of an admirable Admiral
The 10th death anniversary of Admiral Clancy Fernando, the
former Commander of the Navy fell on November 16. His name is etched
in the annals of history as the highest-ranking Sri Lankan military
officer to make the supreme sacrifice for his motherland.
was assassinated on November 16, 1992 at 8.35 a.m. on the Galle
Face Centre Road in the heart of Colombo. He was on his way to Naval
Headquarters at Flagstaff Street in the Galle Buck from his official
residence "Navy House" at Longden Place, Colombo 7.
It was a bright
sunny Monday and I called the Admiral at his residence to indicate
my inability to join him on the drive from his residence to office.
By then he was getting ready for breakfast with his family and said,
"Thank you, I'll be there" and replaced the receiver.
It was the last telephone conversation I would have with him.
After a few
minutes, I switched on the communication set to monitor his movements.
Suddenly, I heard confused messages and within seconds my office
telephone rang. On line was the Admiral's wife.
As I approached
the scene with tears in my eyes many things crossed my mind. Then
I realized that it was all over and death had snatched him from
I deem it a
privilege to have known him, served under him as his Aide and Personal
Secretary during his tenure of office, from August 1, 1991 to November
16, 1992 and received his wise counsel.
Waduge Erwin Clancy Fernando was born on October 10, 1938. He had
his education at Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa.
The usual practice
was for aspirant Naval Officers to join as cadets and undergo initial
training in the Royal Ceylon Navy and continue at the Britannia
Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, United Kingdom.
joined the then Royal Ceylon Navy on December 17, 1957.
once recalled those days at Dartmouth. "The cadets wore uniforms
of a heavy cloth that never kept its shape and boots and starched
collars were compulsory. Everything was done at the double, whether
or not there was need for hurry, and the discipline was military.
To toughen the boys in mind and body was a constant pre-occupation."
the highest standards from himself and from everyone else. Yet his
professionalism was not cold or calculating. He got enormous pleasure
out of everything he did and communicated it to all around him.
Hard work and
efficiency made him a constructive and thoughtful architect for
at that time believed that this courageous officer was being unfairly
held down. That belief was to stand Fernando in good stead and he
became the Acting Commander of the Navy on August 1, 1991. This
consoled him and fortified him for the struggles that lay ahead.
"First Day as COMNAV" was his diary entry for August 1,
analytical mind, a superabundance of energy, great persuasive powers
and endless resilience in the face of setback or disaster rendered
him the most formidable of operators.
He had a dynamic
personality blended with a personal charm and magnanimity but it
was his leadership that was commendable.
He was a familiar
sight on the frontlines. In Nagatheevanthurai, at Elephant Pass
and even regularly travelling on small naval craft on the Kilali
lagoon. He took enormous risks to boost the morale of his men.
He was a dedicated
leader who gave his commitment to defending peace, unity, sovereignty
and territorial integrity. He rendered logistic support to the successful
joint operations that were carried out in the north.
It was the
naval backing that enabled the forces to expand the forward defence
line in Jaffna.
I can still
remember him walking across the uncleared pathway to Elephant Pass
within minutes after the siege was broken. Undeterred by the rocket
fire all around, he rushed to supervise the evacuation of the injured.
I never felt afraid to go to him even after making a mistake. He
would always say, "Don't worry, every problem has a solution"
and explain carefully what should be done next. He was resourceful,
quick in his reactions, always ready to cut his losses and start
was an all-round sportsman. Someone once asked him which he preferred
- tennis, shooting or golf. After a moment's reflection he replied,
"Well, golf after all, is a professional's game." He was
in his early fifties when he embarked on golf but he enjoyed it.
The Sri Lanka
Navy and the nation bade farewell to him with full naval honours
and heavy hearts. The epilogue of the funeral oration still lingers
in my memory: "Sir, though you have departed from us, your
name and service shall be remembered by us forever as a great patriotic
officer and gentleman, true son of mother Lanka who has made the
supreme sacrifice in defence of our country. As you fade away beneath
the waves, we will steer your cause with all guns blazing."
Captain Shemal Fernando
An unselfish man
The death occurred in London on September 10 of James Arasaratnam
Gnanapragasam. He had gone to England to attend the wedding of his
grandchild. He was in the winter of his life - 93 years of age.
The years sat lightly on him. He was sprightly and alert.
He was a distinguished
alumni of Trinity College, Kandy. He played rugger for Trinity.
As a chartered mechanical engineer, he held a number of responsible
posts in the Railway. Though an engineer, he was appointed AGMR
(Administration) in the Rampala era. He carried out his duties firmly
After his retirement
from the Railway, he joined BCC as its Chief Engineer and Works
Manager. Later when eminent engineer P Rajagopal, a former General
Manager of Railways, started the private firm Railway Engineering
Consultants to build carriages for the railway, he joined the company
as its General Manager and Chief Engineer.
was a princely man, unselfish almost to a fault. He emanated kindness
and goodness. I have known him for more than three decades and was
enriched by his friendship. Always concerned about the wellbeing
of my family, he inquired about my wife and daughter, whenever we
met, and assured me of his prayers. Such was the man, always concerned
wife Rose Jebakani predeceased him nine years ago.
He was a man
of God, good Christian and active member of the community of Christ
Church, Galle Face. The service of thanksgiving for his life and
work was held at this church on October 12. The panegyric by his
daughter-in-law Sylvia at the funeral service in London was re-read
by his son Bala at the thanksgiving service. It was a touching song
of praise and love for a great man. The hymn sheet carried an apt
quote from the Bible:
fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith."