LIFE ABROAD – Part 28: Adieu Lanka Viththi
Posted on May 23rd, 2013

Dr.Tilak Fernando

I was distressed to hear from my friend Daya Ananda Ranasinghe in London, the editor and publisher of the Sinhala tabloid Lanka Viththi, the sad news about the demise of his Sinhala journal after 16 years of continuous publication. In a poignant note he wrote in his email thus:

“Last Saturday, May 5, 2013, we bid farewell and adieu to Lanka Viththi at Wembley which was rather heart-rending but nevertheless a very successful event because I could see the faces of many true Lankan patriots who did not abandon Lanka Viththi, the only Sinhala newspaper published in the UK for 16 long years till the final hour. Their genuine and warm feelings were expressed through tear drops and sad countenance, being unable to express in words “”…” needless to say I was extremely moved by the standing ovation given to me by the well-wishers at the finale.”

Brain child

Sixteen years ago on a Sinhala New Year’s day, Daya Ananda Ranasinghe came up with a brain wave to release a Sinhala tabloid (Lanka Viththi) as an avurudu gift to the Sri Lankan community in England creating history by being the first ever Sinhala newspaper published outside Sri Lanka. This undoubtedly filled the conspicuous vacuum that existed among the Sri Lankan diaspora that was scattered all over the world who could read Sinhala.

Daya Ananda was prepared and determined to sail through rough seas single handed confining to his own resolutions and principles with the fervent hope of expecting financial support and a full backing from Sri Lankan institutions based in the UK who were already advertising in other Sri Lankan publications in London during an era when the country was riveted with terrorist activities.

As the editor and publisher of Lanka Viththi, Daya Ananda had no qualms about calling spade a spade. Being patriotic to the core he maintained a policy of campaigning against all types of divisive ideas and actions which were aimed at weakening the Sinhala nation.

Adhering to the maxim, “Mother and Motherland are nobler than heaven” he portrayed this caption over the masthead of the newspaper giving a clear and sound message that Lanka Viththi struggled to put records right and safeguard the motherland. This very principle prevented him receiving any advertising revenue from Tamil business houses which abundantly made use of other Sri Lankan tabloids published in London.

Forum

Being a monthly edition, Lanka Viththi presented to the enlightened reader relevant views, opinions, forces and trends. It always served as a forum for discussion and debate on social, political, educational and cultural matters with contributions from the editorial, professionals and specialists. Most importantly Lanka Viththi welcomed the active participation of the readership and always encouraged readers to bring in their creative talents in writing, art, sculpture, poetry, cinema and drama etc., which was evident from many contributions that appeared over the years. Seemingly with the addition of its own website, it became a wholesome Sinhala journal, a sine qua non for every Sri Lankan who could read Sinhala.

During the height of a terrorist war where Tamil Tigers were hell bent on dividing the country with a determined effort to make the Sinhala language disappear to oblivion, Daya Ananda made it a point to select and publish many articles and poems attributing towards the encouragement of soldiers at the battle front.

This Sinhala tabloid published in London reached the soldiers even in deep jungles in Sri Lanka where they were deployed to fight the enemy. Seemingly Lanka Viththi had a considerable fan base around the world giving rise to a new era of Sinhala writing and language in England where true Sinhala patriots declared “ƒ”¹…”war’ against the LTTE bullets with their mighty pen.

Dream fulfilled

Lanka Viththi was distributed free of charge mainly through the Buddhist temples, grocery stores selling Sri Lankan food, Sri Lankan restaurants, Bank of Ceylon and the High Commission in London. His friends who travelled to Sri Lanka on holiday always obliged Daya in carrying a bundle or two of the paper to support him in his struggle to distribute the paper in Sri Lanka.

