D. S. Senanayake – the Father of the Nation | Sunday Observer

D. S. Senanayake – the Father of the Nation

2 February, 2020
D.S. Senanayake
D.S. Senanayake

Don Stephen Senanayake or DS as he is popularly known was the first Prime Minister of Independent Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was known then). He is also known as the ‘Father of the Nation’. This great politician was born on October 20, 1884. His parents were Mudaliyar Don Spater Senanayake and Dona Catherina Elizabeth Perera Gunasekera Senanayake. He had two elder brothers, F.R. and D.C. and an older sister, Maria Frances. Their ancestral home was Bothale Walauwe in the Dedigama distrct.

As a child D.S. Senanayake was not very interested in his studies but was a keen sportsman who was excellent at boxing, wrestling and weight lifting.

For his primary education D.S. Senanyake was sent to S. Thomas' College then located at Mutuwal, (now in Mount Lavinia). And he loved his alma mater (school) and helped S. Thomas' College very much. He was a true blue, black and blue Thomian.

A Warden of St. Thomas', Rev. R.S. de Saram once said this of D.S. Senananayake “He gave the school many generous gifts from time to time, in his quiet unostentatious way, but his greatest gifts were the loyalty and affection he showered on her and the man he was. He was proud of us and we were proud of him. He stood for all that we regard as truly Thomian.”

First Ceylon Independence Ceremony, Colombo, February 10, 1948.

After leaving school D.S. Senanayake’s father, Don Spater, who recognised his talents got him admitted to the Government Farm School in Gannoruwa.

After getting his basic training at the farm school D.S got involved in his family’s business which included rubber and graphite mining.

He loved working on the land and was known as a 'true son of the soil.'

Along with father Don Spater and brothers FR and DC, DS got involved in the Temperance Movement in Mirigama.

DS along with elder brother F.R., Sir D. B. Jayatilleke, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, T. B. Jayah, E. W. Perera and many others fought to gain Sri Lanka independence. He was at the forefront of the battle.

In 1915 Sinhala-Muslim riots broke out in Gampola and spread to other parts of the island.

The then British Government ruling Sri Lanka arrested D.S. and some other leaders accusing them of being involved in the riots. They were later released as there was no evidence against them.

D.S. Senanayake entered the National Legislative Council in 1924 and when the reforms recommended by the Donoughmore Commission was put in place and the State Council was established, he became the Minister of Lands and Agriculture in 1931. He held this post for 15 years.

He was responsible for irrigating and colonising (bringing people from other parts of the country and settling them in these new areas ) many areas in the dry zone.

Gal Oya (present Ampara district), Minneriya, Hingurakkgoda, Bakamuna, Kalawewa and Minipe were some of these projects.

The United National Party was started by D. S. Senanayake and other political leaders of the time on September 6th 1946. He was chosen as the leader of the newly established party.

DS inaugurated the United National Party (UNP) on September 6, 1946 with other political leaders.

He became the first Prime Minister of Ceylon after the country won Independence from the British. This was on September 24, 1947.

His speech at the first Independence Day in 1948 was broadcast nationwide.

He married Molly Dunuwille in 1910 and they had two sons, Dudley Shelton and Robert Parakrama.

Following in his father’s footsteps Dudley Senanayake also became a Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. He held this off ice thrice.

D.S. Senanyake was a keen rider of horses and met with his death on March 22 , 1952 when he fell from the horse he was riding on Galle Face after suffering a stroke. The mare named Chithra belonged to the Sri Lankan Mounted Police.

D.S. Senanayake’s elder son, Dudley Shelton Senanayake became Prime Minister after him.