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Tribute to Desamanya E.L. Senanayake

It was on January 29 Year 2000 that Desamanya E.L. Senanayake passed away after five decades of active and eventful political activity in the service of the public. Endowed with wealth and family prestige, his father Mudliyar James Senanayake had several tea estates, business establishments and half the Kotugodella Vidiya.

After his London University studies he was elected to the Municipal Council to represent the Lewella Ward in 1943 which he won successively for more than 25 years until he changed the Ward. In 1943 A.S. Karunaratne, an eminent lawyer of Kandy became the Mayor and E.L. Senanayake, the new member at the age of 23 followed the guidance of the mayor who instilled in him the quintessence of municipal politics. He was elected deputy mayor in 1946 and in 1950 became the mayor, supported by stalwarts such as A.S. Karunaratne, ex-mayor, A.C.L. Ratwatte, Fred E. de Silva, Sir Bennet Soysa, N. Wimalasena all ex-mayors and H.A.C. Wickremaratne, doyen of the councillors.

In those days there were no political party rivalries and the most eminent person was selected mayor. It was during Mr. Senanayake's mayoralty that he selected a renowned engineer Charlie Fonseka as Municipal Works Engineer and one of his biggest tasks, was the opening of the Halloluwa tunnel, built during the governorship of Sir Edward Barnes, 1828, closed in 1894 and re-opened after 56 years, without any foreign aid, expertise or advice.

The opening of this tunnel provided opportunities to the people of Kandy to purchase land in a wilderness area Anniewatte, Riverdale and Bahirawakande region for residential purposes.

A salient feature of his municipal administration of Kandy was, that he selected the best officers to man the departments-all male officers from Kandy and its environs who performed their duties with devotion and dedication.

In the religious and social sphere, his entry began with his election as the, Founder, Secretary of the Kandy Buddhist Association on January 29, 1945, 60 years ago founded by Sir Arthur Wijeyawardena, Dutch Bhikkhu Dhammapala, Mayor A.S. Karunaratne and Srimath William Gopallawa, Municipal Commissioner and several distinguished persons of that era.

It is a significant and historic coincidence that the son of E.L. Senanayake, ex-mayor, Kesara Senanayake, present Mayor and Srimath William Gopallawa's son Monty Gopallawa, Governor of the Central Province, have honoured their parents, their filial completion of paternal hopes after 54 years in the service of Kandy city.

As Minister of Agriculture he took a great interest in the Eastern Province. Deegavapi Prathisanskarana Sabhawa was established under his chairmanship, by Act No. 18 of 1980. He was an active participant of the Mahiyangana Dagaba Restoration Committee. The Mahiyangana Chaitiya Wardene and Restoration of Mahiyangana Dagaba with Sir Bennet Soysa, ex-mayor as chairman and late D.B. Welagedera, Hony. Treasurer fulfilled a sacerdotal task in the completion.

Desamanya E.L. Senanayake's services to Kandy city embraced all spheres of activity, in the provision of the Technical College building, his gifts of the Seethawaka School building at Peradeniya Road, and Children's Library building. In his municipal administration, the selection of officers was monitored by him so much that his main vision was to glorify Kandy city.

Although he was of a different persuasion, his cordiality with late Premier S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike from his university student days as an Assistant Secretary of the Political Union was much commented on.

He remained friendly with E.L. and many years later as Prime Minister supplied the funds to build the Kandy Central Market. Mr. Senanayake had no political bias or prejudice in the administration of the city and even supplied and replenished funds from his personal money to pay wages and salaries to the municipal staff when municipal funds were in deficit.

He launched Kandy Esala Perahera carnivals to raise funds to build the municipal - D.S. Senanayake Free Library, with the help of municipal employees who offered free and voluntary service, with no claims for overtime.

He inculcated and instilled in the employees the feeling that Kandy city belonged to them, as "My City". It is pleasant to recall the assistance given to loyal employees of the council.

He promoted the election of three members as councillors, two of them becoming deputy mayors in subsequent years.

From the time Sir Cuda Ratwatte became Kandy's first mayor, Kandy city produced able persons as mayors and councillors having imbibed inspiration from Mr. Senanayake. And it could be said that Desamanya E.L. Senanayake enhanced its prestige, dignity and grandeur to qualify Kandy as the Heritage City of Sri Lanka.

May his journey in Sansara come to an end ere long.

- Cecil Jayasinghe

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