When Stanley Senanayake, the 10th Inspector General of the Sri Lanka Police stood together with Maj. Gen. Sepala Attygalle, Admiral Basil Gunasekera and Air Marshal Rohan Amarasekere on the podium behind then Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike on ceremonial occasions, they formed an impressive foursome. The four service chiefs, all six-footers in their ceremonial garb cut an imposing picture.
Stanley Senanayake was IGP for eight years, and perhaps held the post longest since Sir Herbert Dowbiggin, who became IGP at the age of 35. The handsome, tall swimmer of repute was a star from the time he joined the Police Service straight from the University as a Probationary ASP in 1943. Stanley married Maya Kularatne, the beautiful daughter of P. de. S. Kularatne, former principal of Ananda and Dharmaraja in 1948 and the couple were soon considered the handsomest couple in town. After stints as ASP in Ratnapura, Kegalle, Matale and Kurunegala, Stanley hit the limelight when he succeeded Sydney de Zoysa as Director of the Police Training School, Kalutara. He then moved to the coveted post of SP Colombo. It is here that he fell into a whirlpool of dramatic events, not of his own making.
|Officer and gentleman: Stanley Senanayake
S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, shortly after becoming Prime Minister in 1956, wanted to remove the then IGP, Osmund de Silva who, in keeping with the high traditions maintained by the Police, had declined to do the Prime Minister’s bidding. There was a huge outcry from the public, particularly the Buddhist Sangha on the grounds that Osmund was the first ever Buddhist to become IGP. But SWRD was adamant. To overcome the protests by Buddhist monks, the Prime Minister picked as his new IGP a civil servant who was a Buddhist, M.W.F. Abeykoon. This was the beginning of political interference with the Police.
Senior Police Officers met in conference to decide what to do. They considered the first option: the entire Executive Corps should resign en masse. They decided against it because it would cause the entire police service to collapse. Next they surveyed the Executive Corps for the most senior officer among them who was a Buddhist. The only officer they could find was the young SP, Stanley Senanayake. The senior officers resolved that they would make representations to the Prime Minister that they were prepared to work under Stanley Senanayake who was junior to all of them rather than having to work under an outsider who knew nothing of the police. They decided to urge the PM to appoint Stanley Senanayake as IGP to succeed Osmund de Silva. Such was the dedication and loyalty of the top brass of the Police to the service at that time.
They met the PM in delegation - Probationary ASP Rudra Rajasingham, the junior-most officer in this delegation. But SWRD brushed aside these representations and appointed his nominee. He ultimately paid with his life for his folly. Not only he, his wife too nearly paid the price in 1962 when the civilian IGP was found playing bridge at the Orient Club on that fateful night blissfully ignorant of the coup d’état to overthrow the government that was about to be launched!
their daughter too paid a similar price under an IGP of her choice over the heads of five seniors, all competent men. She survived losing only an eye.
Stanley Senanayake found himself drawn into this coup d’état of January1962 when some of the key senior Police Officers who planned the coup insisted that Stanley should join them mainly because he was SP Colombo. Stanley became distraught, torn between loyalty to his country, police service and to his senior officers. His wife Maya, realizing his turmoil quickly passed the information to her father, who was then an MP in the SLFP Government. That activated the Government to thwart the coup.
Stanley became the centre of many a controversy as a result of his conduct in this instance. Some were of the view that he was a weak man who squealed on his fellow officers. But no one could envy the plight of an officer and gentleman torn between his loyalties. His conduct came in for praise by the Judges of the Trial at Bar who heard the coup case, when they exonerated him, observing in their judgment:
“Evidence elicited by the defence satisfies us that Stanley Senanayake was an officer who was honourable and loyal to his Service, his colleagues and his friends. These qualities help much to explain conduct on his part which might otherwise have aroused suspicion. …………… Although he was cross-examined with severity and even some measure of contempt, he did not respond with any appearance of malice against the defendants. On the contrary, he impressed us as a witness who did not relish the role of testifying against brother officers.”
I joined the Police two years later in 1964 and these stories were still fresh, circulating among the Executive Corp. In fact, we the three probationers, Kingsley Wickramasuriya, the late M. Shanmugan and I were taken, as part of our Divisional Training, to watch the Trail at Bar proceedings, starring G. G. Ponnambalam, Douglas Janze and L.B.T. Premaratne.
Stanley Senanayake became IG Police in July 1970 succeeding Aleric Abeygunawardena. He was walking into a turbulent time as IGP, a situation that none of his predecessors had to encounter. The major crisis he had to encounter was the 1971 JVP Insurgency. This was an unfamiliar experience for the Police. It had dealt with riots, gang robbery and other violent crime but not with deadly violence by educated youth with a political ideology who challenged and attacked police stations directly, all in one night. Luckily, police had the information in time and Stanley Senanayake walked into the Rosmead Place residence of the PM, and accompanied a reluctant Mrs. Bandaranaike to Temple Trees on the night of April 5 to foil the plan. A JVP group was in the meantime watching the 9.30 p.m. show at a cinema in Borella, hoping to rush into Rosemead Place at midnight and capture the P.M.
