Edward Gunawardena, the retired senior DIG Administration of the Sri Lankan Police Force in the publication of his Memoirs in ‘MEMORABLE TIDBITS INCLUDING THE JAFFNA LIBRARY FIRE’ devoted a whole chapter to Mr. Dudley Senanayake.
udley Senanayake’s 44th Death Anniversary falls on 13th April 2017, which signifies the dawn of a New Year, though popularly known as the Sinhala New Year, It is widely celebrated by Buddhists and Hindus throughout Sri Lanka. It was on such an auspicious day, Dudley Senanayake bade farewell to the Nation. Many articles about this great man continue to appear in the news media to this day to mark his birth and death anniversaries. This year the Dudley Senanayake Commemoration Society thought fit to present Dudley to the general public especially to a generation that never had the privilege of knowing him, through the words of a forthright public officer who came to know him, worked with him and admired him deeply.
Edward Gunawardena, the retired senior DIG Administration of the Sri Lankan Police Force in the publication of his Memoirs in ‘MEMORABLE TIDBITS INCLUDING THE JAFFNA LIBRARY FIRE’ speaks volumes of meetings and workings with Heads of State, Heads of Government, Ministers, Parliamentarians and Powerful Politicians. While he has been lavish in his praise for the honourable personalities irrespective of their political creed, he never lacked the courage to call a spade a spade. In this publication a whole chapter has been devoted to Mr. Dudley Senanayake.
Edward Gunawardena, first met Dudley Senanayake during the General Elections of 1965, while attending to his duties as the ASP for Kegalle district. The first encounter is recorded thus in chapter VIII,
"Dudley Senanayake as a parliamentarian was phenomenal. His debating skill to date has not been matched by anyone. The control and the presentation of his speeches were a treat to watch"
‘About two weeks after I had shifted residence and only a week to pass for election day, I was to experience one of the most pleasant and rewarding days of my life.
About 6 o’clock one evening the telephone rang. The caller was Alex Dedigama. He said he was with Mr. Dudley Senanayake at the rest house and the latter would be pleased to meet me. I very politely told Alex to explain to Mr. Senanayake that it would not look nice for me to meet him at the rest house and that he was most welcome in my humble home. I also told him that several other candidates including Kalugalle and Deshapriya Senanayake have seen me at home as this was my official residence. Alex promised to convey my wish to Mr. Senanayake.
As a precaution I telephoned Salgado’s and requested the manager to prepare two glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice. Chandradasa brought this in a Thermos flask. No sooner Chandradasa arrived the telephone rang again. It was the great man himself. He said that he would be at my residence in five minutes. I instructed Chadradasa to be in readiness to open the gate. When a car arrived at the gate I readied myself to meet the special visitor.
As the car entered the premises I recognized the 4 Sri Series Triumph Herald. It was being driven by Dudley Senanayake himself. Seated beside him was Alex Dedigama a cousin who resembled Dudley very much. After Alex and Dudley sat down Dudley, as if to put me at ease started loading his pipe saying, ‘1 hope you don’t mind me smoking.” ‘I too smoke Sir, Peacock is my brand”, was my response. Apparently he had heard of my Peradeniya days. I was surprised when he told me that he had glossed over The Students Council Magazine edited by me. Joe Karunaratne who was his private secretary had briefed him about me and given him a copy of the 1956 Union Magazine.
When Chandradasa served the orange juice, Dudley looked at me and asked what the drink was. When I told him that it was fresh orange juice he smiled saying, “good”. I reminded him that his brother Robert had been a regular visitor and fresh orange juice was his preferred drink too. He then told me that Robert had briefed him about the meeting he had had with me; and how my servant too been courteous and accommodating when I was not at home.
It was only after about fifteen minutes that Dudley asked me about what was happening. “Mr. Gunawardena what is this talk that you are going to be transferred?” Without batting an eyelid I replied, “ I am ready to go anywhere Sir, let it be Jaffna or Moneragala I have just to pack my suitcase and go.” He laughed. Alex Dedigama who was silent all the time butted in, “They know it Dudley. Even Kalugalle admires this man’s guts. Edward has a good word among the lawyers too.”
He had been well briefed about the goings on in Kegalle; and he appeared to be particularly pleased about the impartial role of the police. He had even heard of the incident where two children flying a green kite had been assaulted and the manner in which I had dealt with Tissa Wijeratne. Apparently Alex Dedigama had related the incident to him.
