I joined Lake House in the mid sixties — there were two
Kariyakarawana’s who were brothers — D. F. and Eamon, both
attached to the same paper — the ‘Janatha’ — the evening Sinhala
‘daily’ of Lake House. D.F. the elder was the Editor-in-Chief,
whilst brother Eamon was the News Editor. D. F. always wore a
serious and dignified look whilst Eamon was jovial and
mischievous but awfully scared of his ‘Boss’ — D.F. who was no
respecter of kinship when it came to work.
D.F. was a strict disciplinarian sometimes most
harsh on his brother who loved him as much as he feared him.
I still remember the first words of advice D.F.
gave me when I joined the ‘Janata’.
‘In the newspaper world you don’t ‘Sir’ anybody.
I am ‘D.F.’ or ‘Kari’. If you find it difficult to address me as
‘Kari’ then I would accept ‘Mr.’ in its place but don’t ‘Sir’ me
or any other in the journalistic field. Of course there is one
exception — ‘Loku Sir’ — the inimitable Piyasena Nissanka whom
we all ‘Sir’ not so much through etiquette but through an
abundance of respect, love and affection.
So to this day D.F. remain ‘Mr. Kariyakarawana’
to me and I am fortunate to be considered as a friend by this
Daniel Francis Kariyakarawana was born a
Catholic on 8-4-1922 in Kurana, Negombo and after his early
education at the Bolawalana Boys’ School studied at Maris Stella
College, Negombo. During this time he won a scholarship as a
Resident Teacher at the Boy Scout Colony at Kalutara where he
taught English and also the culinary arts, farming, carpentry,
masonry were the other subjects in the curriculum.
After an year at Kalutara, ‘D.F.’ joined the
Higher English Institute at Katunayaka. As a 20-year-old dare
devil he joined the Peradeniya Teachers’ Training College in
1942, the turning point of his life.
Interested on a journalistic career he read all
the Sinhala newspapers, magazines and also was regularly
contributed short stories under the name of ‘Karuna
Kariyakarawana’ and for his poems he used the pseudonym,
Of the magazines that published Sinhala poems,
Hemapala Munidasa’s ‘Sinhala Balaya’ was by far the most
popular. It was the official publication of the Sinhala Maha
Sabha of S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike but gained immense popularity
due to the regular contributions made by the leading poets of
the day such as P. B. Alwis Perera, H. M. Kudaligama,
Wimalaratne Kumaragama, ‘Kayus’ (Sagara Palansuriya), John
Rajadasa, Upananda Batugedara, Meemana Premathilaka, Makandure
Gunawardene, Wilson Hegoda, Hubert Dissanayake amongst others.
After completing his training D.F. was posted to
St. Anthony’s College, Katugastota as a teacher, which he
refused as after his father’s death at the comparatively young
age of 50. ‘Kari’ being the eldest of 4 brothers and 2 sisters,
had his mother who though possessed of properties was finding it
difficult to make ends meet. Another reason was his fear of
failing the final examination at the training college. D.F. not
being the studious type and often playing truant had his doubts
about passing the finals. Through a relation who was the chief
clerk at the Chalmers Granary he secured a job as a clerk. With
overtime, D.F. was now earning about 5 times his pay than that
he would have earned as a teacher.
A colleague of D.F a young man from a
‘respectable’ family in his area once showing him a big bundle
of notes said he (D.F.) too could accumulate a lot of money by
the simple process of certifying that a lorry load of rice
entered the granary. A similar entry would be made by the
watchman at the gate and the load of rice leaving the harbour
will find its way to the ‘go downs’ of a Pettah trader who
lavishly paid his ‘catchers’. A few days later his colleague
showed him another fat wad of notes claiming that it was his
‘collection’ that day.
‘Kari’, though tempted was scared: `A7wdihs ?
nhhs ?`B6 was how he put it. His conscience troubled him about
the happenings in the rogues den, so he took a week’s leave and
went in search of a teaching career. A friend told him that a
branch of his Alma Mater — Maris Stella had been opened in
Although it was a branch of Maris-Stella it
functioned as ‘Christ the King College’. It was run by an
elderly French priest Brother Louis who recruited the young
Kariyakarawana at Rs. 100 p.m. although the starting salary of a
trained teacher was Rs. 80/-. It was ‘Kari, who got the name
changed to the present ‘Christ King College’.
