1st october 2000
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"Don't worry sir, I will fight till I die"

In this new series Hiranthi
Fernando profiles those who have
received the nation's highest
awards for bravery, the Parama
Weera Vibushanaya

The long drawn-out war in the North and East has taken a heavy toll of young lives. It has also brought out acts of great courage and bravery among the members of the security forces. The war has produced many heroes who have laid down their lives in defence of their motherland.

The Parama Weera Vibushanaya (PWV) is awarded for the highest acts of bravery and heroism by all ranks of the Regular or Volunteer Forces of the Army, Navy and Air Force. Five members of the Sri Lanka Army have so far been awarded this highest honour posthumously for their individual acts of exceptional 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. His Commanding Officer recommended that he be awarded the PWV in recognition of his bravery.

"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. 

"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.

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. 

"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.

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