D. R. Wijewardene - an unassumed hero
116th Birth Anniversary 2002
by Nemsiri Mutukumara - Daily News Saturday Feb 23, 2002
Statues are erected in many parts of Sri Lanka in honour of those whose work was recognised by the people who put up the statute. In bronze, stone and cement those edifices can be seen across the country from Kankesanthurai to Kataragama.
Among those one would find monuments sculptured in recognition of the life time service during the British Colonial period by a handful of national leaders like Anagarika Dharmapala, Colonel Henry Steele Olcott - the American Theosophist turned Buddhist, Mohottivatte Gunananda Nayaka Thera, F. R. Senanayake and the Venerable Mahinda of Sikkhim. These great men represented the cause of the people, the country and the nation. They unleashed the liberation struggle in their characteristic style to inform and educate not a single community but the whole mass of people to march forward to regain national freedom for once and for all times from the tyranny of oppression and suppression heaped upon the sons and daughters of Mother Lanka by the British and the decadent remnants of the short lived Portuguese and Dutch imperialists rule of Lanka.
Referring to statues and national leaders Martin Wickramasinghe "the pre-eminent figure in modern Sinhala literature ....in newspaper and literary journalism" has often times observed, says Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera - a well-known writer, that "Mr. D. R. Wijewardene is the only national figure that deserved a statue."
Don Richard Wijewardene was not the first Sri Lankan to establish a company to edit print and publish newspapers.
Before him, many individuals started newspapers, weeklies, fortnightlies and monthly journals. Regrettably, most of them, if not all, fell on the way side. Their failier could one say due to lack of vision. That is a debatable subject for another occasion.
D. R. at the prime of his youth enjoyed the privilege of acquiring higher education in Britain. A product of the Cambridge University undergraduate Wijewardene had the rare opportunity of meeting with the future leaders of India like Lala Lajpat Rai, Bepin Chandra Pal, Surendranath Banerji and a leading light of India Gopal Krishna Gokhale, a member of the Imperial Legislative Council.
Of these meetings during his student days, he writes: "My interest in politics began during my undergraduate days at Cambridge. There were kindred spirits from India, Ceylon and other parts of the East".
Impressed by the thoughts, words and deeds of the contemporary Indian visitors to Cambridge that every educated young Indian or Lankan had a historic role to play in the public life of his respective country, Wijewardene was fired with the deep commitment to make the monumental sacrifice he was destined to do on his return home after studies.
Before his return home as a Cambridge graduate and being called to the Bar at the Inner Temple London, some like-minded Lankans had begun their crusade against the British Raj and were fearlessly taking their agit-prop - agitation and propaganda campaign to the enemy's camp - the British Parliament where all types of obnoxious pieces of one sided legislations were passed depriving innocent, unarmed but decent and civilised Asians and Africans of their basic freedoms and human rights.
Wijewardene was in touch with local events and organised the first deputation to the Secretary of State for the colonies with Mr. H. J. C. Pereira. Among the others of the group was Mr. E. W. Perera of the Lion flag fame.
At the time, Wijewardene had a good friend, a Sri Lanka born Englishman by the name of F. H. M. Corbet. Corbet was a practising barrister in England. "It was in his Chambers that I first met E. W. Perera who was even then a keen politician and displayed many of the qualities which gave him a leading position in the legislature many years later", Wijewardene recalls.
Thanks to Wijewardene's organisational campaign and skilful lobbying among other benefits Lanka was given another concession of a seat in the Sudda dominated Legislative Council. It was called the Educated Ceylonese seat.
The result was the preponderant majority of the Sinhala people electing Mr. Ponnambalam Ramanathan (later Sir) against Dr. Marcus Fernando (later Sir).
Wijewardene who was still in London organised a second deputation to meet the Secretary of State.
The British who introduced a series of multifarious vices to wean the people - particularly the majority Sinhala Buddhists from their traditional way of disciplined lifestyles, went on opening taverns in every nook and corner for the sale of toddy under the guise of checking illicit liquor.
