As the state-run weekly English newspaper Sunday Observer owned by the Lake House Group embarked on a major overhaul, two of its top journalists – Hana Ibrahim and Dilrukshi Handunnetti – have tendered their letters of resignation.
Both Handunnetti and Ibrahim worked as Senior Associate Editors of the Sunday Observer, since February, last year.
However, sources close to the two journalists said the decision had nothing to do with the restructuring of the newspaper. “They have got better job offers. So, they have decided to resign. There is no link between the overhaul and the resignations. No journalist can reach new career heights in the so-called Sri Lankan state run media, ” the source said.
As part of the restructuring plan, senior journalist and Editor in Chief of Daily News, Lalith Alahakoon, has been appointed as the Editor in Chief of all English Publications of Lake House, including the Sunday Observer. Despite Alahakoon’s new appointment, Lakshman Gunasekera, who became the Editor of the Sunday Observer last year, still remains in the same position.
“Over the past 12 months, there was a steep drop in the circulation. There were complains that the paper did not meet print deadlines. To reverse this situation, the company set sales targets for Observer. The staff was asked to take measures to increase circulation by 10,000 within a period of 6 months. New recruitments were made to achieve this target and new workflow management systems were also introduced,” a source close to Lake House Chairman, Kavan Ratnayaka, told the Colombo Telegraph.
Dinesh Weearawansa, a sports writer known as a Rajapaksa stooge, was the Editor in Chief of the Sunday Observer before regime-change in January, 2015. During Weerawansa’s seven-year period, the Sunday Observer’s circulation came down by nearly 40%.
The new management too however failed to increase the circulation of the paper although they hired a few top English journalists in the country to revive the paper. Under the new management, the Observer circulation has dropped by nearly 10,000.
“We admit there is a drop. That’s why we have set new targets. With this fresh change, we firmly believe we can achieve the ‘lost status’ within six months,” the source said.
Colombo Telegraph did not contact ANCL Chairman Kavan Ratnayaka for a comment. Earlier when Colombo Telegraph questioned orders by the Prime Minister’s office to not carry Mahinda Rajapaksa’s “Medamulana Statement” on July 1, Ratnayaka said “I read Colombo Telegraph but I don’t question you,” he said in response.
Despite the overhaul plan, last week, the state-owned newspaper company sent its Sports Editor Callistus Davy on paid leave for two months over an alleged incomplete report on the Royal – Thomian big match. The journalist also failed to carry a photograph of Chief Guest and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe handing over the D.S. Senanayake Shield to the winning Royal College captain.