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29th Death Anniversary of Hon. Dudley Senanayake

by M. B. Dassanayake - Daily News Saturday April 13, 2002

"Dudley" the second Prime Minister of Sri Lanka died on April 12, 1975, after a brief illness and was laid to rest on April 21, 1973. Dudley Senanayake was a man for all seasons, even homage to him like reminds us sadly that we ourselves are a Nation only seasonally; always in the winter of some personal tragedy.

On April 12, 1973, we lost a great leader, guide and philosopher. During the long years I knew him, I found him a fully integrated personality. There was no conflict in his spiritual and political values.

History stands between man and oblivion. And history is no cold marble slab carved with fine, decorative lettering. It lives and moves. History is composed as much by what a leader had given to his people as what the generation make of what is given. In the end, all our greatest leaders have stood for few essential things, although each one of them may have emphasised one at the expense of the other, although each left the struggle unfinished.

Dudley Senanayake, by the light of his own political vision, stood for the unity of this country, for an open society and for the economic emancipation. No monument to him can possibly be finer or more enduring than our own renewed dedication to these ideals.

Those who knew him to be a deeply religious man. Certainly, not in the conventional manner. He died without achieving one purpose in his life. His desire was to retire from politics and enter the Sangha.

As a child he had his religious training under the great scholar Palane Sir Vajiragnana Nayake Thera. In latter life he had read widely books on Buddhism and Buddhist Philosophy. On one occasion he had shocked Kalukondayawe Pannasekera Maha Nayake Thera.

The two of them were returning from a ceremony at a Buddhist Temple and on the way they had entered into a discourse of Buddhism. On a later date the Nayake Thera had told a friend of 'Dudley', "If Dudley Hamu goes on like this, we of the Buddhist Clergy may have to stop giving sermons, I am amazed at his knowledge of Buddhism and Buddhist Philosophy".

He was a reluctant politician; therefore a most forceful one. He did not seek office, fame or popularity. These things pursued him.

After the death of his father, Right Honourable D. S. Senanayake, the first Prime Minister of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, at the age of 41, when he became Prime Minister, in fact, it was thrust on him. He named others for the office but it was the Government Parliamentary Group that demanded his choice.

When he retired from politics in 1953 and absorbed himself in the Temperance Movement again it was the Party that sought his leadership. He had no false airs. There was a simplicity and modesty which endeared him to us. Late in the evening wearing a sarong and a banian when he lounged in the small office-room upstairs at 'Woodlands' that was the greatest moment in his life. Thence he was at ease, whether he was discussing a complex, political problem or just gossiping.

He liked golf, he liked his food, he liked the company of his friends, all these things he enjoyed with zest.

Perhaps the years he enjoyed most were the years out of office. His camera and his car were his fondest worldly goods, but in office his leisure loving man worked like a precision machine. There was no day he worked less than 12 hours. Often his schedule extended to 16 - 18 hours.

Whatever he did he was a dedicated man. There was one thing that he would not forgive - not keeping appointments. He timed everything, his day as well as the nation's economic endeavour.That is how within three years he succeeded in raising Sri Lanka's self-sufficiency in rice from 40 to 75 percent.In 1961 after the land-slide victory by the 'Mahajana Eksath Peramuna the Kandy Municipal Council Elections were held and I was nominated by him to contest the 'Deiyannewela Ward' against an M.E.P., stalwart in late Mr. T. B. Tennekoon, who was the Minister of Social Services, and the sitting Member for well over 20 years. He was an intimate friend of mine and a person who was respected by the rural masses as he moved freely with them. There were five candidates but Mr. Tennekoon won comfortably.

Soon after Elections I wrote to Mr. senanayake and pointed out the difficulties I faced due to the misdeeds of some of the candidates and he replied by letter dated 3rd March, 1961, stating - "I am sorry to hear about some of the misdeeds of some of the candidates and about the difficulties you suffered, but I am however, encouraged by the fact that you have not lost your faith in the Party. Please remember that we deal with human beings, and as such, they have their weaknesses. In all Parties we find individuals with these human weaknesses. Whilst trying our utmost to correct these we have in certain circumstances in the greater interests to try to put up with some of these weaknesses. I thank you for bringing these matters to my notice. He possessed these human and straightforward qualities which the present day politician do not possess.

The lasting monument to him would be Gal Oya Scheme. I have heard from Mr. Senanayake that when the blue-prints were presented to him the American Engineers had told him that there was a thousand and one risk regarding the height of the dam."Do not take the risk, raise the dam", he said. It did not take thousand years. But for his foresight, in the unprecedented floods of 1958, the dam would have been washed away bringing disaster to a greater part of the Eastern Province.

If Gal Oya Valley today produces a quarter of Sri Lanka's rice his dream was to, in the great tradition of Mahasen, Parakramabahu and other great Sinhala Kings, to make Sri Lanka self-sufficient in food.

He was denied this opportunity by his defeat in 1970. But he lived to see his polices vindicated. His very opponents were forced to accept his policies. The Mahaweli Project, World Bank Aid - these things, decried a few years ago, are acclaimed today.

If I was a devoted follower of him, it was not blind faith that made me tread his trail. In politics he was a pragmatist. While he abhorred the concentration of wealth in a few individuals he equally refused to contribute to theories of regimentation. With his associates and friends he discussed matters. He listened to them, he debated, and therefore, at the end the convictions were our own.

He was shy, sensitive but a proud man. The whole nation knows how he carried himself with dignity and majesty. Most of us are still benumbed by the shock of his death. The way he died - the design was certainly not a human creation. He passed away bothering none. The nation was on holiday. The greater part of the nation had with his free measure of rice, the Sinhalese New Year's first meal - on April 12, 1973, the day this patriot passed away.

Mr. Senanayake's death, coinciding as it did with the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and with Easter, saw a vast mass of our people dressed in a common colour, in the simple, immaculate and neutral white. This immense concourse and its countenance have provoked various portentous speculations ranging from, it seems to us, the weird, the fancifully far fetched and the downrightsilly.

Not all the tears which were shed when he died nor all the hymns and hosannas that were recited are of much used to him and to us unless we pluck from his own life, from the nettle of things said, done and half-done, of achievements and failures, some flower, some meaning, something which can endure


Dudley Senanayake - Lanka Chronicle