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Denzil Kobbekaduwa

Denzil Kobbekaduwa

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Lieutenant General
Lieutenant General
Lieutenant General is a military rank used in many countries. The rank traces its origins to the Middle Ages where the title of Lieutenant General was held by the second in command on the battlefield, who was normally subordinate to a Captain General....

 Denzil Lakshman Kobbekaduwa
RWP
Rana Wickrama Padakkama
The Rana Wickrama Padakkama medal and bar are presented to Sri Lankan military officers and other ranks as a reward for individual or allied acts of heroism in facing the enemy and performed of their own accord.-How medal awarded:It is ordained that the decoration shall be granted to all ranks of...

, RSP
Rana Sura Padakkama
The Rana Sura Padakkama is a medal presented to members of all ranks of the Military of Sri Lanka for individual and/or associated acts of heroism in facing the enemy and performed of their own accord. The decoration is presented by the President of Sri Lanka...

, VSV
Vishista Seva Vibhushanaya
The Vishista Seva Vibhushanaya medal and bar are presented to Sri Lankan senior military officers of three services, given that their loyal service is of not less than 25 years and possess a perfectly flawless record of moral and military conduct, will be appropriate for the award...

, USP
Uttama Seva Padakkama
The Uttama Seva Padakkama is presented to all ranks of the Regular Forces of the Sri Lankan military for valuable service and dedication to duty with the outstanding ability, merit and excellent conduct, given that they count not less than 15 years continuous and uninterrupted service and possess...

, rcds, psc, SLAC
Sri Lanka Armoured Corps
The Sri Lanka Armoured Corps is currently a collection of six regular regiments and a volunteer regiment. It has an independent Armoured Brigade and provides the armour capability of the Sri Lankan Army, with vehicles such as the T-55, T-55AM2, and Type 69 main battle tanks, the BMP infantry...

 (In Sinhalese: ) (July 27, 1940 – August 8, 1992) was a highly decorated and respected General
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 in the Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

 army
Sri Lankan Army
The Sri Lanka Army is the oldest and largest of the Sri Lanka Armed Forces and is responsible for land-based military and humanitarian operations. Established as the Ceylon Army in 1949, it was renamed when Sri Lanka became a republic in 1972...

. He was assassinated along with 9 other military officers in a land-mine explosion.

Early life


Born into a typically Kandyan family, the second child and eldest of three sons, Kobbekaduwa was educated at Trinity College Kandy. At school he excelled in sports, especially rugby football
Rugby union
Rugby union, often simply referred to as rugby, is a full contact team sport which originated in England in the early 19th century. One of the two codes of rugby football, it is based on running with the ball in hand...

, playing as scrum half. He continued to play even after he had joined the army. He also played rugby football for Sri Lanka, and coached, refereed and administered the game on a national level. He was also a Board member of the Duncan White
Duncan White
Duncan White, MBE was the first Sri Lankan athlete to win a medal for his country in an Olympic event. He won a silver in the 400-metre hurdles at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, England...

 Sports Foundation.

Military career


Lt. General Kobbekaduwa joined the army in May 1960 and received his training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst
Royal Military Academy Sandhurst
The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst , commonly known simply as Sandhurst, is a British Army officer initial training centre located in Sandhurst, Berkshire, England...

 in England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. After returning to Sri Lanka, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant
Second Lieutenant
Second lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer military rank in many armed forces.- United Kingdom and Commonwealth :The rank second lieutenant was introduced throughout the British Army in 1871 to replace the rank of ensign , although it had long been used in the Royal Artillery, Royal...

 in the 1st Reconnaissance Regiment of the Sri Lanka Armoured Corps
Sri Lanka Armoured Corps
The Sri Lanka Armoured Corps is currently a collection of six regular regiments and a volunteer regiment. It has an independent Armoured Brigade and provides the armour capability of the Sri Lankan Army, with vehicles such as the T-55, T-55AM2, and Type 69 main battle tanks, the BMP infantry...

