Col. Wijesinghe and daughter felicitated at Rantambe | Sunday Observer

Col. Wijesinghe and daughter felicitated at Rantambe

Lt. Col. Wijesinghe
Lt. Col. Wijesinghe

Cadet Day is another item which Ananda College Colombo introduced to Sri Lanka's cadet history, said Lt. Col. Wijesinghe.

When Ananda College won the Herman Loos (HL) challenge cup in 1987 for the first time after 1978, Lt. Colonel Wijesinghe wanted a grand celebration. He did two things, organising a blood donation campaign and a Cadet Day, for the first time in Sri Lanka's cadet history .

“When it comes to Cadet Day celebrations there is a tradition we always follow. We celebrate Cadet Day if only we had won the HL that year, simply because that is how the Day was started. We continued the tradition,” said Lt. Col. Wijesinghe who was instrumental in bringing the HL trophy nine times to the College.

The main reason for this is to encourage the cadets, giving them a target to achieve so that they can be proud about themselves. “Not just the Cadet Day, we do not hang the platoon picture in the Armoury if we couldn’t win the HL,” he said.

“We invited General Cyril Ranatunge who was the Tri Forces Commander as the chief guest for the first ever Cadet Day (in 1987). But in his absence, Brigadier Hamilton Wanasinghe who is also an Anandian joined the ceremony,” he said.

For the celebrations, there were plenty of items on the agenda. Awarding the best junior and senior cadets, donations to disabled soldiers, scholarship grants, donations to soldiers in operational areas, awarding of certificates to the senior cadet platoon, and finally the tea party.

After Cadet Day celebrations, at the tea party, Brigadier Wanasinghe asked me about my plans for the coming years.

“It is hard to do everything alone, Sir. I have this idea of establishing an Old Cadet's Association,” Lt. Col. Wijesinghe had replied.

His brainchild was warmly welcomed by the Brigadier (who later became the Commander of the Sri Lanka Army). He was keen to discuss the subject with others at the table. “Why don’t we appoint Colonel Jaliya Nammuni as the founding President?,” the Brigadier suggested a name. That is how the Old Cadets' Association (OCA) bagan following the tête-à-tête, and naturally, the man behind the concept, Lt. Col. Wijesinghe was appointed as one of the advisors of the Association.

As the OCA became a success gradually, even the Army itself started giving major attention to it. During the time of the Late President, Ranasinghe Premadasa implementing his Gam Udawa (new villages) project, the Army requested the OCA to help by building a house in the Buttala area. The cost estimation was Rs. 25,000.

“I was thinking of how we could do this. Because Rs. 25,000 was a big amount of money back then. My salary was barely Rs. 1,000,”he said.

However, OCA did a collection and built a house in Buttala by collecting Rs. 2 from each person. That was a tactic the Lt. Col. used to get every cent in to the fund, an effort for inclusiveness one could say.

Of a journey of more than 25 years, where there are many accolades that Lt. Col. Wijesinghe has won, he remembers one very proud moment. As a cadet officer and a father - when his daughter Niru Nayani and he won badges at Rantembe for best performances in 2001. In 2002 he retired from Ananda College and joined the National Cadet Corps and served as its Deputy Director Training till he retired in 2012.