It is with great respect and reverence that I thought of writing this article on the Rt. Hon. D.S. Senanayake, who was the most outstanding political leader of post-independence Sri Lanka.
I strongly believe that it is the right time to educate the present generation about this great exemplary leader. D.S. spearheaded the independence struggle of the then Ceylon. He and his elder brother F.R. Senanayake and colleagues, namely Sir D.B. Jayathilaka, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam, T.B. Jayah, E.W. Perera and many others were the stalwarts of the Independence Movement. This intelligent group with its coherent plan was able to win Independence for our Motherland without shedding a drop of blood. This successful exercise was unique due to D.S Senanayake’s strategy and vision. D.S. hailed from a highly respectable family in the Hapitigama Korale of the Western Province. Though the family belonged to the upper strata of society; they never lost the common touch.
D.S. was born on October 20, 1884 at the Botale Walawwa. His Father; Mudliyar Don Spater Senanayake married Catherine Senanayake from Kehelella. They were blessed with four children -- daughter Maria Frances, Don Charles (D.C), Fredric Richard (F.R) and Don Stephen (D.S).
The eldest, D.C. was based in Colombo, involved in business and was known as “Colamba John”. F.R. studied up to the level of a Barrister in England and was known as “London John”. The youngest boy who was not that studious left school at the seventh standard. Then he joined the family plantation company and the family-owned graphite company. This was none other than D.S. who was popularly known as “Kale John”.
Young D.S. Studied at St. Thomas’ College which was then situated in Mutuwal. He was a keen sportsman who took part in cricket, wrestling, horse-riding and physical training. After leaving school he worked at the Government Survey Department for a short time. His father Mudliyar Don Spater Senanayake identified his talents very well and got him admitted to the Government Farm School at Gannoruwa which was setup by the British, to provide vocational training to youth in agriculture, plantations and animal husbandry.
The writer had the good fortune of owning the well preserved original Farm School Certificate of D.S. This was placed in the “History Room” of Kundasale School of Agriculture when he happened to make an official visit as Minister of Agriculture. After obtaining the basic training from the Farm School, young D.S. was fully involved in their family Plantation Company and the Graphite Company.
Mudliyar Don Spater Senanayake was one of the high-ranking financiers of the Ceylon Temperance Movement. Historical records reveal that he chaired the first meeting in setting up the Temperance Movement at Ananda College premises in Colombo. The Mudliyar’s three sons were involved in this movement -- with F.R. preparing all the strategic plans while D. S. with his team implemented them.
The Temperance Movement against “The British Raj” gave birth to the National Independence Struggle.
The ruthless British rulers were interested in opening up toddy taverns and liquor shops in Ceylon, as many as possible, for two purposes. On the one hand they wanted to collect revenue for their coffers and on the other hand to weaken the mental and physical strength of the Ceylonese population ensuring no liberation movements would be initiated against the “British Raj”.
With the launch of the Temperance Movement which had the greatest blessings of Anagarika Dharmapala and leading Buddhist monks, the British Imperialists were angered no end. In 1915 the Sinhala - Muslim riots broke out. This too was a result of the cunning, lowdown strategy of British rulers who believed in divide and rule. The imperialist Government made use of these riots to level charges against the leaders of the Temperance Movement and subsequently imprisoned them. Some were killed in prison and others were able to escape death as legal and political battles were initiated by patriots such as Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan. National heroes, who were incarcerated, developed a higher degree of determination and strength to somehow redeem the motherland from the ruthless white regime. D.S. was the biggest tower of strength to all patriotic national leaders who were involved in the Independence Movement. Though the British rulers were keen in suppressing D.S’ leadership, his influence was overpowering. In 1924, D.S. Senanayake became a member of the National Legislative Council, and subsequently with the dawn of the reforms of the “Donoughmore” Commission, he became the Minister of Lands and Agriculture in 1931. The new minister had the courage to undertake the herculean task of restoring the tanks and the irrigation network of the Dry Zone of the then Ceylon.
R.L. Brohier was the Surveyor General of that era. Minister D.S. issued a directive to Mr. Brohier to survey and map out the entire irrigation network system. On completion of this magnificent task, Mr. Brohier published the invaluable hand-book “Ancient Irrigation Works of Ceylon”. This multifaceted comprehensive volume became “The Beacon” for the development of the Irrigated Agriculture Sector in Ceylon (Sri Lanka).
Sri Lanka’s fertile land in the Dry Zone was covered in thick jungle. The relocation of landless people was carried out by D.S under productive colonisation schemes. Agricultural Production and productivity took a leap forward and with D.S. Senanayake’s “Agricultural Policy” in place the various ethnic groups reaped the bountiful harvest of this brilliant plan which was implemented effectively.
The success story of the “Father of the Nation” was because of his Selfless Service and Honesty, Integrity and Sincerity towards the people and the Nation.
Without doubt, the most colourful and outstanding political leader ever produced by Mother Lanka was none other than the Rt. Hon. D.S. Senanayaka.
(The writer is the Leader of the Maubima Janatha Pakshaya and a former Minister of Agriculture)
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