Armand de Souza: Intrepid Journalist and Editor in Yesteryear

The 138th birth anniversary of Armand de Souza, a great patriot and founder of ‘Ceylon Morning Leader’ and its Editor will be observed next week. In fact, he used his column to fight the powerful colonial rulers to replace the farce where the legislative council was loaded with officials for the Governor to have his own way in the administration of the island.

This infuriated the British government which imprisoned him, but he was released as a result of popular agitation and he was carried through Colombo in a carriage. The ovation he got was similar to the reception Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan was given when he returned triumphantly after making representation to the Secretary of State for Colombo over the imprisonment of Sinhala leaders such as D.S. Senanayake and several others.

Like Armand de Souza, two other journalists underwent prison terms for other reasons in their professional capacity. H.A.J. Hulugalle, Editor of the Daily News was one of them. He was issued a rule for Contempt of Court for the leader titled ‘Justice on Holiday’ dealing with the long August vacation in Hulftsdorp. A Divisional Bench of the Supreme Court heard his counsel, then leader of the Bar R.L. Pereira (KC), pleading that he was not the writer of that particular editorial and that it was not about men, but about matters.

The Chief Justice Sir Sidney Abrahams with Justice Akbar and Justice Koch convicted him and sentenced him to prison till the rising of court and fined him Rs. 1,000 in default to suffer three months simple imprisonment.

Journalistic profession

The other was the case of Fred de Silva, Deputy Editor and later Editor of the ‘Ceylon Daily News’ who was charged with contempt of the Criminal Justice Commissioner (Exchange Frauds) for the article titled ‘Dress sense.’ Justice G.P.A. Silva with Justice Jaya Pathirana and D.Q.M. Sirimanne convicted him. He was sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 2,000 and to a prison term of six months, but was released before the full term on the orders of the Governor General William Gopallawa.

Further, Armand de Souza’s incarceration though for a cause, awoke the consciousness of the people. He continued to write fearlessly and exposed every cause which he thought was just and right.

Though Armand de Souza was a Catholic, he sprang from an aristocratic Brahmin family in Goa. Orphaned early, he arrived in Colombo in his teens and became the ward of his uncle, Labour Leader Dr. Lisbon Pinto.

He studied at Royal College under the tutelage of John Harward and edited the magazine. With the gift of languages and following the trend of his early fancies, he joined the ‘Ceylon Observer’ as a junior proof reader on Rs. 20 a month.

He later became a government clerk. Sometimes afterwards he secured an appointment as a junior reporter on his old papers ‘The Ceylon Observer’ and passed from there to the ‘Times of Ceylon’ and worked under one Mr. Roles who gave him full training in the journalistic profession and instilled in his mind, those clean and high ideals of professional morality.

Public opinion

In July 1907, Armand de Souza founded the ‘Ceylon Morning Leader’. He edited the paper from the beginning and wrote the Editorial. Further, he had done some great work for the country since his assumption of the editorship of the ‘Morning Leader’. It was not only the quantity of the work he had done which deserves recognition, but even more its quality. Besides, he had been thorough and fearless in his work as editor.

He had not been content with a superficial study of the questions he had handled. He had always been at pains to inform himself fully on matters affecting the public and the opinions he formed, he had expressed with uncommon ability and courage.

Armand de Souza had infused a new soul into public life in Sri Lanka (Ceylon). He had created a well-informed public opinion and also he had liberated a new spirit of independence and generated national self respect among the people of the island.

Armand de Souza had two sons. His son Tori de Souza became the editor of the Times of Ceylon and his son Doric de Souza was a veteran LSSP theoretician and University Professor (English Department) who himself was imprisoned with his leaders during World War II.

Armand de Souza and Doric de Souza were very good speakers, but Tori was an excellent writer and veteran journalist but not a public speaker. In fact, Armand de Souza was a courageous writer and it may be said that he initiated the idea of a person’s right to write what he thought was just and fair.


In the year 1919 the Ceylon Morning Leader was able to produce a booklet of 318 pages entitled “Hundred Days in Ceylon under Martial Law..This booklet had an Appendix of anothe51 pages entilted “The Kegalle Shootings.


Hundred days in Ceylon : under martial law in 1915

Author: Armand De Souza
Publisher: Colombo : Young Socialist Publications, 2006.
Edition/Format:   Print book : English : 3rd edView all editions and formats
On the riots between the Sinhalese and Muslims in Sri Lanka and the attrocities committed by the authorities.

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