. Although the army
Sri Lankan Army
The Sri Lanka Army is the oldest and largest of the Sri Lanka Armed Forces and is responsible for land-based military and humanitarian operations. Established as the Ceylon Army in 1949, it was renamed when Sri Lanka became a republic in 1972...

 was more a parade ground army at that time, Lt. General Kobbekaduwa was to see it turned into a well trained, battle hardened and disciplined army. Lt. Kobbekaduwa was well liked both by his superiors, peers, and subordinates, and his promotions within the army came swiftly, despite twice being a victim of political interdictions in 1977 and 1965 when he was sent on compulsory leave following an attempted coup d'état but was returned to active service in 1970. General Kobbekaduwa was a graduate of Royal College of Defence Studies
Royal College of Defence Studies
The Royal College of Defence Studies is an internationally-renowned institution and component of the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom...

  and the British Army Staff College at Camberley
Camberley
Camberley is a town in Surrey, England, situated 31 miles  southwest of central London, in the corridor between the M3 and M4 motorways. The town lies close to the borders of both Hampshire and Berkshire; the boundaries intersect on the western edge of the town where all three counties...

. He was promoted to Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 in 1990 and was posthumously promoted to Lieutenant General
Lieutenant General
Lieutenant General is a military rank used in many countries. The rank traces its origins to the Middle Ages where the title of Lieutenant General was held by the second in command on the battlefield, who was normally subordinate to a Captain General....

 in 1992.

Kobbekaduwa was an excellent strategist, who could obtain maximum advantage from minimum resources. Even the LTTE fighters respected Kobbekaduwa’s strategic skills and military tactics.

He was quoted as saying "Why should we let anyone else fight our war?" The IPKF, unhappy with his presence at the front, complained twice. His sense of justice made him realise that although the Tigers were all Tamil
Tamil people
Tamil people , also called Tamils or Tamilians, are an ethnic group native to Tamil Nadu, India and the north-eastern region of Sri Lanka. Historic and post 15th century emigrant communities are also found across the world, notably Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, South Africa, Australia, Canada,...

, this did not necessarily mean that all Tamils were LTTE. He wanted to win the confidence of the civilian population and make them realise that they were better off trusting the government army.

He was fighting an enemy who had a large stock of arms and an advanced military infrastructure with limited manpower and finances. This made it difficult to hold on to territory, subjugating the people of the area to a military rule while continuing to wage war against a guerrilla army.

He used three principles in his counter-insurgency
Counter-insurgency
A counter-insurgency or counterinsurgency involves actions taken by the recognized government of a nation to contain or quell an insurgency taken up against it...

 war measures: firstly, he did not believe in holding down land, secondly, he believed in drawing the enemy away from populated areas to minimise civilian deaths and with advance manoeuvring and superior fire power strain and destroy the enemy fire power, and thirdly make the civilians realise that they were better off trusting the armed forces. In fact, the UNHCR paid a tribute to him for his humanitarian approach to the beleaguered Tamil population.

Denzil Kobbekaduwa has been called an "exceptional Third World General". This is not to denigrate him but shows how good he was at carrying out a campaign under third world situations, where funds were limited and every resource had to be carefully nursed. It was Kobbekaduwa who in 1985 waged war with the LTTE on two fronts.

Operation Liberation



The “Operation Liberation” or “Vadamarachchi Operation”, the military offensive carried out by the Sri Lankan military during May to June 1987, to re-gain the territory of Vadamarachchi in Jaffana peninsula from the LTTE control. This military offensive marked in Sri Lankan military history as first ever engaged in conventional warfare in Sri Lankan soil after the British colonial rule.

