Prasanna Rathnayake Activist, filmmaker and journalist


For me, Prasanna was an enigma. He was humble, knowledgeable, and available but mysterious at the same time.

At times he was so optimistic about life and positive but I have only met a very few who are as cynical as him. I vividly remember meeting him for the fist time many years ago. It was a shock to hear about his sudden departure.

prasanna 4Then again, it is nothing unusual about him to go missing for few months. He will be missing for weeks, and out of the blue he will call, “Machan, bastards have written something about you again. .. “ he is ringing to see if I was hurt by the filth our mutual friends had written about me. Then he reminds me about my radio documentaries and writing and says sweet things to me, and fills me in with some gossip or an unknown fact about the “buggers who write shit”. He always knew the traitors among us.

Prasanna knew everyone who is worth knowing in Colombo. He also knew everything worth knowing about everyone he knew. He had connections in every level of society in Sri Lanka.

Prasanna was a talented filmmaker. He was often away filming in exotic places in the world. But I had never seen any of his work. We talked a lot about “fantastic” recipes but I never had a chance to taste his cooking.

He was often around at the BBC Sinhala Service office in London. He is almost always helping one of my staff members, showing them how to do their job.

Prasanna often took no credit for his efforts. He was the unofficial media officer for Sri Lanka departments of many organisations in London. Amnesty International is one of them. He helped out with many recent AI projects by creating audio visual material.

He was fearless and mischievous. Once he wrote an article about how it was illegal to smoke in public but legal for white vans to roam free in Colombo.

He loved to help others. He loved getting up to mischief. Prasanna loved art, music and a glass of wine. Prasanna Rathnyake was a ‘Buddhist Khyyamist’.

I know he has gone away again. I know that he will appear again in few weeks. My dear friend, I am waiting for your telephone call….. A bottle of Merlot, in the bag……….

Priyath Liyanage

(this message was read out at Prasanna’s funeral in London on Sunday 23rd July 2017).

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