“I never went on grumbling about shortcomings or my grievances at different places. Our Army, having understood my personal hardships, took care of me. Since the beginning of my athletic life in my school days, I was right throughout with my one and only school coach for training. Therefore do athletics and sports with the firm determination of serving your organization and the country with humility. Then all your wishes would come true.”
These above wordings, extracted from a leaflet, printed by the day’s protagonist, Woman Sprinter, Lance Corporal D.A Inoka of 2 (V) Sri Lanka Army Women’s Corps (SLAWC) who made the Army and the country proud by bringing many international athletic accolades (long distance) home, speaks volumes as she during a ceremony at Digana, Kandy on Thursday (8), received the keys to her new ‘dream’ home, erected by the Army from the Commander of the Army.
Lance Corporal D.A Inoka, a past pupil of Walala A Ratnayake Central College, famed for grooming many athletes to the country, was the first Sri Lankan woman Sprinter who won a medal in an international Marathon Run. In addition, she has secured medals in many other international athletic tournaments, including India, Nepal, Singapore, Ireland, Hon Kong, Punai, Doha-Qatar, Bahrain, etc.
Lieutenant General Daya Ratnayake, Commander of the Army, the innovative driving force behind allocation of Rs 1 million to the express purpose of building a new house to the Sprinter after senior officers in the Army Athletic Association brought her plight to the attention of the Army Chief, had the distinction of taking part in the house opening ceremony on Thursday (8) as the Chief Guest.
Lance Corporal D.A Inoka during the recent ‘Army Colours Night’ at BMICH was awarded the Rs 1 million cheque by Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Secretary to Ministry of Defence and Urban Development at the invitation of the Commander of the Army for construction of her house.
Soon after the foundation stone for the house was laid on 31 January 2014, 4 Engineer Service Regiment (ESR) troops to the amazement of everyone, completed the construction of the house within a short span of 52 days with the support of officers and soldiers from the ESR, Military Secretariat, SLAWC Headquarters, 11 Division and 111 Brigade Headquarters, troops of 5 Sri Lanka Light Infantry (SLLI) and all well-wishers in the Army Athletic Committee.
Lance Corporal Inoka in her note of gratitude distributed among invitees in the ceremony further, pays tribute to Major General (Retd) Palitha Fernando who recruited her to the Army after evaluating her running skills in 2000. She claims;
“When the incumbent Commander of the Army was the Chairman Sri Lanka Army Athletic Association in 2012, I was summoned for an interview with Athletic Association officers in order to receive a better exposure of my personal background which in fact was saddled with a heap of difficulties and economic constraints by then. I was living in a rented house with my husband and the husband’s ailing father, although I am a sprinter and need regular training. This revelation of my true background at that point turned a new leaf in my life and led the Commander of the Army to promptly instruct my seniors to begin work for a new house to me. I am now indebted to the Army Commander and the Army in general for the rest of my life and I feel very proud to be called as a woman soldier,” she further adds in her leaflet released on the occasion.
Lance Corporal Inoka as a national level sprinter under the coach, Mr Susantha Fernando during 2000 - 2013, has made unparalleled records in the field of marathon races, including the ones in National Athletic Championship tournaments and carried away a number of championship trophies.
Thursday’s ceremony at Digana for warming of her Army-donated new house was brief, but took the form of a joyful occasion for her, flanked by Inoka’s family members and relatives.
Pirith chanting by members of the Maha Sangha, signalled the Chief Guest to unveil a plaque and cut a ribbon to inaugurate the house and it was followed by oil lamp lighting amidst beats of auspicious drums (Magul Bera) and setting light to the auspicious milk-pot boiling ritual.
The occasion turned more significant with more surprises as the Commander in his brief speech appealed the local provincial councillor, attending the house-warming ceremony there to get the road, leading to the new house, be done since it is not at all suitable for use.
Quick came the response from the responsible politician on hand who promptly promised the Commander that he would not only do the repairs to the road, but also would name the avenue in her name as a gesture of recognition of her athletic skills.
Lance Corporal Inoka is also to be given another promotion on the directions of the Commander, the meeting was further told.
On his way back, the Commander took time off to have a cordial exchange of views with the principal at Walala A Ratnayake Central College where the playground for children is in a dilapidated state. The Commander is to explore possibilities of helping the college with renovation of the playground.
Major General M. Ambanpola, Colonel Commandant, Engineer Service Regiment, Major General Lal Perera, Colonel Commandant, Sri Lanka Army Women’s Corps, General Officer Commanding 11 Division and several senior officers of the Sri Lanka Army Women’s Corps, were among those participated in the house-warming ceremony.