This first meeting of mine with Dudley Senanayake which led to a close relationship with not only him but also his brother Robert and the latter’s children remains remarkably fresh in my memory. As I write this forty five years later I can visualize Dudley dressed in a green T shirt, smoking a large curved pipe seated close to me. “Don’t be discouraged by threats. Don’t be intimidated. Just do your duty,” his parting words that evening still ring in my years.’
"Dudley Senanayake was an introvert by nature. He used to spend hours alone in solitude listening to classical music or spend time walking alone in some remote area. Often he used to drive alone seeking to attend a private errand like visiting a friend or purchasing some photographic equipment. Many were the times he had requested his security not to accompany him"
Dudley Senanayake was the Leader of the Opposition when the General-Elections of 1965 were announced. His first meeting with Edward Gunawardena was during the latter part of the elections. Within a week he was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) for the fourth time. The events that took place in the counting centre for which Edward Gunawardena was privy to shows the simplicity of Dudley Senanayake and the utmost respect he had for the will of the people. He goes on to say,
“Having driven round the Kegalle town and having dropped in at home for a cup of tea I returned to the counting centre at about 1.00 a.m. With the results coming in and the indications being a defeat for Mrs. Bandaranaike’s SLFP Government the crowd outside the counting centre had thinned out. I walked straight upstairs. On the corridor outside the Dedigama counting room, seated on the balustrade and leaning against the pillar, to my utter surprise was Dudley Senanayake. Casually dressed, with a muffler round his neck he was smoking a pipe. Apparently he had just come out of the counting room. I saluted him. ‘Hullo, is everything peaceful?’ Just then Robert who was his counting agent walked out of the room. After greeting me, a somewhat worried looking man turned to his brother and said, ‘Dudley it doesn’t look good’. By this time I was seated on the balustrade beside Dudley.
It was indeed a tense and closely contested election. The comment that Robert made was after having observed how the count was going. At that moment I was the nearest person to the two brothers. The immediate response of Dudley to Robert’s apprehensions was certainly not a studied statement for political gain. It was a soft, low voiced conversation between two brothers and I happened to be a listener. The words that came out of Dudley spontaneously were, ‘Robert, if that is the wish of the people, we have to accept it.’ These were great words from a great man. They are greater still because they were not made to the public but out of his heart to his only brother; and I was the only other man who heard this! They were indeed words that brought out the true democrat in Dudley.
Celebrations at Woodlands
The Dedigama result was officially announced at about 2 a.m. Dudley had won convincingly. Not only had he won his seat, the results that had come in indicated that the UNP had won the largest number of seats as a single party; Although the UNP did not have an absolute majority it was clear that only Dudley could have formed a coalition government.
Within a week after the government was formed, Edward Gunawardena, to his surprise, found himself appointed as the head of security of the Governor-General and of the Prime Minister by the Inspector General of Police. In his publication he recalls, the first meeting he had with the Prime Minister to discuss the security arrangements and what transpired at that discussion. It clearly shows that unlike the leaders of today, Dudley Senanayake never possessed any malice towards those public servants who were involved in the previous administration, nor was there any lack of respect displayed towards the politically vanquished. He goes on to say,
“When Robert and I walked in I was warmly greeted by the Prime Minister, ‘Gunawardena, I was expecting you any moment’, were the first words that he uttered. Robert however told him that I had been with Joe for some time. This room was not only his study but also his bedroom! Other than the chair at the desk on which he was seated, there was only one other chair. He left the desk and sat on this chair having directed his brother and myself to sit on his bed. The moment I sat I realized it was a hard bed.
For nearly half an hour we kept on chatting. He got down Joe too. I had to tell him that I had still not selected the officers for the unit. His immediate response was that I selected the men I wanted. He specially mentioned that he had no particular people in mind. He said that he did not mind even officers who were attached to the former Prime Minister. In the same breath he emphatically told me not to withdraw the officers of the immediate body guard of Mrs. Bandaranaike. ‘Let them be with her as long as she wants’, were his exact words. We also briefly discussed the security of ‘Temple Trees’ the official residence, the parking and management of the official vehicles and also the arrangements at Queens House.
Back at the Officer’s Mess, after a beer and early dinner I went to bed. Lying in bed I pondered over all that had transpired during the day. ‘What a large hearted man indeed’, was the dominant thought that was being drummed into me. What more? He did not mind having in his unit the security personnel that served Mrs. Bandaranaike. He wanted the security officers attached to her to be with her as long as she wanted!
