Sunday Observer is a weekly English language newspaper that is published by the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (ANCL/Lake House), which is owned by the state. ANCL presently has 99 shareholders of which the Department of Public Trustee on behalf of the Sri Lankan Government is the majority shareholder. Aside from this, 10 institutions and 88 individuals also hold shares. The Sunday Observer newspaper is considered to be the oldest Sri Lankan newspaper in circulation, as it was first published in 1834 and later renamed to Colombo Observer. This is besides the Government Gazette, which was initially disseminated as a newspaper during the British administration, although it is presently published to officially inform the public. With an audience share of 2.18 percent, the Sunday Observer features content on local political news, international news, sports, entertainment and business. The daily edition of the paper, known as Daily News has an audience share of 0.57% and is the most read English daily newspaper.
Media Companies / Groups
Sunday Observer is published by the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited, also known as Lake House, which is a state-owned institution. Initially, Lake House was established by D.R. Wijewardene, and consisted of 7 newspapers. After his death in 1956, the editorial policies were overlooked by Esmond Wickremasinghe, his son-in-law. In 1973, the government of Sirimavo Bandaranaike nationalised the company through the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon (Special Provisions) Act No.28. A.K. Premadasa was appointed as the first Chairperson. Presently, there are 99 shareholders which includes the Department of Public Trustee, 10 institutions and 88 individuals. These 88 individuals include several members who are related to the founders of ANCL, including the present Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe who owns 0.19 percent of shares. The highest number of shares is held by the Department of Public Trustee on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka. The Department of Public Trustee comes within the ambit of the Ministry of Justice and Prison Reforms.
Group / Individual Owner
Ceylon Petroleum Corporation
The Ceylon Petroleum Corporation was established by Act. No. 28 of 1961 in parliament and remains Sri Lanka’s national oil and gas company.
Ceylon Shipping Corporation
The Ceylon Shipping Corporation Limited was established in 1971 under Act No. 11 of 1971. Although established in 1971, it became a fully state-owned company in 1992.
Affiliated Interests Founder
Don Richard Wijewardene, also referred to as D.R. Wijewardene, established the Lake House newspapers and played a key role in Sri Lanka’s independence movement. He entered the political arena in 1913, after being elected as the Secretary of the Ceylon National Association. In 1914, Wijewardene, along with his brother, acquired Dinamina, a Sinhala language daily, and thereafter took over the English language daily, The Ceylonese, and re-named it to ‘Ceylon Daily News’. This was followed by the publication of Thinakaran, a Tamil language daily. In 1926, these newspapers were consolidated under the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (ANCL). This institution is presently owned by the state and publishes seven newspapers, namely, Daily News, Dinamina, Thinakaran, Resa, Sunday Observer, Silumina and Vaaramanjari.
The following well-known personalities are related to Wijewardene:
Ranjit Wijewardene is D.R. Wijewardene’s son and the founder as well as the CEO of Wijeya Newspapers Limited.
Ruwan Wijewardene is D.R. Wijewardene’s grandson and the incumbent State Minister of Defence.
Ranil Wickremesinghe is also D.R. Wijewardene’s grandson. He is the incumbent Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and Leader of the UNP.
Shan Wickremesinghe, Ranil Wickremesinghe’s brother, is the incumbent Chairperson of Telshan Networks (Pvt) Limited (TNL), a media company.
Upali Wijewardene is D.R. Wijewardene’s nephew and also the founder of Upali Newspapers (Pvt) Limited.
J.R. Jayawardene is D.R. Wijewardene’s nephew, and served as the First Executive President of Sri Lanka.
Affiliated Interests Ceo
Krishantha Prasad Cooray, also referred to as Krishantha Cooray, is the current Chairperson of the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (ANCL, also known as Lake House). He has previously held executive positions at the Ceylinco Group, Richard Peiris Group and The Capital Maharaja Organisation Limited where he oversaw the news broadcasts by the company’s TV and radio stations. He reportedly played a key role in establishing the Rivira Media Corporation (Pvt) Limited under the Richard Peiris Group and served there as founding Director and CEO. The Nation and Rivira were launched under his direction. However, Rivira ceased its English publication, The Nation, in 2017.
Affiliated Interests Editor-In-Chief
Dharisha Bastians is the Editor of the Sunday Observer and a member of the Foreign Correspondents Association (FCA) of Sri Lanka. She has previously worked for several English language newspapers such as the Daily Mirror, Daily Financial Times (Daily FT), Ceylon Today and The Nation. She is also a New York Times correspondent in Sri Lanka. Dharisha is widely known for her reports written during Sri Lanka’s armed conflict.
Affiliated Interests other important people
Ananda Kumar – Deputy Editor
No 35, D.R. Wijewardena Mawatha, Colombo 10
General: 011 2 429 429, 011 2 421 181, 011 2 331 181
Revenue (in Mill. $)
Operating Profit (in Mill. $)
Advertising (in % of total funding)
The official website of the Sunday Observer has minimal information on the publishing house and the organisational structure. Most of the data was extracted from the official website of the Associated Newspapers Ceylon Limited (Lake House), which houses the Sunday Observer, as well as the annual returns available at the Department of Registrar of Companies. The most recently available data was for the year 2016. While the Media Ownership Monitor research team reached out to ANCL by formally requesting for the company’s information on 20 July 2018, the company did not respond to the aforementioned request. Readership data was obtained from the Kantar Lanka Market Research Bureau (LMRB) for the year 2017.