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Veteran Sri Lankan Catholic singer dies at 68

Famed for his scathing songs, Sunil Perera died from Covid-related complications

UCA News reporter, Colombo

UCA News reporter, Colombo

Published: September 06, 2021 08:56 AM GMT

Updated: September 06, 2021 05:17 PM GMT

Veteran Sri Lankan Catholic singer dies at 68

Sunil Perera was known for his fearless attacks on corruption and politicians. (Photo: YouTube)

A veteran Catholic singer famed for his satirical songs about corrupt politicians and outspoken views on controversial issues has died.

Ivor Sylvester Sunil Perera, 68, passed away while receiving treatment for the coronavirus on Sept. 6.

Perera had tested positive for Covid-19 last month but was discharged after he recovered. He is believed to have died of Covid-related complications.

Born on Sept. 14, 1952, Perara studied at St. Sebastian's College in Moratuwa and St. Peter's College in Colombo. He joined the Gypsies, a popular band started by his father, in 1969.

Perera played a revolutionary role in group music in Sri Lanka for over five decades and wrote many popular songs.

"Perera created the life, culture, politics and democracy of the people of Sri Lanka through his songs," said singer and novelist Sudesh Lokuliyana, a friend of the deceased singer.

He raised his voice against corruption, malpractice and the poor treatment of the public under the current and former governments

"He advocated democracy and spoke critically about the wrongdoings of politicians and corruption." 

He said Perera was one of the stalwarts of the country's Baila musical genre, which is popular in Sri Lanka as well as among Goan Catholics in India. The genre originated centuries ago among the Portuguese.

Perera carried out his own campaigns for social change, social issues and injustice.

Lokuliyana said Perera openly spoke about taboo subjects such as sex and politics in the conservative country .

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"He raised his voice against corruption, malpractice and the poor treatment of the public under the current and former governments. He was a man who made everyone happy with his songs," said Lokuliyana.

He criticized political parties including the opposition when they did not come forward about burning issues facing the country.

Perera once said in an interview that he was afraid that former president Mahinda Rajapaksa would return to power, that there was severe repression during his tenure and that those who speak out against the government were silenced.

He also spoken out against the murder of a veteran journalist Lasantha Wickramatunga and criticized interference by the police.

Wickrematunga was shot dead in broad daylight in January 2009 on a public highway, a few hundred meters from a security checkpoint.

Many messages have been pouring in about Perera on social media.

Because of his fearless role, some politicians and their followers were angry with Sunil and even tried to attack him

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa tweeted that it was "a great loss for Sri Lanka's entertainment scene as veteran musician Sunil Perera passed away."

Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, an opposition politician, said on Twitter that he was “a great entertainer and someone who lived his life joyfully and honestly.”

Former national cricket captain Kumar Sangakkara tweeted that “he was a kind, gentle and generous man who moved us with song and rhythm. Small made but giant in influence and heart.”

Perera told the media recently that although he had composed songs that mocked politicians, he had never created songs that targeted people or insulted another party.

Aruna Shantha Nonis, convener of the Born to Win Relationships organization, said Perera had a certain irony and a definite message to society.

"Because of his fearless role, some politicians and their followers were angry with Sunil and even tried to attack him," he said.

"He knew that the country could be developed and the path to development was being blocked by the politicians who had ruled the country for 73 years. He fought for democracy along with progressive political groups and opposed the military and dictatorships."

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