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A birthday wish and tribute

Destiny of a country will be determined by those who rule. Sri Lanka is fortunate that we have a leader who has a backbone to ward off external threats and pressures. The fact that our beloved leader loves the country dearly is also our greatest endowment.

He has proved over the past three years in no uncertain terms that his beloved Motherland comes first. President Rajapaksa has paid his debt to the nation. So has another. It is Gotabhaya, his younger brother. He too has paid his dues to the country of his birth.


Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa

Today, let me wish you Gota, Many Happy Returns of the day. I know there will be many who will wish you on your birthday today, but I wanted to pen a few words of appreciation and admiration on this significant day of your life, as a sincere friend, an admirer and a colleague.

I knew of you from quite a long time back, when you were a young Army officer and I, a young SLAS officer. But I got to know more of you when I worked for your brother when he became a Minister in the 1994 Government. You had left Sri Lanka then.

But, when you came back to help your brother, Prime Minister Rajapaksa, in his Presidential bid, that was the time I met you. I instantly took a liking to you for your forthrightness and the way you handled things.

Since then, I have been a great admirer of yours for your gentlemanly ways and heart warming demeanour. When you became the Defence Secretary (not many would know that you did not expect any position), I saw in you a visionary, a great lover of our country, a resolute leader, and above all a sincere friend. Over the past three and a half years, my interactions with you have proved it over and over again.

At every Security Council meeting, I saw how you supported the President’s resolute vision to unite this country. A political philosophy can be made a reality only if there are loyal followers who will implement it with a passion. You had that passion all the time.

Just like your great brother, you too didn’t waver on the goal. In my long public service career, I have seen many excellent administrators, but I haven’t seen a tech-savvy, resolute, ‘no-nonsense’ Defence Secretary who had great empathy for the soldier, the sailor, the airman and the policeman who braved all odds to fight the LTTE terrorists and sacrificed life and limb to preserve the sovereignty and the integrity of the Motherland.

I was amazed when you explained to me the details of the Housing program for the soldiers. No one earlier had thought about it.

In particular, Defence Secretaries do not bother so much about what a soldier has to go through; they would not even know that these poor souls join the Armed Forces to keep their families going and build a house for themselves; top bureaucrats in the Defence establishments cannot visualize what soldiers’ homes look like or whether they have a place that they can call home. Usually, all the welfare of these soldiers is left in the hands of the military commanders.

But you were of a different breed; you knew all about it my friend, because you were an officer who fought the enemy leading your men into battle. You understood the ground realities.

I guess your family background gave you that sterling quality, feeling for others. You would have seen your men fall under LTTE brutality, you would have seen your men desolate because their future was all murky, and you understood their innermost feelings and were a true leader because you cared for your men.

When I had the unique opportunity to participate with you at functions where disabled soldiers were given three-wheelers or keys to newly built houses, I saw how much caring you were; you would inquire from them about their regiments and when some of them told you that they were from Gajaba, you responded so warmly.

Every time you talked to a disabled soldier, you gave them hope. No wonder the Armed Forces responded to you in such a magnificent manner.

Your pioneering, trail blazing activity, the Defence website, is a great testimony to your understanding of how the world sees things. Single handedly, you changed the perceptions of the world. With a daily average of eight to 13 million hits, it has become the top Sri Lankan website today.

It was your knowledge of IT that made this website what it is today. Starting from scratch, with novices in the trade, you guided it throughout and in a period of two years, it has taken the top spot. Not many would know that there is a MBA research on this website, how it was done and the dynamic leadership and guidance behind its success.

My dear Gota, I can go on, but I need to stop. The whole of Sri Lanka salutes you for the exemplary role you played to help our highly respected leader to unite the country.

President Rajapaksa’s political vision and leadership coupled with your management and guidance of the Armed Forces and the Police made our country, a truly independent country.

Thank you for your unique and unprecedented contribution and may your body and mind become stronger to serve our Motherland for a long time to come. Thunuruwan Saranai.

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