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