Major General Jagath Jayasuriya, the new Commander of the Sri Lankan Army would be taking the challenge of leading a peacetime army. It would of course be a challenge. However, without his predecessor, Gen Sarath Fonseka — who was last week appointed to the newly legislated position of the Chief of Defence Staff — Major Gen Jayasuriya would have been assigned to a far more daunting task: fighting a full blown war against the LTTE. Gen Sarath Fonseka, who functioned as the Commander of Army for a period of over two and half months, leaves a legacy which many a predecessor could never accomplish: the annihilation of the LTTE, the most dangerous terrorist groups according to the rankings of the Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI).
According to the latest senior security forces appointments made last Sunday (12), Commander of Army, Gen Sarath Fonseka was appointed to the Chief of Defence Staff; a position which was hitherto a nominal posting till it was granted legal power under the act of Chief of Defence Staff passed in parliament.
The Commander of Navy, Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda was appointed National Security Advisor, a place hitherto non existent in the national security hierarchy. However, it is pertinent to note that even in the US, from where the Sri Lankan officials may have taken a leaf, the influential post of National Security Advisor, who functions as the chief advisor to the President on the national security affairs is an extra constitutional post, which first came into being in the early 50s under the Eisenhower Administration.
The Army Chief of Staff, Major General G A Chandrasiri, the second senior most officer of the Army, who was serving under a service extension, was tipped to succeed Gen Fonseka. However, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is also the Commander in Chief decided to appoint Major Gen Chandrasiri, who served earlier as the Security Forces Commander, Jaffna and as the competent authority on the IDP camps and the Governor of the Northern Province as well. The appointment was made as Dickson Jaela, the then serving Governor was tipped to become the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to the Maldives. This paved the way for Major General Jagath Jayasuriya, who was till last week, the Security Forces Commander,Vanni, to the post of the Commander of Army.
Still, Major Gen Jayasuriya, a Royalist, was the 10th in the list of seniority. However, as the new regulations limits the appointment to the post of the Commander of Army to the officers from infantry units, armoured corps and selected officers of Engineering Units, seven contenders were eliminated, leaving Major Gen Chandrasiri and Major Gen Sumith Balasuriya. The latter however has tendered his retirement papers after service of 34 years. On Sunday, 12, Major Gen Jayasuriya was appointed the commander of army at age 50. Going by the tradition, he could serve till his retirement at the age 55 till 2014.
One reason for the appointments to be made last week was that, Vice Admiral Tisara Samarasinghe was to retire in the course of the week. The first option was to grant him a service extension. However, later it was decided to appoint him as the Commander of Navy. Rear Admiral Samarasinghe, who has excelled in all overseas training programs he pursued with exemplary performances, would be the 19th commander of the Sri Lankan Navy. After taking office, he told the press that he would plan to modernize the Sri Lankan Navy. He said the Navy would re-equip its Israeli built Saar 4 class Missile Gun Boats with missile systems.
The upgrading of the Gabriel II anti-ship missiles of the missile boats, Nandimitra and Suranimala, which are dysfunctional at the moment would increase the conventional warfare capability of the Sri Lankan Navy. In addition, he said the navy would develop a naval air wing. The Sri Lankan Navy now operates four vessels – SLN Jayasagara, SLN Sayura, SLN Sagara and former US coastguard cutter, SLN Samudura which can handle the take off and landing of helicopters. A previous plan during the tenure of then commander of Navy, Vice Admiral C A C Thisera to develop a naval air wing based on the platforms of Indian built Offshore Patrol Vessels was scuttled due to financial constraints.
Role of the Navy
Since the war has come to an end, the role of the Navy would likely expand in the coming years given Sri Lanka’s strategic location as an island nation. As Sri Lanka’s Exclusive Economic Zone is expected to expand too, the role of the Navy would likely grow. This is in addition to keeping an eye on the re-equipped LTTE and its overseas cells. The enhanced role would require the expansion of the naval fleet, which is clearly not upto the task at hand.
