On Line Petition Replace the Editor of the ‘Island’
Posted on April 8th, 2013

It is an unfortunate that the Press of this country, particularly in the English language mainstream, has consistently failed to conform to the general principles of journalism followed in democratic countries.

Most of the politically and economically influential people in Sri Lanka as well as those living overseas rely primarily on English language newspapers. 

It was observed by the Press Commission (1964) headed by Justice K.D. de Silva that existing local newspapers did not hesitate to fabricate, suppress, slant or distort news and views whenever it suited them and they were further guilty of anti “”‚ national and anti – Buddhist activities.  

The Press Commission observed that – The Buddhists were consistently being accused of being intolerant. Their genuine grievances received scant attention, and the rightful place due to Buddhism was denied to it by the newspapers.   

Nearly 50 years later the situation concerning the Mass Media in Sri Lanka is not any better. It looks as if it has changed for the worse.

For example, the daily “ƒ”¹…”Island’ newspaper is a member of the Upali Group of Newspapers and has been a forerunner amongst English readership in Sri Lanka. Under the direction of the present Editor Mr. Prabath Sahabandu, it has been observed having watched his conduct over a long period of time since he replaced Mr. Gamini Weerakoon as Editor of the “ƒ”¹…”Island’ about 10 years ago, that there is callous disregard for unbiased coverage of both news and features.

There is never a balance in opinions published and continuous exposure is only given to writers that seek to portray Sinhala Buddhists as “chauvanists” and “violaters of peace and harmony”. Thus, the editor is contributing towards giving a totally false image of the Sinhala Buddhists and he does not entertain any right of replies. This in turn gives the wrong image internationally.

The point of view is put forward consistently in the “ƒ”¹…”Island’ that the Sinhalese Buddhist majority is intolerant and is trying to deprive the minorities of their rights.  Foreign news which is of real interest to the Buddhists is never given the publicity it deserves. Hardly any attention or scant attention is given by the “ƒ”¹…” Island’ to global Buddhist events or the plight of Buddhists in other countries such as South Korea, Bangladesh or in Myanmar where the Buddhists are today fighting for their very survival against an hostile ethnic group being later arrivals to Burma but nevertheless funded by Saudi Oil funds to increase their numbers disproportionately and expand their hold and influence in Myanmar. 

Instead of advising the various minority groups to adapt themselves to the changing circumstances,  what is unfailingly being done by the ‘Island’ Editor is to poison the minds of the minority groups and encourage them to think as victims of discrimination and fight the Sinhalese Buddhists wherever possible.  Further the impression is been created that the communal and religious minorities must come together and oppose the Sinhalese Buddhist majority if they are to get any rights at all.

His constant accommodation of arrogant feature writers that openly ridicule the Sinhalese Buddhists cannot be accepted. In the event he wishes to carry such an article he must either balance it with an alternate opinion or cater to right of reply – both of which he does not do. 

The newspaper Editors that belong to the ilk of the “ƒ”¹…”Island’ Editor feed a hostile (foreign) press against this country, and an atmosphere of prejudice is created thereby against Sri Lanka in the international arena.  It is unfortunate that there is still no credible large scale organisation available at the moment to present an accurate and impartial picture of what is actually happening here.  

We the signatories to this Petition are alarmed and also surprised that the Owners and the Management of Upali Newspapers Ltd. have failed to observe this state of affairs to take action against the present editor. 

We the undersigned seek the replacement of Mr. P. Sahabandu as the Editor of the “ƒ”¹…”Island’ as a matter of urgency with a suitable person who will give a balanced coverage to news, events and opinions in the ‘ Island’. 

Name                                   Signature




16 Responses to “On Line Petition Replace the Editor of the ‘Island’”

  1. Voice123 Says:

    “Instead of advising the various minority groups to adapt themselves to the changing circumstances,  what is unfailingly being done by the ’Island’ Editor is to poison the minds of the minority groups and encourage them to think as victims of discrimination and fight the Sinhalese Buddhists wherever possible.  Further the impression is been created that the communal and religious minorities must come together and oppose the Sinhalese Buddhist majority if they are to get any rights at all.”

