Premakeerthi was a man loved by many in this country. What is the memory you have about him?
July 31st this year marked the 25th death Anniversary of Premakeerthi de Alwis, talented journalist, broadcaster and song writer. Since that tragic day, it was widely believed that he was killed by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) during the reign of terror. A controversy over his death arose when his widow Nirmala de Alwis published a book tittled “Premakeerthini” in 2009. This controversial issue was set ablaze on July 31 when she told President Mahinda Rajapakse at a ceremony to name a road after Premakeerthi, that the alleged assassin of Premakeerthi lives brazenly ‘in his lap’. The Dailymirror contacted Nirmala de Alwis for further clarification of this serious allegation. She said she has evidence to prove that Premakeerthi was not killed by the JVP, adding that many false rumours had spread about his political principles. Although he was a close associate of President Ranasinghe Premadasa, he has always been faithful to Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). While unravelling the controversy over the death of her husband, Mrs. De Alwis also said that she fears for the life of her only son, Poorna Sampath de Alwis.
In short, I can say Premakeerthi is a wonderful man. The way he looked at life is amazing. His fragrance is with me and for me he is still living. People loved his heart and his talents. Even now when I meet people who love him, they talk about his qualities. Although he is no more, he has left his name to the world with his amazing work.
I am sad I could not cook him a meal. Prem’s hobby was cooking. We were not at home most of the time due to our busy schedules. The days we were at home he did not let me cook. We enjoyed our life to the best.
QWhat is the void created by his loss? Since his assassination how do you manage to cope with life socially and financially? Why do you live on rent?
No one can fill the void created by his death. After his death I lived with his humanity and his fragrance. I could not see anyone but him even after his death. There were many issues financially. But compared to the love he gave us, these issues were nothing.
The biggest issue I had was my son. When he was small he was told that Premakeerthi died in an accident.
As a toddler he did not even know what death is. He found out that his father was assassinated when he was around ten years old. People loved him because he did not have his father. Yet none could prevent the void created by Premakeerthis’ death.
When Premakeerthi was killed I made a request. I informed all the friends around us not to establish any trust or fund in his name. It was my family and friends who looked after us. Later on I went to a job at the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation.
I do not live on rent at the moment; I live with a family which is close to me. I had only three wishes in my life after Prems’ death. One was to look after my son, second to live as an exemplary widow irrespective of the outside pressures I had, and thirdly to find what exactly happened to my husband. We did not have many possessions.
The only thing we had was the love from outside world. I was doing a PhD. But I had to give it up. I only could open my eyes and ears and kept my mouth shut.
I gave up my job at the SLBC later. Then I worked as an HR Manager in a company. But I resigned from that too, as I did not enjoy the work. Now I write books.
We had to leave Sri Lanka in 2005 due to unexpected reasons. After our return, we lived with our family and friends.
What does your son do? Is he following in his fathers’ footsteps?
I did not like the idea of Premakeerthi being sold during every election period. I was always against it. I have told this to the President on previous occasions. I know he was not aware of this before, but now he is. I had a copy of “Premakeerthini” with me. I handed over the book to him. I told him that the person who was allegedly responsible for Premakeerthi’s death is in his lap. I have clear evidence to prove it. Also after the road naming ceremony many people rallied around me. Some people have come forward to give evidence if there is an investigation.
My son is as talented as his father. He did his further studies in the arts. He too, is a strong character like his father. He is definitely following in his father’s footsteps. He will come out as an artiste soon. But he will stay out of the country due to the threats we have received.
Did Premakeerthi talk about any death threat or of any person who threatened him? Or according to your knowledge did he have enemies or was he under threat?
Our lives changed around 2005. That year I found concrete information about people who were responsible for his death. People who were in power covered the reasons for his death. After I found out who is responsible for his death, I wrote the book “Premakeerthini”. I handed over a copy to then President Chandrika Kumaranathunga. Many people assumed the book to be against the JVP because the party was then in alliance with the SLFP. It was a shock for many once the book was published.
Did Premakeerthi have any political affiliation or what is the political line he followed?
He supported the SLFP. But as he is a talented person, President Ranasinghe Premadasa got him involved in his work. Due to this some people labelled him as an UNPer. The truth is, he was a strong member of SLFP. From the final wage he received he paid membership fees to the SLFP. He never betrayed his principles and policies in the face of politics.
At the road naming ceremony held recently, you told the President that the killers of Premakeerthi are the President’s close associates. On what grounds you make such a serious allegation and what is the evidence you have?
