Kumara Chapabandara

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Kumara Chapabandara (කුමාර චාපාබණ්ඩාර) is a professional journalist, political activist. He had been working for Lakhanda (ලක්භඬ) ( Voice of Lanka ) Radio, TNL channel and also for Rawaya newspaper during the years of 1999–2001, then he launched a new media movement named Nidahas ( Free Lanka Media Net ) and published the 'Nidahas' (නිදහස්) newspaper,[1]

He is the author of Elangata (ඊළඟට), Army Army (ආර්මි ආර්මි), Jala Rakusanta Erehiwa (ජල රකුසන්ට එරෙහිව), Rawayata Sakshiyak (රාවයට සාක්ෂියක්), Ukthiya Pramadai (යුක්තිය ප්රමාදයි), Kumbi (කූඹි) and Hikkaduwa Heluwen Newai(භික්කඩුව භෙලුවෙන් නෙවෙයි).[2][3]

He became a political activist while working for Sri Lanka Army Medical Corps in 1980s. He experienced the war in the zone of North East and realized what the war was; He wanted to further study the political context in which the war began, he wanted to expose fraud and corruptions in the military activities in public being in the Army, he did his further studies in the field of photography and journalism during that period. He was arrested while writing a column to Rawaya named ‘Balakotuwa’ (බලකොටුව) against fraud and corruptions in the army, he was jailed in the prisons respectively of Army Medical Corps and Military Police while a court-martial was being conducted, he was finally jailed in Welikada prison for one year, but the authorities had to release him after three months due to an order from the appeal court.

He later developed a new discourse called Open Dialogue, a knowledge based process to make the entire society better based on social sciences such as Political Science and History, in this context he Introduce a new theme as Media & Human Relationship to the private sector. He has worked for the Jetwing Hotels, Mount Lavinia Hotel and Club Benthota – sister company of Mount Lavinia in advisory capacity for several years. He is now working for Maxies & Company (Pvt) Ltd as Head of Department, Media and HR/ Advisor to the Chairman. He has launched a monthly newspaper for Maxies also named Wedabima (වැඩබිම) and does suggest to develop an industrial dialogue in the country. He has introduced another new discourse while working in Maxies as 'art of music vs science of life'.

He Joined Sri Lanka Army Medical Corps

He joined Sri Lanka Army Medical Corps in 1986 after having done GCE A/ Level in Bio Science at Balangoda Central College, in Rathnapura District in Sri Lanka. He had his basic army training in Diyathalawa Army Training Academy and he was attached to Sri Lanka Army Medical Corps Head Office at Colombo 3 ( near Gall Face ) in which the army Hospital also was situated. He worked for the department of Dentistry and he was sent to Jaffna battle Field time to time with the medical teams, he joined Yapa Patuna (යාපා පටුන) Radio Service broadcast by Sri Lanka Broadcasting Cooperation at Palaly (පලාලි) to present a special first aid program for the army personnel. He Later did some programs for Vishva Sravani broadcast (විෂ්ව ශ්රවනි විකාශය) which was operated in Colombo, SLBC head Office too, he then did a Diploma in Journalism in the year of 1992 in Colombo University, he was qualified as a photographer in Hegoda Seya Nikethanaya (හේගොඩ සේයා නිකේතනය) also during that period.

