The Sri Lankan Statesman Dudley Shelton Senanayake, whose 107th Birth Anniversary falls on Tuesday, June 19, 2018 was one of the noblest sons of the soil. He was born in the village of Bo-thale, the meaning of which is the village of the Bo-Sapling, in Mirigama in the Gampaha District.
Born on June 19, 1911, he was a brilliant, genuine and compassionate character. Incidentally June 19, 1911 was also a Poson Poya day, the day that the land owned by the Senanayake family was ceremonially offered to the village temple.
Dudley, was the eldest son of the majestic personality “Father of the Nation” late D.S. Senanayake, the First Prime Minister of Ceylon and Molly Senanayake. His younger brother was late Robert Senanayake. But of the two, Dudley was lively, and much active as a schoolboy. Both of them, studied at S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, the leading Anglican school in Sri Lanka where his illustrious father DS Senanayake had also studied from 1882 to 1902. All three of them, played cricket for S.Thomas’ College, with distinction. Dudley became the Head Prefect, captained the college team at cricket at the Royal-Thomian encounter and gained colours in Hockey, Boxing, and Athletics. He then went on to Cambridge, Coerpus Christi College to read for Natural Sciences and later was admitted to Middle Temple as a Barrister.
The most admirable thing was the quickness of perception and the way in which he was able to master a subject was outstanding, and unbelievable. After returning to Ceylon, Dudley was elected to the vacant seat of Dedigama as a member of the State Council while his father was Minister of Agriculture and served as a backbencher for 10 years. He succeeded his father as Minister of Agriculture in 1946 and held the post after Independence. He was still serving as agriculture minister when his father died unexpectedly. Four days later, on March 26, 1952, to the surprise of many, Dudley was chosen as Prime Minister by the Governor General Lord Soulbury over his cousin Sir John Kotelawala.
He called a general election, which the UNP won. The government became unpopular a year later, in 1953, when the price of rice was raised and subsidies were cut. Though the UNP remained in power, Dudley resigned as Prime Minister during the hartal 1953 and left politics. This shows his kindness and sympathetic mentality and feeling towards issues related to ordinary public.
Anyone who knew late Dudley, was aware that he was a true liberal democrat, who chose only the democratic way to gain power through free and fair elections
He returned to politics in 1957 when the UNP lost elections. In March 1960, the UNP managed to form a government after elections and Dudley became the Prime Minister again, but the coalition fragmented and he resigned after only four months in office after fresh elections were held in which the UNP had won fewer seats. He became the Leader of the opposition and helped force early elections in 1965 by persuading 14 supporters of Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike to defeat.
The Gal-Oya scheme, the country’s first multi-purpose project for the transition to mechanized agriculture, was Dudley’s brainchild. His unchallenged integrity ensured that there were absolutely no allegations of corruption leveled at him. Gal-oya flowed where it had to flow and not into private companies. One recalls his simplicity today, when even as Prime Minister, he would drive his little Triumph Herald. The scenario today, with an elephantine sized cabinet, has several vehicles and security accompanying the occupants and their families. Dudley had a great sense of vision and mission and shunned pomp and pageantry. He was never guilty of double standards in any situation.
His transparent honesty of purpose and high honour was always maintained in the rich tapestry of his life. A modest man and a gentleman to his fingertips, he was an accomplished parliamentarian; his interventions in debate were always studied and polished. The great man who was elected by the people taught another great lesson to all politicians by resigning from the post of Prime Minister, the leadership of the UNP and politics altogether.
Every time he came to power, his priority and commitment was to uplift Agriculture as he believed it gives fundamental development drive
Dudley Senanayake served his longest term as prime minister from March 1965 to May 1970. His government originally consisted of six other parties and included both Tamil and Sinhalese nationalists. His government has been credited with restoring the Sri Lankan economy. He and his allies were defeated in the 1970 elections. He remained active in politics until his death, which occurred after a brief illness on April 13, 1973.
In every time he came to power, his priority and main commitment was to uplift Agriculture as he believed that the agriculture gives fundamental development drive for a country like Sri Lanka. He was a firm believer in democratic practices, free and fair elections, freedom of expression, respect for human rights and the independence of the Judiciary etc. In terms of economic policy, he believed in growth but not at the expense of social justice. He believed that if the poor are to participate in development, they have to be strengthened first - the landless had to be given land and government assistance to become independent. Dudley was almost helpless as the main lifeline of the country the plantations were in serious decline.
Then he struck upon the idea of reviving the economy by an upsurge in domestic agriculture. Agricultural colonization schemes were DS Senanayeke’s pet projects. The cultivator’s Premier Dudley revived that interest in domestic agriculture with the inauguration of the food production drive and the ‘green revolution’. He met with unexpected success in this regard and it can safely be said that Dudley Senanayake’s food production drive in the late sixties was the most successful medium term economic plan ever to be implemented in this country. Rice production alone doubled in just four years. Like his father, Dudley believed that the Nation’s well being is linked to food security, and he travelled the length and breadth of Sri Lanka to provide the proper impetus to agriculture. Mahaweli diversion was a massive irrigation feat inaugurated during his time by laying foundation to the Polgolla reservoir. But before its completion his Government was defeated at the 1970 elections.
