and Mrs. Reggie Senanayake and after staying there
for a week on June 30, 1939, she and Leslie were married at the
Hotel Nippon at Slave Island.
After the marriage the couple stayed for a few
days with Mr. and Mrs. Henry Pieris and left for India to
participate the Indian National Congress Convention.
The L.S.S.P. in the meantime had made
significant inroads into the trade union movement which up to
then was the domain of A. E. Gunasinghe, the leader of the
The leader of the Railway Workers’ Union at
Ratmalana was Leslie and the colonial rulers were determined to
break the backbone of the L.S.S.P.
The Governor decided to take into custody the
L.S.S.P. leaders and the L.S.S.P. got wind of this in time to
take counter measures.
L.S.S.P. leaders faced imminent arrest
The Gazette Extraordinary on Treason was
proclaimed on June 3, 1940 and L.S.S.P. leaders like Philip, N.
M. Colvin and Leslie faced imminent arrest. The leaders went
underground but continued to publish the L.S.S.P. organ, the
Three persons who were selling the
‘Samasamajaya’ paper were prosecuted and jailed for seven years.
To make matters more complicated ‘Vivi’ was
pregnant with ‘Kumudini’ her first child (‘Vivi’ and Leslie had
another daughter Premila and a son, Suren. All three children
are doing well in England.) To keep his pregnant niece company,
Philip had sent Kusuma, his wife as Leslie was in hiding. Leslie
was hiding in the house of a friend, Richard Pieris, and N.M.
was aware of this fact.
Unable to be separated from his beloved wife,
Leslie came home and that very day Colvin had been arrested in
the courts. Although it was Philip who told N.M. of Colvin’s
arrest, Philip did not want to bother his pregnant niece with
this information as he thought Leslie was yet ‘underground’. By
this time Leslie, after a hearty home-cooked meal was having a
siesta in blissful ignorance of the fact that not only Colvin,
but also N.M. had been arrested by then, the latter in his own
garden when trying to make good his escape.
When the L.S.S.P. activists heard of the arrest
of Colvin and N.M. they went to Richard Pieris’s house. There
they learnt that Leslie had gone home. Jack Kotelawala and
Reggie Perera immediately jumped into a racing car which had a
canvas sheet covering the rear seat.
There was a heavy police guard placed at the
junction near Leslie’s house and all the vehicles were subjected
to a thorough search. The police looked under the canvas and
discovering nothing allowed the car to proceed. Jack Kotelawala
and Reggie stormed into the room where Leslie was peacefully
sleeping. They woke him up saying that Colvin and N. M. have
been arrested and the police would be very soon hot on his
‘Vivi’ came rushing in hearing this din and
implored Leslie to hurry up. Leslie got so excited that he wore
his pair of trousers over the sarong he had been wearing. Jack
and Reggie covered Leslie with the canvas and sped away. As they
passed the police checkpoint near Leslie’s house, the policemen
did not bother to re-examine the vehicle which they checked
barely three minutes ago.
This ‘security lapse’ saved Leslie from being
The incarceration of the L.S.S.P. leaders was
not made public for fear of a backlash as the L.S.S.P. movement
was very popular in the country and its leaders were ‘hero
worshipped’ by the working class and the middle class.
Though heavy with child, even during this
period, ‘Vivi’ actively supported the Samasamajist movement
spearheaded by Philip Mama and others, who were still at large.
She also supplied information to underground organisations of
P. de S. Kularatne of Ambalangoda was one of the
leading Buddhist educationists in the Island. Under him dawned
the golden era of Ananda College — the premier Buddhist
Educational Institute in the Island. The modus operand adopted
by Kularatne to collect funds for putting up the buildings for a
rapidly expanding educational institute which lured children
from leading colleges S. Thomas’ (from where N.M. joined Ananda)
and Prince of Wales College (the school that the Gunawardene
trio, Philip, Robert and Harry attended before their advent to
Ananda) was to hold ‘carnivals’.
