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The Heroes who didn’t come back



By Major Dilantha Segera SLE (Retd)

Today, the October 17th, marks the 28th Anniversary of Kotelawala Defence University Intake XI. Exactly twenty eight years ago, when the separatist war was at its worst form, eighty five young men in their very early twenties walked through the prestigious gates of Kandawala Estate with high aspirations to get trained and commissioned as Officers in the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. The Late Sir John’s hallowed abode, made room for the creation of many lifelong comradeships among this group of brave men. The same reason creates the best setting on this day to commemorate and pay tribute to our very own ‘Heroes who didn’t come back’.

Amal Witharana was the first to leave us, just two months after our convocation. He paid the supreme sacrifice whilst serving on board Naval Fast Attack Craft P482 off seas of Pulmoddai in Eastern Sri Lanka. A very loving and affectionate brother officer who displayed great human qualities in all aspects. The good and talented cricketer inside Amal, prompted him to exercise true sportsmanship behaviour even at most enduring times during our training period. He belonged to the very few disciplined and innocent ones who never dared to break the strict rules of the Academy. He would always advise the mischievous to stay out of trouble. As in the service life, Amal had been a tender and caring son, brother and a fiancé in his personal life too.

Gopura Gunasena took the next turn whilst serving with the 7th Battalion of The Gemunu Watch at Paranthan Forward Defence Line in Northern Sri Lanka. Though shorter in his build, he had a plenty of physical stamina inside that frame. Being the last serial cadet of Bravo Troop, he developed a very strong friendship with his nearest two roommates, Sarath and RMC, as they were bit isolated from the rest due to some architectural limitations of our billet. This trio maintained that bond throughout, with RMC and himself ending up in the same Regiment too. The last communications received from the battle front indicated that Gopura faced death, valiantly.

Sanjaya Wickremasinghe secured the bottom slot in our Intake’s Roll of Honour. He fell while fighting in an extremely heroic manner on board Naval Fast Attack Craft P482 off seas of Mulaitivu. He was affectionately called as ‘Chichibuwa’ among his batchmates due to his tall, dark and bulky frame. A very jovial personality, almost all the ‘Eleveners’ still recall the military humour of Chichibuwa in ‘Improvised Sam Browne’ inside the Academy Mess. Contrary to his looks, he was a very kind hearted gentleman who was loved by his friends.

The last to fall out was Hemaka Seneviratne, rather unfortunately due to COVID-19. An exceptionally talented and qualified Gunner Officer, Hemaka was a good instructor too. He was very popular during our cadet days as he had a very good looking elder sister. A meeting with Hemaka would rarely end up without sitting on an Officers’ Mess bar stool in the evening. Many of us owe a lot to him for all the good times he shared with us. He breathed his last at the Badulla General Hospital after falling victim to the current pandemic whilst serving as a Directing Staff at Officers’ Career Development Centre, Buttala.

Out of the quadruple, only Hemaka was married and he left behind a loving wife and two children. Others died very young, leaving their beloved parents and loved ones in despair. This tribute goes out to those brave Mothers, Fathers, Wives, Children and Siblings of our heroes too. Because, if not for their generosity and patience, Mother Lanka would not have had such heroes.

Dear Comrades-at-Arms, we will remember you at sunrise and sunset in this precious country. Her colours are flying high today not by the force of winds, but by your last valiant breaths only.

Sit Tibi Terra Levis

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Contentious Chinese research vessel docks in Maldives



Xiang Yang Hong 03 has previously visited Indian Ocean on several other occasions

A contentious Chinese research ship reached the Maldives on Thursday in the latest sign of the archipelago’s diplomatic reorientation towards Beijing and away from its traditional benefactor India.

Local residents said they had spotted China’s Xiang Yang Hong 3 at the Thilafushi industrial port near the capital Male.The 100-metre-long (328-foot) vessel was at an anchorage near Male on Thursday evening, according to the website Marinetraffic.

The Maldives’ pro-Beijing government said earlier the vessel was docking for a port call to rotate crew and take on supplies, on the condition that it would not conduct “research” while in its territorial waters.

Media reports in India had suggested that the vessel was conducting surveillance for Beijing.

India is suspicious of China’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean and its influence in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, which are strategically placed halfway along key east-west international shipping routes.Relations between Male and New Delhi have chilled since pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu won elections last year.

Muizzu has asked India to withdraw 89 security personnel based in the Maldives to operate reconnaissance aircraft by March 15.But the president has also insisted he does not want to upend ties with New Delhi by replacing Indian troops with Chinese forces.

Sri Lanka refused entry to Xiang Yang Hong 3 after two other port calls from Chinese vessels since 2022 raised objections from India.That included the ship Yuan Wang 5, which specializes in spacecraft tracking and which New Delhi described as a spy ship. (AFP)

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MP Harsha in Australia as “Special visitor”



Harsha de Silva

Opposition MP and Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance (COPF) Harsha de Silva is currently in Australia as a special visitor.

Taking to ‘X’, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP said he had embarked on a nine-day visit on an invitation extended by the Government of Australia.

“My engagements with policymakers, academics, scientists and investment managers began in Melbourne and will continue in Adelaide and then public officials and politicians in Canberra,” he added.

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ADB country chief hopes Lanka could sustain policy reforms despite elections



Takafumi Kadono

ECONOMYNEXT –The Asian Development Bank (ADB) expects Sri Lanka not to reverse its International Monetary Fund-led policy reforms despite elections soon, the ADB Country Director for Sri Lanka Takafumi Kadono said.

The island nation has witnessed repeated reversals of policy reforms in the past due to greedy politicians who misled  the people to vote for them by sowing the seeds of subsidy mentality with unsustainable debts at expensive borrowing costs, economists say.

That led the country into an unprecedented economic crisis in 2022 with a sovereign debt default. Sri Lanka is still struggling to come out of the crisis.

The IMF has strictly placed some reforms including in state sector enterprises, fiscal and monetary sectors.

Sri Lanka has implemented the painful IMF reforms so far including higher personal income taxes, but economists have raised concerns over the sustainability of the current reforms due to possible changes in the policies in the event of a new president or government comes to power after democratic elections.

“If that kind of reversal happens, we also cannot justify our support,” ADB Country Director for Sri Lanka Takafumi Kadono told EconomyNext on late on Wednesday.

“We do expect these policy reforms to be sustained. So that is our expectation. That is the premise which we are providing our budget support. If they reverse, the whole premise will be collapsed. That kind of policy reversal cannot happen.”

The island nation had sought IMF bailout package for 17 times including the ongoing support. However, the authorities have failed to complete most of the past IMF loan disbursements due to politically motivated contradiction with the global lender’s tight fiscal policies.

Sri Lanka has shown some signs of recovery in the third quarter of 2023 with the economic growth turned to positive from contraction for the first time in seven quarters.

However, opposition political parties have promised to revisit the IMF deal if they come to power.

Higher taxes, soaring cost of living, and lack of salary hike have made President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government unpopulour among the public, analysts say.

Wickremesinghe has said the country will hold both presidential and parliamentary election by 2025.

Some government politicians have told EconomyNext that the higher taxes would be eased from April and the authorities will try their best to meet the IMF conditions for the third disbursement in June this year.

The presidential polls should be held by October this year, but opposition parties have said President Wickremesinghe is in the process to delay the poll.

However, Wickremesinghe’s office last week said Presidential Election will be held “within the mandated period”, without giving an exact time.It also said the General Election will be held next year, “according to the current timeline”.

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