Bradman who had been Mrs. Bandaranaike’s Secretary was already with him. Even Police Sergeant Miskin his official driver for all formal state occasions had been with the former Prime Minister. Indeed here was a true leader who believed in professionalism, who recognized the real worth of an individual; and in whose creed there was not even a shade of petty mindedness.”
Dudley Senanayake was an introvert by nature. He used to spend hours alone in solitude listening to classical music or spend time walking alone in some remote area. Often he used to drive alone seeking to attend a private errand like visiting a friend or purchasing some photographic equipment. Many were the times he had requested his security not to accompany him, informing them that he was on a private mission, only to be followed by his security at a safe distance. One such occasion has been recorded by his security chief in his memoirs.
“This desire for solitude even led to unpredictable situations. One day during the time of the 1965 budget debate, when I visited Woodlands at about 8p.m. the Prime Minister was not in. Carolis and the Sergeant on duty told me that he had walked across to Robert’s to have dinner. When I went there I was told by William the driver that ‘Hamu’ had driven away alone in a car of a friend that had been parked there. Asked for the description of the car I was told that it was a black Riley, a fairly large vehicle. Nobody knew where he had gone. It was a tricky situation. But I did not panic because I knew that he was a good driver. I woke up Robert who was resting. He had seen Dudley driving off. ‘Dudley likes to walk up and down by the beach. That’s the way he prepares his speeches, Eddie,’ were Robert’s words. He also added that Dudley was sure to be in the Kinross area. I immediately called the Colombo Traffic Branch on my walkie-talkie, got down a patrol car and travelled to St. Peters Place. There were no vehicles to be seen down the lane. However, turning to Kinross Avenue a black vehicle was spotted at the end of the road. To my utter relief it was the Riley. Having instructed the patrol leader to call for an unmarked car to be close to the Riley and position the marked car at the top of the lane on the Galle Road, I walked across the railway line to the beach. In the hazy moonlight I saw the Prime Minister’s figure in the distance. I got close and kept a reasonable distance behind him. He was bare footed and the bottoms of his trousers were rolled.
I kept on following him. It was amazing indeed no one appeared to have recognized him. Approaching Kinross Avenue he stopped by the railway line until a train passed. When he was opening the door of the Riley, I surprised him saying ‘Good evening Sir’. ‘Ha. How did you know that I was here?’ ‘That’s my job sir,’ Was my reply. With a guffaw he invited me into his car. The drive to Woodlands was smooth. We were talking of many things all the way. When he asked me why I followed him I explained to him that ensuring his safety was my responsibility. I also told him that if he experienced a puncture and had to change a wheel as the Prime Minister it would be headline news. ‘There is something in what you say’, was his response.”
He, however, never changed this style of living as long as he lived.
Dudley Senanayake as a parliamentarian was phenomenal. His debating skill to date has not been matched by anyone. The control and the presentation of his speeches were a treat to watch. In fact whenever he spoke in Parliament both benches, Government and Opposition, were filled to its capacity. His retorts and wit devastated many a opponent.
Edward Gunawardena in his publication refers to such an incident. He says,
“Devastating wit was one of his strong assets. During the debate on Dudley Chelvanayakam pact I was seated in the Speakers gallery following the proceedings. When he was speaking he was interrupted by none other than a respected parliamentarian Maithripala Senanayake. Pretending to be annoyed he stopped speaking, prompting Sir Albert Pieris the Speaker to say ‘Carry on Prime Minister’. Dudley laughed and turning to the Speaker said, ‘Mr. Speaker, the Hon. Member for Medawachiya (Maithripala Senanayake) is Sinhala by day and Tamil by night.’ There was loud laughter in the entire House. At that time Maithripala Senanayake was courting his wife to be, a Miss Handy from Jaffna!”