    – yes, Sinhala and Buddhist concerns must be taken seriously by the government in a way that doesnt alienate minorities and instead serves to unify the country. That is a win-win situation for everyone. Certain well-intentioned members of the mainstream that favor integration are unfairly vilified as “racists”. (eg insults to Tilekeratne Dilshan for exercising his freedom of choice to call himself Tilekeratne Tuan Dilshan and not Tuan Tilekeratne Dilshan. This is crazy! Stifling such freedom of expression by scaremongering etc should be discouraged and made illegal. This is a problem even in the West where there is a kind of “apartheid by stealth” creeping in under the guise of “promoting multiculturalism”.

  2. Lorenzo Says:

    Who has written the petition?

    No one will sign a petition from an UNKNOWN person!!

  3. A. Sooriarachi Says:

    This is a strange petition.
    My observation has been that the “Island” is probably the only newspaper (excluding the Govt owned Lakehouse newspapers) that publishes balanced news unlike many other news papers in SriLanka. I haven’t noticed anti-buddhist trends in the “Island” paper, unlike the “Ceylon Times”.
    As Lorenzo says, it is imperative we know who drafted this petition. I would also request from the author of this petition a few significant examples to substantiate these allegations, rather than destroy one of the few neutral papers in SriLanka, which has so many anti-govt papers at a time powerful hostile groups are targeting SriLanka.

  4. Nesta Says:

    Yes. I agree with the author of this petition. But who is the petitioner. Yes. Mr. Prabath is not in the middle path.

  5. Leela Says:

    To my knowledge, most of those that buy English language new papers in this country are not traditional Sinhala Buddhists. Its primary subscribers are Colombians and WOGs. Needless to say, there are Sinhalas, Tamils and Muslims in this group. Of this lot all most all Sinhalas revere anything English whereas, Tamils and Muslims do it to a somewhat lesser extent. For one thing though, they all join hands to degrade and look down on Sinhala Buddhist values. Most of all, they appear to enjoy accusing Sinhala Buddhists as being preoccupied and passionate with ‘ Mahawamsa Mindset.’ Just read comment section of the ‘Colombo Telegraph’ to learn the degree of it.

    Then there is another crowd in suburban areas who loves to imitate the Colombians and WOGs. This lot think they are educated because they speak a bit of English. From what I see, they speak mostly Singlish. Perhaps they are confused and consequently, they are neither there nor here. They are the target of Prabath and his NGOs. I shall explain it later. Anyway, we can find a few of them in our villages as well. Some of them buy English news papers to demonstrate that they have moved upward along the social ladder.

    English news papers need Colombians and WOGs and the latter lot I described. Without them there would be no buyers for English new papers. Not enough sales means the paper will simply close down. So I can understand the precarious situation the owners of the Island are in. Owners of the Island are known to be nationalistic. But if they follow their hearts content and only carry articles that promote traditional Sinhala Buddhists values and their nationalistic stand, Colombians and WOGs would get agitated and stop buying their paper. The latter said lot may continue to buy it, but that won’t be enough.

    So, the owners of the Island must have been in a conundrum. On the one hand they are patriotic and on the other hand, they must run their paper viably. They have to induce Colombians and WOGs to buy their paper. Perhaps, Prabath is the owners’ answer to sort out of their dilemma. And Prabath is using the writings by the NGO gang for two ends. One; he compels Colombians and WOGs to buy his paper by giving them something they enjoy reading. Two; he is inculcating the Singlish speaking crowd with vile anti-nationalistic ideas he wants to propagate .

