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Lieut Gen Denzil Kobbekaduwa

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28th death anniversary commutation

Twenty Eight years ago, on 8th August 1992 , a bomb that exploded in an Army Land Rover at Araly Point took away a man, an intrepid officer, a gentleman and more importantly, a true friend. Denzil Kobbekaduwa was a distinguished General . As everyone knew , he always led from the front. He was knowledgeable, daring and popular and these were never in doubt. His tours of duty in the Army’s Northern Command would surely have made him aware of what the peace-loving people in the country needed and expected on the one hand; and on the other, what options were available to be pursued by political authority and defence forces if the LTTE ‘s intransigence could not be overcome by dialogue..

Denzil was conscious that the well-being and fundamental rights of the defenceless civilian and the unarmed LTTE cadre in custody , were the responsibility of the State. His sense of fair play, learnt on the rugby fields of Trinity College, simply exuded from him, and would certainly have earned for the Defence Establishment every chance of a speedy and just resolution of a totally unnecessary conflict. But this was not to be after that fateful day in Kayts.

Denzil, especially after reaching Flag Rank emphasized the need to prevent those who have suffered because of the conflict, from being further trodden upon. If not for his untimely demise, we may have perhaps been able to see him pave the way for all Sri Lankans to extend their hand of friendship to one another and more importantly, to convince the leaders of this country and the LTTE that all the money wasted on weapons of destruction, can be used for the welfare of all people alike, in the north, south, east and west

Many hundreds of appreciations, editorials and articles about this very inspiring soldier, exemplary officer, outstanding sportsman, efficient sports administrator, devoted husband, loving father and genuine friend have already been recorded and scripted. In his name, a Trust fund was established for the welfare of soldiers and their families and schools and roads were name after him..

There are another facets of this good, simple, lovable, mild-mannered person, playful man who had a puckish sense of humour who showed genuine concern for the young and the feeble – qualities no doubt inherited from and nurtured by his gracious parents and dutifully sustained after marriage by his wife, Lali.

A fine sportsman and a distinguished product of Trinity College Kandy , Denzil excelled at Rugby . He later played for Kandy SC and the Army and it was through Rugby that we met. In 1972, Denzil was the Hony Secretary of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union. When he was selected by the Army for training in the UK, he suggested to the late Mark Bostock, (President SLRFU -1972) that I succeed him. After Mark phoned me, I sought and obtained the approval of Air Force Commander, Paddy Mendis to accept this post, which I held for two years till 1974 — the year of the 3rd Rugby Asiad, when Sri Lanka entered the final and emerged runners-up to Japan, an achievement made possible , without doubt, by the exemplary leadership and discipline of Summa Navaratnam (President SLRFU -1974), late SB Pilapitiya (Manager/Coach) , assisted by the late inimitable Bertie Dias, Indrajith Coomaraswamy (Captain) and Denzil. Denzil, who had just returned to the Island helped me at the SLRFU Secretariat, along with former Air Force rugby stalwart Sqn Ldr Shantha Mendis.

In the late 1970’s, Denzil was with the Army Training Centre at Diyatalawa. He and his family were always welcome visitors to the Air Force Camp. He relaxed with his wife and children in the well laid out childrens’ park, or dropped in to play basketball, tennis or squash, go boating or visit the Air Force officers on the Station – Chrysantha de Alwis, MYC Perera, Ranjan Manukulasuriya, Mohan de Silva, Doyle Peiris, RP Atapattu and late Ravi Erampamurthy – with whom he and his family were very close. When the Station Officers decided to build a second squash court in the SLAF ( there was already one at Katunayake) out of donations they would obtain from well wishers, and from their own personal funds, a contribution of Rs. 250 (then a princely sum) was made by Major D L Kobbekaduwa,. Denzil is in the group photograph taken on the occasion when the court was declared open and any visitor to the beautifully laid out and picturesque Air Force Station at Diyatalawa today can see Denzil’s name in the Roll of Honour.

