|Thursday, 8 August 2002|
81st Birth Anniversary of E.L. Senanayake : 'E.L.' the veteran politician of the hills
by M. B. Dassanayake
E. L. Senanayake's 81st Birth Anniversary falls today (8) Affectionately known as 'E.L.' his unique record of public service is by itself a definite and substantial contribution to the country's forward march.
The third son of the late philanthropist Gate Mudaliyar James Senanayake, he was educated at Trinity College, Kandy where after a brilliant school career he joined the then University College and followed an Honours Degree Course in Economics.
At the age of 23, he entered the Kandy Municipal Council being the youngest Municipal Councillor elected that day. E.L. addressed himself to his duties wholeheartedly as a city father. It was an opportune moment when the country was going through a period of transition from colonial dependence to self-governing status. He came in contact with the late Honourable D. S. Senanayake, His Excellencies the late J. R. Jayewardene and R. Premadasa and above all the dynamic George E. de Silva and recognised him as his 'political guru'.
Inspired by such leadership (E.L.) forged ahead and with his tireless enthusiasm and painstaking energy together with his gifts of head and heart he began a career inseparable with the city's progress and development.
Recognition came in his wake and in 1945 he was elected Deputy Mayor. In 1950 at the age of 29 he was elected Mayor and thereafter on five occasions, four times uncontested, he was elected as Mayor for an aggregate period of fourteen years - a classic record in the annals of local government in South-East Asia.
On 25th January, 1967, the then Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake declared open the E. L. Senanayake Childrens Park in recognition of the wide and varied services rendered to the city by Mayor E. L. Senanayake.
The park situated in an exquisite setting on the upper reaches of the Kandy Lake was described in the newspapers as the 'brightest spot in Kandy' and a 'masterpiece of landscaping'. During his Mayoralty, the Kandy Water Scheme which had been a vexed problem for over 40 years was finally solved and the present water scheme was inaugurated on the occasion of the Kandy Municipal Council's centenary celebrations in 1966. He designed and built the Kandy Central Market by obtaining funds from the late Prime Minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, one of whose last acts, prior to his untimely death was to declare open the building.
It is, however, in the political field we see E. L. Senanayake in his full stature as a political leader. 'E.L.' was one of the founder members of the United National Party and throughout its varied fortunes - in victory and in defeat, has been unflinchingly loyal and dedicated to the party ideals and leadership. Under his own leadership the party has dominated the Kandy Municipal Council ever since and in the larger sphere, except on the occasion of the political landslide in 1956 'E.L.' himself was defeated. He holds the distinction of being elected to the same Constituency, Kandy (now 'Mahanuwara') on six occasions.
As Minister of Health in the Dudley Senanayake government and Minister of Agricultural Development and Research he has rendered invaluable service, effecting radical reforms in health, medical and sanitary services and also in the sphere of agriculture.
As Speaker, which was the unanimous choice of the Parliament, E.L. Senanayake's experience of a period of over 51 years have found their best expression and fulfilment. He had the good fortune and the distinguished honour of welcoming the Queen of England as the first citizen of Kandy. During his Mayoralty with the assistance of his colleagues in Council and with the co-operation of the staff he was able to implement several schemes for the development of the city of Kandy. The D. S. Senanayake Memorial Library which has proved to be a boon to the University Students, school children and the members of the public of Kandy was designed and built by him from public donations.
During the fourteen years of Mayoralty he was able to complete a net-work of roads nearly twenty miles in extent in the city of Kandy, opening up of rural areas as residential districts. He was able to complete a net-work of Free Ayurvedic Dispensaries for the benefit of the people when originally there was one Free Ayurvedic Dispensary within the Kandy Municipal Limits. A net-work of Free Reading Rooms and playgrounds were provided by him to cover practically every Ward of the Municipality.
In the wider sphere of parliamentary responsibility Mr. Senanayake has done his best to fulfil the needs and requirements of his constituents. In every school in his electorate he has provided additional buildings and extensions wherever necessary. He has provided electricity to the entire rural area outside the Municipal Limits of Kandy and also a pipe-borne water supply. He established Weaving Centres which provide much needed employment for the young girls after leaving school.
