hite is the colour of mourning. It is associated with death and is used predominantly in funerals. In a remarkable co-incidence astrologers had recommended white attire for the Sinhala-Tamil New Year that dawned just hours before the passing away of four times Prime Minister on April 13, 1973.
‘Power has only one duty - to secure the social welfare of the People.’ - Benjamin Disraeli
Unprecedented massive crowds gathered at the old Parliament and Independence Square, a sea of heads from Colombo one to seven was filled with people who thronged to pay homage to this great leader. Dudley was a gentleman in politics and a true democrat. His extreme popularity among the Sri Lankans was revealed in ample measure by the record crowds that thronged to Colombo for his funeral. It was a fitting design for the final going away of an unassuming man who ruled the country not for his personal benefit. Three ‘leaders’ of United National Party who became heads of state during 1953-88, and in the process of attaining the supreme position, they vilified, maligned, and disparaged the son of the ‘Father of Nation’ in a most deplorable manner on different occasions from the day he became PM for the first time in March 1952, until he was ailing at the hospital bed a couple of days prior to his passing away on April 13, 43 years ago.
Dudley was a combination of a Liberal Democrat and a Social Democrat, a firm believer in democratic practices, freedom of expression, respect for human rights and the independence of the Judiciary—he struck upon the idea of reviving the economy by an upsurge in domestic agriculture. He took a keen interest in developing Agricultural Colonisation Schemes started by his father D.S. Senanayake.
His political career spanned nearly five decades, where he gained much experience, as a member of the State Council in 1936 from Dedigama, when he became the first Minister of Agriculture. Later in 1950s he succeeded his illustrious father, as Prime Minister then as leader of the opposition. His political career was a difficult and unpleasant one. The people loved him—he too loved his people and the country. Unfortunately, he had to fight with his own party - UNP stalwarts. In the later stages of his career, some of the leading members of his party filed legal action against the great man. They included very people whom he helped come up to positions, were the ungrateful ones who opposed the kind-hearted leader. As opposition leader, quite frequently he was seen driving his Triumph Herald in and around Colombo visiting friends and relatives.
"As for the UNP, Dudley Senanayake moved swiftly to cut JR down to size” and how M.D. Banda senior member moved a resolution to have JR expelled. JR Jayewardene took Dudley to courts though he had only A.C.S. Hameed on his side in the Working Committee :the other ally, V.A. Sugathadasa, was sick at the time"
“Premier Stakes” – Sir John Kotalawala [PM; 1952-1956] Conspiracy
A slanderous document labelled ‘Premier Stakes’ was doing the rounds in the echelons of power within days of Dudley, the Cambridge qualified Barrister, formed his new government in 1952. This anonymous pamphlet was subsequently leaked out to the press, for “Trine “, an English tabloid published by LSSP to carry it in full. Dudley loyalists were pressurizing him to take disciplinary action against Sir John, for it was obvious that he was behind this canard, compelling the Sportsman politician to seek Sir John’s resignation from the Cabinet. The Governor`s decision to call upon Dudley, 41, to take oaths as new PM, following the tragic death of his father DS in March 1952, raised many eye brows. This surprise move by G-G, Lord Soulbury, led to a brewing of party crises of highest magnitude. Many suspected it was a plot to deprive, the next-in-command and Leader of the House Sir John Kotalawala, the premiership. Newspapers strongly supported Dudley by carrying emotional stories extolling the virtues of the ‘Father of Nation’ claiming that there was none better than his own son to lead the nation at this juncture and that Dudley should place the interests of his country above his own modesty. A desperate Kotalawala made several frenzied moves to convince Dudley not to agree to it; but pressure exerted by family and contemporaries was too heavy.
Dudley took oaths as PM; but he dissolved Parliament to seek a fresh mandate from the people. There had been reconciliation between him and Sir John. In the new cabinet Sir John proved to be a difficult colleague, openly disrespectful to and contemptuous to PM. His habit of putting his legs across the arm of the chair at Cabinet meetings, or turning his back to the PM, embarrassed all his colleagues. Sir John had got a ghost-writer to do his version of how he lost the battle for premiership. There was not the slightest doubt that it was the work of him, that he had released some vital confidential information for doing the pamphlet. Dudley however, was inclined to tolerate his senior colleague and the disgruntled man; though other party seniors and the G-G were not, who insisted stern action taken against Sir John.
