|Tuesday, 3 September 2002|
Memorials to a brave, old world
by Rashomi Silva
General Sir John Kotalawala Defence Academy is a pride of the Nation. This is where the sons and daughters of the nation pursue defence studies, learn the sciences, and the arts, and the languages, and learn to be good managers and better leaders. Above all they learn to be patriotic. As the motto of the KDA proudly proclaims 'For the motherland forever.' The KDA fulfils the aspiration of a model man who bestowed his property to groom gentlemen and officers to the nation.
In the 1970s several decades after winning the independence the country
felt the need for a powerful and enlightened armed force. An academy to
cater to the needs of the armed forces became a burning issue. In 1979 Lt.
Gen Dennis Perera a former commander of the Army and, a close friend of
Sir John, suggested to him to donate his 'Kandawala Estate' in Ratmalana
to the government to establish an academy for the armed forces. Being a
serviceman himself Sir John understood the necessity for a military
institute for the armed forces. Being a bachelor he did not have any
offspring to pass his property on to. The patriotic nature in him came up.
In 1980 Sir John conferred his 47 acre 'Kandawala Estate' and all movable and immovable property in it to establish an academy for the service personnel. Having gladly accepted the offer the government immediately took steps to set up the academy.
President J. R. Jayewardene promoted Sir John to the rank of a full General. It was arranged to inaugurate the academy on 11th of October 1980. However, unfortunately Sir John breathed his last on October 2nd before realising his cherished dream.
After a simple ceremony The Defence Academy was opened on the planned day by President Jayewardene at an auspicious moment. The government to honour the gallant man who bestowed his property to the country's armed forces named the academy after him. It is stated in an Act of Parliament that the KDA should be managed by a board of management headed by the Defence Secretary and three service commanders. Lt. Gen. Denis Perera acts as the present chancellor of the KDA.
The first intake of officer cadets was in 1981. Temporary arrangements were made to send them to Katubbedda and Colombo Universities as the KDA did not have enough facilities to teach the undergraduates. In 1986 the board of management decided to elevate the Academy to university status. Bachelor's degree in Defence Science was conferred on the officer cadets who successfully completed the degree programmes.
During its short history, KDA has produced 975 graduate commissioned officers who have mastered various disciplines such as electrical and electronics engineering, mechanical and marine engineering, aeronautical and civil engineering, International Relations and Management Studies.
Every year applications are called from eligible youths who are interested in joining the KDA. The prospective candidates are put through three interviews to test in a scientific manner their physical and mental abilities, their physical standards and personal qualities. A medical test is conducted to find out if they conform to the required medical standards. Depending on the aggregate marks obtained at the interviews and on the vacancies available in the three forces the cadets are allocated to the Army, Navy and the Air Force.
What is expected from a serviceman or a woman is a balanced personality in times of peace and an efficiency as a solider at times of war to control violence. The challenge of the KDA is to prepare the cadets for this task as well as prepare them for the military way of life, instil in them military discipline and make gentlemen and officers of the undergraduate youths.
The degree programmes conducted at the KDA are of three and a half year duration. Except for the engineering degrees in which all three years are dedicated to academic activities and project work, other programmes devote two years to academic activities.
Entire third year is dedicated to military training. With successful completion of the academic programmes cadets are sent to their respective bases to pursue one year of military training. ( Army to S.L. Military Academy - Diyatalawa, Navy to the Naval Maritime Academy - Trincomalee and Air Force to China Bay Academy\ Flying training wing - Anuradapura).
The military training is aimed at giving cadets an indepth understanding of military concepts, instil in them the moral courage and the staying power. In compulsory military training given both in the classroom and in practical lessons, cadets learn weapons handling, war tactics, operational planning, and many other war strategies under the keen eyes of the superiors. Studying the lives of the celebrated international and local leaders is an integral part of the cadets curriculum. It is anticipated to instil in them an unfailing sense of duty and honour.
To groom better military leaders it is expected from every cadet during their tenure to take a part in at least one team sport to inspire the team spirit, comradeship, physical endurance which are the distinguished traits of a good leader.
Once the cadets complete their academic and military training successfully they are awarded their Bachelor's degree in the chosen discipline and are commissioned to the regular forces of the Army, Navy and the Air Force. The degrees conducted by the KDA are recognised by the University Grants Commission of Sri Lanka and the U.K. based Commonwealth Universities Association.
To pay a tribute to the noble gentleman who bestowed his property, his invaluable time and energy to serve his country and fellow countrymen solely out of patriotism, Gen Sir John Kotalawala Defence Academy has set up Sir John's belongings in the Sir John Kotalawala Museum at KDA, at the cost of the academy.
"The mementos displayed in the museum are chiefly those that Sir John was presented with, in his official capacity." The most valuable artifact of the museum is the priceless Gandhara Buddha statue of around 190 B.C. and the sword used by the last king of Sri Lanka Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe when, he was captured by the British. Sir John who became the third prime minister of Sri Lanka (1953-1956) was honoured twice by Queen Elizabeth the Second. "He was admitted to the order of companion of honour in 1954 and made a knight of the British empire in the late 40s". The ribbons of office and the medals of honours have won a special place among the exhibits.
Our special thanks to Maj. Anil Seneviratne the Commanding Officer of Academy Services Air Vice Marshal G. Y. De Silva, the commandant, Maj. N. D. Dahanayeke and of the Gen Sir John Kotalawala Defence academy, for their kind support.
Produced by Lake House