To LAK HANDA (ලක්හඬ) Radio

He joined Lak Handa Radio ( Voice of Lanka ) as a communicator in 1998 being in the army and produced several programs, such as ‘Gini Weta Addara’ (ගිනි වැට අද්දර), ‘Gan Iura (ගඟ ඉවුර) , ‘168th hour’ (168 වෙනි හෝරාව) and ‘Andaheraya’ (අඬභැරය) etc. his ambition was to become a professional Journalist, by 1998 he decided to leave the Army at the completion of 12 years’ service according to the service agreement, he was not permitted to leave the service due to a special gazette related to the war situation in the North and East in the country. He became a freelance Journalist of Lakhanda and later joined Rawaya newspaper also as a political columnist, he wrote a column to Rawaya named ‘Balakotuwa’ exposing fraud and corruptions in the Army and criticizing military authority, political authority as well. He was arrested and questioned while keeping in the jail in the army by the Military Police at the end of year 1998 and a court martial was executed against him; allegation was disobedience to the hierarchy of the Army, he was finally jailed at Welikada Prison for imprisonment of one year. He was able to continue his political column even being a prisoner against military and political authorities, he exposed several hidden issues in the prison also during this period. This is very rear incident ( may be sometimes first time in the history ) to be recorded for the history – he could perform as a journalist being a prisoner against the system in which he became a prisoner. He was released after 3 months of imprisonment due to an order of the Magistrate, Court at the Fort Colombo, considering the case which was in the Appeal Courts too filed by his lawyers - this is also a remarkable incident i.e. judgment of the magistrate court is against a Court Martial. He later published a book named ‘Army Army’[4] to illustrate this history.

With RAWAYA (රාවය) NewsPaper

He was questioned by senior army officers and warned to stop the media activities as some of them had some illegal deals with outside parties, specially there had been a hidden drugs ( medicine) deal which was later exposed by him through Rawaya ( it is exposed in the book of Army Army too ), he did not give up his attempt, in that circumstances he was transferred to Wauniya war front where the military forces lost the battle. His 12 year’s service in the army had also been completed by that time and he refused to accept the movement order to Waunia war front; a court martial was executed against him for the charge of disobedience. Then he joined the editorial of Rawaya newspaper while working for Lakhanda Radio also in the middle of year 1998 as a political columnist, he wrote ‘Balakotuwa’ in which the fraud and corruptions of the Army were later exposed by him, within couple of weeks he was arrested by the Military Police and kept in a shell ( he was later kept open arrest ) at Military Headquarters at Narahenpita. He was questioned by a team of Military Police Officers to find how he had got such secret information; he was able to continue the column ‘Balakotuwa’ even in the custody – after couple of weeks he was released due to this media involvement.

After a few weeks Chapa was again arrested once the court martial was implemented at Panagoda Army Camp, he was kept in a shell at Army Medical Corps premises in Colombo for 3 months until the court martial was over, he could continue the column ‘Balakotuwa’ in Rawaya even during this imprisonment.

Hearing of court martial was going on for nearly one year and at last he was sent to Welikada Jail for one year’s imprisonment; Mr. Manjula Makumbura, Attorney - at - law handled first part of the court martial. Mr. Kalinga Indrathissa and his assistant Mr. Viraj Premasinghe, attorney - at - law continued the process and made an application to appeal courts after the said judgment, after three months he was released on an order given by the Magistrate, Fort, Colombo considering the application of the court martial too – it is a remarkable incident of the judicial system as this is against the military authority in the country. Chapa kept on writing his column for Rawaya during his imprisonment at Welikada jail too, he then exposed of several hidden issues in the prison also through his column ‘Balakotuwa’ Then he worked for Rawaya as a freelance journalist, but full-time till beginning of the year 2001, that was very critical era of the country as there had been various political crises, specially the war in the North and East had come to its peak level; there were serious allegations against the president Mrs. Chandrika Bandaranayake Kumarathunge ( Mr. Victor Ivan, editor in chief of Rawaya has very clearly analyzed that situation in his ‘Chaura Rejina’ (චෞර රැජින) book too), during that period Chapa was very active political activist who did various investigations against fraud and corruptions, political violence as well in the country – he stood for social justice for any cost introducing a new dimension for the field of journalism, specially Chapa was struggling for free and fair elections during the president Chandrika’s era to strengthen democratic practices in the country; media practice of the Rawaya newspaper was also remarkable in Sri Lanka in that era as it did a tremendous role to make the governing system of the country more democratic. He has written various articles and involved in different political activities against NGOs also which have become international political partners in the historical crisis in Sri Lanka.

He has analyzed this history in his book ‘Rawayata Sakshiyak’ in detail.

