6th Janury 2002

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  • Remembering a veteran journalist
  • I miss you so
  • He had his own time rhythm
  • Remembering a veteran journalist

    Eamon Kariyakarawana

    The fifth death anniversary of veteran journalist and former Chairman of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, Eamon Kariyakarawana, fell on January 3.

    He was 67 years old at the time of this death. 

    Born on Christmas Day of December 1930, he was a devout Catholic. An old boy of De Mazenod, Kandana, Maristella, Negombo and St. Joseph's, he started his career in journalism in 1950 by joining the 'Gnanartha Pradeepaya' newspaper. In 1951, he joined Lake House as a staff reporter. Working as a courts reporter both in Sinhala and English, Mr. Kariyakarawana was the centre of a controversy when he published his book, Bandaranaike Ghathana Naduwa.

    Later he went on a journalism scholarship to Australia for two years. He was editor of the 'Janatha' until he left Lake House in 1968.

    Being a close friend of then Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake, Mr. Kariyakarawana worked as Editor of 'Udaya', which was begun by Esmond Wickremesinghe on behalf of the Premier.

    After being appointed Chairman of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation in 1978, he used his business skills to improve its economic stability. By modifying the outdated radio permit system, he was able to get huge financial benefits for the SLBC. The payment of royalty for all songs broadcast was also introduced during his time.

    The SLBC's provincial channels 'Rajarata Seva', 'Ruhunu Seva' and 'Mahanuwara Seva' were launched in his era.

    After six years, Mr. Kariyakarawana resigned from the SLBC. On a request made by Commerce and Shipping Minister, Lalith Athulathmudali, he was appointed Chairman of Ceylon Ocean Lines, where he served for four years.

    In 1989, he contested the Gampaha District on the SLFP ticket. He was also the Editor of 'Sirilaka', the SLFP newspaper.

    The youngest brother of Sri Lanka Press Association President, D.F. Kariyaka-rawana, he authored many books including 'Taruna Viplawaya', 'Mehema Jeev-itha', 'Han Kook Manse', 'Selected Asian Stories', 'Yugayaka Awasanaya', 'Nippon'' and Bandaranaike Ghathana Naduwa'.

    Kurulu Kariyakarawana

    I miss you so

    P.S. de Silva

    To my dearest daddy
    Oh! my daddy, to us you were so wonderful
    Oh! my daddy, to us you were so good!
    Gone are the days when you would take me on your knees
    And with a smile, you'd change my tears to laughter.
    Oh! my daddy, so funny yet so adorable
    Deep in my heart, I miss you so today.

    Daddy, you were the most knowledgeable person we have known.
    You were the most methodical person we have seen.
    And you were the greatest adviser we have ever had.
    I will always love you and remember you daddy.
    May you attain Nibbana!


    He had his own time rhythm

    Harindranath George Dias

    We met for the first time, 50 years ago, on July 1, 1951 at the University of Ceylon, Colombo. George was one of a group of seven freshmen from Royal College, along with T. Vairavanathan, J.P. Madanayake, K.M.J. Fernando, Sivarasa, Tara (Mano) Amarasingham and Ernest Corea.

    Being batchmates, we soon became close friends, with many an interest, bringing us together-English with Prof. E.F.C. Ludowyk, Economics with Tawney Rajaratnam and H.A. de S. Gunasekera, the University Singers' Choir (conducted by Robin Mayhead), the Dram Soc., the English Literary Circle, the Music Society, the SCM Choir, the University Students' and Sports Councils, and at all events at the university, in general.

    As sixth formers at Wesley, we had heard of George, long before we met him! We had had the common objective of entering the University of Ceylon, at a time when Sir Ivor Jennings was its Vice Chancellor. It was then a university moulded in the rich traditions of British universities recognized by the entire Commonwealth. George was one of Royal's outstanding English scholars, and was admitted to the university, with an 'Exhibition' in English.

    To his many nephews and nieces - some of whom, like Lakshman and Lilamani Sirimanne we came to know, well- he was just their lovable 'Ja-Marma -a childlike abbreviation of an epithet that had been foisted on him at Royal!

    George (Hari to his mother) was a refreshingly unconventional person. His sense of humour was subtle, and kept us, 'seismic with laughter'.

    Fame as a ruggerite was thrust on him, when - a year later - we had, relocated in the brand new 'Peradeniya Campus' of the University of Ceylon. The annual Colombo-Peradeniya campus encounters had been initiated, which included rugby football. And rugby players were sorely in need at Peradeniya. Colombo had several players of the ilk of Michael Abeyratne (Trinity Lion) whereas, the Peradeniya team had a mere six or seven undergraduates who had played rugby football, at some time! Only Tara Amarasingham and S.A.B. Dias (Trinity Lion) were players of repute!

