Monday, March 12, 2007

Tribute to Major General Hamangoda - A noble death for a noble cause

A valiant officer's sudden loss is irreparable to his motherland and its natives, in the sense that the making of a fully-fledged soldier itself is not only a question of time, but also a process for embodiment of many other factors such as proper command, decision-making, valour, strategy, values, etc. to name a few.

The Army, in its lifespan of over 50 years while simultaneously transforming itself to be one of the most challenging and battle-hardened professional outfits, deviating from its former ceremonial role, hitherto perhaps remains the only organ that has so far produced the finest assortment of military leaders for the country, fondly remembered by right-thinking countrymen in all corners of our country. They certainly laid down their lives for others, and to make our tomorrow better.

Ten years seems such a long time, and yet the memories of our protagonist, Major General Ananda Sri Sisira Kumara Hamangoda USP Msc Psc, popularly called, 'Ananda' is vivid among many of his associates and fellow military men who used to admire him as a source of strength and inspiration.

Major General Hamangoda's sudden demise on July 4, 1996 following an LTTE suicide attack with several other soldiers in the heart of Jaffna was a great loss not only to his Sri Lanka Artillery Regiment, his wife and children, but also to his motherland, for whose territorial integrity he fought along with his troops. For all his companions, he was that so-called 'jolly good fellow' who was sober and exceptionally decent.

My close association with General Hamangoda, though he was senior to me, dates back to our good old days in school at Kurunegala Maliyadeva College in the early 1970s, where General Ananda excelled in many spheres as sportsman, student leader, house-captain, senior cadet, and more importantly, as the school's best orator, thus bringing fame to our Alma Mater.

Budding Ananda was exemplary, energetic, innovative, admired and often picked by our Principals and teachers alike as a role model for the school. He was the captain for the school's badminton team in 1971 and in the same year he won the Gold Medal for overall best performance in the school. We, as juniors in the college looked up to him with respect as a prefect, beacon of hope and a guiding light.

His exit from the college saw his enlistment to the Sri Lanka Army (Regular Force) as cadet officer in 1973 and to receive his commission later on as a Second Lieutenant in the 4th Regiment of Sri Lanka Artillery. From that stage onwards, the Second Lieutenant Hamangoda turned Lieutenant in 1976, Captain in 1979, Major in 1983, Lieutenant Colonel in 1990, Colonel in 1994 and finally Brigadier on 15th November 1995 before he suddenly departed us. His reach to the mantle of his career was only through his commitment to the cause and his brilliant approach to situations, no matter what it got to be.

The warrior, Ananda was posthumously promoted to the rank of Major General after his supreme sacrifice in 1996 in recognition of his achievements.

His illustrious, dedicated and exemplary career in the Army was not without productive results or cherished memories. For two years (1981-1983) he served as Adjutant for his own 4th Regiment of Sri Lanka Artillery before he was posted to the Staff Officer appointment in the 5th Regiment of Sri Lanka Artillery (Volunteer) for about two years.

With the rapid expansion of the Army, he on his own initiative raised a new Field Battery in the newly founded 6th Regiment of Sri Lanka Artillery and became its first Battery Commander.

Afterwards he was also appointed the first Second in Command in the newly raised 7th Light Artillery Regiment in November 1988, particularly taking stock of his excellent and extensive knowledge on Artillery, and his wide experience in the battlefield.

His dedication towards the Artillery Regiment, judged by all what he did, was commendable and has gone on record as a warrior who rendered a yeoman service to the Regiment with the help of his ocean of knowledge and experience.His distinguished tenure of service spanning about 23 years covered almost every corner of our beloved motherland, including war-torn operational areas in the north and east. He was an arch-enemy to separatists.

His expertise derived from various professional study courses, both at home and abroad, needless to mention, kept him in good stead and served him very well in his pursuit of professionalism in all of his undertakings.

Until his supreme sacrifice, Major General Hamangoda braved relentlessly to defend the territorial integrity of this island-nation with thousands of his fellow troops amidst enemy fire, on many occasions, even at the risk of his own life.

Needless to say, his warfare was professional and needed elaborate planning. His proven ability to execute operations after meticulous hard work and subsequent successful launch of them against the enemy came in for high praise of his superiors, and his enthusiastic valour was therefore well recognised with the conferment of medals such as Uttama Seva Padakkama (USP), Long Service Medal for Sri Lanka Armed Forces, Vadamarachchi Operations Medal, President's Accession Medal and Poornabhumi Padakkama, to cite a few.

His sporting prowess in cricket, volleyball as well as in boxing contributed immensely to the promotion of sports activities in the Army while helping the Army to produce a number of Army sportsmen of national and international standards. Thanks to his selfless commitment, all those projects are still on. Major General A. S. S. K. Hamangoda remains close to the hearts of his fellow schoolmates as a character par excellence that symbolised many, a talented and brave officer to all Army personnel, and not least, a wonderful husband and father to his bereaved family, Mrs. Indrani Hamangoda, son Dulshan and his daughters Buweni and Maheshani.

As Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery once quipped, "The good General is the one who wins his battles with the fewest possible casualties," late Major General Hamangoda, as one of the Army's best products during the most critical junctures of our recent history, fulfilled his sacred mission to the best of his ability and for the greater benefit of our society. His sense of humour, rich with vituperative jokes brought his associates closer to him whenever and wherever they met, no matter what the occasion was.

Such was his simplicity amidst a gathering of his friends and others because General Ananda wanted to be fair by all at all times, in spite of his formal ranks.

So, farewell, dear Sir until we meet again in this journey of Samsara. May you attain supreme bliss of Nibbana!

-Bgdr DR

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