On the 1st of March 1963, one of Sri Lanka’s bravest and noblest soldiers Saliya Upul Aladeniya was born in Lewella to a family of three children. His father was a planter in the estate sector who was also a captain in the volunteer forces.
He who had the desire to join the Sri Lanka Army since a young age asked his mother to stitch him an army uniform which he was extremely fond of.
Young Saliya joined Trinity College in 1968 and after completing his O/L’s he briefly worked at the family estate and then went on to join the Sri Lanka Army.
Life in the Military
Aladeniya, who joined the Sri Lanka Army in 1989 as a volunteer officer after completing a short commissioning course at the Sri Lanka Military Academy in Diyatalawa, subsequently was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 2nd battalion (V), Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment.
He served with the battalion in Nuwaraeliya during the later stages of the JVP insurrection (1987-89) before being transferred to the 3rd (V) battalion, Sinha Regiment, and was attached to the ‘A’ company.
Battle of Kokavil
On the 18th of May 1990, the ‘A’ company of the 3rd Battalion of the Sinha Regiment with three officers was deployed to Mankulam; and two officers including 2nd Lieutenant Saliya Aladeniya and 60 soldiers were posted to guard the Rupavahini relay station in Kokavil.
Then on the 11th of June 1990, the Sri Lankan government ordered over 600 police officers to surrender to the LTTE after their police stations were surrounded, who were then subsequently killed. The next day Mankulam and Kokavil were surrounded by the LTTE. On June 16, there was a ceasefire, the Captain-in-charge of the camp and fifteen others went on leave. Leaving Lieutenant Aladeniya in charge.
On the 27th of June, the Kokavil camp was surrounded by the LTTE cadres who outnumbered the soldiers five to one. Needs, such as food and water, were running out at an alarming pace. Their supply of ammunition was drying up too. Although many requests for reinforcements were sent to Wanni headquarters, none of them reached the camp successfully.
On the 11th of July, orders to withdraw from the camp came at the eleventh hour but by then it was too late as many of Lt. Aladeniya’s fellow soldiers were wounded and unable to make the trip back to safety. It was then he showed his virtues and morals by not leaving them to die but fighting alongside them till the end. Aladeniya ordered the only civilian in the camp who was the cook to leave. At 11.45 pm in the night, the camp was overrun and the final words spoken by Lt. Aladeniya to Wanni headquarters were,
“Don’t worry sir, I will fight till I die.”
Lieutenant Saliya Aladeniya and his men fought valiantly till the very end defending our beloved country, not letting LTTE terrorists into the Rupavahini relay station which played a major role in the communication of news and information to the North from Colombo and vice versa. Aladeniya and his fellow soldiers were killed when an adjacent fuel dump exploded.
Lt. Saliya Aladeniya was just 26 years of age when he sacrificed his life, gallantly defending the camp at Kokavil and standing by his injured troops in the face of massive attacks. His commanding officer Col. Abey Weerakoon recommended that he be awarded the “Parama Weera Vibhushana” Sri Lanka’s highest and most prestigious military award.
Col. Weerakoon recalled Lt. Aladeniya as “A very bold officer who always volunteered for the difficult tasks. He had time to escape, but CHOSE to stay by his injured troops.”
Aladeniya was posthumously promoted to the rank of captain and became a part of history when he became the first recipient of the “Parama Weera Vibhushana” medal, on the 21st of June, 1994 by His Excellency president D.B. Wijetunga for outstanding gallantry and bravery on the battlefield
In an assault campaign in 2009, the Sri Lankan army was able to reclaim the Kokavil camp. Two years later, the transmission tower was reconstructed, and a memorial honoring Aladeniya and his men was erected on the site.
“Parama Weera Vibhushanaya”
The “Parama Weera Vibhushanaya” also known as the supreme heroism decoration is the highest military decoration in Sri Lanka and is equivalent to the British Victoria Cross or the United States Medal of Honor. This is awarded for supreme acts of gallantry and conspicuous bravery of the most exceptional order while on service. No living service person has received the PWV to date.
Capt. Saliya Upul Aladeniya was the first person to receive this prestigious award.
Throughout his military career, Capt. Saliya Aladeniya lived up to the motto of Trinity: Respice finem, or ‘look to the end.’ He gave his life for the sake of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He exemplified the authentic Trinitian values and ethos. His deeds serve as an example to all Trinitians and Sri Lankans.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
Article Written by Sherwain Wavita