Sunday, June 8, 2008

Heroes in Action - Remembering Captain Saliya Upul Aladeniya

CAPTAIN Saliya Upul Aladeniya (1964 - June 11, 1990)

The nation's highest awards for bravery, the Parama Weera Vibushanaya (PWV) is awarded Saliya Upul Aladeniya in recognition of his bravery. Lt. Saliya Upul Aladeniya, was just 26-years-old when he sacrificed his life, valiantly defending his camp at Kokavil and standing by his injured troops in the face of a massive attack by the LTTE in 1990. Although Saliya had orders to abandon the camp and withdraw, he refused to do so because the majority of his troops were injured and unable to move.

He ordered the able men to withdraw, leaving him with the injured. At 11.45 p.m. the camp was overrun. The last they heard from him were his words, "Don't worry sir, I will fight till I die." Source: ST / 1st october 2000 Saliya Aladeniya, one of a family of three children, was educated at Trinity College, Kandy. After completing his O'Ls, he worked for a few years on a small estate owned by his family and then joined the Army in 1989. Having trained at Diyatalawa, Saliya served with his regiment in the Nuwara Eliya area until he was sent to Kokavil in May 1990. At the time, Lt. Aladeniya was married but had no children. "From his young days, Saliya wanted to join the Army," said his mother, Indrani Aladeniya. His father, a planter attached to the State Plantations Corporation, was a Volunteer officer in the Army. As a small boy, Saliya had got his mother to stitch him an Army uniform, which he wore around the house. "We were deployed in Nuwara Eliya, when we were asked to take over Mankulam," recalled Col. Abey Weerakoon who was the Commanding Officer of the 3rd Battalion of the Sinha Regiment, a Volunteer Battalion. One company with three officers took over Mankulam on May 18, 1990. Two officers and 58 men of this company were sent to Kokavil to provide security to the Rupavahini Relay Station there and Saliya Aladeniya, a very junior 2nd Lieutenant was one of the officers," Col. Weerakoon said. Col. Weerakoon recounted that in early June 1990, attacks commenced on the Security Forces in the area.

On June 5, a terrorist attack on Mankulam was repulsed by the Army. 43 LTTErs were killed. By June 12, however, Mankulam and Kokavil were surrounded. "On June 16, there was some kind of a ceasefire and negotiation and hostilities were halted," Col. Weerakoon said. "The Captain in charge of the camp and fifteen others went on leave during the ceasefire, leaving Lt. Aladeniya in charge." Kokavil and Mankulam were then surrounded by the LTTE who attempted to overrun the camp. Reinforcements could not be sent and the troops were also running short of ammunition. For 14 days the camp was besieged with men getting killed inside. Medicines were needed for the wounded. Food was scarce and they did not even have water because it had to be brought from outside the perimeter. Ice and food were dropped by helicopters. Since the LTTE were shooting at the choppers, the supplies had to be dropped from high above the camp. Much of it was therefore lost.

Before the final attack, which started on July 10, the LTTE started building up forces around the camp. "The Air Force was trying to drop whatever supplies they could despite the shooting," Col. Weerakoon said. "From Vavuniya, I desperately tried to get reinforcements sent in but they were unable to get through because the routes were blocked. Commandos who were sent also could not get down there because it was dark." By that evening, there were only 300 rounds of ammunition left in the camp.

The choppers could not airdrop ammunition due to the height, much of it fell outside the camp. The attacks continued throughout the night. About fifteen of the men were injured leaving only about fifteen to fight. Aladeniya and the small group left within the camp fought valiantly against the fierce attacks, with even the injured and the civilian cooks adding their mite. "On the evening of the 11th, communication was lost," Col Weerakoon said. Although Lt. Aladeniya was given orders to abandon the camp and withdraw, he refused to do so because the majority of his troops were injured and unable to move. He ordered the able men to withdraw, leaving him with the injured. At 11.45 p.m. the camp was overrun. The last they heard from him were his words, "Don't worry sir, I will fight till I die." He fought bravely until the camp was overrun and destroyed by the LTTE. He was declared Missing in Action. "After the Kokavil camp was taken by the LTTE on July 11, we got a message from Nuwara Eliya to say that all those in the camp were missing," Mrs. Indrani Aladeniya said. "My husband, who was mobilised in Vavuniya, made inquiries and searched for Saliya because we had information that he was alive, but captured by the enemy. I still feel he is alive. Even those who have been named by the LTTE as being in captivity have not been released yet. "When my husband was alive we joined the Association for the Families of MIAs (Missing In Action). After his death however, I find it difficult to go to Colombo for the meetings. We are hoping that if Saliya has been captured, he will be released soon."

"I recommended Saliya Aladeniya for the PWV soon after the Kokavil attack," said Col. Weerakoon. "He was the first to be recommended for the award. Saliya was a very bold officer who always volunteered for the difficult tasks. He had time to escape, but chose to stay by his injured troops."

Lt. Saliya Aladeniya was awarded the PWV on June 21, 1994.

1 comment:

Sameera Prasad said...

Troops of Sri Lanka Army 57 division today (Dec 1 2008) reached long awaited milestone on their march into terrorist dens in Wanni with the liberation of the Kokavil town.

According to the battlefield sources, troops launched an offensive early last morning extending their forward boundaries towards east of the A-9 (Jaffna-Kandy) road. Infantrymen of the 57 division first reached the A-9 at a location few kilometers north of the Kokavil town and then turned the thrust southwards destroying all remaining LTTE strongholds down to Mankulam.

This is the first time after 18 years Army gained full control over this area, the sources added.

Kokavil recalls the memory of Lieutenant Saliya Upul Aladeniya , the heroic commander who was the last officer in charge of the isolated camp Kokavil in 1990. With only two platoons in hand , Lieutenant Aladeniya defended his camp for one month without any reinforcement, or casualty evacuation before LTTE overran it in July 1990. When he was asked to abandon the camp leaving the casualties behind at one stage of the battle, he refused to do so and chose to fight to the last. Lieutenant Aladeniya was posthumously conferred with the Parama Weera Vibhushanaya (PWV) , the highest award for the gallantry at the battlefield. He was the first officer to be so awarded.