May your roar reverberate in the echoes of time

The loss of Major General Janaka Perera is a devastating blow to a country now devoid of learned, respected and beloved leaders who potentially could have united all the races of Mother Lanka under one banner. With his untimely demise, another shining light has gone out, only to be remembered in memory by generations of Sri Lankans to come. His life of service to the nation will be part of the great historical record that is the exclusive preserve of the privileged few, who served a grateful nation; never for personal reward or recognition, but to answer a call of duty, that for this Lion of Sri Lanka, was too loud to ignore.

Like his esteemed brethren Lieutenant General Denzil Kobbekaduwa, Major General Vijaya Wimalaratne, and other dedicated and decorated service personnel before him, Major General Perera was a Sri Lankan patriot who served his motherland to the end, and vehemently believed that a return to greatness for our country was on the horizon. His success on the battlefields over 20 years will now be part of the essential reading on military strategy, and he was the true epitome of courage and perseverance. His leadership on the battlefield against all odds and adversity today is the stuff of legend. His colleagues in the Army will vouch with pride that in a lifetime of service to his beloved country, he never wavered in his duty and obligations to his troops and commanders, and he put our nation’s interests first.

In an age where moral values have been desecrated, and where politicians are the standard bearers for the prevailing social fabric of society, Major General Perera stood out like a beacon. While he was human and therefore vulnerable to human failings, he always strove for greatness, and his learned discourse and dialogue always smacked of hours spent reading on subjects that he couldn’t speak on with authority. His supreme self-confidence coupled with an unbridled self-belief was seen as arrogant by some, but viewed in general as the hallmark of all great leaders. He had that rare quality where he never expected anyone to do something, that he himself would not do first, and he always led from the front, even when it was strategically important that he manage his troops from the safety of his command centre. His loss will echo throughout the armed forces more than anywhere else, as he spent almost his entire life in their service, and was one of their most beloved sons.

A record of distinguished service…

He had the unique distinction of being the Colonel Commandant of the Commando Regiment, Special Forces Regiment and the Corps of Sri Lanka Engineers. Major General Janaka Perera had been awarded the gallantry medals Rana Wickrama Padakkama and Rana Sura Padakkama, the distinguished service medal, Vishista Seva Vibhushanaya service medals, the Uttama Seva Padakkama, Sri Lanka Armed Services Long Service Medal, combat service medals Purna Bhumi Padakkama, North and East Operations Medal, the Vadamarachchi Operation Medal, the Riviresa Campaign Services Medal, and also the Republic of Sri Lanka Armed Services Medal, 50th Independence Anniversary Medal 1998, Sri Lanka Army 50th Anniversary Medal and President's Inauguration Medal.

His entrance into politics was controversial, and even when many of his family and closest advisors questioned his decision, he always said that he still had so much to give his country, and wanted to contribute even after completing his exemplary military service. While many will rue his decision in the coming days, it important to see his most dominant quality of self-sacrifice, shining through. One can only hope that his peers and colleagues alike will carry forward the legacy of this great man, as a testament to his sacrifice. What is now needed is not further political divisions and debates, but for Sri Lanka to go forth united together in her efforts to stamp out the scourge of terrorism, and bring peace and prosperity to all people of this island.

He was one to all…

He was dearly loved by the people of all races and creeds, and always expended his duties to ensure racial harmony was maintained wherever he or his division was based. Even in hostile territory, he always assured the minorities that he would never tolerate anyone, even his troops, to violate the rights of the very people they had sought to liberate from the evil clutches of terrorism. He had no patience for political masters, and refused to compromise himself or his troops for the petty political mileage that today has become the hallmark of politics and service in Sri Lanka.

His devoted and lifelong partner Mrs. Vajira Perera, who also perished in this cowardly attack, was his tower of strength, his harshest critic and his biggest fan. She always went everywhere with him, and made sure that in his battlefield absences, she raised a wonderful family that he could be proud of today. His children share his gregarious nature, and their mother’s charming and pragmatic approach. They will take heart that they had extraordinary parents who made the supreme sacrifice serving the country they loved so dearly.

Farewell Lion of Lanka, and may your roar reverberate in the echoes of time, and may your spirit inhabit the generations of patriotic children of our motherland. May you find in eternal rest, the peace for which you have worked so long.

Ashan Malalasekera. Founder & Executive Director, Youth Progressive Foundation (YPF) - Sri Lanka.

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