sri express

After serving the Sinhala community in the UK for around two decades, the Sinhala monthly ‘Lanka Viththi’ folded up recently. Launched in April 1997, it was the first Sinhala newspaper published outside Sri Lanka at the time.

A huge success amongst Sinhalese domiciled in the UK, especially those who loved their motherland, the newspaper was commended its efforts to maintain a positive image at a time the war was raging on with the pro-LTTE lobby hell bent on giving the Sri Lanka a bad press.

Although ‘Lanka Viththi’ largely targeted Sinhala people living in the UK, it developed a wide readership in Sri Lanka, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Cyprus etc.

The paper didn’t have a big staff, but proved to be quality reading thanks to the untiring efforts of editor Daya Ranasinghe, the live wire behind the publication.

Before migrating to the UK in 1979, Ranasinghe, worked as a journalist at Lake House, Times and Davasa Groups. He also contributed to the Radio programs of the then Radio Ceylon. He was closely associated with the films "Haralakshaya", "Sihasuna" and "Maruva Samaga Vase" with the famous film director, the late Titus Thotawatta.  

In 1983, he won the best O.C.I.C. script writer award for the film "Adishtanaya" directed by Sathischandra Edirisinghe. He also wrote the script for Andrew Jayamanna’s short film "Sigarat Kotaya" (Cigarette Butt), which represented Sri Lanka at the Popoli international film festival in Italy.  He also penned lyrics to popular vocalists W. D. Amaradeva, Sanath Nandasiri, H. R. Jothipala, Milton Perera, Abeywardane Balasooriya and Sujatha Attanayake.

In an interview with Sri Express, Ranasinghe recalled that when he arrived in the UK over 35 years ago, Sri Lankans had to visit the High Commission in London to read a local newspapers.

"That was when I developed the idea to publish a Sinhala paper in the UK. When LTTE terrorism escalated in Sri Lanka after 1983, the Sinhalese in the UK wanted a medium to express their opinion. So, I thought it was the best time to start a Sinhala newspaper. That was how ‘Lanka Viththi’ was born", he recounted.

Asked why he decided to fold up the popular publication, Ranasinghe replied, "With ‘Newsfax’, the printers in London. Putting up shutters, I have been left with no option. If I am to continue with my work, I have to go to a printer faraway Glasgow or Liverpool, which is not practical".

The other reason is crushing of the LTTE and the restoration of peace in Sri Lanka. The key objective of the paper was to counter the LTTE propaganda threat, he noted.

"I did not close down the paper and run away. In my final edition, I informed my readership that the paper will fold up. I even organized a farewell ceremony in London and thanked all those who helped me over the years to keep the publication going" Ranasinghe said.

By Sujeeva Nivunhella in London

Sri Express
Sri Express

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