The concept of Veera Sebala Foundation (VSF) came from Mangala Boyagoda (Boya) in April 1984 while he was working as an Executive at the Forex Department at the Bank of Ceylon. It was the time when Eelam War One had been officially declared by the then Government against the LTTE and the country had started [...]


VSF’s journey of service concludes


The concept of Veera Sebala Foundation (VSF) came from Mangala Boyagoda (Boya) in April 1984 while he was working as an Executive at the Forex Department at the Bank of Ceylon. It was the time when Eelam War One had been officially declared by the then Government against the LTTE and the country had started witnessing the bitter experiences of losing human life in the battlefront. People were yearning to lend their support towards boosting the morale of the armed forces. It was in this backdrop that Boya thought of setting up a civilian organisation to take care of the problems faced by the children of the deceased/disabled members of the Armed Forces and the Police.

When I met him on the stairway of the Bank where I too was then a member of the Bank’s IT Department, Boya produced a handwritten draft of his plan captioned ‘Vera Sebala Foundation’. We both agreed to execute the plan even though we neither had the means nor any clue on how to set about it.

The fundamental requirement was rallying people’s support. Two key names we selected were Professor Nandadasa Kodagoda and DBIPS Siriwardhana, distinguished member of the Sri Lanka Administrative Service with an unblemished career record. I remember suggesting the name of Brigadier (later General) Cyril Ranatunga because a couple of weeks earlier I had read an article published by the then Sunday Riviresa, based on an interview with him. Brigadier Ranatunga had just retired from the Army and had fearlessly expressed some frank opinions about the war.

We telephoned Prof. Kodagoda and he readily gave us an appointment to meet him the following day. It did not take too long for us to realize that Professor Kodagoda was the ideal person to lead our project. He had in abundance all the qualities necessary for managing such an enterprise. We were delighted when he agreed to be a part of the team. He telephoned Brigadier Ranatunga and told him, ‘There are two young men in front of me. They have a very good plan for helping the soldiers at war and they want you to be a part of it. Could you give them a hearing?’

Brig. Ranatunga wanted us to come immediately and an hour later we were at his residence at Longdon Place. He patiently listened to our story and commended our efforts. His positive response to our invitation was a great encouragement for us.

The first meeting of VSF was held in May 1984 at Prof.  Kodagoda’s residence which became the Foundation’s registered office for a long period.  The following were elected as officebearers at this meeting: -

Board of Management

Prof. N. Kodagoda (Chairman), Mrs. D. Piyadasa (Treasurer), Members – Brig. SC Ranatunga, DBIPS Siriwardhana (then Secretary, Ministry of Public Administration), Dr. Ranjith Cabral (then Manager and later Director Personnel at Lever Brothers Ceylon Ltd), Nihal De Silva (Partner, BR De Silva & Co.), Dr. LB Medis (then Director, Sri Lanka Rupavahihini Training Institute)

Joint Secretaries – Mangala Boyagoda and Ranjith Narangoda

Subsequently, Mr. Siriwardhana and Dr. Medis opted out for personal reasons and in their place Dharma Gunasinghe (former Principal, Nalanda College) and Dr. Dharmapriya Wesumperuma (former Executive Director, Sri Lanka Foundation Institute) were appointed to the Board of Management while Nihal Kiriella and Upali Weerasinghe, both from Bank of Ceylon, joined in as Joint Secretary and Treasurer respectively.

The objectives of the Foundation were:-

1. To maintain the morale of the Armed Forces and Police Services by social recognition of their services and by affording mutual support in case of disability or loss of life.

2. To create a social environment conducive to the promotion of enlistment of devoted young persons to the Armed Forces and Police Services.

3. To offer positive alternative pathways for motivated members of the public to vent their emotions and feelings built up in connection with matters of national security and concern for peace.

In order to achieve the above objectives, the Foundation envisaged to engage itself in the following activities.

1. Provide financial assistance to bereaved members and disabled personnel of Armed Forces and Police Services.

2. Provide educational, health, employment and other support to the beneficiaries.

VSF was established as a registered society on  January 2 1985. The Foundation was accepted as a charitable organization and was granted tax-exempt status by the Ministry of Finance.

On November 19, 1985, President J. R. Jayewardene inaugurated the Veera Sebala Foundation at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute, Colombo  and donated Rs. 100,000 to the Foundation from the President’s Fund.

The Foundation received yeoman service and support from General Cyril Ranatunga who was back in active service as the Chief of the Joint Operations Command. At the request of General Ranatunga, the Commanders of Army, Navy and Air Force and the Inspector General of Police nominated representatives from their senior ranks to attend committee meetings of the Foundation. These officers closely co-ordinated the welfare activities of the Foundation with their own Welfare Departments and diligently arranged for security, Band music, transport of families etc during the conduct of award ceremonies and Children’s Day programmes. With the unstinted support given by the Armed Forces and the Police, the Foundation managed to conduct around 25 award ceremonies and 10 Children’s Day programmes and to provide assistance to more than 1000 children of deceased/disabled  soldiers and police officers.

In 1990, General Ranatunga allocated office space for the Foundation at the Joint Operations Command Centre at Flower Road, Colombo 7. He further assigned a full time member of the Army to handle the secretarial work of the Foundation.  A major setback was faced by the Foundation during the bomb blast at Flower Road in 1991 in which almost all the records of the Foundation were destroyed by fire. General Ranatunga then initiated action to shift the office of the Foundation to a room within the Army Headquarters at Echelon Square, Colombo. Later, as Chairman of the Airport and Aviation Authority, General Ranatunga arranged for listing the Foundation as a beneficiary of monies collected through tills in the departure area of Bandaranaike International Airport. This gesture enabled the Foundation to receive periodic financial assistance on rotational basis for a considerable period.

The first Chairman of VSF, late Professor Nandadasa Kodagoda was a tower of strength for the Foundation. He was a source of knowledge, wisdom, commitment, inspiration and an agent of change.

VSF was possibly the first civilian organisation in South Asia to initiate a financial assistance programme for the families of deceased/disabled members of the Armed Forces and the Police. It has stood the test of time for more than 30 years.

Having accomplished its tasks, the Veera Sebala Foundation under the present Chairmanship of its initiator  Mangala Boyagoda decided to conclude the activities of the Foundation and to utilize the monies outstanding to the credit of the Foundation for a worthy cause. Accordingly, with the concurrence of the welfare divisions of the Armed Forces and the Police, a deserving disabled member was selected from each division for receiving from the Foundation, Rupees one million two hundred and fifty thousand as donation for housing construction as a tribute to the memory of its first Chairman, Professor Nandadasa Kodagoda.

These awards were made by the Foundation at a simple ceremony held at Gothami Viharaya, Colombo 8 on Wednesday, December 13.

‘Those who have changed the universe have never done it by changing officials, but always by inspiring the people’ – Napolean Bonaparte


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