He did an investigation on water management policy which was suggested for Sri Lanka by international organizations led by IWMI and developed a media campaign against that criticizing the said project as a ‘commercial crime’; he wrote a book named ‘Jala Rakusanta Erehiwa’[5][6] on this issue and some of professionals whom have been exposed in the book filed cases in the Supreme court on defamation, Mr. Sarath Perera, Attorney – at – Law appeared for the cases on behalf of Chapa and the cases were dismissed due to some technical grounds. He still keeps on educating and guiding the community against this so-called water management policy.

While working for Rawaya and Nidahas newspapers he participated for various TV discussions in TNL Channel, Sirasa, Swarnavahini, Max TV and MTV – he worked for TNL Channel and Sirasa as a TV presenter too, then he could expose several hidden issues related to governance of the country for betterment of the society, he introduced with these media activities a new dimension for investigative journalism.

To be ‘free’ (නිදහස්)

At last Chapa has very clearly emphasized in his book ‘Rawayata Sakshiyk’ on his vision ( according to him, his practice! ) for social justice and how the media does make barriers against his way serving for its capital; he further explains in his book, in that circumstances how any media involvement does support the political system available in a country as a major partner of the global market creating economic disparity and social injustice everywhere in the world.

Chapa left Rawaya editorial in the year of 2001 to launch a free media movement named ‘free Lanka media net’, he formed the new media center at Nawala, Nugegoda, there was a team of members for his media center including Miss. Dinuksha Paththiniwasam and Mrs. Amali Konara, they got a new web site registered named ‘free’; by that time ‘Unilever’ the well-known company had suddenly closed its Mabole factory dismissing nearly 810 workers and those workers had been asking media support to solve their crisis in more democratic manner. Most of the reputed media stations do still depend on Unilever advertising budgets and therefore none of them could stand for rights of the said workers. Chapa joined the particular workers with his team to develop a media protest launching a monthly newspaper named ‘free’, the protest went on for more than one year and ultimately all the workers were able to get their compensations, this is also a remarkable incident in which practice of the media gets another political dimension. Chapa had met financial challenges to continue his work and decided to do commercial arts using his born talents in arts to raise funds to run the movement, he did photography, TV documentaries, illustrations and also cartoons for various organizations on commercial basis. Name of the said paper was changed from English to Sinhala i.e. ‘free’ to ‘Nidahas’ from the second year and it had been published for 10 years, i.e. till the year of 2011, in fact ‘Nidahas’ is not a usual newspaper, it is a political involvement, most of the articles had been written while protesting against social injustice on the ground, it is a new media practice - it is a miracle! He did this struggle without any capital and also without advertisements, he has published a book named ‘Kumbi’ analyzing this long history, he has explained in this book how difficult this journey was. He has developed a new political discourse named ‘open dialogue’ with this experience and in the book of ‘Kumbi’ he has described that he and his activities are in the same ‘process’ of open dialogue. ‘life and the world remain in open dialogue!’ he has written!

He had then developed a new discourse named ‘Media and HR’ for the private sector to make the business organizations better and fair for the both parties, employees and employers. He joined Maxies & Company ( Pvt) ltd - Wennappuwa, Jetwing Hotels, Mount Lavinia Hotel and its sister company Clunb Benthota at advisory level to introduce this new discourse.

In Maxies (මැක්සීස්)

Chapa introduced the discourse of open dialogue to Maxies to reorganize the company up to a certain level, he introduced the new concept of Media and HR into Maxies while launching the ‘Maxies Media Center’ also for the company, monthly newspaper ‘Wedabima’ is being published now and it does suggest an industrial dialogue among all the industries in the country.

He has introduced a series of programs named ‘life – to experience…’ with the theme of ‘ art of music Vs science of life’ into Maxies, these programs are being conducted by him in the organization, in schools and in the prisons.

‘Struggling to make the society fair and better is a historical challenge which has to be analyzed in open dialogue, there may be many ways to follow and many grounds to work!’ he says!

References

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