President Mahinda Rajapaksa last Sunday made drastic changes to the country’s military hierarchy surprising the entire defence circle by removing the two topmost defence officials from their posts.
Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka had been appointed as the Chief of Defence Staff, which had been given wide powers through a special Gazette notification, while Navy Commander Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda was appointed National Security Advisor, whch is a new post.
Wanni Security Forces Commander Major General Jagath Jayasuriya, who is the ninth place in the Army considering seniority was promoted to the rank of Lt. General and appointed as the 19th Army Commander while Chief of Staff of the Navy, Rear Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe was appointed as the new Navy Commander after promoting him to the Vice Admiral Rank.
On Friday, Major General Jayasuriya arrived in Colombo to attend a conference to discuss the northern development programme to take place on Saturday. Parliamentarian and Senior Advisor to the President, Basil Rajapaksa chaired the event. On the same day evening, he was suddenly informed that President Rajapaksa had decided to appoint him as the new Army Chief as the President had also decided to appoint General Fonseka as the CDS, with the retirement of Air Marshal Donald Perera on July 15.
It is learnt that the President had taken this decision after holding several rounds of discussions with his defence advisors including his brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who is the Defence Secretary. The President had decided to make these appointments as soon as possible before he left for Egypt to attend the Non-Alignment Movement Summit, due to some unknown reason although was not fully prepared to take this sudden decision.
Earlier, it was remoured that Chief of Staff of the Army Major General G.A. Chandrasiri was tipped to be appointed as the Commander of the Army, but the President had appointed him as the Northern Province Governor after retiring him from the Army.
Major General Jayasuriya who is about to turn age 50 is the ninth senior officer in the Army. Those senior to him were Major Generals Sumith Balasuriya (to retire January 20, 2010) G.A. Chandrasiri, V. R de Silva (to retire August 27, 2009) who is the Commissioner General of Prisons, N.A. Ranasinghe (to retire December 14, 2010), U.R. Perera (to retire Dec 17, 2010), L.B. Aluvihare (to retire December 17, 2009) and W.R Wasantha Kumara (to retire December 18, 2010).
Due to seniority of above mentioned eight Major Generals, most of them were to retire from the forces as they are much more senior than the newly appointed Army Commander. Lt. Gen. Jayasuriya is to retire on January 2, 2014.
It is obvious that Lt. Gen. Jayasuriya had been appointed to the new post considering his experience in the battle field although there were several senior Major Generals still serving in the army.
As mentioned at a press conference by the new CDS General Fonseka, the new Commander was able to come to that seat because of the ‘Merit Scheme’ introduced by him. According to the Merit Scheme, all promotions are given considering their field activities.
“I have changed giving promotions to officers according to their seniority, because of the Merit Scheme the new Commander was able to come to this seat,” General Fonseka told the media soon after assuming duties in the new post on Wednesday at the Joint Operations Headquarters.
Although the new Army Commander held the post of SF Commander and also played a major role in wiping out terrorism from the country during his two year term as the SF Commander Wanni, he has a bigger task before him in managing the Army.
At his first press conference held at the Army headquarters on Wednesday Lt. General Jayasuriya claimed that he had to learn more about the system of the army as he did not have much knowledge about holding such kind of role, as he had not even worked in the Army Headquarters in the last three years.
However, his main priority is to re-motivate his 200,000 strong army and also to transform the force into a highly trained well developed organization in the future. He vowed to continue the work started by General Fonseka.
It is learnt that Gen Fonseka wanted to continue as the Commander of the Army for sometime, as he had plans to re-organize the Army. During his three year term he was able to turn around the Army for the military purposes. He brought up junior officers to higher posts, gave them tasks and treaed them according to their skills showed in the battlefield. Although there was criticism against these appointments Gen. Fonseka successful as he won the war after defeating the Tigers.
As he mentioned at the media briefing, although he able to win the war, he said he was unable to look into the welfare of the Army. He said his only disappointment was that he was unable to look into the welfare of the army.
Addressing the officers and other ranks soon after assuming duties in his new post, he claimed that he would continue to monitor the situation in the army.
General Fonseka is the first CDS to be appointed after the new CDS Act giving wide powers to the holder of the post was presented in parliament by Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake two weeks ago and approved by the House. The newly passed Act stipulates that the CDS will chair the defense committee comprising the Commanders of the three armed forces, and coordinate relations between the armed forces and the Defence Ministry.
The new CDS expects to get seven Major Generals from the Army, a Rear Admiral from the Navy and an Air Vice Marshal from the Air Force for his staff. Some 300 staff members will be allocated for the CDS.
He would form an intelligence unit under his direct purview in the country including the operational areas.