At this time ‘Kari’ published a popular Sinhala
100 page magazine ‘Mihira’ which contained short stories, poems
etc. by leading writers and poets of the day. His teaching
profession gave him enough free time to pursue literary
He received a further boost when the Head of
Catholic Schools. Father D. J. Antony, on an inspection tour,
discovered ‘Kari’ and promptly posted him to the ‘Gnanartha
Pradeepa’ — the popular Catholic Sinhala newspaper.
At the time ‘Gnanartha Pradeepa’ was
edited by a highly conservative person from Kari’s own village,
whose name was D. P. Kurukulasuriya. He not only disliked ‘Kari’
but also disliked any proposals of ‘Kari’ to make the paper more
readable and attractive in the lay out. Father Anthony brought
in Father Marcelline Jayakody as the supervisor of both the
‘Gnanartha Pradeepa’ and its English counterpart — ‘The
Catholic Messenger’. Fr. Jayakodi and ‘Kari’ got on famously
much to the annoyance of the arrogant Kurukulasuriya. Kari’s
proposal to change the ‘Head Piece’ of the ‘Pradeepaya’, to its
present day appearance found favour with both Father Anthony and
Father Jayakodi. The Gnanartha Pradeepa published the lyrics and
poems of many Catholic poets making the paper very popular.
During that time hymns in Catholic churches in
the island were sung in Latin — a dead language which the
ordinary man did not understand, like the Pali stanzas in the
‘D.F.’ ably aided by Fr. Jayakodi carried on a
campaign via the ‘Pradeepaya’, that the Latin hymns must be
replaced with the vernacular raising a ‘hornets’ nest and angry
protestors accusing ‘Kari’ of being an atheist or worse a ‘Samasamajist!’
On the Vesak eve of 1947, Kurukulasuriya flared
up when he saw an article by ‘Kari’ which suggested that
Catholics too should indulge in Vesak decorations and
illuminations. As both Father Anthony and Father Jayakodi kept
mum, ‘Kari’ published the article in the ‘Pradeepa’ which
immediately offended the Catholics, who branded ‘Kari’ as a
‘Martin Luther’ and a ‘Buddhist in disguise’ ‘Kari’ in fact
became a Buddhist, a very devoted one at that, on the Buddha
Jayanthi Full Moon Day of May 23, 1956 having observed the five
precepts at the feet of the Most Ven. Madihe Pannaseeha Thero of
Many insisted that ‘Kari’ should be sacked from
the ‘Gnanartha Pradeepa’. ‘Kari’ himself was now finding the
working environment unpleasant and being underpaid he asked for
a salary raise from the Manager of Gnanartha Pradeepa another
French priest Fr. Dochain. He was asked the reasons for asking a
raise and ‘Kari’ replied as his father was dead he, being the
eldest of 6 brothers and sisters had to look after not only the
brothers and sisters but also his aged mother.
Father Dochain in a very uncatholic comment said
that after one reached 18 years of age one should bother only
about himself and be independent.
‘That is our way of life in Europe!’ added the
"Then why are you sending money to your mother
in France every month?’ shot back Kariyakarawana rendering
Fr. Dochain, there-after began gunning for
‘Kari’. His opportunity came when ‘Kari’ came to work a little
late, after checking the proof of his magazine ‘Mihira’. He was
severely reprimanded by Fr. Dochain who accused ‘Kari’ of
working in two places although everybody in office knew that the
publication of ‘Mihira’ was Kari’s pastime and not a job.
‘Kari’ decided it was time to say quit.
