by A Retired Army Officer
( July 1, 2017, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) There seems to be once again an ungentlemanly rush to canvass for the coveted position of the “Commander of the Sri Lanka Army”. The incumbent Commander has already been promoted to 4-star General rank and appointed as the Chief of Defence Staff. Thus there is a requirement to fill up the Army Commander’s position.
At this juncture, it is important to reflect on the behaviour and the performances of the Sri Lanka Army since January 2015; the month in which ‘Yahapalana’ government under the current President took office.
General De Silva was appointed the 21st Army Commander by HE the President in the month of February 2015, at a time when many were pointing fingers at the Sr Lanka Army for meddling and dabbling in politics. To his credit, since assuming office De Silva has done a lot of work and toiled hard to steer the Sri Lanka Army away from politics. He went to the extent of publishing an ‘Army Order’ which is an authoritative document to bar officers and men from indulging in politics. At the same time, Sri Lanka Army over the past 2 years proved that it can function as a disciplined professional body. A case in point is its action during natural calamities; floods, landslides etc. De Silva is also known for his unquestionable honesty and integrity.
However time and again media has highlighted the reluctance on the part of the Army in the last 2 years to make available required documents and material for expeditious completion of some high profile court cases; Eknaliyagoda disappearance, Keith Noir assault case etc. These are cases about which not only the Sri Lankans but also the international community have shown interest.
Overall barring a few hiccups Sri Lanka Army has by and large stuck to its main responsibility in the last 2 years; Preservation of National Security. Thus HE the President should be commended for directing De Silva to infuse professionalism into the Sri Lanka Army which is recognised the world over for its unparalleled successful campaign against LTTE terrorist.
In the above context, it is important to select the right senior officer to head this important organisation for the sake of the country. HE the President who is also the Commander in Chief needs to be mindful of those who campaign through religious leaders and politicians for the position. Such individuals whatever their capabilities may be should never be appointed to head this prestigious organisation. There is lots of talk doing the rounds about various politicians especially those who have brought nothing but discredit to the Army canvassing for various officers. They must be told to keep away.
Let the President decide on the basis of professional competence, the unblemished record and most importantly on required professional qualifications. Honourable Prime Minister too could contribute by sharing his views on this all-important matter. HE the President as the Commander in Chief should be cautious not to create any doubt in the minds of other officers in the Army with regard to the acceptability of his choice.
For the sake of the country and the Army, let us hope the right choice is made.