Once referring to an embarrassing situation faced by the Prime Minister during a visit to Jaffna, where a devoted man in his excitement walked up to the Prime Minister, garlanded him saying, “May you have many children and get married the then leader of the Communist Party Mr. Pieter Keuneman jocularly tried to use this slip of the tongue to embarrass Dudley in Parliament. Not to be outdone, Dudley retorted by saying that it was better to have many children and then get married than to get married and have no children at all. Much married Pieter Keuneman did not have any children. Another incident was the reference to a split between the Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake and the Minister of State J.R. Jayewardene. This split was bugging the political circle and Stanley Tillakeratne the young Member of Kotte, who by the way was a small made person, decided to raise it in Parliament. He wounded up the reference by turning to Speaker and saying “Sir, sometimes best of friends must part,” and quickly added that “Even the monkey said that, when the train ran over vital parts of his body.” When Dudley was replying Stanley repeatedly interrupted him by asking “what about the split”. Turning to the young Member, Dudley paused for a moment and said “Ah, the diminutive member from Kotte, he can only be heard but cannot be seen. Sir, you must excuse him, he is obsessed with splits because he sees them eye-level.”The whole house roared with laughter and Stanley Tillakeratne himself commented, “That’s a good one”
Though the politics of yesterday, today and perhaps tomorrow demands that one looks after one’s own political supporters, one must never give in to political favouritism that denies the suitable and helps the misfit. Dudley Senanayake abhorred political victimization and such political favoritism. Edward Gunawardena refers to one such incident in his memoirs.
Having informed that he was leaving the Prime Minister’s security division of his own accord which he considered very pleasant and prestigious, Edward Gunawardena said that he was seeking a more challenging task. This wish was more than fulfilled when he received the appointment of the Deputy Director of the Police Training School in charge of both recruitment and training. While involved in attending to the duties of the Deputy Director, he wanted to meet the Prime Minister to invite him to be a witness for his up and coming marriage. The conversation that transpired between them during that meeting illuminates Dudley’s attitude to unfair political favoritism.
He goes on to say,
“As requested by the Prime Minister I saw him by appointment at Woodlands, one Saturday evening in September. Robert and Joe were also with him. I was greeted heartily by all three. When I told them that I was enjoying the work at the Police Training School, the Prime Minister was keen to know about the state of response to the gazette notices calling for applications to join the Police. He was very pleased when I told him that a large number of outstanding sportsmen were keen to be recruited. He then pointedly asked me whether any Minister or M.P. had attempted to influence me or interfere in the selection process. My reply was a distinct ‘No’.
" Not only had he won his seat, the results that had come in indicated that the UNP had won the largest number of seats as a single party; Although the UNP did not have an absolute majority it was clear that only Dudley could have formed a coalition government"
However, I mentioned to him how I had been once given 30 names from different electorates by the Minister of State (Mr. J.R. Jayewardene). He looked surprised. ‘So what did you do?’ was his question. I told him that when I asked the Minister whether they have to be recruited even if they were unfit, he did not appear to be too pleased. ‘No, no. Don’t take useless fellows. All I want is if a chap is rejected the reason for rejection.’ When I told him that I had given the list back to Mr. J.R. Jayewardene with 28 of the 30 rejected, giving the reasons for rejection.
‘Very good, Gunawardena you have acted correctly. Don’t worry, No Minister will ask you to do the wrong thing,’ was his response.”
Dudley Senanayake’s life style, honesty, kindness and simplicity created a lasting impression on D.I.G. Edward Gunawardena prompting him to dedicate an entire a chapter in the publication of his memoirs to the memory of Dudley. His first reference begins thus,
“My short stint as the A.S.P. Kegalle provided me with the opportunity of meeting and coming to know one of the greatest sons of Sri Lanka. Dudley Senanayake who became Prime Minister on several occasions and will be remembered as the most honourable politician to head this country since independence. The elder son of D.S. Senanayake, a Cambridge alumnus Dudley died a bachelor. At the time of his death his personal bank account showed a balance of only a few hundred rupees.”
When Dudley Senanayake passed away he was neither the ‘Prime Minister’ or the ‘Leader of the Opposition’, He was only a Member of Parliament representing the Dedigama electorate, the electorate he represented throughout as a parliamentarian. Having lost the general elections of 1970, he declined to accept the post of the ‘Leader of the Opposition’ and decided to remain only as a Member of Parliament.
His untimely demise came as a shock to the nation. Thousands and thousands of people from all walks of life started pouring to Colombo to pay their respects to this great man. Almost every house carried a white flag to signify their shock and sadness. This unprecedented expression of the masses shocked the government in power and they quickly set about to fathom the situation. Curiously enough it was DIG Edward Gunawardena who was called upon to provide an accurate report of the situation.