Through a friend — K. M. Sirisena, ‘Kari’ heard
that the ‘Times’ was about to start a Sinhala evening daily to
rival Dinamina. Sirisena himself had joined the new paper which
was yet to hit the stands and at ‘Kari’s request, took him to
the Lankadeepa office situated in the 3rd floor of the Times
Lankadeepa’s ‘de jure’ Editor was the erudite
Julius de Lenerolle who was the Editor of the Sinhala
However his role as Editor was only confined to
the writing of the Editorial and to preside over the meetings
convened daily to discuss the following day’s paper. A soft
spoken, unobstrusive man Julius de Lanerole had nothing to do
with the other editorial or administrative functions which were
the exclusive domain of one man.
The legendary Diyangu Badathuru Dhanapala.
D. B. Dhanapala though considered the ‘Doyen’ of
the Vernacular Press (He started his career at Lake House and
wrote the very popular column under the nom de plume ‘Janus’. He
however could not get on with the ‘Ole Man’ at Lake House — D.
R. Wijewardene and left Lake House to become the Principal of
Gurukula Vidyalaya in Kelaniya, which produced many a young
socialist intellectual. Though he became the Editor-in-Chief of
the ‘Dawasa’ Group of newspapers, after he left Lankadeepa,
‘Danapala’ could not write Sinhala at all! he read Sinhala
It was Dhanapala who recruited staff to the
paper and his ‘right hand man’ was a young and handsome man
Nimal Karunathilake. Nimal had been an acquaintance of ‘Kari’
from Kari’s Training College days as Nimal’s father was the
Principal of Peradeniya Maha Vidyalaya. Nimal attended
Dharmaraja College in Kandy and from his student days was a
radical and a rebel being a Communist Youth Leaguer.
Nimal ‘produced’ ‘Kari’ before the ‘Captain’
(that was how Dhanapala was referred to by his colleagues) who
initially showed no interest in the ‘scrap book’ he carried,
which had newspaper clippings of the short-stories and poems
that had been published in the newspapers; but his face lighted
up upon being presented with the copy of the ‘Mihira’ where the
cover had been done by G. S. Fernando, Times of Ceylon artist.
‘Whose idea is the lay-out?’ ‘Captain’ wanted to
‘Mine’ said ‘Kari’.
That settled it. Although one of Dhanapala’s
closest friends had insisted that a nephew of his be taken to
fill the only vacancy remaining, ‘Kari’s performance at the viva
had so impressed Dhanapala, he decided to take both ‘Kari’ and
his friends nephew. He happened to be Raja Thilakaratne who had
joined ‘Sinhala Jathiya’ newspaper immediately after completing
his senior from Ananda College. Raja’s job at the ‘Sinhala
Jathiya’ newspaper was taking down ‘dictation’. The Editor of
the Sinhala Jathiya Gauthamadasa, had an infirmity of his hand
and it fell upon Raja to take down verbatim what editor
Gauthamadasa was dictating.
Partial to southerners
Unlike Raja, all others in the Lankadeepa were
writers of repute. As Dhanapala could not write in Sinhala,
Nimal Karunathilaka who was bilingual became a great asset more
to Dhanapala than to Lankadeepa. C. A. Wijesekera who functioned
as the Chief Sub-Editor of the paper in the early days resigned
and in his place Dhanapala whose partiality towards southerners
was well-known took in a former student of his from Gurukula —
Prince Gunasekera from Habaraduwa. The next influential man in
this set up was Yasaratne Deshapriya, a Communist Party comrade
of Nimal. It was Nimal who brought in another Communist — Ratna
Deshapriya (later he attached the ‘Senanayake’ tag to contest
Dudley at Dedigama) who not only excelled as a journalist but
later on became the Minister of Broadcasting. Ratna Deshapriya
was quite apt at writing witty editorials and the second
editorial of Lankadeepa was always written by him.
Although Prince Gunasekera was the ‘Chief Sub’,
Mahanama Dissanayake, a Munidasa Cumaratunga disciple, was the
one who cut and polished the ‘stories’ with the correct grammar.
