Today, with the return to democracy, we think back to the greatest liberal democrat of them all, the late Dudley Senanayake. As the anniversary of his birth dawns, it is inevitable that the thoughts of those of us who knew him well, should linger on all that he was and did, during his lifetime. Famed throughout our country and beyond our shores, as one who was far above the usual norm of politicians, a Statesman; who thought of the generations to come, and not of the next election..
All throughout his life, he abhorred violence, lies and deceit, His schooling at S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia, the discipline instilled at home and school, his University life at Cambridge combined with his skills as a sportsman had ingrained in him a respect for law and order, justice, freedom and fair play. Other qualities which shone right through his life were his total loyalty to his party at all times, whether in or out of politics. He was a deeply thoughtful, reflective, contemplative person of unchallenged integrity. His entire life was devoted to fighting for freedom and justice with vigour and determination. The way that people switch parties today, at the drop of a hat would have shocked and displeased him.
As Prime Minister, he bore the mantle at the pinnacle of power with patience, fortitude and grace; leading by example was his motto. All his life, Dudley worked hard to achieve ethnic amity, never thinking of his fellow men in terms of labels and categories; Today’s society epitomises the dishonest, self seeking, snatch and grab ‘winner takes it all’ mentality, which seems to deprive the country of all ethical values. It is filled with divisive labels which seemed to be designed to wound others. Dialogue today, has been replaced by name calling, that is little related to truth. Loose talk and malice in the arena of politics, reduces different issues to slogans and stops us regarding others as worthwhile individuals. Dudley Senanayake always held firm to the belief, that all ethnic groups had similar hopes and dreams. He would have been appalled at the recent attacks on Muslims and their places of worship. He knew that labels and categories often hid the truth, injured, wounded, createed fear and manipulated people.
He did not believe in loose talk that so many politicians indulge in today; words that make us suspicious of other races can create enemies and adversaries, which was why he refrained from such talk all his life. The great statesman that he was, he knew that any label or category that diminishes the worth of another, diminishes the worth of those who use such terms. He was steadfast in his belief that each one should be honoured, according to their own worth, not categorized, penalized or suspected because of their race, creed or class.
He never clung to power, would have hit out strongly, against those defeated at the pinnacle of power, who still hanker after the grandeur of that position. Their selective amnesia, about their record of unprecedented, corruption, abuse of power and extravagance with state funds would have shocked him beyond words. His thinking right through was that of a liberal democrat, and the freedom of the individual, to follow whatever path he believed in.
Dudley was known as a reluctant politician who walked the straight path and never deviated from this route and never used power to inflict pain on anyone.
His wit and humour were unsurpassed in Parliament although his fellow MP’s at the time were some of our political Giants. They were in a class by themselves as speakers, most of them educated at British Universities. Their standards, values and principles were different to what one sees today. The speeches in Parliament in that era were outstanding, the use of language like music in one’s ears, unlike the speech and behaviour, one sees in that most august assembly today. But even in that era of political giants, Dudley was the colossus of his time from every aspect.
He had simple tastes, loved music, reading, photography, driving his little Triumph Herald around, even when he was Prime Minister and relaxing with his miniature daschund at home. His love for food was legendary, he filled a room with is presence, his laughter, geniality and charisma, added to his natural charm, made him the most loved politician of our time. He loved the good things of life and never made a secret of it.
To me, the most important things about him which I believe that all leaders should possess are his unchallenged integrity and his loyalty to his party, through bad and good times, qualities possessed by the present UNP leader too. No allegations of dishonesty ever slurred his name.
His funeral remains today, unprecedented in the vast numbers who mourned his loss. Never in the history of our nation, have we seen, such a mass of humanity, gathered for a single purpose. It was a crowd, that rose above political affiliations.
One and all, the people of Sri Lanka, seemed aware that they had lost a national treasure, and that our weeping nation would never be the same again. He lived all his life in his father’s house, never built mansions or purchased any abroad. I am proud that the UNP leader today, also still lives in the house built for him by his parents and has not amassed wealth.
Integrity is the greatest possession one could have and lives on after death. Dudley Senanayake lives on in the hearts and minds of people because of this and his loyalty to his party. He was alert to the mistakes and consequences of history, believed in a world dedicated to freedom and peaceful co-existence, his life was a mission of goodwill. He was an unstoppable and immovable pillar of democracy.
Sylvia Haik Tuesday, 20 June 2017 22:16
The marked difference between the wonderful politicians of old and today's crop of corrupt ones is that almost every one of them were educated in British Universities. There, they lay great emphasis on inter-personal skills and fair play which are compulsory modules, which everyone should pass whatever course you are studying.
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