Kularatne’s opponents called him ‘Carnival
Ananda College carnival was held over several
days and on each day thousands thronged the carnival grounds.
Vivienne thought that the carnival crowd would be her ideal
target to propagate the Samasamajist message as well as to
educate the masses on the inhuman actions of the imperialist
rulers. She got thousands of pamphlets printed and started
distributing them herself at the carnival grounds.
‘P. de S’ investigated the red notice people
were carrying. Realizing that it was the ‘Samasamajist political
material he lost his cool and admonished ‘Vivi’ saying ‘Please
refrain from engaging in political propaganda here. This is a
school. I don’t like this type of thing’.
Vivi’s face clouded and some ladies who were
there offered to distribute the pamphlets surreptitiously as it
was not a job for an expectant mother.
Just then Kularatne announced over the public
address system that no one should take the scurrilous pamphlets
that were being distributed by some women and added that
possessing them would be tantamount to high treason!
Then an Assistant Superintendent of Police
‘Almost in a whisper he urged ‘Vivi’ to vanish
from the scene quickly as Kularatne had reported the incident to
This A.S.P. was none other than Sydney de Zoysa
who later became a D.I.G. who had been eying ‘vivacious Vivi’
during their university days. It was Sydney who was vicariously
responsible for Vivi being removed from the university, by her
father Dr. Alanson Gunatilaka, after the latter came to know
that ‘Vivi’ had gone to the Gampaha Gardens in the car driven by
Although Sydney failed to win the heart and the
hand of ‘Vivi’ the two remained very good and close friends with
the former passing on some ‘classified information’ to Vivi. It
was Sydney de Zoysa who told ‘Vivi’ that all the properties of
Leslie were going to be confiscated giving enough time for
Leslie to transfer the properties to Dismin de Mel and his
Leslie was in hiding during this time and rumour
had it that Leslie moved freely in the crowds disguising himself
as a sari-clad lady.
‘Vivi’ too could not bear to be separated from
Leslie. ‘Vivi’ badly wanted to see Leslie and this she conveyed
to Doric de Souza. Doric realized that this was indeed a tall
order as an open warrant had been issued for Leslie’s arrest.
However ‘Vivi’ kept on insisting that she should see Leslie,
whereupon Reggie Senanayake hit upon a plan.
As ‘Vivi’ was expecting her child she went for
walking exercises’ to the Mt. Lavinia beach.
Reggie Senanayeke decided that the Mount Lavinia
beach should be the rendezvous for the young couple. Leslie
always wore the national dress and ‘Vivi’ couldn’t help laughing
when she saw Leslie walking towards them clad in a pair of
slacks and a shirt. He was heavy with ‘make-up’. Each knew that
it was a dangerous game and any moment they ran the risk of
being arrested. The only words they spoke whilst passing each
other were to ask the other to be careful and to invoke the
blessings of the Gods.
One day Vivienne was highly excited by what Dr.
Nicholas Attygalle had told her. Police had come to meet Dr.
Attygalle and had wanted to know the date Vivi was expecting the
baby. Attygalle well known for his tyrannical mannerism had told
the police that communication between the doctor and the patient
Vivienne had her confinement at Dr.
Wickramasuriya’s Nursing Home. The police thinking that Leslie
would definitely make an appearance at the nursing home to see
his child, strengthened security around the nursing home.
Even in her worst moment ‘Vivi’ did not lose her
wit and humour. She wanted to play a joke on the police. One day
she in a whisper told the nurse that Leslie was coming that
night to see the baby and pleaded with her to keep the room in
semi-darkness, knowing very well she would confide in the matron
who in turn would tip off the Police. As evening fell, she
noticed heavy activity amongst the Police surrounding the
That evening there was a stream of callers. All
men wearing the national dress — putting the police in complete
disarray. All her male visitors disguised themselves like Leslie
and Vivi burst out laughing when she saw Corbert Jayewardene (J.
R.’s brother) coming to see her wearing a national dress for the
first time and also having put on heavy make up.
