Drastic changes were effected to the upper echelons of Sri Lanka’s Security forces this week. The President, as Commander-in-Chief, made changes to the posts of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Army Commander and Navy Commander. The decision to make these changes was made known to those senior officers on Saturday (11) and the posts were officially filled with oaths being taken on Sunday (12).
Changes in Military hot seats
Accordingly, the architect of the victorious ‘Eelam War’, Gen. Sarath Fonseka, relinquished his position as Commander of the Sri Lanka Army, to be appointed as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). Two years and 10 months into his tenure as Army Chief, he was able to vanquish the LTTE and end its terror campaign that devastated the country for more than 30 years.
Joining the Army on February 5, 1970, as a Cadet Officer, he was part of the Intake Three that passed out on June 1, 1971. On passing out, he was posted to the Singha Regiment. He served his regiment and the Army for more than 38 years. Always, literally leading his men from the front, he was injured thrice in battle, and returned to give leadership to the war against terror. Taking over as Army Commander on December 6, 2005, he promised that he would not leave the task of finishing the war to another Commander, and wiped out the entire terror outfit built by Velupillai Prabhakaran.
Just about to complete the second month of crushing the worst terror organisation ever created, he relinquished command of the Army on Tuesday (14). He takes over as CDS with full powers to command the Security Forces and the Police. This position equals the post of Deputy Defence Secretary. Air Chief Marshall Donald Perera, who was the CDS during the ‘Eelam War’, relinquished his post to end 37 years of military service, during which period he was Air Force Commander for four years and CDS, during the crucial period of the war for three years. He is due for a diplomatic posting.
Maj. Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya, Wanni Security Forces Commander during the final ‘Eelam War’, was promoted Lt. Gen., and took over as the 19th Commander of the Army at age 50. He eclipsed seven senior Majors General for the top job. Having entered the Army with Intake Ten, he could serve as the Commander until 2014, when he will reach the retirement age of 55.
The two seniors considered contenders for the post are Maj. Gen Sumith Balasuriya and Maj. Gen. G.A. Chandrasiri. Though Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri was tipped as the next Commander, due to his being Jaffna Commander for greater part of the final ‘Eelam War’, Maj. Gen. Balasuriya had seniority over the former.
Because of his experience in the North, Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri has now been appointed Governor of the North by the President. As the Security Forces Commander in the peninsula, he came to associate with the people of the North while doing administrative work there, which will stand him in good stead in his new appointment.
Having served the Army for 34.5 years with the Artillery Regiment Maj. Gen. Sumith Balasuriya has submitted his retirement papers, and is expected to be posted as a deputy ambassador overseas.
With the appointment of Lt. Gen. Jayasuriya as the Army Chief, other seniors in the rank of Maj. Gen. too are likely to retire. Among them are Majors Gen. A.S.A. Ranasinghe, Upul Perera, L.B. Aluvihara, Vasantha Kumara and W.K. Bandara.
The appointment of the new Navy Commander too played a part in the changes effected.
Rear Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe was due to retire on July 16 on reaching 55 years of age. Earlier, he was earmarked to be given a six-month extension, prior to being made the Commander, but finally, was appointed the new Commander of the Navy instead.
With the appointment of Vice Admiral Samarasinghe as the 16th Navy Commander, his predecessor Admiral Wasantha Karrannagoda retired, and made National Security Advisor. He served the Navy for 38 years, during which, his four years as Navy Commander, he completely destroyed Tiger naval operations. The attrition the Tigers suffered at sea was such that, it finally had to hide much of its remaining attack craft on land, which consequently fell to the advancing troops.
While these changes were made to top Command positions, other senior positions too are being reshuffled.
New CDS Gen. Sarath Fonseka will have a staff of around 300 including seven Majors Gen., one Rear Admiral and an Air Vice Marshall. Maj. Gen. Laksiri Ameratunga is its Chief of Staff. Maj. Gen Mahesh Senanayaka will be Director General Joint Planning & Defence Development, Brig. Amal Karunasekera to be Director Joint Intelligence, Brig. Maithree Dias to be War Assistant to CDS, Brig. Sumith Padumadasa as War Secretary, Brig. T.H. Meedin to be Director Research & Development and, in addition, Brigadiers Prasanna Silva and Dampath Fernando have been named to fill in other positions.