On one occasion, the Training Wing at SLAF Diyatalawa had planned a ‘training’ reconnaissance for the purpose of an exercise for Air Force Gunner Instructors. Denzil joined us. We stayed the night at the late Maxie Andrado’s residence in Hambantota. The next morning, Maxie showed us his .45 calibre “Elephant” rifle. Winking at Maxie, I sought permission to take the rifle on the recce. Denzil, being the correct serviceman he was , inquired why this weapon was needed as it was not a service issue, and that in any case we had five 7.62 calibre rifles for protection purposes. I said that maybe we would be lucky to come across and shoot the ‘loner’ rogue elephant that was causing panic among the chena cultivators and their families near the “Jafferjee Farm” at Tanamalwila. Denzil was aghast ! He stammered , ” you are a mad b…… ?” Later it dawned on him that I was only pulling his leg Such a simple, unassuming guy, was Denzil !

An amusing incident took place at ‘Bambara House, the then Sri Lanka Air Force Officers’ holiday bungalow at China bay . I had booked the bungalow and along with Denzil & Lali, Jayanstissa & Manel Ratwatte and their children, Tyronne & Charmaine Howie, Travis & Tammy de Jong, Sunil Keppitipola , my wife Rosemary & I spent a wonderful week’s holiday there. My 10 year old nephew ( now a Commander in the Sri Lanka Navy ) who also accompanied us, was trying to learn to swim by himself. Denzil observing this, tried to demonstrate the correct technique, missed a foothold and slipped and the next thing heard was a ‘plonk’ in the water. Denzil was dazed but not hurt with this ‘belly-landing’. Undeterred, he carried on his coaching lessons and over the next few days, the boy was able to swim one breadth of the pool. Many years later, this lad, as an Officer Cadet at the Royal Naval College Dartmouth, happened to meet Denzil in London – Denzil himself was on an Army Staff Course—and they had a big laugh when the young Cadet recalled the incident, after identifying himself.

Denzil liked to play hockey. On many occasions he was gladly invited to don the Air Force Station’s ‘Blue and Gold’ jersey, in friendly matches that were played on the Rendezvous Parade Ground, which was a stone’s throw from his married quarters.

When the Bishop of Badulla , the late Rt Rev Mgr Leo Nanayakkara was on a pastoral visit to the parish church and convent in Diyatalawa, his car gave trouble. The driver arranged for a “baas” in a garage in town to take a look. In the meantime, we contacted Denzil to borrow his car to take Bishop Leo back to Badulla . But, Denzil ,being Denzil, not only did he say “OK,” but volunteered to drive to Badulla himself. In the meantime he invited the Bishop to his married quarters where a sumptuous afternoon tea was served. Denzil, however, was spared the trip as the repair was fixed soon enough.

Whilst on leave in Colombo, Denzil spent most of his time with his family. It was not unusual to see the Kobbekaduwa family in their station wagon, parked in the shade by a cricket ground witnessing a match, or shopping at the Liberty Plaza on a Saturday morning, or visiting a friend or a relation for a quiet evening chat. He was a family man and this fine quality definitely influenced his way of life in the Army.

All who knew him well, loved and admired him. Those who served with him and under him, respected and trusted him. They would no doubt have specially and fondly remembered him on the 27th of July – his birthday anniversary.

An Army officer, who served under Denzil, wrote, ” General Kobbekaduwa fought bravely and relentlessly to safeguard the integrity of our country for a better tomorrow for all Sri Lankans— he was truly a man of the century .”

Indeed so!

Wg Cdr E H Ohlmus (SLAF Retd.)

(This was first published in 1982 in the Island. It is being republished in view of Gen. Kobbekaduwa’s approaching 28th death anniversary)

 



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Features

Mindset changes and the dangerous ‘Religious War’ rhetoric

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Israeli border police on patrol at the Damascus Gate in occupied East Jerusalem (Pic courtesy Al Jazeera)

Nothing could be more vital at present in the conflict and war zones of the world than positive mindset changes and the wish of the humanist is likely to be that such momentous developments would quickly come to pass in particularly the Middle East. Because in the latter theatre almost every passing hour surfaces problems that call for more than average peace-making capabilities for their resolution.

