steps down and steps up
- Eelam war IV may intensify after breakdown
of Oslo talks
At the auspicious hour of 10.04 a.m. on Friday
June 9, Admiral Daya Wickrema Kumara Sandagiri created military
history. He became Deputy Defence Secretary, a position created
for the first time in post independent Sri Lanka.
|Defence Secretary, Admiral (retd.) Daya Wickrema
For a 19-year-old, who joined the Navy as an ordinary
sailor Medical Assistant on November 14, 1966, the rise this week
to a powerful slot in the nation's defence and security establishment
is both phenomenal and unprecedented. He retired as Chief of Defence
Staff (CDS), the topmost position in the security establishment
holding sway over the Army, Navy, Air Force and Police. Within hours
he was named Deputy Defence Secretary, a position higher than the
This is despite a Presidential Commission of Inquiry,
now completing initial formalities, to probe allegations of bribery
and corruption against him. It is during the period between 2001
and 2005 when he was Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy. The one-man
Commission comprises Justice Nimal Gamini Ameratunga, a serving
Judge of the Supreme Court. The Commission has already received
written public representations. Hearings are to begin in camera
or in secret. Besides this, the Commission to Investigate Allegations
of Bribery or Corruption is also conducting an inquiry into his
assets. This is to ascertain whether they were acquired through
legitimate means. He has already been called upon to declare his
|President Mahinda Rajapaksa
Holding the first powerful slot in Sri Lanka's
defence and security establishment is President Mahinda Rajapaksa,
Minister of Defence and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.
The second is the Deputy Minister of Defence, a portfolio held by
Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake. The third is Defence Secretary,
Gothabaya Rajapaksa. And now, the fourth could easily be identified
as Admiral Sandagiri.
|Defence Secretary, Gothabaya Rajapaksa
Ending a 33-year career in the Navy, Admiral Sandagiri,
cast away his customary white uniform. He wore a western suit last
Friday when he walked into the Ministry of Defence to occupy a room
next to the one used by Defence Secretary Rajapaksa. It had remained
vacant after Ms. Malini Peiris, then Additional Secretary, went
on retirement. There he signed a document at the auspicious hour
of 10.04 am.
Thereafter Admiral (retd.) Sandagiri joined Defence
Ministry officials and special invitees to a tea party where the
traditional kiribath, kavun and other local sweetmeats were served.
Among those present were Defence Secretary Rajapaksa, Commander
of the Air Force and CDS designate Air Marshal Donald Perera, Major
General Nanda Mallawaratchchi, Chief of Staff of the Army and Major
General (retd.) Palitha Fernando, Military Liaison Officer at the
If Admiral Sandagiri, as exclusively revealed
in The SundayTimes (Situation Report) last week,
was asked to step down from the post of Chief of Defence Staff,
the position he should hold thereafter and what it should entail
appears to have been the subject of a long drawn debate at the highest
levels of the Government. One of the posts offered to him thereafter,
The Sunday Times learnt, was Chairman of Sri Lanka
Telecom, one that was meant to keep him away from the defence and
security establishment. This post felt vacant after its incumbent
Anil Obeysekera was appointed chairman of Lake
However, a powerful few were not in favour. It
was argued that with Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka still
recuperating after the suicide bomb attack on April 25, Defence
Secretary Rajapaksa would not have the services of an "experienced"
officer if Admiral (retd.) Sandagiri left. Even Mr. Rajapaksa was
strongly of the same view and wanted him to remain. Hence, it was
argued that Admiral Sandagiri's services be retained in the defence
Initial moves were to make him an Advisor to the
Ministry of Defence. As revealed last week, this was after formal
cabinet approval. So much so, soon after the National Security Council
(NSC) meeting ended last Wednesday morning, Admiral Sandagiri shook
hands formally with President Rajapaksa. He thanked him for all
the support and co-operation received when he was CDS. That appeared
a farewell and signaled the end to his future participation at the
That afternoon President Rajapaksa flew to Mailapitiya
in Kandy to take part in the National Ranaviru Remembrance Day.
