Best among the
Second Lieutenant Tissa Udaya Bandara Jayaratne won the
Sword of Honour at the passing-out parade of the Sri Lanka Military
Academy (SLMA) in Diyatalawa last month. This much coveted award
is presented by SLMA each year to the officer-cadet who tops the
batch.A quiet, well-mannered young man of 23, Jayaratne has an inner
strength and determination to succeed.
"I joined the Cadet Corps when I was schooling and loved wearing
the uniform," said Jayaratne who hails from Kandy. The youngest
in a family of three boys, Jayaratne was educated at Kadugannawa
National School, where he sat his A'Ls. "Although my ambition
was to be a lawyer, I saw a TV programme about the Kotelawala Military
Academy (KDA) and was fascinated by the ceremonial uniform. A friend
who had followed the course at KDA recommended it."
his parents who at first opposed his decision as the war was still
on, finally gave him their blessing.
At KDA, they
were first taught English language as well as literature for six
months. The degree programme, which was conducted in English started
thereafter with lecturers from Sri Jayawardenepura University for
the general subjects and officers handling the military subjects.
Jayaratne followed a Bachelor of Arts course. He also had to study
subjects such as military geography, map reading, field craft, tactics
and weapon training. "It was mostly theory at KDA with some
practicals in battle procedures at Biyagama. At the end of
the 2 1/2 year course at KDA, Jayaratne obtained the highest marks
in the BA.
Jayaratne, there were 136 cadets, recruited by the three services,
in his batch at KDA. Seventy-two cadets went on to the Sri Lanka
Army Military Academy in Diyatalawa. "It was a hard practical
training but I enjoyed it."
the Sword of Honour for his all-round performance during the period
spent at SLMA. In addition to the Sword of Honour, he came second
in the order of merit.
out, Jayaratne was assigned to the Artillery Regiment and posted
to the Minneriya Artillery Training School for a young officers'
course. At Minneriya, where we met him, he was engaged in advanced
weapons training. This will be followed by a month of jungle training
at Maduru Oya and another month of endurance training at Kuda Oya.
Jayaratne will then be ready to join his regiment.
content with his progress. "When I compare my life with that
of many of my school friends, I find that they did not have the
opportunities I had," he said. "Many hesitated to join
the army because of the war. But it is wrong to think that with
the peace process in progress, there will be no requirement for
young officers. As junior leaders, we can make a significant contribution
to the development of the country."
A close contender
for the Sword of Honour was 2nd Lieutenant Subakthi Dewage, also
23. Subakthi, who was educated at Musaeus College, Colombo won the
President's Award having been 1st in order of merit in the batch.
her own reasons for joining the army. "Although my friends
did not take me seriously, I felt guilty that being in Colombo,
we were not exposed to the reality of what our country was experiencing
with the war. It is true that people in any field can contribute
to the development of the country, but I felt that I could not be
satisfied with that." She applied to the KDA after she did
a degree in management and technical sciences. The course content
was 25% military and 75% academic with drill and weapons training
too. At Diyatalawa, the young women underwent advanced military
training, both theory and practical, having their training along
with the men. Other than a slight difference in physical training
standards everything else was the same, Subakthi said.
field, there are some things that we as women can do better, while
there are some areas the men fare better in. So we have to help
each other achieve our goals. We cannot say that we are inferior
to the men. Some people have the view that women can't do the same
training as men but we have done it."
my schooldays, it was felt that it was not ladylike to do cadeting,"
Subakthi remarked. "My teachers were very surprised at my decision
to join the army, but now they are very happy about it." Subakthi
said her father, an engineer had had some reservations but her mother
had supported her choice, having been keen on joining the Police
when she was young.
As women are
not sent for the Young Officers' training course, Subakthi has already
reported for work to the Regimental Headquarters of the Military
Intelligence Corps in Colombo.
She is presently
engaged in an orientation course and will have a course in basic
intelligence work in July. Thereafter, she would be sent to the
field in Vavuniya and Jaffna when necessary. She said theirs was
the first intake of officer cadets, where women officers did not
necessarily have to join the women's corps as done previously.
So what is Army life like for a woman? There were 23 women cadets,
who passed out in the batch. "It is one's attitude that matters,"
made a lot of friends. I can now see how restricted I was before,
only seeing one side. At KDA and SLMA, there were people from all
over the country in my batch. I got a wider view of life, gained
many new experiences and also learned to cope with any situation."