For instance, the Islamic Supreme Fatwa Council in Palestine has reportedly warned of a ‘Religious War’ in the wake of recent allegations that Israel is planning to prevent the Muslim community from having access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem in the month of Ramadan. If true, this development is likely to further compound the Gaza violence and take it along an even more treacherous track. This is on account of the fact that religious passions, if not managed effectively, could prove most volatile and destructive.

As pointed out in this column previously, peace movements on both sides of the main divide in the region would need to quickly activate themselves, link-up and work as one towards the de-escalation of the conflict. What the Middle East and the world’s other war zones urgently need are persons and groups who are endowed with a pro-peace mind set who could work towards an elimination of the destructive attitudes that are instrumental in keeping the conflicts concerned raging.

This could prove an uphill task in the Middle East in particular. For, every passing minute in the region is seeing a hardening of attitudes on both sides in the wake of issues growing out of the violence. Accordingly, if peace-making is to be contemplated by the more moderate sections in the conflict, first, we need to see a lull in the violence. Achieving such a de-escalation in the violence has emerged as a foremost need for the region.

Right now, the Israeli state is showing no signs of climbing down from its position of seeing a decisive end to the Hamas militants and their support bases and going forward this policy stance could get in the way of de-escalating the violence even to a degree.

On the other hand, it would not be realistic on the part of the world community to expect a mindset change among Israeli government quarters and their supporters unless and until the security of the Israeli state is ensured on a permanent basis. Ideally, the world should be united on the position that Israel’s security is non-negotiable; this could be considered a veritable cornerstone of Middle East peace.

Interestingly, the Sri Lankan state seems to have come round to the above view on a Middle East peace settlement. Prior to the Ranil Wickremesinghe regime taking this stance, this columnist called repeatedly over the past few months in this commentary, in fact since October 7th last year, for the adoption of such a policy. That is, a peace settlement that accords priority to also the security needs of the Israelis. It was indicated that ensuring the security and stability of the Palestinians only would fall short of a comprehensive settlement of the Middle East imbroglio.

However, in the case of the Ranil Wickremesinghe regime, the above change in policy seems to be dictated almost wholly by economic survival considerations rather than by any well thought out principle or a sense of fairness to all relevant stakeholders.

For example, close on the heels of the regime playing host to the Israeli Transport Minister recently, it accorded a reverential welcome to the Iranian Foreign Minister as well. From the viewpoint of a small country struggling to survive, this is the way to go, since it needs every morsel of economic assistance and succour.

However, if permanent peace is to have a chance in the Middle East it would need to be based on the principle of justice to all the main parties to the conflict. Seen from this point of view, justice and fairness should be accorded to the Palestinians as well as the Israelis. Both parties, that is, should live within stable states.

The immediate need, though, is to at least bring a lull to the fighting. This will enable the Palestinian population in the Gaza to access humanitarian assistance and other essential needs. Besides, it could have the all-important effect of tempering hostile attitudes on both sides of the divide.

The US is currently calling for a ‘temporary ceasefire’ to the conflict, but the challenge before Washington is to get the Israeli side to agree to it. If the Israeli Prime Minister’s recent pronouncements are anything to go by, the US proposal is unlikely to make any impression on Tel Aviv. In other words, the Israeli Right is remaining an obstacle to a ceasefire or even some form of temporary relief for the affected populations, leave alone a political solution. However, changing their government is entirely a matter for the Israeli people.

Accordingly, if a stable peace is to be arrived at, hostile, dogmatic attitudes on both sides may need to be eased out permanently. Ideally, both sides should see themselves as having a common future in a peacefully shared territory.

Peace groups and moderate opinion should be at centre stage on both sides of the divide in the region for the facilitation of such envisaged positive changes. The UN and democratic opinion worldwide should take it upon themselves to raise awareness among both communities on the need for a political solution. They should consider it incumbent upon themselves to work proactively with peace groups in the region.