The purpose of Wijewardene's campaign was to protest against the multiplication of toddy taverns.
His action in England paved the way for the birth of the Temperance movement, the Amadyapa Sabha to fight against the British evils.
Wijewardene while in England collected old books and paintings; Portuguese and Dutch maps of Lanka.
Unlike many young Lankans who went to England for higher studies, Wijewardene refrained from travelling in the European continent nor inside Great Britain.
Don Richard, the third male child of seven sons and two daughters lost their father Muhandiram Tudugalage Don Philip Wijewardene an industrious timber merchant of Sedavatta when the mother Helena Weerasinghe who "was not only fair and favoured with good looks but was practical" was barely 38 years of age.
Mrs. Helena Wijewardene bravely shouldered the entire responsibility of bringing up the seven sons and two daughters in accordance with the traditional Sinhala customs and Buddhist discipline.
She imbubed in her children the unique qualities of Sinhala Buddhist culture which fashioned the way of life of the people from the time of King Devanampiyatissa from 236 years Before the Common Era - well-nigh 2300 years.
With the Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya as the nucleus of cultural, religious and spiritual sustenance, Helena Wijewardene provided ample opportunity for her children to lead dignified and disciplined lives and be patriotic to the motherland.
All her sons Don Philip Alexander, Don Lewis, Don Charles, Don Edmund, Don Richard, Don Albert and Don Walter were products of Saint Thomas' College which was located, then at Mutuvella in Colombo North.
The two daughters were Mrs. E. W. Jayewardene (mother of J. R. Jayewardene) and Mrs. Arthur Seneviratne.
At the Sedavatta school where D.R. had his primary education "efforts were directed towards learning the three "R"s."
"At St. Thomas', I merely concentrated on my studies. There were no influences in school life which as far as I can remember, tended to direct one's interest into the broader life of the community. For example Ceylon History was not taught". Wijewardene recalls in later years.
Despite this vacuuna that which accounts for D. R. Wijewardene's monumental and magnificent knowledge of Sri Lanka's history, the spiritual legacy of the nation, the painting, art, architecture and sculpture which blossomed into their fullness with the benign influence of the Buddha Dhamma was the solid domestic foundation. Helena Wijewardene laid at home under the exemplary guidance of the erudite and disciplined Buddha-putras of the Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya.
Mrs. Wijewardene being the Chief patron - Maha Upasika, was herself an embodiment of a disciplined lady.
She was the Guide and Pathfinder of the Wijewardene family - as shown by the Buddha "Mata Pitaro pubbacariya vuccare - The mother and the father are the first teachers".
If not for the mothers overwhelming influence that penetrated deep into their system, the young Cambridge graduate was unshaken by the attractions or distractions of British women for whom many a Sinhala Buddhist young man had fallen a prey, before and after Wijewardene. Young D.R. returned home clean.
When he started the "Ceylon Daily News" he not only established a newspaper business, he also laid the foundation for a newspaper empire where within a short time, newspapers rolled down daily in three languages - English, Sinhala and Tamil.
While in England, he had already decided to start a newspaper to fight for the cause of regaining freedom. By the time, he arrived he was fully equipped mentally with the techniques of the trade - how to survive in a competitive world.
He bought the "Ceylon Independent" from a sale. Without making it a competitor to the "Ceylon Daily News", he allowed it to die.
Wijewardene teamed up with his brother DC (Don Charles) and published the "Dinamina" which they bought from H. S. Perera.
Overnight, the "Dinamina" rose up in popularity reaching remote areas of the country.
Although the paper had no front page pictures and sensational stories, people everywhere - including the Bhikkhu Sangha welcomed it.
The Venerable Rajakiya Pandita, Akuratiye Amaravamsa Nayakathera, the Chief Sanghanayaka of the Southern Province and the Vidyodaya Parivenadhipati when asked about his memories of the "Dinamina" last Wednesday February 20, recalled that when he began reading the "Dinamina", he was a Samanera a novice at the Pahala Kihimbiya Purana Maha Viharaya.
