Dudley subject to slander | Daily News
A Kele-Pattara titled, ‘Premier Stakes’:

Dudley subject to slander

Readers generally prefer to share anecdotes on political leaders of yesteryear than listening to sermons by some disgruntled current politicians. Let me share with them a true incident that took place during Dudley Senanayake’s first premiership 66 years ago in 1952, involving him and his contemporary and successor, Sir John Kotalawala.

The former is quite well known for his Statesmanship and great qualities even by today’s younger generations. In fact, they should read more and more about the two Senanayakes, the father DS and son Dudley. The grand old man, the father of the nation was ailing from undisclosed complications during the latter part of 1951. SWRD Bandaranaike, the Leader of the House and second in command of United National Party has left the party and government over personal and policy matters to form his own political movement styled Sri Lanka Freedom Party. Sir John who held the number three position in hierarchy moved up to second in command of the UNP and Government.

In the end of January 1952, the Prime Minister’s health condition declined further. He was diabetic and his heart had been weakened needing hospitalization. The medical team treating DS warned the relatives and his close friends, that he has only a few months to live. His close circle that included the Governor-General decided to make an indirect inquiry about his successor; the Governor volunteered to bell-the-cat. He spoke to DS and skillfully hinted on the topic. From his sick bed, DS said,

“Lionel (Sir John, the second in command) can’t win elections; Dudley can, but he is my son, so I do not wish to talk anymore.”

Prime Minister D. S. Senanayake was then 67 years of age while his son, Dudley, the Minister of Agriculture and the youngest member of the Cabinet was only 41.

A month later he was out of the hospital, and on March 20th morning, as usual, he was taking a ride. The PM suffered a stroke lost control and fell off police mare ‘Chitra’. He was riding with IGP Richard Aluvihare on the Galle Face Green. Don Stephan Senanayake, the first Prime Minister of independent Ceylon, who was born on October 20, 1884, at Botale, a village in Halpitigam Korale, passed away on March 22, 1952, a couple of hours before brain specialist, Sir Hugh Cairns was due to take off at Abington to fly to his bedside. The flight was cancelled.

Shortly after DS Senanayake’s death, unfolding the devious conniving Sir John was ‘knocked-out’ from the ring, and Dudley was sworn in to succeed his father.

A slanderous document labelled ‘Premier Stakes’ was in circulation in the echelons of power immediately after the new Prime Minister, Dudley formed his government in March 1952.

The beginning of the enmity

The Governor-General’s decision to call upon Dudley to take oaths as new PM, raised many eyebrows. This bombshell by Lord Soulbury created an uproar in the governing circles and the UNP. Some suspected it was a conspiracy to deprive the next-in-command Sir John, the premiership. Sir John, a desperate man made several frantic moves to persuade Dudley not to accept it, but the pressure exerted by relatives and senior colleagues including JR Jayewardene was too heavy.

The anonymous kele-pattaraya, ‘Premier Stakes’ was subsequently leaked out. The responsible national newspapers refrained from publishing it as it contained derogatory and defamatory remarks on a few of top leaders, including Dudley. Adding to the chaos, the LSSP’s Tribune, an English tabloid, printed the full script in parts. Sir John being a member of Dudley’s new Cabinet, avoided participating in the storm, and he flew to Canada on ‘official businesses’.

Dudley loyalists pressed for disciplinary action against Sir John, for it became obvious that he was behind this secret move, though they lacked substantial evidence as proof. The PM was halfheartedly compelled to remove his erstwhile pal from the Cabinet; a letter detailing circumstances was delivered to Kotalawala in Ottawa through Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner.

An annoyed Sir John, true to himself, crushed the document in the presence of the HC and retorted, “I say, tell your Prime Minister that his letter found the place it deserves” and threw it into the waste bin and did not even bother to reply.

Sir John later on his return met Dudley and they patched-up, the matter was amicably resolved. Then it was revealed that Sir John hired a ‘scribe’ to ghostwrite ‘The Premier Stakes’ and arranged for its distribution himself.

Dudley dissolved Parliament seeking a fresh mandate from people and won comfortably. He became PM for the second time which tenure lasted little over a year when he volunteered to resign handing over the reins to Sir John.

Attygalle murder a century ago

The long-standing hostility between three families, which fashioned the upper layer of the UNP hierarchy, and politics of the island for over five decades, could be attributed to Mudaliyar D C G Attygalle’s enormous fortune of plantations (over 10,000 acres of coconut and rubber), graphite mines and his three daughters. Each of them was given in marriage with dowries of thousands of acres and shares in Graphite. The Eldest, Ellen to F R Senanayake (Dudley’ uncle), Alice to John Kothalawala Snr. (Sir John’s father), and Lena to T G Jayewardene (JR’s uncle). Kotalawala received 1000 acres less than the other two.

Francis Attygalle, the only brother of Alice, Ellen and Lena was managing the properties; he was the heir apparent to the remaining wealth that included all the mines. The enmity started with the murder of Francis. With his murder, the family fortunes went to the three sisters. -Kumari Jayewardene-2007; ‘Nobodies to Somebodies’- pp:194/288

The Senanayakes endeavoured to bring the murder culprits to book, which finally led to John Kotalawala Snr. (Sir John’s father) being indicted for allegedly planning for the murder of his brother-in-law. Kotalawala Snr, a former police officer hired two men, one a former subordinate in the department, to carry out the meticulously planned murder. John committed suicide in jail during the trial, to be precise on the day one of the accomplices confessed.

Close connections of Kotalawalas, Senanayakes, and Jayewardenes through inter-marriages added to the unfortunate predicament of their politics and personal relations that lasted for generations.

In 1965 when Dudley became Prime Minister for the fourth time, Sir John who had been eyeing the position of Governor-General returned to the island and met Dudley: but Dudley didn’t oblige and that hit the last nail in the coffin.

It’s no secret that Kothalawalas and Jayewardenes had ‘an axe to grind’ with Senanayakes. 


Add new comment