With regards to the Navy appointment, it is learnt that the President had signed the document appointing Rear Admiral Samarasinghe on July 30 night. Rear Admiral Samarasinghe too was informed about this new appointment on Saturday.
It is learnt that President Rajapaksa has decided to appoint Admiral Karannagoda creating a new post – National Security Advisor much earlier. He had already asked the Defence Ministry to create this post and assign tasks to the post.
Although this new post is similar to the post that is in India and USA, it is learnt that the tasks for this post are yet to be finalized.
With the new appointment, Admiral Karannagoda retired from service and was mobilized to Regular Reserve Service of the Sri Lanka Navy.
However this new position is yet to be approved by the cabinet. The post would be an advisory post and it comes under the President’s Secretary, but higher than to a Ministry Secretary, it is learnt. But all these proposals are under review.
Accordingly, the post of the NSA is not only restricted to security matters, but also other areas such as food security, disease security, external and internal threats etc.
National Security Advisory
The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, commonly referred to as the National Security Advisor serves as the chief adviser to the President of the United States on national security issues.
This person serves on the National Security Council within the Executive Office of the President. He or she is supported by a staff that produces research, briefings, and intelligence for the NSA to review and present to the National Security Council and the President of the United States.
The National Security Advisor is appointed by the President without confirmation by the United States Senate. As such, they are not connected to the bureaucratic politics of the Departments of State and Defense, and are therefore able to offer independent advice. The power and role of the National Security Advisor varies from administration to administration.
In times of crisis, the National Security Advisor operates from the White House Situation Room, updating the President on the latest events of a crisis.
The current office holder is retired Marine Corps General James L. Jones, who assumed the duties of the post when Barack Obama was sworn into office on January 20, 2009 as President of the United States.
The National Security Advisor (NSA) of India is a member of the National Security Council (NSC), and the primary advisor to the Prime Minister, the Indian Cabinet and the NSC on internal and international security issues. He is tasked with regularly advising the Prime Minister on all matters relating to internal and external threats to the country, and oversees strategic issues. The NSA of India also serves as the Prime Minister’s Special Interlocutor on border issues with China, and frequently accompanies the Prime Minister on Foreign State visits.
The directors of Research &Analyst Wing and Intelligence Bureau technically report to the NSA rather than the Prime Minister directly. He receives all intelligence reports and co-ordinates them to present before the Prime Minister. He is assisted by a Deputy NSA.
The post was created on November 19, 1998 by the Government of A B Vajpayee, with Brijesh Mishra as the first appointee.
Since the creation of the post, Mr J N Dixit has been the only NSA to die in office. His colleague M K Narayanan, who was then PM’s Special advisor on Internal security, was made NSA with immediate effect.
Lt.Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya – Army Commander
Lt. Gen. Jayasuriya said that his main purpose is to re-motivate the Army, who fought against the Tigers in the last two and half decades. Addressing his first media conference he made following comments:
“Soldiers were continuously engaged in fighting. Since the fighting is over now we need to re-motivate them to be a peacetime military. Running a peacetime army is quite different. Discipline has to be emphasized. I am very concerned about it.”“I will continue with what Gen. Fonseka was doing, and my vision would be transforming the Army to a highly trained and developed organization to face the future requirements of the country.”
“Although the war is over, we have to re-design our training and other process.”
“Everyone can deal with me as I am a different man, so my method is different.”
General Sarath Fonseka – Chief of Defence Staff
General Fonseka said that his main mandate is to provide strategic directions to the armed forces, develop a doctrine for the joint employment of the armed forces and facilitate the preparation of strategic plans while overseeing matters in respect of functions relating to intelligence, prepare operational and contingency plans and advice on military recruitment and procurement tenders.
He is answerable to the Secretary to the Defence Ministry.
Addressing the media he said:
“It would be a bigger task that I have, as all the armed forces and the Police are under my purview. My first duty is to organize the whole operation and coordinate all the forces with the Defence Ministry.”
“I expected to have an intelligence wing under my direct purview and deploy its members especially in the operational areas.”
“Through last few years we were able to gain experiences than other armies in the world. We changed our strategy accordingly to the requirement. I am sure no other armies in the world has such kind of experience — what we have now. Some prominent countries with sophisticated arms were in trouble when they fought foreign countries, so Sri Lanka is a good opportunity to them to learn, if they like.”“Our forces are currently engaged in de-mining activities as well as development work especially in the liberated areas in the north and east and we would continue to do that, as the war is over.”
“But we need more men to man the liberated areas, so we are in the process of recruiting more youths not only to the army but also to other forces as well.”
“Some 500 soldiers from the Indian Army would come down to assist the de-mining operation in the country soon.”