Post Script to the essay on the Wijewardene Clan
Posted on November 7th, 2015
By Shelton A. Gunaratne
Ranjith Wijewardene has sent me the following clarifications on Part 2 of my three-part essay.
On “Esmondizing Lake House,” Ranjith says:
Esmond was, I think, the secretary of the Trotskyite Students Union of the Ceylon University. He came courting my sister on a bicycle. A razor sharp intellect and great resourcefulness lay behind an amiable personality. What appears as misplaced political judgment at one point of time, can be vindicated by events [that] followed.
(Again in the ‘First Past the Post’ system, it can be difficult to foresee an election result, because despite a voter majority, a party can be reduced to a meager representation in Parliament).
Ranjith corrects an inadvertent error and an omission I made in my essay, which stated that “the intermediary between Esmond and the journalists was his administrative assistant Don Paul, a sort of curmudgeon.”
Don Paul, the curmudgeon, was MD’s [managing director’s] loyal steno typist and keeper of the files. MD’s link to editors and journalists was via J.L. Fernando, chief editorial executive, and A. Arulprigasam, chief administrative officer.
Ranjith clarifies my statement that “the public demonstrations that erupted in reaction to this news [allegations of exchange control violations] caused heavy damage to the ‘morgue’ of the Lake House library collection.”
The public demo was premeditated, and we had warning that it would happen in the event of a United Front victory. We were given a squad of 12 PCs with wicker shields while there must have been at least 500 [people] massed outside. The then IG hung up on me, when I pleaded for re-enforcements. (He was under orders to stay off and expressed his regrets later).
Ranjith also has elucidated on a few points I slopped over in Part 3 of the essay.
In regard to my reference to Upali Wijewardene, Ranjith says:
Upali had no assistance from his uncles as they had all passed on by then.
Ranjith has also pointed out that I have erred when I made the blanket statement: “They [father and son] both adhered to the principle of right livelihood because they did not make unconscionable profits by promoting arms and lethal weapons, poisons, animal slaughter and cheating.” He admits:
I did have an Arms procurement agency very briefly, until a nasty accident occurred, that made me give up the agency forthwith. The monies earned were set aside for a staff emergency loan fund.
On the diversification of his investments, Ranjith elucidates:
Much of the diversification was already in place due to the far sightedness of my BIL [brother-in-law] George Gomes who separated the Lake House commercial ventures from the main newspaper business.
Commenting on “modern methods” I credited him for introducing at WNL, Ranjith confesses:
These were all the brain child of WNL General Manager and now Director Lal Jayawardena, who has been aptly described as ‘someone who can see round corners.’ Racy and populist stories were from Siri Ranasinghe and Vijitha Yapa, editors at the time.
Ranjith says that the government made “no offer to regain control of Lake House … for me to refuse.”
On the circulation figures I gave in the essay, Ranjith explains:
With no Audit Bureau of circulations, the guide that is mainly used to assess readership is LMRB’s annual survey. I believe we are ahead according to LMRB.