His life was the Army

Lt. Gen. Parami Kulatunga R.S.P.

In November 2002 when the National Remembrance Park was opened I penned the following verses:

Last Saturday afternoon
After its dedication
I visited National Remembrance Park
To pay my tribute and offer merits
To those faded human beings
Some known seniors: some sincere colleagues,
many unknown juniors
some fallen; some massacred
only their names carved in granite
--------- and pleasant memories remain.
Serene surroundings reverberated futility of War
Can glorified death justify value of human life?
plaque at the entrance states “Peace and life
Come from death and strife”

I left contemplating “are death and strife mandatory to peace and life”?

Last Monday, as usual on my way to Badulla from Kandy, I drove past NRP early in the morning. Around 7.45 I heard over the radio that a senior military officer was killed in a suicide attack off Pannipitiya. A while later I knew the victim was Major General Parami Kulatunga.

I first met Parami in 1965 as a junior cadet of the Ceylon Cadet Corps, sharing the same compartment in a train bound to Diyatalawa from Kandy carrying hundreds of cadets of the second battalion to their annual training camp. We got to know each other and our acquaintance progressed as senior cadets and as NCOs attending the NCO camp in 1969 at Diyalatawa.

As teenagers we loved the uniform and our dreams were realized when he joined the Army in July and I joined the Navy in August 1971 as cadets. Our paths differed. He selected the glamorous infantry and elite Gemunu Watch whilst I chose the Executive Branch to command ships and establishments. We kept in touch, matured and met in various parts of the island under various circumstances. Some were pleasant. Some were adventurous and some were very risky. However, we remained happy and contented wherever and whenever we met.

He came to Trincomalee with his bride to spend the honeymoon because all his Naval friends were at Dockyard. He became Juliano Gemma of “Blow Hot Blow Cold” and we had to provide scenic locations in beautiful beaches around the Dockyard. In the seventies Dockyard was a paradise. There were no suicide boats off Foul Point and snipers in Marble beach! In the eighties we had reunions in Palaly and at Karainagar. In the early nineties soon after Operation Balavegaya we spent a peaceful night on the beach of Vettilaikerny singing “Tharaka Nidana Maha Re….”

His life was the Army. He continued to love the uniform. As I lacked certain personal traits required for flag rank I retired from the Navy and joined Prima Ceylon Limited at China Bay in 1994. Then he came to Trincomalee as the Brigade Commander. We visited each other and on numerous occasions I stayed in his chalet at Plantain Point.

With his cherubic face, smiling eyes, warm embraces and hearty laugh he made his presence felt. He was lavish and gentle. He was simply a nice human being. He was proud of his school Trinity, his Gemunu Watch and our Kandy.

Parami, it was a pleasure and privilege knowing and associating with you during the past four decades. I simply cannot express the grief I felt when I saw the wreckof the vehicle in which you travelled for the last time. You certainly did not deserve such a violent death. You were so gentle to your fellow beings.

General Sir, sleep well. I am confident that we will meet again. May be on a moonlit beach at Vettillaikerny, Manalkadu or Coral Cove where there is no racial animosity and where human beings treat each other with love, dignity and nobility. That day we will sing again “Tharaka Nidana Maha Re”.

Captain (Retd.) Ranjith Wettewa S.L.N. R.S.P.


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Gentle giant with a heart of gold

I was deeply saddened to hear of the untimely and tragic death of Lieutenant General Parami Kulatunge following an attack by an LTTE suicide bomber. It is ironic that an officer who fought bravely for more than two decades to safeguard the sovereignty and integrity of Sri Lanka had to die in this manner at the hands of a cowardly terrorist.

I first met Parami in 1971 when he, together with a group of young aspirants, was at the Panagoda cantonment for his Officer Quality Tests. He stood out from the rest because of his height and impressive bearing. He was a product of Trinity College, Kandy and joined the Army with Intake 5A.

He passed out second in the order of merit in his batch and on being commissioned was posted to the 1st Battalion Gemunu Watch in Diyatalawa. He excelled as a young officer and caught the eye of the late General Tissa (Bull) Weeratunga who, when taking over command of the Army made him his first aide-de camp. Parami, true to his nature, remained as the General's ADC for life!!

Parami was a professional soldier and over the years attended many courses of training, locally and abroad, culminating in the prestigious US Army War College Course. He commanded the Gemunu Watch, several brigades and divisions in operations in the North and the East. He participated in many major operations such as, Operation Liberation (1987), Operation Balavegaya (1991), Operation Riviresa (1995), Operation Jayasikuru (1997) - just to name a few. He held the prestigious appointments of Colombo Commander, Security Forces Commander Vavuniya, Director General General Staff (AHQ) and at the time of his death, the post of Deputy Chief of Staff.

One could write volumes about the military achievements of an officer who served for nearly thirty five years. However, I feel that in the final count what matters most is the impression one leaves behind as a human being. Parami was characterized by his genial and pleasant personality. He was much liked by his colleagues and was very popular among his many civilian friends. I would describe him as a gentle giant with a heart of gold. He was ever willing to be of assistance to anybody in need. He loved children although he did not have any of his own. In this appreciation, I have only scratched the surface in writing about the merits of Parami. He was one of those who could have sought safer and greener pastures when the situation in the country worsened, but who nevertheless decided to stay on and serve the motherland loyally, and in doing so paid the supreme sacrifice.

Parami will be remembered for his honesty, loyalty, dedication and commitment as a true son of Lanka. I wish to express my deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to all the members of his family.

May he rest in peace!

General (R) C. S. Weerasooriya

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