Sri Lanka Army

Defender of the Nation

Published on - 10/10/2004

The Sri Lanka Army reaches maturity Army day ceremonies get under way at Colombo Hqrs

The Sri Lanka Army, now poised to celebrate its 55th birthday to coincide with the Army Day (10th October) held a series of religious ceremonies to mark the event, a precursor of the main highlight today, 10th October 2004 at Army Headquarters.

Ceremonies kicked off after a colourful flag blessing ceremony at Anuradhapura Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi premises under the auspices of the Army Commander Lt. Gen S. H. S Kottegoda during the first week in October, followed by religious services/offerings of Christian, Hindu and Islamic denominations held at the Chapel at Galle Face, Captain Gardens Kovil at Colombo 10 and the Devatagaha Mosque respectively. There were several other provincial ceremonies, including one at Dalada Maligawa in Kandy and Kirivehera-Kataragama.

The climax of the ceremonies on Sunday ( 10 ) morning was the Guard Turn-out and Guard of Honour accorded by troops of the Artillery Regiment to the Commander on his arrival at the Army Headquarters premises. Afterwards, members of the Maha Sangha and other religious dignitaries after Commander Lt Gen Kottegoda entered the main entrance invoked blessings on the Army Day and its 55th birthday.

To herald the importance of the occasion, Lt Gen Kottegoda afterwards unfurled the Army flag before the recital of the Army song adding a taste of dignity and patriotism. It was followed by observance of a minute's silence to the memory of Fallen Heroes of the Army.

In his customary address to the troops, the Commander attributed the break-out of the atrocities between the LTTE and the government to a communication barrier that existed between both Sinhala and Tamil communities. \" All possible steps to rectify this lapse have been launched by way of conduct of Tamil language courses for troops at different levels aimed at achieving proficiency in Tamil language. This has become a timely requirement and it would meet with success in the future.\"

\"All of you who serve the Army as disciplined personnel should strive to sustain its reputed name, to match with its victories gained in battle fields. You all should win the hearts of the public at all times and never treat all civilians as terrorists. Similarly your role should be performed at all times to preserve those standards, achieved hitherto by the Army without violating human rights. It is the bounden responsibility of any Army in the world to defend the territorial integrity of a country,\" the Commander pointed out.

Elaborating on the welfare roles effected in the Army, the Commander said that the need to provide more and more housing facilities to both next of kin of fallen War Heroes and others serving in the Army has been given its due prominence with several such projects now in progress. Paying a glittering tribute to those who made the supreme sacrifice for the betterment of our tomorrow, the Commander further underlined the importance of sustenance of the ongoing ceasefire and the contributions made thereof by our troops in that direction.

The day\'s ceremonies culminated with a tea party rich with traditional sweetmeats, hosted by the Commander to all ranks present on the occasion. His visit to the Army Hospital in the company of Mrs Sonia Kottegoda and Senior Officers was one of the most important features of the day.

The 55-year old Sri Lanka Army after evolving itself from a ceremonial outfit to a fully-fledged Army, is now not 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 sending country on UN peacekeeping assignments.

Though the Sri Lanka Army is 55 years of age today, its historical groundwork related to its founding records as back as to 1802 when the first ever \' Lanka Regiment' was established in then Ceylon under the command of a British Officer which, as time went on, transformed to be the Lanka Rifle Regiment. In 1848 consequent to developments emerged after Matale rebellion spearheaded by Weera Puran Appu saw the birth of Lanka Rifle Regiment in 1874 and then Lanka Infantry Volunteer Army in 1881.

Subsequent to Independence gained in 1948, the Ceylon Army was officially raised on 10 October 1949 to be followed subsequently by birth of the Navy and the Air Force. However, the Ceylon Army was gazetted and established accordingly appointing Brigadier, the Earl of Caithnes CBE DSO as first Commander of the Army. Lt Colonel A. Mutukumaru OBE ED was appointed as the first Chief of Staff in the Ceylon Army.

Another milestone in the Army was the appointment of first ever Ceylonese as Army Commander in 1955 as then British Commanding Officer Brigadier Reid returned home after his tenure in the Army.

Lt Colonel Mutukumaru, who remained as the most Senior Officer at that point of time, was promoted to the rank of Brigadier and appointed as the first Ceylonese Army Commander on 09 February 1955 while he was pursuing a training course abroad.

Until his return from overseas Colonel H. W. G Wijekoon overlooked Commander's duties. To his credit, Major General Mutukumaru, during his tenure of office established the Army's Artillery School and Engineer School for the Army.

On 4 June 1956 at the official inauguration ceremony of Sri Lanka\'s Armed forces, 293 Officers and 1741 Other Ranks from Regular and Volunteer Forces received medals from the then Prime Minister of Ceylon. The Army hitherto functioned as a ceremonial outfit since its inception was entrusted with the responsibility of assisting the Police to curb bout of communal violence that erupted in 1956.

During this unrest, authority of all Government Agents was delegated to Senior Army Officers by the government after appointing them as Army's Coordinating Officers for trouble-hit areas.

The Army began to spread its wings to Sri Lanka's hinterland after 1958 and to its credit, the Army actively helped contain all civil and terrorist uprisings emerged in 1961, 1971, 1988-1989. In 1983 the Army was deployed in the north to help contain terrorist activities, spearheaded by sections of Tamils, that posed a threat to country's territorial integrity.

The Sri Lanka Army, for practical and administrative purposes, is now functioning as Battalions, Brigades, Divisions and three Security Forces Headquarters.

Brigadier, Sinclair, Earl of Caithnes (1949-1952), Brig. F. S Reid (1952-1955), Maj. Gen. A. M Mutukumaru (1955-1960), Maj. Gen. H. W. G Wijekoon (1960-1964), Maj. Gen. A. R Udugama (1964-1966), Maj. Gen. B. R Heyn (1966-1967), Gen. D. S Attygalle (1967-1977), Lt. Gen. J. E.D Perera (1977-1981), Gen. T. I. Weeratunga (1981-1985), Lt. Gen. G. D. G. N. Seneviratne (1985-1988), Gen. H. Wanasinghe (1988-1991), Gen. L. D. C. E. Waidyaratne (1991-1993), Gen. G. H De Silva (1994-1996), Gen. R de S. Daluwatte (1996-1998), Lt Gen. C. S Weerasooriya (1998-2000) and Gen. L. P Balagalle (2000-2004) served as Commanders of the Army until Lt Gen S. H. S Kottegoda was appointed as the 17th Commander in July 2004.

May the Sri Lanka Army live long to serve the Nation !