"There were no photos. Page One had four to six columns. Stories of local events, the government notices, a few provincial news items, an editorial comment, price list of goods, foreign news from India, Japan and England and feature articles. There were many things to interest a wide readership. So the people eagerly awaited its arrival every morning", the Nayakathera said.
He had been a reader from its inception to date. He was also a contributor from the time of his samanera days to the present times, Nayakathera Amaravamsa who will be 92 years on April 10, 2002, explained.
As fantastic as the fete he performed in building a newspaper empire from nothing, was the three-storeyed building he constructed on the Beira Lake - a pool of mud along the Colombo-Galle railway line.
Anyone entering the Lake House building would be thoroughly amazed to witness the skilful planning and the deft designing of the entire construction and the interior lay out.
The building is constructed in such a way that any type of modern machinery and equipment can be easily installed without major restructuring of the building.
Under any emergency, the entire workforce - now numbering over 2500 - can leave their desks and other places of work through the numerous exists found in the outfit.
Walking along the corridors one would be overjoyed to appreciate the different kinds of traditional Sinhala motifs adorning the walls.
The grills on the walls in all the floors are adorned with the design of the Dhammcakka - the wheel of righteousness.
Bordering the ceiling are paintings drawn on similar pattern to the Kelaniya Vihara paintings illustrating Buddhist themes.
Wijewardene took upon the responsibility himself for providing for the future, in case any newspaper was to run at a loss.
As a result, the observer, the evening newspaper can be well looked after despite its losses and continue its publication as the oldest newspaper in Asia, which is a proud achievement for the Sri Lankan people.
The Lake House newspapers go into history with many firsts.
The "Dinamina" printed in natural colours the Lion flag of Lanka. D. C. Vijayavardhana in his book "Revolt in the Temple' states:
"The Dinamina edition created quite a stir in the island. The newspaper office which at that time located in Norris Road (present Olcott Mavata, Pitakotuva) Colombo, was stormed by crowds clamouring for copies of the paper which by noon was changing hands at five rupees a copy, and telegrams began to pour in from the outstations requesting more copies, but the edition had been exhausted within a few hours of the issue. Vast crowds gathered on the road opposite the newspaper office and police had to be called in to control them."
That was the first occasion when our people saw for the first time the lion flag after it was removed by the British and deposited in the chelsea hospital in London in 1815.
Wijewardene who learnt that E. W. Perera was responsible for obtaining the Lion flag, he ordered a copy drawn exactly in colour and despatched so that he could reproduce the flag in his paper the "Dinamina".
Though Wijewardene maintained a low key profile throughout his life, his name, became a house-hold word with the ever growing, readership of Lake House papers.
Since he shunned publicity to his national, cultural and religious activities, some people, not excluding the scribes of the day took advantage to conceal wittingly or unwittingly his disciplined domestic background and the learning and knowledge he acquired from his great mother and the Sinhala teachers who taught him at home and the spiritual enlightenment which was his blessing from the Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya patronised by the Wijewardenes with his brother Don Walter taking a leading role in the affairs of the Vihara and the bhikkhu sangha.
The four sublime states of living as initiated in the philosophy of Metta-Karuna-Mudita-Upekkha provided all the necessary ingredients of liberalism, justice and fair play. He inherited the upper middle class Buddhist family tradition of the Wijewardenes. He was exceedingly devoted to his mother who was his pathfinder in life from his childhood.
Even in political campaigns Wijewardene applied Buddhist principles of non-violence and non-hatred to the struggle.
Sir Ivor Jennings, an Irish Christian, the first vice-chancellor of the Peradeniya University of Sri Lanka commented that, "As a Buddhist he (Wijewardene) could not advocate or allow his newspapers to advocate methods of violence..."
This statement bears ample testimony to the rigmarole that Wijewardene borrowed Liberalism from England.
