The valiant men who led ground troops
Fighting a war against the world's most ruthless terror outfit is not
an easy task. But, Sri Lanka, a dwarf compared to other nations leading
the war on terror, achieved that task before any other nation.
The human resource Sri Lanka had at hand and the will to defeat
terrorism to bring peace to the nation were the key factors that
encouraged our nation to achieve that task. As a nation, Sri Lanka,
always believed not in the state-of-the-art weaponry but on the men
behind them when continuing its effort to defeat terrorism.
A hand picked set of military officers from the Sri Lanka Army
irrespective of seniority in the field took over that task on behalf of
the nation to defeat terrorism. The ground commanders who led the troops
in the battlefield itself emerged as giants in the field when the
humanitarian operation systematically reached its end on the banks of
Nandikadal Lagoon in Vellamullivaikkal, in Mullaitivu on May 19 , 2009.
Lt. General Jagath Jayasuriya
Major General G.A. Chandrasiri
Major General Mendaka Samarasinghe
Major General Kamal Gunaratne
Major General Prasanna Silva
Brigadier Satyapriya Liyanage
Brigadier Nishantha Wanniarachchi
The field commanders who led the battles in the East and Wanni
theatres became stars among the common masses even surpassing the
popularity of local film stars. In fact those field commanders were the
heroes of local film stars who are heroes in the action thrillers and
commercial films. There was a trend among actors and actresses to get
photographs with their heroes even at public functions.
Though, almost five years have already lapsed, from the date the
humanitarian operation commenced in Mavil Aru, the memories I shared
with those field commanders flash in my mind vividly.
Those field commanders with the blessings of Defence Secretary
Gotabaya Rajapaksa and then Security Forces Commanders became the
binding factor to make media personnel closer to the battlefronts
enabling them to inform the common masses about the updates on the
battlefronts. So the role played by them in the battlefront and also
with the media led to the successful conclusion of the humanitarian
If we follow the sequence of the battles starting from the Mavil Aru
operation, the media and the common masses had very little knowledge
about the field commanders and also what was going on inside the
But, I have vivid memories about then 22 Division Commander based in
Trincomalee who shared his first experience in the humanitarian
operation both Mavil Aru and the LTTE attack on five Army detachments in
and around Muttur on August 2, 2006.
A military officer well reputed for his neatness and competency in
handling battles, Major General Mendaka Samarasinghe later became the
Security Forces Commander in Jaffna, when the troops from the Jaffna
front marched towards Elephant Pass after 58 Division troops captured
Paranthan junction and Elephant Pass enabling the troops to liberate the
entire A-9 Road .
Along with Major General Samarasinghe, Lt. Colonel Sarath Wijesinghe
who commanded the 223 Brigade in Ella-Kantale during the Mavil Aru
operation and Sampur operations has to be remembered. A young Brigade
commander at that time has now risen to the rank of Brigadier to command
a Division in Mullaitivu.
People knew very little about Special Forces and the Commando troops
who fought brave battles in Mavil Aru and Sampur as their operations
were conducted under cover. But it was well-known fact that it was the
Special Forces troops who played a leading role in capturing Sampur in
September 2006. Colonel Prasanna de Silva (now Major General) as the
Special Forces Briagade Commander led the special troops in Sampur and
also during the Vakarai operation.
Colonel Prasanna Silva, an Army officer reputed for his meticulous
planning of military operations and for his simple lifestyle with
limited comfort was highlighted after the end of the Vakarai operation
which ended in January 17, 2007.
Later he once again made his appearance in the battlefront in the
Northern theatre as the 55 Division Commander to command the troops to
march along the Eastern coast of the Jaffna peninsula capturing
Vettilaikerni, Kevil, Chundikulam and Chalai to reach North of
Mullaitivu and also as the 59 Division commander for a brief period at
the final stage of the humanitarian operation.
It was Major General Daya Ratnayaka (now the Chief of Staff of the
Sri Lanka Army) who was the commander of 23 Division based in Welikanda
who supported the troops engaged in Vakarai operation and shared the
responsibility of handling the huge influx of civilians from Vakarai to
Welikanda. Major General Parakrama Pannipitiya, then Security Forces
Commander in the East also contributed to this effort.
Following the liberation of Vakarai by the troops led by Special
Forces, the next target in the Eastern theatre was entrusted to the
commando troops. They had to lead the infantry battalions to wrest
control of the areas in the west of Batticaloa and Thoppigala jungle
which had become a real breeding ground for terrorism in the East.
A military officer who can make things happen at any given time and
reputed for his unconventional approach to the battlefront, Colonel
Chagi Gallage (now Major General) who was the Commando Brigade Commander
at that time led the commando and infantry troops to capture Thoppigala,
thus liberating the entire Eastern province from the clutches of the
He was then appointed the Commander of the Task Force I, to lead the
battle in the Mannar theatre but could not proceed due to his health
condition. But later he played a keyrole in the Army behind the scene as
Director Infantry Training.