He later became the Editor-in-Chief of the ‘Lankadeepa’. The
next man in the desk’ was Koggala Marakkalage Sirisena a self
taught man with no formal education. Sirisena who could not
write or speak English, had the knack of reading and
understanding English. This skill was aptly and amply
demonstrated when he produced an accurate translation in Sinhala
of Dale Carneige’s famous best seller ‘How to win friends and
D. V. Seneviratne of Attidiya was a shy, silent
man who did not take off his jacket for a long time and he was
entrusted with the ‘Nadu’ pit (the legal page where Court
proceedings were published).
Dharmasiri Kuruppu excelled in both English and
Sinhala and worked like an ‘express train.’ Kalalelle Ananda
Sagara alias Sagara Palansuriya (author of the famous poetry
book-let Sudo Sudu) worked only a short period. Another of
Dhanapala’s Gurukula boys was Dharmasiri Jayakodi who initially
joined the daily Lankadeepa as a ‘proof reader", but was
elevated to the post of Chief Sub-Editor when the ‘Sunday
Lankadeepa’ was launched.
The primus-inter-pares at Lankadeepa was the
genial genius, Sri Chandraratne Manawasinghe of whom ‘Men and
Memories’ carried a very interesting story running into two
instalments. ‘Manawa’ as he was affectionately called, was a
great humanist and composed lyrics to popular Sinhala films
‘Ranmutu Duwa’ and ‘Getawarayo" just to name two.
‘Manawe’s sole responsibility was to write the
immensely popular ‘Wagatuga ^j.;=.& column on current topics. He
was a Samasamajist in his early days and used his column to
attack the UNP mercilessly. Like most giants of the fourth
estate he was very fond of his booze and in a drunken stupor,
upon seeing an elephant the symbol of the party he so
hated-rushed in to assault the pachyderm. This occurred in
Hatton and his ‘drinking partners’ who were somewhat more sober
than he quickly prevented the tragedy.
This UNP hater in later life became a very close
friend and confidant of Dudley Senanayake and was also in charge
of the ‘political classes’ along with I. M. R. A. Iriyagolla,
which we attended as students.
A young graduate, Dharmapala Wettasinghe joined
‘Lankadeepa’ in preference to a teaching appointment which
entitled him to Rs. 180 salary — Rs. 60 more than what he would
get at Lankadeepa. Such was his love for journalism.
Saturday was ‘Kari’s’ day off. But ‘Captain’ who
was speaking to someone over the ‘phone liberally using the
words ‘Yes madam, Very well Madam, OK Madam’ asked him whether
he could cover Miss Gerry Cooray’s Mahila Samithi Annual General
Meeting at Kaduwela. Transport was to be provided from Times
building to Kaduwela by Miss Cooray, who was then a senator. A
formidable looking female arrived at the appointed time in an
equally formidable looking limousine to take him to Kaduwela.
This ‘formidable female’ melted like butter in the august
presence of Miss Cooray as did all the other ladies. Miss Cooray
was like a Queen amongst them.
After the function Miss Cooray asked a somewhat
sturdy young lady with an aristocratic appearance who was clad
in the Kandyan Osari to drop the journalist at the Maradana
Her vehicle was a two seater — Baby Austin. She
got on to the driving seat and D.F. removed himself to the
extreme edge of the seat to prevent the lady’s hand even
accidentally touching his when the lady changed gears.
Only a few words passed between them until she
brought him to his destination. She never told him who she was
and ‘Kari’ did not have the guts to ask her for her name.
The next day he saw her shopping at Shewakramas
drapery Stores in the Petta, but she left the shop before ‘Kari’
could go up to her.
The shop owner proudly announced to ‘Kari’ and
for all others to hear.
‘That was the wife of the Minister of Local
Government, Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike.’
It was D. B. Dhanapala who ‘did’ the page 1
dummy’ for the Lankadeepa. He did an excellent job of it. No one
else had any experience of ‘page-making’.
Once for three days Dhanapala did not come to
work and at the morning Editorial conference the question arose
as to who should do page 1. Nimal Karunatilaka who knew of
‘Kari’s’ talents in that direction suggested that ‘Kari’ be
given the task.
