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The story of Eelanadu and an enterprising editor

One of the pioneer provincial newspapers in contemporary times in our country was Eelanadu, now folded up. And one of its editors was K.G.Mahadeva. He is now retired and lives in the Thamilnadu.

He has brought out a book in English titled "Reminiscences". Since he studied in Thamil medium, he admits he is poor in English. However, he managed to write in English the story of an important Yaalpaanam newspaper which began as a tabloid and then entered into broadsheet format.

The book is interesting even for an average reader because it also reveals the personal adventures of an editor living dangerously in hard times.

And to a specialist readers like students of journalism, this book reveals untold stories that southern Sri Lanka was not familiar.

I wish to glean from this book at least a few pieces of information and use them as excerpts. Editors in Colombo newspapers would certainly be interested in knowing what had happened to journalists from the north in bringing out a newspaper.

Political and social scientists as well as journalists would remember that the Eelanadu office was burnt as the leading public library in Asia - the Yaalpaanam public library was burnt on June 01, 1981. It was a sad story. There is a written record of the origin, growth and destruction of the library by K.C.Kularathinam.

Excerpts from "Reminiscences" available from the author: K.G.Mahadeva, "Suprapatham", 5,8th Cross street, Thirunagar, Karumandapam, Trichy- 620 001, Thamilnadu, India: "Started in 1959 as a weekly magazine and transformed into a bi-weekly in 1960 and daily in 1961, "Eelanadu" extended its national service in all directions.

Well organized for 33 years, "Eelanadu" wobbled after the ethnic trouble, shifted to many places, lost direction and finally stopped altogether." "In 1990 itself " Eelanadu" started straying from Chavakachcheri to Murugandi, then to Puthukudiyirrupu and was coming out from those places but could withstand only for a few years."

K.G.Mahadeva hailing from Maddakkalappu in the east joined "Eelanadu when he was 21 years old. He became the editor of "Cheithi", a weekly tabloid published from Mahanuwara when he was 27.

He rejoined "Eelanadu in late 1970s as its News editor. KGM continues: "The East-SriLanka National paper Corporation Chairman, K.C.Thangarajah, his brother Dr K.C. Shanmugaratnam, and their nephew B.Sivanandan were the founders and main shareholders.

The editorial staff had K.P.Haran as Managing Editor, S.M.Gopalaratnam as news editor Raja Ariyaratnam as the Weekly Editor. The sub editors were: T.M.Murugiah, S.Perumal, S.Sabaratna, K.Yoganathan and K.Ganeshalingam. Another staffer was A.V.Maniccam. Later Raja Ariyaratnam became the editor of "Eelanadu".

The layout of pages was handled by Narayanasamy. The Colombo correspondents were Pn.Balasundaram, Mahalingasivam and Gamini Navaratne. Other notable correspondents were: S.Thiruchelvam, K.Krishnarajah, K.Rasalingam, R.Sundararaja Sarma, S.R.Gnanasundaram, A.N.S.Thiruchelvam, Kandasamy, Balasingham, K.Thirulogamoorthy and S.Thillainathan. Later other sub editors were working: M.Manoharan, Peri Shanmuganathan, Selvi Gunamani, Selvi Pooranam, Parvathinatahasivam, Kanagaratnam, Natarajah and S.Ganeshanathan. E.K.Rajagopal was another colleague."

KGM writes: "In 1983, I was the Jaffna reporter for "Daily Mirror. I earned the friendship of Peramunathilake who started "Lanka News Agency" after having worked as News Editor of "Lankadeepa", AP correspondent Patrick Crusz and Reuters Editor Dalton de Silva....In 1982 an English weekly,"Saturday Review" was started in Jaffna.

S.Sivanayagam was the editor and A.J.Canagaratna was assisting him. S.Sivanayagam made use of my services for "Saturday Review". On July 02, 1983, the government locked the doors of

"Saturday Review" and sealed it. Though short-lived, the services of Sivanayagam made the rulers in the north and the capital think." "S.Thiruchelvam who joined as official reporter of "Eelanadu" gained experience, later joined "Thinakaran" and then served the SLBC.

Then he elevated himself as editor of "Eela Murasu", which was being published from Jaffna in the 1980s... Now he is the Editor of Information Bulletin", in Canada... R.Prabaharan who had his training in "Eelanadu" and served it for a few years is now the Editor of daily "Virakesari"... many youngsters joined "Eelanadu" and they were under my direct supervision.

The list includes P.Ananthakrishnan (Ananth Palakidnar, now senior journalist with the "Daily News"), Senthilnathan and Sivaganeshan(now a senior journalist with "Thinakueral"). They had acumen to gather news and pen articles.

Their skill and popularity in the field of news writing today adds honour and merit to "Eelanadu"...Some who have joined "Eelanadu"'s family in the middle but worked hard, are now in the pinnacle of their glory. M.Kanamylnatahan is editor of "Uthayan".

S.Perumal is in 'Uthayan' weekly, S.K.Kasilingam is publishing books in France. S.Kuhanatahan is running "Eelanadu" in France. E.Kandasamy works for a TV channel in France."

The newcomers were: A.S.Muruganandam, M.Parvathynathasivam, V.N.Balasubramaniam, Prabaharan and Benjamin Rajaratnam. The most interesting part in KGM's book is the Part 11 titled Incidents. The journalist's adventure amidst political turmoil and risky atmosphere is vividly written.

He was summoned by the late president Srimavo Bandaranaike during the regime of the late President J.R.Jayawardene for publishing an interview with her by Patrick Crusz who wrote it for the "Daily Mirror". The interviewer had sent a copy of this to "Eelnadu" as well.

I do not want to explain further because it would spoil your interest in reading how other media could misinterpret things. Political commentators in the media should read this episode in Thamil journalism. Parts 111 and 1V touch on the author' contacts with VIPs local and abroad. The last section of the book includes excerpts of reviews in Thamil on his original book in Thamil.

It was called "Ninaivalaihal" Those who reviewed were: 'Thinathanthi' newspaper in Thamilnadu, Anthony Jeeva, "Sujatha"(a Thamilnadu writer), K.Gunarasa (Chengai Aaliyan), Maana Mackeen, Devakanthan,'Ilakkiya', 'Kunkumam', R.M.Nagalingam, P.Sribhavan and P.U.Lenin.

Contact: [email protected]
 

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