I respect President Mahinda Rajapaksa for being there at the road naming ceremony. But some people tried to take undue advantage at this event. I heard about an exhibition to show some of the JVP’s victims. Prems’ picture was to be displayed prominently right in front.
From the beginning, I did not like the idea of Premakeerthi being sold during every election period. I was always against it. I have told this to the President on previous occasions. I know he was not aware of this before, but now he is. I had a copy of “Premakeerthini” with me. I handed over the book to him. I told him that the person who was allegedly responsible for Premakeerthi’s death is in his lap. I have clear evidence to prove it. Also after the road naming ceremony many people rallied around me. Some people have come forward to give evidence if there is an investigation.
But all this time it was the JVP which was blamed. Why did you keep quiet so long?
At any instance I never blamed the JVP. I was sure President Premadasa was in no way connected to this. If what I have written is wrong, why is nobody taking action against me? No identification parade was held when the suspects were brought to court. The entire case was handled by the Police in an unfair manner.
The police arrested two boys as suspects. The first boy was sent to prison based on a confession he made. Then the second person was arrested on the same charge, and the irony is he has made the same confession, too. Every word was similar to what was said by the first suspect. But only the first suspect was sentenced; the second was not. I was never summoned to give evidence. There was no fair investigation.
There is a person who is responsible for Prems’ death. He owns a television company. But I do not have evidence against him. But he was present at our house on the day when Premakeerthi was murdered. I kept quiet because I had no means to appeal. After ruling an appeal must be made within two years. But to do that, I did not have money. I also feared for my life.
From what I found out, two people who were involved in the assassination of Premakeerthi live somewhere in Sri Lanka although the story is that both are dead.
According to your book “Premakeerthini”, President Premadasa intended to appoint Premakeerthi as Chairman of the SLBC. Do you think this was a reason for his assassination?
Premakeerthi or I was not aware this. Actually, it was news for us. Premakeerthi was just a producer there. Threatening letters came to the newsroom those days. But he was not a special target.
There was a rumour saying that the President was going to handover the Presidential Media Unit of the Rupavahini to Prem. That is the only story we knew.
After these revelations have you received any threats?
There have not been any threats openly so far. But I fear for my son’s life. He will stay out of Sri Lanka.
Pix by Nisal Baduge
Following are excerpt from an interview conducted with Hudson Samarasinghe, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation – to whom Nirmala de Alwis is pointing her finger regarding the assassination of her husband Premakeerthi de Alwis.
There is a serious accusation against you claiming that you are behind the assassination of Premakeerthi de Alwis. What have you got to say about this?
I checked my personal records. They are claiming that I committed this crime while I was Chairman of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) because I felt that my position was threatened by Premakeerthi de Alwis. Isn’t that what this woman is saying?
Is there any truth to that claim?
No, I was not even the Chairman of the SLBC at the time that Premakeerthi was assassinated. He had been assassinated on July 31, 1989. I became the Chairman of SLBC on December 12, 1989.
So you became chairman a few months after the assassination?
Yes. So why would I have been afraid at that time? This woman is saying that I killed Premakeerthi to protect my position as the Chairman of the SLBC. But the time he was killed I was not even the Chairman. So, I had nothing to lose. So what reason did I have to kill him? I had no reason at all to kill him. I can’t even imagine killing a man!
Did you have a grudge with Premakeerthi?
No, I had no grudge with him at all. I had nothing against him. We worked together.
I don’t want to respond to this woman’s accusations. I have sent a letter of demand. I am going to send the letter of demand to the newspapers as well.
I am going to sue for 500 million rupees. Premakeerthi’s murder case has been heard by the courts and the ruling was given. It was even heard at Appeal Courts. I have those copies with me.
It is a crime to accuse innocent people in this manner.
Do you have a personal grudge witht Nirmala de Alwis?
I was the one who gave her a job when she came and begged for a job after her husband’s assassination.
What was your position in the SLBC when Premakeerthi was assassinated?
I was an ordinary employee of the SLBC.
So why are these accusations directed at you?
They are trying to tarnish my reputation. I have no problem. I can bear these accusations. But how can my children go to school?
If there is no personal grudge, would a woman make such a serious accusation without any reason?
I don’t know what is on her mind or what her intentions are.
Maybe it has to do with an issue when she was employed at the SLBC?
When she was employed at the SLBC, I was a Parliamentarian.
Do you think someone is directing Nirmala?
The JVP is behind this whole thing. There is nothing more to this story. I have not started speaking yet. Since I have to go to courts in the future, I can’t speak much.