He goes on to state,
“The passing away of Dudley Senanayake
The Passing away of Dudley Senanayake on the 13 of April 1973 plunged the nation into an intense state of spontaneous sorrow. The genuine grief of the entire country was seen and felt by every citizen particularly because April was the traditional festive month of the year. In fact all the New Year festivities in all parts of the country came to a standstill with the spread of the news of Dudley’s death….
By the following day it was apparent that the entire nation had been virtually submerged by a tidal wave of sorrow. Reports reaching Police Headquarters indicated that the grief was intense and widespread. Without any exhortation from the government white flags were seen particularly in poorer homes. Regardless of the cost and scarcity of white cloth banners expressing sorrow had been strung across roads in all parts of the island. A prominent banner in the Battaramulla bazaar read ‘Bath Dun Piyata Nivan Sepa Labewa’. It had beenput up by the ‘Battaramulla Janathawa’. Surprisingly a similar banner had been put up close to this by the Lanka Samasamja Party! It was remarkable indeed that the people had sunk party differences to honour a great leader....
Dudley Senanayake was arguably the foremost democratic leader this country has had since Independence. He was also the most loved leader the country has seen. The sincere grief of the milling crowds that marked his funeral bore ample testimony to this. The millions that queued up for eight days and nights to pay their last respects and the sea of heads that thronged the Independence square for the funeral veritably sent shock waves to the Sirimavo Bandaranike government that had been in power for a mere three years, compelling Prime Minister Bandaranaike to order the Defence Ministry to make an accurate estimate of the numbers that paid their last respects to Dudley.
"The death of Dudley Senanayake led to a dramatic resurrection of the United National Party culminating in the resounding victory of 1977. It also heralded the beginning of the erosion of democratic and human values in Sri Lanka’s politics; and emergence of corruption and dilution of democratic freedoms"
This task was entrusted to the IGP. Naturally this was passed on to me as I was the Director of Police Research and Development. The IGP felt at that time that I was the only officer with a Masters Degree too, who could approach the task in a scientific manner. It was a challenging and daunting assignment indeed. Within three weeks I put up a preliminary report to the IGP outlining the methodology I would adopt, studding the reports and messages received at the Police Communication Centre and Interviewing a random cross-section of police officers who were on duty from the lst the 21st of April 1973. In the same report I requested for three weeks to finish my final report.
For about ten days I interviewed about 30 senior officers who were on duty from the 14th of April to the 21st, studied the length of queues that formed on all the days even referring to press photographs and photographs taken by family members and considered the rough counts that had been taken by the Woodlands household staff. In fact Carolis’s estimate was more than fifty lakhs had paid respects to his beloved ‘Hamu’.
The estimate arrived at by me was that the crowds that filed past at Woodlands and at Parliament, the crowds that lined the streets of the funeral procession and the crowd that thronged to Independence Square approximated four million. When I conveyed this to the IGP Stanley Senanayake he smiled and asked me, ‘Are you sure?’
"His untimely demise came as a shock to the nation. Thousands and thousands of people from all walks of life started pouring to Colombo to pay their respects to this great man. Almost every house carried a white flag to signify their shock and sadness"
That afternoon Gomes walked into my room with the latest copy of the London Sunday Telegraph. Police Headquarters subscribed to this paper. Few at Headquarters read it. I was one of the few. My good friend Dr. W.D.L Fernando the JMO knew this and regularly requested for the English horse racing tips that were published in the Sunday Telegraph! But the paper that Gomes brought provided me with a report in the front page of less than inches of a column which to me was worth more than the weight of a million copies of this newspaper in gold. I cannot recall the date. It would have been within a month of the funeral. The headline said it all, ‘4 1/2 Million pay homage to Dudley Senanayake’! It was my comprehensive report with the facts mentioned above that was forwarded by the IGP to the Ministry of Defence. There was no response from the Ministry as the IGP’s report could not be disputed.
The death of Dudley Senanayake led to a dramatic resurrection of the United National Party culminating in the resounding victory of 1977. It also heralded the beginning of the erosion of democratic and human values in Sri Lanka’s politics; and emergence of corruption and dilution of democratic freedoms. From the time of Independence it was the United National Party that provided exemplary leadership in the preservation and nurturing of time- honoured concepts of freedom and human dignity. But the constitutional creation of the Executive Presidency by the U.N P. government of 1977 saw the concentration of virtually unbridled power in one person. All the ills that the nation is suffering from, as I write this in 2011, has flowed from this diabolical constitutional scenario, the blame for which must rest fairly and squarely with the post Dudley Senanayake UNP administration”