When Sri Lanka's first University was to be constructed in a locality that would be pleasant and second to none in Asia, Wijewardene's advocacy for a residential University located away from all distractions of the capital city of Colombo, finally won the day and the Sri Lanka University came up majestically in the Dumbara Vallay in the hill country.
Wijewardene could not live to see the accomplishment of the cause of the University he had championed. The Wijewardene Hall stands as a living monument to his ideals.
Before his demise he donated his books from the Donald Ferguson Collection relating to the Dutch and Portuguese period in Lanka and all the maps he purchased in England and elsewhere.
Wijewardene also bequeathed a valuable collection of books and manuscripts purchased from the Library of W. A. de Silva to the University Sangharama in Peradeniya.
The Sangharamaya - a residence for the undergraduate bhikkhus of the University had been agitating in his mind during the latter part of his life. His main object was providing separate accommodation with all facilities provided to the bhikkhus to enable them "to obtain a University education in order that they may be able to perform a dharmaduta service both in Sri Lanka and in foreign lands.
As he has done with his newspapers, he also made a Trust for the maintenance of the Sangharamaya with a contribution of Two lakhs of rupees. At present among the Trustees, Mr. Ranjith Wijewardene who succeeded him as Chairman of the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited, renders an invaluable service for the benefit of the Sangharamaya.
Now in conclusion let me come to the subject of a statue. As Martin Wickremasinghe often used to say that D. R. Wijewardene was the only national leader who should be remembered with a statue, I would like to associate with the former editor of the "Dinamina" with a slight variation.
Since D. R. Wijewardene is not only a national leader but a national hero as well, let us those present and past employees of the Lake House group of papers erect a twelve foot bronze statue of Don Richard Wijewardene, the collossus on the round-about with him facing the Lake House building.
I am sure contributions will pour in abundance. Any balance left over may be used to provide scholarships to 25 needy and bright students in all the twenty-five districts in the name of the founder of Lake House newspapers.
Daily News, Fri Jun 13, 2003The human touch of D. R. Wijewardene
Chapter 27 of 'The Life and Times of D. R. Wijewardene' by H. A. J. Hulugalla is reproduced here to commemorate the 53rd death anniversary which falls today of the late press baron and the founder of Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd., D. R. Wijewardene.
Wijewardene's success in business and his power of applying himself unsparingly to his self-imposed duties sometimes gave the impression that he was an unfeeling robot. In later years the state of his health gave a querulous edge to his conduct in office which belied his real nature.
He often worked himself up to a frenzy when things went wrong or did not come up to his expectations. He always regretted such lapses but was too shy to own it. Looking through some old papers, I came across four letters. Two of these he wrote from England, when he was on business trips, to me in Colombo, and the other two from Colombo to London where I was attending a meeting of the Commonwealth Press Union. The letters from England are in his own hand and the two from Colombo are typewritten. There were many such letters over a period of thirty years. They reflect his simple character, human qualities, devotion to his work and public spirit.
National Liberal Club,
Whitehall Place, S. W. 1
24th September, 1937
My dear Herbert,
I was very sorry to read about your brother-in-law's death. It seems to have been very sudden. Please convey to your wife my deep sympathy in her loss.
I am struggling through the business that has brought me here. I have interviewed about a dozen men for the executive post we are creating whom Shaw had seen previously. I have not been impressed with any of them. I am pursuing my enquiries a bit further to find out if there are men of good business talent without newspaper experience. I find it difficult to get all the qualities we require from purely newspaper-trained executives.
Odhans have discovered in Creswell-George a likely 'star' man of theirs. Apparently he has blossomed out since he came out to India and they were not aware of the amount of work he had done for them until he returned. They have sent him back, and Surrey Dane, who is really the second-in-command of Odhams' manifold activities, asked me not to take him away from them as they are finding it difficult to get the right sort of man for their jobs. He told me he could do with six Creswell-Georges. Still, he promised to look around for a man for us.
I met Paul Pieris twice or three times here. He privately told me that he had been cabled to get more expensive offices. In his report, he says, he has said that no useful purpose can be served by keeping Ceylon House.