By the 6th morning several police stations were overrun while others defended their stations successfully, with Polonnaruwa led by young ASP A.S. Seneviratne excelling, killing more than 100 attackers, in a clever move. As the battle developed Senanayake had to withdraw ASP Leo Perera, who had done well at Kurunegala and SP Ana Seneviratne from Kegalle. It had to be done without upsetting the morale of the officers. Senanayake did this diplomatically with his usual charm. He also had to manage the irrepressible R.C. Thavaraja ASP who was ordered to overlook the Warakapola area where the police station had capitulated.
|Happy family: The Senanayakes at home
The flow of events that followed was no less dramatic for the police and the country. The Police force had to be expanded almost double to meet with the new situation. There was the problem of the residue of the JVP creeping into the Police under the recruitment scheme.
The Government decided that police should obtain clearance from its party MPs on the prospective recruits as they were deemed to know the people of their areas better than anybody else. Thus started the political inroads to police recruitment. Instead of the hitherto impartially selected recruits the Police were supposed to have SLFP approved recruits. The rest had to wait till the other party came into power!
However, those winds of socialism and romanticism of Che Guevara sweeping into the rank and file, at least the younger sections of the other ranks, was inevitable. They began to challenge the time honoured traditions and procedures of the Department. The Executive Corps of the Police had to redefine them for the angry young dissenters in the new context. The younger lot among us, who had by now had an exposure to the socialist trends in our university days, were able to meet this challenge better.
Under the same trend, the rank and file brought in pressure through its Police Welfare Association to change their uniform to obviate the obvious difference between theirs and the officers’. The IGP with his more liberal ideas agreed to have police sergeants and constables don long trousers and peak caps. Only the badges of rank could be different for identification purposes. Thus one feature of the colonial police where the other ranks were considered like ‘sepoys’ was eliminated.
Another development in the country was the adoption of the 1972 Constitution and the replacement of the Criminal Procedure Code with Administration of Justice Law No.44 of 1973. One impact of the new constitution was the replacement of the Public Service Commission marking the end of independence of the Police and the Public Service, on the theoretical justification that sovereignty of the people lay in the Cabinet of Ministers who are the direct representatives of the people. It marked the end of an era for the Police and the Public Service which became a mere tool in the hands of the political party in power.
In the meanwhile, the conclusion of the successful investigations by the police brought the 40 odd leaders of the ’71 Insurgency before the Criminal Justice Commission on charges of conspiracy and attempt to overthrow the lawfully elected government.
Another important case investigated under Stanley Senanayake was the Kataragama Beauty Queen’s case of rape and murder by a volunteer army officer during the ‘71 Insurgency which too ended in conviction and sentencing of the accused to jail. This accused died in jail. There was also the large scale Exchange Control violation cases investigated by the CID against some of the most powerful exchange control racketeers of the Colombo elite who were considered untouchable. All of them were duly convicted and jailed by the CJC. In fact, the CID nearly arrested a former Governor General for similar offences before which he left the country in the nick of time!
Another important event during the time of Stanley Senanayake was the holding of the Non-Aligned Conference in 1976. It was a great challenge to all agencies of the government - such a massive event where a large number of heads of State were assembling in one place. The Sri Lanka Police crowned itself with glory. So thorough was the security training which was new to the police at that time that once, when Stanley Senanayake on inspection sought entry to the Oberoi Hotel premises where some of the Prime Ministers were housed, Inspector Bastianpillai, then considered a gem of the CID (he was later killed in the jungles of Madhu by the terrorists), requested the IGP to get down, searched the Benz thoroughly before he permitted him to enter the premises, after apologizing. The IG later sent him a note of appreciation of his level of professionalism.
His era also saw the growth of the Police Reserve which was considered as a great resource for the police, under Deputy Commandant, S. Vamadevan primarily to meet the great demand for manpower at short notice immediately following the needs of the ‘71 JVP insurgency and later the nascent Northern insurgency. But really it enabled the mobilization of various specialists of different disciplines for the Intelligence Services and Medical Services etc. on a voluntary basis. The most colourful addition to the Police from the Reserve was the formation of the Police Hewisi Band under the Kandyan dancing specialist R/SI Olaboduwa and his wife. It was an innovative idea of S. Vamadevan SSP who later retired as DIG. The interesting feature here was that it took a Tamil and a Policeman to start a Kandyan Hewisi Band and dancing troupe in a regimented service! The high point of the Police Hewisi ensemble was when they were invited to perform at the Edinburgh Tattoo.
The Police Reserve platform later paved the way for development of the Police Medical Services Division which has become a great boon to police officers now serving and those retired.