    So, talent scouts, spurred on by many a dispenser of goodwill, set out to discover rugby talent from among the assembled spectators at Peradeniya. The popular notion was that if one had been at either Trinity or Royal, preferably, they would know the game, anyway. Hence, were the first to be press-ganged into service! ... and so began George's rugby career at Peradeniya. He had entered the grounds as a carefree, happy would be spectator, only to be conscripted into the team! Tara's spare jersey - many sizes too large for him - and Ivan Ondaatje's "shorts'' - which reached half way down his calves, or beyond, completed his outfit, spiced liberally with safety pins hilariously provided by Shelagh Pereira (As he seldom wore socks, with his pumps or grecian slippers), nobody bothered to find him maroon stockings. He had to wear homebody's tennis shoes, anyway!

    He was cast in the role of scrum half. There were now two Dias' in the Peradeniya XV - S.A.B. the formidable Trinity Lion; and our very own, deligthful, George. Peradeniya's myths and legends (compiled by the likes of Anton Dahanayake) hails the day as a red letter one for George. Wai Tsing Pakstun who was reading for an English Honours degree - a keen rugby fan - had been mesmerized by George's dazzling performance, on the field; and so began, a brand new chapter in his life!

    Typically, nothing rattled George. He was calm and placid at all times! He was unique in that he had his very own, esoteric, time rhythm to which he 'moved'. Clocks and watches were useless appendages to him. Prof. Ludowyk always had one of his lectures from 8 am to 9 am. He arrived early, to catch us fresh. In his entire university career, however, George was, perhaps, present on four or five occasions, at the 8 o'clock lecture, so much so that he was sent for one day, and words of wisdom 'poured' into his ears.

    "Even though one finds it extremely difficult - nay, well nigh, impossible, to get up early, in the cold, crisp mountain air of Peradeniya, I always commence my lecture at eight! ..... and you are an extremely valuable member of my class.....

    Shortly after Ludo had got it off his chest, George had been observed leaving Jayatilake Hall, before 8.45 am! A Herculean effort on his part to avoid the slings and arrows of his mentor.

    Legend again has it that on his very first day at St. Joseph's College (Darley Road) as a brand new teacher (his first job) the senior prefect had queried, why he had arrived late! He had been mistaken for a new student (white shirt, white 'long' and pumps). This was the characteristically unobtrusive Dias!

    At the Bank of Ceylon, as a trainee executive, he was often threatened with dire consequences (such as, being sent up to the General Manager) if he did not display an acceptable degree of keenness in the rather tedious process of being fashioned in the conventional image of a banker! Never did he let it be known that the ogre at the head of his bank was his amiable brother-in-law! He did not expect, or demand, preferential treatment from anyone.

    His meteoric rise in the banking sector was a sequel to his quick acquisition of the requisite knowledge (in his own style!) as well as his knack of dealing kindly with people, in a manner, most considerate and fair. 

    I recall how the People's Bank image in Kandy skyrocketed with his leadership, and the style of management he provided his staff, as Regional Manager of the Bank's Central Region. He had moved to the People's Bank, shortly after its creation, to infuse into the organisation a vibrancy and dynamism it sorely lacked at the beginning. The fledgling bank was no more than a mere government department, with inroads made into its administration by the common or garden type of politician.

    George was quickly moving up the administrative ladder, as a very capable officer of the highest integrity. His promotion as Deputy General Manager of the International Division (People's Bank) merely reiterated the fact that he was a versatile banker.

    With the formation of the National Savings Bank (formerly, the Post Office Savings Bank) and his appointment as its first General Manager, he created history, by setting very high standards of management in a totally people-oriented arm of the banking industry. High standards set by him in building the public image of the NSB as a very safe, reliable and efficient organization, gave it a great impetus.

    He next joined the ABN Bank, at a very senior level in the management cadre; to once again, move on, to take up more responsibility, at an international level, as the Girard Bank's Representative for South Asia. This bank was later renamed, the Mellon Bank.

    I was away in Canada when he died. We had planned to meet in December, to sing Christmas carols and enjoy the rich fellowship of friends and family in this season of love and forgiveness.

    This was not to be....

    We shall, no doubt, meet again, though not on this earth, in places rich in memory and carefree laughter.

    May flights of angels sing him to his rest....!

    Fred Abeyesekera 

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