ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 43

Kala Korner by Dee Cee

Missing a good friend

Two of my earliest contacts as a journalist were Charles A. Gunawardena and D.F. Kariyakaravana. Charlie, as he was fondly known to all friends and colleagues, was news editor of the Dinamina when I joined the news desk as a trainee journalist in the early '50s. Kari (or D.F. as some preferred to call him) was chief sub-editor.

I was so grieved to hear of Charlie's death which occurred a few weeks ago in London where he spent the past few decades. I met him when he was last in Sri Lanka a few months back when he showed me around the new apartment he had bought in Kollupitiya. He wanted to spend more time in Sri Lanka. We discussed a third edition of the 'Encyclopedia of Sri Lanka' which he compiled after years of research - "an outstanding piece of work", in the words of Nirupam Sen, Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka speaking at the launch of the book in 2003. He greatly appreciated the help I had given in collating information about Sinhala cinema, theatre and literature and we had a chat about updating the info.

Charlie had a fine news sense and was an ideal guide to cub reporters cutting their teeth in gathering news. Not that he was an expert in Sinhala, but in the restructuring of the Dinamina when the then Managing Director (Editorial) of Lake House, Esmond Wickremesinghe brought in M.A. de Silva as Managing Editor, Charlie was picked to head the news desk.

A most pleasant personality, Charlie was a dear friend who went out of his way to help others. Having left Lake House after being News Editor of the Daily News, he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was attached to the High Commissions in London and New Delhi. He was of great assistance in finding lodgings for friends who went across on scholarships or putting them up for a few days.

His proficiency and professional approach in the field of information and press relations made him go places. He was Director of Information at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London (1979-87) and later served in the secretariat of the South Commission in Geneva and in the London office of the Commission on Global Governance. He made London his home but frequently visited Sri Lanka after his retirement, always with his wife Yvonne.

It was a dream come true when he saw the 'Encyclopedia of Sri Lanka' in print and he was more than satisfied when he found everyone appreciating his effort. He filled a void in presenting an authoritative reference work on Sri Lanka. He was overjoyed to see the 'The Sunday Times' picking up material for a few weeks after the book was published.

Elder statesman

The 'elder statesman' of Sri Lankan journalism, Kari, as I prefer to address him, recently celebrated his 85th birthday with the release of yet another of his publications. Though he retired many years ago, it's nice to see him actively involved in writing, particularly making a valiant effort to put Sinhala journalists on the right path where the correct use of the language is concerned.

Kari is a brilliant columnist contributing to several newspapers on current topics. His forte is the language. He feels so much on the need to write Sinhala correctly. He is critical of how journalists both in print and electronic media ignore the correct use of the language. Grammar is something they just don't care about. Either they are ignorant or just don't bother. Kari has been pinpointing glaring mistakes in the writings. But is any effort being made to correct them? His hard hitting comments should open anyone's eyes.As chief sub of the 'Dinamina', Kari was overall in charge of the layout and presentation of the paper. He would design page one himself and whenever the lead story was getting delayed, he would walk towards the news desk and indicate time was up. I had by then returned to the 'Dinamina' after spending three years at Peradeniya and although Kari didn't much care for the university types, we got on fine.

Kari, the stalwart of the Press Association, also played a leading role in bringing journalism to the university curriculum with the diploma course in the Colombo University.

Kari has written several books including his autobiographical story of life as a journalist.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.