‘Premakeerthi Mama’

premakirthi.jpg (6155 bytes)by Kalinga Weerakkody
The late Premakeerthi de Alwis, the veteran and versatile broadcaster, television announcer and lyrics writer was known to children as ‘Premakeerthi Mama’, to youth as Premakeerthi aiyah, to friends Prem and to elders ‘Premakeerthi Putha’.

On the morning of August 1, 1989 my mother informed me of his assassination by an undentified armed gang which she had heard over the 6.00 am news bulletin. Even today the culprits are still at large.

A special news bulletin of Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) announced Premakeerthi was shot dead minutes after he was marched out of his home on July 31 around 8.45pm by an unidentified gang clad in black clothes. He was 42 at the time of his death.

He will be long remembered for his creation of a new ‘Liberal Media’ and encouraging youth to take part in radio programmes.

My ambition was to meet and know him personally but it was not to be. Fate decreed otherwise.

What touched the hearts of his fans was his infant son ‘Purnajith’ crying not knowing what fate had struck his father.

Premakeerthi’s remains were cremated on 7.8.89 at the General Cemetery Kanatte amidst a large and distinguished gathering. Veteran film star and then Deputy Speaker Gamini Fonseka referred to him as an independent government servant without political links who recoginsed the capabilities of the talented irrespective of such person’s political affiliations earning him the wrath of certain political parties at times.

Destruction of life is easy, not creation especially of people of the calibre of the late Premakeerthi, who opened the doors to young talent in his radio programmes broadcast over the Commercial and the Swadesheeya services. His children’s programme ‘Rathnasabha Mandapaya’ broadcast every Sunday evening began to honour the late veteran journalist and artiste Karunaratne Abeysekera.

Premakeerthi also wrote songs for many local vocalists, the first being ‘Hadapuda Asune-Senehasa negune’ in 1966.

His first film song was in ‘Lokuma Hinava’ ( The biggest laugh) in 1970 and later wrote songs for about 150 films.

Premakeerthi was born on June 3, 1947, had his early education at Maradana Maligakande Maha Vidyalaya and later at Ananda College.

He joined the ‘Davasa’ group of newspapers in 1966 as a feature writer for ‘Visithura’.

Later he joined the SLBC on December 17, 1976 where ‘Sarisara’, ‘Ayubowan’ (Rupavahini) and a number of other popular radio and TV programmes were broadcast and telecast.

With his wide experience he tried to narrow the gap between standard culture and popular culture.

His 13 year old son has followed his father’s footsteps, a radio man the youngest ever announcer in Sri Lanka who is currently conducting programmes on Swarnavahini and other T .V. stations. He also stages teledramas, stage dramas and TV commercials.

To commemorate Premarkeerthi’s 13th death anniversary a special programme will be held at the BMICH on July 31st at 7.00pm with the participation of many famous local artistes.

Premakeerthi’s wife ‘Nirmala’ said the main event on that day will be the introduction of 16 amateur lyricists to the music world with their compositions being sung by veterans.

It would also mark the release of a new CD with their songs.

She also said she is writing a book on Premakeerthi’s life.

So to end this article I wish you are not reborn in a society where sensitive men can’t live very long but in a society meant for decent men of your calibre.