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|Denzil Lakshman Kobbekaduwa †|
Lieutenant General Denzil Kobbekaduwa
27 July 1940|
8 August 1992 (aged 52)|
Point Arali, Kayts Island, Sri Lanka
|Service/||Sri Lanka Army|
|Years of service||1960–1992|
|Unit||Sri Lanka Armoured Corps|
Overall Operations Commander, Northern Sector, |
GOC 2 Division
|Battles/wars||1971 Insurrection, Sri Lankan Civil War|
Vishista Seva Vibhushanaya |
Uttama Seva Padakkama
Lieutenant General Denzil Lakshman Kobbekaduwa, RWP, RSP, VSV, USP, rcds, psc, SLAC (Sinhalese: ඩෙන්සිල් ලක්ෂ්මණ් කොබ්බෑකඩුව; 27 July 1940 – 8 August 1992) was a Sri Lankan General. He led some of the most successful military operations in the early part of the Sri Lankan Civil War, such as Vadamarachchi Operation and Operation Balavegaya. He was mortally wounded and his commanders and staff killed when the Land Rover they were travelling in hit a land mine in the island of Kayts while making preparations for Operation Final Countdown the proposed invasion of the Jaffna Peninsula.
He was born in Kandy, to Loku Bandara Kobbekaduwa and Lona Ratwatte as their second child and eldest of three sons. Spending his early days at the Deldeniya Walauwa in the village of Deldeniya in Menikdiwela, Kadugannawa, he received his primary education at Hillwood College and in 1948 entered Trinity College Kandy. He represented the college at rugby, hockey and cricket. He won the Trinity Lion for rugby and was a school prefect. Although he was offered admission to the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya he opted for a military career.
Kobbekaduwa joined the Ceylon Army in May 1960 as a officer cadet. After undergoing basic training at the Army Training Center in Diyatalawa before proceeding to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst for officer training. Returning to Ceylon in 1962, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 1st Reconnaissance Regiment of the Ceylon Armoured Corps. In 1964, he was sent to the Royal Armoured Corps training unit at Bovington Camp and on his return rejoined the Ceylon Armoured Corps. In 1966, Kobbekaduwa who was a Captain was sent on compulsory leave by the army following an alleged coup d'état attempt in which the Kandian Commander of the Ceylon Army, Major General Richard Udugama was implicated. Following the change of the government in 1970, he was cleared of all charges and reinstated to active service and was promoted to the rank of Major.
With the on set of the 1971 Insurrection, Kobbekaduwa and his armored units were deployed for defensive operations and he was soon placed in charge of security of Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and was sent in 1974 to the British Army Staff College at Camberley. Returning in 1975, he was posted to the Army Training Centre in Diyatalawa and thereafter appointed as a staff officer at Army Headquarters. Following the government change in 1977, he was once again sent on compulsory leave but returned soon after to be posted to Jaffna as part of the Task Force Anti Illicit Immigration (TaFAII) which was ongoing since the early 1960s to counter illegal immigration from India. During his posting he was able to gain a good understanding of the Jaffna Peninsula during the on set of the Tamil militancy that led to the Sri Lankan Civil War. Thereafter he was transferred to Army Headquarters and then made commanding officer of the Sri Lanka Armoured Corps. Later he was appointed as a senior staff officer of the General Staff and promoted to the rank of Brigadier in the mid-1980s. With the escalation of Civil War in the northern province, Kobbekaduwa gain increasingly involved with the counter insurgency operations in Jaffna.
"Operation Liberation", also known as the "Vadamarachchi Operation", was launched after months of planning in May 26, 1987. Brigadier Kobbekaduwa commanded the operation on the ground as the Brigade Commander of the 3 brigade group formed comprising two infantry brigades with supporting armored, artillery and air units of the Sri Lanka Air Force numbering 8000 personal. It was the largest formation deployed by the Sri Lankan Army at that point and the first conventional battle to take place in the civil war. The objective was to take the territory of Vadamarachchi in the Jaffna peninsula from LTTE (Tamil Tiger) control. LTTE forces destroyed the bridge at Thondaimanaru to slow army progress towards Valvettithurai, the town of LTTE leader Prabhakaran's birth. On May 28, army troops captured Udupiddy, Valvettithurai and Nelliady. By the end of the first week of June, the army had gained control over the entire zone and captured a large cache of arms left by the LTTE.