At the final phases of the war he once again played a key role in the
Mullaitivu front by strengthening the defence lines all along the
Nanthikadal Lagoon enabling the troops to trap the LTTE leadership in
Vellamullivaikkal. If not for the strengthened defence line under his
command the LTTE leaders would have easily escaped to the jungle patches
in Mullaitivu at the final days of the humanitarian operation.
When the battles were continuing in the Eastern theatre the Sri Lanka
Army opened up its first offensive Division, the 57 Division in Kalmadu
in Vavuniya, to neutralise the Tiger threat in the Wanni front.
A man who can take any pressure silently and move forward, Major
General Jagath Dias led the 57 Division to the fore capturing key Tiger
strongholds. With the liberation of Madu Shrine in April 2008, they
marched in the West of A-9 Road capturing Periyamadu, Palampiddi,
Vavunikulam, Thunukkai, Mallavi, Akkarayankulam to capture Tiger
stronghold Kilinochchi on January 2, 2009 and then proceed toward
Ramanathanpuram, Dharmapuram and Visuamadu south.
Brigadier Shavendra Silva (now Major General), an outspoken officer
who never got tired in his march towards victory, led the troops of the
Task Force I, which was later formed as the 58 Division in the Army, to
capture the entire North Western coast and then to march from West to
East without any rest.
Their achievement includes the capture of Mannar 'Rice Bowl',
Viddathalthivu, Vellankulam, Mulankavil, Nachchikuda and Pooneryn on the
North Western coast.
After capturing the entire Western coast the 58 Division moved
towards Paranthan along encircling the Pooneryn-Paranthan Road in a solo
battle and captured Kilinochchi along with the 57 Division. They later
marched towards Elephant Pass to link up the troops from Northern front.
In their eastward march from Paranthan, the 58 Division led by
Brigadier Shavendra Silva captured Murusamoddai, Dharmapuram, Visuamadu,
Suthandirampuram, Puthukudiyiruppu, Iranapalai to reach the last stretch
of the No Fire Zone in the North of Mullaitivu and successfully
completed the world's largest hostage rescue mission in Puthumattalan.
They fought till the last day of the battle in Vellamullivaikkal where
Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran killed while hiding in the mangroves
of the Nanthikadal Lagoon in the early hours of May 19 ending the
longest march any Army Division had completed during the humanitarian
The 59 Division which was formed to neutralise Tiger activities in
the North of Weli Oya was led by Brigadier Nandana Udawatta a soft
speaking and determined Army officer.
His Division fought a solo battle in the Mullaitivu jungles to reach
its ultimate objective of capturing the Tiger stronghold Mullaitivu in
January 2009 facing many decisive battles.
Brigadier Rohana Bandara, a sensitive and keen Army officer, led the
troops of the Task Force II which began its operations in the South West
of Mankulam in the West of A-9 Road.
The Tiger strongholds between Omanthai entry exit point and Mankulam
were the prime targets of the Task Force II, troops led by Brigadier
Rohana Bandara reached upto Muthiyankaddu tank in the South West of
Task Force III the fifth offensive Division added to the Wanni
operation was led by the keen Army officer Brigadier Satyapriya
Liyanage. They marched southwards from Murukkandi to Mankulam on the A-9
Road upto Ampakamam and Puthukudiyiruppu West after capturing Olumadu on
the Mankulam Mullaitivu Road.
Task Force IV, the sixth offensive Division joined for the Wanni
operation in December 2008 from Otiyamalai led by Brigadier Nishantha
Wanniarachchi, a simple and humble officer, to capture Oddusudan and
south of Puthukudiyiruppu. He led his Division to capture many hideouts
of Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran in the South of Puthukudiyiruppu.
Brigadier G.V. Ravipriya, a battle hardened and task oriented
officer, led Task Force VIII the last offensive Division formed in
February 2009, to support the Wanni troops at its final phase of the
humanitarian operation. It was the troops under his command who
recovered the body of Velupillai Prabhakaran on the banks of Nanthikadal
From the Northern front, Major General Kamal Gunaratne led the troops
of the 53 Division who marched along the A-9 Road from Muhamalai to
Elephant Pass after capturing Soranpattu, Pallai and Iyakachchi.
His troops were later deployed in the south of Puthukudiyiruppu in
support of the final phase of the humanitarian operation.
It was the present Army Commander Lt. General Jagath Jayasuriya who
oversaw the Wanni battlefront as the Security Forces, Commander, Wanni
while Major General G.A. Chandrasiri, now the Governor of the Northern
Province led the troops in the Northern front until he was promoted as
Chief of Staff of the Sri Lanka Army.
The combination of these Army officers who led troops from various
directions towards the final phase of the humanitarian operation joined
hands together in Vellamullivaikkal on May 21, to silence the guns as
they all were able to achieve the tasks entrusted to them by their