Premakeerthi de Alwis

by Kalinga Weerakkody
The 14th death anniversary of journalist, lyrics composer, critic and media man Premakeerthi de Alwis falls on July 31.

On July 31, 1989 he was assassinated by an unknown group when he stepped out of his residence at Katuwana road, Homagama for reasons only known to them.

Premakeerthi was an outstanding product of Ananda College, Colombo.

He was a mentor of the Colombo School of poets and was able to grasp the essence of literary qualities and develop them in his own way which led him to become a veteran and an all round artiste.

He displayed his creative talents as an announcer, poet, writer and composer of lyrics.

He was largely responsible for the fusion of folk literature, music and songs in general with substance and style in standard literature and lyrics over the decades.

He was able to create a bridge between the standard culture and popular culture through his liberal way of presentation as shown in his lyrics announcer and presenter.

He was responsible in revolutionising the orthodox practice of radio and T.V presentations. Samaraweerage Don Premakeerthi de Alwis was born on June 3, 1947 in Colombo. His father Simon de Silva was a railway employee and they lived in Maligakanda lane in Maradana.

He had his preliminary education at Maligakanda Maha Vidyalaya before joining Ananda College.

In 1965 he was the editor of the school newspaper ‘Anandaya’.

As a student he participated in a radio programme in 1961 conducted by the late Karunaratne Abeysekera. His ambition was to become a juvenile vocalist.

In 1966 he joined the ‘Visithura’ cinema magazine published by the Davasa group of companies on an invitation by its Managing Director D.B.Dhanapala as a feature writer.

Concurrently he joined Radio Ceylon as a freelance announcer on December 17, 1967.

In June 01, 1971 he became a permanent announcer at Radio Ceylon and rose to the rank of programme producer. Apart from that he made a name for himself between 1974 and 1977 as a lyricist and a renowned speaker.

At the time of his untimely death at the age of 42 he was attached to the news desk of the CBC.

His attitude towards communal conflicts saw expression in such songs as ‘Mannaram Pitiwelle Madatiya vel onchille...’ He abhorred communal conflicts and worked for unity in the country.

It is sad to say while living no party was able to give due recognition to his creations and critics evaluated the satirical and humorous contents of his poems and songs, only after his death.

He composed songs for about 150 films with ‘Lokuma Hinawa’ in 1970 being the first.

He had a deep love and respect for people which was reciprocated.

The large crowds that filed past his bier at the Colombo General Cemetery Kanatte day in August 1989 was a clear sign of his popularity among both youth and elders.

On the day of his funeral former deputy speaker cum veteran actor Gamini Fonseka said "Premakeerthi was an independent government servant sans any political affiliations.He gave due recognition to the capabilities of anyone irrespective of such person’s political affiliations and this earned him the wrath of certain politicos and of certain political parties at the time.

Destruction of life is easy, but its creation is difficult. Much more difficult is to have people of the calibre of the late Premakeerthi.