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
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
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
“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
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.