Addressing the media at the unveiling ceremony of Thoppigala War Hero monument, Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Secretary Defence and Urban Development said “This shows the peace and harmony in the area after the conclusion of a war that dragged on for more than three decades. Those criticizing our country internationally should visit these areas first and experience it themselves before comment”.
Thoppigala (Baron’s Cap), which remained a household name for some time in Sri Lanka before the culmination of the war, due to concentrations of marauding LTTE terrorists inside those dense jungles, and subsequent offensives of the troops, on Thursday (18), gave an eternal interpretation to the memories when the Thoppigala War Hero monument was unveiled by Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the invitation of the Commander of the Army, Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasuriya.
On arrival, the Chief Guest accompanied by Mrs. Ioma Rajapaksa, was warmly welcomed by the Security Force Commander (East), Major General Lal Perera and a Guard of Honour was awarded by the officers and soldiers of the Sri Lanka Artillery.
Unveiling of the monument was followed by the ceremonial opening of a Heritage Park and a Museum, evinces the legacy and the annals of the strategic Toppigala Peak and the stages of war on its terrain to the discerning visitors, by cutting a ribbon by Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Mr. Merrill J. Fernando, Chairperson of Dilmah (Pvt) Ltd.
The Rs. 25 million project, an architectural design of the renowned architect Mr. Nihal Bodhinayake, was constructed by the Sri Lanka Army's 232 Brigade in the Eastern Province. It includes a nature trail, obstacle course to the peak, souvenir shop, cafeteria, camp site and rest room facilities for the visitors. This unique venture will not only open up new avenues for the emerging hospitality sector of the East but will also help to uplift the lives of the resettled communities in the area. Dilmah, Sri Lanka's international tea company had provided financial assistance for the project.
During the course of the event, Mrs. Ioma Rajapaksa, Chairperson of the Ministry of Defence Seva Vanitha Unit distributed gift packs among the school children of the area.
Thoppigala War Memorial is a fitting tribute to the immortal memory of hundreds of War Heroes who laid their precious lives in defence of the country while fighting against terrorist strongholds in Thoppigala jungles. Soon after the success in the Mavil Aru operations in the East, troops made their way towards Thoppigala, flanked by columns of heroic soldiers.
The Chief of Defence Staff, the Commanders of the Army and the Air Force, Inspector General of Police and Director General of the Civil Defence Service were present at the occasion.
Here is the full text of Secretary Defence and Urban Development, Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s speech:
Thoppigala, a historic area in the eastern province has been a habitat for our indigenous people who lived in harmony with nature, flora and fauna and animals of many varieties. It is very rich with scenic beauty and natural resources, but the 30- year long terrorism did not permit the public to have free access to enjoy these attractions. Even those who lived in those ancestral villages were deprived of those benefits.
After successful Humanitarian Operations that liberated these areas, it is significant to make such places accessible to the common masses freely. Having created places of this nature for leisure and pleasure by the Army, people can improve their knowledge about such places, organizing educational trips or picnics. They can enjoy overnight inside jungle leisure camps while learning the importance of the natural environment and animals living there.
My special thanks go to Dilmah Company for its patronage, extended to make Thoppigala a place of tourist interest.
This provides a rare opportunity for the public to see for themselves. Those propagating distortions overseas against ground realities of the country after successful culmination of the terrorism here, could also join and see through their own eyes what we have achieved after the war. As a province where all three major communities, Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim live harmoniously, I would like to cordially invite all of them also to visit this place.