Enduring legacy | Sunday Observer
An SLBC studio named in Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra’s honour

Enduring legacy

12 March, 2023

March 9 marked a momentous day for Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation on multiple fronts. The South Asian region’s oldest radio station honoured the legendary Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra by naming a studio after him. The institution leapt modernity by revamping its website, www.slbc.lk, and launching a mobile app. Talk about bridging the gap between the past and present!

Veditantirige Eustace Reginold de Silva, later known as Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra (3 June 1914 – 16 August 1996), continues to be a celebrated Sri Lankan playwright, novelist, poet, literary critic, essayist, and social commentator. Widely regarded as the foremost playwright in Sri Lanka, Sarachchandra created numerous theatre productions that garnered critical acclaim over a career spanning more than four decades. In addition to his contributions to the arts, he also held the position of senior lecturer at the University of Peradeniya for many years and served as Sri Lankan Ambassador to France from 1974 to 1977.

Although Sarachchandra is recognised as a prominent figure in the fields of drama, writing, criticism, poetry, and more, his contributions to the SLBC have not been thoroughly investigated and evaluated. Despite Sarachchandra’s efforts to enhance radio communication in the country, his role in utilizing the vast potential has not received adequate attention.

Studio naming ceremony

A studio of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation was named after Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra and inaugurated on March 9 by the Minister of Transport, Highways and Mass Media, Dr Bandula Gunawardane. SLBC Chairman Hudson Samarasinghe, Director General Nalin Nishanka, Lalita Sarachchandra and Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation Chairman W. D. Ganegala graced the occasion. Writing a feature article for our sister newspaper, Dinamina, Sandhya Karunaratne cites four keynote addresses delivered by Minister Bandula Gunawardane, SLBC Chairman Hudson Samarasinghe, Prof. Sunanda Mahendra and Advisor to the SLBC on Information Technology Venerable Pattiyawala Mahinda Thera.

Dr Bandula Gunawardane said that naming a studio complex after Professor Ediriweera Sarachchandra is a historic moment expressing gratitude and commemoration of the Broadcasting Corporation for the erudite scholar who made a genuine contribution to changing the course of Sri Lankan art history.

He said that the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation provides a unique service for the advancement of the social, cultural and artistic fields of the country. Information regarding any program of the Broadcasting Corporation can be obtained from the website www.slbc.lk.

“Today, the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation marked a historic day, and as the minister in charge of the subject, I couldn’t be happier. Prof. Sarachchandra was a revered figure in our country, and I had the privilege of crossing paths with him when I was just a teenager. Even at that young age, I could appreciate the kindness, love, and wisdom he displayed in his works, such as ‘Malagiya Etto’ and ‘Malavunge Avurudu Da,’ which showcased his deep understanding of life through Buddhist philosophy.

Despite not having had the opportunity to study Sinhala language and literature in high school, I got my first glimpse of Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra at Lumbini Theatre, the birthplace of Sri Lankan theatre. The theatre was always packed with eager audiences, and I had the pleasure of watching plays for free. Patrick Aiya and Balasuriya Aiya, who took care of the theatre, introduced us to the world of drama and theatre. Before the plays began, we had the opportunity to engage with Prof. Sarachchandra, Sugathapala de Silva, Dayananda Gunawardena, Simon Navagathegama, and other distinguished individuals, who shared their insights and experiences.

Lalita Sarachchandra was always by her husband’s side, supporting his deep philosophical ideas. She was a loving and devoted wife, and even when Prof. Sarachchandra wrote reviews, he remained objective and impartial, regardless of whether his wife had acted in the drama being reviewed. Prof. Sarachchandra even signed as a witness on my behalf during my marriage, and I consider him to be an important figure in my unbroken marriage,” Minister Gunawardane remarked.

Mysterious figure

SLBC Chairman Hudson Samarasinghe had his fair share of experiences to share.

“In 1969, I had the privilege of meeting Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra for the first time. I was a newcomer to Radio Ceylon, and nobody there knew who I was. Professor Sunanda Mahendra may vouch for my unfamiliarity with the institution at the time. Before joining Radio Ceylon, I had spent my days in a temple, where the great monks of the Ramanya Maha Nikaya prohibited reading newspapers or listening to the radio.

When I arrived at Radio Ceylon, I was a stranger to the place and the equipment. I didn’t even have a table or chair of my own, but one Mr Palitha kindly allowed me to share his table. There was another person present, whom Palitha introduced to me as P Welikala. Suddenly, Welikala invited me to his home in Nugegoda and gave me directions on how to get there. He suggested I come around seven in the evening.

When I arrived at Welikala’s house, his wife had already prepared a delicious meal. She was a talented teacher who would later become the principal of Anula Vidyalaya in Nugegoda. While I was there, the renowned musician Amaradeva brought a violin and played some beautiful tunes. I recognised him from his picture in the newspaper.

Soon after, a mysterious figure arrived at the gathering. It was none other than Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra himself. I was thrilled to meet the legendary playwright, novelist, poet, and literary critic. It was an unforgettable experience, and I felt honoured to be in the presence of such a great literary icon.

Throughout my time at the radio corporation, I have always regarded P. Welikala, Ediriweera Sarachchandra, and Amaradeva as the trinity that embodied the essence of this institution.”

Prepared scholar

Prof. Sunanda Mahendra had this to say addressing the gathering:

“Prof. Sarachchandra was a man with a clear vision and an unwavering dedication to his work. He had a talent for recognising and selecting the right people for his team, and he took great care in preparing his speeches. Under his leadership, programs like ‘Rangasoba’ and ‘Kalpana’ were organised on the radio, each with its unique focus and purpose.

One of Sarachchandra’s notable traits was his attention to detail and his commitment to ensuring that everyone involved in his programs was compensated appropriately for their work. He was not content with merely putting together a program; he made sure that everyone who contributed to it was recognized and rewarded for their efforts.

Senarat Paranavitana, WS Karunaratne, and other accomplished individuals were given the opportunity to speak on Prof. Sarachchandra’s programmes, which helped broaden their reach and impact. With Sarachchandra’s guidance and vision, these programs became widely popular and greatly influenced Sri Lankan radio culture.”

Information Technology Initiative

Advisor to Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation on Information Technology Ven. Pattiyawala Mahinda Thera said:

“Integrating information technology into any organisation can be a significant undertaking, and maintaining it can present its own set of challenges. However, despite these challenges, the SLBC initiated this program, which is estimated to cost approximately three million rupees.”

Remarkably, this program was implemented without any charges. The website offers a one-stop portal for everything related to the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation. From radio programming to communication, individuals can access a wealth of information with ease.

The platform is user-friendly, providing an opportunity for anyone to learn and study topics of their interest. And with the added convenience of a mobile app, staying up-to-date with the latest news and programming has never been easier.