“The Prime Minister is Dead” was the striking headline in extra – large, bold letters of a special edition published by the now defunct “Times of Ceylon” on the morning of Saturday, September 26th 1959. Though I was only a little kid at that time and sixty years have passed since, I still remember this heading vividly as the newspaper was among copies of newspapers with important news that were kept by my father for many years. The “Times of Ceylon” in those days was an evening daily with a first edition published at noon. But on this day the paper had brought out a special edition in the morning itself with the powerful headline.
The headline of course referred to S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike the prime minister of Ceylon as Sri Lanka was known then. I was five years old then and studying in the Lower Kindergarten class. I could not read English then as we the Tamil and Sinhala medium students started learning English only from the Upper Kindergarten at S.Thomas’ prep school, Kollupitiya. However I did understand what the headline meant when my father read it out loudly. The news was somewhat stale because I had already heard all about it over the radio earlier. “Radio Ceylon” was also airing special bulletins about the shooting . Later the radio played mournful, melancholy music over the air waves to denote the death of the prime minister on the 26th .
The morning’s “Daily News” had details of how Prime Minister Bandaranaike had been shot on Friday September 25th. This was read and explained to me earlier by my father. Bandaranaike was hospitalized and was seemingly out of danger . The situation had taken a turn for the worse in the morning and the country’s prime minister passed away between 7.45 – 8.00 am. This necessitated the evening dailies like “Observer” and “Times of Ceylon” to bring out early special editions in the morning.
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