Mervyn De Silva the Uncrowned Media King of Sri Lanka




Mervyn de Silva

Mervyn de Silva

I will be falling in my duty if I do not pen a few words of appreciation about Mr.Mervyn de Silva who I admired very much for his knowledge, genuine friendliness and most of all his ability to call a spade a spade.

Whenever I met him, which happened to be at least twice a month during the last 25 years, I always made it a point to have a serious chat even for a minute. I valued his ability to provide an unbiased interpretation of the current political issues and his forecast on such matters were always accurate.

It is with a very heavy heart that I recollect some past meetings and I begin to feel that I have lost a very useful and genuine friend. First I came to know Silva through my cousin the late Mr.Lakshman Rajapaksa. Both of them were regulars at the Orient Club. Being a Royalist he was also very close to late Mr. George Rajapaksa, his fellow alumni.

Being only a student of politics, I remained a passive participant at the meetings Silva had with my cousin, Lakshman and George, gathering valuable points. However I came still closer to him after I became a Member of Parliament in 1970. The frequency of meetings grew after the formation of the Sri Lanka Committee for Solidarity with Palestine, when the journalists who launched this organization elected me as its President. Mr.Mervyn de Silva was one of the Patrons. Silva being a journalist well versed in international affairs was found to be an authority on Middle East. Our Solidarity Committee naturally, considered him as an invaluable asset. He was never a blind supporter of PLO or its cause. There were instances where Mr. Silva was critical of some policies of PLO.

I had the pleasure of introducing Silva to a number of Palestinian delegations visiting Sri Lanka and I am proud to say that all of them were surprised about Mr. Silva’s knowledge of Middle East and the Palestine issue in particular.

He was equal to the best of authorities on Middle East affairs. Mr. de Silva maintained a very close relationship with the Embassy of the State of Palestine in Sri Lanka and its ambassadors had a very high regard for him.

When the UN decided to hold its regional seminar on the question of Palestine at BMICH in August 1981 Silva was selected as one of the eleven experts to present papers at this seminar. His presentation being of a very high standard naturally brought honor to Sri Lanka. Silva was a livewire at the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies and his contribution to its popularity among the intelligentsia of this country was invaluable. His ability to conduct lectures and discussion, very often under trying conditions, can never be matched. Silva was undoubtedly the uncrowned media king of Sri Lanka and he rose to this level only because he wrote what he wanted. He will wine, dine and light the best Cuban cigar presented to him by the leader of the country, but he could not be dictated to by anyone.

To him, friendship and other considerations were secondary to ethics in journalism. In this context I feel that the journalists in Sri Lanka should emulate these great qualities of Mr.Mervyn de Silva.

While Sri Lanka lost a great son in the field of journalism, international journals like Newsweek, New York Times, The Times of India, Economist etc., along with broadcasting organizations, like the BBC will feel his loss immensely) is no doubt that Mr.Mervyn de Silva brought honor and prestige to journalism in Sri Lanka.

I convey my heartfelt condolences to Silva, Dayan and Pulsara.

[‘He Wrote What He Wanted’, Mahinda Rajapaksa, In His Time: Selected Tributes, Mervyn de Silva, 1929-1999, 70th Birth Anniversary, International Center for Ethnic Studies, Colombo, 1999, pp.37-39]