I entirely agree with him. Denounce the continuation of this. Apparently Corea wants to keep it going. As you know he was misled by those who stand to benefit. Somebody has suggested that it might be kept as a recruiting office for tourists. Don't countenance anything of this. Ceylon is spending far too much on tourists already.
I hope you are making full use of the Sino-Japanese war for raising circulations. The people in the press are very angry about the air raids. The Japs should not get any sympathy from anywhere.
I am hoping to get back as soon as I fix up the two or three things I have in hand. I do not want to stay a day longer.
Tonight is the India and Eastern Newspaper Society Dinner. Dr. Peiris is responding to the toast of the Trade and the East. I hope you are taking some weekends and a week or two off.
With kind regards,
D. R. Wijewardene
P.S. - A tremendous fuss is being made in the press about the relaxation of the Quotas. The Secretary of State is receiving a deputation on the 8th October. I have arranged with Reuters to send a cable. See that it is properly displayed and commented on. Carry on the campaign for the abolition of the whole Quota system.
(The Quota system was imposed by Downing Street on Colonies to counter so-called unfair competition by the Japanese in the textile trade.)
23rd September, 1937
My dear Herbert,
Received your cable about the exchange Telegraph offer. I will be attending to it when I get to London today. In the meantime don't you think that the 'Independent' ought to make a start by subscribing to the Associated Press Telegrams? If you agree, will you please tell Neil to arrange for it at once. It is better not to wait till my return to start it.
The Annual Dinner of the London Committee of India, Ceylon and Burma newspapers is fixed for Friday October 4 at Claridge's Hotel. I have received an invitation which I have accepted. Sir Stanley Reed and Nixon are trying to induce me to respond to the toast of the Press of India, Ceylon etc. along with Arthur Moore of the 'Statesman'. The Marquess of Zetland is down to propose the toast. I am strongly hesitating but they are insistent. I haven't given my final word. If I do accede to their request, it will be at the expense of any benefit I have derived from my holiday. As you know I do not like to do things which I cannot do and to my satisfaction. If I agree in a weak moment, it will be simply for the greater glory of Lake House.
Reuter might send a cable about the dinner and if my name is there, make a judicious splash for the sake of the papers. No photograph. A cable ought to reach Colombo on Saturday afternoon if one is being sent by Reuter. Lord Reading was due for a speech but he cannot attend now. Sir Edward Stubbs, I understand, is also attending. According to my present arrangements I hope to be back in Colombo either on November 1st or November 2nd.
With kind regards,
D. R. Wijewardene.
* * *
July 6, 1946
Per air mail
My dear Herbert,
Thank you for all the letters you have written and for all the information you have sent in regard to newsprint, machinery, etc. I am glad to hear you are having a very interesting, though a somewhat strenuous time. The several contacts you have made should prove very useful and valuable to the office, I am sure. I hope your tour on the Continent too will prove very enjoyable and instructive.
Stewart has written to you, I believe, in regard to the London "Times" correspondentship. If, as it is rumoured, A. C. Stewart is retiring and this is falling vacant, you might see what you can do to secure it.
I am enclosing copies of correspondence exchanged with the Monotype Corporation's Indian Manager. If you can spare the time, would you please drop in at the Monotype Corporation's office and impress on the Director in-charge the present urgent need for Sinhalese type. If they are not in a position to make any machines just now, they could, as suggested in my letter of May 20, cut out the characters and make a complete die case, which could be used for casting the type.
In connection with the proposal to send young Abeyasekera to the "Birmingham Post" for training, I wonder whether you have been able to get any information as to the premium and other terms on which English newspapers take on such trainees. I should like you to make a note to look into this when you can spare the time.
D. R. Wijewardene
* * *
Sept. 11, 1946
My dear Herbert,
Thank you for your letter (from London).