    So, I wholeheartedly agree with everything that is written here by this petitioner. Like him, I too have smelled a rat or a shift in values of the Island when Professor Nalin de Silva had published few articles at this web site when he complained that his usual article in the ‘Mid Week’ Island was edited to kick in a different meaning to it. Some or Many may not agree with his controversial ideas. But we must respect the views of the learned man. Prabath and his NGO gang must be the culprits for that sinister act. The fact that Nalin is back with his column means owners may well have interfered in his favour. Whatever it is, that may be, just a one bad example.

    I have never met Prabath. The man seems to be knowledgeable and is superb in his English comprehension, grammar and vocabulary. In that sense he may well be the best out of current editors. Is that why the owners retain him?

  6. Harisutha Says:

    Why get about it this way? I believe we have a place to make a complain about this type activity of the Publishers and Editors. Also please let us know who or what Organization is promoting this petition and that you have exhausted all the other efforts with the Publisher to correct the situation. Remember that the Editor is employed by a Publisher and not “We the People”.

  7. Sunil Vijayapala Says:

    one of the most dangerous lots in sri lanka are these conservative, english values appreciating mob, mostly with the colombon mentality. well we too underwent this phase but had the wisdom to uncondition ourselves. they are defined as ‘elite’ since they speak in english – a wise sinhala guy, much wiser than them, who speaks sinhala only, has no place in their club as for a person to be elite ‘he/she has to speak in english’ this is the barometer in sri lanka. what a pathetic situation. and who are these english values appreciating lot? mostly catholics and christians, (i must say the majority of them) who don’t give a damn about buddhism or sinhala language. they want lanka to be an english speaking country (like the wise old fool jrj wanted) and sinhala can die its own death, along with buddhism. this mob is as dangerous as wahaabis. they too need to be tackled by bbs, the only org. there in lanka to safeguard our heritage and values. if i sent the letter i wrote on kudawe river illegal sand mining to our man prabath, i am pretty sure he wouldn’t have published it. i contacted another editor over the phone and pleaded him to publish it. the other two idiots in times and observer never were worried about this important environmental degradation issue. our country has gone to dogs! i rememebr the writings on the walls in colombo during a jr’s visit abroad. ‘rata ballata giyaa – ballaa rata giyaa’. 3 megalo maniac presidents have done a good job!

  8. Marco Says:

    Leela- Thank you – You have introduced some interesting thoughts.
    I will be interested to know how you define a “traditional Sinhala Buddhist”
    May i say you have patronised the grass roots of the Sri Lankan populace who are more than capable to make an informed or “ill informed” decision to make their minds up irrespective of which newspaper, English or otherwise to make their minds up.I believe over the years they have witnessed and experienced first hand irrespective of what “our” newspapers say.
    Yes, some may be willing to take a Rs 500 note to participate in a demonstration without batting an eyelid to feed their kith and kin. –
    The Island compared to Daily News or Mirror has been impeccable in giving a balanced view. I only wish certain reports and features are translated into Sinhala and Tamil.
    I also noticed that you took exception to CT. Thats rather a shame. It’s possibly the only news worthy medium that have credible writers/authors/political analyst viewing their opinions.
    As regards to the comments that follow those, think i will let you decide!

    LWmoderator- would this be another one of my many comments binned?

  9. Lorenzo Says:

    Micro’s wolf calls against the moderator are pathetic. Like the genocide claim of Tamilians.

  10. nilwala Says:

    This petition is completely uncalled for.
    Prabath Sahabandu has supported us throughout in the fight against the LTTE , and has also never hesitated to publish articles written against the 13th Amendment and other issues that have been of particular concern to the Sinhala community.
    THE ISLAND is in fact the most balanced English language newspaper in town that presents excellent analyses that address all sides of the issues. It is the #1 newspaper for our household … unfortunately many in this town who buy English language newspapers prefer the pro-Opposition press. So the Island may have a hard time surviving this bias among the Colombians.
    IT IS SHAMEFUL that we react so unreasonably, providing ammunition for those who label us as ‘PARANOID ‘.


