Sri Lanka Volunteer Force, guiding star of Army
The Sri Lanka Volunteer Force (SLVF) is one of the most honoured units of the Sri Lanka Army. The SLVF gained recognition owing to the services its men rendered during the times of emergency, liberating the country from terrorists as well as in the development drive. The officers and other ranks of the SLVF comprises scholars and professionals who took time out of their professions to join the Army to serve the nation using their skills and talents.
The most important facet of the SLVF's cadre strength is that it comprises of professionals such as doctors, engineers, quantity surveyors, land surveyors, architects, managers, agricultural officers, nurses, teachers and cultural officers who had taken leave from their work places to join the Army and to apply their skills and talents under new directives and guidance. Their specialties could be seen not only at the times when the country was ravaged by LTTE terrorism, but during when it had been confronted with natural disasters, emergencies where other services had been paralyzed and their civil professional colleagues had been left rudderless.
Those who joined the SLVF did so out of the pride of their motherland and that had been the story from the beginning of the volunteer force in this country. There had been many national leaders who took time from their careers to make use of the opportunity of joining the Army and serving the nation. The list of illustrious leaders who did so included first Prime Minister of independent Sri Lanka, D.S. Senanayake, Sir John Kotelawala, E.A. Nugawela, C.A. Dharmapala, Montague Jayawickrama, C.P.J Senevirathne and Anuruddha Ratwatte.
The North East conflict caused the expansion of the SLVF. Today, there are around 75,000 men serving in various positions of the SLVF. They fought with regular cadres of the Army to liberate the country and worked to rebuild the North and East using their skills, talents and professional acumen. Those who joined the volunteer force enjoyed similar benefits and perks entitled to the officers and other ranks of the regular force. For example, the Widows and Orphans Pensions Act had been amended recently so that the family members of the volunteer force too would get the same benefits as those of the regular forces.
|D.S. Senanayake||Anuruddha Ratwatte||Sir John Kotelawala|
The SLVF commenced 132 years ago with one brigade and now it has evolved itself into a massive force of 103 brigades. The SLVF members played a vital role in all the emergencies to maintain law and order. Around 12,500 officers and other ranks of the SLVF contribute their professional skills at various places and areas of the country to make the government's development drive a success.
The SLVF has made the path open to educated professionals to serve their country and to become part of the pride of the nation. The avenue had been made open to professionals serving in the public as well as private sector to join the Army as they would be recruited as non combatants and would be provided a 21-day-training before their deployment to serve the nation. When they commence active service, all facilities are provided to them and they would be ranked on the basis of their academic merits and degrees they have obtained. The service is open for professionals up to age 55.
Private and public sectors' professionals
A spokesman for the SLVF said that there would soon be a recruitment drive to attract professionals to the Army. "We consider it as an accumulation of knowledge and skills," he said.
Ranks of all degree holders commence with the Lieutenant, Captain or Major ranks of the SLVF. If the recruits have MBBS qualification, chartered engineer or architect, they would be positioned in the post of Lieutenant Colonel, the spokesman said.
He said India and China too have massive volunteer forces that consists of men and women with skills and talents to be deployed wherever and whenever the need arises be it emergency disaster situation or routinely development activities. "We invite the professionals in the private and public sector organizations to join hands with us to serve the nation," he said.
Looking back the history of 132 years of SLVF's existence from 1881, there are many illustrious characters who served in the voluntary force. It is worthy of mentioning that Sri Lanka's first Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake was in the Volunteer Artillery as an active member for many years in the Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers. General Sir John Kotelawala will be remembered not only as a Prime Minister of Sri Lanka but also for his munificence in bequeathing the broad acres of his Kandawela Estate and spacious domicile to the establishment of General Sir John Kotalawala Defence Academy for the training of young Officer Cadets. Another notable was Major E.A. Nugawela of the Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers who was the Education Minister in the first cabinet of independent Sri Lanka.
The first Commanding Officer of 3 (Volunteer) Battalion the Gemunu Watch, Col C.A. Dharmapala was a Member of Parliament and later Defence Ministry Secretary and Security Advisor to the President (1977-1979). Major Montague Jayawickrama, the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Plantations and Capt the Hon C.P.J Senevirathne, the Labour Minister during the period (1977-1983) were active members of the 2nd (Volunteer) Ceylon Light Infantry and Ceylon Cadet Corps respectively. General Ranjan Wijerathne who resuscitated the Planters' Rifle Corps was the Defence Deputy Minister during the period 1989-1992.