The world is a vast distance from the stage when both parties to the conflict could even toy with the idea of reconciliation. Because reconciliation anywhere requires the relevant antagonists to begin by saying, ‘I am sorry for harming you.’ This is unthinkable currently, considering the enmity and acrimony that have built up over the years among the volatile sections of both communities.

However, relevant UN agencies and global democratic opinion could begin by convincing the warring sections that unless they cooperate and coexist, mutual annihilation could be their lot. Mindset changes of this kind are the only guarantors of lasting peace and mindset changes need to be worked on untiringly.

As this is being written, the ICJ is hearing representations from numerous countries on the Middle East situation. The opinions aired thus far are lopsided in that they do not present the Israeli viewpoint on the conflict. If a fair solution is to be arrived at to the conflict Israel’s concerns too would need to be taken into account expeditiously.

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Features

Dubai scene brightening up for SL fashion designers

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Sri Lankans are lighting up the scene in Dubai, not only as musicians, but in other fields, as well.

At the recently held Ceylon Food Festival, in Dubai, a fashion show was held, with Sri Lankan designers doing the needful.

The fashion show highlighted the creations of Pubudu Jayasinghe, Tehani Rukshika and Peshala Rasanganee Wickramasuriya, in three different segments, with each designer assigned 10 models.

The fashion show was choreographed by Shashi Kaluarachchi, who won the Miss Supermodel Globe International 2020, held in India, and was 1st runner-up at the Mr., Miss and Mrs. Sri Lanka, in Dubai.

Shashi says she was trained by Brian Karkoven and his know-how gave her a good start to her modelling career.

She has done many fashions shows in Sri Lanka, as well as in Dubai, and has worked with many pioneers in the fashion designing field.

The designers involved in the fashion show, in Dubai, were:

Pubudu Jayasinghe,

a 22-year-old creative and skilled makeup artist and nail technician. With a wealth of experience gained from working in various salons and participating in makeup and fashion projects in both Dubai and Sri Lanka, he has honed his talents in the beauty industry. Passionate about fashion, Pubudu has also acquired knowledge and experience in fashion designing, modelling, and choreography, showcasing his multifaceted expertise in the dynamic world of fashion.

Tehani Rukshika,

who studied at St Joseph’s Girls School, Nugegoda, says she went to Dubai, where her mom works, and joined the Westford University in fashion designing faculty for her Masters. Her very first fashion show was a Sri Lankan cultural event, called ‘Batik’. “This was my first event, and a special one, too, as my mom was modelling an Arabic Batik dress.”

Shashi Kaluarachchi

Peshala Rasanganee Wickramasuriya

has been living in Dubai for the past 21 years and has a batik shop in Dubai, called 20Step.

According to Shashi, who is on vacation in Sri Lanka, at the moment, there will be more Sri Lankan fashion shows in Dubai, highlighting the creations of Sri Lankan designers.

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Features

A mask of DATES…

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Yes, another one of my favourites…dates, and they are freely available here, so you don’t need to go searching for this item. And they are reasonably priced, too.

Okay, readers, let’s do it…with dates, of course – making a mask that will leave your skin feeling refreshed, and glowing

To make this mask, you will need 03-04 dates, and 02 tablespoons of milk.

Remove the seeds and soak the dates, in warm milk, for about 20 minutes. This method will soften the dates and make them easier to blend.

After the 20 minutes is up, put the dates in a blender and blend until you have a smooth paste. Check to make sure there are no lumps, or chunks, left.

Add the 02 tablespoons of milk to the blended date paste and mix well.

Okay, now gently apply this mixture to your face, avoiding the eye area. Use your fingertips, or a clean brush, to evenly distribute the mask all over your face.

Once the mask is applied, find a comfortable place to sit, or lie down. Relax for about 15-20 minutes, allowing the mask to work its magic on your skin.

After the mentioned time has passed, rinse off the mask with lukewarm water. Gently massage your face while rinsing to exfoliate any dead skin cells.

After rinsing off the mask, pat dry your face with a soft towel, and then follow up with your favourite moisturizer to lock in the hydration and keep your skin moisturized.

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