Published on - 10/24/2005
The Army, the biggest organization of great renown in Sri Lanka celebrated its 56th Birthday today (10th October) to coincide with the Army Day at Army Headquarters under the aegis of Army Commander Lieutenant General Shantha Kottegoda.
The 56-year old Sri Lanka Army after evolving itself from a ceremonial outfit to a fully-fledged Army, is now not at all second to any of the battle-hardened professional armies in the world. Born towards the end of the Second World War and the dawn of independence to this island-nation in 1948, the Sri Lanka Army, to its credit has now been recognized as one of the newest troops contributing countries on UN peacekeeping assignments.
The countdown to today's apex began at Anuradhapura Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi ten days ago after invoking religious blessings on Army Flags to be followed by similar observances of Catholic, Hindu and Islamic faiths.
The agenda at Army Headquarters this morning (10) saw the Commander Lt. General Kottegoda inspecting the Guard Turn-out at the entrance to the main building as the onset before he proceeded to hoist the Army Flag in front of his office building at the premises. As the Army Flag was unfurled marking the importance of the occasion and heralding the pride and dignity of the organization that was closer to the heart of the commoners as Guardians of the Nation, the stage was getting ready for recital of the Army Song by a bevy of women soldiers and others who were present in their colourful regalia.
Sharp at 9.12 a.m. troops commenced their march after the parade commander gave orders to salute the Commander of the Army Lt. General Kottegoda. On the red-carpeted dais, Commander received the Guard of Honour accorded by troops of the Sri Lanka National Guard (SLNG) in conformity with age-old military traditions.
The dignified ceremony turned religious afterwards as members of clergy of major denominations of Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu & Islamic faiths took the centre-stage. Venerable Dodangoda Assajee Thera, Reverend K.K. Sridharan, Reverend Freley Muthukudaarachchi and Reverend Maulavi Mohammed Arud, representing Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Islamic religious faiths respectively invoked blessings on the Army on its 56th anniversary. Memories of fallen War Heroes were then recalled on the occasion as everybody joined the Commander and all senior officers to observe a two-minute silence as a token of honour. The solemn ceremony afterwards paved the way for commencement of the Commander Lt. General Kottegoda's customary address to the All Ranks. Here is the full text of his address;
â€œI consider it a great honour, privilege and obligation to issue this message to you as the Commander of the Army on the day we celebrate the glorious 56th anniversary of the Sri Lanka Army.
At the outset I wish to recall the numerous sacrifices the Sri Lanka Army has hitherto made towards safe guarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our motherland. During this 56 year history the Army has successfully negotiated through both peace and war situations and progressively developed its military capability. Today we have won accolades in the whole of South Asia for conducting successful anti terrorist operations. We were able to achieve our goals due to the dedication, devotion, discipline and untiring efforts of our fellow members who served the Army in the past and those who are still serving. I am indeed privileged to command an Army very mature and experienced. I extend my gratitude to your excellent display of dedication, devotion and the highest standards of military professionalism.
Having fought a war for over two decades, for the past three years we are going through a transitional phase from war to peace. Even though it is physically easy to acclimatize to a peaceful environment, mentally it poses many difficulties. In the past as well as the present, various complex internal conflicts in countries are resolved through dialogue. During the 21 year period of war we too experienced such efforts towards peace, but those efforts were either ignored or tactically, unilaterally sabotaged by Tiger Terrorists thus forcing us to revert to war. In all those occasions the Army within a very short period transformed from peace to war both mentally and physically and very successfully safeguarded the sovereignty and territorial integrity of this nation. It is indeed a matter of pride for us to say that we are now on par with other the armies of the developed countries the world over.
International leaders and statesmen from many corners of the world are full of praise on the conduct of affairs by the Sri Lanka Army in the face of many obstacles and enemy atrocities. Our soldiers have been commended for their discipline, obedience, restraint and commitment to the provisions of the Ceasefire Agreement even under very trying and difficult circumstances. Our patience and restraint have undoubtedly caused severe embarrassment to the Tamil Tigers and placed them in a very difficult situation.
Soldiers, their next of kin and innocent civilians are the worst affected in any war like situation. As a loyal Army our obligation must be to adhere to the incumbent government's policies, suppress terrorism and persuade terrorists to come to the negotiating table. Our training has given us the required confidence to act accordingly and successfully respond to all violent tactics adopted by the LTTE. As the Commander my mission is to ensure that all our troops are well trained, adequately equipped and provided with the necessary equipment to face any situation.
As any other Army in the world, we too have to be prepared to face any natural calamity and act in the manner we did during the recent Tsunami catastrophe. The Army has amply displayed its capabilities in meeting the obligations thus posed. Here I must acknowledge the magnanimous services rendered by the Army Sevavanitha Branch to all those members of the Army and their families who were affected by the Tsunami. The donation of houses to those who lost their homes is quite significant and praiseworthy.
In the past we have endeavored to implement many welfare projects, the most significant being the housing projects to the families of those killed in action and the disabled soldiers. In the future too we will continue to focus on such endeavors and the next priority will be the massive project to built 800 apartments in Manning Town, Narahenpita. In order to overcome the grave difficulties faced by the soldiers in finding a school for their children arrangements are being made to establish a separate school next year, exclusively for the children of the Army families. I sincerely hope all these measures will help you to be more motivated and committed to perform your obligations to the nation. We can then look forward to be recognized as one of the best armies in Asia.
The performance of our troops now serving in a UN Peacekeeping Mission in Haiti is also worth mentioning. Already many foreign leaders have commended their performance. This should inspire all those troops who are aspiring to proceed to Haiti in the future as well.
In general, I am quite happy with our performance over the past year. In the future too we must be ready to face the many varied challenges that the Army has to face.
Finally, let me bestow merits on all those who paid the supreme sacrifice for the defence of our nation. I wish they attain Nibbana. May all those who were injured, those hospitalized and convalescing get well soon. I wish you and all members of your families a prosperous and a peaceful future.â€
The main function at Army Headquarters premises was brought to culmination after the Commander took time off to share tea and coffee with All Ranks.
Showing his concerns and care, Lt General Kottegoda along with Mrs. Soniya Kottegoda and senior officers as last leg of the itinerary visited the Military Hospital where hundreds of ailing Army personnel are lying. He spoke to a cross section of the patients and gave away gift parcels while wishing them a speedy recovery.