July 11, 2020
On the night of July 11, 1990, Lt. Aladeniya was given orders to abandon the camp and withdraw but he refused to as majority of his soldiers were badly injured and unable to move. He requested the able soldiers to withdraw, leaving him with the injured.
"Don't worry sir, I will fight till I die." These were his last words to the Vanni HQ.
On May 18, 1990, the 3rd Battalion of the Sinha Regiment was called to take over Mankulam. One of its companies with three officers were sent to Mankulam and two officers, including second Lieutenant Saliya Aladeniya and 60 soldiers were deployed to guard the Rupavahini relay station at Kokavil.
The LTTE attacked the Mankulam camp on June 5, but the soldiers were able to counter the attack and kill over 40 LTTE cadres while the terrorists kept on attacking both places as they were strategically important locations.
The officer-in-charge of the Kokavil camp and fifteen other soldiers were on leave as a ceasefire was on from June 16, but the LTTE, which always dishonoured ceasefire agreements, had gradually surrounded Mankulam and Kokavil.
The task of facing the LTTE to save the Kokavil camp had fallen on the hands of the junior officer Lt. Aladeniya, who was just 27-years-old. Terrorists were carrying out heavy attacks on the two camps and logistic support and sending additional troops were not possible as the terrorists had blocked all supply routes.
It was a battle that ran for nearly a month. The young officer was helpless as his soldiers were getting killed and were badly injured. Some were dying without simple medical treatment as medicine stocks had run almost empty. When the last stock of food ran dry, some soldiers started collapsing and with empty water barrels, surviving was hard.
The men refused to run away and had chosen to fight with the enemy till their last breath. They undoubtedly proved they were true soldiers of Mother Lanka. A few minutes later they were engulfed in a huge ball of fire.
All requests by Lt. Aladeniya for more food, water, ammunition and more soldiers became futile as the LTTE’s heavy attacks made the Air Force turn their helicopters away. All food and water were dropped amidst heavy attacks but were wasted as they had landed in the wrong place.
While his men were dying in pain, hunger and thirst, the young officer, who was an innocent soul, according to some of his batchmates, would have cried. His calls to Vanni Headquarters for support again became futile as all supply routes were blocked by the terrorists, who were advancing to capture the tower.
Army’s elite Commandos who were also sent but failed to reach the location as it was in the pitch dark.
On July 10, the LTTE launched the final attack to capture the camp. In the absence of additional troops, Lt. Aladeniya had to fight the LTTE with very little ammunition, and with 48 soldiers who were already feeble due to starvation and lack of water. He was also saddled with the task of saving nine injured soldiers. Three bodies remained at the camp.
He was given orders to abandon the camp on July 10, but refused to do so as he could not leave his injured soldiers. “I will somehow fight with them until you send troops, and not allow terrorists to take the camp”, he told the senior officer at the Headquarters.
On July 11 night, they were armed with even less than 100 ammunition and a few mortars and could not resist the heavy attack anymore. Lt. Aladeniya was given orders to abandon the camp and withdraw but he refused to as the majority of his soldiers were badly injured and unable to move. He requested the able soldiers to withdraw, leaving him with the injured.
"Don't worry sir, I will fight till I die." the then Commanding Officer of the 3rd Battalion of the Sinha Regiment Col. Abey Weerakoon recalled Lt. Aladeniya’s last call to the Vanni HQ.
Today, Indrani Aladeniya owns Sri Lanka’s most prestigious award ‘Parama Veera Vibushana’ awarded for the bravery of her son - Samarakoon Wasala Mudiyanselage Saliya Upul Aladeniya - who was the first military officer to receive this award.
Still her memory of her son leaving home to join the Army is vivid. She still cries recalling how her ‘Saliya putha’ embraced her before leaving home for duty, proudly carrying his uniform.
The mother, who refused to believe that her son was no more for over the last three decades, is still reluctant to believe that her son is no more.
“Sometimes, I feel my son will come home one day. He was so innocent and always wanted to be a soldier”, says.
She owns Sri Lanka’s most prestigious award ‘Parama Veera Vibushana’ awarded for the bravery of her son - Samarakoon Wasala Mudiyanselage Saliya Upul Aladeniya- who was the first military officer to receive this award.
Lt. Aladeniya, the third in the Aladeniya family, studied at Trinity College, Kandy. He joined the Army in 1989 and trained at the Diyatalawa Army Training School. He served in his regiment in Nuwara Eliya, but was called to report for duty at the Kokavil camp in May 1990.
Her son, whose name is carved in the hearts and minds of all Sri Lankans as one of the bravest soldiers in this century, only left her the certificate, the award, a few pictures and his favourite uniform. They bring cherished memories of her son, you died as a hero.
When Saliya’s father was alive, they joined the Association for the Families of Sons Missing in Action as they could not believe their son was dead.
“He wanted me to stitch an army uniform for him when he was small” she recalls.
His father, who was a Captain of the Volunteer Force, could have easily enrolled him as an assistant superintendent in the estate sector, but my son urged us saying he wanted to become a soldier to fight the terrorists”, she says, recalling how he walked proudly wearing his father’s baggy Army uniforms in his childhood.
We thought he went missing and waited hopefully until he came home. We thought he would remain as a prisoner-of-war as his body remained missing. We didn’t offer dana to Bhikkhus and only had bodhi poojas to invoke blessings on him”, Indrani says.
She is indeed one of the proudest mothers in Sri Lanka as her son fought the ruthless LTTE terrorists until he kissed the earth.