Brigadier Denzil Kobbekaduwa and Colonel Vijaya Wimalaratne
Vijaya Wimalaratne
Major General Vijaya Wimalaratne RWP, RSP, VSV, USP, psc, GR was a Sri Lankan army officer and one of the most distinguished generals in Sri Lanka.-Education:...

 are the two key military personnel who committed themselves to gain the victory for the government troops. The President Mahinda Rajapaksa
Mahinda Rajapaksa
Percy Mahendra "Mahinda" Rajapaksa ; ; born November 18, 1945) is the 6th and current President of Sri Lanka and Commander in Chief of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. A lawyer by profession, Rajapaksa was first elected to the Parliament of Sri Lanka in 1970, and served as prime minister from April 6,...

 government’s “Secretary of Defence” Gotabaya Rajapaksa then as a Major also participated in the military offensive along with them. Former Sri Lankan President J.R Jayewardene
Junius Richard Jayewardene
Junius Richard Jayewardene , famously abbreviated in Sri Lanka as JR, was the first executive President of Sri Lanka, serving from 1978 till 1989. He was a leader of the nationalist movement in Ceylon who served in a variety of cabinet positions in the decades following independence...

 and minister of National Security Lalith Athulathmudali
Lalith Athulathmudali
Lalith William Samarasekera Athulathmudali , PC was a Sri Lankan politician of the United National Party and former Cabinet Minister of Trade, National Security, Agriculture, Education and deputy minister of defence.-Early life and teaching career:Born to a family of Lawyers, his...

 held the political leadership for the operation until the government of India violated the Sri Lankan air space using the Indian air force
Indian Air Force
The Indian Air Force is the air arm of the Indian armed forces. Its primary responsibility is to secure Indian airspace and to conduct aerial warfare during a conflict...

 to drop food over Jaffna (Operation Poomalai
Operation Poomalai
Operation Poomalai or Eagle Mission 4 was the codename assigned to a mission undertaken by the Indian Air Force to airdrop supplies over the besieged town of Jaffna in Sri Lanka on 4 June 1987 in support of Tamil Tigers during the Sri Lankan Civil War....

) on June 4, 1987, which forced the government to accept Indo-Lanka Peace accord.

The offensive started on May 26, 1987 under the leadership of two commanders battalion consisting around 8,000 troops from “Gemunu Watch
Gemunu Watch
The Gemunu Watch was formed with troops from the Ceylon Light Infantry and the Ceylon Sinha Regiment in 1962. It has been deployed in many major operations against the LTTE. It is made up of 9 regular units and 4 volunteer units. Headquartered at Kuruwita Army Camp, Ratnapura...

” and “Gajaba Regiment
Gajaba Regiment
The Gajaba Regiment was formed when 1st Battalion the Rajarata Rifles and 1st Battalion the Vijayabahu Infantry Regiment were amalgamated in 1983 to counter the threat from the LTTE. It is made up of six regular battalions and five volunteer battalions. Headquartered at Saliyapura Camp, Anuradhapura...

”, supported by the Sri Lanka Air Force. The difficulty for the troops to out from Thondamanaru area because LTTE exploded the Thondamanaru bridge to delay the troops reaching Valvettithurai, the native place(home town) of LTTE leader Prabhakaran. On May 28, troops managed to capture Udupiddy and Valvettithurai, and another military column captured Nelliady and advanced towards Point Pedro without giving any possibility to re-grouping of the LTTE units. In the first week of June, troops managed to gain control over the entire zone and captured a large cache of arms left by LTTE. The military intelligence disclosed the LTTE leader Prabakaran along with Sea Tiger leader Soosai narrowly escaped from advancing troops.

Operation Balavegaya




One of the most famous victories executed by Lt. General Kobbekaduwa was the manner in which he broke the siege of Elephant Pass
First Battle of Elephant Pass
The First Battle of Elephant Pass was a battle fought in July 1991 for the control of the Sri Lankan military base of Elephant Pass, which was of strategic importance as it linked the northern mainland known as Wanni with the Jaffna Peninsula.-The battle:...

. Elephant pass has been known as "Alimankada" in historical times. The attack on the army camp at Alimankada (Elephant Pass
Elephant Pass
Elephant Pass, Northern Province, Sri Lanka is an important military base and formerly the island's largest salt field, located in the gateway of Jaffna Peninsula. It has thus regularly been the site of battles during the civil war....

), which was launched in July 1991 was planned by Prabhakaran himself who named it "Operation Charles Anthony". Charles Anthony, alias Seelan had been Prabhakaran’s closest ally and it was in retaliation for his death that the landmine which killed an officer and 12 young soldiers was set off in July 1983.