President J.R. Jayewardene and Minister of National Security Lalith Athulathmudali had political responsibility for the operation and terminated it following Operation Poomalai, the Indian air force's show of strength, in which it dropped supplies over Jaffna for the besieged Tamil Tigers on June 4, 1987, leading to the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord.
In 1988, he accompanied President J. R. Jayewardene to Islamabad for the fourth SAARC summit and after his return he was sent to the Royal College of Defence Studies only to be recalled during the middle of the course. However, he was quickly sent back once the British government questioned the recall mid-course. In January 1990, he was promoted to Major General and was appointed as General Officer Commanding, 1st Division based at the Panagoda Cantonment.
With the resumption of hostilities in the Eelam War II or the second phase of the civil war with following the failure of peace talks in June 1990, General Kobbekaduwa was transferred to the Eastern Province as Overall Operations Commander, Eastern Sector. In July he was appointed as General Officer Commanding, 2 Division and Overall Operations Commander, Northern Sector directing military operations in the northern province.
He launched operation "Operation Gajasinghe", withdrawing troops from Kilinochchi and strengthening the Army garrison at Elephant Pass, the critical land strip that linked the Jaffna peninsula with the mainland. New camps were set up around the main base, expanding its size. On July 10, 1991, Elephant Pass came under siege by an LTTE attack which it code-named "Operation Charles Anthony", its first suicide bomber. 800 troops of the 6th battalion, Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment held out.
At this point, Major General Kobbekaduwa proposed an amphibious assault launched code named Operation Balavegaya. Launching an amphibious assault for the first time in Sri Lankan military history, plans for Operation Balavegaya were drawn up at Joint Operations headquarters in Colombo. 8,000 troops were deployed for the rescue mission to relieve the besieged camp and regain territory captured by the LTTE. This was an amphibious operation using landing craft and helicopters to transport the soldiers.
During the operation the intensity of LTTE resistance led some battalion commanders to consider aborting the operation temporarily, however, General Kobbekaduwa and Brigadier Vijaya Wimalaratne decided it should proceed to join the troops at the front lines. On July 14, 1991 the task-force established a beachhead at Veralakuruna (Vettilaikkerni). After several days of fighting the relief force was able to reach and linkup with the besieged garrison and by August 19 the LTTE militants withdrew. During the month-long battle which was the longest yet in the war, 573 LTTE carders and 202 military personal had been killed. In the end of August, General Kobbekaduwa launched "Operation Lightning" in the Weli-oya sector to divert pressure on Elephant Pass. Several LTTE camps were destroyed while other operations disrupted LTTE supply lines in the area where the Mannar coast was linked to the Wanni jungle base.
In July 1992, General Kobbekaduwa returned to Colombo for his father's funeral. This was when he was preparing for a new offensive to capture the Jaffna peninsula which was under LTTE control, it was code named "Operation Final Count Down". On August 2, 1992 he was back in Colombo and met with President Ranasinghe Premadasa. He returned to his HQ in Palaly the next day. Since the launching pad for the offensive was the island of Kayts on August 7, General Kobbekaduwa moved to Karainagar naval base by helicopter with his staff. He spent much of the night planning the upcoming offensive with Brigadier Vijaya Wimalaratne, Jaffna Brigade Commander and Commodore Mohan Jayamaha. Due to concerns of the navy about the staging area, it was decided to visit the Araly point the next day.
