2nd December 2001

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  • Strong and silent man who served the nation - Admiral Ananda Silva
  • Model officer and perfect gentleman - Felix de Silva

  • Admiral Ananda Silva

    Strong and silent man who served the nation

    The great nineteenth century guru of warfighting strategy in the west, Karl von Clausewitz wrote, "war is nothing but the continuation of politics with the admixture of other means". 

    In contemporary Sri Lanka we have turned von Clausewitz upside down and made politics the continuation of war by the same means. 

    Sadly though in the fog of both war and politics, the memory of so many good men who lived and fought bravely for the larger principles and ideals of a peaceful, united and democratic Sri Lanka has been obscured.

    It is already two years since Admiral Ananda Silva passed away. His family and friends are left with lingering memories of a gentle and good man whose life was spent in the Navy in dedicated service to his country. He rose to be its Commander and later to be Chairman of several statutory bodies.

    The Navy is called the 'silent service'signifying the many lonely hours sailors spend at sea. Ananda Silva was a strong, silent man in that service. His quiet efficiency and unassuming manner were very much a contrast to the stereotype of the old salts with their rum-swilling, bluff braggadacio. He saw the transition from a post-Independence Navy in a small developing country engaged mainly in ceremonial and routine duties to a well-knit fighting organization embroiled in a war to defend the country's territorial integrity. His role in that transition was significant especially during his five-year period as Commander. No wonder he was the first Sri Lankan naval officer to be promoted to the four star rank of Admiral.

    When Ananda Silva joined the Navy in 1953 directly from St.Thomas' College, Mt. Lavinia, despite parental pressure to continue studying to enter Medical College, the small fledgling service was the butt of many jokes. One British newspaper carried a headline 'The fleet's in!, when the Sri Lanka Navy's Vijaya arrived at the Tilbury docks. Trained at the Royal Naval Colleges of Dartmouth and Greenwich, he had his sea training with both the British and the Indian navies. Later Ananda graduated from the National Defence College in India with a Master's degree in Defence Studies. Growing up in the Sri Lanka Navy he was able to witness its transformation into a disciplined military outfit pressed into the defence of the country.

    It is not generally known that it was Ananda Silva's quick reflexes that saved Rajiv Gandhi from worse harm when a sailor in the honour guard attempted to assault the distinguished visitor. At the same time it was his leadership of the Navy in 1987 when the Indian attempt to send a flotilla of boats with food supplies to Jaffna was foiled, that helped to protect the island's sovereignty. Ananda typically did not advertise himself or his achievements. He was rewarded with many honours including the Vishishta Seva Vibushanaya ( VSV) in 1983 and retired from the command of the Sri Lankan Navy in 1991 after a 38-year career. The final three years were also spent as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. When Ananda died he was Chairman and Managing Director of the Housing Development Finance Corporation.

    Ananda recognized the importance of the Navy for the defence of the island-nation of Sri Lanka and built it into an efficient fighting force creating new shore bases and designing a naval strategy to protect the country. He should be remembered with gratitude. His example should be emulated by his successors.

    - Jayantha Dhanapala

    Felix de Silva

    Model officer and perfect gentleman 

    F. Felix Delip de Silva who did Sri Lanka proud in the Sultanate of Oman as Inspector General of Police and later Advisor to the Sultan on Police Affairs, and received the highest and prestigious awards of the state, died in the U.S. on October 23. He was 74 years at the time of his death. He had guided the destinies of the Royal Oman Police for over two and a half decades, and was highly respected and admired by its people. 

    A multi-faceted personality, indomitable police officer, administrator of the highest calibre, philanthropist, sportsman, and above all a human being with rare qualities, it is not easy to write an appreciation covering all aspects of his personality, remarkable personal qualities and outstanding and commendable achievements. To evaluate the significant contribution he made in the transformation of a rather medieval Police Force to that of a highly modernized and efficient one and also the best in the region is no easy task. 

    His education at St. Aloysius College, Galle, under Jesuit priests had a great impact on him. Discipline and devotion to duty which were synonymous with the Jesuits became his guiding principles later and in no small measure contributed to his remarkable success. Felix was proud of his alma mater and loved his school dearly. 

    When he left school, he took to planting. Adventurous and daring by nature, the life of a planter did not appeal much to him. In search of a more exciting and challenging career, he joined the Tanganyika Police Force and soon excelled in his duties displaying a remarkable aptitude for Police duties. He was rewarded with accelerated promotions. In the sixties he joined the Royal Oman Police which was in a fledging stage. 

    Distinguishing himself with rare dynamism, dedication and efficiency much to the envy of British officers, he was promoted in quick succession. 

    In the early seventies, he assumed duties as Inspector General of Police and Customs. 

    Felix successfully organized the various branches of the force providing for specialization in the respective fields of activity, setting up a Marine and Mounted Division and an Airwing. When he relinquished duties in early 1983, The Royal Oman Police was recognized as a sophisticated, highly equipped force with the most up-to-date techniques, systems and procedure. It was the best in the Gulf states. A significant and commendable feature of the Force he painstakingly built was close affinity with the people. 

    He zealously attempted to identify the Police Force as the "Friend of the People" and it is to his credit that it has remained deeply attached to the people, in spite of the dramatic social and economic changes. 

    Felix was decorated and bestowed prestigious awards by the Sultan. In his retirement, he was also appointed Advisor to the Sultan on Police Affairs and required to undertake sensitive diplomatic assignments. The Sultan had implicit faith in Felix and the Omanis loved him dearly.

    Serving the Royal Oman Police in the late seventies and working at Police Headquarters, where the Inspector General was located, I was fortunate to observe his inimitable style of management. Although somewhat unconventional, it was most effective. He epitomized the model officer and perfect gentleman.

    Despite his diverse interests he was essentially a family man. Those who visited the de Silva home experienced the family warmth. Though of diminutive stature, he was dynamic and asserted himself with firmness and authority, but also with decorum. 

    He loved fast cars and go-kart racing, and won many a coveted trophy in the Tanganyika, Kenya and African Safaris and open meets. 

    A devout Buddhist, he practised his religion unobtrusively, observing the four Sathara Brahma loving kidness, compassion, altruistic joy and equanimity. He gave generously to the temples in his birthplace, Galle, to his less fortunate relations and friends-in-need. He was very critical of cheap publicity. 

    A man of principles he never hesitated to speak for what he believed in and what he was against. During the last few months with his health deteriorating, tormented by an illness with no apparent signs of recovery, he did not sulk. 

    He maintained his characteristic stoic disposition. His wife and daughters looked after him with love and care. 

    Felix is no more. Sri Lanka has lost a great man and Oman a friend. Felix was a rare personality.

    - J.T.R. Fernando

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