20th May 2001
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Excellence in Journalism Awards 2000

Poignant moments amidst jubilation

We're here for you: D.B. Udalagama who received a 'Long Service Award' in recognition of his outstanding contribution to journalism over several decades being helped off the podium by Lake House Chairman Lucien Rajakarunanayake, who learnt at his feet, Secretary, Editors Guild and Editor Divaina, Upali Tennakoon and Richard de Silva. Now in his eighties, Mr. Udalagama continues to write 'Gamarala', his popular column in the Sunday Observer. An Assistant Editor of the former Times of Ceylon, he was also well known for his 'Gulliver' column in the '60s and '70s. (More pictures and full list of winners in the Plus section)
By Ruhanie Perera and Laila Nasry
A voice crackles in the background giving a situation report on the conflict in Sri Lanka. The voice is that of Mylvaganam Nimalarajan, who was the Jaffna correspondent for the Virakesari, Ravaya and the BBC. . 

His words echo, but he is just a frozen image on the screen. Nimalarajan is no more, for he paid with his life for doing his job. The job of a journalist, which is to keep the public informed.

His peers rise to their feet, first to applaud and then to observe a moment's silence, in honour of this journalist who gave of his best. Nimalarajan is being honoured on this night of the scribes for 'Reporting Under Special Circumstances'. 

His tearful sister Premarani Jayathees Paul watched by her son receives the Prof. K. Kailasapathy Award on his behalf. In their citation, the Panel of Judges record the contribution that earned him the Award;'For his courageous reporting under difficult conditions, for providing an insight into political, economic and social life in the Jaffna Peninsula and paying with his life for the commitment he showed to his chosen profession'.

The night of May 15 was for such recognition and the presentation of 'Excellence in Journalism' awards for the year 2000, organised by The Editors Guild of Sri Lanka. Journalists both young and old were present at the Mount Lavinia Hotel to congratulate those who had excelled in the field. 

The ceremony started off on a poignant note, with three veterans, M.A. de Silva, P.A. Sivam and D. B. Udalagama, considered doyens in the field, who have seen it all, being recognised for their commitment and worthy contribution spanning a lifetime. 

These 'greats' were followed by award after award for a range of categories from human-interest stories to exhaustive news reports on politics and the daily struggle of the common man. 

From cartoons and caricatures of leaders and their idiosyncrasies to photographs capturing those important moments in time. From sensational scoops to satirical columns, journalists were honoured for their skill and commitment. 

However, there were no presentations for the Sepala Gunasena Award for Defending Press Freedom in Sri Lanka; Best Foreign Report of the Year, Best Cartoon of the Year, Best Tamil Journalist of the Year. The Panel of Judges had stated that the entries received for these categories did not warrant awards being made. 

Support sought for impeachment motion against CJ 

By Shelani de Silva
The UNP is to finalise drafting the impeachment motion against the Chief Justice next week and will then begin talks with opposition parties including the Government group to seek their support, The Sunday Times learns.

Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe who appointed a committee of MPs three weeks ago, to draw up a work plan to impeach the Chief Justice, requested the committee to look into the matter and present the draft motion to the Working Committee of the UNP for any suggestions or recommendations. 

A member of the Committee told The Sunday Times that the UNP Working Committee has given its approval and the motion proper will be drafted next week.

'Once we complete drafting the motion we will hold discussions with the JVP, Tamil parties and even with the Government group' he said.

The committee member dismissed speculation that opposition parties were withdrawing their support.

'How can any party take a stand even before we have presented the draft to these parties. 

The JVP was one party that called for an independent judiciary, similarly the TULF too campaigned for it. 

We will talk to these parties' he said. 

Meanwhile the JVP has taken a firm stand on the motion stating it will support the motion only if the UNP gets the support of all the other opposition parties.

Party spokesperson Wimal Weerawansa told The Sunday Times that the UNP should have a common agreement with all parties. 'We have never said that we will not support the motion, but the UNP should formulate the motion in a systematic way to achieve its goal. We are very keen that the UNP gets the support of all the parties' he said. 

Jayaratne sticks to his guns

By Shelani de Silva
"I have nothing to say to you," a defiant Minister and PA General Secretary D. M. Jayaratne has told a party committee investigating alleged malpractices and violence in the Kandy district during the last general elections.

The committee was appointed by President Kumaratunga in her capacity as party leader recently after months of controversy over the allegations involving Mr. Jayaratne, and Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte.

Mr. Jayaratne insisted last week that he would testify only before a commission or committee comprising three retired judges. The committee appointed by the President comprises top party lawyer Wijedasa Rajapakse, Essential Services chief Sripathi Sooriyarachchi and former tax commissioner E. N. G. Edirisinghe.

The committee visited the Kandy district and met Mr. Jayaratne but he told them he would not talk to them and would testify only before a committee of ex-judges. 

Mr. Sooriyarachchi said they had interviewed about 20 people and would meet General Ratwatte soon.

During and after the election campaign, Ministers Jayaratne and Ratwatte clashed openly and traded charges on polls malpractices and violence. 

Hospital says probe partial

By Faraza Farook
The Health Ministry has been partial in the conduct of its inquiry into the death of senior journalist Prabath Manawasinghe on a complaint made by his wife of medical negligence, Asiri Hospitals Ltd. has alleged .

It has alleged that the ministry's inquirer Dr. Amal Harsha de Silva, Director, Private Health Sector has been unprofessional and negligent in conducting the inquiry and has failed to give hospital authorities an opportunity to give their side of the story.

Last week Asiri Hospitals Ltd., sent a letter of demand to Dr. De Silva in which it threatened to claim damages.

However, Dr. De Silva has refuted the charges stating that the hospital's allegations were baseless as the report has yet to be made a public document. 

"I have handed over the report to the Health Minister and the President and it is not available for public review. Then on what grounds are the allegations levelled at me," he asked.

He said statements from 17 people from the hospital in addition to its Managing Director and Medical Director have been recorded and claimed that he strived to strike a balance in his inquiry. While not disclosing the final outcome, Dr. De Silva said that the hospital should rectify any prevailing problem instead of pointing out fingers at others.

Asiri Hospital Managing Director G.H.A. Wimalasena alleged Dr. De Silva had leaked information to the media during the course of the inquiry, which has had a negative impact on the hospital. Mr. Wimalasena called on the Health Minister to take disciplinary action against Dr. De Silva for allegedly failing to conduct a proper inquiry.

The Ministry began an inquiry on the orders of President Kumaratunga after Mrs. Manawasinghe filed a petition claiming medical negligence on the part of the hospital.


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