The Soldiers of the SLVF and its predecessor formations have for over a century exhibited the volunteer spirit of soldiering and have kept alive in its fines form, the martial tradition that befits the citizenry of a sovereign nation, while a regular soldier brings to the profession of arms a great degree of expertise, the volunteer soldier matches it with enthusiasm and a keen sense of duty.
From its early beginnings as a small force of a little more than a thousand, the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force has grown to fifty five battalions consisting of 1,100 Officers and 45,000 other ranks deployed in both defensive and offensive operations in the field. The organizational structure shows the employment of a Major General, three Brigadiers and 13 Colonels in the command and control of this large force.
A spokesman for the SLVF said that the SLVF men had fought bravely with the regular force members during the North East conflict. "We never forget those who made supreme sacrifice in the name of motherland. There had been 2501 who lost their lives while 1102 who had been seriously wounded from 1983 to the end of the war."
"No finer testimony can be offered as to the qualities of the volunteer soldier than that exhibited by Lieutenant S.U. Aladeniya of the 3rd (Volunteer) Battalion of the Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment who was the first recipient of the Sri Lanka Army's highest gallantry award, The Parama Weera Vibushanaya. On July 11, 1990, Lieutenant Aladeniya as the Officer Commanding of the isolated Kokavil Detachment demonstrated the highest degree of gallantry which was over and beyond the call of duty when his detachment was attacked by an overwhelming force of the enemy. Refusing to leave his position, or abandon the wounded, he continued to fight until the last round of ammunition was spent and he fell mortally wounded,"he said.
Highlights of the Volunteer Force history in the early years after Independence show that the force was mobilized for duty during the Hartal of 1953. In 1954, on the occasion of the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Sri Lanka, Queen's and Regimental Colours were awarded to the 2 (Volunteer) Ceylon Volunteer Light Infantry at a parade on Galle Face Green. In 1955, the Headquarters of the Ceylon Volunteer Force was formed on February 27 under the command of H.W.G. Wijekoon. With the proclamation of the Republic of Sri Lanka on May 22, 1972, the nomenclature of the Ceylon Volunteer Force was changed accordingly to the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force.
The expansion could not have been effected without the establishment of the Volunteer Force Training School (VFTS). This establishment was tasked with the basic training of recruits and Officers for the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force. Headquarters for the training school were established at Diyatalawa under the command of Lt Col W.R.B. Rathnayake. The contribution towards the enhancement of military skills in jungle training and exercises in the field by Brigadier B.K.V.J.E. Rodrigo during the period of office as Commandant (1977- 1981) will not be easily forgotten.
Due to the expansion of the Volunteer Force and the burgeoning administration that was required for the maintenance of good order, HQ SLAVF was moved from the premises of the Army HQ to a new location at Pelawatte on September 14, 1991. This was effected during the tenure of the office of Maj Gen Y. Balaretnerajah as Commandant with Brig CN Panabokke as Deputy Commandant. In 1978 and in 1980 respectively, the President honoured the 2nd (Volunteer) Sri Lanka Light Infantry and the two Volunteer Battalions of the Gemunu Watch with the presentation of Presidential and Regimental Colours. In 1991, with the raising of 16 Sri Lanka National Guard Battalions, a Regimental Centre with a Brigadier as the Regimental Commander was appointed for this new establishment.
Recognition of the importance of the Volunteer Force as valued constituent of the Sri Lanka Army came in the form of the approval of new military awards and promotions. On December 10, 1990, the President as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Force in Sri Lanka approved the award of the Kariyakshama Seva Vibhushanaya (KSV) to Officers and the Kariyakshama Seva Padakkama (KSP) to Other Ranks of the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force. On April 1, 1981, the Centenary Medal was awarded to the eligible personnel.
In 1995 with the rapid expansion of the Volunteer Force, the organization of its headquarters was re-structured and the rank of the Deputy Commandant was elevated from Brigadier to the rank of Major General.
Initiation and the establishment of welfare schemes by several Commandants of the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force saw their usefulness to all personnel within the Force. For example, children of members of the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force receive financial grants for education. At battalion level, Compulsory Saving Schemes, Loan Schemes and Death Donations to next-of-kin were put in place by Commanding Officers of Units. A water-shed decision announced in government gazette no: 562/11 of June 16, 1989 permitted the payments of pensions to the personnel of the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force. This was due mainly to the efforts of Brigadier N.G.A.L.D.S. de S. Wijesekara and Brigadier C.N. Panabokke.