When Dhanapala came to office on the fourth day
he was highly pleased with the ‘make-up’ and wanted to know who
was responsible for such a wonderful job. Mahanama Dissanayake
who ‘filled’ in page one was also very happy.
Dhanapala was so taken up with ‘Kari’s’ talents
that he entrusted ‘Kari’ with ‘making’ the page 1 from then
onwards to ‘Kari’s utter joy and satisfaction.
Although ‘Kari’ was now handling the ‘make-up’
of Page 1 as well as the Page 2 which carried foreign news his
designation was that of a ‘Translator’. The starting salary of a
Translator was Rs. 120 per month against Rs. 200 of a
Sub-editor. Everytime ‘Kari’ spoke to Dhanapala on this matter,
his reply was that it had to be recommended by the Chief
Sub-editor — Prince Gunasekera. Prince Gunasekera did not pay
any heed to Kariyakarawana’s requests for a change in the
designation and raise in pay. ‘Kari’ became a frustrated man.
In the meantime Esmond Wickramasinghe — a
graduate of the Ceylon University had assumed control as the
Chief Executive and Managing Director of Lake House following
the death of his father-in-law, D. R. Wijewardene.
Esmond Wickremesinghe who was a ‘progressive’ (a
‘leftist’) in politics was a progressive in ideas as well. He
realized that Lankadeepa was giving a ‘run’ to ‘Dinamina’
because it had ‘Dhanapala’ who was well versed in English. The
Deputy Editor of the ’ during this time was Tarzie Vittachchi of
‘Fly By Night’ fame. The Editor of the Dinamina was ‘Loku Sir’ —
Piyasena Nissanka. In a swift re-organisation, Esmond brought
Tarzi Vittachchi as the Executive Editor of Dinamina persuading
Nissanka to keep a low profit. Nissanka’s sole responsibility
was to write the Editorial.
Tarzi’s first task was to build up a team to
give a young look to ‘old’ Dinamina. He used Dharmapala
Jayaweera as a talent scout and soon Meemana Premathilaka joined
from the ‘Silumina’, Rianzie Wijeratne, the photographer from
the ‘Observer strengthen the ‘Dinamina’ Team of Cyrus W.
Surendra (who incidentally was the 1st editor of the UNP Journal
‘Siyarata’) and H. K. Mahindadasa.
‘Dinamina’ badly wanted a ‘page maker’.
Dharmapala Jayaweera the talent scout, approached ‘Kari’. At
first ‘Kari’ was not interested as he feared ‘Lake House’ then
known as a Bastion of Catholic Action and a Fortress of
Ultimately ‘Kari’ agreed to meet Tarzi and after
asking several questions Tarzi referred ‘Kari’ to Esmond. Esmond
talked very fast and worked even faster. His son, Ranil, cannot
hold a candle to his father’s vision, P.R. and efficiency!
Esmond immediately sized up the man before him
and offered him Rs. 10 more than his pay at the Lankadeepa but
what clinched the deal for Esmond was the offer of the
Sub-Editorship of both the ‘Dinamina’ and the weekly ‘Silumina’.
‘There is a great future for you here. Report to
work from tomorrow!’ said the Go-Getter Esmond.
‘Kari’ asked for one week’s time to consider
although he had to give one month’s notice to Lankadeepa.
He hit upon a plan.
The following day he read the Riot Act. He told
the Editor that if his designation was not going to be changed
he would not do anywork so saying he got into a corner and sat
reading newspapers. At the end of the day he went home. The next
day and the following day it was the same. The fourth day his
explanation was called for and he wrote a hard hitting
The next day ‘Kari’ received a letter
terminating his services and requiring him to collect two months
salary as payment in lieu of notice. ‘Kari’ collected the money
and went to bid adieu to Dhanapala who advised Kari to sleep it
over a few days and to see him after his stubbornness subsided.
He heard Prince Gunasekera telling a colleague,
‘who will give him a job?’ That was the 14th of Nov. 1951.
Joins Lake House
The very next day, ‘Kari’ went to Lake House and
assumed duties as the Sub-editor of the ‘Dinamina’ and the ‘Silumina’.
