The funeral of Chamara Lakshan Kumara, the versatile young Editor-in-Chief of Resa and Silumina newspapers, was held in his native Matugama yesterday afternoon amidst a large gathering.

A large number ANCL media personnel and employees were present at the funeral, along with the members of ANCL top management headed by Chairman Krishantha Prasad Cooray. Hundreds of print and electronic media journalists from other media institutions were present, including those from Rivira and Lakbima where he worked prior to joining the ANCL. There was also a large crowd from Matugama, where he lived and schooled and the vicinity.

Among those who visited his residence to pay their last respects were members of the clergy from all religions, ministers, politicians, artistes, academics and professionals. Earlier, President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera had sent their condolences. They described his demise as a massive loss to local journalism, where Chamara shone with his innate journalistic brilliance.

At 39, Chamara was the youngest-ever editor of the Silumina newspaper, which he edited concurrently with the nascent daily publication Resa, launched a few months previously by ANCL. Chamara quickly adapted to the high-pressure environment of a seven-day working week and managed to make a discernible difference in the Silumina after just a few weeks at the helm.

He brought his unique style of journalism over to the Silumina, which had stagnated for quite some time for want of fresh ideas. He edited the Silumina for only a few weeks before his life was tragically cut short, but they proved to be a new beginning for the newspaper. The reading public responded enthusiastically to the new ideas and insights he introduced for the first time to a Sunday Sinhala newspaper. Surveys revealed that he had managed to attract young new readers to the Silumina for the first time in many years.

Chamara who was well known for his political analysis and remarkable memory of places, people and events, wanted bring a huge change among the community through the Resa which was aimed at the grassroots reading public. The Resa was synonymous with Chamara. His aim was to bring Silumina and Resa to a good position and win the trust of the people. His aim was to be objective and truthful as far as possible. The Resa under Chamara was widely praised for its balanced coverage of the Digana incidents a few months ago and several media watchdog organisations have decided to recognize this effort with a formal award.

Resa carved a new niche in the local journalism arena, having given the other morning newspapers a run for their money with 16 pages of informative and entraining reading material. Chamara had a way with words which permeated to the two newspapers and he encouraged the young journalists working under him to explore new frontiers and go boldly in search of the truth. He was a perfectionist who demanded – and got – the best out of his young teams at Resa and Silumina.

Chamara knew that the secret of a young newspaper’s success would be an equally young staff. Chamara identified himself with the ideas and aspirations of his young staff, which came out with excellent copies under his able guidance. They will miss Chamara’s warm personality and brilliant mentorship. But it was also no secret that many older journalists turned to Chamara for facts and insights.

With his new ideas and positive thinking, Chamara threw archaic conventions out of the window and infused a fresh perspective to news stories and features in both newspapers. He could enliven even the most jaded story with his unique brand of reportage and writing style. Be it politics, social commentary or the occasional foray to sport, Chamara managed to shed light on relevant issues and enlighten the reader with the complete, no-holds barred picture.

Chamara leaves a rich legacy that is hard to beat in the sphere of Sinhala journalism. A young child will miss his father and a young woman her husband, but in the bigger scheme of things, an entire fraternity of journalists will miss a remarkable journalist whose incisive reporting, writing and above all, mentoring shaped and defined local journalism for many years.

There was not a dry eye left in the crowd as Chamara was laid to rest. His name will live on eternally in the sphere of local journalism and inspire a younger generation of journalists to go in search of the truth.

May he attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.

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