The Ranaviru Seva Authority, as in the past years, had organised
a well-attended ceremony to pay the nation's tribute to troops who
sacrificed their lives for the country and the people. On Wednesday
evening there was no cabinet meeting. Nor did the agenda for that
meeting include a proposal to appoint Admiral Sandagiri as an adviser
to the MoD.
However, just hours ahead of the re-scheduled
cabinet meeting on Thursday evening, Ministers received a supplementary
cabinet paper. It was from President Rajapaksa as Minister of Defence
and recommended the appointment of Admiral Sandagiri as Deputy Secretary
to the Ministry of Defence. It was unanimously approved.
Though the day-to-day functions for retired Admiral
Sandagiri are yet to be defined, and high ranking Government officials
contend he will play only a "limited role," his position
in the Ministry of Defence hierarchy is clear. He will be next to
Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa. Though it is pointed out
that he will not be called upon to act as Defence Secretary, yet
he will become eligible to hold that position. Under the administration
of former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, during the
absence of the Defence Secretary, Additional Secretary Sunil Sirisena
was appointed to act. But on occasions when Defence Secretary Gothabaya
Rajapaksa was away from Sri Lanka, President Rajapaksa appointed
his Secretary Lalith Weeratunga in that post.
In his earlier capacity as Chief of Defence Staff
(CDS), Admiral Sandagiri's role was largely that of a military co-ordinator
- to unify counter terrorism tasks of the Army, Navy, Air Force,
Police and ensure the maximum use of their resources. But as Deputy
Secretary, he is expected to have administrative control over a
wide area of matters. This is likely to cover intelligence activity,
the workings of the armed forces, police and their overall administrative
The operative date for Admiral (retd.) Sandagiri's
appointment as Deputy Defence Secretary, according to Thursday's
cabinet decision, is tomorrow, Monday (June 12). On this date Donald
Perera, to be promoted to the rank of Air Chief Marshal, will take
over as Chief of Defence Staff. He also creates history by becoming
the first serving air chief to rise to this high rank.
Taking over tomorrow as Commander of the Air Force
will be Roshan Goonetileke, who has been promoted as Air Marshal.
He is an accomplished pilot who has excelled in operational roles
and won medals for bravery. Succeeding him as Chief of Staff in
the Air Force will be Air Vice Marshal P.B. Premachandra, also a
well experienced Fixed and Rotary Wing aircraft pilot. See
box stories on this page for their bio data.
The elevation of Admiral (retd.) Sandagiri to
the post of Deputy Defence Secretary has set a poser for several
serving Navy officers who want to testify before the Presidential
Commission of Inquiry. Earlier, as revealed in The Sunday
Times (Situation Report - April 2) some serving officers
conversant with procurement and other related matters wanted to
make representations to the Commission but sought assurances that
there would be no reprisals on them. Then it was on the grounds
that some of the serious allegations they level are centered on
an officer who held the highest post, the Chief of Defence Staff.
And now, he is Deputy Defence Secretary.
President Rajapaksa's decision to appoint a Supreme
Court judge to probe Navy procurements during Admiral (retd.) Sandagiri's
tenure followed the exclusive revelation in The Sunday Times
(Situation Report) of January 1, this year. It revealed how the
Government cancelled over a billion rupee deal where former Commander
of the Navy and then Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Daya Sandagiri
ordered 20 year old guns for the Navy's fast attack craft fleet
on the grounds they were "brand new" and made an advance
payment running into millions for the weapons that were not in production.
The move followed a full report the Commander of the Navy Vice Admiral
Wasantha Karannagoda sent Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa.
Vice Admiral Karannagoda declared in his report
that the "deal appears to have been done deliberately in order
to give time for the contractor to find the guns since they were
not in production." He added "Possibility exists that
this was done to buy time until the Royal Navy (United Kingdom)
started removing their 20-year-old guns from their vessels. He warned
that "if the deal went through, Sri Lanka Navy craft would
have been fighting with weapons of outdated technology against the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). This would have had a serious
bearing on national security."
Vice Admiral Sandagiri takes over as Deputy Defence
Secretary at a very critical moment in the country's history where
fears are rapidly mounting over an all out war. An area of great
concern is the enforcement of the Ceasefire Agreement after the
collapse of the Norwegian-sponsored Oslo talks this week. The LTTE
assertion that three European Union member countries - Sweden, Finland
and Denmark - have no "moral right" to serve in the Sri
Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) has set a serious poser. Members
from these countries account for 37 among the 57 strong SLMM.