Anyone who knew or worked with the late Dudley, was aware that he was a true liberal democrat, who would never tread any other path than that of the democratic way, through free and fair elections to gain power. He never made false promises to gain power, and was known to always speak the truth. He was a man above all others, in every sense of the term. Both he and his father, the late DS Senanayake, the father of the Nation, have always stood for an united country, where all our citizens are treated as equal citizens, irrespective of community. This is what the very name of the United National Party stands for. Sometime ago, TULF Parliamentarian V. Anandasangaree said at a meeting that the country wouldn’t have faced all the problems that we had, if DS’ and Dudley’s policies had been followed to the letter. Dudley was an avowed believer that public funds should not be utilized for the private use of a public official. Throughout his tenure as Prime Minister, he resided at his private residence and insisted that all expenses incurred in his private residence must be financed by his private funds. As Prime Minister, he once travelled to the United States and to the United Kingdom for medical reasons but that all expenses that incurred were met by him and the expenses of the doctors who accompanied him were met through his private funds – Prime Minister’s Secretary, Bradman Weerakoon highlighted this and it is something that is unheard today.
Dudley Senanayake was a devout Buddhist, but one who believed that everyone should have the right to practise the religion of his choice in peace and absolute freedom. That is true tolerance as preached by Gautama Buddha, which seems absent today. At the time of his death, his personal bank account showed a balance of only a few hundred rupees. The great man who was elected by the people taught another great lesson to all politicians by resigning from the post of Prime Minister, the leadership of the UNP and politics altogether.
When he 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. Hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life started pouring into Colombo to pay their last respects to this great man. It was remarkable indeed that the people had sunk party differences to honour a great leader....Dudley Senanayake, who was arguably the foremost democratic leader this country had produced since Independence.
May he attain supreme bliss of Nibbana.
June 19, 2018, marks the 107th Birth Anniversary of Late Premier Dudley Shelton Senanayake. His name is carved with pride in the heart of Mother Lanka, as the “Bath Dun Piya” and was an illustrious democrat who held the office of the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, on four occasions.
- He treated everyone as his own Kith and Kin
- During his reign there was no religious or communal violence
- His food drive campaign was highly commendable
- His honesty, integrity and kindness remain unquestionable till this moment
- He was an example to all the leaders through his impeccable leadership qualities
Following the footsteps of his renowned father DS, the “Father of the Nation” Dudley took immense pain and interest to develop Agriculture. His food drive campaign was so successful that the Country becomes almost self sufficient in Paddy Production during his time. His honesty, integrity and kindness remain unquestionable.
He treated all the people as his own Kith and Kin. During his reign there was no religious or communal violence. Being a friendly leader he was the pioneer to offer an ‘Open Invitation’, to the general public to join the New Year feast at the Temple Trees.
Among those who responded to the invitation was a helpless couple, trying to save the life of their sick child. Having listened to desperate parents the Prime Minister gave immediate orders to the bureaucratic officers,“Break any law and to take any risk to save a human life”. Which deadlock was the Blood Bank, at the time did not release blood to the private hospital where the child was critically serious. Similarly in another instance Prime Minister’s Secretary, was reluctant to release an efficient officer who sought retirement from the service. One day, during the absence of the Secretary, the officer managed to place his grievances before the Prime Minister. He had also mentioned that constitutionally he was entitled for his request. Then the premier endorsed, “If the Constitution allows his retirement let him retire”.
Being a friendly leader he was the pioneer to offer an ‘Open Invitation’, to the general public to join the New Year feast at the Temple Trees
As a teenager, this writer often accompanied his father who was an ardent UNPer, and attended the functions where the Leader was present. It is worthwhile to recall a few incidents which demonstrate Dudley Senanayake’s par excellent qualities.
Once he participated at a religious ceremony held at the Rajasinghe Library in Kandy. At the time he was politically defeated I witnessed him arriving in his grand Pontiac car. Then he climbed up the large number of steps barefooted.
Once when Dudley went to the Mahiyangana area, during the final rounds of his election campaign, then the only place available for him have his mid day meal was the Rest House, near Minipe. The so-called political Authority of Kandy District (Minipe Kotiya), at that time played a dirty trick. In order to pressurize Dudley’s campaign, he booked the Rest House it in the guise of a private function on that day.
During the days the communication system was very poor. The organizers immediately deployed a motor cyclist to convey a message to the well-known businessman James Appuhamy that the leader and his group would come there for lunch that day.
During lunch, a confidante of the leader, Late Newton Dias, had noticed the leader was so fond of eating“Papadam”. Afterwards Newton had remarked “Sir, I thought your favourite curry was “Moringa” but now I realize you like papadam too”. Then the cat came out of the bag, the leader did not know that the lunch arrangement was made in advance and he had thought to save food for the large unexpected group who had come with him. Accordingly he told Newton Dias, that “when you eat “Papadam” the stomach gets full.” Dudley Senanayake, never thought of himself but was always very concerned about the welfare of the others.
This writer was beside the leader when he made his last address to the people of Kandy on February 4, 1973. It was just two months prior to his death. Addressing the historic mass rally held at the Bogambara esplanade, he requested the people to raise their hands and pledge their support to save the Democracy of this Country.
Alas, today the Democracy in the land has been hijacked by the so-called trade unionists and even by Medical practitioners who are supposed to be rendering a Nobel profession. Democracy is for the people, by the people and to the people, as President Abraham Lincoln said.
Therefore on an occasion as today it is high time for the Government to accelerate law and order. Especially, the President may take stern action to control saboteur mockeries in order to safeguard Democratic rights of the masses. Our constitution sanctions such emergency actions as welfare measures for the Democratic Society.
May Mother Lanka, be blessed with sons of the calibre of the late Dudley Senanayake.