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The Heroes who didn’t come back

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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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Appointment of GM led to CEB chief’s resignation?

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By Ifham Nizam

Amidst further deterioration of the power crisis, the Chairman of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) M.M.C. Ferdinando has tendered his resignation to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

In a letter to the President, the Attorney-at-Law said that he is quitting due to personal reasons. Ferdinando will resign as Chairman/Member of the Electricity Board with effect from Feb. 1.

Sources close to Ferdinando said that the incumbent CEB Chairman did not want to be in that position following the appointment of Eng. Dr. D.C.R. Abeysekera as CEB General Manager. Abeysekera received his letter of appointment from Ferdinando on Tuesday (25).

Abeysekera received the appointment at the expense of Dr. Susantha Perera, whose designation as the GM on a temporary basis was resisted by the engineers’ union as he is a retiree.

Retired public servant Ferdinando was brought in as the CEB Chairman on July 19, last year soon after Sri Lanka entered into what was called a framework agreement with the US energy firm, New Fortress Energy. The agreement now challenged in the Supreme Court was finalised on 17 Sept, last year with Ferdinando endorsing it as an Advisor to the Finance Ministry.

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UK indicates sanctions against Lanka military

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By Shamindra Ferdinnado

Close on the heels of UK Foreign Minister Lord Tariq Ahmad’s three-day visit here, the House of Commons has been told that measures were being contemplated as regards the Sri Lankan military.

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Minister Amanda Milling has told Parliament that the government regularly engaged with the US and other partners on issues relating to Sri Lanka. She has further said: “The UK government keeps all evidence and potential designations under the UK Global Human Rights sanctions regime under close review, guided by the objectives of the sanctions regime. We would not normally speculate about future sanctions targets, as to do so could reduce their impact.”

The Conservative Party member was responding to Labour Party’s Siobhain McDonagh on Tuesday (25). MP Milling was responding to a query McDonagh posed to the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Elizabeth Truss, what assessment she has made of the implications for her policies of the sanctions imposed by the US on General Shavendra Silva of the Sri Lankan army.

The US in Feb 2020 imposed a travel ban on General Silva, who is also the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). Recently, the US extended its action against the Sri Lankan military by issuing travel ban on retired Maj. Gen. Udaya Perera.

The UK based Global Tamil Forum (GTF) has commended the British stand.

Concerned Lankan military sources said that the UK in its capacity as the leader of Sri Lanka Core Group at the Geneva-based Human Rights Council (UNHRC) was planning further measures ahead of the next human rights sessions.

UK based sources told The Island that that type of written parliamentary question was usually answered by a government minister from the FCDO.

Sources explained as this particular question dealt with Sri Lanka, the minister responsible was Lord Tariq Ahmad, but as he represented the House of Lords he couldn’t make statements in the Commons chamber.

Sources added that it would be rare that a question on Sri Lanka would be directly responded to by the Foreign Secretary Truss

Commons member Amanda Milling is Minister of State for Asia, therefore her portfolio closely matches Tariq Ahmad’s brief.

Incidentally, the FCDO now has a British Tamil in a senior position. Maya Sivagnanam is South Asia Deputy Director for the Indian Ocean Region at the FCDO.

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JCPSM token strike cripples hospitals in Western Province

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Strikers want Health Ministry to solve their problems within 10 days

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Joint Council of Professions Supplementary to Medicine (JCPSM) launched a 24-hour token strike yesterday (26) at 7 am at all hospitals in the Western Province. It consists of 16 unions.

The JCPSM has urged the government to address its members’s grievances including salary anomalies and issues related promotions. The strike had crippled hospitals in the province, Health Ministry sources said.

The JCPSM said emergency care, essential services and the treatment of COVID patients had not been affected by the strike.

President of the Government Nurses’ Association and former UNP National List MP Saman Rathnapriya said they had been urging the government to solve their problems for the past two months.

The College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) President, Ravi Kumudesh told The Island that they would end the token strike by 7 am today m(27) and thereafter give the government 10 days to address their demands.

“We will launch a continuous strike if the demands are not met within 10 days,” he said.

President of the Government Medical Officers’ Forum (GMOF) Dr. Rukshan Bellana said that most unions seemed to have lost the ability to solve disputes through negotiations.

“The unions have become too politicised, and the people are suffering as a result.”

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