Moving with the times, Lanka Viththi entered the world wide web within a very short period of time, remarkably with Sinhala fonts where readers could access through computers from the luxury of their homes. Daya Ananda Ranasinghe’s resolve to sustain Sinhala language from its fast approaching extinction and aiming at promoting the Sinhala culture and heritage among the expatriate Sinhala diaspora in the UK and other parts of the world had paid off and, this for him was a dream fulfilled.

To publish a newspaper in the UK is not an easy task, the nucleus of which involved the much needed capital, a conclusive dedication and a commitment to see to its smooth uninterrupted operation and circulation. To his delight there were dedicated friends, contributors of various articles and poems from all parts of the world who were national minded and valued the Sinhala culture and the language.

To battle single handed as an individual committed to uphold a nation’s culture and language (and not as a business house with adequate financial backing) was Daya Ananda Ranasinghe’s uphill task for 16 long years in a competitive market where there were other numerous ethnic newspapers in a variety of languages, including 15 Tamil language newspapers and journals, printed and distributed in the UK.

His prime ambition, through the columns of Lanka Viththi, seemed to maintain harmony within the Sri Lankan society with the prime aim of developing the intellect of Sinhalese and acting as a guiding shaft of light to the second generation of Sri Lankan offspring by educating the community in a multiple of ways to show the correct path to lead a peaceful life as good citizens.

Daya Ananda Ranasinghe needed no formal introduction as the Editor of Lanka Viththi. He had served as a journalist for many leading newspaper groups in Sri Lanka and bagged decades of journalistic experience. He is a renowned poet and a lyrics writer in Sinhala songs and a scriptwriter for Sinhala films too. In 1982 Daya Ananda won the best creative scriptwriter of the year OCIC Award in Colombo for his film Adhistana (Determination) that represented Sri Lanka in the Film Festival in Manheim, Germany.

It could have been perhaps the film script “ƒ”¹…”Determination’ which implored within his system to bring out a Sinhala newspaper from a foreign land! Alongside the publication of “ƒ”¹…”Lanka Viththi’ he has been working on a second anthology of poetry, writing novels and translated a collection of short stories to Sinhala.

This versatile journalist epitomised his love for his motherland for decades while living in the UK and became a beacon of patriotic light through his journal Lanka Viththi during the past 16 years brightening up many a Sri Lanka life both in the UK and abroad.

The irony of it all was that, here there was a patriotic Sinhala individual who was fully dyed-in-the-wool in preserving the Sri Lankan culture and language from a foreign land, especially at a time so much of adverse publicity against Sri Lanka was being disseminated from various quarters in the UK media, yet not many Sri Lankan governmental institutions based in London stretched a helping hand to continue his enthusiastic service. It was equally unfortunate that even the government eyes at home were “ƒ”¹…”blind folded’ to see the yeoman attribute this single patriotic individual was struggling to achieve which can only be described in a single word at the demise of the only Sinhala Newspaper as “abysmal”.

Congratulations to Lanka Viththi and salutations to Daya Ananda Ranasinghe who never asked the country what she could do for him but in return he always asked and showed the country what he could do for his motherland.

Dear Daya Ananda, you can be consoled by the fact that at least some of the expatriates who appreciated your efforts arrived at Wembley, all the way from places like Manchester, Oxford and Wales, along with all erudite speakers, patriotic singers and musicians and a Single Buddhist monk, Ven. Balangoda Ananda Mangala Thera, to represent the whole of Buddhist clergy in the UK, and to make the grand finale a memorable event for your undeterred service to Sinhala language and the Sinhala culture over 16 consecutive years by “ƒ”¹…”running yourself alone and simultaneously overtaking yourself at times’ to reach your expected goal.

“What is a character? It is the personality that defines one, that other than biological factors, the code of conduct that rules one’s actions, the discipline or defaults for what one does and the lifestyle that makes up one’s reputation”.

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One Response to “LIFE ABROAD – Part 28: Adieu Lanka Viththi”

  1. Wickrama Says:

    An online version of Lanka Viththi should be possibe??

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