HIGHLIGHTS

  • With independence a certainty and foreseeing that a vacuum would be created with the departure of British journalists, he decided in 1947 to join the editorial staff of the Burmese Review.
  • He founded his own newspaper, The Nation, the leading English-language paper in Burma and “ranked with the best in Asia”.
  • The Nation has been a vigorous defender of civil rights, an outspoken critic in the public interest of successive governments and a staunch foe of communism in and outside of Burma.
  • The RMAF Board of Trustees recognizes his “defense of civil rights and press freedom and their able stewardship of the power of the press which they have discharged with a sense of responsibility in keeping with the highest traditions of journalism.”

 CITATION

Eleven years ago EDWARD MICHAEL LAW YONE founded The Nation of Rangoon. Since then, under his guidance, it has steadily grown in stature to become the leading English-language paper in his country. Rejecting sensationalism and fanaticism, The Nation has presented to the Burmese people a consistently fair and comprehensive report of events that most immediately affect their welfare.

In promoting clean government, LAW YONE has on numerous occasions clashed with officialdom, but he has stood firm even under prosecution. Through his reasoned editorials he has helped to bring about reforms that have promoted the progress of his country. Notable among contributions to his profession in Burma has been his active participation in a School of Journalism he helped found in order to raise the standards of press reporting.

TARZIE VITTACHI has also wielded a potent pen in the public interest in his country. As editor of the Ceylon Observer, he has called to public attention abuses in government and supported those who deserved the public trust.

With his recent book, Emergency ’58, Mr. VITTACHI has given his people and the world a vivid documentary of the 1958 communal riots in Ceylon. This book was written when the conflict was still smoldering and before the truth could be obscured or glossed over. Himself a Sinhalese, he has subjected the role of Sinhalese and Tamil to equal unsparing scrutiny. He has likewise chronicled the manipulations of politicians who are exploiting old divisions to their advantage and who were ultimately responsible for the wave of violence that swept over Ceylon.

Emergency ’58 appeals to all elements of Ceylonese society, particularly the leaders of the diverse groups, for a more rational attitude toward old differences and new insecurities. Though addressed chiefly to the Ceylonese, the book bears a wider implication for similar problems plague other newly-independent people in our part of the world.

These two editors, like Ramon Magsaysay, have had the courage of their convictions. Setting personal security aside, they have worked, the one in Burma and the other in Ceylon, to build nations where man could live with man in honor and peace.

In electing EDWARD MICHAEL LAW YONE and TARZIE VITTACHI to share the 1959 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism and Literature, the Board of Trustees recognizes their defense of civil rights and press freedom and their able stewardship of the power of the press which they have discharged with a sense of responsibility in keeping with the highest traditions of journalism.

 RESPONSE

My citation, which you have heard, is extremely complimentary, but honesty compels me to say that I feel I do not deserve it. We in this profession of journalism, which is among the lowest paid in Asia, generally enter with a sense of public duty or some such high ideal. But very soon in our career we tend to become dissatisfied, disgruntled and dispirited. The men and institutions in which we place our trust, even the whole community, sometimes desert their high principles, so that with the disclosure of every broken pledge, of every act of folly, madness or sheer criminality on their part, we are apt to become hard and cynical to the point where we at times wonder whether there is any use in going on.

Fortunately for our sanity, there appears, at infrequent intervals, out of the mass of ineptitude, neglect and corruption, a new personality who by his example and accomplishments reveals a greatness of spirit. In our day and age, against the backdrop of maharajas, sultans, prime ministers, kings and emperors, fading into ignorant oblivion?against the backdrop of these failures?there appears clear and life-sized a man whose private life bears close scrutiny and whose public actions give encouragement and inspiration?a man who leaves footprints on the sands of time.

Such a man was Ramon Magsaysay, your late President. If he could be with us today, I am sure he would be pleased to find that a country called Burma, not too different from his own in climate and geography, in leadership and in objectives, has been cited in not one but two of this year’s Awards. For this signal honor, I am deeply grateful.

 BIOGRAPHY

EDWARD MICHAEL LAW YONE was born February 5, 1911 at Kamaing, Myitkyina District (now Kachin State), Burma. Educated at St. Peters’ School, Mandalay, at 16 he went to work as a clerk in the Burma-China border frontier service. He joined the Burma Railways in 1930 as a probationer and by 1938 was in charge of the rates and commercial section, traveling in that year over the recently-constructed Burma Road to survey the route proposed for linking the Burma and Yunnan-Indochina Railways.

Commissioned in the British Army at the outbreak of war, as Movement Control Officer he evacuated troops and civilians out of Myitkyina. When the British Army retreated, he was ordered to remain behind, serving first as Headquarters Assistant and then as District Commissioner. In May 1944, with the landing of Merrill’s Marauders, he escaped across the Japanese lines to the Myitkyina airfield and was flown out to India where, in October, he joined the U.S. Office of Strategic Services as an intelligence officer with the rank of major.

Upon reoccupation of Burma, LAW YONE was appointed by the newly-formed Aung San Government as Chief Traffic Superintendent in charge of a fleet of 1,400 trucks, and, in 1946, was elected Associate of the Institute of Transport in London, the only Burman to be honored by that Chartered Institute.

(For the complete biography, please email biographies@rmaf.org.ph)