By Kanthale, R. G. Dharmadasa
One day, about twenty-three years ago, a good message was given to me, by one of my friends Ms. Vishaka Jayasekara to me, who served as a Trincomalee correspondent to Lankadepa.
“Comrade! The BBC is looking for a reporter for the Trincomalee district. Brother Elmo told me this story to me. They are looking for someone who is involved in reporting in the midst of difficulties. I told him about you. What do you think to say to them?”
I did not want to say “good at once” to Vishaka’s proposal. Because she was already giving news to the BBC.
What is your idea, sister? I asked her.
Her reply was that both of us should work together. I agreed to the proposal. That is how I got involved with the BBC. However, was getting news for BBC only from me. Even today, I humbly say that I joined BBC because of that sister Vishaka. I do not know where she is now.
I decided to make up my mind to say goodbye to the ‘ Lakbima’ newspaper, which I loved dearly, due to joining the BBC. It is more difficult to provide news to the BBC, an international media institution, than writing to a Sri Lankan newspaper. I understood that while working with BBC.
Reporting war, especially from a battlefield, is not an easy task. The situation became more dangerous in the background of allegations that the BBC was a media institution engaged in propaganda in favor of the Tigers. We had to be careful of all armed gangs and forces.
Somehow, we faced challenges and revealed the truth to the whole world. Not only war reporting but also various interesting features were among our topics.
Our media colleagues were Dinasena Ratugamage from Vavuniya, Wasantha Chandrapala from Ampara, Taxila Dilrukshi Jayasena from Polonnaruwa, Shanti Selvadore from Batticaloa, Ajith Shantalal Udaya from Ratnapura, KS Udayakumara from Colombo, Prashad Purnamal Jayamaha from Halawatha, Gnanasiri Kottigoda from Colombo. Meanwhile, BBC Tamil Ose journalists were also our close friends. It is difficult to remember their names. Sorry. Later Colombo BBC reporter Azam Amin also joined us. Mr. Elmo Fernando was the pilot of all of us. There is almost no memory without him.
Mr. Priyat Liyanage, whom we all love, was the head of the BBC Sinhala section broadcast from London. Talented journalists such as Chandana Keerthi Bandara, Upali Gajanayake, Vimalasena Hevage, Indira Ramanayake, MJR David, and several others belonged to Mr. Priyat’s staff. At that time, twenty-one lakh people worldwide listened to the BBC Sinhala service.
The BBC World Service celebrated its recent hundred centenary. So many good things happened to hear. However, there is not a single word was heard about Priyath Liyanage and Elmo Fernando, who gave life to the BBC Sinhala Service. Of course, there was no shortage of some prideful people’s stories without them.
So what about poor journalists like us in Sri Lanka? We do not like to speak out about braggarts.
I would like to talk about only the injustice done to the reporters of the BBC World Service in Sri Lanka in the past.
BBC World Service is undisputedly one of the number one media institutions in terms of popularity and recognition with a large number of subscribers whole over the world. Great Britten hosts it. The amount of resources spent on training journalists associated with their institution is also unlimited.
The same training was given to the journalists who work in Sri Lanka with BBC.
BBC issued a special identity card and the Information Department of Sri Lanka issued another identity card to foreign journalists. Meanwhile, we received an agreement that was renewed every year. We do not know whether the British government knows about these or not. But we know one thing. In other words, we know that the British government does not know that the journalists of Sri Lanka who risked their lives for twenty or twenty-five years and worked for the BBC have been removed without giving a cent.
During the Second World War, Sri Lanka was under the British Empire. There, Britain recruited tens of thousands of Sri Lankans to serve in their Royal Army. Immediately end of the war, they were all retired with a full pension until death.
We believe that the British government still does not know that a group of Sri Lankan journalists served one of the popular media institutions BBC in their country.
I declare with the utmost responsibility that Sangeet Kalubowila, who became the head of the BBC Sinhala Division after Mr. Priyath, did this to us. Our problems were not important and important to him was his cruel administration.
Finally, we are happy, about the centenary of the BBC World Service. In addition, those who gave services to you as journalists are living a miserable fate and would like to tell the BBC administration.