The Thirteenth of April would mark the 43rd year since the passing away of a truly great son of our country, one whom we can be truly proud of; every politician should read his life story and the speeches he made in Parliament, for they would not only be inspired but would also benefit them immensely, for he was worthy of emulation.
radman Weerakoon who served as official Secretary when Dudley was Prime Minister, says this of him in the Preface to the book “Dudley Senanayake, a Biography”, “His kind of politics transcended party, ethnicity, religion, language, class or caste, up-country, low country differences, or any of the many identities which divide our people….” To cite but one instance from his political life; the colonial government had at one time imprisoned Dr. NM and Phillip Gunawardena and he took it upon himself to criticize the Governor for his act, in the National Assembly itself, though NM and Phillip were from the Opposition; he always stood for Justice, Democracy, Fair play and the Rule of Law.
Yes on the 13th of this month it would be 40 years since he passed away, and how he was respected and loved by the people could be gauged from the fact that almost a million people from the four corners of Sri Lanka, from all walks of life, came to Colombo to wish him good-bye, at a time when he was not holding any office. He was indeed a role model and politicians of today should read his life story and his speeches for they, as I stated earlier, would not only be inspired but would learn a lot. I had the great privilege of knowing him and had indeed the privilege of being associated with his memorable food drive, for I was myself associated with paddy cultivation, that was when he really put our ‘Goviya’ on the map.
I believe his first love was Agriculture; he was Minister of Agriculture in the first government of Prime Minister D.S Senanayake and what he achieved must be recalled, for it is little known among the people now. It was he that initiated the policy of giving land to the poorest of the poor, he also provided them with the necessary facilities to engage in the production of paddy/rice and other food crops. It was he who had first advocated a guaranteed price for paddy and the establishment of the necessary organizations (Agricultural Produce and Sales Societies) by the Marketing Department and the Ministry of Trade and Commerce. This paddy marketing system was subsequently improved upon by Phillip Gunawardena and TB Illangaratne, who were ministers in their time.
"The Tamil leaders at the time wanted a Federal form of government but he was for a Unitary State; Dudley was a friend of all communities and was committed to the concept of ‘One Country One Nation’"
Perhaps the greatest achievement of Dudley Senanayake, as the first Minister of Agriculture of the post Independence government, was the inauguration of the Gal-Oya scheme in 1948. The volume of water in the Gal-Oya Reservoir exceeded the volume of water in all the reservoirs in the country. Dudley was responsible for both the Gal-Oya and the Walawe irrigation schemes which have contributed immensely to the development of our country. Over 30,000 families had been settled under these two schemes alone. Dudley was also responsible for the Padaviya and Kanadarawa projects and a number of other irrigation schemes. The food drive, which I made reference to earlier, was not confined to paddy production but extended to other crops as well and the farming community of our land benefited immensely from Dudley’s initiatives.
I wish now to address another important issue, namely the Tamil issue and how he viewed it; The Tamil leaders at the time wanted a Federal form of government but he was for a Unitary State; Dudley was a friend of all communities and was committed to the concept of ‘One Country One Nation’. The Tamil parties also wanted the government to stop the settlement of people from outside the Province in the new areas that had been opened up under the Gal Oya and other new irrigation schemes, this too was rejected by Dudley. The Tamil political parties also wanted all Tamils of Indian origin to be granted citizenship, which was rejected by Dudley; On the language issue he always advocated that it should be above party politics, he always called for a bipartisan approach and said that the issue should be taken out of politics and settled through a round table conference of all those with interests. Incidentally Dudley stated that S.W,R.D Bandaranaike had also made the same appeal and stated that it must be resolved soonest as it was ‘DYNAMITE’! sadly he too failed. Dudley always considered the Tamil people as being “our people” and was prepared to treat them as equal citizens and to have the rights of other citizens in the country, but the Federalists queered the pitch by making unacceptable demands for political reasons.
"Perhaps the greatest achievement of Dudley Senanayake, as the first Minister of Agriculture of the post Independence government, was the inauguration of the Gal-Oya scheme in 1948. The volume of water in the Gal-Oya Reservoir exceeded the volume of water in all the reservoirs in the country"
With regards to the question of Stateless Tamils of Indian origin, it may be pertinent to recall that the Colonial Government offered citizenship under the Donoughmore Constitution to Indian nationals who had lived in the country for more than five years, this opportunity was made available for sixteen long years but only two hundred (yes 200) availed themselves of the offer. In 1931 after Universal Franchise was granted and more than half the adult Indian population was able to vote (as British subjects); In the election to the State Council that followed, the Kandyan Sinhalese had no representation in 13 electorates in the hill country; hence it was that, after Independence one of the first acts of Prime Minister D.S Senanayake was to introduce the Citizenship Bill in August 1948 which denied Indian Tamils their citizenship in our country.
May Dudley Senanayake be remembered in the history of our country as one of the greatest leaders we were privileged to have. I wish to conclude this Appreciation with a quote from Bradman Weerakoon’s preface, which I have referred to earlier, he quotes from a poem by Gilbert Holland which he states reflects the spirit of this great son of Lanka:
“A time like this demands
Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands
Men whom the lust of office does not kill Men whom the spoils of office cannot buy Men who possess opinions and a will Men who love honour, men who cannot lie.”