Air Marshal Harsha Abeywickrama felicitated in ‘Blue and Gold’ at Royal College

Published on: 9:07am on Wednesday 30th March 2011
Air Marshal Harsha Abeywickrama felicitated in ‘Blue and Gold’ at Royal College
Royal College and Royal College Union paid the highest tribute to the newly appointed Air Force Commander, Air Marshal, Harsha Abeywickrama, at Navarangahala Colombo 07, on Tuesday, March 29, 2011 by organizing a special assembly, accorded in keeping with Royal College traditions to those who have achieved the highest degree of recognition and achievement in society.

The ceremony witnessed the pageantry of the current Royal College students and staff members, with the air wing of the college cadet platoon and the cadet band heralding the parade, with the distinguished gathering of past Royalists participating in full strength.

Royal College has a history of producing noble sons who serve the country in the highest ranks of office. Air Marshal Abeywickrama is one of them who reached the highest echelons of rank in the Air Force, excelling in sports and studies whilst at school.

The Principal of Royal College, Mr. Upali Gunasekera in his address to the assembly said, “We are honoured and privileged to have with us today Sri Lanka’s newly appointed Air Marshall Harsha Abeywickrama. It is to our pride that you have taken flight from your alma mater and reached the pinnacle of your profession. We value your time in ‘touching down’ at your beloved alma mater today, to be present at this momentous occasion”.

He informed the audience that after leaving Royal College, the Air Marshal joined the Air Force as an officer cadet in 1980, and was commissioned as a pilot officer in 1982. Subsequently he obtained a Masters Degree in International Studies from King’s College of the University of London and a Master's Degree in Management from General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University.

Mr. Gunasekera further elaborated that the Air Marshal’s career continued to take wing as he was appointed as the Commanding Officer of SLAF Palaly, Base Commander of SLAF China Bay, SLAF Base Anuradhapura and SLAF Base Ratmalana, then becoming the zonal Commander East and Chief Instructor of the Air Wing of the Defence Services Command & Staff College.

He observed that his career continued to soar to greater heights as the Director of Air Operations at SLAF Colombo, where Air Marshal Abeywickrama was instrumental in spearheading operations that brought about the successful conclusion of the conflict in Sri Lanka in 2009, and today as Commander of the Air-Force he has reached the zenith to serve his beloved country and alma mater.

In conclusion he stated that the Air-Marshal’s illustrious career is one that many a young Royalists will aspire to reach and find hard to emulate.

Mr. Manju Ariyaratne, Secretary, Royal College Union, speaking on this memorable occasion stated at the outset, “today it is an assembly at which we felicitate a true son of our nation, a warrior of our times, and most of all another distinguished product of Royal College, Harsha Abeywickrama”.

Mr. Ariyaratne said “on behalf of the Royal College Union and the entire Old Royalists fraternity, accept my heartiest congratulations on your appointment as the Commander of the Sri Lanka Air Force”. He went to say that it is an occasion where a man is recognized and honored for his achievements. More importantly it is an occasion where a Royalist is honored for ‘learning of books and men’ and for having learnt to play the game.  Mr. Ariyaratne re-iterated that Air Marshal Harsha Abeywickrama bares testimony to these ‘Golden’ lines of the Royal College school song.

It was elaborated with pride that Royal College provides countless opportunities in the spheres of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, within the framework of multi racial, multi cultural, multi linguistic, multi religious exposure, something that is unique to Royal College.

Addressing the assembly, he noted that, “the wide cross section of society that you meet at Royal College contributes in mould well rounded, well grounded, complete men. Men who will accomplish what they set forth to achieve, no matter what stands in their way, just like the distinguished old Royalist we felicitate today, Air Marshal Harsha Abeywickrama, the Commander of the Sri Lanka Air Force”.

The ‘officer and gentleman’ felicitated for his rare accolades, Air Marshal Abeywickrama, acknowledged with pride and also humility that his foundation and grounding to reach great heights, were sparked-off at his beloved Royal College.

“I am honoured to have been invited by the Royal College Union and the Principal today”. He stated with heartfelt gratitude, “I would not have been appointed as the 13th Commander of the Sri Lanka Air Force, if not for the schooling I received at Royal College”, which he felt has equipped him to take on his future role as a leader of the Air Force. He further said that it was incumbent for a Royalist to be a credible in all dealings and be an exemplary leader in society.

Speaking further, he enthused that the mind was of paramount importance for a human being, and that one had to cultivate a pure mind without cluttering it. Quoting from the “Rathana Suthra”, he likened a strong mind to being like that of an unshakable tower. He highlighted the example of the ‘Indrakeelaya”, which was a ‘strong tower’, which was placed in the heart of a township in days gone by, which was a symbol of strength and also a beacon to draw those who were lost back to their habitat.

He thus challenged the young audience present to be strong in mind, whilst also being committed and focused and to have a ‘never-say-die’, positive attitude in life. He stressed that these three criteria were instrumental in his success and challenged the young Royalists to like-wise aspire to be well-rounded young men.

The words spoken by the Air Marshal are a truism as he has been awarded many notable accolades for gallantry including the Rana Wickrama Padakkama and Rana Sura Padakkama for individual acts of bravery, the service medals Uttama Seva Padakkama and Sri Lanka Armed Services Long Service Medal.

Head prefect of Royal College, Dasun Perera, echoed the sentiments of his Senior Royalists and re-iterated that it was a privilege to be Royalist and be bestowed with the privileges and opportunities afforded at Royal College, whilst aspiring to emulate those Royalists, who are examples of leadership and true patriotism.

The ceremony concluded with tea, at the Royal College Union Skills Centre building where camaraderie and friendship of all past Royalists were re-kindled and kept aflame, as a special day, adding to its rich history and traditions.

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