Maithripala Senanayake: Exceptional man | Daily News

Maithripala Senanayake: Exceptional man

The 15th death anniversary of a household name, a statesman and a great personality, never erases from our minds. Maithripala Senanayake's death anniversary is today. He was a perfect gentleman who came from the royal territory of Rajarata and recorded a service of 47 years as Member of Parliament.

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Maithripala Senanayake

Maithripala Senanayake was born on July 17, 1916 in Kivulakada, a village in the Anuradhapura district and had his education at St. Joseph's College, Anuradhapura, St. John's College, Jaffna where he mastered Tamil and at Nalanda College, Colombo. Proficient in three languages, Senanayake joined the government service as a cultivation officer in Anuradhapura in June 1941.

His desire to serve the villagers in the North Central Province led him to resign from his permanent and pensionable government employment at 31 and to engage in active politics. He joined the United National Party and contested the Medawachchiya seat in the general election in 1947 and won the seat defeating three independent candidates with a majority of 1,879 votes. He was re-elected from the same seat with a majority of 6,073 votes and was appointed the Parliamentary Secretary to the Home Affairs Ministry in the Dudley Senanayake government.

In 1953, the then UNP government increased the price of rice and sugar. Senanayake felt the pinch and understood that poor peasants in Rajarata would have to face hardships. Therefore, he decided to resign from the post in protest. He sat as a backbencher and enrolled in the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, led by S W R D Bandaranaike in 1955. He was appointed Transport and Works Minister when Bandaranaike formed his first Cabinet of Ministers in 1956. His appearance in Parliament continued until 1994 and held the post of Governor in the North Central Province in his later years.

It was a turning point for public transportation in 1957 as he introduced the Motor Transport Bill in Parliament to nationalise the passenger transport bus services which were held by the private sector. In the same year, he introduced the Port Cargo Corporation Bill which nationalised cargo handling operations of the Port of Colombo.

He became the Home Affairs, Cultural Affairs and Industries Minister when Sirimavo Bandaranaike came to power in July 1960. He was also the Commerce and Industries Minister in May 1963 and the Rural and Industrial Development Minister in June 1963.

Prime Minister Bandaranaike appointed him as the Leader of the House of Parliament in December 1964. He introduced the Grama Sevaka System abolishing the Village Headman system in 1962. The exercise of the Nationalization of the Petroleum industry, commenced by T B Illangaratne, was completed by Maithripala Senanayake.

The establishment of the Ceylon Steel Corporation, Tyre Corporation, Hardware Corporation, State Engineering Corporation and several other corporations are among his other moves towards bringing prosperity to the country. He also started the Pugoda Textile Mill, which was later shifted to Thulhiriya.

When he was appointed the Irrigation, Power and Highways Minister and the Leader of the House, he paid much attention on the development of the Mahaweli Scheme, commenced by C. P. de Silva.

He wanted the people of Rajarata to be free from hardship as they indeed had to work hard in the fields and chenas. When he started to serve Medawachchiya, there was no hospital and the villages had only two dispensaries. His move to improve standards of hospitals, setting up of senior and junior schools, facilitate them with laboratories and improving irrigation systems paved way to a prosperous Rajarata.

Maithripala Senanayake was a simple, calm and very well-mannered man. He kept the dignity of a politician and set an example to others. He never lost touch of common thought and often moved with the kings.

His contribution to making Rajarata fertile and to bring back the past glory of Rajarata was remarkable. Maithripala Senanayake was one of the exceptional persons which Sri Lanka ever had. 


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