Meanwhile, the new Army Commander also has made changes to many positions. To begin with he has appointed Maj. Gen. Milinda Peiris as Military Secretary with Lt. Col. Robin Jayasuriya as Military Assistant. On July 16, the new Military Secretary, by order MSB/A/6/1 (APPT) (125), signed the appointment of Maj. Gen. Aruna Jayatileke as the new Commander of the Sinha Regiment taking over from its former Commander Gen. Sarath Fonseka.
Army Commander Lt. Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya, under whom the Mechanical Infantry Regiment operated, has as its new Commander the Military Secretary Maj. Gen. Milinda Peiris. The Artillery Corps that was under Maj. Gen. Sumith Balasuriya has been taken over by Maj. Gen. Jammika Liyanage. Maj. Gen Liyanage’s departure from the Armoured Intelligence Corps has been filled by Maj. Gen. Abdul Zaheer. The Armoured Corps commanded by Maj. Gen. G.A. Chandrasiri, has been handed over to Maj. Gen. N.A. Ranasinghe. The Infantry Regiments’ has been taken over by Maj. Gen. Daya Ratnayaka. Maj. Gen. Lalith Daulugala has taken over as Commander of the Gajaba Regiment, while Maj. Gen. L.B. Mark is the new Commander of the Gemunu Watch. Maj. Gen. Kamal Guneratne is the new Commander of the Special Forces. Brigadier Z. Abeysekera has taken over as Colonel Commandant of the Signals Corps.
By order of communication MSB/A/6/1 (APPT) (132) Jaffna Commander Maj. Gen. Mendaka Samarasinghe has taken over as the Chief of Staff ArmyHQ. Maj. Jammika Liyanage takes over as Commandant SLAVF, in addition to his present duties. Maj. Gen. Aruna Jayatillake takes over as AG AHQ. Maj. Gen. Rajitha Silva takes over as Commander Jaffna.
Maj. Gen. Mano Perera takes over as Director General Staff, Maj Gen. Kamal Guneratna is the new Commander of Wanni. Brig. Z Abeysekera is appointed Commander FMA East. Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe takes over as Chief Signals Officer AHQ, Brig. Aruna Perera is Commander 58 Division. Brig. B. Jayasundara is Director Plans AHQ, Brig. Ruwan Kulatunga is Commander SLMA. Brig. Shavendra Silva takes over as Director Operations, AHQ. Brig. Kumudu Perera is Commander 51 Division.
Brig. Chagee Gallege takes over Command of 53 Division, Brig. Duminda Keppetiwalana takes over as Commander 59 Division. Col. B.D. Dias appointed to Security Forces HQ MLT, Col. R. Palihakkara appointed Dy. Pay Master P&R AHQ, Col. Aruna Jayasekera appointed Operations Commander Colombo, Col. Rohitha Dharmasiri is Centre Commandant SLSR. Col H. Kulatunga appointed Jaffna Town Commander, Col. Mahinda Weerasuriya takes over as Commander 112 Brigade, Col. Wasantha Kumarapperuma appointed Commander 552 Brigade. In addition, it is learnt that Col. Jayantha Guneratna is to be appointed Director Intelligence.
Spoils of war
While these changes in the higher ranks in the forces took place, troops of 19 Sinha Regiment (SR) under 681 Brigade, in a search operation in the Vellamullaivaikal area, unearthed 60 unused radios. Among those found were “Vertex” of Japanese origin and “Sesu” made in the Netherlands.
In addition Sub Inspector Nishantha Hettiarachchi working under the direction of SSP Vas Gunawardene of the Colombo Crime Division, in the area under 681 Brigade, found vital internal documents of the Tiger organisation.
Among those found were related papers on missile boats, helicopter armaments, documents made out for the purchase of night vision binoculars, equipment for night diving, maps, missiles and rockets, papers connected with the purchase of ships, books in the Tamil language on Tiger war tactics and a heap of other documents were found. Through these it is hoped to discover further information on the arms dealings and their activity network.
Also found was an anti tank rocket made in China, not even found in the Sri Lankan military, in the East of Pudukudyirruppu.
Troops under Lt. Col. Athula Ariyaratna, Commanding 622 Brigade, unearthed a 130 mm artillery gun in a bullet-proof steel box from the Mankulam area.