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Ceylon: A Pledge to Battle

3 minute read

In the ancient city of Kandy, newly elected Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake last week donned the traditional white robes of a pilgrim. Then he entered the Temple of the Tooth to worship the miraculous tooth* of the Lord Buddha, which is encased in the innermost of seven gold caskets. That afternoon Senanayake spoke to a huge crowd gathered before the temple. He reminded them that he had inaugurated his election campaign last January by another visit to the temple. “With the blessings of the tooth and the people’s encouragement, we have carried out the struggle successfully,” said Senanayake, and he called upon the Sinhalese people to lay aside their differences and help “resurrect the country from the disastrous position to which it has sunk.”

Ceylon’s treasury is so depleted that there is scarcely enough money to pay six weeks’ bills. Senanayake’s first official act was a gesture to government economy. No longer, he said, will Cabinet ministers use the fancy fleet of Mercedes cars or the fashionable houses built under the old regime of Madame Sirima Bandaranaike, whose Freedom Party was ousted from power last month. The cars will be sold for “the public good” and the houses rented to others. Asking for foreign credits to bolster the economy, the new Prime Minister reiterated his intention to compensate U.S. and British oil companies whose facilities were nationalized three years ago. This should lead to prompt resumption of U.S. aid.

As for stability in the nation, Senanayake warned that the nation’s Marxists were doing their best to foment racial and political strife. It seemed no idle charge. In the capital, Madame Bandaranaike, who had close ties with the Communists, was making no secret of her own intentions. She was the world’s first woman Prime Minister, and she now declared: “I will set another record by playing the role of the first woman leader of the opposition.” Recalling that Senanayake had once quit as Prime Minister after only a month-long rule, she added, “I shall fight and fight the new government until Mr. Dudley Senanayake runs away from office once again.”

*Which, according to lore, was brought to Ceylon in the 4th century by a princess who had hidden it in her hair when Buddhism was driven out of India. Centuries later, a Roman Catholic Archbishop of Goa had the tooth ground into powder and thrown into the sea. But a Sinhalese prince later proclaimed that the tooth had reassembled itself and returned to its sanctuary.

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