JRJ attempts to ‘drive out’ Dudley
1970 defeat convinced Dudley to step aside and allow JR to accept Leader of Opposition and leader of UNP group positions in the House. But two years later the party rank and file were pressurizing Dudley to return to active politics
“...... this larger struggle for reform of the Party was affected by, and in turn affected the deteriorating relationship between JR and Dudley Senanayake. After a wait of nearly 20 years JR was becoming impatient for the leadership. In the last quarter of 1970, the division between JR and the party leader indented because of sharp difference on tactics and strategy on opposition to the government.”—Profs. K M de Silva and Howard Higgins in JRJ Biography: pp- 225 -240.
It further says how Dudley won the majority in the party’s WC as JR continued his new theory, “Constructive Accommodation” with Mrs. Bandaranaike’s UF government. JR did not join Dudley in those public rallies at Kandy, Kegalle etc. He even felt that if Mrs. Bandaranaike invited the UNP to join the government, that the party should do so and even accept portfolios.
The book narrates ; “As for the UNP, Dudley Senanayake moved swiftly to cut JR down to size” and how M.D. Banda senior member moved a resolution to have JR expelled. JR Jayewardene took Dudley to courts though he had only A.C.S. Hameed on his side in the Working Committee :the other ally, V.A. Sugathadasa, was sick at the time. Failing in all his maneuverings, plotting and scheming to disrupt the party progressing under the leadership of Dudley, finally, JR filed action in District Courts of Colombo challenging the authority of his leader—the petition was supported by H W Jayewardene QC [JR’s brother] and four other QCs.
"After a wait of nearly 20 years JR was becoming impatient for the leadership. In the last quarter of 1970, the division between JR and the party leader indented because of sharp difference on tactics and strategy on opposition to the government"
Exchanged letters to humiliate Dudley — R. Premadasa Design
An ‘eye-witness account’ [unpublished] of the last few days of the gentleman politician’s life, was related to me by the nurse assigned by Durdans Hospital to attend to the ailing ex-Prime Minister, in April 1973.
“He never called me nurse or sister, but, ‘P.….’ “(her first name), said the senior nurse, who was engaged to my friend and colleague at the multinational located close to Durdans. She was the regular nurse who attend on him on each occasion, [after the UNP was consigned to the opposition benches winning only eight seats in 1970] when Dudley was rushed there for treatment in the 1971-73 period. Dudley had diverging views with R. Premadasa, one time loyalist who decided to go his own way by forming an agitation group named ‘Colombo Citizens Front’ against his leader and mentor. Premadasa exchanged open letters in print media critical of each other. This happened in the backdrop of Dudley and JR, the leader and deputy ironing out their distrusts. To be fair by Premadasa, he backed Dudley ‘to the hilt’ in this clash of giants.
Reading newspapers was a habit Dudley cultivated—even from the hospital bed ‘like a prayer’ every morning, and in certain instances dictated his replies for the secretary to do the needful. A couple of days prior to his death, Dudley had called for the newspapers, for our smart nurse had prevented the papers reaching him as they carried a vituperative statement issued by R. Premadasa. Sensing what had transpired the insightful politician became a little emotional and pleaded with the lady for several times— he even attempted to convince her assuring, “Premadasa is my pet; …let him say anything, I will not take him seriously…”
The following morning his condition worsened; the statesman Dudley, who took oaths as the Prime Minister for four times, closed his eyes for the last, on 13th April 1973.
"Three ‘leaders’ of United National Party who became heads of state during 1953-88, and in the process of attaining the supreme position, they vilified, maligned, and disparaged the son of the ‘Father of Nation’ in a most deplorable manner"
‘Fathers against sons’ – Dudley the sportsman
Kirthie Abeyesekera writing to Sunday Observer on 22nd April 1973: p-4, says, ‘In April 1963, the man who left no offspring and heir to carry the Senanayake name, played for a ‘Fathers’ Cricket XI. Dudley then Leader of the Opposition took part in a …by St Thomas’ Preparatory, Bandarawela, when the ‘sons’ played against the ‘fathers’ - “I do not know by what stretch of imagination they have included me in this team,” perhaps for the man who captained St Thomas’ in the early thirties, temptation to play the game was too strong to resist, so he accepted the invitation and played. Abeyesekera added, ‘Dudley who declined the captaincy in that match because , “I really have no right to play at all”, played a grand innings, top scoring with 47, in a hectic bowling spell he took 4 wickets for 23 runs.’
In the political game as well the ‘reluctant captain’ was a brilliant all rounder, who honoured the rules to the letter and spirit.