s the Sinhala and Hindu New Year approaches, one is reminded of that day so many years ago, when the entire nation mourned as a whole for the demise of an unforgettable statesman. His funeral drew well over a million people, thousands who couldn’t be there for one reason or other, mourned weeping in their homes and lit clay lamps in his memory. The fact that one not in power, commanded such sorrow, irrespective of political divisions, was an unprecedented mark of respect for a man, who was above all others, in countless ways.
Today, I sense that from wherever he is, he would be happy that the National Leader of the party he loved so much is Prime Minister today. Dudley never joined any other party, although promised high office if he did. They both share that most rare quality in politicians, that of unchallenged integrity. They are both basically shy by nature, but always upheld, believed in and respected the rule of law and democracy, whether in or out of power.
"In Parliament on the 27th July 1948, he said ‘The greatest feats of man have been the achievements of a free and unfettered mind. And, under a totalitarian form of government, with all that it implies, with all its ramifications, the mind of man can never be free. We prefer the path of economic freedom, while maintaining the essentials for the growth of a free and
At the present time, this government is trying hard to unite all ethnic communities, to see that
all communities have equal rights and that there are no second class citizens. These were the values and principles, that the late Dudley believed in as well. He was a sportsman to his fingertips, which perhaps influenced his lifelong devotion to fair play and justice in all situations, whatever the consequences may have been. It seems a good time to quote some of his speeches, which seem to be in line with what the government wants to achieve.
In Parliament on the 27th July 1948, he said ‘The greatest feats of man have been the achievements of a free and unfettered mind. And, under a totalitarian form of government, with all that it implies, with all its ramifications, the mind of man can never be free. We prefer the path of economic freedom, while maintaining the essentials for the growth of a free and unfettered mind.’
In the debate on the Throne Speech on 22nd April, 1960. ‘The words ‘progressive’ and ‘reactionary’ are being bandied about on the floor of this House. What is the criterion by which a measure is judged as progressive or reactionary? Surely any measure that increases the content of individual freedom of persons, be it economic, social, cultural or otherwise, is a progressive measure, and any measure that tends to diminish or inhibit that freedom is reactionary. As there cannot be freedom without economic well-being, there cannot be real freedom without political and individual freedom as well.’
In the debate on the Throne Speech on 23rd April 1965. ‘Let us not talk about democracy. Various people have various interpretations of democracy. Some talk of the democracy that we have been accustomed to for quite a long time. Others talk of the so called people’s democracy. But yet there were a group of people who cherished certain freedoms and were prepared to sink all differences in the preservation of those liberties. I am blaming those who talk glibly of democracy but who are wedded to the complete elimination of democracy. They talk with their tongues in their cheeks when they talk of democracy.’
His wit and humour were unsurpassed in the Parliaments of his time which had the creme a la creme of political giants in education, speech and stature, but he outshone them all. I recall two of his more amusing remarks in Parliament. One when the late Stanley Tillekaratne made a remark about a split in the UNP. His quick riposte was that the late Stanley had an advantage in seeing splits at eye level! Again when the late Vivienne Goonewardene spoke on borrowing by his government, he quickly replied, ‘I will never borrow you.’ But in his gentlemanly fashion, soon withdrew the remark. He was a steadfast believer that each one should be honoured according to their own worth; not categorized or penalized because of race or creed.
"His wit and humour were unsurpassed in the Parliaments of his time which had the creme a la creme of political giants in education, speech and stature, but he outshone them all."
He was a liberal democrat in his thinking, always believed in speaking the truth, rather than making false promises, walked the straight path in life and politics, and never inflicted pain on anyone by taking revenge or indulging in violence. He faced betrayal, time and time again, but forgave, although he must have been hurt, he kept his hurt to himself without slandering those who slandered him or were disloyal. He would have been appalled at the slander and abusive behaviour, that has become common practice in that most august assembly of Parliament or outside its hallowed portals, indulged in by politicians today.
Dudley Senanayake was totally against the Presidential system with its unlimited power which has been abused time and time again. In this and so many other views he had, he has proved to be a visionary, ahead of and beyond his time. Those of us who had the privilege of knowing him will never forget him and all he stood for throughout his life. We treasure among our most poignant memories, the precious moments of hearing him speak in Parliament or conversations with him.
‘The characteristic of a great man is his power to leave a lasting impression on people he meets.’