Men and memories
D. F. Kariyakarawana 60 ‘Not Out’ in journalism
by Buddhika Kurukularatne

When 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 maestro.

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, ‘Meegomu Kumara’.

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.

Big responsibility

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 Tudella, Ja-Ela.

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 activities.

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 Buddhist scripts.

‘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!’

Embraces Buddhism

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 Vajirarama, Bambalapitiya.

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 priest.

"Then why are you sending money to your mother in France every month?’ shot back Kariyakarawana rendering Dochain speechless.

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 building.

Lankadeepa’s ‘de jure’ Editor was the erudite Julius de Lenerolle who was the Editor of the Sinhala Dictionary.

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 laboriously.

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 know.

‘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 influence people’.

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 Station.

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 reactionaries.

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 explanation.

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 House.

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 Mirror.

‘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.



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