The Sri Lanka Army, the protective shield behind which our country pursues unhampered and arduous struggle toward economic growth and social development, matures into its 71st birthday on Saturday (October 10) as the finest and most trusted service-provider whose scope of dedication, courage, devotion to duty and self-sacrifice has commanded the admiration of the Nation more than ever before.
Although COVID-19 epidemic prevented the Army from conducting customary religious events and other formalities, plans are there to hold them in due course once normalcy returns.
Founded on 10 October 1949 as the Ceylon Army after forming its first regular force under the command of Brigadier R. Sinclair, the establishment of its own Military Academy in Diyatalawa afterwards saw Brigadier Anton Muthukumaru assumed the mantle of office as the first Sri Lankan Commander of the then Ceylon Army.
Blossomed into a full-fledged professional Army during its life-span of the past 71 years, the Sri Lanka Army to-date has been effectively commanded by 23 Commanders, elevating the much-sought organization to impressive heights.
Needless to place on record, its expansion with 24 Regiments across the country as the most prominent security provider to all at the expense of their own lives, has won the hearts and minds of all ethnicities.
Having amply displayed its unmatched services in times of national security threats, catastrophes, disasters, emergencies, etc with performances of breathtaking virtuosity, the Sri Lanka Army while promoting gestures of goodwill and reconciliation, safeguarding national security interests, engaging in mega nation – building tasks, contributing to UN peace – keeping missions, humanitarian projects, de-mining, constructing houses and common buildings, reforestation, restoration/renovation of lakes and tanks, etc, continues its forward-march unabated in an impressive manner.
Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, the 23rd Commander of the Army who is also the Chief of Defence Staff and Head of the National Operation Centre for Prevention of COVID-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) as a battle-hardened soldier who has earned the kudos, and a prestigious name for himself among all walks of life, is fully determined to turn a new leaf of life for the organization with his visionary concept already set in motion and successfully implemented, considering potential future military perspectives, threats, etc. Of late, his selfless commitment to overcome the country’s COVID-19 threat with his tireless army of skilled soldiers, health authorities and sister services as advised by the President and the Prime Minister, has so far brought about desired end-results, bringing its operational aspect to one of the best at global levels. Its preventive and protective quarantining mechanism, one of the firsts in the world has proved a great success, fetching appreciation from the WHO and other global agencies.
The pioneering service rendered by Army personnel without any hesitation at the expense of their lives has contributed largely to the prevailing sustainable peace and reconciliation in the country.
In the same manner, it is worth noting that the Army is always at the forefront, and immensely assists to restore normalcy as early as possible when national disasters, emergencies and natural catastrophes, etc hit this island-nation. Similarly, the Army at present is spearheading a pioneering role in the sphere of national development, we being a developing nation.
During its journey of seven decades, 22 past Commanders have provided able leadership to the Sri Lanka Army since its inception, together with Senior Officers, Regimental Sergeant Majors, senior and junior Non-commissioned Officers and members of the civil staff who continue to contribute throughout the proud Army history.
All of them are gratefully remembered and saluted, including members of their families at the turn of this anniversary.
Likewise, memory of our fallen War Heroes whose unforgettable gains in battlefields has gone down in history as unmatched warriors of great admiration as our country is set to tread a novel path of prosperity, peace and reconciliation.
The 71st Army Anniversary cum Army Day (10 October) commemorative programmes as usual started off at Kandy Sri Dalada Maligawa, Anuradhapura Jayashri Maha Bodhi, ‘Pirith’ chanting and alms-giving at the Army Headquarters, Hindu and Islamic religious observances where all Army flags were blessed and remaining commemorative ceremonies at Kataragama Kirivehera, St Thomas’ Church, War Heroes’ monument at Battaramulla and the final highlight at Galle Face Green with HE the President as the Chief Guest on Army Day had to be postponed due to outbreak of new COVID-19 clusters.