13th March 2020 19:32:07 Hours
The Home of Gajaba Regiment (GR) at Saliyapura on Friday (13) in a fitting ceremony, coloured with ceremonials and a slew of welfare donations, extended a red carpet welcome to Major General (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne, one of the proud veterans of the GR family when he formally arrived there after he was appointed as the new Secretary of Defence by HE the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The customary reception, dignified by the presence of Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, Chief of Defence Staff and Commander of the Army who is also the Colonel of the Regiment, GR was also joined by a host GR veterans, Senior Officers, spouses, inclusive of Mrs Chithrani Gunaratne, Chairperson, MOD Seva Vanitha Unit and Mrs Sujeewa Nelson, President, Army Seva Vanitha Unit and Chairperson, GR Seva Vanitha Unit.
Today’s reception at GR HQ assumed historic significance since Major General (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne is one among the formidable pillars of national security in addition to the country’s First Citizen, His Excellency the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, another GR’s veteran infantryman and Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, Incumbent Colonel of the Gajaba Regiment and the Chief of Defence Staff and Commander of the Army, the trio that spearhead the country’s most pivotal national security scenario as at present, perhaps unparalleled in the history of Sri Lanka.
Major General (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne, the day's protagonist, being one of the most senior GR Officers to have reached the apex of the country's administration taking over the office of the Secretary of Defence on arrival at the premises placed a floral wreath and paid his deep sense of reverence to the replica of the GR founding father, late Major General Vijaya Wimalaratne who was the military 'Guru' for a number of GR War Heroes, Veterans and still serving War Heroes. The symbolic remembrance, needless to reiterate, would have brought back lots of olden day memories for the visiting Secretary Defence in battlefields as well as Major General (Retd) Gunaratne's close intimacy with this pioneering personage. He is the second GR-produced Secretary Defence in the country. HE the President, a former GR veteran served as the first Secretary Defence of the Keterian family prior to 2015.
After a typical Guard Turnout honour, presented by Gajaba Regiment (GR) troops at the entrance, the day's Chief Guest was cordially welcomed to the venue by the Chief of Defence Staff and Commander of the Army, Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva in accordance with formalities. The day’s landmark event at the GR Headquarters added more memories afterwards as the visiting GR veteran was invited to plant an ironwood (Naa) sapling in the compound.
The climax of the day was at the GR parade ground. Secretary of Defence was then requested to take the salute of the Guard of Honour, presented in his honour by GR troops, together with the Parade Commander, amid rhythmic melodies of the Keterians' band. The next segment of the day’s ceremony declared the opening of the new Club House of GR members that reminds of age-old military traditions.
After a while, the Secretary Defence, together with Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, Colonel of the Regiment and senior officers with their spouses was invited to join the award of scholarships to students of GR families to coincide with the day's memorable event.
Lighting of the traditional oil lamp, recital of the Army song and the Gajaba Regiment song, followed by a 2- minute silence set the stage ready for distribution of those scholarships to the school achievers. 50 scholarships were shared among Grade 5 scholarship achievers (25), GCE O/L passers (15), university entrance achievers (5) and 5 differently able students of GR families. It was an annual event in the GR's calendar of events.
Distribution of scholarships was joined in sequence by former Colonel of the Regiment, GR General (Retd) Seevali Wanigasekara, President Army Seva Vanitha Unit Mrs. Sujeewa Nelson, the Chief of Defence Staff and the Commander of the Army Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, Chairperson of the MOD Seva Vanitha Unit Mrs. Gunaratne and finally the visiting Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Major General (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne.
A fellow-lunch for Officers at the Officers’ Mess brought the day's event to end where the visiting Senior Officer had the chance of interacting with those who were present there for his reception. The visiting Secretary Defence Major General (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne, prior to his departure on the day, inked a few thoughts in the GR Visitors' Book.