Hope springs eternal in Nirmala’s heart: ‘Natural justice will reveal the truth’ | Sunday Observer

Hope springs eternal in Nirmala’s heart: ‘Natural justice will reveal the truth’

Nirmala presents her book Premakeerthi to a startled President Rajapaksa saying“The killer of my husband is under your protection.”
Nirmala presents her book Premakeerthi to a startled President Rajapaksa saying“The killer of my husband is under your protection.”

Thirty years ago on a fateful July 31, veteran television and radio broadcaster, journalist and lyricist Premakeethi De Alwis met an untimely death at the hands of armed men sent to his home. It was a time when the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) insurrection was at its height.

Premakeerthi had received several warnings from the Depashapremi Janatha Viyaparaya (DJV), the armed wing of the JVP. But the unassuming Premakeerthi had taken these threats lightly.

On July 31, 1989, around 8.30 pm Premakeerthi was home with his wife Niramala and son Poorna when he was forcibly taken away by the hitmen. The bullet-riddled body of the much-loved broadcaster was found 200 yards from his home the next day and fingers immediately pointed at the JVP. In less than three months the authorities had the possible rebel suspects in custody. After a trial, the courts found Saman Priyankara Gamage, a member of the JVP guilty, solely based on his confession to Senior DIG Anura Senanayake, who was an Assitant Superintendent of Police (ASP) at the time.

Three decades since his death, the wife he lovingly called ‘Bancha’ says justice is yet to be delivered for her husband’s brutal assassination. According to Nirmala De Alwis, the widow of the veteran broadcaster justice was never served for the killing of her husband. To this day Nirmala believes and insists that a once powerful media man and a former Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) Chairman had ordered the killing of her husband.

“I have never changed my stance and it will not be changed in the future either,” she said. According to Nirmala, her views are not merely a stance but is indeed the gospel truth. “There is no doubt about who my husband’s killer is,” she said. According to her the confession of Gamage and another suspect arrested were similar. She believes they had been taken under duress. Despite a man being named as the killer and sentenced to life in prison, Nirmala had wanted to seek out the truth about her husband’s death. Meeting an underworld figure by the name of Thara Ajith had ended her search. He had revealed who ordered the killing of Premakeerthi and the reasons behind it. Her trust in what this man said is unshakeable. “I gathered proof regarding what he said so I have no doubts on his claims,” she affirmed.

In August 2014 Nirmala De Alwis quite publicly named the alleged killer before former President Mahinda Rajapaksa at an event held to rename the road before the SLBC after Premakeerthi. Her revelations sent shockwaves through the country. A bold Nirmala had stepped forward presenting a book written by her called Premakeerthi to a quite startled Rajapaksa. The book included information on his death as claimed by Thara Ajith. “The killer of my husband is under your protection,” she had told the President before a host of guests referring to the SLBC Chairman at the time. The media had lapped up the incident and the revelations earned her the wrath of the powerful media man who felt publicly defamed and humiliated.

“I fought for justice and now I am reaping its benefits,” she said. The benefits she refers to are two legal cases against her for the allegations she made against the man she believes killed her husband. In the first defamation case, he had demanded that the widow pays him Rs. 500 million in damages.

Now having ailments beyond her age, Nirmala often goes alone to courts to face these cases. “I am barely able to see as my eyesight is weak but I must attend courts. This is how I have been repaid. Some people from this country took my Premakeerthi away and now they are demanding I pay them as well,” an emotional Nirmala said. According to her the only time she felt she received some semblance of justice is when the courts decided to consider her counterclaim that the allegations made against her by the plaintiff in her case had defamed her and had been injurious to her character.

Pointing out how his death has been used during elections in the past, Nirmala recalled how a social media post by one presidential hopeful on Premakeerthi had garnered over 100,000 likes. “But this individual or others in power never took his case beyond that,” she said. Nirmala says today no one in power has anything to gain by championing the cause of getting justice for his assassination. “Only the common man, his fans and those who stand for the truth care,” she noted adding that those who should take an interest continue to remain silent.

But with recent renewed interest in the broadcaster, social media posts have been used to accuse the JVP of killing Premakeerthi who was an asset to the Sri Lanka media industry, Nirmala noted. “I vehemently oppose them using his death for political gain,” she said, adding that attempts are being made to taint political parties. “At least now this must be corrected.”

According to Nirmala, despite being apolitical she had told the JVP that she absolves them from any responsibility in her husband’s killing. “They have other serious allegations against them from their past so they may not be able to openly comment on my husband’s death,” she said adding that however, she does not hold them responsible in this instance.

Nirmala has spent the last three decades fighting and hoping that justice may be served in her husband’s assassination. “My son at times has scolded me as he felt neglected with me spending time to search for the truth. I continue making enemies but it has to be done,” she said.

Nirmala’s bold step in 2014 in the hopes of getting justice was of no avail. However, a now ailing and aged Nirmala fails to give up hope. “The media and those who loved him keep his memory constantly alive even now,” she noted adding that natural justice will reveal the truth and justice will be served one day.