A Distinguished Broadcaster whose Voice was Silenced | Daily News
Thevis Guruge’s 33rd Death Anniversary

A Distinguished Broadcaster whose Voice was Silenced

Thevis Guruge
Thevis Guruge

Thevis Guruge was a distinguished broadcaster who was attached to (then) Radio Ceylon now Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC). He was the very first Sinhala Announcer with Radio Ceylon, the oldest radio station in the South Asia. Not like these days, the radio announcers and almost all journalists were well read and educated. They did not use slang language. They were the educators of the schoolchildren and the entire society. They rarely made mistakes. They obeyed all ethics in journalism.

On July 5, 1989, he was appointed as the authority for the censorship of the news which was imposed by then (1989) Government. On July 23, 1989, Guruge (68) was killed by a group of young Sinhalese youths who called themselves rebels when he was going to a shop in the morning on the bridge at Polhengoda Road in Narahenpita while he was taking his morning walk near his home in South Colombo. He was shot with a T-56 assault rifle and five bullets were found in his body. The funeral took place on July 25, 1989 at Borella cemetery.

Radio Ceylon

He was the director of the Sinhala Service of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) from 1970 to 1977. He was appointed as the Chairman of the Independent Television Network (ITN) in 1978. He retired in 1983.

He enjoyed iconic status alongside other announcers attached to the SLBC, Guruge was one of the early pioneers particularly where the Sinhala Service was concerned. Millions tuned into Radio Ceylon. It was not only for entertainment. It was for accurate reliable information and education. Radio Ceylon is the oldest radio station in Asia. Broadcasting was started on an experimental basis in Ceylon by the colonial Telegraph Department in 1923, just three years after the inauguration of broadcasting in Europe.

The Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) came into existence on January 5, 1967 when Radio Ceylon became a public corporation. Then Prime Minister (1967) ceremonially opened the newly established Ceylon Broadcasting Corporation. All State media, both print and electronic have been maintaining their standards from the beginning.

In the 1980s Thevis Guruge was appointed Competent Authority of ITN in Sri Lanka after it was acquired by (then) Government. Guruge was assassinated in 1989 after a group of young thugs who called themselves rebels had threatened him the week before. As he had not bowed to their threats, this visionary chairman met his demise. His killers did not stop there. The same young Sinhala youths who called themselves rebels killed 30 politicians, 23 academics, 1 clergy, 2 Government officials, 89 civilians and 61 service personnel, from July 1987 to January 1990.

They began preparing to topple the Government. They began targeting opponents, carried out robberies to collect funds and began acquiring weapons. Usually collecting pistols and shotguns from owners who had gained gun licences from the Government. Thereafter they planned to raid armouries of the Government, who had deployed its forces to the North and East of the country to counter the LTTE. On December 15, 1986, they abducted and murdered Daya Pathirana, Leader of the Independent Students Union (ISU) of University of Colombo, which was a rival student union of them. Then they gradually eliminated all students’ unions from all universities except their one. Today they dominate all State Universities.

They carried out a large number of murders. They killed more than seventy Members of Parliament between July and November 1989. They murdered probably thousands of people and crippled the country with violently-enforced general strikes for two years. Individuals or organisations were warned or intimidated with messages dropped in the night to homes or posters or graffiti that appeared overnight. Those that did not cooperate were brutally killed, with the repercussions extended to their family members. Executions were mostly carried out at night with armed groups coming to the homes of the victims and carrying them away to be tortured, executed and left as an example, while occasional bombings took place.

In most cases the funerals of these victims were not allowed by them, traditional final rights were not allowed and the caskets were to be carried below knee level as a mark of disrespect. With these techniques of fear and intimidation they were able to bring the country to stand still. Acts of sabotage were common, with destruction of Government property such as buses, trains, State buildings etc. Electric transformers were a common target. Killings took place in both urban and rural areas and the Government seemed powerless in the face of it.

Once the LTTE terrorist Prabhakaran said Sri Lankan people remember things only for two weeks. This is one of the weaknesses we have as Sri Lankans. As patriotic Sri Lankans, we should not forget our recent history, especially the history after the Independence. We must remember who did what and when. This is the only way of preventing future terrorism which can kill some more watchdogs of the people similar to late Thevis Giruge. It is very pathetic to see some individuals and groups in Sri Lanka only commemorate some murdered journalists of their choice. Such events cannot be named as commemorations because they are very biased and only use as tools to gain political advantages. We should not forget how they were killed and who killed them. Anything can be forgiven but forgetting things can put us in troubles or disasters that may never end within our life time. Therefore we must educate our young generation about our recent past. 

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