Sri Lanka’s greatest statesman

19 June 2020 05:19 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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 Today is Dudley Senanayake’s 109th birth anniversary

One of Dudley’s most admirable qualities was his unshakeable loyalty to his party, the UNP through thick and thin

We recall the life and times of the late Dudley Senanayake as his 109th anniversary is today.
Famed as a reluctant politician, an idealist and a liberal democrat in his political thinking, he strode the political arena of his time like a colossus. His steadfast belief was that all citizens should have equal rights, irrespective of race, religion or political affiliations. He was totally against an Executive Presidency and we can now see how right he was in his thinking which was far 
beyond his time.


My late father knew the late Dudley well and was a few years senior to him in school, my paternal uncle and he were classmates, my uncle never failed to refer to him as Dudley the Great, wrote countless letters to him, to which Dudley never failed to reply.
 However, I got to know him well through my late husband, a loyal disciple of his who always thought of Dudley as his political mentor, and was just outside his room in hospital when he died. He was a most gentle giant of a man, with a heart of gold, who filled a room with his presence, had an uproarious laugh and loved his food. His interests were those of refined, civilised person; reading, photography, music and a love of dogs. He was simple in his tastes and a gentleman to his fingertips, the genuine article as it were. He would drive himself in his little Triumph Herald even as Prime Minister.
The grandeur, perks and privileges of power never appealed to him, he much preferred to lead a simple life. Of his brother’s children, his favourite was Rukman, and he loved his two nieces. Today, I am reminded of some of his characteristics in the girth of his grandnephew, Ruwan, his laugh which has been inherited by Ruwan’s mother and brother. 

"The grandeur, perks and privileges of power never appealed to him, he much preferred to lead a simple life. Of his brother’s children, his favourite was Rukman, and he loved his two nieces. Today, I am reminded of some of his characteristics in the girth of his grandnephew, Ruwan, his laugh which has been inherited by Ruwan’s mother and brother"


In politics his contributions in Parliament, his sense of humour, the wit; he never failed to have ready answers, causing never ending laughter among those on both sides of that most august assembly, are unforgettable. I recall two at which I was present in Parliament.
One was when the late Maithripala Senanayake, referred to a language issue. Dudley got up saying ‘ Sir, the Hon MP for Medawachiya believes in Sinhala Only by day and the reasonable use of Tamil at night’. The late Maithripala’s wife was Tamil. 
Another was when the late Stanley Tillakaratne, who was short in stature, kept shouting ‘what about the split’, referring to some differences between Dudley and the late President Jayewardene, Dudley retorted saying ‘Sir, the Hon member can see splits at eye level’
His political confrontations were confined to Parliament or platforms, he was friendly with all the greats of that time-the Goonewardene brothers Philip and Robert, Dr N.M. Perera, Dr Colvin R. de Silva, Pieter Keuneman. They would even walk across the floor and shake hand after blistering attacks on each other in Parliament. I regret that this kind of camaraderie is no longer prevalent between most politicians today.


One of Dudley’s most admirable qualities was his unshakeable loyalty to his party, the UNP through thick and thin.
Even when he was out of politics for a while, his heart was always with the UNP. He refused high office offered from the other side and returned to lead when he was invited to do so, by those who knew they couldn’t win without him. I recall a speech made by him in Parliament on the UNP in the 1970s. ’
There is no occasion in the history of the United National Party when in the government or the Opposition when it has advocated or organised violence. The men who are votaries of bloody revolution, who took advantage of difficult situations in the country to rouse people to violence, who under the guise of trade unionism instigated and encouraged private and public sector employees to sabotage, whose common cry was ‘destroy’ are all in your government. Preening themselves today as advocates of peace. How ill do the feathers of the dove mask the minds and bodies of vultures’.

"Dudley Senanayake will never be forgotten, his memory lives on in the hearts and minds of all who had the privilege of knowing him. His background as a keen sportsman at St Thomas, Mt Lavinia and Cambridge, made him always play by the rules, and play a straight bat in politics. Like all Leaders, he too was accused of having a few friends as advisors, I think as a leader has to have those can trust but at least those he had, never let him down. They were loyal to him"


Dudley Senanayake will never be forgotten, his memory lives on in the hearts and minds of all who had the privilege of knowing him. His background as a keen sportsman at St Thomas, Mt Lavinia and Cambridge, made him always play by the rules, and play a straight bat in politics. Like all Leaders, he too was accused of having a few friends as advisors, I think as a leader has to have those can trust but at least those he had, never let him down. They were loyal to him. 


His untimely death caused by a heart attack was due to his extreme sensitivity and anguish, caused by threats of breakaways from his party. He never wanted to bother anyone and suffered pain throughout the night, before informing his staff and brother the next morning who immediately took him to hospital. Such was his innate kind and thoughtful nature. His funeral displayed in no uncertain terms that he was a man who was loved far beyond the narrow peripheries of political differences. His dream was that one day all citizens of our nation could state with pride ’This is my own, my native land’ I hope and pray that this will come true one day, and that the light of a quick dawn will make Dudley’s dream for our nation become a reality.

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