Prabhakaran even came out of hiding to visit the LTTE forward areas prior to launching the attack. Civilians were co-opted to man supply lines and hospitals and provide other services with all available transport being requisitioned and hundreds of coffins being stockpiled in readiness for the operation. The attack was launched with about 3000 personnel (men and women drawn from the North and East) but at the height of the battle this number rose to about 6000. The LTTE leader was willing to sacrifice anyone to win this location while he directed the attack himself from his hideout in Chavakachcheri.

The tactics used by Lt. General Kobbekaduwa in breaking this siege were unprecedented in the annals of Sri Lankan military history. Though the battle plans for Operation Balavegaya
Operation Balavegaya
Operation Balavegaya was a combined military operation launched by the Sri Lankan Military in Jaffna. It was the largest amphibious assault launched by the Sri Lankan Military in its history. Operation Balavegaya was launched in response to siege of Elephant Pass by the LTTE terrorists...

 one was drawn up at the Joint Operations headquarters in Colombo
Colombo
Colombo is the largest city of Sri Lanka. It is located on the west coast of the island and adjacent to Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte, the capital of Sri Lanka. Colombo is often referred to as the capital of the country, since Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte is a satellite city of Colombo...

 the execution of these plans was in the hands of Lt. General Kobbekaduwa.

With no tanks and heavy armour
Armour
Armour or armor is protective covering used to prevent damage from being inflicted to an object, individual or a vehicle through use of direct contact weapons or projectiles, usually during combat, or from damage caused by a potentially dangerous environment or action...

, 8000 men were deployed for the rescue mission to relieve the besieged camp and regain territory captured by the LTTE. This was an amphibious operation backed with helicopters carrying troops. Lt. General Kobbekaduwa was in the landing craft
Landing craft
Landing craft are boats and seagoing vessels used to convey a landing force from the sea to the shore during an amphibious assault. Most renowned are those used to storm the beaches of Normandy, the Mediterranean, and many Pacific islands during WWII...

 leading his men from the front, taking the same risks as his men.

The resistance was so intense that some battalion
Battalion
A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel...

 commanders were considering aborting the operation temporarily. Lt. General Kobbekaduwa wanted to go ahead. In this he was supported by Brigadier
Brigadier
Brigadier is a senior military rank, the meaning of which is somewhat different in different military services. The brigadier rank is generally superior to the rank of colonel, and subordinate to major general....

 Vijaya Wimalaratne
Vijaya Wimalaratne
Major General Vijaya Wimalaratne RWP, RSP, VSV, USP, psc, GR was a Sri Lankan army officer and one of the most distinguished generals in Sri Lanka.-Education:...

, who died in the same bomb blast at Araly Point. Despite heavy enemy firepower, the taskforce established a beachhead at Veralakuruna (Vettilaikerny).

The Adampan (Attampana) operation is one such instance. Here the armed forces waged a two prong attack one in the south-eastern entrance of Madhu Adampan base region while the main thrust was in the north western sector. It was only later the LTTE realised that while their forces were engaged the army had interdicted their supply lines in the area where the Mannar coast was linked to the jungle base of the Wanni.

Death



On August 8, 1992 Maj. General Kobbekaduwa, General Officer Commanding
General Officer Commanding
General Officer Commanding is the usual title given in the armies of Commonwealth nations to a general officer who holds a command appointment. Thus, a general might be the GOC II Corps or GOC 7th Armoured Division...

 Northern Sector
Northern Province, Sri Lanka
The Northern Province is one of the 9 provinces of Sri Lanka. The provinces have existed since the 19th century but did not have any legal status until 1987 when the 13th Amendment to the 1978 Constitution of Sri Lanka established provincial councils. Between 1988 and 2006 the province was...

, Brigadier (posthumously Major General) Vijaya Wimalaratne
Vijaya Wimalaratne
Major General Vijaya Wimalaratne RWP, RSP, VSV, USP, psc, GR was a Sri Lankan army officer and one of the most distinguished generals in Sri Lanka.-Education:...

