Thursday, 23rd October 2014
Thursday, February 27, 2014 (All day)
Police & Legal

Volunteers called to join Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force

Irangika Range

Scholars and learned men and women with experience in the public and private sectors, are given an opportunity to be a part of the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force (SLAVF). It has seen the service of many qualified and professional personnel including Prime Ministers during its history of over 132 years.

SLAVF contributed in making the motherland victorious in a war that battered, bruised and bloodied it for nearly 30 years. Now it is spearheading a new battle; the 'Development Drive' ( Sanwardana Sangramaya ). The country is reawakening with all its might and professionals confident of their skills and talents could make use of this opening to join thousands with fellow countrymen to move forward in the path towards development.

SLAVF Commander Major General Prasad Samarasinghe
Colombo National Hospital Chief
Nursing Officer Pushpa Ramyani Zoysa

SLAVF Commander Major General Prasad Samarasinghe speaking to the Daily News said: "We are living in a time when the nation is looking forward to make use of skills, talent, knowledge and expertise of Sri Lankans to take up the development challenge. With their contribution, we would be ready to face anything, even natural disasters."

"As we all know, all communities made sacrifices to win the war against terrorism. Although most of them were not with us where muscle met fire, we know we had their blessings. They hoped and prayed for us. They instilled courage and it was a strength to us. Now the need of the time is different. We need a solid force of professionals. We need their expertise to develop this country," he said.

He said there would soon be an enlistment drive to attract professionals to the SLAVF reserve. "We consider it as an accumulation of knowledge and skills," he said.

The Major General said under a new enlistment process, professionals who are in the executive grade from government or private sectors in the fields of medicine, engineering, law, architecture, survey, accountancy, agriculture, languages, hospitality, translations, event management, technology, etc, are to be enlisted to the Volunteer Reserve as officers. They will be called for the active service when their service is required at any national requirement," he added.

The enlistment drive had been named Api Army (We are army). Adding new blood would certainly strengthen the SLAVF, Major General Samarasinghe said.

"We would also be able to achieve the objective of reversing the SLAVF to the times before 1980s. Sri Lankan Volunteer Force members of the past had been contributing to the development of the country. After the 80s until the end of war, our men served shoulder to shoulder with men of regular forces with courage, dignity and bravery," he said.

The SLAVF has put up an application form to enlist professionals on its website http://www.army.lk/slavf, as well as published in daily and weekend newspapers so that those who wish to join the principal and volunteer reserve component of the SLAVF, could apply on or before March 31.

Basic qualifications needed are age between 18 to 55 years, be a citizen of Sri Lanka, should be physically fit and possess qualifications and experiences in the relevant field, and be professionally skilled.

Professionals in the executive grade in the government or private sectors will be enlisted to the volunteer reserve of the SLAVF as Commissioned Officers in the rank of Lieutenant/Captain/Major/Lieutenant Colonel or Colonel in keeping with their educational qualifications, professional qualifications and experience. They will be entitled to receive pay and allowances according to the policies (pay code) of the Sri Lanka Army and training allowances will be paid during their training after they are called up to the active service.

They are also entitled to fringe benefits covering transport, uniforms, medical, food and accommodation, and welfare facilities.

Those who join the SLAVF reserve would be given a non-combatant training at the Diyatalawa Military Academy for 3-4 weeks and exposed to refresher courses and seminars. Thereafter, they would be ready to serve anytime when the need arises.

Major General Samarasinghe said a large number of glorious men of our nation served in the SLAVF including the country's first Prime Minister D. S. Senanayake. Among the other key persons were former Prime Minister General Sir John Kotelawala, General Ranjan Wijeratne, Major Montague Jayawickrema, General Anuruddha Ratwatte, Major E. A. Nugawela and Col. C.A. Dharmapala.

"We need a volunteer reserve that could ensure the ability to counter any threat, local or international, in the fields ranging from natural and man-made disasters to development projects. Most nations have their own volunteer reserves. Their specialty is that they could take leave from their workplaces and serve the country whenever they are called up, he said.

The Major General said the country's development drive needs a giant push from the combined forces both military and civil. The nation is calling upon its men and women to stand up again to win the development challenge. "We have to respond to that call," he said.

