The tower of strength behind the warriors
- Seva Vanitha Unit marks 37th anniversary
BY the Directorate of Media of the Sri Lanka Army
The military wife is a highly respected social status that only a few ladies would be privileged to be adorned with. They will also be proud due to the altruism and patriotism of their spouses who dare to opt for the profession of arms in their lives. This honorary title and prestige is bestowed upon military wives, and conversely, their sense of devotion and philanthropy towards the military families have led to their recognition and appreciation in society. In particular, the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) Seva Vanitha Unit (SVU), the leading welfare arm of the Sri Lanka Army, comprised of military spouses, has made an indelible imprint in the hearts of each and every family which has connectivity to the SLA in numerous ways.
The SLASVU, founded on 12 July 1984, proudly marked its 37th anniversary on 12 July 2021. Today, the SLAVSU, which was established with the primary aim of assisting the families of the valiant war heroes who made the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty as well as those who were wounded in action, has become an indispensable element of the SLA with its unique and timely welfare measures being carried out to facilitate army personnel. On the directions of then Army Commander General Tissa Indraka Weeratunga, the SLASVU became functional on 12 July 1984 with a host of spouses of serving senior army officers joining. As per tradition, the incumbent Army Commander’s spouse is appointed the Honourable President of the SLASVU. Accordingly, Sonia Evangeline St. Clair Rhode Weeratunga was privileged to head the newly raised SLASVU as the First Honourable President.
Since its establishment, the SLASVU has progressively evolved in expanding its capacity to cater to the demanding requirements of the families of army personnel, for which all the former presidents of the SLASVU should be commended with gratitude. To date, the unit has been headed by 15 courageous ladies as honourable presidents with their intrepid leadership capabilities and farsighted visions to make the unit what it is today.
The list of honourable presidents
|Sonia Weeratunga||12 July 1984 |
|11 February 1985|
|Mala Seneviratne||12 February 1985||15 August 1988|
|Ira Beatrice Jayathillake Wanasinghe||16 August 1988||15 November 1991|
|Thileka Jayewardene Waidyaratne||16 November 1991||31 December 1993|
|Lalitha De Silva||1 January 1994||30 April 1996|
|Jayanthi Daluwatte||1 May 1996||15 December 1998|
|Dilhani Weerasooriya||16 December 1998||24 August 2000|
|Gnana Balagalle||25 August 2000||30 June 2004|
|Sonia Kottegoda||1 July 2004||5 December 2005|
|Anoma Indumathi Munasinghe Fonseka||6 Dec 2005||15 July 2009|
|Manjulika Aruna Jayasuriya||16 July 2009||31 July 2013|
|Priyadarshani Damayanthi Ratnayake||1 August 2013||21 February 2015|
|Nayana De Silva||22 February 2015||4 July 2017|
|Chandrika Senanayake||5 July 2017||19 August 2019|
|Sujeewa Nelson Silva||20 August 2019||Present|
Taking actions to decentralise the responsibilities in order to provide an eminent service, Dilhani Weerasooriya, who assumed duties as the seventh President of the SLASVU on 17 December 1998, initiated the establishment of the Regimental Ladies’ Clubs in each regiment of the SLA. The office of the president of each Regimental Ladies’ Club is to be held by the respective spouse of the Colonel of the Regiment or the Colonel Commandant. Subsequently, the Regimental Ladies’ Clubs were renamed as the Regimental Seva Vanitha Branches in 2006.
The provision of welfare facilities to the soldiers, the main objective of the SLASVU, encompasses the following dimensions:
- Enhancing the welfare of the next of kin of those killed in action and wounded in action
- Taking action to motivate the veterans in combat
- Caretaking of the hospitalised veterans
- Launching vocational training for disabled soldiers
- Establishing welfare shops to provide goods for veterans and their children under concessionary rates
- Conducting programmes to develop the educational level of the veterans’ children
- Establishing pre-schools for army personnel’s children
- Awarding scholarships for education and other streams
- Organising vocational training programmes for veterans and their children
- Providing financial aids for medical treatments
- Providing aid to affected citizens during national disasters
- Conducting programmes for the promotion of national cohesion and religious harmony
During the conflict period, the SLASVU had been instrumental in enhancing the morale of the soldiers on the battlefield by ensuring that their families and the concerns on the home front were looked after with utmost care. In addition, the responsibility of taking care of the hospitalised war heroes who were wounded in action was mainly shouldered by the SLASVU through a number of benevolent projects in order to fulfil their needs as well as the needs of their family members.
The ventures launched to make the family members of the warriors who were at the battlefront mentally robust and emotionally resilient are commendable, as those caring roles inspired those family members to live with pride and honour of their spouses, brothers, and fathers who have accepted to dedicate their today for a better tomorrow for the nation.
As a cohesive charity organisation, the SLASVU, which is composed of the Honourable President, the Vice President, the Executive Members and the administrative staff, has so far made an invaluable contribution in accomplishing its goals. Thereby, it has offered many opportunities to help and share gratitude with the warriors who sacrificed the best part of their lives for a better future for all of us by means of awarding financial grants, the distribution of donations, and the provision of numerous services. Its specialty is that all these welfare measures are carried out by utilising the funds raised through numerous projects and without asking for any financial patronage from the SLA.
Being futuristic to realise the possible demands which may emerge with time, plans are underway to launch a number of new projects in the fields of catering, food and beverage, recreation, and flora and fauna. The prominent new projects to be implemented include a canteen at the hospital of the Sir John Kotelawala Defence University, a flower boutique at the Army Headquarters, a floral project at Diyatalawa, a canteen at the Parliamentary Complex, a reception hall at Maitland Place, a holiday bungalow at Kataragama, and yoghurt manufacturing projects in Diyatalawa and Hanguranketha.
Under the guidance and leadership of incumbent SLASVU President Sujeewa Nelson, the SLASVU is rendering its services in a wider scope with comradeship to bestow its full potential in facilitating welfare needs at the optimum level. While the SLASVU is to empower soldiers with the necessary welfare measures, today, it has gone beyond its scope and expanded its wings in many fields, a proven testimony to the versatility and perseverance of the ladies. The SLA has been greatly benefitted from the commitments and contributions of the members of the SLASVU who play different roles as wives, sisters, and mothers, and most importantly, as the towers of strength behind the great warriors of the Army.
The contribution of these ladies has made a considerable impact on the progress of present society. These ladies, globally and locally, have risen to greatness and power by entering into different spheres, increasing their influence in society. These ladies in the present day have surpassed the traditional roles and embarked on journeys in multiple fields to provide active support and contributions to the family first, to the workplace next, and to the community at large in a broader sense. Thereby, the role of the military wife has given a newer facet to the traditional lady and empowered her with the strength to act in multiple roles with confidence. Today, the military wife, with the loving care of a soft lady with the warm affection of a mother, will be a courageous lady tomorrow, who could even win the world by proving that “the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world”.
May this appreciative note be a tribute to all the ladies of the SLASVU who are wholeheartedly and relentlessly dedicated to the welfare and wellbeing of the warriors of the SLA.