Norwegian peace facilitators have made clear they
will not bring in any more nationals from their own country to serve
in the SLMM. That in effect means that the LTTE, which is one party
to the Ceasefire Agreement, now recognises only 20 SLMM members.
With a low intensity Eelam War IV intensifying, observing the CFA
with such a handful of monitors would be a daunting task for the
SLMM. On the other hand, the Government has made clear nationals
from Sweden, Denmark and Finland, although from EU Members States,
should be recruited as members of the SLMM in their individual capacities.
Thus new issues over ceasefire monitors await
to be resolved. This is in the backdrop of SLMM members not boarding
Navy vessels deployed on various operational tasks. In this context,
the five questions Norwegian peace facilitators have posed both
to the Government and the LTTE are relevant.
In letters he wrote to President Rajapaksa and
LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, Norway's Minister for International
Development, Erik Solheim wants to know:
1. Will the parties stand committed to the Ceasefire
Agreement (CFA) of February 22 2002?
2. Do the parties want the continued existence
and operation of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission as a Mission coordinated,
facilitated and led by the Royal Norwegian Government with diplomatic
immunity to ensure its impartial operation?
3. Are the parties able to provide full security
guarantees for all monitors, employees and physical assets of the
SLMM in all situations, in accordance with CFA Article 3.9?
Note: Article 3.9 of the CFA states:
"The Parties shall be responsible for the appropriate protection
of and security arrangements for all SLMM members."
4. Will the parties accept amendments to CFA Article
3.5 in order to enable the continued functioning of the SLMM at
its current operational levels and with the necessary security guarantees?
Note: Article 3.5 of the CFA states:
"The SLMM shall be composed of representatives from Nordic
5. In the event that amendments to Article 3.5
are made, will the parties provide full security guarantees for
current SLMM personnel and assets during a six-month transition
phase until an amended solution has been identified, decided and
The answer from the Government, no doubt, would
be a firm "yes" to all the questions. What of the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)?
There are serious doubts whether they will say
"yes" to all of them. After the failed Oslo talks, the
LTTE issued a six-page document titled "LTTE's Oslo Communique."
Formatted on the lines of a legal document, the preamble states:
"The de-facto state of Tamil Eelam excercising jurisdiction
over 70 per cent of the Tamil Homeland, with control over the seas
appurtenant there, with its own laws, independent judiciary, police
force and full administrative apparatus. The Liberation Tigers of
Tamil Eelam (LTTE), being the authentic representative of the Tamil
nation and its sole interlocutor in the current peace process facilitated
by the Royal Norwegian Government. The LTTE acting as the sole defender
and protector of the Tamil Nation, its People and the State institutions
with its modern defence forces."
Using the word "noting" in every paragraph
the LTTE "Oslo Communiqué" traces the history of
the ethnic conflict, lists the failures of successive governments
also accuses paramilitary groups and armed forces of alleged killings.
It says that "the SLMM monitor's safety and the LTTE concerns
could be met without amending the CFA coupled with the proper protocol
of the level of the negotiating teams, the LTTE's proposed bilateral
negotiations in Oslo."
Two other paragraphs in the document spell out
the LTTE position vis-à-vis the peace talks. One says "
Noting that the talks agreed in Oslo is not to be Geneva talks II
which requires prior meeting of the central committee of the LTTE
and compliance of Geneva I agreements. These prerequisites have
not been satisfied due to the continued intransigence of the GOSL."
The other is "Noting that the international
community's insistence that the solution should be found within
a united Sri Lanka coupled with the military threat against the
LTTE will not only disrupt the power equilibrium but also remove
the incentive for the GOSL to seek a negotiated settlement."
Amidst the EU ban, with clear strains in their
relationship with Norway after the failed Oslo talks, and with the
SLMM over their safety being endangered, is the LTTE setting the
stage for a dramatic shift? The question looms large as an inevitable
turn of events is escalating Eelam War IV to the highest level.
flyer takes over Air Force
|Air Marshal Roshan Goonetileke
Air Marshal Roshan Goonetileke takes over as Commander of
the Sri Lanka Air Force tomorrow.