One of the first things he did after assuming
duties at Lake House was to ring his friend and former
colleague, K. M. Sirisena at the Lankadeepa office to convey to
him and obviously through him to others, that he had joined Lake
Thus Lankadeepa’s loss became Lake House’s gain
as ‘Kari’ was responsible for training a large number of young
people who today hold very senior positions.
I was a ‘stringer’ in the ‘Observer’ in 1966
receiving a per diem allowance of Rs. 15 when my friend Eamon
who was Kari’s brother asked me whether I could do the permanent
nightshift in the Janata as he knew of my desire to do Law and
the day shift would not permit me to attend lectures.
Moreover there was a Board of Directors ruling
that no journalist will be permitted to follow any other course
of training or studies as according to Ranjith Wijewardene — the
Wickramanayakes and the Hulugalles all took wing to Hultsdorp no
sooner they were called to the Bar. Due to the representations
made by the Kariyakarawana brothers Mr. Ranjith Wijewardene gave
me special dispensation to join Law College thus enabling me to
secure 1st class honours at the Final Examination of Advocates
in Oct. 1969.
‘Kari’ has authored several very readable books.
In one of his books referring to his numerous
golayas he refers to me seething with innuendo (Page 84 ‘Mathaka
Pothen Thawath Tikak’) as follows:
‘Buddhika Kurukularatne was another person whom
I took over to the Janatha on the insistence of Eamon. Really
speaking, I took him in very reluctantly. It was because he was
then a UNP Youth Leader. Eamon was also a bigman of that party
then. Eamon suggested Buddhika’s name via the UNP leadership and
Lake House administration. Still I could have objected. But, I
couldn’t do so because of Eamon.
In just a day or two Buddhika proved himself to
be a clever chap as well as a dependable fellow. I realized that
he had an excellent knowledge of English and a Sinhala knowledge
which was half his knowledge of English. He was also quick on
the uptake and displayed a great knack of taking quick and
correct tensions. Before long he completely won me over.
‘Buddhika told me and Eamon that it would be
better if he could study law whilst working in the ‘Janata’. We
created a night shift for Buddhika to enable him to attend Law
College during the day. That was how he became an Advocate’.
This was indeed so and I am ever grateful to the Kariyakarawana
brothers — DF and Eamon.
Amongst those who received their training under
‘Kari’ are Lakshman Jayawardene — a former Lake House chairman;
Thilakaratne Kuruwitabandara, former Editor Silumina, Siri
Ranasinghe, present Editor Lankadeepa, Merryl Perera, present
Editor Divaina, W. G. Gunaratne, co-Editor Lankadeepa and a host
of others too numerous to mention.
Perhaps his biggest contribution is to create a
third generation of journalists. Muditha his son, is the
Secretary General of the Association whilst Muditha’s son Kurulu
Kariyakarawana is attached to the editorial staff of the Daily
‘Kari’ completes 60 years as a working
journalist in June. He still writes weekly columns to several
weeklies. He enjoys the evening of his life amongst children,
grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
To mark his 60th year he makes a suggestion on
behalf of all the journalists.
‘Let there be a Special Fund setup with an
initial contribution of Rs. 60 lakhs from the President’s Fund.
There should be a Board of Trustees governing the Trust. The
Minister of Media can be the ex-officio chairman with
representatives from the Public Trustee, the Auditor General,
President’s Media Consultant, Press Association forming the rest
of the trustees.
‘The funds in the Trust should be made available
to journalists in times of illness. It could also be used in
times of death for funeral arrangements so that a dignified
final farewell will be given to the unsung journalist.’
In the evening of my life I shall cherish
nothing more than to make my fellow journalists free from want —
my proposal includes the provincial reporters who at present are
a neglected lot, said this ‘Old Man of Sri Lanka Journalism’
with his eyes glittering with hope and expectation.
Kariyakarawana was for seven years a
Vice-President of the prestigious IOJ (International
Organisation of Journalists and for 20 years the President of
the Sri Lanka Press Association).
Pushing 75 he is at present the President of the
India-Sri Lanka Journalists Association.