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Sunday, 8 November 2009





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Poppy Day on Wednesday:

A flower that blooms for those who made supreme sacrifice

They sacrifice their today for our tomorrow. That is the sacred mission of Security Forces personnel, wherever in the world they are. We must always remember them, for we would not be able to lead a peaceful life without their commitment to the country.

Sri Lanka too will celebrate the International Poppy Day today November 08, to coincide with the International Poppy Day on November 11, to remember the fallen war heroes in front of the War memorial monument at the Vihara Mahadevi Park, Colombo with the distinguished participation of the President or the Prime Minister and the Tri Forces commanders and the diplomats.
The sale of artificial poppy flowers marks the national day of remembrance for both World Wars, the First World War (1914-1918) and the Second World War (1939-1945). Although it is meant to remember the fallen war heroes in the World Wars Sri Lanka will celebrate this date to remember the Sri Lankan War heroes too especially this year in the aftermath of the great victory the Sri Lankan Security Forces achieved against the LTTE.

This month, people all over the world remember with gratitude those who laid down their lives to make a better world, from World War I onwards. Here in Sri Lanka, we are no strangers to the horrendous effects of war.

Today, peace has dawned because of the immense sacrifices made by our heroic Security Forces personnel under the able guidance of the political and military leadership. It is our duty to open our hearts to them.

War veterans from the time of the World War I and II celebrate November as Poppy Month. The International Poppy Day falls on November 11 every year, in which they remember the fallen war heroes of the World Wars and raise funds for the welfare of the soldiers who had served in the battle fronts during World War II.

Men and women, some of them disabled in their wheel chairs selling red poppies in the streets has become a common scene these days. People are generous in their donations for Red Poppies as they are aware that they are making those donations for a worthy cause.

Wearing a Red Poppy or having a Poppy wreath in your vehicle means you have made a donation for the welfare of the war veterans, either those who served in the British Army during World War II or in the Tri Forces in the country for the past few decades.

In the Sri Lankan context, although the practice of wearing poppies was started following the foot path of the British rulers to remember the fallen war heroes during the World War I and World War II, it has become a significant event during the past few decades as Sri Lanka has also undergone the bitter experience of war.

The Sri Lanka Ex-servicemen’s Association organizes this annual event to coincide with International Poppy Day that falls on November 11, in coordination with the Royal Commonwealth Ex-servicemen League which is the apex body coordinating this event in Commonwealth countries.

“The International Poppy Day celebration this year is very significant for us as we celebrating the event just a few months after the great victory achieved by the Sri Lankan Security Forces against the LTTE”, Brigadier (Rtd) K.A. Gnanaweera, the General Secretary to the SLESA said.

With the conclusion of the three decades long war in the country the SLESA also has to expand its services to ex-servicemen from the Sri Lankan Security Forces and the disabled.

“At the initial stages donations for the Red Poppies were made to raise funds for the soldiers who had served in the British Army during the World War II and left it after the end of the war without any pension rights,” T.M.C.B Tennekoon, the Welfare Coordinator for the Ex -Servicemen’s Association said.

The British Government used to pay an allowance for those ex-soldiers directly until Sri Lanka adopted a Republican Constitution in 1970’s. Since 1970’s those funds were channelled to the SLESA as there was no government body to look after the welfare of the ex-servicemen.

“Even today we are paying Rs. 1,000 for those who served in the British Army during the World War II with a Rs.560 allowance coming from the apex body in UK, in recognition of their service,” Tennekoon says.

Around 100 to 200 war veterans who had served in the British Army during World War II are receiving this allowance. At the initial stages there had been 2,000 to 3,000 men who had received this allowance.In the 1970’s the amount paid was around Rs.50 to Rs.75 which was comparatively a sufficient allowance to lead a good life those days.

But it has now become a meagre amount insufficient even for a single person to spend day or two.But the SLESA has not confined its welfare measures only to ex-servicemen.“We have commenced ‘Project Gratitude’ to provide artificial limbs for the disabled soldiers from the funds raised by the SLESA”, Tennekoon added.

SLESA through its 34 Associations of Ex -Servicemen with a membership exceeding 27,000 have organized committees for this annual event to raise funds by offering poppy flowers and wreaths for individuals and organizations.

“We are receiving these Poppy flowers from the Royal Commonwealth Ex Servicemen League free of charge annually and we make poppy wreaths here in Sri Lanka with the participation of our membership”, Tennekoon added, explaining the way they prepare for this annual event.

Although the SLESA is receiving those poppy flowers free of charge they have to spend a considerable amount of money as clearance charges and transportation charges.

“We have to bear some expenses when raising funds by selling those Red Poppies throughout the country. The respective associations are receiving 40 per cent of the donations for Red Poppies”, Tennekoon added.“Although we raise around Rs.1 million from Poppy flowers we have to set apart a major share as expenses and the rest is used for the welfare of ex-servicemen in Sri Lanka,” he added.The donations people make for the poppies are used to provide assistance for bypass surgeries, cataract operations, other minor and major surgeries, cancer patients of the ex-servicemen and for them to buy spectacles and hearing aid equipment.“Apart from these welfare measures we are also providing monthly grants up to Rs.600 for the children of the ex-servicemen who had got admission to the universities.”

“The needs of the ex-servicemen are growing fast and we are preparing to face these requirements along with the other organizations committed for the welfare of the war veterans and the disabled by expanding our activities,” Tennekoon said.

When we celebrate the International Poppy day this year, on November 08 almost six months after the great victory achieved by the Sri Lankan Security Forces we have to look at the future with a wider vision as we are heading towards an era where we get young generation of war heroes who had sacrificed their youth to salvage the country from the grip of terrorism.

So the Poppy flower will get more recognition in the years to come as we have got a generation of ex-servicemen to be looked after with greater care at their most needy hour like the ex-servicemen from the World War II who have been looked after for decades through the funds raised through selling the legendary poppy flower.

Therefore, it is your responsibility as a citizen of this country to look after your loved war heroes and their families by making more and more donations and wearing a red poppy.


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