Another innovation by Stanley Senanayake was the Police Families’ Welfare Association which was his wife Maya’s idea. This idea soon caught on with the other Services and Ministries too under the name of Seva Vanitha.
Stanley Senanayake’s retirement in August 1978 marked the demise of the ideal of an independent Police.
The coup and a call that changed all
By Kumudini Hettiarachchi, Pix by M.A. Pushpa Kumara
The telephone call was urgent and desperate. It was a call that changed the course of history and the destiny of Ceylon. “Daddy, please come, come right now,” said the daughter and with just that one call, Ceylon veered away from the path that had been plotted by a handful of conspirators.
Seated below a beautiful painting of herself when she was just 16 (“I’m scowling because I had to sit for a long time” ), at her elegantly-furnished apartment in Colombo 3, Mayawathi Jean Senanayake nee Kularatne, who will turn 84 on December 23, flips back the pages of time to the early 1960s.
It was January 1962 and she was the mother of three boys, the eldest of whom was 12 years old. Amidst her busy schedule of supervising the household chores and looking after the boys, that day she noticed that her husband was not himself.
|Maya going back in time.
|Portrait of a young lady: Maya at 16
The day was January 27, 1962, and her husband of 14 years, Don Stanley Senanayake, was acting strangely. He was agitated and at her insistence to know what was wrong told her that a group of senior police officers, some of whom were his mentors, were readying to take the country’s future into their own hands.
A bloodless coup d’etat had been hatched with Stanley being informed about it by his senior officer and mentor, C.C. ‘Jungle’ Dissanayake on their morning walk at Galle Face Green.
Stanley who was Superintendent of Police (SP) Colombo, was an important ally for the coup conspirators because they planned to seize Colombo city, keep the then Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike and her three children under house arrest, take into custody other important Cabinet Ministers including the powerful Finance Minister Felix R. Dias Bandaranaike and take over Radio Ceylon as well as the Lake House and Times of Ceylon group of newspapers.
The moment Maya heard of the plot, it took only a split second to make up her mind and say with determination, “I’m sending for Daddy.” At that time they were living in a government bungalow down Mckenzie Road off Buller’s Road. Things happened quickly thereafter, for “Daddy” was none other than P. de S. Kularatne , a Member of Parliament of the then Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) headed by Mrs. Bandaranaike.
Mr. Kularatne who was in his electorate of Ambalangoda rushed to Colombo.Having heard the bombshell from his daughter, he first hurried to Sravasti, the hostel for MPs and not finding anyone there to the Orient Club where the then Inspector General of Police (IGP) M.W.F. Abeykoon (a Civil Servant appointed to the post) was playing bridge. When no action was forthcoming that he went in desperation to Temple Trees to warn Mrs. Bandaranaike of the impending coup.
Fate had also played a role in aborting the coup as Mrs. Bandaranaike had planned to go to Kataragama but cancelled at the last minute because her Secretary Bradman Weerakoon had pointed out that she had forgotten a visit to Getambe temple which she had agreed to a while before and if she did go to Kataragama that would upset the Getambe monk. Earlier, the coup plotters had planned to take her into custody at Kataragama.
By this time the instigators had called Stanley for a meeting, which Maya begged him not to attend. "Please don't go," she pleaded but to no avail. He was adamant……. "I must see to my men who are in danger."
It was to Jungle's home, his police bungalow down Longden Place that he went, recalls Maya who was anxiously awaiting her husband's return, sick with worry and fear. Jungle's men dropped Stanley at the gate of their home much later hardly able to stand.
Later Stanley told Maya that from the moment he went to Jungle's house he began drinking (he usually never took a drink) so that he wouldn't have to give any orders to his men.
By that time, however, the coup had collapsed and by nightfall the conspirators arrested.
Stanley was sent on compulsory leave during the coup trial but not reinstated even after exoneration by the court. By this time the government had changed, with the United National Party coming to power. He was taken back to the Police Force in December 1967 and later became Inspector General of Police on July 7, 1970 during the rule of Mrs. Bandaranaike.
The memories come flooding in…….making her smile about how Stanley and she met and married. Maya was living with her parents at Panadura in a home on the riverfront when one day a boy drowned. A crowd gathered in their garden as the boy’s body was pulled out of the water and placed on a billiard’s table that had been hurriedly taken out of their house, with efforts being made to revive him. As she lingered near the table, she noticed a handsome man looking at her across the table, over the boy’s body. A very good swimmer, he had come for a swim in the river and on seeing the commotion joined the crowd.
That was Stanley. On seeing her, he had asked others, “Who is that?”
“It was not a very auspicious first meeting,” laughs Maya, who however was advised by her educationist father (who had also been the Principal of Ananda College) to complete her economics degree at the University of Colombo before tying the knot with Stanley.
As we leave Maya to her memories of a “good and kind husband” who is no more (Stanley died on December 18, 1989) we wonder, what if the whistle was not blown?
No one will know, for we are only left to speculate and conjecture, 48 years later.