Regi Siriwardena was born in a lower middle class family in 1922. He was the son of an English speaking father and a Sinhala-only speaking mother. He has his early education at St.Thomas’s College and later moved to Ananda. He went on to enter the University of Colombo and graduated, specializing in English. During his student days he became an active member of the Lanka Sama Samaja party, and also was on the Central Committee. During the Second World War he was working as an underground activist while his brother, the late C.D.S. Siriwardena. was serving in the British army. He left the party in 1946. His experiences in the party have been described in detail in his book..‘Working Underground ‘ ..
After a stint of teaching at Ananda and Royal College, he joined Lake House in the late nineteen forties. He served as features editor and wrote regularly on literary and political matters. His literary reviews were appreciated by many; and he also covered the Sinhala cultural scene. His review of ‘Maname’ is widely credited with arousing the interest of the English speaking intelligentsia in the Sinhala cultural scene.. In the fifties and sixties to some extent he went along with the trend of the times. He supported the abolishing of the English medium though he realized the importance for students to be able to comprehend English. In 1960 he left Lake House over his opposition to the pro-UNP cartoon campaign of the newspapers. After a short stint at the0 ‘Daily Mirror’ for about five years he was attached to the English Department of the then Vidyalankara ( now Kelaniya) University. Sadly due to his lack of a post-graduate qualification he could only be an assistant lecturer. After he left Vidyalankara he continued to serve as a visiting lecturer at many universities.
From a young age despite his literary bent he had an active interest in the natural sciences and mathematics. During the late fifties and sixties he became extremely interested in Astronomy and Mathematics. He was also greatly impressed by the achievements of the Soviet Union in space during this period. During a short stint at the ‘Daily Mirror’ he wrote regularly on Astronomy and Space flight. He also wrote a short book on set theory, ‘Stars and Sea Sand’ intended for children.
In 1971, in the wake of the insurrection, he became one of the founders of the civil rights movement, which became the forerunner pf the NGO movement as it exists today. After 1977 as the ethnic conflict unfolded, he grew increasingly concerned about it. He joined the International Centre for Ethnic Studies in the early eighties where he remained for the rest of his life. Between 1977 and 1983 he regularly visited Jaffna to have dialogues with civil society activists. In spite of his opposition to the Jayawardena regime at the time of the Indo-Sri Lanka accord he came out strongly in its support.