Premawathie Manamperi
Premawathi Manamperi was a Kataragama
Kataragama is a pilgrimage town popular with Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and indigenous Vedda communities of Sri Lanka and South India. The town has Ruhunu Maha Kataragama devalaya, a shrine dedicated to Skanda-Murukan also known as Kataragamadevio...

 beauty queen who was beaten and murdered in 1971.

Early life

Premawathi was born the eldest daughter of a ten member family. In 1970 she was crowned the festival queen at that year's new year festival in Kataragama.

Death and aftermath

In the midst of the 1971 JVP insurrection, Kataragama was a center of insurgent activity. On April 16 the Sri Lankan Army
Sri Lankan Army
The Sri Lanka Army is the oldest and largest of the Sri Lanka Armed Forces and is responsible for land-based military and humanitarian operations. Established as the Ceylon Army in 1949, it was renamed when Sri Lanka became a republic in 1972...

 crushed the insurgents and brough the city under their control. That day several girls, including Premawathi, who were believed to be involved with the rebels were arrested.

Premawathi was torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

d through the night to no avail revealing nothing about her activities. Infuriated the lieutenant made Premawathi take off her clothes and walk across the town nude while been beaten by him and another officer. Finally stopping near a post office
Post office
A post office is a facility forming part of a postal system for the posting, receipt, sorting, handling, transmission or delivery of mail.Post offices offer mail-related services such as post office boxes, postage and packaging supplies...

, the officers opened fire on the girl and buried her alive. They returned on two separate occasions to finish her off. She ultimately died from a bullet
A bullet is a projectile propelled by a firearm, sling, or air gun. Bullets do not normally contain explosives, but damage the intended target by impact and penetration...

 to the head.

The 22 years old Premawathie's murder suspects Lieutenant
A lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer in many nations' armed forces. Typically, the rank of lieutenant in naval usage, while still a junior officer rank, is senior to the army rank...

 A. Wijesuriya, a Volunteer member of the Ceylon Army, attached to the 3rd Gemunu Watch, and Amaradasa Ratnayake a member of the Volunteer Force were brought into trial and found guilty for attempted murder on the April 17, 1971 by shooting her with Sterling sub-machine guns, an un-identified soldier shot her head with a rifle to death. The two accused were sentenced to 16 years rigorous imprisonment. Later in 1988 Lieutenant A. Wijesuriya was killed by the suspected JVP hit team at Matara
Matara, Sri Lanka
Matara is a city on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, 160 km from Colombo. It is one of the largest cities in Sri Lanka. It was deeply affected by the Asian tsunami in December 2004.-History:...

 as a punishment for the murder of Premawathie.

1977 election

Her murder attracted national attention and was a major issue addressed in the 1977 election. UNP candidate Ranasinghe Premadasa
Ranasinghe Premadasa
Ranasinghe Premadasa was the 3rd President of Sri Lanka from January 2, 1989 to May 1, 1993. Before that, he served as the Prime Minister in the government headed by J. R. Jayewardene from February 6, 1978 to January 1, 1989...

 discussed the attack in great detail and condemned Sirimavo Bandaranaike
Sirimavo Bandaranaike
Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike was a Sri Lankan politician and the world's first female head of government...

's handling of the crime to discredit his opponent.

He eventually won the election in a landslide.


Baila singer Anton Jones
Anton Jones
Anton Jones is a popular Sri Lankan musician. He was a major figure in Sinhala baila and had several hits that include "Mini Gawuma" and "Uyala Pihala." Jones had released 37 cassettes and eight CDs and often tackled contemporary events in his songs...

 wrote and sang a song about Premawathi. In 2001 a film was made based on her story with Sangeetha Weeraratne
Sangeetha Weeraratne
Sangeetha Weeraratne is an award-winning actress in the Sri Lankan cinema. She made her debut as a sixteen-year-old with Roy De Silva 's It's a Matter of Time opposite Kamal Addararachchi in 1990. However, she earned immense popularity only after performing in H.D. Premaratne's Saptha Kanya, also...

 play the role as Premawathi.

Further reading

  • Insurgency – 1971 : An Account of the April Insurrection in Sri Lanka by Justice A.C. Alles
    A.C. Alles
    Hon. Justice Anthony Christopher Alles or A.C. Alles was a former Judge of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka and also a non-fiction writer.-Early life:...

  • SRI LANKA - A LOST REVOLUTION? The Inside Story of the JVP by Rohan Gunaratna
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