100th Birth Anniversary of Dudley Senanayake:
Four times Prime Minister of Sri Lanka
The Sri Lankan Statesman Dudley Shelton Senanayake, whose 100th Birth
Anniversary falls today (19th Sunday 2011)was one of the noblest sons of
Sri Lanka. Born on June 19, 1911 he was brilliant. The quickness of
perception and the way in which he was able to master a subject was
outstanding, and unbelievable.
Dudley Senanayake was the eldest son of the majestic personality late
D.S. Senanayake, the First Prime Minister of Ceylon and Molly
Senanayake. His younger brother was late Robert Senanayake.
But of the two, Dudley was lively, and mischievous as a schoolboy.
Both of them, studied at the leading Anglican school in Sri Lanka S.
Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia where his illustrious father D.S.
Senanayake also studied from 1882 to 1902. All three of them, played
cricket for S.Thomas' College, with distinction. Dudley after a
brilliant all-round performance at S. Thomas' College Mount Lavinia,
proceeded to Corpus Christi College Cambridge University.
After he returned from England, in 1936, he entered politics and was
elected to the state council, to represent Dedigama Constituency. He
became the Minister of Agriculture in Ceylon's first Cabinet.
After Independence in 1947, Dudley Senanayake has been the Prime
Minister four times, a unique record indeed.
In his political career, Spanning nearly seven decades, he gained
much experience, first as a member of the State Council in 1936 from
Dedigama, bubbling with enthusiasm, he became the first Minister of
Agriculture. Later in 1950s he succeeded his illustrious father D.S.
Senanayake, as Prime Minister then a leader of the opposition.
Party coup d'et
His political career was not at all a bed of roses. The people loved
him. He too loved his people and the country. Sometimes, he had to fight
not only against the opposition parties, but with his own party - UNP
stalwarts. In the later stages of his life, some of the leading party
members filed action against the great man. The very people whom he
helped to climb the ladder, were the selfish ones who opposed this
innocent, kind hearted leader.
He took up victory and defeat on his stride. This must be a "Truster
of Training", he gained in the playing fields of the school by the sea,
S. Thomas' College.
This great leader's motto in life was in Defect Defiance, in Victory
- Magnanimity, in Peace - Goodwill. It is a pity that his own 'party
men' - 'party big wigs' opposed him.
He was a fine orator. He was really quick to pounce upon his
opponents weak points. Dudley Senanayake knew the art of setting at the
heart of a debate.
Dudley Senanayake was not self effacing. He always put the country
before self. He was committed for a cause. He was a fine team man.
Unfortunately, when he was the Prime Minister, the 'catchers' and
officers round him to gain their own ends gave probably wrong signals,
figures and took him for a ride.
He was very keen to make Sri Lanka self sufficient in food.
Dudley Senanayake was a towering figure in our political firmament.
He was a man of impeccable integrity. His contribution has been
outstanding. It will be remembered for all time.
It can be matched, maybe someday, I presume, but it cannot be
surpassed. He was conscientious, punctual had enormous reserve of
stamina. These were the lessons probably he learned at S. Thomas'
College, Mount Lavinia.
Another great quality of Dudley Senanayake was that even after a
powerful speech against the Opposition in Parliament, he would cross the
floor, embrace N.M., Colvin, Pieter, shake hands with each other. He was
so friendly. They respected each other's views, even if they disagreed.
In the good old days, they maintained the highest discipline in the
august assembly. It was a treat to listen to these great leaders. It was
Dudley Senanayake never misused his charismatic personality to
mislead the general public. He had an infectious laugh, and was witty.
He was a superb orator, his sweet tones were fluent, lucid and
Dudley Senanayake was a friend of all communities, and a devout
Buddhist who respected all religions. He was modest and unassuming.
One day, in the morning, while he was driving his 'Triumph Herald' he
was copped' at Castle Street for speeding. He was on his way for Golf at
The police constable was so excited to see the Prime Minister at the
wheel. The police constable apologised to the PM. Dudley praised the
police constable in carrying out his official duty to the letter.
He said sorry to the constable and remarked that in future he will
not repeat this mistake. This was his noble character.
The economic freedom was the bed-rock of political liberty. One is
not possible without the other. Dudley Senanayake strove hard to achieve
The greatest talent a politician can have is the ability to convey
sincerity. Dudley Senanayake was an exemplary politician who was
sincere. Politicians should be servants of the people, and not the other
way about. Dudley Senanayake was a servant of the people. He possessed
all these great qualities. Further, he was a polished speaker, a good
debater, and a successful orator. Dudley, in his speeches never attacked
an individual personally using slang or undemocratic language.
Dudley Senanayake was one of the significant political leaders of the
20th century. His greatest strength was his sincerity and personal
charm, that made him to make valuable connections with other political
leaders that he came into contact with.
When Sirimavo Bandaranaike was the Prime Minister, she consulted
Dudley Senanayake who was the leader of the Opposition at that time in
important state matters.
Those were the days, the leaders of two major parties SLFP and UNP
were able to get together and help resolve difficult problems amicably.
Both father and son, played in Royal Thomian Big Matches. In 1902,
Rt. Hon. D.S Senanayake, kept wickets and as a batsman and scored a
'golden pair of specs.'
Dudley Senanayake played for S. Thomas' in 1927, 1928, 1929 jubilee
match in the Royal-Thomian, and scored 48, 25-6, 32-14, respectively. He
moulded his character, personality in the playing fields of S. Thomas'
College. He was a fine boxer too. In short, Dudley Senanayake was a
complete student at S. Thomas' and at Cambridge University as an
undergraduate. He was always, a simple and unassuming man. He always
respected the verdict of the people. He possessed a golden heart.
Dudley, a man of higher honesty and integrity did not enter politics
to earn a quick buck. He sacrificed his wealth for the sake of the
people. They say, that when he died, in his Savings pass book there was
only a balance of less than Rs. 500.
I presume this as a strong message for the present day politicians
and their kith and kin.
Dudley loved photography, wild life, and cricket and Golf. He was an
ornament in Sri Lanka politics.
The warden of S. Thomas' College Warden Buck, (1896-1901) once
expressed his sentiments thus:
You belong to one of the best schools in the world, a school with a
tradition. Be proud to be a Thomiam. Make the College proud of numbering
you among its sons. Remember, whatever you do and wherever you go, your
life and your actions will reflect either credit or discredit on the
College where you were trained and to which you owe so much. You have
learned the best lesson in the world at S.Thomas' College. I trust not
only English, Classics, and Mathematics, but true manliness and Truth,
Courage, Purity and all those things that make a man and gentleman. Try
never to forget them. Be men and gentlemen always.
The distinguished Thomian Prime Minister Dudley Shelton Senanayake
who brought credit and honour, as a man and gentleman fill into this
bill fully and completely.
This great son of Sri Lanka passed away 13th April 1973.