I should like you to fix up the arrangement with Jack Miller for work here for three months. I presume he will be paying his passage. He ought, I think, to be able to give the "Observer", both Daily and Sunday, the brushing up they need in view of the recent efforts made by the "Times", to brighten their paper. With some new ideas, the Daily "Observer" should be able to give the "Times" a better run than it has been giving it for sometime. If necessary, you can get Shaw to give Miller a formal letter of appointment, his salary to be the Rupee equivalent of 20 Sterling Pounds per week.
As regards young Abyasekera, I am writing to Shaw asking him to send Turner a formal application and to ascertain particulars of the terms, etc. I hope it will be possible to get Abaysekera onto a provincial rather than a London newspaper office. The "Birmingham Post" would, of course, be better as Hutton's brother will probably take a personal interest if asked to.
I was interested to hear of your talk with Deakin. Stewart, I gather, is retiring almost at once. Incidentally the "Times of Ceylon" deal is said to have fallen through. But Gardiner and Subbiah (of the General Trading Corporation) are now reported to be in the field.
D. R. Wijewardene
* * *
The "kindly instincts", to which Earle Abayasekera has referred, were also in evidence in his sympathetic attitude to struggling journalists and publishers. One of them, Dr. D. J. S. Peiris, wrote in his journal, the Ceylon Business Express what he called "a sidelight of the life of the late Mr. D. R. Wijewardene". In it he said:
"Ten years and two months ago, in May 1940 I met him for the first time. The interview was at Lake House and the business was to present him a copy of the first issue of this paper. He received me in his sanctum and offered me a seat beside him.
" 'I congratulate you on you new venture, but don't you think you have started at a bad time?' he asked. There was the war on and any new business was bound to meet with many difficulties.
" 'Excuse me, Sir, I think I will succeed if I maintain my enthusiasm, war or no war', I replied in the feeblest tone that ever gushed out of my trachea. He smiled, ran his eye over the columns of my paper and said, 'Yes, of course, nothing is difficult to the lover, they say, and that's true.'
"It was a memorable day and I was very proud as I came down the steps at Lake House on my way back to 23, Canal Row, with a substantial currency note in my pocket - as token of good luck from Ceylon's most influential man - the late Mr. D. R. Wijewardene. "He was a good judge of men, or was I one of the few fools that he suffered gladly? I am sure that he had a hunch that I would carry on and it is with the greatest sorrow that I print these lines in his memory. He belonged to that rare category of hard, firm and kind men who get big things done and go down in history. His loss is irreparable.
"Again at 99 Braybrooke Place, nine years later, I met him for the second time. He sat with me in the verandah discussing the progress of my paper. I had gone there to sell him a few shares in my Company. The Ceylon Business Express Ltd. He said he read every copy of my paper and that he was following its progress. He referred to my uncle, the late Veda Mudaliyar W. Daniel Fernando Waidyasekera, whom he called a very enterprising man. He was glad that my paper was getting on well and he did not mind giving me every possible encouragement.
That evening too I left him with a fat cheque in my pocket and today I am happy to see the great name of Don Richard Wijewardene appearing in my Share Register - an achievement in itself and a constant reminder to me of his words at my first interview, 'nothing is difficult to the lover, they say, that's true'.
He is dead....long live his name".
W. Daniel Fernando in his day was an advertiser in the struggling Ceylon Daily News and Wijewardene never forgot a kindly deed.The colossus of the newspaper world
DN Wed Feb 23 2005
In the 200 year history of Sri Lanka's newspaper industry, D.R. Wijewardene bestrode the last nine decades like a colossus. Born with a silver spoon in his mouth on February 23, 1886, he passed away on June 12, 1950.
The Government Gazette acknowledged to be the first newspaper saw the light of day in 1802, to be followed by Governor Wilmot Horton's 'Colombo Journal' (1832) and the two European entrepreneurs, P. Acland and E.J. Darley's, 'The Observer' and 'Commercial Advertiser (1834)'.
All these publications were in fact short-lived, destined to die premature death, with the exception of 'Ceylon Observer', started in 1833, the year in which the Colebrooke-Cameron constitutional reforms were implemented.
