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Dudley Senanayake’s 45th death anniversary

A true Liberal Democrat

Players were allowed to go home for snacks during a cricket match. Once Dudley was at home during a cricket match. He was bleeding from the nose. Father DS, a cricketer himself who played for the same school S. Thomas’ ignored the minor tragedy and asked the son,

‘How much did you score?’

‘Fifty two’

‘Out for Fifty two?’

‘No, retired hurt, a ball hit my nose.’

‘You see…, a retired hurt batsman can go and bat later in the innings’

Basic treatment with Ice for his bleeding nose, and an aspirin for relief from pain; followed by a quick lunch, he was asked to go back and complete his century. Dudley was back at the crease at the fall of next wicket. Upon his return to pavilion with a century against his name on the board, the batsman was greeted by the doctor who the father had sent to attend on son’s bleeding nose: but, the million dollar question is, was DS successful in his effort to inspire the son with the idea of ‘spirit and bravery’? However, they knew the rules; and played by the rules.

Both Dudley, and his brother Robert followed the father DS in captaining S. Thomas’ College at cricket. Dudley shined in athletics, football, boxing, and hockey. He won the popular Victoria Gold Medal awarded to the Best All-Round Boy also became its Head Prefect.

Dudley’s four times as PM: Incomparable

What is significant is not how many times Dudley became the Prime Minister, but the number of times he was elected by the people as the Head of State, and not just a powerless PM or power shared with one above him, but as the leader of nation. In that sense Dudley Senanayake is incomparable; he never pleaded for leadership, and never intended to consolidate his place in the party through manipulations, but was chosen unanimously. In 1952, he was chosen over the more senior members to be the Prime Minister. It happened after the premature tragic death of father DS Senanayake. But he was not pleased; the staunch liberal democrat, Dudley dissolved Parliament and left the fate of the nation and the UNP in the hands of the people, who overwhelmingly elected him to lead the nation.

Father’s training

D. S. Senanayake used to put his two sons Dudley and Robert, 13 and 11, on their horse, and tied the pedals to the saddle. Dudley nervously held on to the saddle. DS, the newly elected member representing Negombo in the Legislative Council (1924) would whip the horse on its’ rear. Fear of a fall compelled little Dudley to maintain his balance; a lesson, ‘if you were scared, you would never learn to ride a horse’. They say DS met with his death from a fall from his mount … at Galle Face Green; but the truth is that DS who is ‘no mean horseman’, that he suffered a heart attack and fell off [medical team attended on him a few months before accurately predicted his fate]. Did the ‘riding lessons’ made any good to our mild mannered, emotional and sensitive leader? Did he ever become an excellent horsemen? The unconventional horse riding lessons as a child and motivating young cricketer to go for a century disregarding a broken nose, however, had little effect in his initial years as PM.

HARTAL –‘Shoot-at-sight order’ and resignation

In July 1953, a mass workers rally was held by the Marxists parties to protest against moves by JRJ, the Finance Minister in Dudley’s government to cut back the rice subsidy in full, [25 cts to 70 cts a measure] a legacy of World War II, which the people considered their birthright. Young Marxist firebrands made provocative speeches at a rally held in the city to disapprove the move. The crowds ran riot creating an uproar compelling police to baton charge and tear gas to disperse the unruly crowds. As tension grew among masses, the LSSP and Communist Party leaders saw an opportunity; they called for a Hartal on August 12. The ‘Hartal’ turned out to be a ferocious mass uprising. At the height of the chaos and confusion, a panicked Cabinet led by Dudley withdrew to a British Warship docked in the Colombo port along with officials, from where the government functioned.

Curfew was imposed under Martial Law and orders issued to shoot at sight. The rioting men and women in many areas stood disobedient; the Police had to open fire causing nine deaths. Dudley Senanayake was singled out in attack by the opposition and he had to countenance by himself on most of criticism, he even collapsed inside the chamber under stress and nervousness. Subsequently he had to be flown to London for treatment, but never recovered from shock, and on his return, this timid and hesitant man taught a lesson by example to all politicians by resigning on his own as Prime Minister and as the leader of United National Party and from politics altogether. He abdicated the ‘throne’ and the party leadership to the disappointment of masses and of party supporters. After bidding good bye to politics he led a spiritual life sans politics for four years where he was actively involved in spreading Buddhism in Germany. Witnessing the UNP’s disaster under Sir John Kotalawala at the 1956 general elections, and with the party and general public demanding his return, Dudley was forced to re-enter politics in 1957. Dudley Senanayake was installed back in leadership position by the senior members, rank and file and masses. ‘A retired hurt batsmen can go and bat later in the innings’.

Dudley-Chelva Pact of 1965

The most valuable piece of agreements Dudley Senanayake signed with the moderate Tamil leadership in 1965, [leader of the Federal Party, SJV Chelvanayagam] is commonly known as the above agreement—it addressed several key recognition and concessions for the Tamil speaking minorities which included devolution, language, and land matters. It was an arrangement that could have re-enfranchised the Tamil-speaking citizens and sealed a permanent solution to ethnic disharmony. However, his failure to rally sufficient backing for it within the Sinhalese community in the South had disastrous consequences. Had it been put into action five decades ago, it is quite possible that Sri Lanka would have been a dynamic, well-off, peaceful nation. This document illustrated Dudley’s idea and insight to recognize what was desirable to arrive at an accommodation with the smaller groups that is divided on the basis of language.

The massive crowds congregated at the Old Parliament and Independence Square was unprecedented in the history. Creating a sea of heads, it was filled with people who thronged to pay homage to their loving leader. The writer joined the queue at Thunmulla a couple of days before the funeral and was able to pay last respects only around seven O’clock in the following morning at Woodlands. Dudley, a man of integrity was a true Liberal Democrat. It was a fitting grand funeral for an unassuming man who engaged in politics not for his or for his kith and kin’s but for the benefit of poor masses.

All three ‘leaders’ of his United National Party who ruled from 1953 to 1993, belongs to the ---- long list of opponents who vilified, maligned, and criticized the son of the ‘Father of Nation’ in most appalling manner on different circumstances. These unreasonable insults and allegations, aiming to harm his reputation started from the day Dudley became Prime Minister for the first time in March 1952, and lasted until the last few days when he was ailing at Durdans hospital preceding his departure on April 13, 1973—exactly 45 years ago.

 


 

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