S. Thomas' College Old Boys' Forum  

Go Back   S. Thomas' College Old Boys' Forum > Stories from the past

Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 14-12-12, 07:11 PM
sriyanjay sriyanjay is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 1,673
Default 128TH Birth Anniversary of D. S. Senanayake

‘Jungle John’ was a political Colossus
128TH Birth Anniversary of D. S. Senanayake

October 20, 2012, 5:06 pm

by K. K. S. Perera

John Seymour, author of, ‘Hard way to India’, writing to ‘Ceylon Observer’ on March 24, 1952, two days after the first Prime Minister of Ceylon, suffered a stroke and fell off police mare ‘Chitra’ on Galle Face, says,

"The Prime Minister very amusingly told me, how he had made a train trip to Batticaloa, many years ago as Minister of Agriculture (under Donoughmore constitution, in 1930’s) and how the train had stopped at a siding in the jungles of Minneriya. He had got down wandered off into the jungle and came across by accident the Minneriya tank, abandoned for centuries. The farmer in him had been struck immediately. He had returned to Colombo, determined to push the government to commence restoration of the tank and resettlement of dry zone."

DS foresaw future growth when he undertook development of dry zone commencing with Minneriya. He came from a village which had a sort of sturdy peasants. He started schemes to exploit the resources of Minneriya, Kalaweva, Topaweva, Giritale and Balalu weva. However he would be remembered for Gal-Oya, which was designed for better exploitation of 250,000 acres of irrigable and high land. The scheme was named after him. That his dream was right, nobody now dare deny though he had many critics then.

DS, the Boxer and Cricketer at St Thomas’, was nick-named ‘Jungle John’ not because of his craze for trekking jungle paths of the dry zone looking for lands, but for his dislike to conventional book-education in school. His academic qualifications would not have made him a junior public servant, but reading books is not the only way of learning. DS acquired knowledge by meeting people, observing them, doing things and managing, rather than in reading about things in books. He had the sort of wisdom that books cannot instruct. His aim was to relieve the pressure of densely populated South and he believed that it was far better for a man to spend his life growing rice, like his ancestors had done, rather than spent his days selling cups of tea in a little boutique.

DS was a man to inspire devotion; one could see people of much greater sophistication and with a higher IQ willingly following him: knowing that his particular brand of balanced judgment and commonsense was what needed for running a country like Ceylon in the mid nineteenth century.

DS’s patriotism was exhibited in no uncertain terms in a serious issue that arose with British authorities in 1949 when they tried to impose authority over small Ceylon, a signatory to the ‘Sterling Assets Agreement’ and attempted to manipulate our healthy dollar Reserves. It was in early 1949, the Commonwealth’s economic situation was in dire straits; JR the finance minister and his adviser John Exter, (later the first governor of the Central Bank), led a delegation to a Finance Minister’s Conference summoned by them. DS was anxious to keep Ceylon’s dollar earnings as our foreign exchange. JR sought the PM’s advice on what they were to do if the British government refused their request. DS replied;

"We are an independent nation. Our dollar earnings are our own...., if we are not allowed to act independently then obviously we must leave the ‘Sterling Area...’, the UK government cannot oppose this. So go ahead and tell them you will leave unless you are permitted to keep your country’s earnings" - (JRJ speech, president. Arch. File 195 a).

DS was imprisoned in 1915 by the British rulers during the communal riots, along with his two older brothers FR, DC and a host of freedom fighters, and faced the prospect of execution. The suspicion arose over his involvement in the Temperance movement with his brothers. In a strange turn of events all three of them played an active role in anti-arrack campaign in spite of the fact that their father, Don Spater Senanayake, built his empire re-investing profits earned from graphite mining in the arrack and toll renting trade.

In his statement to the authorities, after the arrest, young DS who was just 30-years, said,

"..., A town guard came to my residence around 5.30 am along with two armed Punjabi soldiers, woke me up and without allowing me to go to the toilet,.., took me to Welikade prison and put me in a cell where I had no place to sit. We were in solitary imprisonment with no one to talk to, a servant pushed some food in an unclean tin plate. I stayed hungry for two days...., I was charged for instigating riots, there was no evidence to prove the charge..."

In early January, 1952, the PM’s health condition deteriorated. He was diabetic; his heart had been weakened, and he was hospitalized. A specialist flown from UK confirmed that his heart had weakened to the point where a total collapse and death was inevitable within three months. His close circle of friends, that included Esmond Wickremasinghe, Governor General Lord Soulbury and Dr Goonewardene, thought it was necessary to get to know his views on who will succeed him. This they did without leaving any room for him to suspect that his end was near. DS was to say 10 days before his death.

"Lionel (Sir John, the second in command) can’t win elections; Dudley can, but he is my son, so I do not wish to talk."

DS, who played in the Royal-Thomian big match in the year 1902, was seen at the Oval not only watching his Alma Mater beating Royal, after a lapse of seven years, but joining some old Thomians in singing the chorus of Esto Perpetua, some days before his death.

A little known story of DS, the schoolboy, is one AS told by the late Rev, J S H Edirisinghe, one of his teachers at St Thomas’. When DS became a minister, the old master wrote congratulating his pupil. The reply was that, "if that pupil had learnt a tenth of all the master had laboured to knock into his head, I should today be a better minister".

Probably that master had a unique way of ‘knocking things into the head’ of this pupil.

Reply With Quote

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump

All times are GMT +6. The time now is 06:40 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.7.3
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Website copyright 2011 - Ozlanka