It has taken me six months to muster enough courage and get into the right frame of mind to pen a few lines in memory of my late father, Major General (Retd) Duleep Justin De Silva Wickremanayake psc. rcds.
My father passed away peacefully in Sydney, Australia on September 29, 2017. He lived a life full of joy, happiness, care and integrity. Thatha would always remark that his biggest achievement and best asset in life was his family. He loved his wife, his children, grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Although we were blessed to have our father with us for 87 years, my father never enjoyed the love of his own father. My grandfather, Justin De Silva Wickremanayake, passed away when Thatha was only 10 months old. After his demise, my very young grandmother, Violet De Silva Wickremanayake, remarried a wonderful man who became a surrogate father to Thatha. Kaleani Seeya, Uyanage Robinson De Silva as we used to call him, was a gentleman who made sure Thatha never felt the loss of his father. He ensured his love and support to Thatha at all times.
Thatha, as I see your smiling face looking down at me across my work desk, my heart is heavy with pain and my eyes are filled with love and admiration for you
Despite the loss of his father at such a young age, Thatha was an absolute role model when it came to fatherhood. He was a great provider, mentor and motivator for all of his children. We were fortunate to grow up under the love and guidance of our father and mother. We enjoyed our younger days roaming carefree around the various Army quarters in Panagoda and Diyatalawa. Thatha ensured we learnt the basics and encouraged us to follow our dreams and passion in whatever we did. Thatha made sure we grew up appreciating what we had and instilled in all of us the values of humility, respect, honesty, integrity and above all, love.
Thatha enjoyed his life but always made sure we were taken care of. We were never left wanting for anything, as he would make sure we had everything we needed.
As for every child, to me my father is my hero and he could do no wrong. I remember waiting for him to come home so I could try his uniform and walk around the Army quarters parading in my father’s cap and uniform tunic top. I am sure my mother would agree that it’s an understatement to say I was a handful when I was growing up. As a result, my mother would pack me off to the camp for the day with my father on most days, also whenever he visited outstation camps. I loved it! Thatha was a great host and he took good care of me allowing me to roam around the camp under the watchful eye of his driver or a nominated soldier. Needless to say, they took good care of me and the highlight of the day was riding in the back of Army trucks, watching the parades and of course having lunch at the Army Officers Mess.
These are some of my most cherished memories which contributed to me wanting to emulate my father and follow his footsteps in joining the Sri Lanka Army.
This dream came true when I joined the Sri Lanka Army in March 1984 as a young Officer Cadet with my father’s blessings, encouragement and support. Unfortunately, I left early and I am sure, although my father never said it, he was happy to see me do well in my chosen field; though he would have liked to have seen me as a senior officer in the Sri Lankan Army.
Thatha was a fierce fighter for justice and he fought and won many benefits still enjoyed by our gallant officers and soldiers in the Army
My father unconditionally loved his Army, his regiment (4th Artillery) and everything to do with the Army. Thatha was the ultimate officer and gentleman who was renowned for his no-nonsense approach, logical thinking, dedication, loyalty and calmness. Recently, I met a retired Army General who was full of praise for Thatha and referred to him as their God at the time. This was because of the trust they had in my father as a man who always did the right thing by everyone. This officer was not alone, as we have had many touching tributes paid to my father during and after the funeral by many retired and serving senior Army officers and others.
As a family, we were immensely proud of Thatha and his many achievements during his distinguished career at Ananda College, in the Army and in Australia. He was a humble man who, after leaving Sri Lanka, managed to join the Veteran Affairs Department in Australia. Thatha was sharp and intelligent; he used to get 100 out of 100 for most of the public-sector exams he participated in at the department. As a result, he rose to the top as one of the highest ranking public service officials. In my view, this simple act showed great character for a man of his stature to pursue another career after a stellar 29-year career with the Sri Lankan Army. He showed us that nothing is impossible and Thatha worked till he was 65 years old; the official retirement age in Australia.
This article is not intended to highlight my father’s many accomplishments. As his son, it is simply my way of expressing the love and gratitude I have for my father and to help us with the grieving process in coming to terms with the loss of such a wonderful husband and father.
Having said that, I want to conclude this article with a small reminder of the type of man my father was and how respected he was as an Officer and a Gentleman.
Thatha was a fierce fighter for justice and he fought and won many benefits still enjoyed by our gallant officers and soldiers in the Army. In fact, at my father’s funeral, the following was mentioned in the Part 1 Order issued by the Adjutant General of the Army (my friend and batch mate Major General Shavendra Silva) and which, in my view, encapsulates what a brilliant man my father was.
“Maj. General Wickremanayake was a source of encouragement and inspiration to the Officers and Other Ranks of the Army. He was always held in high esteem by his peers and colleagues for his absolute integrity and honesty. His name is written in the history of the Regiment of Artillery as the 5th Commanding Officer of the 4th Field Regiment of Sri Lanka Artillery. Apart from that he commanded the Corps of Military Police as the 3rd Commanding Officer of the 1st Ceylon Corps of Military Police. He, as the Director Personnel Administration and Director Operations and Training of the Army had enormously contributed in formulating many Training Programmes, Regulations and Orders for the smooth functioning of the Army. Further, his visionary thinking as a field commander and a principal staff officer, contributed immensely to uplift the state of morale and wellbeing of the members of the Army”
Thatha was the ultimate officer and gentleman who was renowned for his no-nonsense approach, logical thinking, dedication, loyalty and calmness
Thatha, as I see your smiling face looking down at me across my work desk, my heart is heavy with pain and my eyes are filled with love and admiration for you. I want you to know that you were and will always be my hero! Thatha, I wish I was half the man you were and I, along with Amma, Roshan Aiya, Deso Akki, Ingi Akki and Hiran will miss you and remember you every day for the rest of our lives.
Thank you for making me the man I am today and the life you provided for us.
“May you Attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana”
Your loving son Dinesh
Dinesh Wickremanayake, Managing Director, WNS Global Services, Sri Lanka