137th Birth Anniversary of ANCL founder D. R. Wijewardene: An Exceptional Leader

An all-night pirith chanting ceremony was held on Wednesday night (22) and almsgiving was conducted yesterday to mark the 137th Birth Anniversary of D. R. Wijewardene, founder of the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited at the Lake House premises.

The pirith chanting ceremony began at 10 pm on Wednesday and conducted by the Maha Sangha led by Ven. Dr. Ittademaliye Indasara Thera of the Sambuddhaloka Viharaya, Fort.

Transport, Highways and Mass Media Minister, Dr. Bandula Gunawardena, Lake House Chairman and Mass Media Ministry Secretary Anusha Palpita and members of the Director Board, Wijeya Newspapers Chairman Ranjith Wijeyawardene and Lake House staff and family members took part.

Ven. Dr. Ittademaliye Indasara Thera is a great admirer of the founder of Lake House, D.R. Wijewardene. It seems that the founder of Lake House is praised and lauded even by the monkhood in Sri Lanka. Ven. Indasara Thera focused a lot on what D.R. Wijewardene did for the monkhood during his address at the Lake House in connection with D.R. Wijewardene’s 137thBirth Anniversary.

“D.R. Wijewardene was a man who inspired the masses through his newspapers. He had that unique quality of magnetism. He was the driving force behind the masses through his newspapers. I personally find this amazing. He was someone who made a difference in many ways – socially and politically. He was a leader in the truest sense of the word. His papers were of the highest quality,” said Ven. Indasara Thera.

Ven. Indasara Thera also pointed out that Wijewardene had the kind of charisma that enabled him to win people over. He was able to rally a devoted group of followers. His admirers included those in the monkhood and many other groups of people who were agitating for change. “He had on his side quite a number of intellectuals.

Through his papers he was able to inform the public. This knowledge would prove to be pivotal when it came to the struggle for independence in Ceylon.

He was a man who respected religion and religious figures. In 1929, D. R. Wijewardene formed a newspaper company called ‘the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited’ (ANCL). In 1934, all its operations were moved to a new building called Lake house.

I can say without a shadow of doubt that this event was of vital importance to the independence movement,” explained Ven. Indasara Thera .

Ven. Thera stated that Wijewardene had a close relationship with the religious institutions. He added that the service D.R. Wijewardene rendered to this country is something that makes us indebted to him. D.R. Wijewardene was generous when it came to assisting Buddhist institutions. He was very kind to Buddhism. There are so many examples of this kindness throughout his life. He did a lot for Buddhist education, and he did so much to preserve Buddhist culture.

“When I think of what he had done for the country, I feel immensely proud and grateful. What he did for the monkhood of Sri Lanka is praiseworthy. D.R. Wijewardene was a man who was genuine. His efforts were done with no expectation of monetary benefits. What he did was out of love, passion and patriotism. His passing no doubt created a great void in society. But his memory and his message, will forever be with us,” explained Ven. Indasara Thera .

There is no doubt that Wijewardene had with him a powerful media company. The old adage – ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’, enters our mind. In that sense Wijewardene was also a peacemaker. He did not try and get what he wanted by violence. His newspapers peacefully carried out his message. “He was a man who dreamt of independence, and even though he died two years later after independence, he saw his plans come to fruition. He was a man who always strived to preserve our cultural identity. That is something that makes me joyous,” the Thera added.

Ven. Indasara Thera also spoke on Wijewardene’s freedom struggle. He was a man who felt the pulse of the people. “He was a man who desired freedom. And he understood that the time was right. He saw around him many who desired change.

“I call him a national leader because he did not represent just one segment of the society. He was a man for all Sri Lankans. Is it any wonder that people pay obeisance to his statue? Lake House has done so much for Sri Lanka. It has touched the lives of so many. It has changed the lives of so many. It has transformed this nation. I say to you Monks, never forget what this great man has done for us. He is a man who needs to be respected,” pointed out Ven. Indasara Thera.

Pictures by Malan Karunarathna and Sulochana Gamage, Nissanka Wijerathne, and Sudath Nissantha