  11. Leela Says:

    I like journals that present different views more than those that has one sided views. Perhaps that’s why; I often read CT and write comments to it even in the face of stiff opposition. But most commentators there who say they stand for egalitarianism and pretend to fight for democracy and even demand the government is impartial abhor contrary views to theirs. I didn’t expect Prabath to be blinkered like them and edit Nalin’s article to alter its meaning. And mind you, Nalin is no one off writer or newbie for journalism. I realized I am not incorrect what I had been suspecting about Prabath for awhile; he has his ulterior motives.

  12. Leela Says:

    I forgot, you were asking about my phraseology “traditional Sinhala Buddhist.”

    Let me start like this. Different Muhammadan groups and even groups within groups follow it in a different way but they all have only one Koran. Some of them emphasize some verses and some others emphasize some other verses. Christians do the same. Likewise, though Theravada Buddhists have one Tripitaka, they follow it in a different way in different countries, However, in spite of we have different Nikhaya for monks here, Dhamma they believe is the same and they all have similar core values and customs. Those who follow them are “traditional Sinhala Buddhist.” Got it.

    Of late, some Colombians and WOGs appeared to have discovered a different Buddhism. They condemn the core values and customs of Buddhism we follow. Who knows they may have imported their values and customs from Saudi or Norway.

  13. Fran Diaz Says:

    I have not met Prabath Sahabandu, but I would like to thank him for delivering accurate news to us during the long years of war with the ltte and publishing articles of academic worth during times of great confusion, helping us to ease our concerns.

    Of late, I am assuming that the very westernised/English speaking folk of Sri Lanka who live in Colombo especially must be feeling somewhat insecure after the war with the ltte finished because the media attention & development is now shifting to the village areas where most of the population lives. It is the village folk who sacrificed their lives in the wars with the ltte and it is quite right that their time has come to take a bow. However, the smart and wise Colombo person will participate in the Development programs all over the island, and reap the dividends therefrom.

    Right now the Island newspaper may be reflecting the insecurities felt by some of these mainly Colombo people ? I don’t think Prabath should be penalised for allowing a some of their frustrations being safely vented out via the Island newspaper. However, it ought not to be overdone as the public is in no mood to mollycoddle ‘Colombian’ types.

  14. Fran Diaz Says:

    read as “allowing some … “

  15. RP Says:

    I fully endorse the views expressed by Fran Diaz, particularly the first para. Mr Prabath Sahabandu’s contribution to the war effort as a bold and fearless editor who published excellent feature articles and well chosen letters in the opinion column was the only redeeming feature of the English press at that time. He published several of my letters which were fully supportive of the war effort, critical of the CFA and last but not the least the hypocrisy of the Western Powers which financed the war. We must be thankful to this 5 Star General of the 4th Estate !

    However, his volte face surprises me. What is mentioned in the petition is mostly correct. The anti Sinhalese, more so the anti Sinhala Buddhist stance (I am a Catholic) of the Island Daily is incomprehensible. There could be several reasons. Upali Group is a commercial venture and the readership matters. Perhaps this is a well thought of marketing strategy to boost readership among the so called ‘Colombians. Or he could be under pressure from advertisers or threatened by unknown forces. Several of my letters in the recent past – 6-8 months – have not been published for the same reasons given in the petition. I was very disappointed when an important letter exposing the threat of extreme Islamism (not Islam) and the importance of the role played by the BBS – Baudha Bala Sangamaya was not considered suitable for publication.

    Having said all this I must be very clear to state that I will not sign this petition because I still respect Mr.Sahabandu for the excellent editorial work done in the past.

  16. Lakshan Says:

    It’s wrong to blame the upright editor Prabath Sahabandu if the writer’s chauvinistic sentiments are disregarded- everyone know the inhuman hardships that Rohingiya people face under Burmese Buddhists
    so Mr. Prabath acted as a true Buddhist in pointing that out

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