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GUSI PEACE PRIZE RECOGNIZES NORTHERN COMMANDER’S CONTRIBUTION TO JAFFNA

Sri Lanka Army during a glittering ceremony at Manila-based Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) received further international recognition when Major General Mahinda Hathurusinghe, Commander, Security Forces Headquarters, Jaffna was awarded the South Asia’s most prestigious Gusi Peace Award-2010 for his salutary role and dedication towards humanitarian assistance to Jaffna people and attainment of peace, dignity and harmony in the peninsula.

The Gusi Peace Award, conferred annually by the Gusi Foundation recognizes and honours exemplary contributions and commitment made by distinguished individuals or groups worldwide towards Peace and Human Rights, in Scientific Discoveries, Politics, Academia, Performing Arts, Literature, Medicine or Physiology, Journalism, Economics, Humanities, Physics, Chemistry, Religion, Internationalism, etc.

Major General Hathurusinghe, the only Southeast Asian laureate to have received this Peace Prize, similar with the Nobel Peace Prize is selected by a committee of 20 researchers. 19 more laureates from every corner of the world, in addition to Major General Hathurusinghe carried away the prize for this year in different spheres of excellence.

Conferment of those awards took place at the PICC Manila early this week, graced by a galaxy of invitees including Sri Lankan Government’s representative, North central Province Chief Minister Berti Premalal Dissanayake, Sri Lankan Ambassador in the Philippines N. Bennet Cooray, senior military officers, expatriates, et al.

Mr Barry Sotejo Gusi, Chairman, Gusi Foundation and Peace Prize Philippine Committee and Dr Mrs Evelyn Gusi who have been instrumental in sustaining the award of those Peace Prizes with the support of the Gusi Peace Prize Philippine Committee, inherited the arrangement, thanks to the efforts of Mrs Chua Sotejo Gusi, the wife of much-respected Captain Gemeniano Javier Gusi, inspiring founder of the Gusi Foundation and its Peace Prize in 2002 who etched a legacy in the Philippine history were in attendance at the colourful awards night.

All Gusi Peace Prize laureates on arrival at the main hall at the PICC were conducted to the main stage in a dignified and colourful parade, preceded by respective National Flags of their countries of origin as music heralded their entry. It followed the military parade, in which National and Gusi colours walked in afterwards in accordance with the formal practice.

Major General Hathurusinghe in acknowledgement of the Gusi Peace Award during his brief address to the audience gratefully reminisced about the able guidance he received specially to be qualified for this accolade, from HE the President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka and the Secretary Defence, Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa who assisted him whole-heartedly in restoring normalcy and promoting the economic prospects among the northerners.

The recipient in his brief note to the audience, also did not forget to share the dignity of being the year’s Gusi Peace Prize laureate with all military officers and soldiers with whom he worked jointly for the welfare of Jaffna people in the past couple of years.

A cultural troupe, specially flown from Rajarata, at the invitation of the Gusi Foundation, added special colour to the awards night, robbing the zenith of the day’s spectacle with traditional drums reverberating. Several other international music and dancing groups also provided entertainment to the occasion throughout.

Major General Hathurusinghe upon assumption of his duties as Jaffna Commander at a critical stage of the recently culminated Humanitarian Operation for peace, rendered an admirable service showing the highest regard for humanitarian concerns in the peninsula winning hearts and minds of the ordinary public. His amiable approach and common sense as then Commander of Kilinochchi and later on as the Jaffna Commander, made a difference and brought about an impressively sound relationship between Tamil civilians and the members of the Security Forces.

On the instructions of the Commander of the Army, Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasuriya, he implemented a number of people-friendly projects, including construction of houses for the returnees, conduct of medical clinics, promotion of goodwill by way of sports and recreational activities, improvement of all government schools, launching of many community oriented welfare projects, distribution of school books and stationery, repairs and reconstruction of Hindu temples, facilitation of various other administrative services, etc.

His establishment of the first-ever Civil Affairs and Public Relations office complex in the heart of Jaffna town, brought immense solace to the Tamil community and came in for praise of all segments in society and the international community as it is slated to resolve issues on the spot after directly connecting with relevant authorities across the country.

"Although the Gusi Peace Prize is honoring peace-loving endeavors worldwide, I have chosen my homeland, the Philippines, to be the home of Gusi Peace Prize… We should become international citizens of the Third Millennium, helping one another to achieve world peace," Gusi Ambassador Mr Barry S. Gusi told the august assembly. Mrs Mahinda Hathurusinghe and members of Major General Hathurusinghe’s family were present at the ceremony.

