Today is the 15th death anniversary of Lt General Denzil Kobbekaduwa
and Major General Vijaya Wimalaratne.
ABRAVE SOUL: Kobbekaduwa was deeply loved by his subordinates for his inspirational leadership and humanity. The massive crowds at his funeral proved the love and respect that people had towards him. His demise drove the entire country into mourning.
This valiant warrior who earned the sobriquet `officer and gentleman` should be revered and his name perpetuated so that the present generation can learn about his qualities. Yet the noble deeds of this great leader are envied by a few malicious critics who cannot still bear his popularity even 15 years after his death.
Yet we can take heart that even today there are a number of officers leading the battle field who were trained by him.
I stepped into his residence at Rosmead Place last week to gather some information about his early days to pay a fitting tribute to this gallant officer on the occasion of his 15th death anniversary.
The row of his photographs decorated with fresh white flowers by his beloved wife Lali Kobbekaduwa at the entrance gave out the fragrance of humanity of this hero that still remains unchanged which draws tears to one`s eyes. When I told Mrs Kobbekaduwa the reason for my visit she silently gave me the book written by Soma Jayakody on the late General so that I could learn more details about this national hero.
During my 15 years career in the Army I can recollect several occasions where I happened to come into contact with him.
In 1982 I was a young 2nd second Lieutenant and I, together with two of my batchmates Vajira and Nishani (now wife of Major General Janaka Perera and wife of Admiral Mohan Wijewickrama respectively) had to sit for an exam to determine our seniority after returning from the Women`s Royal Army Corps College in UK.
We were ordered to report to Army Headquarters to get instructions on the Map Reading exam which was scheduled to be held out of Colombo. We were taken before Lt Colonel Denzil Kobbekaduwa who was the Grade 1 Staff Officer at the G branch (responsible for training and operations) as it was called those days.
Three young girls appearing in combat uniform at the Army Headquarters for the first time was an unusual scene. Everyone was looking at us and we were a bit excited. But Lt Colonel Kobbekaduwa spoke to us encouragingly making us comfortable and briefed us about the exam.
I saw him a few times since then at various military functions but heard a lot about his battlefield exploits and qualities from my male counterparts serving under him at the height of the conflict.
The late Lt Colonel Nalin de Alwis, the Staff Officer to the late General and a good friend of mine who died in the same incident told me many stories about how much General Kobbekaduwa was concerned not only about his officers and men but also about the innocent civilians in the North.
Then again when my own younger brother Lt. Senany Bandara went missing in action during Operation Balawegaya in the Mullaitivu jungles he spoke to me over the phone to my office at Kynsey Road where I was serving as the Second in command of the Army Womens` Corps.
I was a Major at that time and I was surprised to get a call from General Kobbekaduwa, but that was his true nature despite his busy schedule. He remembered my first name after many years and expressed his sympathy.
?Ramani, I am very sorry about what happened to your brother ,but we are trying our best to get him back? he said. I was deeply touched by this phone call at that moment of sorrow and it was that incident which made me decide that I must write a book dedicated to him and hand it over when he comes to Colombo.
I was in the middle of writing a book of poetry titled ?Poppy Mal? about my military experience on the war. Unfortunately the opportunity of handing over this book to him when he was alive never materialised. Instead I had to march in his funeral parade along Bauddhaloka Mawatha to the General Cemetery.
I was following a training course at NIBM on that fateful Saturday (August 8, 1992) when I got a phone call with the shocking news which shattered the hopes of the Nation.
As a consolation however the book ?Poppy Mal? was published silently and the little profit earned from the sales proceeds was donated to the Kobbekaduwa Trust Fund at a commemorative event organised by me on his third death anniversary.
The late veteran journalist Dharmasiri Gamage and H.M. Gunasekara conducted the event where Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera delivered the commemorative speech. Lt General Denis Perera was among the distinguished guests.
It brought tears to the eyes of the entire audience when popular singer Indeewari Ariyasinghe recited a poem dedicated to him from the book.
Sir, Your name will be written in golden letters in the history of our Motherland and will be etched in the collective memory of a grateful public.
The Denzil Kobbekaduwa Trust Fund chaired by your beloved wife Lali continues to support fallen war heroes. Still there is an opportunity for the public to show their gratitude by way of donations to the Trust.
There will be an alms giving today (8) for the poor people of the village of Thantirimale for whom late General had a great love, by Mrs Lali Kobbekaduwa and family members.
The Nation also gratefully remembers Major General Vijaya Wimalaratne, Rear Admiral Mohan Jayamaha, Colonel H.R Stephen, Major Nalin Alwis, Colonel Yasodha Palipana, Colonel T Ariyaratna, Lt Commander Asanga Lankatilaka, Lt Commander Chandima Vijayapura and Corporal Jagath Wickramaratna who also died in the Arali Point explosion.