When Corbert Jayewardene left the Nursing Home,
‘Vivi’ could see the Police chasing him like a pack of blood
In the meantime things were hotting up for the
LSSP leaders with Hector Abhayawardhane, V. Karalasingham,
Bernard Soysa and Anthonipillai already in hiding in India. It
was thought that Leslie who was a physical and mental wreck
after the games of hide and seek he played with the Police
should also seek refuge in India.
Leslie too escaped to India and was followed by
‘Vivi’ with her 14 month old daughter — Kumudini — Vivienne
posed of as the wife of Allan Mendis.
The couple having united assumed the name of
‘Pinto’, but to avoid being detected changed their abode
It was during their stay in India that
Hindu-Muslim riots broke out. By this time most of the other
LSSP leaders were also in India. Though they were runaways from
justice in their own country they became involved in the
anti-British struggle that was taking place in India at the
time. Vivienne worked in a newspaper published in India
supporting the Indian Movement for Independence. In fact the
entire paper was produced by those who arrived from Ceylon.
‘Vivi’ went round with a Bengali woman named ‘Yupuwa’ selling
the papers throwing caution to the winds.
After the end of the World War in 1945, those
who fled to India were able to return to Ceylon and their loved
ones. This they did only in November 1946 after the warrants
issued for their arrest were recalled.
Vivienne launched her career as a people’s
representative by winning the Havelock Town ward in the Colombo
Municipal Council which she held for 4 years. She later was
returned as the Member for Mahawatta in the CMC.
She had mixed fortunes when she contested the
Her maiden attempt at Parliamentary elections
was when she contested J. R. Jayewardene at Kelaniya in the 1952
General Elections. At this elections she was betrayed by her own
maternal uncle Philip who supported Wimala Wijewardene. S. W. R.
D. Bandaranaike who initially backed ‘Vivi’ ceased to display an
interest when he realized that the high priest of the Kelaniya
Raja Maha Vihara, the influential Mapitigama Buddharakkitha
Thero was backing Wimala Wijewardene at the insistence of Philip
Gunawardene. ’ finished 3rd behind Wimala.
In 1956 she won the Colombo North constituency
in Parliament but failed to retain her seat in both March and
July General Elections of 1960 as also in the General Elections
of 1965. However she re-entered Parliament as the MP for Borella
at the by-election held in 1974, on the death of Dr. W.D. (Dadi
Bidi) de Silva.
She represented the LSSP at several
international seminars and was an active member of the
International Womens Federation. She passed away on October 3,
1996, a few weeks after her 80th Birthday.
In 1970 she was returned as the MP for Ratmalana
but lost in 1977 to a kinsman, Lalith Athulathmudali of the UNP.
A UNP Front Bencher Wijeyapala Mendis speaking
at the condolence motion in Parliament on May 21, 1998 paying a
glowing tribute to ‘Vivi’ recalled how he was impressed, when he
met her in his capacity of the Mayor of Negombo, with ‘Vivi’s’
grasp of the subject of local government of which she was the
Deputy Minister during the ULF regime.
During her colourful career as a politician
Vivienne was slapped by a ‘strong woman’ of the UNP on the day
the Opposition organised a massive demonstration from Horton
Place to the old parliament at Galle Face. This was on the
January 8, 1966 and the opposition was protesting against the
regulations to be promulgated.
This was also the day when a Buddhist in the
procession was killed by a ricochet bullets. That day in
Parliament under the Tamil Language (Special Provisions) Act.
Vivienne’s ‘slapper’, later became the wife of a leading UNP
politician who has now distanced himself from the UNP.
At the same spot R. G. Senanayake MP was also
assaulted by a UNP strong man P. D. Karunathilake.