He said the enlistment drive has been put into effect under the instructions of Defence and Urban Development Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

"We have received a very good response from professionals in various fields after the wide publicity given through the media for the past 2-3 weeks," he said.

Among the professionally qualified persons, Chief Nursing Officer of the Colombo National Hospital Pushpa Ramyani had been invited to join the volunteer reserve to mark the re-enlistment of professionals into the unit. Ramyani told the Daily News that she happily accepted the invitation of the SLAVF.

"I think that my profession too could help the SLAVF's objective of serving the nation. This is a time we need the service of professionals. The SLAVF had a lot of great men. It is a fact to be proud to say that I am a member of the SLAVF," she said.

She said: "I have treated and attended many soldiers and security force members wounded during the times of war. For the past 20 years, I am training members of the three force on what to do in an emergency and accident situation. When looking at the service I am carrying out now, the SLAVF has given an opportunity for me to share my knowledge and experience with fellow countrymen," she added. Medical Course Coordinator, General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University and Senior Lecturer in Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ruhuna, Colonel (Dr.) R. W. Seneviratne who has been a member of the Volunteer Force for the last 23 years, said he joined the Sri Lanka Army Medical Corps as a Captain during the pre-intern period after completing a training period as a probationary officer in 1991.

He said it was a volunteer force as the name implied. "They had a fatherly attitude regarding juniors like myself. I felt at home. I was totally impressed by my trainer (Course Officer) Major Anton Edema, a member of the famous military family. Major Edema was a Charted Chemist at Sri Lanka Standards Institute in civil life and seemed to know everything about the military from history, tactics to logistics," he said. "When I was first attached to the recruiting team, I met Lt. Colonel LDS Kariyawasam, the recruiting officer of the Volunteer Force, a senior surveyor. The Volunteer Force was commanded by General Panabokke, a lawyer in civil life with Colonel NPD Pelpola, an owner of a transport business as his deputy. They both ended up as Major Generals. Volunteer Medical Corps was commanded by Colonel RC Rajapaksa, the Director of Sri Jayawardenapura Hospital with Colonel Bobby Dias, Professor of Physiology at University of Colombo as his second in command," he added.

He said: "Initially I was involved in the recruiting team traveling in border villages and enlisting soldiers for the initial Sri Lanka National Guard Battalions. I was participating under the medical officer roster to Palaly. In 1993, I left to England to do postgraduate degree. After completing FRCS, I came back for a four months stint in late 1996 when I served in Jaffna and Batticaloa and was promoted to the rank of Major. I went back to UK in January 1997 and completed my Master of Trauma Surgery from the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom obtaining Peter London Gold Medal for the best thesis. Coming back to Sri Lanka in April 1999, I served until 2004 while taking time off to serve in my civil employment as a lecturer in surgery at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Ruhuna and also to complete local training requirements of my postgraduate training. I was demobilized in 2004 and went back to my civil occupation. During this period I was a surgeon in Jaffna during most of the operations including Unceasing Wave, Battle for Elephant Pass, Kinihira and Agnikeela. In late 2006, I went to UK for further Postgraduate Surgical training and returned to Sri Lanka in August 2008. I was immediately promoted to the post of senior lecturer in surgery at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Ruhuna. After returning to Sri Lanka, I was mobilized on the Army's request as doctors were needed during the last stages of the war.

From its early beginning as a small force in 1896, the SLAVF has grown to 103 battalions consisting of 2,322 officers and 61,088 other ranks deployed in the field.

Currently, a number of professionals including 15 medical doctors, 88 civil and mechanical engineers, 20 legal officers, 19 accountants, 10 agriculture officers, 10 physiotherapists and 30 English instructors are working for the SLAVF. Among them, seven University academics who joined the SLAVF are also performing their duties at the Kotelawala Defence University. In the aftermath of the war, the military has today undertaken Sri Lanka's key economic development projects and more contributions were made by the engineering battalions for these projects. Most of these projects are directly handled by the Engineering Services Regiment (ESR) where the majority consist of the volunteers. Over 14,000 SLAVF members in the ESR are currently handling many mega construction projects including the Colombo Racecourse Building, new Military Headquarters complex in Battaramulla, beautification work around the Parliament area, reconstruction work in Pettah under the Colombo modernization and the beautification project.