113th Birth Anniversary:
DR, the true patriot
Today is the 113th birth anniversary of D.R.
Wijewardena the founder Chairman of the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon,
the first Sri Lankan newspaper group that fought to regain independence
lost to the country from 1815.
D.R.Wijewardena fondly known among the people of times as D.R. hailed
from an eminent Sri Lankan family well known for their national and
He was born on February 23,1886 and after completing his school
education he left to England for higher education where he entered the
Cambridge University to pursue law studies.
After completion of his higher education he returned to Sri Lanka in
1912 but the lure of the silks at Hultsdorf did not last long with him.
An enterprising young lawyer he decided not to practice law but to start
a newspaper and began with the Sinhala daily newspaper Dinamina in 1914
followed by the Ceylon Daily News in 1918. He established the Associated
Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd., in 1926 and went on to start the leading
Sinhala weekend newspaper Silumina in 1930 followed by Tamil newspapers
Thinakaran and Varamanjari in 1932.
D.Rís grit and business acumen soon made the Associated Newspapers of
Ceylon the leading newspaper group as up to then the Times of Ceylon
that was started to cater to the interest of British planters and other
foreigners did not reflect the national thinking or ethos of an era
where all patriotic Sri Lankans were agitating or working towards
achieving independence. D.R. was one of the leading figures of the
freedom struggle but after independence he was fiercely loyal to the UNP.
The times in which he lived and worked were quite different and
perhaps having been brought up in the lap of luxury and receiving his
education in a leading school in Colombo and Cambridge he did not
foresee the changes that would be brought by the common manís era that
would emerge later after independence.
He was well known for his advocacy of a free press and also for
national unity in that he sought to bring all ethnic groups together in
a united Sri Lanka.
Yet with the common manís era that came to being in the revolution of
1956 the newspaper group also known as the Lake House group was
criticized by the extremely radical and left groups as synonymous with
the rule of the elitist political forces and some of the critics went as
far as to call it an anti-national newspaper group. There was no
substance of truth in the second criticism as D.R. was a true patriot
but the product of a different era and a different socio-political
However the ANCL produced some of the best writers and journalists of
yesteryear including such giants as Martin Wickramasinghe, G.B.
Senanayake, T.G.W.de Silva the satirist and H.A.J. Hulugalle or Mervin
D.R.Wijewardena died in June 1950 or two years after the realisation
of his cherished dreams, one of independence and two of becoming the
press baron of Sri Lanka.
The greatest tribute one could pay to him is to remember that he was
a democrat who believed and worked to achieve amity among all the ethnic
groups of the country and a patriot who wanted to build an independent