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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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Countrywide power outage act of sabotage, claim TU, officials



Unions suspect sinister attempt to call in military

Engineers say technical fault caused power failure

CEBEU suspends work-to-rule protest

By Ifham Nizam

The government was trying to pin the blame for yesterday’s countrywide power outage on the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) trade unions in a bid to call in the military, Joint Trade Union Alliance Convener Ranjan Jayalal said yesterday.

Jayalal told The Island the government’s attempt would tarnish the image of the military and that of the country, but such intimidatory tactics would not deter the CEB unions from continuing with their action against the questionable agreement between the government and the US energy firm, New Fortress, which has been allowed to acquire a 40% stake in the Yugadanavi power plant. “The government is trying to derail our trade union action, scheduled for December 08. Definitely the power outage was an act of sabotage. Two units of the Norochcholai coal-fired power plant and the one at Sapugaskanda had failed,” he added, insisting that the trade unions had nothing do with the power outage. He said union activists had sprung into action to restore power despite their work-to-rule, for the sake of the country and its people.

A senior independent electrical engineer said the power failure was an act of sabotage or attempt at sabotage. “It could have been a rehearsal that misfired,” he added.

Electricity supply in several areas in Colombo and its suburbs were restored around 2.00 p.m. Subsequently, the power supply on Anuradhapura-Habarana, Laxapana-Athurugiriya and Kotmale-Biyagama transmission lines was restored. However, even at 5.30 p.m. most parts of the Gamapaha District experiencing power failures.

CEB General Manager, Eng. M R Ranatunga sand disruptions to the power supply could be considered sabotage. He said CEBEU activists had been dragging their feet on power restoration.

State Minister of National Security & Disaster Management Chamal Rajapaksa said necessary action would be taken against the CEB engineers if it was revealed that the power outage was an act of sabotage.

Major disruptions to the electricity supply were reported across the country around 11.30 a.m. yesterday owing to a breakdown in transmission lines.

The National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWS&DB) said the water supply in several areas of Colombo and suburbs had been disrupted due to the breakdown in the power supply as the NWS&D is dependent on the national grid for pumping purposes.

The Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) last night said it had received a favourable response from the government to its demands and therefore decided to suspend its work-to-rule campaign.

The Island learns that President’s Secretary Dr. P. B. Jayasundara will meet a CEBEU delegation, next week.

A senior electrical engineer expressed concern about CEB General Manager’s statement that the power outage was an act of sabotage by the engineers’ union. He denied as baseless the official’s claim.

CEBEU Secretary Dhammike Wimalarathne confirmed that his union had decided to suspend trade union action following an undertaking given by the government to have talks with them.

Meanwhile, CEBEU President Saumya Kumarawadu, addressing the media, yesterday, insisted that the power outage had been due to a technical problem.

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Chamal tells Parliament if power failure is due to sabotage, culprits will be dealt with severely



By Saman Indrajith

Minister of Irrigation and State Minister of Internal Security, Home Affairs and Disaster Management, Chamal Rajapaksa told Parliament yesterday that the government was investigating the causes of yesterday’s countrywide power outage and if it was due to sabotage those responsible would be severely dealt with.

Responding to a question by Anuradhapura District SJB MP Rohana Bandara Dissanayake during the third reading stage debate on Budget 2022 under the expenditure heads of the Ministry of Defence, the Minister said that the government would not tolerate sabotage.

MP Rohana Bandara Dissanayake said that while the national security was being debated in Parliament the entire country was experiencing a power outage which could be considered a serious threat to national security.

He said all reservoirs were brimful and there was sufficient water to generate hydro power.

Colombo District SJB MP Dr. Harsha de Silva said that the entire country was in dark and Parliament was sitting thanks to power supplied by generators.

Minister Rajapaksa said that the government had already called for an investigation and it would not hesitate to take necessary action on the findings of the probe.

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Committee on Public Finance meeting: one-third drop in next Yala harvest predicted



Members of the Committee on Public Finance recently recommended that if the import ban on rice, which was imposed last April, is to be lifted, it should be done only after a proper forecast of the coming Yala harvest.

The Chairman of the Committee on Finance Anura Priyadharshana Yapa pointed out that under the prevailing circumstances, the interest of the paddy farmers and consumers had to be taken into consideration.

In response to MP Yapa’s comment, the Imports and Exports Controller General revealed that, according to the available data, the expected Yala harvest is likely to be only 2/3 as compared to last year.

MP Nalin Fernando pointed out that if businessmen were allowed to import rice freely, the business community would be tempted to import more rice than necessary, driving the paddy prices down and affecting the farming community badly. Hence, the Ministry of Finance should intervene to prevent the local farmer from facing difficulties. MP Fernando also pointed out to the officials of the Ministry of Finance that it was important to make rice freely available at reasonable prices. Sri Lankans did not like rice imported from neighbouring countries, he said.

The Committee on Public Finance was urged to obtain approval for an Extraordinary Gazette Notification permitting the importation of Kekulu, Nadu, Samba and other types of rice as per the order of the Minister of Finance. MP Dr. Harsha de Silva said officials had to investigate the macro economic impact of such orders given without a proper procedural or logical assessment.

The committee members inquired from the officials of the Ministry of Finance who were present at the Committee meeting whether the 2021 Budget forecasts could be fulfilled. According to the statistics and data submitted by the officials of the Ministry of Finance, the committee observed that if only local funds were used to repay all debts, there would be an increase in interest rates in the near future and that would adversely affect the local private sector, (Dr.) Harsha de Silva said.

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