Mr. Senanayake was appointed as Minister of Health in the Dudley Senanayake Government and he was entrusted with this portfolio at a time when malaria epidemic was raging throughout the island. The first assignment given by the then Prime Minister late Dudley Senanayake was to adopt immediate and effective measures to bring the situation under control and eradicate the disease before it effected the Food Production Drive which was then in full swing. He undertook this heavy responsibility in all earnestness and was able to get the World Health Organisation and other organisations of the countries abroad and the epidemic was soon brought under control and the Food Production Drive which was so vital to the nation's economy was saved.
Within the few months of his appointment as Minister of Health he launched a campaign for providing free rice for the sick who were inmates of hospitals. A contribution of Rs. 50,000 was donated for this purpose by the people of Kandy at the inauguration of the venture in Kandy. The country as a body, irrespective of political affiliations understood the meritorious character of his mission launched by him and every village, hamlet and town made contributions of rice or there equivalent in money steadily streamed into the neighbouring hospitals and maternity homes. Nearly eighty percent of the rice provided for the inmates of the hospitals and maternity homes came from voluntary organisations and philanthropists.
He was also in the forefront in organising a Free Blood Donation Drive and this was a success. As a result of his campaign almost eight percent of the blood administered to patients in hospitals and other institutions were provided by free blood donors. This was a very successful scheme and was a very popular feature. The Kandy Hospital received his foremost attention. Plans and designs were prepared under his instructions and monies amounting to Rupees 3.5 million was provided by him to construct a four storeyed building. This was to house the O.P.D., Administration Block and various other Surgical, Medical and other Clinics.
The foundation was laid in 1970 by the then Prime Minister late Dudley Senanayake. At this function this writer who was the Senior Member of the Kandy Hospital Advisory Committee made the welcome address and Deshabandu Dr. Nihal Karunaratne who was the Chairman proposed the vote of thanks.
The United States of America gifted one million five hundred rupees for the construction of an Orthopaedic Workshop for the Kandy Hospital at his request to provide limbs for the physically handicapped. A sum of Rupees One Lakh Thirteen Thousand was received as a donation from the proceeds of the Industrial and Agricultural Exhibition held in Kandy in 1969 was set apart for the construction of a Children's Hospital in Kandy. Several Rural Hospitals, Children's Wards, Maternity Homes, Dental Clinics, Water Schemes and Sewarage Schemes were started and completed during his period.
The Base Hospitals in Warakapola, Kegalle, Mahiyangana, Maskeliya and Kankasanthurai were built at a cost of Thirty Million Rupees by him. The Cardiology Unit in Colombo was built at his request out of contributions generously given by some of the leading businessmen of Colombo. This is the only Cardiology Unit in Sri Lanka and it has been fully equipped with modern units and installations.
The Staff including the Specialists have been trained abroad. A team of Specialists from abroad who had inspected this Unit had proclaimed that this is one of the best units of this nature in the world. For the upliftment of Ayurvedha he introduced several schemes. Action was taken to preserve old ola prescriptions, Ayurvedic Hospitals were built in various parts of the Island.
Mr. Senanayake strengthened the medical personnel in provincial hospitals. The services of medical specialists were made available in these hospitals. There was an adequate supply of medicines and drugs and other essential equipment in all the hospitals and maternity homes and other Institutions. He recruited all the medical graduates who passed out from the Campuses of the University of Sri Lanka to the Department and made best use of their knowledge. He was able to check that brain-drain at that time by arriving at mutual agreements and settlements and by allowing their reasonable requests.
Their grievances were personally looked into. The valuable services of these officers and other personnel of the Ministry and the Department were made available to the motherland as far as possible. There were no strikes in the Department of Health Services. Apart from these Mr. Senanayake had the opportunity and privilege of attending the General Assembly Meeting of the United Nations Organisations held at new York in 1965 and he was the representative of Sri Lanka.
A great heart, a strong mind, imbued with a will to serve his people 'E.L.' inspired confidence amongst those with whom he lived and moved and the grateful citizens of Sri Lanka looked up to him as their leader.
Produced by Lake House