By W. Vishnu Gupta –
There may be a handful of Sri Lankan political leaders who deserved to be addressed with the title Honourable. Immediately three individuals should come to the minds of those who have knowledge of the era from 1950 to 1970. They are Don Stephen Senanayake, Dudley Shelton Senanayake and Sir John Lionel Kotelawala. They deserve to be addressed as Hon. D.S. Senanayake, Hon. Dudley Senanayake, and Hon. Sir John Kotelawala. I came to this conclusion based on personal experiences, acquaintances, professional relationships, living memories and my observations on the political landscape of Sri Lanka. Some readers may disagree with this interpretation due to their various disagreements, encounters and experiences, it is their prerogative. According to what is chronicled Hon. D.S. Senanayake, a seasoned horseman suddenly fell off the saddle of his favorite horse in the Galle Face Green on the morning of 21st March 1952 and died a day later. Apparently, he has suffered a heart attack, but my mind has been dogged since the time I took an interest in reading the important events of Sri Lankan politics. However, this unfortunate incident signalled the onset of darkest history of our beloved country.
A country which was a paradise when I was born has become a beggar bowl of the community of nations. Two armed uprisings, the first one led by a segment of disillusioned rural Sinhalese youth in 1971 and the other by a similar group of Tamil youths in early 1980s. A war of nearly thirty years has killed many thousands of men, women, and children of Mother Lanka, many were maimed, it displaced several thousands making them homeless, finally it destroyed the fabric of livelihood of many more our brothers and sisters. The bleakest period seems to be unending, afflicted by Covid-19 pandemic and the economic mismanagement, our leaders are begging around the world to save our nation. The recent engagements with Chinese, Indians, Americans, Russians, Japanese and Bangladeshis demonstrates that our politicians have turned our paradise into a beggar bowl within a span of seventy years.
Origin of Dirty Politics and Corruption
With the departure of colonial supremacy there were a few politicians vying to be the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, obviously Hon. D.S. Senanayake was the most prominent and respectable choice of the people. However, there were others contemplating to be the Prime Minister either by hook or crook namely, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and J.R. Jayewardene. These two deceptive politicians laid the foundation to turn our paradise into a beggar bowl of the world. Above all, these two men were the fathers of partisan politics and the corrupt political establishment that prevails in the country today.
Apples do not fall far from the tree. Those who originated from the trees of SWRDB and JRJ cannot be wholesome, honest or decorous. All politicians in Sri Lanka today are the victims of the ploys hatched by SWRDB and JRJ, they are entrapped unwittingly. Though little is understood by the active politicians, undeniably, the SLFP and SLPP are the offshoots of Sinhala Maha Sabah, the brainchild of SWRDB. Likewise, deforestation, sale of national assets, slavery, skimming wealth from most sectors of the country’s economy, dictatorial powers bestowed on leaders and subverting the election processes based on truly democratic norms are the hallmarks of JRJ school of thoughts.
Gentlemen of Politics
Neither Honorable Senanakes, nor Hon. Sir John Kotelawala subscribed to the chicanery politics of SWRDB and JRJ. None of these great politicians mislead the majority Sinhala Buddhists for political gains. Some may find fault with the citizenship act of 1948 introduced by Hon. D.S. Senanayake which denied citizenship for nearly 700000, mostly illegal South Indians who crossed Palk strait day and night in improvised dinghies (Kalla Thonis). The truth is that the Tamil politicians, and the Sinhala leftist parties scuttled the implementation of this Act. Subsequently, the weakness of Sirima-Sasthri agreement enabled more than 90 percent of those illegal immigrants to circumvent the law and remained in Sri Lanka.
With the untimely demise of Hon. D.S.Senanayake, according to the seniority ranks of the party , Hon. Sir. John Kotalawela should have been chosen as the second Prime Minister. However, to the surprise of many Hon. Dudley Senanayake was appointed as Prime Minister by the Governor-General Lord Soulbury in 1952. It is believed that Hon. Sir John Kotelawala was furious, and it is justifiable, but he was strictly a gentleman and therefore, he did not revolt to undercut the authority of his cousin Hon. Dudley Senanayake. A lesson to be learned by those hankering for power.