, Jaffna Brigade Commander and Commodore
Commodore (rank)
Commodore is a military rank used in many navies that is superior to a navy captain, but below a rear admiral. Non-English-speaking nations often use the rank of flotilla admiral or counter admiral as an equivalent .It is often regarded as a one-star rank with a NATO code of OF-6, but is not always...

 (posthumously Rear Admiral) Mohan Jayamaha, Commander Northern Naval Area were killed when the Land Rover
Land Rover
Land Rover is a British car manufacturer with its headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire, United Kingdom which specialises in four-wheel-drive vehicles. It is owned by the Indian company Tata Motors, forming part of their Jaguar Land Rover group...

 they were traveling in was destroyed by a land mine
Land mine
A land mine is usually a weight-triggered explosive device which is intended to damage a target—either human or inanimate—by means of a blast and/or fragment impact....

 blast. Seven others were killed in the explosion, including Lt. Colonels G.H. Ariyaratne, A. Palipahana, H.R. Stephen, all three battalion commanders, Lieutenant Commander Asanga Lankathilaka, Lieutenant Commander C.B Wijepura and Major N.S. De Alwis, General Kobbekaduwa's ADC
Aide-de-camp
An aide-de-camp is a personal assistant, secretary, or adjutant to a person of high rank, usually a senior military officer or a head of state...

.

They were planning an offensive code named "Operation Final Countdown" to liberate the northern peninsula from the LTTE, which was to be launched shortly. The final decision was delayed until they could reconnoiter in a particular area to finalise troop movements, which required a visit to Araly point the next day. As they were returning to be taken back to the base by helicopter, the incident occurred.

An explosion was heard by two Major
Major
Major is a rank of commissioned officer, with corresponding ranks existing in almost every military in the world.When used unhyphenated, in conjunction with no other indicator of rank, the term refers to the rank just senior to that of an Army captain and just below the rank of lieutenant colonel. ...

s who were watching the Land Rover
Land Rover
Land Rover is a British car manufacturer with its headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire, United Kingdom which specialises in four-wheel-drive vehicles. It is owned by the Indian company Tata Motors, forming part of their Jaguar Land Rover group...

 jeep in which the three military leaders were traveling. Majors Rupasinghe and Induruwa were 400 yards away from the jeep. When they came running up, they found that except for two persons, the others, whose bodies were mutilated, had died instantaneously.

The officer's wife, Lali Kobbekaduwa, called for an international commission into the incident. This was not granted, but the Sri Lankan Government set up their own commission to investigate.

A Presidential Commission carried out by the Sri Lankan Government concluded that the President Ranasinghe Premadasa as well as members of the Sri Lankan Army such as Major W A N M Weerasinghe were "directly responsible" for his death.

Further reading

  • Army, Sri Lanka. (1st Edition - October 1999). "50 YEARS ON" - 1949-1999, Sri Lanka Army. ISBN 995-8089-02-8
  • War and Peace in Sri Lanka: With a Post-Accord Report From Jaffna. ISBN 9552600014/ISBN 978-9552600012, Institute of Fundamental Studies, Sri Lanka; 1 edition (October 1, 1987), By Rohan Gunaratna
    Rohan Gunaratna
    Rohan Gunaratna is an international terrorism expert. He is the head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research ] at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore...

    .
  • The Broken Palmyra - The Tamil Crisis in Sri Lanka: An Inside Account. The Sri Lanka Studies Institute, Claremont 1990. By Hoole, R., Somasundaram, D., Sritharan K., and Rajini Thiranagama. (Also available online http://www.uthr.org/BP/Content.htm.)
  • Indian intervention in Sri Lanka: The role of India's intelligence agencies. ISBN 9559519905/ISBN 978-9559519904, South Asian Network on Conflict Research (1993), By Rohan Gunaratna
    Rohan Gunaratna
    Rohan Gunaratna is an international terrorism expert. He is the head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research ] at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore...

    .

External links