- After 36 years’ yeoman service to the country
By Dilrukshi Karunaratne
Although I live in Australia, away from my motherland, I thought of writing this note in appreciation of my brother Major General Kumudu Perera RWP RSP VSV USP NDU who retires as the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) having rendered a loyal and brave service to the country for 35 years and seven months.
We are a family of four and my youngest brother Kumudu was adamant to join the SLA though my parents were keen to see him take to law as it’s been a family tradition. However, giving in to his aspirations Kumudu joined the intake of 19 in 1984 when it was no longer a ceremonial army, but, an army thickly embroiled in a brutal war.
He was commissioned to the battle hardened Sinha Regiment in 1985 and life was never to be the same for our family. My brother’s career in the army had a deep impact on our family. It had not been easy for the family members as we had to live through each operation and battle he participated in agony every time we heard the wailing sirens of ambulances rushing injured forces personnel to hospital from the Ratmalana Airport.
I still recall how the atmosphere at home changed on hearing sirens of those ambulances. How small talk and laughter came to a standstill and how everyone settled into a deep contemplative mood. There were no mobile phones or internet at the time. Therefore it took a while for us to find out what was going on and where. During these operations, my father who was a serving judicial officer at the time was highly stressed. He used to pace up and down in his chambers before the Court commenced.
I remember one occasion when my father had to adjourn Court because we received news my brother had been injured. At times it was heart-breaking to see my handsome brother thin as a rake with sunken eyes and shorn hair. We could all see the toll which the war had taken on him.
He served in the northern battle fields for nearly 20 years. Kumudu was severely injured twice in the battle field. Once it was a sniper attack and the second was mortar attack and still lives with the bullets in his body. It was not only injuries but he got infected badly with viral and bacterial borne diseases and was hospitalised in the ICUs. The bravery was such, the moment he was out from the hospital he would opt to go to the battlefield.
He took part in almost all key battles and operations. Lived his life in jungles and bunkers for years. His colleagues in the army always remember him as a soldier who fought in the front lines fearlessly protecting his soldiers in every possible way. Kumudu was decorated with many gallantry medals and received Vishista Seva Vibushana (VSV) and Uththama Seva Padakkama (USP) the highest decorations for his unblemished character.
He held prestigious appointments in the army as Director Training, Commandant Sri Lanka Military Academy, Director Welfare, commanded four Divisions and served as the Security Forces Commander Central and Wanni. During his tenure in Wanni he initiated the Wilpattu reforestation project which is a popular and a sustainable project today.
I strongly remember in the year 2011 when my elder brother who had by then emigrated to New Zealand implored my brother to resign from the army and join him in New Zealand he had the following to say to my elder brother: “Aiya, Even if I am to retire, I think I will be able to find a job here. I just can’t leave Sri Lanka as I have too many attachments here. I am attached to this land with my own blood that I spilled on two occasions. There are also so many buried here, those who fought along with me. So I want to be here and think of those days after retirement. Please don’t ask me to leave my motherland.” My full respect goes to him for this strong commitment to our motherland he possess even though he could have easily tendered his papers to resign from the army at the time.
He is an officer much loved and respected by his soldiers due to his fair play, integrity and honest conduct. The welfare of his soldiers was paramount to him. He has risked his own life to save helpless children and families in the battle zone. His unforgettable foster son ‘Tamil Arsam in Nagarkovil is a living example of this compassionate officer. He also treated people from all walks of life with dignity and respected their culture and individuality. He is, to look for a better description, an ‘officer par excellence’ and I am not merely stating this because he is my brother; all of those who have associated him will endorse this.
His designing and planning abilities are superlative. In fact he designed the Trincomalee Open War Museum, Security Forces Headquarters Wanni, the famous Saravanamuttu Walawwa (Jaffna) which was in shambles was redone by him to its original look and splendour (this was displayed in the architect exhibition in 2011), Laya Safari Yala, the shrine room and the pedestal to enshrine the our lady of Madhu Statue at the Madhu church entrance are some of his creations.
Upon looking at these structures and the tasteful manner these were designed and planned any person will agree that if not for my brother joining the Sri Lanka Army he would have made an excellent architect. Such are his abilities and talents. Or in the alternative he would have fulfilled my father’s dreams and become an excellent lawyer as he does possess the gift of the gab and diplomacy.
Unfortunately some citizens of our country think that youngsters join the forces because of poverty or because they had no other option. I being the sister of Major General Kumudu Perera can proudly say that my brother and the batch of intake 19 whom I personally knew joined the SLA from recognised schools in the country and hailed from affluent family backgrounds. The batch of intake 19 produced the best of Army Generals.
It is time we Sri Lankans never forget the great sacrifices made by our gallant soldiers and their families. We as a family lived it and know the pain we went through for the sake of this country and her people. When I was in Colombo beginning 2019 I saw my brothers Pajero and a backup vehicle entering Colombo and people generally have the habit of giving special attention. In my mind I started to think that they may now see a General in a luxury vehicle but hardly would they know how much of sacrifices he made to travel in that Pajero today with his fellow soldiers. It was indeed a tough ride all the way.
I must say that the support and encouragement he received from his wife Shiromi Masakorala is immense and assisted him to discharge his duties to the fullest. As she correctly said, “Kumudu is coming home after 36 years of serving the country and out of this 36 years he has been away from home for 29 years.” I am sure that his two children are very proud of their father and the fact that he discharged his duties with honesty and integrity.
We are extremely proud of the service he rendered to our country in its hour of need. Had my father lived to see my brother retire from the Sri Lanka Army as the Deputy Chief of Staff with an unblemished career record he would have been extremely proud of his younger son. The decision my brother made in 1984 was not wasted as he brought pride to all of us by his dedicated and patriotic service and unblemished career. Anyone who has had the pleasure of knowing my brother will endorse the fact that he is an ‘Officer and a true Gentleman’. This description does not fit any other person I know better than my brother. Indeed a rare species in today’s world. I am sure everyone who knows him will agree with me. Though a battle hardened soldier, my brother is a humble human being with extraordinary qualities. He is an Officer who never sought publicity and performed any task or role which was entrusted to him with efficiency and excellence with the least of fuss. Retirement of officers of his calibre is indeed a great loss to the Sri Lanka Army and to the country as a whole.
The making of an Army General is all about learning and mastering the broad spectrum of life, and showing oneself as a great warrior, gentleman, scholar and a leader and I think my brother mastered all of this and proved himself in each of these capacities. I believe that he will make an excellent and fantastic diplomat who will serve his country passionately.
I would like to end my note by blessing my brother Major General Kumudu Perera the very best and end this note with his own quote which he made to the officers and cadets at Diyatalawa in 2008: “I did not join the Sri Lanka Army to become rich and famous. I wanted to serve my country in a meaningful manner. I did the best I could for my country and her people. I am a contented man today, although not a rich man. Nothing can buy happiness except to answer my own conscience and say I did it right.”