By Darshanie Ratnawalli –
YGLs Of South Asia ‘Learn’: Who Established The Sri Lanka College Of Journalism
“Let him take credit for it if he wants. What does it matter?” Waruna Karunatilake told me among other things when I called him to verify if Ranga Kalansooriya was indeed the person who established the Sri Lanka College of Journalism (SLCJ). Dr. Ranga Kalansooriya, a former Director General of the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) stood up before an audience of Young Global Leaders (YGLs) of the World Economic Forum (WEF) and claimed – I quote verbatim – “I am the person who established the Sri Lanka College of Journalism. But I have to say I am ashamed of the quality of journalism in Sri Lanka as well as elsewhere.”
Kalansooriya made this claim at an informal and niche diplomatic event involving YGLs, a network of achievers mobilized by WEF. He was not challenged simply because there were no veteran journalists in the audience. However journalists albeit of a greener hue were present and that he still decided to make a false claim about a core journalistic institution in Sri Lanka attests to how much he has bought into the theory he articulated several times during his speech; that Sri Lankan journalists have a capacity issue. Finding out who really established the Sri Lanka College of Journalism would be quite beyond the capacity of this lot, Dr. Kalansooriya must have told himself smugly.
We all bought it, YGLs, green journalists, expert panelists. I must confess that I only have a passing acquaintance with the SL College of Journalism, i.e. I sometimes pass it on my way to the bank. During the refreshment break Asanga Abeyegoonesekera, under whose chairmanship this niche YGL event is being held in Sri Lanka makes a beeline for Ranga Kalansooriya and bears him off to meet the YGLs connected to media in their respective countries, passing me with a dismissive ‘thank you for coming’. How strange, I think, after all I edited this man Asanga’s book, ‘Towards a better world order’ and I am there supposedly to cover the event on his invitation and I and my partner had met him socially just last night. Then I console myself philosophically, after all Ranga Kalansooriya is the person who established the SLCJ, who am I?
When I sent my first article dealing with Kalansooriya ‘Young Global Leaders taste floppy journalism’ to Uvindu Kurukulasuriya, a former convener of the Free Media Movement and now the editor of Colombo Telegraph, he asked me “‘I am the person who established the Sri Lanka College of Journalism’ Did he really say that?”. I replied “yes he did. I recorded his speech.” “That is not true though” says Uvindu. “Listen to the record again and re confirm please” requests Uvindu like the good investigative journalist that he is. “Confirmed. Hear for yourself. It’s between 28.43 and 28.59” I tell him mailing the recording of the entire session to him.
Three days later, in my lackadaisical way it occurs to me that there is a story here. For I am not very dynamic as someone used to tell me often. I email Uvindu; “Dear Uvindu. You said Ranga Kalansooriya did not establish the SL College of Journalism. Can you tell me who established it and who were the people involved and did Ranga Kalansooriya have any role at all in that?” That was the first in a series of questions I asked in my endeavor to unearth the parentage of the Sri Lanka College of Journalism. I discovered that it had a group parentage and that this parent group did not include Ranga Kalansooriya. I discovered that the first batch to be taught by Sri Lanka college of Journalism started their course on 10 May 2004. A few months later in September 2004, the college started a mid-career course for working journalists. SLCJ eventually employed Ranga Kalansooriya as the coordinator of this mid career course. He worked under the first Director of the college Dr. Uvais Ahamed. A Google image search of the name Ranga Kalansooriya throws up a picture. In it Ranga Kalansooriya, Co-ordinator, Sri Lanka College of Journalism shares his thoughts with the Director of Sri Lanka College of Journalism Dr. Uvais Ahamed at a workshop on Advanced Photojournalism entitled ‘Life along the railway Track’ held from 28th November to 02nd December 2005 at the college premises.
Watson if the man was a course coordinator at the college in 2005 how can he claim to have established it? Holmes would have asked. I asked the same question from Manik de Silva.
But before that Uvindu told me “http://www.slpi.lk. Call them and ask the history officially. As far as I remember Ranga joined as a mid career course coordinator much later. When the SLPI DG [Director General, Sri Lanka Press Institute] post was vacant, he applied and got it. I was a director of SLPI as well as PCCSL [Press Complaints Commission Sri Lanka].”
Manik De Silva who were on the boards of SLPI/SLCJ and PCCSL from inception, though not anymore told me “The guy who really started SLCJ was Waruna Karunatilake – but from the board.
I don’t think it was Ranga K. But I’ll get it checked out from the board minutes. There should be a record of an appointment. The best person to ask is Waruna. Being as involved as he was, he should know.”
“Who established SLCJ?” I call up Waruna Karunatilake and ask. He says “Three organizations; the Free Media Movement (FMM), The Editor’s Guild of Sri Lanka and the Newspaper Society of Sri Lanka”
“But persons wise who established it?” I ask impatient to get personal.
“Persons wise, the people who were on the boards of these organizations, Sinha Ratnatunga, Victor Ivon, Manik De Silva, [he mentions a string of names, all of which I don’t catch but deserve to be featured on the SLPI website for posterity’s sake]”
I inform him “Dr. Ranga Kalansooriya stood up before an audience of…”
“Yes I read that article” Waruna Karunatileke says interrupting me. I ask him if he has any idea as to why Kalansooriya should have made such a claim. Karunatilleka denies any knowledge of Kalansooriya’s motives and cautiously says he doesn’t know what was actually said. I tell him the exact words and ask if they are accurate. “A group of people established the college and Kalansooriya was not among that group. He was employed by the college as the midcareer course coordinator. So that is not an accurate claim. But if he wants to say that he helped develop the college both in his capacity as course coordinator and later as DG, Press Institute, he can”.
So there you have it; a common enough story. Give a certain type of man (or woman) a microphone and a green audience and he (or she) will strut. The Sri Lanka Press Institute is the management arm of the College of Journalism and it would be very easy for a DG of the former to convince himself that he established the latter; if not for the memories of men who remember and want to keep the record straight.
“Now I recall that FOJO of Sweden really got the SLCJ going and had a man (Swede who’s name I forget) here who did most of the work to set it up. He was paid by the Swedes.” Manik de Silva informs me. The Sri Lanka Press Institute signed an MOU with FOJO and made it an institutional partner in December, 2003. At this moment let us spare a thought for that anonymous and half-forgotten Swede.
It’s a voice cut related to the articles In it a journalist named Ranga Kalansooriya makes the false claim that he established the Sri Lanka College of Journalism. The claim is between 28.43 and 28.59 of the track
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