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A tribute to Rex de Silva The gentleman journalist we all knew

18 November 2015 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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It was with deep sadness and a sense of irreparable loss, that I learned about Rex’s illness and his death. He, together with the late D.B. Dhanapala, were my mentors in journalism.I first met Rex when Mano Muthukrishna Candappa, took me to the office of The  Independent Newspapers to introduce me to the late Mr Dhanapala .She wanted me to take over her column as she was leaving on a long trip abroad. Mr Dhanapala took me on as a columnist without any 
hesitation and introduced me to Rex as I had to work with and submit my weekly column which I called ‘Pot Pourri to him. From then on,  we became good friends and he taught me  so much and inspired me. He was undoubtedly the best editor I ever worked with, always encouraging,never critical and he never cut off passages or words from anything I  ever wrote.Later on,  I continued to write whenever I could, till the paper was sealed by the then government.  

He always told me never to be afraid to write about what I believed in and what I thought was right, whatever the issues may be, also the importance of writing the truth whatever consequences could arise from my doing so.He was deputy editor and then editor of The Weekend, the most popular English weekly of that time.He was an artist and a graphic designer too, which helped him and the ‘Weekend to rise to great heights in journalism. After the newspaper reopened, he was invited by the then Chairman of The Independent Newspapers,the late Sepala Gunasena to be the editor of the Sun, a daily English newspaper.

At that stage he invited me to write again, which I did with articles whenever time permitted.He was a professional in his work and spared neither time nor energy in once again taking the newspaper to unprecedented heights.

He worked very hard,was a hands on editor , with an irreverent sense of humour and unstoppable energy, and was always available on the telephone through day or night.His skill as a journalist was nothing short of miraculous. As a writer, he always had an eye for the truth in a story.Rex was well read; had a great sense of history and was also very interested in International and Sri Lankan politics .He would always contact me on email when he read anything I wrote and tell me that he enjoyed reading my writing. I never failed to thank him and tell him that  I was very appreciative of all that he had taught me. After retirement, he joined his sons in the US when his interest in art led him to it and to exhibit his paintings.

It was Sri Lanka’s great loss and Brunei’s gain, when Rex left to take up an assignment as editor in chief of The Brunei Bulletin, that nation’s best newspaper.He again showed his incomparable talent as a journalist and editor and edited this newspaper for two decades. Here he achieved perhaps what was his finest hour and the pinnacle of his career.Rex was always pleasant, unassuming and easy to talk to with a sharp,inquisitive mind. He was an icon among journalists, who stood out even in that era,of many brilliant journalists.Although a writer of the highest calibre, he had absolutely no ego.his writing was always compelling and professional, with a welcome lack of pomposity and pretension.

He was a journalist who never needed to go for the jugular or stick a knife into the heart of those he interviewed. Rex’s wide experience as an editor of many decades, made him a man used to authority and responsibility—a man to be reckoned with, his perception was remarkable all the more, as it was achieved with such little fuss. To him,his writing was a kind of art which he had perfected,it was a form of discipline, a craft. It was a way to draw on memory,to analyse emotions,to paint authentic pictures all of which was extraordinarily cathartic to him and which ultimately drew him again to art.He was a spontaneous and compelling man,whose interests gave him new strength and greater depth.

I will never forget or cease to appreciate the role Rex played as my mentor in journalism,his grounding and advice has stood me in good stead and given me strength. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife,Ranjini and his two sons.

‘When my life is through, And the angels ask me to recall 
The thrill of it all I will remember you.’
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