The 111th Birthday of former prime minister Dudley Senanayake was remembered a few days ago. Dudley has been fondly portrayed as a true democrat and man with integrity by many.
Over 40 years after his death, Dudley is still fondly remembered by those who knew him as the “Gentleman Politician”. A simple man, he was often seen driving his own vehicle, or attending to a private errand, without any security personnel accompanying him. In one instance, his personal detail had lost sight of him and later found the Prime Minister, also a passionate photographer, strolling on the Hikkaduwa beach with his camera.
An extrovert among friends and family, he was modest and shy in unfamiliar company. 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 by his private funds.
He was well-read, witty in debate and a great lover of golf and classical music. Rooted with the firm belief that all men were equal, Dudley strongly advocated for amity among all communities and strived to build a “One Country – One Nation” culture.
The Final Days
In 1970, the Government was defeated at the General Election of 1970 and Dudley handed the post of the Leader of the Opposition to J.R. Jayewardene. He suffered a heart attack in early April 1973 and died within two weeks, leaving the nation in a state of deep sorrow.
At the time, he was only a Member of Parliament for the Opposition, yet millions poured in from all over the country to pay their last respects to this great man. An unknown admirer, laid a wreath penned with the question, “O my leader, please answer me. Is it honesty or kindness that is more in thee?” – An acute portrayal of the love and admiration the people had for him.