24th August 2020 19:42:51 Hours
The Sri Lanka Army’s 53 Division, more famed and popularly known as the 'Reserve Strike Force' (RSF) of combat operations during the height of anti-terrorist campaign before May 2009 celebrated its Silver Jubilee today (24) in Inamaluwa HQ premises in Dambulla on a grand scale, attaching prominence for appreciative recognition of two of its most celebrated past General Officers Commanding (GOCs), Major General (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne, Secretary Defence and Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, Chief of Defence Staff, Commander of the Army and Head, National Operation Centre for Prevention of COVID-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) who are currently holding high profile offices in the security establishment.
Its landmark commemorative 25th anniversary ceremonies of multifarious nature, put in place in collaboration with all under command Brigades and Units under the close supervision and guidance of the incumbent GOC, Major General Priyantha Senarathne got to a start nearly two weeks ago prioritizing religious and civil community-oriented projects.
On the anniversary day’s (24) cynosure of all eyes at the venue, Major General (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne on arrival was greeted in a drive-past while Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva was saluted in a formal Guard Turnout on arrival at the entrance. The GOC extended a warm welcome and ushered both those distinguished guests to the office of the GOC before they were invited to the parade ground to receive military honours. The colourfully rich and elegant military ceremonials saw both guests were honoured in the Guard of Honour after the parade commander reported the day's arrangement and invited both of them to receive the salute from the special dais.
Adding pride of place to the memory of all fallen 53 Division War Heroes whose sacrifices too contributed immensely for the victorious conclusion of the LTTE terrorism a few years ago, all participating in the Silver Jubilee then stood up for a minute and venerated their memory in a solemn moment of silence. The gesture afterwards set the day's agenda moving with the formal welcome note, delivered by the GOC, Major General Priyantha Senarathne.
The day’s significance as well as the exceptional leadership and guidance provided by day's both Chief Guests, Major General (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne and Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva to the progress of the 25 year-old Division was then narrated and declared to the gathering by Brigadier Nishantha Jayasundara, Commander, 533 Brigade recalling some of exceptional memories.
The gathering through a video documentary witnessed the 53 Division’s achievements in its life span of 25 years as the next segment before the day's ceremony embarked on another memorable feature with launch of a ‘coffee table’ book which summed up milestones in its history.
The book, dedicated to both military personages attending as Chief Guests for the day’s event went on record mentioning: “Major General (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne’s determined and dedicated commitment to the humanitarian operation as a compassionate leader, who had won plaudits from his peers and the grateful nation, enabled him to be posted subsequently as the General Officer Commanding of the 53 Division as the war for peace was reaching its climax. Moreover, he is more prominently, held in high esteem as a leader with a vision who paved the way to accelerate ongoing ground operations, designed to wipe out terrorism from the motherland. His undisputed and unparalleled command and guidance in the battlefields, enabled troops to march forward with absolute courage and confidence.”
The 'coffee table' book also attributed Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva’s commitment as a war veteran and recorded his contribution to the dawn of peace: “Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, who has been remarkably outstanding throughout his military career as a war veteran of the highest caliber, has done his best for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country. He shouldered the arduous and daunting task with responsibility to free the country from terrorist grips by devising meticulous and covert ground plans, necessary for challenging military offensives and operations against the enemy. In the aftermath of the successful culmination of the thirty years of war against terrorism, he was entrusted with the task of commanding the 53 Division Reserve Strike Force as the 22nd General Officer Commanding of the 53 Division.” Copies of the special book were awarded to both of them at first.
Soon after its launch, the visiting Secretary Defence spoke out his mind addressing the gathering and refreshed memories as regards the 53 Division's contribution to the success over terrorism and how valiant 53 Division troops turned out to be a most-feared striking force to the enemy at that critical stage of our history. “As the 15th General Officer Commanding of the 53 Division at that time, we withstood all enemy challenges with full strength. I had that opportunity during a very crucial and important turning-point in our war history while mustering support of all other divisions. We were able to eradicate terrorism from the country due to those collective efforts, posing a decisive challenge to the terrorists. I am here today because of the inspirational strength I mustered from my Gajaba Regiment and of course from this reputed 53 Division.”
“To its credit, the 53 Division is well armed with its Airmobile Brigade, Mechanized Brigade and exclusively skilled soldiers, not at all second to other elite Commandos or Special Forces. I must pay the highest tribute to the memory of all fallen 53 Division War Heroes and also those who suffered injuries and all those who retired having served the 53 Division,” the Secretary Defence added.
The ceremony afterwards appreciated the presence of both distinguished guests for the occasion and Major General Priyantha Senaratne separately awarded special mementos to Major General (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne and Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, symbolic of the 53 Division’s gratitude to both of them.
Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva in response to media queries said that the COVID-19 prevention is in full swing with the guidance of HE the President, Health authorities and other stake-holders. “We have now begun to accommodate those referring for quarantining into medium-scale hotels as well, away from big hotels alone since they would also be benefited by those confined to quarantining in their commercial ventures. Being a small nation, we will continue to bring down our expatriates on methodical basis since we have already done so. I am sure this process could be successfully implemented as planned,” he told Media personnel.
Both distinguished invitees also joined planting of saplings inside the camp premises adding memories at the request of the GOC before they joined an All Rank tea and left compliments in the Visitors’ Book. A gathering inclusive of Brigade Commanders of 531, 532 and 533 Brigades, Commanding Officers of under command battalions, Officers and Other Ranks and invitees were associated with day’s spectacle.
The 53 Division was raised on 24 August in 1995 in Jaffna during a very decisive turning point of Sri Lanka’s war for peace under the able guidance of late Brigadier Janaka Perera as the 1st GOC of the 53 Division.