Chellappah Suntharalingam, a Ceylon Tamil academic, politician, Member of Parliament and government minister. Born into a farmer family was sent to a boarding school in Jaffna was whiz at maths. He went on to England entered the University of London from where he graduated with a B.Sc. honours degree in mathematics. At Balliol College, Oxford he was awarded a double first in mathematics tripos.
Suntharalingam was selected by the Indian Civil Service, but chose instead to join the Ceylon Civil Service in 1920. He resigned from the civil service to become vice principal of Ananda College and later joined Ceylon University College as professor and first chair of mathematics. He was called to the Bar from Gray’s Inn in 1920, becoming an advocate and practising law in Ceylon.
Becoming interested in politics, retired in 1940 and tried unsuccessfully to enter the State Council during by-elections in 1943 and 1944. At the 1947 General Elections, got elected to the Parliament as an independent candidate for Vavuniya.
After the elections, Dr. N. M. Perera was able to mobilize a combined team of elected members; made up of LSSP 10, Bolshevik Leninist Party 5, Ceylon Indian Congress 6 , All Ceylon Tamil Congress 7 , Communist Party of Ceylon 3, Ceylon Labour Party 1 and 17 Independent socialists led by Hon. Sri Nissanka KC.
Sinhala Maha Sabha led by D.S. Senanayake obtained 42 seats, with 5 of the 21 Independent MPs supported the to form a combined team totalling 47. Suntharalingam with the MP for Mannar – Sittambalam opted to join DS and the 47 became 49. Together with 6 appointed MPs the Sinhala Maha Sabha now labelled as the United National Party formed the government.
On 26 September 1947 Suntharalingam was sworn in as the Minister of Trade and Commerce. However, when a division was called on the second reading of the Indian and Pakistani Residents Citizenship Bill ; the controversial Ceylon Citizenship Act of 1948 which deprived citizenship to 11% of the Ceylon’s population Suntharalingam resigned from his ministerial position. When the Prime Minister D. S. Senanayake asked for an explanation, walked out of Parliament instead on 10 December 1948.
Unknown to many, as the spokes person of the combined members, Dr. N. M. Perera did request Suntharalingam to head the team and be the Prime Minister. Thus after the 1947 General Elections, Tamils had an opportunity for one of their legislators becoming the Prime Minister of Ceylon, who could have appointed 6 nominated MPs to form the government with 54 MPs out of the 101 in the House; DS would have been the opposition leader with 47 seats – ref . Hon. Sri Nissanka KC’s memoirs and Google.