The Rt. Hon. D. S. SENANAYAKE, PM
A Broadcast Address by the Rev. Canon R. S. De Saram
I have been asked to say a few words to you about the late Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake, our beloved Prime Minister, and count it a great privilege to do so.
As a schoolmaster talking to school children perhaps it would be nice for me to be able to say that when at school he was a model pupil, brilliant, industrious, always first in his class. Alas ! it wasn't so. He was often third in his class. This was one of his best stories about himself. His father asked him what his place in class was and he said third. The old gentleman was very pleased and gave him five rupees. The next week he was third again and his father thought that was quite good and gave him another five rupees. But when the following week he was third again, enquires were made and it was discovered that there were only three boys in the class.
No, he didn't shine in the class - room but he made his mark in the school all the same. Everybody liked him. He was one of the strongest if not the strongest boy in the school. He played in the First Eleven at Cricket. He was a School Prefect. He entered with zest into the life of the school showing that same true modesty and sense of humour about himself that were such endearing characteristics of his throughout his life ; and he showed too, in those early years that though infinitely good humoured and free from vanity he was not to be trifled with. If roused he could be a very formidable person.
When he left school he went off to his father's estate near Mirigama on a salary, I believe, of Rs. 30/- a month. He made a good job of the estate ; and he often spoke of those days as amongst the happiest of his life. Certainly they were valuable years. Here he developed his love and knowledge of agriculture ; here in the simplicities of life in the country he acquired that understanding and sympathy with the common man which were his great gift. He was always at home amongst his people and they were at home with him. He never had any eloquence but what he said was of the soil, racy and went straight to the heart of the ordinary man. He was in fact himself an ordinary man - his was an ordinariness raised to the point of genius. He put himself side by side with people, not above them. It was they who lifted him up and put him above themselves as their leader. He never sought leadership. It came to him. He was not personally ambitious. That was his strength. He said - and he meant it - that his longing was for a life on the land, looking after his estates, breeding his cattle and his goats and his poultry. It was this patent lack of personal ambition that most recommended him to our people and won their confidence. This was the kind of leader they wanted.
He thought of himself as an ordinary man amongst ordinary men - that was the most extraordinary thing about him. All his rise to eminence, all his meetings with the great ones of the earth, all his world - wide fame, made not the slightest difference. Everyone else looked upon him with admiration but he was quite unconscious of his greatness. It could be said of him with perfect truth that he walked with kings, yet did not lose the common touch. He could talk with any man and not make the other feel small. There was true greatness.
He took the ordinary mans' virtues and combined them and raised them to the pitch of genius. He cared for the simple things. He loved his home ; he loved children ; he cared for friendship, loyalty, fair play. He grew old in years but remained young in spirit. There was always a boyish gaiety and evil - may careness about him. He loved a good joke. He retained to the last the enthusiastic spirit of the young. There was nothing grudging or petty about him. He loved to see a thing well done either at work or at play and greeted it with generous praise.
He was quite fearless. He was always taking risks. Those around him were always trying to restrain him from some new adventure. Perhaps so old a man should not have been out riding on Galle Face Green last Friday morning - but then, you see, he would not have been D. S. Senanayake. And his courage was not merely physical. It took a brave man to face the difficulties he had to face in the last fifteen years. But he was always one -
Who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
Never doubted clouds would break,
Never dreamed though right were worsted wrong would triumph,
Held we fall to rise, are baffied to fight better,
Sleep to wake.
He passed no examinations and gained no degree. But he had a fine, honest and incisive mind. It was quite amazing to see how he got to the heart of any question he was considering. Nothing half - thought - out would satisfy him. He pegged away till he had stripped away all unessentials. He never pretended that he understood a thing when he didn't. He just shook his head and went at it again till he did. You could never get past him with bluff. Those who tried it went away wishing they hadn't.
He worked immensely hard. He went to bed late and woke at about half past four every morning. All the papers that were needed for a day's work in Parliament were carefully looked through and mastered. He was not a ready speaker but he knew his stuff and his shrewd native wit and his honesty of mind made him more that a match for his opponents in debate.
He worked immensely hard but never gave you the impression if you had to see him that he was too busy to attend to you. Far from it. He gave you his full attention and never hurried you off. There was a marvellous courtesy about him.
The papers have been full of tributes to him. I think one of the trust and most penetrating came from a writer in one of the English papers who referred to Mr. Senanayake as the Abraham Lincoln of the East. That was an apt comparison. The two men were in many ways much alike. There were in both the same homeliness, the same sincerity, the same simplicity and directness, the same honesty of mind and shrewdness of judgment. He gave the same impression o'summing up and expressing all that was best in the national character. He had the same breadth of outlook. He stood for a united Ceylon as firmly as Lincoln stood for a united America. It was Lincoln who said 'with malice towards none, with charity towards all, with firmness in the right . . . let us strive on to finish the work we are in'. Those words are very descriptive of Mr. Senanayake.
What was his greatest work? We all know the great work he did as Minister of Agriculture ; how he has made rice to grow and men to live where a few years ago the jungle and the wild elephants reigned. This was brought home to me very vividly only a few months ago. Twenty years ago there was only a jungle track from Pollonaruwa to Mannampitiya. There is a road now and when I was on it a few months ago it was so thick with people at Polonnaruwa that the driver had to get into first gear as we went through. We might have been in the Pettah. Here was a busy township in the making where less than twenty years ago there had been nothing but jungle. That state of things has been happening all over Ceylon and one of the happiest recollections of him is to call up his face full of joy as he visited one of these places and saw healthy and prosperous families where formerly there had been none.
And then there was all that he did to win for Ceylon her Independence ; that patience and doggedness and skill and courage with which he strove for this.
But his greatest gift to his country was the ideal he set before us of an united Ceylon, a land in which all communities would sink their differences and be an united nation, where every man would have fair play whatever his community or creed. He was a great lover of his country and his people - and his people were all those who regarded Ceylon as their home. There was no bitterness or narrowness in his nationalism. If we can follow him in this it will be the best way in which we can honour him. This is what stood nearest his heart - that we should be a united people. If, now that he has gone, we forget what he worked so hard for and if communal and religious hatred and strife shall arise in our land then we shall have failed him and shall be the poorer and the unhappier for doing so.
He was a great lover of his home. May it be some comfort to the members of his family to know that the whole country is sorrowing with them. In every home in this land we feel that we have lost a friend deeply loved, deeply revered.
And the good wishes and prayers of all of us go out to his successor that he, so young, may be enabled to carry on and continue the work so nobly done by his father over so many years.