4th June 2000
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Editors Guild honours three newsmen

The Journalism Awards of Excellence Committee of The Editors Guild of Sri Lanka has decided to honour three senior journalists with Special Awards for their outstanding contribution to Sri Lankan journalism for over 40 years and in appreciation of their commitment to professional values.

S. SubasingheThe journalists so honoured are S. Subasinghe, S. Gurunathan and Clarence Fernando.

They will be honoured at the Guild's Annual Journalism Awards of Excellence presentations at the Mt. Lavinia Hotel on June 4.

Twelve other Awards of Excellence and Eighteen Honourable Mentions for 1999 will also be made at the ceremony.

Clarence FernandoClarence Fernando was one of the more vibrant newsmen recruited by D. R. Wijewardena of Lake House in the second half of the 1940s. The six long years of World War II had had a somewhat permanent dampening effect on the front pages of both its dailies - the 'Ceylon Daily News' and the 'Ceylon Observer'. News coverage was dominated by Reuter for the daily Lead and a long winded local report - usually about 'gluts' of onion supplies and the like - of doubtful interest to readers, took up what was referred to in newsroom jargon as the 'right hand Lead story'. All, very dull and uninspiring.

The dapper young man, just demobilised from the cypher rooms of the Royal Ceylon Navy turned out to be just what the 'Ceylon Observer' wanted. He seemed to have been born with ink in his veins. The little feature he wrote about Mutwal where he lived, at the request of his interviewer, E.C.B. Wijeyesinghe the News Editor of the 'Ceylon Observer' left no doubt about that. And it did not take him much time either. We can quote him on that from his racy little collection of short stories 'Tales of Willie Bua and others' which he wrote years later.

"A Colombo Municipal Council Medical Officer had reported some years earlier that Mutwal was inhabited mainly by Soyzas and pigs. The pigs were a popular cottage industry, the people were either landlubbers or seafarers. The landlubbers, mostly clerks and skilled and semi-skilled technicians worked in the City's shipping and engineering firms - Walkers, Delmege Forsyth, Thomas Cooks, Hoares, Caves Wharfage Company, Aitken Spence and Mackinnon Mackenzie. "Their only recreation was procreation, which they did with the zeal and frenzy of missionaries." 

"Indeed, they gave their maker more than a helping hand to keep the species alive and the population bursting at the seams."

That got him the job, and D.R. Wijewardena paid him Rs. 100 plus allowances-twenty-five rupees more than what he had asked.

Clarence Fernando rose from the ranks to be News Editor of the 'Observer' and later Editor of the 'Daily News'. He succeeded E.C.B. Wijeyesinghe as Chief of PTC Reuter, and as Bureau Chief of Reuters in Sri Lanka after the Press Trust of Ceylon was terminated. He lives with his wife Hema at his home in Centre Road, Mattakkuliya. His son Nimal is Editor of the 'Gulf News' weekly magazine in Dubai. 

Hailing from Weweldeniya, Siriwardene Subasinghe was among the pioneering team that launched the Lake House Sinhala evening daily, the Janatha, in 1953.

Along with Somapala Ranatunga and Sarath Randeniya he helped establish the paper into a powerful voice while he himself specialized in various fields of journalism.

Soon his talents were recognised and with the death of veteran journalist Meemana Prematilleke, Mr. Subasinghe was appointed as chief Editor of Lake House Group's largest selling Sunday newspaper, the Silumina in 1965. Within years he piloted the Silumina to unparalleled heights with the circulation rising from 180,000 to as much as 300,000 to be on par with the largest selling newspapers in South Asia. His era as Silumina Chief Editor was thus written not just in ink but in letters of gold.

With the change of government in 1970, Mr, Subasinghe was appointed as Chief Editor of the Sinhala daily Dinamina. 

But he did not have the time to take the daily also to the heights where the Sunday weekly had gone. In July 1973, the Lake House group was taken over by the government and a great editor was shoved aside to edit periodicals such as Navayugaya, Mihira and Sathuta.

Four years later, Mr. Subasinghe was back at the top again, first as the editor of Silumina and then the Dinamina till he retired on December 31,1979.

The very next day he joined the Wijeya group which was set up by the former Lake House Chairman . He was the first editor of the Wijeya and Sirikatha weeklies and when the Sunday Lankadipa was relaunched by the Wijeya group in 1986, Mr. Subasinghe was the first editor

S. Gurunathan entered the field of journalism in December 1959. From December 1959 till July 1966 he worked as the Trincomalee correspondent for Virakesari, a Tamil daily and the Times of Ceylon.S. Gurunathan

Till June 1985 he worked as the Trincomalee Correspondent for Dinapathi/Chinthamani and Sun/Weekend published by the Independent Newspapers Ltd.

From November 1985 till April 1995 he worked in the editorial staff of the Uthayan-Sanjeavy, Tamil daily and weekly published in Jaffna. He joined Uthayan first as its Chief Sub Editor, then rose to the position of an Associate Editor and was also in charge of Sanjeavy, weekly of Uthayan daily. 

He then joined Gunasena Printers in June 1995. There he was appointed as the Features Editor of Soodamani, a Tamil weekly. In 1995 he became the Trincomalee correspondent for The Sunday Times and later the Midweek Mirror. He is still working for these papers in addition to the Daily Mirror.

He is the Trincomalee correspondent for the Thinakurral since its inception in 1997. He writes political columns and other articles to Thinakurral. He is a full time journalist.

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