During his political career of 37-years, Hon. Dudley Senanayake was appointed Prime minister of Ceylon for a total of four times. The first in March 1952, following the death of his father. Then in May of the same year, when he won the parliamentary elections, once more in March of 1960 and finally in 1965, for a full term of five years.
One of his courageous acts was to give the language of the minority Tamil community official status in Tamil speaking areas despite complains within his own party. He remained resolute and declared,
“I will not barter the rights of any community for the glory of political office”. What a beautiful statement of a real statesman who devoted his life to uplift the living standards of every citizen of the nation irrespective of demographic differences. He was a visionary. During his third term as prime minister, he initiated the plan for the most ambitious irrigation and agrarian project undertaken in Sri Lanka; the Mahaweli Development Program which must be acknowledge as one of the mammoth projects that led to self sufficiency in rice. Also, he is credited with the expansion of the tourism industry with the establishment of Ceylon Tourist Board under the Ceylon Tourist Board Act 10 of 1966 and the establishment of the Ceylon Hotels Corporation under the Ceylon Corporation Act of 1966.
Throughout his tenure as Prime Minister, he stood against public funds being utilized for the private use of a public official, residing at his private residence, and financing all expenses incurred through his private funds. What a contrast to the conduct of present political leadership which has bartered the rights of Sinhala Buddhists community to gain political office. My friend Keerthi Abeysekera once wrote in the Sunday Observer April 22,1973 about the ‘Fathers ‘Cricket X1 vs ‘Sons’ Cricket X1 match played at the St Thomas Preparatory, Bandarawela. Hon. Dudley Senanayake played in the game brilliantly; top scorer and took 4 wickets for 23 runs but he declined the captaincy of the team claiming that he has no right to be the captain of the team. Keerthi concluded, “In the political game as well, the ‘reluctant captain’ was a brilliant all-rounder who honoured rules to the letter and spirit.’ What a great assessment, Hon. Dudley Senanayake observed, adhered, and honored all the rules of democracy to the letter and spirit.
Country needs a Sweet Prince
Hon. Senanayakes were from a devout Buddhist family. Hence every Buddhist must be reminded of the karmic cycle, which clearly explains that every action, positive or negative will have an equal reaction on your own self and the family. Also, under the Theravada traditions, Buddhists must observe “Upekkha” (equanimity) strictly, meaning the stability in the face of the fluctuations of worldly fortune. “It is evenness of mind, unshakeable freedom of mind, a state of inner equipoise that cannot be upset by gain and loss, honor and dishonor, praise and blame, pleasure and pain.” These are the traits; the people must expect from the political leaders branding themselves as Buddhists before the elections. If a Buddhist believe in Karmic Cycle, he or she must think twice before engaging in corrupt practices and swindling the nation’s assets because they must believe in re-birth and none of the ill-gotten wealth will be accompanying them to the next life.
The lives and conduct of Hon. Senanayakes prove they were true Buddhists and believe Karmic life and observe everything knowingly or unknowingly with Upekkha. So, it is possible that Hon. Senanayakes are living among us in their subsequent births perhaps as human beings or other living beings. Hon. D.S. Senanayake passed away 69 years ago and his son Hon. Dudley Senanayake 48 years ago, judging by their actions and conduct as Honorable political leaders they must be reaping incredibly positive rewards wherever they are in samsara; endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Hon. Dudley Senanayake was admitted to a private hospital in Colombo – 3 on 6th of April with a heart ailment, as I remember, his condition got worsened gradually and passed away exactly after seven days just before the dawn of the Sinhala and Tamil new year on the April 13th, 1973. The astrologers have recommended months before April 1973, white as the auspices colour of the dress for the festivities in the new year ahead. Was it a coincidence or a good omen?
Nevertheless, irrespective of the religious beliefs, the country needs a visionary leader very badly to finish the job started by Late Honorable Senanayakes. We must collectively pray that the paradise of our ancestors will be returned to our children and grand children by honorable men like Senanayakes soon. In the funeral ceremony of Hon. Dudley Senanayake at Independence Square, J.R Jayewardene, the snooty politician delivered a great eulogy and concluded it saying, “Good Night Sweet Prince”. Absolutely, he was a sweet prince, and the Sri Lankans are yearning for the return of a prince like him.