7/07/2009

Last link to old left of Ceylon passed away

(July 07, 2009) A prominent figure of the early leftist movement in Ceylon and wife of S.C.C. Anthony Pillai, Caroline Anthony Pillai a.k.a Dona Caroline Rupasinghe Gunawardena, passed away in Kosgama, on the outskirts of Colombo on July 06. She was born on October 08, 1908.
She is the sister of Philip, Harry and Robert Gunawardhanas.

She spent much of her life in India, but gradually became less of a revolutionary and more of a helpmate to her husband in the labour movement in Madras, reported The Hindu, quoting S. Muthiah.

 S.C.C. Anthony Pillai joined the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) in 1936 and party and the leadership soon felt he had the makings of a good trade union leader. But he needed to know Sinhalese and Philip Gunawardena suggested he take lessons from Caroline. Later the teacher and the student go married.

The Party asked them to move to central highlands and, together, despite harassment by both the planters and the authorities, they helped to organise the labour. During the World War II period, as the authorities cracked down on the LSSP leadership, Anthony Pillai went underground in Madurai with the help of Bolshevik Leninist Party of India. He was later arrested in March 1947 and sentenced to two years R.I. for possessing seditious literature. 
On June 6, 1946 Anthony Pillai was elected President of the Madras Labour Union and became a major figure in the Indian labor movement. 

In 1947, he was elected President of the Madras Port Trust Employees’ Union, in 1948, he was elected to the Madras Municipal Council, then he became, in turn, General Secretary and Vice-President of the All India Port and Dock Workers’ Federation and then President of the All India Transport Workers’ Union. In 1952, he was elected Vice-President of the Hind Mazdoor Sabha, the Socialists’ trade union federation.

S. Muthiah wrote to The Hindu on February 23, 2009, "By then he had matured considerably from the days of the B&C strike, and in the years that followed gained the reputation of being a trade union leader who preferred negotiation to strikes and who encouraged productivity so that he could demand monetarily more for the workers from managements. This ‘softening’ cost him the leadership of a couple of unions."

When Anthony Pillai died in 2000, Caroline returned to Sri Lanka. 



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