‘Then the war would never have even started’ – Ex Army Commander Gen. Daya Ratnayake
Former Army Commander and incumbent Chairman of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority, General Daya Ratnayake, said that, in his experience, it is easy to get an education, it is easy to be educated, but what’s hard is to become a person, a human being with the capacity to work hard, to innovate, to choose right over wrong regardless of the consequences, to do the right thing, to do something simply because it has to be done and no one else is willing to take it on.
Speaking as the chief guest at the Pearson BTEC Convocation 2020 of the Esoft Metro Campus at the BMICH, he told the students: “You are educated. You will remain educated until the day you die. You will have that label and you deserve it. The question I put to you is this: are you satisfied with just that label or do you want to become someone special, someone exceptional, someone about whom others will speak of long after you are gone? Do you want to become a legend? If so, let this moment mark a beginning”.
Continuing, General Ratnayake said: “I see you, young men and women, about to close one chapter in your lives and ready to start a new one. In every single one of you, in your eyes, there’s joy and there’s hope. The future holds promise. Tomorrow will be better. Success will be yours. And let there be no doubt in your minds — that is exactly what I wish for each and every one of you. I want all of you to succeed because your success and the success of all students like you could add up to benefit the country of our birth, the nation we love and the people, our fellow citizens, among whom we grew up and must live.
“I want you to succeed and I will tell you why. I have been a soldier and not an academic. I spent 35 years in the Army and I was engaged in combat in 30 of those 35 years. I, like my fellow officers and every single member of the security forces, was ready to lay down my life for my country, for our people”, the former army chief stressed, while adding, “believe me, ready to die though we all were, there were times when I asked myself a simple question: ‘why did it come to this?’ I asked myself ‘what is it that forced me to spend 30 years of my life in uniform, carrying weapons, fighting a war?”.
Gen. Ratnayake added: “I am a Buddhist and Buddhism taught me the doctrine of cause and effect theory, Patichchasamupada. So when I was confronted by a question, I investigated. And my investigation revealed to me that not just the war but almost every major issue that we grapple with are effects of something else, some underlying cause which we have not confronted and resolved. Just the other day, some 60,000 graduates were given jobs in the state sector. A significant number of them, I found out, had been waiting for years for the various governments in power to offer them employment. During all those years, didn’t they look for jobs elsewhere? Didn’t they take the trouble to make a CV? And if they had a CV, didn’t they try to improve it by engaging in something, even voluntary work? If not, why not?
Most of them are beneficiaries of free education. It’s not only that. Most of them were born in government hospitals, when they were sick, they went to see doctors and got medicine from government hospitals. Not only did they enjoy free education until their A/ Levels, they benefited from free education in the universities as well. They got Mahapola Scholarship or bursaries. Who paid for all this? The people. And after all this, they want to sit at home until someone offers them a job!, he observed.
“It pains me to know this reality. It pains me that we have become a nation and a citizenry that has lost all sense of dignity and self-respect. It pained me. because, I remembered how hard I strove to become who I was. I did not become an Army officer, a General and the Army Commander by doing nothing. I wanted to join the Army when I was very young. It was a dream. And I worked hard to make it a reality”, Gen. Ratnayake further said.
He continued: “I found out what qualifications, skills, character and attitudes were necessary to become an Officer Cadet. I needed to be fit, I needed to be strong. So I took up sports. I need to have basic academic qualifications, so I studied hard. I needed to have a particular kind of personality, so I cultivated it. I would have to fight, so I learned how to fight. By the time I was a senior student in my school, I was a leader. I was a problem-solver. Whenever there was a problem, whenever there was injustice, I stepped in. After a while people came to me, asking me to resolve their problems.
“And when I joined the Army I had to learn new skills. I had to be a hundred times more fit. I had to work harder that I ever had in my life. I did all that. Dear students, you are young. You are excited about going out into the wide world. Out there, there is no one who will take care of you as though you were a baby. You can blame the government, you can blame society, you can blame the international political order, but at some level, you will have to stop complaining about things out of your control, look within yourself and fix the problems that you have the power to fix.
“Sadly, we have become a nation of complainers. We like to point fingers at others. We blame someone else for our misery. We don’t stop and ask ourselves if there’s something lacking in us. We don’t admit that we could be flawed/wrong. We have had hundreds of thousands of young people graduating from our universities. They are all educated. I am convinced that each and everyone of you can become extraordinary citizens, extraordinary human beings. I am convinced that you can leave behind a legacy which will make people speak your names with awe and respect. You can become legends.
“So far you’ve gone through the paces. You’ve done the work, passed exams and today you leave with a certificate. Ask yourself if your time here has been exceptional. Did you set yourself extraordinary targets? If you didn’t know much English when you entered, could you say today that you speak and write fluently and beyond what you yourself, your parents, fellow students and lecturers expected?
“My father was a farmer. When I was interviewed for the Army I was asked what my father did. I didn’t say he was a landed proprietor. I said ‘farmer’. I am proud of my father. I am proud that he was a farmer. I am proud that he was not a burden to anyone. He didn’t beg anyone for a job. He didn’t ask for handouts. He didn’t take out his frustrations by ragging someone. He worked hard. He wanted his children to get the kind of education he never had. He wanted us to be useful citizens. He wanted us to have strong values. He wanted us to be the best we can be and try to be even better.
Don’t settle for an ordinary future. Don’t settle for a job, a salary, marriage, home and children. Aim higher. And always remember that there are no shortcuts. There’s no substitute for hard work. Our nation needs you to be exceptional human beings. If all of you do in fact become exceptional human beings, then people like me will not have to spend 30 years of our lives fighting a war that would never have even started had we had the right leaders, right intellectuals and exceptional citizens.
“Remember, that tomorrow doesn’t belong to you. TODAY belongs to you. Be exceptional. Lead amazing lives. Conduct yourself with integrity, self respect, right characters and attitudes. You will no doubt end up as legends”.
The pinnacle Pearson BTEC in Business Management ‘Most Outstanding Performance’ and ‘High Achiever 2019/20’ awards at the Convocation were clinched by Ahinsa Udayani Perera, the winner of The Cambridge World Prize for Business Studies in 2016.
Dr. Dayan Rajapakse, Group Managing Director, ESOFT Group of Companies, Nishan Sembacuttiaratchy, Chief Executive Officer, ESOFT Metro Campus, Mrs. Premila Paulraj, Regional Director – Asia – Pearson Education and Suriya Bibile, Territory Manager – Sri Lanka & Maldives, Pearson Education were also present.