Hundreds pay last respect to selfless journalist in Los Angeles

The Buddhist Channel, March 9, 2006

Late Sri Lankan journalist Deeptha Leelaratne leaves behind is a legacy of unending courage in serving the people he loved

Los Angeles, CA (USA) -- More than five hundred expatriates and Americans assembled at North Hollywood’s Wat Thai Buddhist Temple Hall to pay last respects to the late Sri Lankan journalist Deeptha Leelaratne, where his funeral ceremony was held.

Fellow journalist, and former deputy editor of the Sunday Observer, Philip Fernando making an eulogy said, the large gathering bore ample testimony to Deeptha?s endearing qualities of selfless service to fellow men and his love for the country of his birth.

The largest Thervada Temple in Los Angeles provided a serene atmosphere for the funeral of Deeptha, who was a devout Buddhist and the surrounding was decked with Sri Lankan like banners that wished the departed journalist Nirvana, the ultimate bliss, painted both in Sinhala and English languages . In the Sri Lankan style, a message of condolences or ?Shoka Prakashaya? , composed in verse by local poets Jim Abeyratne and Podi Nilame Dissanayaka was distributed among the guests Wat Thai Temple flew the Sri Lankan and Buddhist flags at half mast. The hall was bedecked with flower arrangements, by a Society called , Sri Lankan Patriots, who were also responsible for the banners.

The funeral ceremony was presided over by Venerable Panditha Ambalantota Kolitha Maha Thera of the Sarthchandra Buddhist Meditation Center in North Hollywood.

In the opening eulogy former News Editor of the Lankadeepa, and former Asiaweek staffer in Los Angeles Walter Jayawardhana said Deeptha Leelaratne and he joined the staff of the then Lankadeepa on the same day. Deeptha should be credited with starting the first Sinhala language radio programme , Tharanga of the public channel KPFA in the United States and starting the first Sri Lankan newspaper to be published in North America, The Sri Lanka Express.

He said he was responsible for introducing NASA scientist the late Cyril Ponnamperuma .and his interesting experiments regarding the creation of building blocks of life spontaneously in a primordial soup on earth billions of years ago with the help of radiation and lightning, to the Sinhala readers in Sri Lanka. He said though his scoops about the Russian oil explorers hitting oil at Pesalai in Mannar was sniffed at then by some, today even Western oil explorers said oil in abundance could be found there.

Walter Jayawardhana said Deeptha was rubbing shoulders with him in a quarter century of a struggle against false propaganda against the mother land in what he described as a propaganda war. He said Deeptha , born a son of a farmer and educated at a Government Central College used his pen constantly for the benefit of the down trodden masses, never forgetting his roots. Using words of Shakespeare he said, ?Good night sweet prince and flights of angels sing thee to thy sleep.?

The former Deputy editor of the Sunday Observer of Colombo, Philip Fernando said how the Observer once offered a staff position to the then Hassinna Sourjah of the Times and how Deeptha protested insisting she should remain in the Times since they were destined to be partners for life. Fernando said, ?Foremost in the mind of Deeptha at all times were his wife and son- his family and his love of Sri Lanka. These twin goals dominated Deeptha?s life.?

Fernando added, ? Often we judge people by the million dollar stock portfolio they leave behind or the brand new BMW they drive or the immense wealth they amassed within the shortest time possible. What Deeptha leaves behind is a legacy of unending courage in serving the people he loved. The tradition of Sinhala Buddhist values that he had in his portfolio were the lasting monument that is already enshrined in many hearts. This is the Deeptha that we all knew so well.?

Former editor of the Vanitha Viththi , Mrs. Chandra Ranasinghe said Deeptha was a reporter who was recruited by the Lankadeepa in the 1965 and was one of the ablest journalists recruited by the paper. She said all past journalists of the newspaper through a spokesman, called her and expressed their deepest condolences to be conveyed to the family. She said the very endearing nature of Deeptha won the hearts of all in the newspaper Vanitha Viththi of the Times Group he also contributed heavily to the newspaper.

Venerable Ahangama Dharmarama Maha Thera, Venerable Ambalantota Kolitha Maha Thera, Venerable Yatirawana Siriniwasa Maha Thera, Venrable Aparekke Punyasiri Thera, Venerable Muruthamure Pannaloka Thera also spoke at the memorial service Ananda Markalanda conducted the ceremony.

A simultaneous Sri Lankan memorial service for Deeptha organized by former journalist colleague and former Director of Civil Aviation Lal Lianarachchi was held at the Dharmapalarama Temple in Mount Lavinia, Co editor of the Silumina Saman Chandranath Weerasinghe said.

Presiding over the ceremony Kotugoda Dhammawasa Mahathera said Deeptha Leelaratne had worked as an unofficial envoy for the country more than for quarter of a century. A pansakula ceremony and lighting of lamps were conducted by the bereaved journalists, who were mostly colleagues of the late Deeptha Leelaratne.