Major General Hathurusinghe was earlier awarded the prestigious Gold Medal - 2009 for his thesis "Strategic Military Victory over LTTE" during his Masters degree course in the National Defence College of the Philippines as the first in order of merits.

General Hathurusinghe's erudite theses scored over the other identical 32 works, presented to the 2009 class. He received his Gold Medal from the Defence Under Secretary Antonio Santos during the graduation ceremony of the 44th Regular Course - Masters in National Security Administration (MNSA) in Manila last year before he was selected for this reputed conferment of the Gusi Peace Award.

The largely circulated English daily "Manila Times" in its September 2, 2010 issue prominently carried a news story about his graduation with flying colours under the caption "Sri Lankan General gains top award at the National Defense College".

(Courtesy : Army.lk)

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OPEN NOTEBOOK

BY RANDOM JOTTINGS

In recognition of the epic victory of the Sri Lankan military forces against the feared Tamil Tigers’ terrorist outfit—a bruising conflict that dragged on for almost three decades at enormous social, economic and political cost to this alluring tear-drop shaped island nation—the Philippine-based Gusi International Peace Prize has selected a distinguished Sri Lankan Army officer, Major General Mahinda Hathurusinghe, as one of the recipients of the 2010 event which takes place at the Philippine International Convention Centre on November 24.

Having seen service in battle, General Hathurusinghe now commands the military forces in the north in peace, and is playing a key role in over sighting the advent of calm and prosperity in what was the erstwhile heartland of the Tamil Tigers.

On hearing news of his nomination for the award General Hathurusinghe told The Manila Times: “Although

I am named as the recipient of this prestigious award, I accept it with all humility on behalf of my Commander in Chief, His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Secretary of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa, both of whom created the right framework for the final victory against the most brutal terrorist group in the world which had heaped so much grief and destruction on our motherland.

“I am also honored to accept the Guci Peace Award on behalf of all the military forces, from the highest to the lowest ranks, who all played their part in bringing peace to Sri Lanka. In particular I want this award to commemorate all the military personnel who bravely laid down their lives for this noble cause”.

As commander of the northern forces based in Jaffna, General Hathurusinghe—who possesses natural skills in interacting with people of every social strata—heads the military arm of a civilian-military partnership that is propelling this former stronghold of the Tamil Tigers (that saw so much death and devastation during the reign of the terrorist outfit) successfully onward and upward.

His astute military leadership, which has shown sensitivity to the needs and practicalities of a post-war Jaffna, is credited with providing the right atmosphere of peace and security for the economic boom that is being experienced in this dominant northern province. This in turn is the key to successfully implementing —and driving—the government’s “Northern Spring” initiative aimed at bringing prosperity to this once battle-ridden region.

General Hathurusinghe’s nomination for the award from the Philippine end was somewhat propitious. In 2009-10 he attended a course that drew ranking military officers from all over the Asian-Pacific region to the Philippine National Defense College, and where he drew the attention of senior military offices in the Philippine military establishment themselves embroiled in the secessionist conflict in the Southern Philippines.

The Sri Lankan General took part in many private and official briefings with government and military officials to share his experiences and knowledge on the long drawn out separatist struggle with the Tamil Tigers.

Interestingly, his 30,000 world thesis detailing the manner in which the Sri Lankan security forces tackled the conflict won for General Hathurusinghe the sought-after Gold Medal at the end of the academic course that took place in Camp Aguinaldo.

General Hathurusinghe will be supported by a 14-member native dance troupe that will perform at the PICC ceremony, and also stage two other traditional Sri Lankan dance performances which have been organized by Sri Lankan Ambassador Nawalage Bennet Cooray and the Sri Lankan Embassy.

The dance troupe is sponsored by the Northern Provincial Council of Sri Lanka under the patronage of Chief Minister Berty Premalal Dissanayake who will head the Sri Lankan delegation to the Guci Peace Prize ceremony. It includes four other senior officials of the provincial council including the Secretary of Cultural Affairs.

Chief Minister Dissanayake presides over Sri Lanka’s North Central Province that is home to the famed UNESCO cited “Cultural Triangle” that contains Buddhist monuments and relics going back to over 2000 years – and where, shockingly, many internationally denounced atrocities were committed by the Tamil Tigers during their reign of terror in order to provoke the majority Buddhist community.

The presence at the ceremony of Chief Minister Dissanayake and the dance troupe from his region is a neat touch to display that Sri Lanka has turned the corner to a new era of tranquility, and also to showcase the country’s rich cultural heritage.


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