Sirisa Pathikada programme stepped into its fifth year on 1 July 2019, celebrating summers, winters, autumns and springs. We had Admiral Ravi Wijegunaratne, Chief of Defence Staff as our special guest on the programme and shared our happiness and joy with traditional kiribath. Pathikada is aired on Sirasa Television on weekdays from 6.00 to 6.30 am. The programme was presented to the viewers based on a concept by the Chairman of Capital Maharajah Group Mr R. Rajamahendran.
I had only heard of him and I met him thanks to the introduction given to me by his nephew Shivaji Sri Ramanathan, who became friends with me in Sydney. I met Shivaji thanks to Dr Lakshman Jayaweera
After a few pleasant emails, I got the opportunity to meet Mr Rajamahendran in person . He welcomed me very warmly. That warmth I would never forget. He remains the same even today. Kind, sincere and straight-talking and understanding. It is well-known that he doesn’t like the limelight or any praise. He might even get offended that I have written these few lines. I am sorry Sir. I had to.
I also have the pleasure in working with his young Group Director Chevaan Daniel. I knew of Chevaan because he has been in the news and his grandmother, the very charming Mrs Daniel, taught us at Trinity. Typical Sri Lankan connections.
Together with our team, we are proud to say that we have cut across the language barrier unlike any other programme in the country because of the use of simple language. No jargon. Language which everyone understand and speak. We are proud to say that all five communities in Sri Lanka watch Pathikada. They encourage us to do better. We have been successful in educating and empowering the public. We will continue to do so. Incidentally, the first guest on Pathikada was my friend and Associate Editor of The Island Shamindra Ferdinando.
One day Mr Rajamahendran asked me to take the programme beyond the studios to the people. We haven’t looked back since then, starting with a live programme from Sayura, Sri Lanka Navy’s biggest ship at the time. We have climbed Siripada and recorded programmes. I still remember how the pilgrims/viewers both Sinhala and Tamil greeted me and the presenter Lakna and delayed our climb. It was heartfelt. Sri Lankan Tamil shop owners followed us in Hatton and gave their blessings and the best of upcountry tea. We went to Laggala and spoke to the brick layers and brought to light their problems. We sat and spoke with the villagers in Battiacaloa in the middle of a paddy field. We had parachuting dogs, dogs from the Commando regiment and the bomb squad and the Air Force dogs and vets. We told Sri Lanka of the services rendered by the police horses. We went in search of Army Sergeant Kandula the proud jumbo of the Sri Lanka Light Infantry. We went whale watching with the Sri Lankan Navy. Even today the ‘Princess of Lanka’ Navy’s whale watching ship use Pathikada on board to educate the whale watchers.
We gave a voice to the differently- abled of Sri Lanka, both in the forces and civilians. We told the viewers of the Air Force museum, the marvels of the Air Force technicians and the Helicopter Pilots. We went to Galgamuwa to elephant country and informed the viewers of the success of elephant fences, their fears and concerns. We spoke of the 50- acre butterfly estate in Wariyapola. We had soldiers, commanders, poets, authors, academics, politicians, teachers, trade unionists on Pathikada. We gave respect where it was due. Unlike any other programme in Sri Lanka we gave a voice to the ordinary masses and welcomed them on our programme. We have done over 20 programmes based on viewer letters. We received a letter of demand amounting to Rs. 10 billion for exposing wrongdoers. We never gave up. We went to Abimansala in Anurdadhapura and Mihindu Seth Sevana in Ratmalana to give a voice to the differently abled heroic soldiers during Avurudu. I remember what the Chief of Defence Admiral Ravi Wijeguneratne told me after watching those programmes. “Because of these special Pathikada programmes those soldiers will live much longer. Thank you for boosting their morale”
We were invited to Mali by the Sri Lanka Army UN Peacekeepers to tell the world about their heroics and their plight. It was a gruelling journey to that trouble-torn country. We brought Pathikada from the deserts of Mali to our viewers against all odds. In order to empower and educate our viewers we didn’t limit our communication to Sinhala only. We conducted interviews in English and subtitled them and aired it for the benefit of our viewers. Sometimes, we did live translations. We believed that language shouldn’t be a barrier. We sat by the grave of late Literary Giant Martin Wickremasinghe and read verses from his books and gave a glimpse of the museum in Koggala. Padmasena Athukorale better known as Jinna from Madol Duwa gave his first ever TV interview to Pathikada. Delighted Jinna said it was the first time he was on television. Our viewers embraced the legends of Sri Lanka from Vajira and other members of the Chitrasena family, Irangani Serasinghe, Lester and Sumithra Peiris, Swarna Mallawarachi, Siddhalepa Veda Mahaththaya, Anoja Weerasinghe and many others through Pathikada special presentations.
Our programmes brought results. Some problems of Sri Lankan people were solved after we highlighted them through Pathikada. We are proud of it. Our viewers have the habit of copying letters of grievances addressed to the President and the Prime Minister to Pathikada. We were surprised. We never forgot them. We articulated their grievances. We haven’t failed our viewers and the voiceless.
I also take this opportunity to thank Prabath Sahabandu, Editor of The Island for reaching out to me first, when I was unemployed. Sashi Rajamahendran the young Managing Director of the Capital Maharaja Group, former Minister Milinda Moragoda and my batch mate Freddy Arumugam and Shivaji Sri Ramananthan for all the encouragement. Our team members from our first producer Heenkenda to the current one Harshana Madushan, My first presenter Lakna Amandi followed by Manuri Pabasari, Navodya Hapuhinna, Chanu Dissanayaka, Thinusha Abeysinghe and Aparna Fernando and even Chethana Liyanage. Cameramen, editors, make-up artists, Master Control Room staff, translators, web and social media colleagues, Hanifa, who is at the studio early morning to serve tea and water to the guests. Greetings to Faraz Shaukatelly, who also steps in to five years with Newsline. News 1st Security staff and finally the viewers who haven’t failed us because we at News 1st Pathikada haven’t failed them.
Bohoma Isthuthi – Sri Lanka First