Succeeding him as Chief of Staff will be Air Vice Marshal
Here are their brief biographies:
Air Marshal W.D.R.M. J (Roshan) Goonetileke was born on
February 28, 1956. He completed his education at St. Peter's
College, Bambalapitiya where he excelled both in studies and
in sports. He is the elder son of the 5th Commander of the
Air Force Air Vice Marshal Harry Goonetileke.
Air Marshal Goonetileke joined the Sri Lanka Air Force as
an Officer Cadet in the General Duties Pilot Branch on January13,
1978. On successful completion of flying training he was commissioned
in the rank of Pilot Officer on August 24, 1979. During his
illustrious career of 28 years, he has held a number of command,
operational and administrative appointments.
Having logged many flying ours both in fixed wing and rotary
wing aircraft when serving in the capacity of an operational
pilot he served as the Commanding Officer of No 03 Maritime
Squadron and the Commanding Officer of No 04 Helicopter Wing.
He took up senior operational command appointments as the
Zonal Commander Northern Zone, Zonal Commander Eastern Zone.
He has also commanded Air Force Bases in Katunayake, Anuradhapura
and China Bay. He served a very successful tenure as the Director
of Operations/Deputy Chief of Staff Operations of the Air
Force before being appointed as the Chief of Staff.
Air Marshal Goonetileke graduated from the Air Command and
Staff College, Air University, Alabama, USA in 1994 and had
also attended the prestigious National Defence College in
Pakistan in 2001.
In recognition of his distinguished service career he has
been awarded the Uttama Seva Padakkama. For the bravery displayed
in conducting operations he has been awarded the Gallantry
Meddle 'Rana Wikrama Padakkama' twice.
Air Marshal Goonetileke, is married to Nelun. They are blessed
with son Rehan and daughter Ronali.
Prema new Chief of Staff
|Vice Marshal P.B. Premachandra
Assuming office tomorrow as the Chief of Staff of the Sri
Lanka Air Force will be Air Vice Marshal P.B. Premachandra.
He was born on May1, 1957 and completed his education at
S. Thomas' College, Mt. Lavinia where he excelled both in
studies and in sports.
Air Vice Marshal Premachandra joined the Sri Lanka Air Force
as an Officer Cadet in the General Duties Pilot Branch, May
25, 1979. On successful completion of Flying Training he was
commissioned as a Pilot Officer on July 9 1981. During his
career he has held the appointments of Officer Commanding-
Flying at Flying Training Wing, Air Force Base Anuradhapura,
Commanding Officer No 2 Wing, Air Force Base Ratmalana, Commanding
Officer No 08 Squadron and Commanding Officer No 2 Squadron
at Air Force Base Ratmalana, Zonal Commander Northern Zone,
Base Commander Air Force Base Anuradhapura, Air Operations
Commander North, Base Commander Air Force Base Ratmalana,
Base Commander Air Force Base Katunayake, Director Training
and Director Operations at Air Force Head Quarters. He is
now Deputy Chief of Staff at Air Force Head Quarters.
Air Vice Marshal Premachandra graduated from the Air Command
and Staff College, Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base,
Alabama, USA in 1996. In 2004 he attended National Defence
College, New Delhi, India. During his career in the service
he has undergone a number of Overseas training Courses including
Flight Safety Officers Course and Junior Command and Staff
Course, Pakistan, Strategic & Security Studies at both
NESA Centre- National Defense University, Washington and Asia
Pacific Centre, Hawaii.
Having logged over 5000 flying hours, both in Fixed and
Rotary Wing Aircraft, Air Vice Marshal Premachandra has also
instructed and commanded many types of Aircraft in the Sri
Lanka Air Force. Since 1982, he has actively participated
in Air Operations in the North and East.
In recognition of his distinguished career in the service
he has been awarded the Gallantry Medals of Rana Wickrama
Padakkama and Rana Sura Padakkama, for his individual acts
of bravery. He is also decorated with Utthama Seva Padakkama
and the Sri Lanka Armed Services- Long Service Medal.
Air Vice Marshal is married to Vasuki and is blessed with
one son and two daughters.