The closing down of the second newspaper in a month on the heels of several other closures, an editorial coup and a stop-start-stop-again of another newspaper has thrown the Sinhala newspaper industry into turmoil.
The ‘Janayugaya’ was shut down prompting the staff to take the matter up in the Labour Tribunal. The newspaper, owned by Arjun Aloysius, the man at the centre of the Central Bank bond scam and handled on his behalf by Thushara Gooneratne and Upul Joseph Fernando ran into financial difficulties following Aloysius’ bank accounts being frozen.
Earlier this month the Sunday broadsheet ‘Sathhanda’ was also closed down. The paper, funded by the General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and Minister of Agriculture Duminda Dissanayake, also had financial problems with advertising revenue plummeting following rumours that Dissanayake might cross over to the United National Party in the event the SLFP fares poorly at the forthcoming local government elections. Ruwan Ferdinandes, close political associate of Minister of Finance and Media Mangala Samaraweera was also an important figure in this newspaper.
‘Sathhanda’ was headed by well-known political and cultural commentator Deepthi Kumara Gunaratne. According to Sathhanda sources, the paper is likely to be revived later this year with the support of fresh funding sources.
Meanwhile Rivira Newspapers Pvt Ltd., which closed down its English publication, ‘The Nation’ in December and struggled to print the daily Rivira, which didn’t hit the stands on certain days of the week, has stopped printing both the daily and Sunday papers.
According to Rivira sources, there has been a change in both the management and the editorial offices. Former CEO, Chula Ratwatte, is back at the helm, indicating that Nilanka Rajapaksha, who held controlling shares in the company has been sidelined. Nayanaka Ranwella and Chandana Kariyawasam, editors of the Sunday and daily newspapers respectively have been removed. They have been replaced by Tissa Ravindra Perera and Ramesh Werellegama.
In another shake-up, former strongman at the Ravaya, the controversial Victor Ivan, has orchestrated a coup to remove K.W. Janaranjana. Wimalanath Weeraratne, the only Ravaya jouranalist who accepted both laptops and interest free one million loans from Mahinda Rajapaksa, returns to the Ravaya this time as Editor following stints at Irudina (also now defunct as is its sister paper in English ‘The Sunday Leader’) and Sathhanda. However, according to sources, he is just a figurehead with Ivan calling the shots.
At the Ravaya journalists Tharindu Uduwaragedara and Rekha Nilukshi are reported to have tendered their resignation following Ivan’s take-over while the Deputy Editor and News Editor, Lasantha Ruhunuge and K Sanjeewa are also expected to resign shortly.