Former Sunday Observer editor passes away | Sunday Observer

Former Sunday Observer editor passes away

Jayatilleke de Silva
Jayatilleke de Silva

Veteran journalist Jayatilleke de Silva was a mentor to us. When I held the Silumina Editor’s post, he was the Editor in Chief of the Sunday Observer. When various problems arose on the job, we would rush to his room for advice. He always got to the root of the problem and sorted it out for us..

Born in Ambalangoda in 1938, De Silva studied at Ambalangoda Dharmashoka Vidyalaya and later, Ananda College, Colombo, and graduated from the University of Colombo. After graduation, he joined the teaching profession and later became the Principal of Deniyaya Central College. De Silva, seeing the glaring need for Social Reform, left the teaching profession to pursue a full time career in politics in the Communist Party where he was an active member for decades.

Later, he decided to enter the journalism field, and used his versatile writing skills for social reforms in a productive manner. His first foray into journalism was at ‘Aththa’ - the newspaper of the Communist Party. As a journalist De Silva who had identified the pulse of the common people, always used his writing to improve their intellect. He created political awareness among people, analysing complex political issues in a very simple manner which the average reader could understand. As a veteran journalist, he also shared his wide knowledge of the English language.

With the journalistic experience gained at the ‘Aththa’ , De Silva joined the Daily News newspaper in the late 1990’s and continued journalism in the English medium with the idea of rendering a service to the people, utilising his knowledge of the English language. De Silva’s bilingual writing capacity paved the way for him to become the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily News in 2001.

As the Editor of the Daily News, his journalistic skills helped to boost the readership of the paper. Later he was appointed Chief Editor of the Sunday Observer in 2003.He turned the Sunday Observer into a forum for discussion of Socio-Economic issues. Whatever post he held, his noble objective was to systematically change traditional attitudes and create a more Just society. When I was the Silumina Editor, I obtained his permission to translate some of the articles published in the Sunday Observer into Sinhala for the benefit of the Sinhala readership.

After he left Lake House, Jayatilleke de Silva embarked on yet another challenging mission, namely, translation of the massive three-volume Karl Marx’s definitive treatise on the socialist model - “Das Kapital”, into Sinhala. This was his definitive work. After much sacrifice and effort, this Sinhala version of “Das Kapital” was launched under the patronage of Prof. Desmond

Mallikarachchi. At the book launch ceremony, Jayatilleke de Silva was lauded for his accurate Sinhala translation of “Das Kapital”. Prof.Mallikarachchi said that this most difficult task had been successfully completed due to Jayatilleke de Silva’s bilingual writing skills.

As an active Civil Society activist, he bravely expressed his views and wrote articles to both Sinhala and English newspapers with much courage creating progressive political ideas among the people. He also took the lead in active political forums.

During the latter part of his life, he rendered yeoman service as an experienced Socio-Political analyst. At several literary festivals organised by the State Literary Advisory Board, he contributed to the Panel of Judges to select the best translations of the year, each year.

During the eight decade journey of his life, Jayatilleke de Silva rendered a massive service to Society. His funeral was held last Thursday amidst a large gathering of his family, friends, readers and students. He was a man who lived a very humble and modest life, never leaving room for wrongdoing. His demise is an irreparable loss to the country, and the field of Journalism.