Meanwhile, with the military threat posed by the LTTE negated, Sri Lankan forces are in search of a new mission. The deployment of a mass army to police the former warzone and keep a tab on possible LTTE infiltrators, does not augur well in the light of the economy of forces principle. There are several mission options available for the Sri Lankan forces: One such is the greater participation in the UN peace keeping operations. Another would be assuming an enhanced role in the reconstruction and rehabilitation in the north-east. Both would provide an economic rationale for maintaining a mass army.
In line with the security forces of the other parts of the Asia, what is equally important is transforming Sri Lankan forces to meet the challenges of the 21 Century, in an era of Revolution of Military Affairs (RMA) which has rendered mass armies largely redundant, at least in inter-state conflicts. That could only be achieved through investing heavily on the technological sophistication.
New army appointments
The new commander of the Army, Major Gen Jagath Jayasuriya has effected the following appointments effective from Friday.
Major General Mendaka Samarasinghe has been promoted as the new Chief of Staff of the Army. Maj. Gen. J. J. P. S. T. Liyanage has been appointed as the Commanding Officer of the Volunteer Force. Maj. Gen. D. E. W. B.Jayatillake has been appointed as the Adjutant General, Army Headquarters. Maj. Gen. G. P. R. Silva has been appointed as the Security Forces Commander, Jaffna.
Maj. Gen. A. M. Perera has been appointed as the Director General, Army headquarters. Maj. Gen Kamal Gunaratne has been appointed as the Security Forces Commander, Wanni.
Maj. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake has been appointed as the Director Planning, Joint Operations headquarters.
Brig. T. S. Meedin, will assume duties at the Joint Operations headquarters. Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe has been appointed as the Chief Signals Officer.
Brig. P. G. A. Weeeasinghe has been appointed as the Commanding Officer, Military Police.
Brig. B. A. Perera has been appointed as the Commander, 58 Division. Brig P. M. P. Jayasundara has been appointed as the Director Planning, Army headquarters.
Brig G. R. Kulatunge has been appointed as the Director Military Academy, Diyatalawa. Brig. Shavendra Silva has been appointed as Director Operations.
Brig. M.K.D.Perera has been appointed as the Commander, 51 Division. Brig. Chagie Gallage has been appointed as the Commander, 53 Division. Brig. Duminda Keppetiwalana has been appointed as the Commander, 59 Division.
Col. P. B.D. Dias has been appointed as Security Forces headquarters, Mullaitivu. Col. W. R. Palihakkara, has been appointed as the Deputy Pay Master. Col. K. P. A. Jayasekera has been appointed Operations Commandant, Colombo.
Col A.M.T.Dharmasiri has been appointed as Director, Sinha Regiment, Ambepussa. Col. H. Kulatunge has been appointed , Jaffna Town Commandant.
Col. W. A. M. Weerasuriya has been appointed as the Brigade Commander, Colombo 112 Brigade.
Col. K. A. W. Kariyapperuma has been appointed as the Brigade Commander, 552 Brigade.
Maj. Gen. P. S. T. Liyanage has been appointed as the head of the Artillery regiment.
Maj Gen A. S. M. Zaheer has been appointed as the Col. Commandant, Military Intelligence Corp. Maj. Gen. D. R.W. B. Jayatillake has been appointed as the Col. Commandant of the Sinha Regiment.
Maj. Gen. R. M. D. Ratnayake has been appointed as the colonel of the Regiment, of the Ceylon Light Infantry regiment. Maj. Gen. M. P. Pieris has been appointed the colonel of the Regiment of the Mechanized Infantry Regiment.
Maj. Gen. S. W. L. Dawulagala has been appointed as the colonel of the Regiment of the Gajaba Regiment.
Maj. Gen. L. B. R. Mark has been appointed as the colonel of the Regiment of the Gemunu Regiment and Brig. E. P. D. Abeysekera has been as the colonel of the Regiment of Signals.