The Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka (INSSSL) launched an Annual Memorial Lecture Series in honour of Lieutenant General Denzil Lakshman Kobbekaduwa.
The inaugural lecture in the series was delivered by General G.H. de Silva (Rtd.), on the ‘Life and Times of Lt. Gen. Kobbekaduwa in the contemporary context’, on December 8th 2017, from 3:00p.m. to 5:00p.m., at INSS premises - Suhrupaya Auditorium (19th Floor).
The event was graced by the Secretary of Defence Kapila Waidyaratne P.C, Secretary - State Ministry of Defence, Sunil Samaraweera, Lalini Kobbekaduwa and family, Commander of the Army Lt. Gen. N.U. M.M.W. Senanayake, Retired Senior Military Officers, distinguished military officers, members of the diplomatic core, civilian scholars and academia.
On behalf of INSS, Director General Asanga Abeyagoonasekera delivered the opening remarks. He stated the motivation behind launching this event in honour of Gen. Kobbekaduwa: “To invoke the memory of a great military strategist and discuss an important strategic topic for our nation.” In this regard, he thanked President Maithripala Sirisena of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka for establishing INSS, as the first civilian-military national security think tank. “It is fitting that we can bring together both the military and civilians to honour this valiant military strategist.”
An ‘In Memorium’ video of the life and times of Gen. Kobbekaduwa was shown to the audience in an attempt to delve into the past of this stoic military strategist. Thereafter, Lalini Kobbekaduwa garlanded the portrait of her late husband Gen. Kobbekaduwa. The opening remarks were then delivered by the Secretary of Defence Kapila Waidyaratne P.C.. As the Chairman of INSS, the Secretary stated that: “It was of utmost importance to reflect upon the visionary legacy and strategic depth in forging a military strategy for our country during the war years.” The Secretary addressed the defence establishment in the audience stating that: “The best blood of the land here should be encouraged to follow in the steps of their illustrious predecessors.”
Thereafter, the speaker - General Gerry de Silva (Rtd.) took the stage to deliver his lecture on his friend and comrade Gen. Kobbekaduwa. He was introduced by Brigadier Sri Mudannayake who is providing a volunteer service at INSS. The aim of the lecture was to do justice to the memory of a fallen war hero as well as commemorate his legacy and his strategic thinking on the battlefield. The lecture began with a foray into General Denzil Kobbekaduwa’s early childhood and adolescence gathered from military records. General de Silva illustrated how Gen. Kobbekaduwa rose to prominence in the military - surpassing records in promotion that were “unprecedented in the annals of recent Sri Lankan military history.” General de Silva explained that in 1989 Gen. Kobbekaduwa received another rare honour in that he attended the Royal College of Defence Studies in England and became the only Sri Lankan Army officer to be trained entirely in the UK, commencing with his officer cadet training in Sandhurst, followed by the Technical Transport officers course, the Young Officers course of the Armoured Corps in Bovington and the Staff College course in Camberley.
According to General De Silva, this training and Gen. Kobbekaduwa’s character building during the early war years, contributed to “the acquisition of a dominant Battle Space Knowledge,” which was invaluable during the formidable challenge that lay ahead in terms of the height of the armed conflict. Gen. Kobbekaduwa’s “foresight, approach, and ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking brought the desired results for success in all endeavors.” This was no more apparent than in the major combat operations that Gen. Kobbekaduwa conducted against armed Tamil Militancy since July 23rd 1983 (Black Friday).
General De Silva, having served alongside Gen. Kobbekaduwa, stated that he was of the personal opinion that Operation ‘Balavegaya’ was the crowning glory in the battlespan of Gen. Kobbekaduwa. He elaborated that during this combat operation Gen. Kobbekaduwa coordinated a total of 6000 soldiers and “true to his military character projected his strategic and tactical acumen to its finest, which in the end brought victory.” It is this strategic depth that led others to observe that “Kobbekaduwa was a person who could obtain maximum advantage from minimum resources and was therefore known as an excellent strategist.”
Despite his untimely demise at Araly Point in the Kayts island on August 8th 1992, Gen. Kobbekaduwa’s legacy still lives on today. This legacy not only encompasses his strategic acumen, but rather General de Silva was able to enlighten the audience on “the Hearts and Minds” approach of Gen. Kobbekaduwa in battle, which showcased his leadership from the heart. This was evidenced by the fact that Gen. Kobbekaduwa “was trusted, admired and highly respected by Tamils of every political tincture for his sterling qualities of fairplay, honesty and integrity.” It is what made the lecture so edifying. General de Silva was able to capture the essence of Gen. Kobekkaduwa’s character and illustrate it in a contemporary context for the next generation or the armed forces to garner valuable knowledge from.