‘Vivi’ was rousely dealh with by the Kollupitiya
Police. This incident took place when a procession of women were
passing ‘Temple Trees’ after handing over a petition to the
American Ambassador. Angered by the shouts to reduce the price
of children’s food, the police dragged a photographer Wimala
Surendra who was photographing the protest march and severely
beat him up. On seeing this ‘Vivi’ rushed in and argued with the
Police that the photographer be released. The end result was
that ‘Vivi’ was roushed-up and locked up. On hearing this NM and
Colvin rushed to the Police Station and got ‘Vivi’ released. She
had to be almost carried out of the station.
A case was filed against the Police and the
Police were found guilty by courts but rewarded by way of
promotions by the ‘Dharmista’ Government of J. R. Jayewardene.
UNP hooligans hooted in front of the houses of
the Judges who heard the case. ‘Vivi’ was also awarded Rs. 2,500
as personal damages which Vivienne donated to the Cancer
Vivienne was editing the pro-LSSP paper Janadina
when I was on the editorial staff of Janahitha, a pro-UNP
publication of Express Newspapers Ltd of Esmond Wickramasinghe.
I was writing a ‘lobby’ column for ‘Janahitha’
and I used to meet Vivienne in the Parliament press gallery. She
usually sat next to me but she did not know me personally. I was
another correspondent as far as she was concerned.
I used to stealthily glance at her ‘copy’ and
write a reply to her ‘story’ which appeared on the same day her
paper hit the stands. I don’t think she ever knew how her
stories were leaked.
One day Jinadasa Niyathapala, my political guru
who was editing the ‘Siyarata’, came and sat next to me on my
left. On my right was ‘Vivi’.
Mr. Dudley Senanayake was on his feet and just
then. Dr. N. M. Perera entered the Chamber. Dudley paused
briefly and ‘Vivi’ like a mischievous school girl said, I
believed for Niyathapal’s benefit, "see how Dudley’s- mood
changed upon seeing N.M.". This was enough for Niyathapala to
erupt. He challenged ‘Vivi’ and ‘Vivi’ said pointing to me, ‘I
was not speaking to you! I was speaking to this gentleman!’. I
not being the gallant young lochinvar said ‘No you were not
talking to me!’
I believe in the chair was the amiable Shirley
Corea and the tall and lanky Ananda de Silva Sergeant-at-Arms
approached us and said that the Speaker had complained about the
In the early 60’s Jinadasa Niyathapala was
contesting a by-election, the Borella North ward of the Colombo
The ‘ward’ included notorious areas such as
Wanathamulla and Serpentine Road. It was a vice den where
criminals held sway. During that time the drug menace was not
present. The combined left fielded one Wijesuriya and his
campaign manager was Vivienne. I had cut school and had come all
the way from Ambalangoda to assist my political guru in his
During those early times, there were no
restrictions on transport of voters. I carried in my arms old
men and cripples into the polling booth. I was a marked man and
‘Vivi’ was throwing ‘gal’ looks at me.
With me was a sturdy six footer, Watawala
Dharmaratne who was a key speaker at UNP youth rallies. He had a
booming voice and could address any meeting without the public
address system. He was also the right hand man of Donald
Ranaweera, owner of the Times Group.
We were seated inside a white Volkswagan Beetle
sending chits to our polling agents to object to people whom we
suspected as impersonators.
After about an hour or so, Leslie came up to the
vehicle and demanded to know who had given us permission to
occupy his vehicle.
Whilst I managed a weak apology. I have never
seen a giant of a man — 6 footer he was bolting from the scene
in lightening speed.
Vivienne too arrived on the scene and told me in
Sinhala ‘Umbata ada rewenna kalin bomba gahanawa’ (You will get
a bomb before dusk today!)
Vivienne was a person who kept her word.
A bomb was flung — though not at me.
The target was Jinadasa Niyathapala who won the
hotly contested by-election but had to resign soon after in view
of an election petition that had been filed on the ground that
he was not a resident within the municipal area.
Instead of Niyathapala, the bomb hit Lake House
cameraman Harvey Campbell whose leg had to be treated as a
(Sources ‘Rathu Sen Pathini — Vivienne)
Mr. C. Kuruppu — Deputy Librarian Parliament.