Why Forget a Legend when he is one?



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A Sunday newspaper published a photograph of my respected, dear friend, broadcaster and famed cricket commentator Palitha Perera receiving a Life Time Award from Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa with the caption ‘ Country Salutes ‘Forgotten’ Legend’ it also said " Palitha Perera, who single handedly created the Sinhala diction for the colonial cricketing jargon to carry the game to the far off rural communities since 1963, was conferred with the life time award ‘Prathiba Pranama’ by the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation on Thursday. Before giving away the award , Prime Minister Rajapakse said Palitha Perera was instrumental in popularising cricket among the masses, which eventually produced a bunch of players who went on to rule the world in the 1990s. The newspaper said that it congratulates the silent forgotten legend’


It was this same SLBC which threw him out once upon a time in order to maintain their grip politically (not that they have changed now) which decided to give him a Life Time Award. Palitha was taken to the infamous fourth floor of the CID during Sri Lankan cricketers’ controversial South African cricket tour. However, the late Gamini Dissanayake and Palitha made up forgetting the differences. Once, another busybody sent a petition to late Lalith Athulathmudali saying Palitha was a diehard marxist. The late Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake was misled by one of his Dedigama supporters against Palitha . President Chandrika and her officials misunderstood him and Palitha lost the programmes he hosted for Rupavahini ‘Ayubowan’ and ‘Janamandali’. Perera’s clash with Prof GL Pieris is too well known after he refused to ask the pre-arranged set of questions. I am sure there are so many other encounters.


 It saddened me after reading the newspaper. That’s why I decided to write this from my hospital bed with a cannula fixed to my right – my writing hand. (I am discharged from another hospital admission now). Why should a legend of Lanka be forgotten? Is Sri Lanka so ungrateful? Sri Lanka is ungrateful most of the times. Let’s ask ourselves, Is it right ? Is it fair ? Not surprised, It is So, in Sri Lanka we live in. (Apologies Sri Lanka Tourism for borrowing your slogan) I remember writing to The Sunday Leader of 4 April 1999 and questioning the country… "Remember Palitha? In this nation of ours where gods and goddesses frequently appear and disappear , it is no surprise that Palitha Perera who was once hailed as a talented media man is today in the dustbin of history"


Palitha is a human being with humanity, a walking library, walking encyclopaedia, a humble man who built bridges of humanity. I have known him long enough to know all these. We continue to stay in touch as he is very concerned about my wellbeing, even more after I was diagnosed with a type of blood cancer. I know, he wouldn't like me saying this because he does not seek publicity or fame.


Sri Lanka has forgotten Palitha several times. May be because he does not go behind politicians asking for favours or suck up to them. Suddenly, he is given a Life Time Award. Will he be forgotten again? Are they looking at his wellbeing? If so many politicians , including former Presidents and Prime Ministers in this land of ours say/ think they are fit and able to ‘serve’ Sri Lanka even at old ages why can’t they obtain the services of talented artists like Palitha and several others to serve Sri Lanka in their chosen fields ? Does it have to end with Life Time Awards? What if we give Life Time Awards to politicians and say Goodbye? 


When I served under President Mahinda Rajapakasa, I mentioned about the plight of the late Film Director Wasantha Obeysekara and Palitha Perera to the Secretary to the President, Lalith Weeratunga. 


He immediately said "Bandula, We must look after them. I will inform the President. Bring them for lunch to Temple Trees" Both the President and Lalith treated Palitha and Vasantha respectfully and President Rajapaksa looked after them, until the ‘Yahapalana’ government withdrew whatever Palitha and Vasantha were given no sooner they came to power. Sri Lanka must remember, they were not given just handouts. They both were recognised as two giants who contributed to Sri Lankan cinema and broadcasting.  


I must end with a Sinhala verse which is doing its rounds after the ‘Forgotten Legends’ picture was published last week. 


ඉදිරියෙ මයික් එක සුමියුරු හඩ හැඩය


පන්දු පිටිය දෙවනත් කළ අඩ හැරය


යුක්තිය නොදුටු තැන ඒ හඩ තව සැරය


දන්නෝ දනිති පාලිත අයියගෙ අගය


Ayu-Boho-Wewa Palitha


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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