The first Sinhala newspaper titled 'Lanka Lokaya' was started in 1860 at a time when modern printing machinery held sway.
The subsequent newspapers such as 'Lak Rivi Kirana', 'Lakmina', 'Lakmini Pahana', 'Satya Margaya', Riviresa,' 'Sarasavi Sandaresa', 'Kasaya', 'Jinodaya', 'Ilapatha', 'Ira Udawa', etc. flickered and went out.
Young Wijewardene who returned to Sri Lanka in 1912, after studying law at Cambridge University, England, became the uncrowned king of the newspaper world with the launch of 'Dinamina' in 1914. In quick succession he took over 'Ceylonese' and re-christened it 'Daily News' in 1918. Next he acquired 'The Observer', one of the oldest publications when the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd. was established in 1926.
Wijewardene had three newspapers in circulation as against his business rival, 'The Times of Ceylon' which published only English papers.
The launching of 'Silumina' (1930), 'Thinakaran' (1932), and 'Waramanjari' (1948), was a landmark achievement for Lake House in the sphere of newspaper industry in Sri Lanka.
The publication of a supplement of 'Dinamina' for the first time on March 2, 1915 to commemorate the 100th year of Sri Lanka becoming a colony under the British crown, was a novel feature introduced by the Wijewardene newspaper group. To satisfy the readership, some of whom thronged Lake House, the supplement had to be reprinted. At the time when colour printing was a costly rarity, the launch of 'Dinamina' in colour was a unique achievement.
The outstanding feature which illuminated Wijewardene's life was his grit to surpass his rivals in the industry. That was the prime cause for his success. Certain traditions which he liberally left for posterity are still observed at Lake House. Lake House employees' welfare facilities and employment for company employees' children are one or two such practices which continue to date.
Nephew, Nanda Seneviratne's reminiscences speak eloquently of his uncle, Wijewardene's achievements. He used to ignore the lapses or mistakes on the part of his employees but harnessed their energies to the task of securing what he desired.
One morning on his way to office, he saw his leading correspondent, Douglus Felsinger waiting for the bus on the wrong side of the road. "Where are you bound", Wijewardene asked Felsinger. Pat came the answer "Sir, office, office....." Within minutes Felsinger was in office, thanks to the courtesy of his boss.
"Your pal Felsinger is on all fours. Let him finish his report and see that he is sent back home," Wijewardene told Nanda.
Strange enough, the following day Felsinger succeeded when all other newspapers failed to publish the particular naval reports.
Wijewardene knew very well that Felsinger could not collect the necessary information without enjoying a couple of drinks with his peers. (D.R. Wijewardene biography pages 65-66).
Nanda Seneviratne further recollects the past as follows:-
"Uncle had his mind always focussed on the editorial. The finesse with which he was endowed helped him to exercise a firm control over the affairs of his establishment. In the Lake House, all other departments had been geared to dovetail with the editorial department, considered to be the linchpin of the system.
"I witnessed, myself, how my uncle did tear off four times the same hand written editorial and admonished the writer not to write balderdash but write forceful and penetrating editorials. However, when the same writer succeeded on the fifth occasion, my uncle commended him and asked why he did not write like this earlier? (page 69).
"He kept his workers always on alert. As usual my uncle telephoned me one morning and said, "Nanda, please have a vehicle ready for the editorial for important assignment today'. Fortunately, that day I had read the Daily News story that a Royal Air Force, aircraft had crashed and a villager who rescued the pilot from the raging fire had been felicitated by the king.
"A vehicle to go to Katunayake, I interjected. He said, Very well, good that you keep vigilant on news" (page 70).
"Traditions and standards which Wijewardene himself established have become the role model for other newspapers as well.
"His interest in new technology had its effect on the future development of the newspaper industry in Sri Lanka.
"That is why the spirit of D.R, Wijewardene looms large in the newspaper world even after five decades of his demise.
Translated by K.D.M., Kittanpahuwa