“Don’t worry sir, I will fight till I die.”
There is a saying that in life we are just actors running around according to the script called destiny in which those things we do while we were young are just the way of saying “hey world! Look out I am going to turn you upside down”. Despite all this who would have thought a young boy running around his home in the army uniforms which his mother made for him would turn out to be one of the greatest heroes of the nation?
Capt Saliya Upul Aladeniya PWV, WWV might sound like a stranger to most of my fellow Trinitians. But let me take you on a journey through time to the year 1964 when Facebook didn’t exist and 2011 seemed like a fairytale.
This is where our journey begins – the year 1964, somewhere in the central hills a new baby was born to a family of three. His father was a planter but a part-time volunteer army officer. Little Saliya wasn’t playing doctor instead he was begging his mother to stitch him some army uniforms like what his father was wearing. While others were playing doctor he was running around pretending to be an army officer.
Few years later the boy who was running around in army uniforms made by his mother began his journey of education in the most prestigious school in the island – Trinity College Kandy – where his journey through life got a head start, after completing his ordinary level exams he decided to follow his dream since his childhood. He joined the army in 1989; now he can wear real uniforms instead of the uniforms stitched by his mother. He was sent for training at the Sri Lanka Military Academy Diyatalawa and at the end of his training was commissioned into the Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment. At this time Saliya got married but didn’t have any children.
Soon after training he severed with his regiment in Nuwara Eliya; that is until he was sent to Kokavil in May 1990. He was just 26 years old then. This is where the story about how most of the people know Saliya Aladeniya begins. The commanding officer of the 3rd Battalion of the Sinha Regiment was Col. Abey Weerakoon, who recalled:
”We were deployed in Nuwara Eliya, when we were asked to take over Mankulam. One company with three officers took over Mankulam on May 18, 1990. Two officers and 58 men of this company were sent to Kokavil to provide security to the Rupavahini Relay Station there and Saliya Aladeniya, a very junior 2nd Lieutenant was one of the officers.
Soon after deploying on the 5th of June the silence and peace was disturbed as the attacks commenced on the areas around Mankulam and Kokavil. The first attack by the terrorists was repulsed by the army killing 43 LTTErs. But soon after that on the 12th of June the Kokavil and Mankulam camps were surrounded by the LTTE”.
On June 16, there was some kind of a ceasefire and negotiation and hostilities were halted. The Captain in charge of the camp and fifteen others went on leave during the ceasefire, leaving Lt. Aladeniya in charge.
Both the camps were then besieged by the LTTE for 14 days. Several men were injured by LTTE fire. Those weren’t the only things which were causing distress to the troops. While people were being shot they were running short of ammunition, food, water and medicine. Even though the army decided to drop food and ice from helicopters they couldn’t reach the men inside the camp. The LTTE fired at the helicopters causing them to drop the items far away from the camp which caused them to lose the supplies. Despite all this Lt. Saliya Aladeniya didn’t give up the fight; he kept on fighting while the commanding officer Col. Weerakoon tried to get them supplies and reinforcements. The LTTE was building up forces around the camp to attack them while the Air Force was trying to drop whatever supplies they could despite the shooting. From Vavuniya, Col Weerakoon desperately tried to get reinforcements sent in but they were unable to get through because the routes were blocked. Commandos who were sent also could not get down there because it was dark.
The final battle between the LTTE and the forces began in July 10th, by that time there were only around 300 rounds of ammunition left inside the camp while the airdrop was halted because dropping most of the supplies from that height resulted in the waste of supplies. Out of the remaining troops fifteen were injured leaving only 15 men to fight till the end. Lt. Saliya Aladeniya fought without fear while Col. Weerakoon gave orders at the eleventh hour for them to withdraw from the camp at once. On 11th of July communication was lost between the camp at Kokavil and Col. Weerakoon. Before the communication was lost the heroic Lt. Saliya Aladeniya said the words with which he will forever be remembered as a true hero:
“Don’t worry sir, I will fight till I die.”
He fought bravely without leaving his injured fellow-men to die while the LTTE was gathering forces to overrun the camp and destroy it part by part. This was accelerated by the explosion of the adjacent fuel dump which took away many lives of the soldiers who fought in the camp. Lt. Saliya Aladeniya was declared missing in action.
After the Kokavil camp was taken by the LTTE on July 11, Lt Aladeniy’s wife was informed that all those in the camp were missing.
Soon after this incident Col. Weerakoon recommended Lt. Saliya Aladeniya for the Parama Weera Vibhushanaya award, making him the first to be nominated for what is the nation’s most prestigious military award.
Parama Weera Vibhushanaya in short PWV which means ‘Supreme Heroism Decoration’ (Sinhalese: පරම වීර වීභූෂණය Tamil: பரம வீர விபுஷனைய). PWV is the highest Sri Lankan Military decoration which is equivalent to the British Victoria Cross (which was the highest decoration in the Ceylon Army till 1972 or United States Medal of Honor.) It has been awarded for 8 personnel so far.
On the 21st of June 1994 Lt. Saliya Aladeniya was awarded the PWV (even though he is listed as missing in action still while some articles claim he had passed away) and posthumously promoted to rank of Captain.
This is part of the life story of Capt. Saliya Aladeniya a heroic Sri Lankan and a Trinitian. His name appears on a memorial plaque in the lobby of Fraser block.
Article Written by T.C.Weerasooriya
Edited by N.Kamarangoda
Content gathered by H.Seneviratne
Published 6 years ago by Tharindu Weerasooriya