At 8.00 am the group made up of Maj. General Kobbekaduwa, Brigadier Wimalaratne and Commodore Jayamaha along with several other officers headed out on a naval patrol boat towards Jaffna and returned to Kayts pier. On returning the party was met by three Land Rovers, the General, the Brigadier and the Commodore got into the Land Rover UHA 8752 with the rest of the army personnel taking vehicle no UHA 8785 and the naval personnel taking 5959. From there they set out to Araly Point. Half way the General order that they all use one vehicle as to not to attract fire from LTTE units in the Jaffna peninsula which was only one-half kilometer away. They reached Araly Point and had a discussion and headed back when the Land Rover was consumed by an explosion. Major Rupasinghe and Major Induruwa who were 400 yards away from the incident ran to the location to find only General Kobbekaduwa and Commodore Jayamaha alive. Killed in the explosion was Brigadier Wimalaratne, Lt. Colonels G.H. Ariyaratne, A. Palipahana, H.R. Stephen, all three battalion commanders, Lieutenant Commander Asanga Lankathilaka, Lieutenant Commander C.B Wijepura, Major Nalin S. De Alwis; the General's Aide-de-camp and Corporal Jagath Wickramaratna. The two wounded officers were rushed to the helicopter waiting to transport the group to base, which took them to the military hospital in Plalay where Commodore Jayamaha was found dead on arrival. General Kobbekaduwa who was awake was then transferred to the Colombo General Hospital for surgery via helicopter. Where a specialist team of surgeons were unable to save his life.
Lalini Kobbekaduwa, the wife of one of the deceased officers, 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 speculated that then 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. The Asian Times commented that "a second and last Presidential Commission came up with highly speculative conclusions." 
On the day of his funeral, a crowd numbering about 100,000 persons descended on the Colombo cemetery, chanting anti-government slogans and throwing stones at government ministers. At least fifteen people were injured, including two ministers, deputy Foreign Minister John Amaratunga and deputy Information Minister A.J. Ranasinghe. According to witnesses, the crowd was angry because the general was not given a state funeral. Police in riot gear responded by firing shots and tear-gas into the air to disperse the crowd.
During his career he received the Republic of Sri Lanka Armed Services Medal, Army 25th Anniversary Medal, President's Inauguration Medal, Sri Lanka Armed Services Long Service Medal, Vadamarachchi Operation Medal, Purna Bhumi Padakkama and Rana Wickrama Padakkama. He was posthumously promoted to Lieutenant General and awarded the Vishista Seva Vibhushanaya, Rana Sura Padakkama (twice), Uttama Seva Padakkama and Desha Putra Sammanaya. His widow received the Uththama Pooja Pranama Padakkama medal in 2010.
Several statues of General Kobbekaduwa were erected following his death.
He played rugby football for Trinity College, Kandy captaining the 1XV in 1959 and winning the Rugby Lion, Army Sports Club in the Clifford Cup tournament and then represented Ceylon. Kobbekaduwa coached, refereed and administered the game on a national level. He was also a board member of the Duncan White Sports Foundation.
- General Denzil Kobbekaduwa – hero and a genuine leader Archived 2014-08-12 at the Wayback Machine.
- General Denzil L. Kobbekaduwa – a hero and genuine leader
- Operation Liberation One
- Kandy remembers sportsman Denzil Kobbekaduwa
- "Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers". TIME. September 16, 1991.
- Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwa, who led from the front Archived 2014-12-06 at the Wayback Machine.
- Kobbekaduwa Commission Crisis: Bar to defend Upawansa Yapa
- SRI LANKA: THE UNTOLD STORY CHAPTER 52: President blamed for assassinations
- Specially Designed ‘Uththama Pooja Pranama Padakkama’ Honours Fallen War Heroes Archived 2014-12-20 at the Wayback Machine.
- 22nd death anniversary of Lt.General Denzil Kobbekaduwa falls today
- Army, Sri Lanka. (1st Edition – October 1999). "50 YEARS ON" – 1949–1999, Sri Lanka Army. ISBN 955-8089-02-8
- 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.
- 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 .)
- 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.