We have no intention of lessening attention on the vital issue of National security

12 April 2015 06:37 pm - 3     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Speech delivered by State Minister for Defence Ruwan Wijewardene on the 118th Birth Anniversary of General Sir John Kotelawala marked at the Kotelawala Defence University


s a former Prime Minister, General Sir John Kotelawala was one of the most brave, honest, capable and benevolent leaders in the modern political history of our country. He had faced many challenges in his life and he faced them fearlessly. He had the great quality of benevolence, a quality that is alien to most present day politicians. It is my belief that this very place that I am addressing you is a good example that reflects this quality.  
Most people who are aware of the political history of the late Prime Minister Sir John Kotelawala have a wrong impression of him. He was a leader who always considered what he could do for the country rather than what he can gain from the country.  
I think that a strong reason that would have influenced this feeling in him would be his stint in the army as an officer. There is much that can be taken from his life for the present day politicians, students and the future generations alike. The qualities of the late Prime Minister encompassed traits that show the correct path that a politician should take, ways of facing challenges and achieving objectives.





It is fair to say that Sir John as a politician was sometimes misunderstood by his peers and by the press. His sharp tongue and his direct approach to dealing with certain situations can be seen as the cause of this misunderstanding. His confrontation with the Chinese premier Chou En-Lai at the Bandung Conference is an example of his direct approach. It was his passion for his country, for democracy and freedom that drove him to be so vocal and direct. In his autobiography ‘An Asian Prime Minister’s Story’ he says “The preservation of peace, freedom and democracy is a major problem confronting world statesmen of today. To me freedom does not mean merely the end of foreign domination. It means the freedom of mind and spirit. I believe that the first defence against the forces that would destroy this freedom must be an economic defence.”





Sir John faced many difficulties early in his life. The loss of his father in those early years placed a heavy economic burden on the Kothalawala family.
Though Sir John lost his father as a child there is no doubt that the few years he had with his father made a great impact on the young boy. His father, John senior was a patriot, a leader of the temperance movement and a vocal critic of the British colonial rule. He was not afraid to use his fists to settle an argument. This, I believe laid the foundation for young Sir John’s own thoughts on colonialism that in his later years as a young politician made him a prominent leader of the struggle for Independence.





However, it was to his mother that he turned for guidance, in his book he goes on to say “Without a father to guide me in my formative years, I looked to my mother alone for help and advice in every difficulty. Her strength of character and sagacity were great influences in shaping my career. She could understand everything, and forgive much. It is from her that I have learnt tolerance, and the importance of tackling every difficult situation with courage and determination.”
But it was another who Sir John looked upon as a role model, and that was the great patriot F.R. Senanyake. F.R was as we all know the elder brother of D.S. Senanayake, the father of our nation. F.R was the driving force behind the struggle for independence from British colonial rule, and his influence and thoughts had a direct impact on the moulding of Sir John’s character. The reason I speak on his early life is because we can measure a character of a man by who he associates with and with whom he looked upon for guidance and direction, and it is clear by the role models he had in his early life made Sir John an exemplary politician who was passionate about serving his country.





In his time studying in London, he saw with his very own eyes the devastation that was brought upon Europe during the 2nd World War. It was during this time that he  realised how important it was to have an army to safeguard the national security of his country. He felt that it was his duty to serve his country at this pressing time and joined the Ceylon Light Infantry as soon as he finished his studies. He was an exemplary soldier and rose to the rank of Colonel. He regarded national security as paramount, but his passion to see his kinsmen released from servitude from their colonial rulers set him on the path of politics. In his own words Sir john says “I felt that not only had we to make the people of Ceylon politically minded with a view to obtaining self-government, but it was just as important to make them military minded, with a view to instilling a sense of discipline into them and making them prepared for any sacrifice they would be called upon to make.”





This was why Sir John gifted this nation the Kothalawala Defence University. Today the Kotelawala Defence University has won accolades both nationally and internationally as the premier defence university in Sri Lanka.
As you know, during the thirty year long conflict the role-played by the brave war heroes of the Kotelawala Defence University alumni was exceptional. I believe that this freedom we enjoy now was made easy to achieve due to the far sighted thinking of Sir John Kotelawala in pioneering to facilitate defence education in the country. At a time when his 118th birth anniversary is being celebrated, you, as students of this University have an obligation to get a proper education in keeping with national requirements.
 


"Most people who are aware of the political history of the late Prime Minister Sir John Kotelawala have a wrong impression of him. He was a leader who always considered what he could do to the country rather than what he can gain from the country"




This hallowed precinct is a place that instills in you the value of generosity.
You have been provided with an aim to gather knowledge and discipline in an esteemed educational institution.
By attaining your aims you will be able to pay tribute to your motherland on the one hand and to the late Prime Minister Sir John Kotelawala on the other.  I am greatly pleased to see the development of the Kotelawala Defence University.
As a south Asian nation it makes us proud to see that this seat of learning has developed into a university where Degrees in Defence Management to PHD’s can be obtained.  





We, as a government that is passing a transitional period have no intention of lessening attention on the vital issue of security.  Because both developed and developing countries in the world consider national security a vital issue. There exists a requirement to further streamline the education of such universities in order to achieve objectives in ensuring the safety of all races and national security concerns.
The gradual growth of the Kotelawala Defence University is a blessing to the future of our nation. Paying attention to Defence sciences and management is as important as combat expertise. It is through education that a nation could achieve its targets.
Today the whole world is in a competitive environment.





I wish that all of you be able to maintain the highest honor in the defence sphere by receiving the knowledge that rests with developed nations and a modern world. In conclusion I would like to pay tribute to the late Prime Minister on whose generosity this institution exists today and also to the great-war heroes who laid their lives to eradicate the menace of terrorism by bringing the peace that we enjoy today.
Before I finish my speech I would like to leave you with one last quote from Sir John’s autobiography. I believe you as students and I as a politician can learn from these words. “I aim at being fair as well as frank in this record of my memories. It is not my intention to embarrass friends or hurt foes. If my candour has been restrained by kindness, it is because I believe in gaining the goodwill of all. I have forgotten nothing, but I can forgive everything. And I hope I have learned a lot.”
 
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  Comments - 3

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  • Mason Wednesday, 15 April 2015 11:37 AM

    A great patriot and brook no nonsense gentleman. Long live your memory.

    Sameen Jan Monday, 13 April 2015 07:42 AM

    Was his father a jail bird

    Nimal Saturday, 18 April 2015 12:01 AM

    Greatest Sri Lankan ever lived.


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