“My Ancestors were from Bintenne”
–PM proudly claimed
Daily Mirror on March 23, 1968, exactly fifty years ago reported, ‘The jungles of Binntenna turned festive with green flags, lion flags, Buddhist flags and coconut leaves to greet Dudley Senanayake, the Prime Minister. Despite the burning noon day sun, men women and school children in their thousands , stood on both sides of the road with betel leaves to receive him…’
Speaking at the foundation stone laying ceremony for a new hospital in Mahiyangana, the Prime Minister said, “MD Banda said 70% of people from Bintenne are his relatives, but I would say all the people in Bintenne are my relatives and my forefathers are from Bintenne.”
45th Death Anniversary of Dudley Senanayake
“My great-grandfather lived in Mahiyangana.” Continuing he declared, “From Mahiyangana, they settled in Anuradhapura, before they moved to Botale in Mirigama...I am a son from Bintenne, and because of this my father…took steps to restore Mahiyangana Dagoba…”
PM said National government does not believe in laying foundation stones for the foundations to rest on more foundations. “We lay foundations for action, this is the difference between us and previous government.”
The term National Government was first heard in Sri Lanka in 1965, when Dudley Senanayake formed a seven party coalition government. The partners were the UNP, ITAK, SL Freedom Socialist (CP de Silva), ACTC [K. Ponnammbalam], MEP, [Philip Gunawardene] Jathika Vimukthi (K. M. P. Rajaratne) and the CWC. His National Government’s Cabinet had only 17 ministers.
Dudley’s four times as PM: Incomparable
What is significant is not how many times Dudley became the Prime Minister, but the number of times he was elected by the people as the Head of State, and not just a powerless PM or power shared with one above him, but as the leader of nation. In that sense Dudley Senanayake is incomparable; he never pleaded for leadership, and never intended to consolidate his place in the party through manipulations, but was chosen unanimously. In 1952, he was chosen over the more senior members to be the Prime Minister. It happened after the premature tragic death of his father D.S Senanayake. But he was not pleased; the staunch liberal democrat, Dudley dissolved Parliament and left the fate of the nation and the UNP in the hands of the people, who overwhelmingly elected him to lead the nation.
HARTAL –‘shoot-at-sight order’ and resignation
In July 1953, a mass workers rally was held by the Marxists parties to protest against moves by JR Jayewardene, the Finance Minister in Dudley’s government to cut back the rice subsidy in full, [25 cents to 70 cents a measure] a legacy of World War II, which the people considered their birthright. Young Marxist firebrands made provocative speeches at a rally held in the city to disapprove the move. The crowds ran riot creating an uproar compelling police to baton charge and use tear gas to disperse the unruly crowds. As tension grew among the masses, the LSSP and Communist Party leaders saw an opportunity; they called for a Hartal on August 12. The ‘Hartal’ turned out to be a ferocious mass uprising. At the height of the chaos and confusion, a panicked Cabinet led by Dudley, withdrew to a British Warship docked in the Colombo port along with officials, from where the government functioned.
Curfew was imposed under Martial Law and orders issued to shoot at sight. The rioting men and women in many areas stood disobedient; the Police had to open fire causing nine deaths. Dudley Senanayake was singled out in attack by the opposition and he had to countenance by himself on most of criticism, he even collapsed inside the chamber under stress and nervousness. Subsequently he had to be flown to London for treatment, but never recovered from shock, and on his return, this timid and hesitant man taught a lesson by example to all politicians by resigning on his own as PM and as the leader of UNP and from politics altogether. He abdicated the ‘throne’ and the party leadership to the disappointment of the masses and of party supporters. After bidding good bye to politics he led a spiritual life sans politics for four years where he was actively involved in spreading Buddhism in Germany. Witnessing the UNP’s disaster under Sir John Kotalawala at the 1956 general elections, and with the party and general public demanding his return, Dudley was forced to re-enter politics in 1957. Dudley Senanayake was installed back in leadership position by the senior members, rank and file and masses.
Dudley Senanayake was incomparable; he never pleaded for leadership, and never intended to consolidate his place in the party through manipulations, but was chosen unanimously. In 1952, he was chosen over the more senior members to be the PM. It happened after the premature tragic death of his father D.S. Senanayake
The bachelor who captained Fathers XI
At the age of 51 in April 1963, Dudley who left no progeny to carry the Senanayake name played for a Fathers Cricket XI against sons. Dudley then was the Leader of the Opposition, he took part in a sports event at S. Thomas’ Preparatory School, Bandarawela, when the ‘sons’ played against the ‘fathers’. Referring to his inclusion Dudley quipped, “I do not know by what stretch of the imagination they have included me in this team”, the bachelor chuckled. Perhaps for someone who captained S. Thomas’ in early 1930s, the temptation to play cricket was too strong to resist, so he acknowledged the invitation and played.
The massive crowds that congregated at the Old Parliament and Independence Square was unprecedented in the history. Creating a sea of heads, it was filled with people who thronged to pay homage to their loving leader. The writer joined the queue at Thunmulla a couple of days before the funeral at midnight was able to pay his last respects only around 7.00 am on the following day at Woodlands. Dudley, a man of integrity was a true Liberal Democrat. It was a fitting grand funeral for an unassuming man who engaged in politics not for his or for his kith and kin’s but for the benefit of poor masses.
All three ‘leaders’ of his UNP who ruled from 1953 to 1993, belongs to the long list of opponents who vilified, maligned, and criticized the son of the ‘Father of Nation’ in most appalling manner on different circumstances.
These unreasonable insults and allegations, aiming to harm his reputation started from the day Dudley became Prime Minister for the first time in March 1952, and lasted until the last few days when he was ailing at Durdans hospital preceding his departure on April 13, 1973 - exactly 45 years ago.