29 October, 2020

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Golden Butterfly Of Our Nation

By Asanga Abeyagoonasekera

Asanga Abeygoonasekera

24th death anniversary of Premakeerthi de Alwis 

This 31st July marks the 24th death anniversary of one of the greatest songwriters in Sri Lankan history. He mesmerized the entire nation through his lyrics – and his songs touched people’s minds and hearts. Premakeerthi de Alwis could connect to us through words and bring out deep meaning in simple lyrics.

I am writing this article because it saddened me there was nothing written about him for his birth anniversary last month. He was brutally assassinated in 1989, on July 31st where the assassins dragged him out of his house and mercilessly shot him in his head. Some say he pleaded for his life because of his son. I am an admirer of his songs, and his assassination resonated with as I have witnessed as well as knew few people who were silenced during this dark period. During late 80s, 117 members of Sri Lanka Mahajana Party (SLMP) were brutally assassinated. SLMP assassinations started with Vijaya Kumaranatunga who was also a popular artist. Up to now there has been no clear evidence of the perpetrators of many of these killings.

Premakeerthi had an exceptional skill to write songs in all subjects including nature, love, Buddhism and many more. His ability to produce songs with deep nuances was appreciated by many across the Island. Many artist were blind without his words, they wanted his words to sing. It is baffling to think of how anyone could silence a man of such great talent and kindness? He was a man of many talents; he was also an excellent broadcaster, lyricist and a television presenter. The perpetrators of his murder are still not known and his family, like many others from this period is still wondering who took the life of their beloved family member.

We cannot deny that there should be justice first in any plural society, and perpetrators should be punished and brought under the law. I am happy that His Excellency the President has appointed a commission for Matale grave, which is another graveyard of mystery. As I am not an artist, I request that an artist who had some contribution from Premakeerthi to pay gratitude to this remarkable human being at least in a small way. We need to value human life, and preserve dignity first so that our social fabric will be strong. We should not allow extreme and fascist groups to tear the beautifully woven fabric of our Sri Lankan society.

It is truly disheartening to see there was no commemoration for many artists who sacrificed their life to build a democratic society. Ernest Hemingway writes in his famous book, The Old man and the Sea – “A man can be destroyed but not defeated”. All these great men were destroyed, but their words and legacy lives on even up to now and the young generation should learn about their great lives. Ran Samanalayo is a song by Sunil Edirisingha that was written by him and indeed, he truly is a golden butterfly of our nation that we can never forget.

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Latest comments

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    Thanks a lot for reminding us of this much loved artist. And the very violent death he was meted out, mysteriously.

    We live in an extremely blood soaked country. Where human life has no value.

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    I have met him once or twice along with Swarnasri Bandara when I was GA Polonnaruwa and he was in Anuradhapura having started the Rajarata Sevaya. In addition to his musical skills I found him a great human being. May he attain Nibbana!

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    The killers were Gota the Goon and cronies – oh please, didn’t you know your patrons are murderers?!

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    Thank you for the precious reminder. It goes to show what an ungrateful, forgetful and treacherous people and kind we are!

    We talk of not harming the ant, saving God-meat (beef) but we kill and curse the mother of our enemy after half a bottle of booze! This is why Buddhism from Sri Lanka never did and will get export quality recognition! It is a failed product..

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    yeah so many artists and media people like Richard De Zoysa and Sagarika Gomes were lost during that period (87-89) and countless other CTB drivers/conductors (simply because they drove the bus on a JVP curfew day) and many shop owners too for selling Indian stuff like Maltova drink! so much for JVP and their damm patriotism!

    Over to Wimal Weerawansa and his golayas to reply

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    Premakeerthy was murdered by the JVP So also Vijaya Kumaratunge, what ever any one says. Whom did Wimal Weerawansa kill?

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    Mr Abayagoonasekera reminds us that
    ‘up to now there has been no clear evidence of the perpetrators of many of these killings.’

    Yes, but there have been suggestions/hypotheses (some probably published…must research) of other “hands”, other “interests” taking advantage of a situation that they could exploit. I wd like to add more re this but no time right now. However, I think possible source for this idea was a book by Prins Gunasekera, written in exile (is he still living? where?). I have seen someone’s copy — cant remember whose or the name of the book.

    I remember being told (at the time) of the transfer of a police officer from somewhere (must check but think it ws Matale District), during the 80s insurgency, because he was not willing to “do the necessary” with a list of names he was given. He was told they were “JVPers”, but disputed that. I wonder if HE is still living

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      Correction:

      ‘…possible source for this idea was a book by Prins G…’

      Shd read: “ONE possible source for this….by Prins G…”

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    Dear Asanga Abegoonasekera: Thank you for writing this article. It is nothing strange to note how people like Mr. Premakeerthi de Alwis have been “snatched” away from our country while the criminals are very well looked after mostly in the company of political leaders.

    Yet it is consoling to find people like you among us to write and commemorate a great national treasure, lost for ever to our country.

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    The murderer of Premakeerthis is still around. A man with a foul mouth. The culprit was named indirectly by his wife Nirmala de Alwisi in her book “Premakeerthini”

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    Is it possible to write an article about Premakeerthi and his brutal assasination without mentioning the JVP? The traditional left in Sri Lanka were the first victims of the JVP. These defenceless people who had done no one any harm were easy targets. Going after well defended govt. politicians was too risky so people like Premakeerthi had to die in order to show the people that any dissent or criticism of the JVP will result in a swift death. The traditional left never recovered from these attacks. Some of the JVP murderers met their end under very similar circumstances when the govt turned the tables on them and started using their same tactics to eliminate suspected JVP assasins. Of the surviving JVP assasins, some have joined the govt. and today justify police/army brutality at news conferences. Others are talking about human rights (the same rights they denied ordinary folk the length and breadth of the country) Other JVPers have gone overseas and say they have critically re-assessed the JVP actions of 88-90 (without ever publishing their findings or apologising to the families of the murdered) The have now become great humanists and are talking about equal rights when they did not even recognise the right to life of an ordinary Sri Lankan at the hight of their power.

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    The author failed to tell the readers who was responsible for the assassinations he mentions here. Otherwise the younger generations may understand assailant was the government and not the JVP

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