by Chelvatamby Maniccavasagar
Karel Roberts whose sudden death a few months ago came as shock to her colleagues and associates. Though cruel death has snatched her from our midst her name and fame as an excellent writer and veteran journalist will be remembered for many more years.
As a leading journalist and writer she had shone in her profession with the inherent humility, wit and charm that were hers. She was courageous, trustworthy and passionately concerned with the rights of human beings.
Throughout her life as a journalist she cared little for honour and fame and she always dedicated herself for the cause of good journalism and many who cared to follow her simple principles in life sought her valuable counsel and able guidance at various stages of their lives and whoever sought her advice came out with a lighter heart and, of course, a wiser mind.
Karel Roberts joined the former ‘Times of Ceylon Ltd’ in 1960 and worked under veteran editors like Felician Fernando, Fred de Silva, Reggie Michael in the Daily Mirror along with Rita Sebastian, Krishnasamy, E P de Silva, Sivanayagam, Elmo Benedict, Gamini Navaratna and several other journalists of repute. As a journalist attached to ‘Women’s page’ she discharged her responsibilities with dedication, commitment and with distinction
Indeed, there was a time when journalism was exclusively meant for men. But, in the early part of 1950s there were many English Language and Sinhalese Language women journalists like Ranji Handy who was the wife of former acting Prime Minister late Maithripala Senanayake, Jeanne Pinto, Jean Moonesinghe and Sita Jayawardena (later Parakrama).
But in the latter part of fifties a large number of women entered journalism. They were Roshan Peiris, Mallika Wanigasundara, Vijitha Fernando, Hema Gunawardena, Chandra Silva, Sybil Wettasinghe, Eva Ranaweera, Sriya Ratnakara, Karel Roberts and Rita Sebastian, and all of them belonged to English and Sinhala medium journalism.
Karel Roberts had an exemplary command of the English language and an equally strong knowledge of whatever she chose to write on. She was no journalist contented to report and comment.
In the Daily Mirror under the stewardship of Fred de Silva and Reggie Michael she showed her versatility and blossomed out to be the best writer and reviewer of Arts and Literature. Her writings and reviews were replete with an aura of love for Arts and Literature.
She had a very fine style of writing which really impressed many readers. Besides, she was very bold and courageous and would not fear or favour in her criticism. She had written on various and varied subjects of interest which were tremendously appreciated by men and women of erudition and eminence.
In addition to her long and dedicated service in the former Daily Mirror and Sunday Observer she had rendered an unforgettable service through her brilliant writings and enlightened many readers on various mundane subjects. She respected and had a good knowledge of all religions and valued our national culture and heritage. She rose above narrow parochialism, regionalism, sectarianism and communalism.
Further, in the sphere of journalism, no field of endeavour was left untouched by the swaying amplitude of her imagination, felicity of words, thoughts and actions. She was a quiet individual who had a vast knowledge of men and matters which she had acquired through years.
It is an accepted and acknowledged fact that long years of journalism usually leaves most people full of bitterness, distrust, disappointment, disillusionment and despair, indeed her personal life was full of miseries.
But people and her close colleagues who really understood her plight took a sympathetic and compassionate attitude towards her and rendered tremendous financial assistance in the tail end of her career and even of her life.
Furthermore, one of her noblest examples, she had left us was her preference for simplicity in all her activities even in her style of dress and she treated everyone equally, irrespective of caste, creed and religious differences.
Indeed, the impact of her work in the sphere of English journalism will continue to be felt for many more years. Her death marks the end of a golden era in the annals of English journalism in Sri Lanka. As a sense of gratitude and appreciation of her yeoman service in the field of English journalism, I wish to conclude with the following:-
“Good Night Sweet Queen and may the flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”