Salute to an illustrious career

Tribute to Nimal Lewke on his retirement

The curtain has come down on the illustrious career of a fearless officer who iconized the elite STF. Indeed the names of Senior DIG Nimal Lewke as well as that of the late DIG Karunasena are synonymous with the STF. In more recent times Nimal Lewke served in Vavuniya and the North Western Province.

In a career spanning 38 years, Lewke acquitted himself with professional excellence and enjoyed the confidence of his superiors and the respect of his subordinates.

In leading the STF in the recently concluded war, Lewke displayed cool courage of a high order on many an occasion in the face of difficult and dangerous situations. Importantly he interacted cordially with the Armed Services as well enjoyed an exceptional rapport with the Service Commanders. Such camaraderie was principally due to his charisma and candour. His fearless approach in leading the charge as chief of the STF to repulse the enemy attack at the peak of the war in the Eastern boundaries was amazing.

In every operation in the North/East territory, Lewke guided his commandos’ with incredible militaristic acumen and leadership. It is said that his strategic planning was outstanding. Unlike in many other cases I have come across during my career Lewke’s eagerness to learn and his enthusiasm to improve did not diminish in any way with the passage of time; on the contrary he showed an insatiable thirst for police and allied matters.

It was the late DIG Karunasena and Lewke who were responsible for streamlining the VVIP security network to bring it abreast of international standards. On completion of his education at St. Sylvester’s College, Kandy where he excelled in studies and sport, he joined the Sri Lanka Police Service.

A good athlete who excelled in rugby football and boxing but more important a sportsman in the true sense of the word, his sporting attitude permeated his official and unofficial life at all times. His contribution to rugby football in the Police Service earned him many a public accolade. He captained the Police ‘A’ Team and also represented the Kandy Sports Club and the National Team and was a member of the winning teams of the coveted Clifford Cup.

He also served as President of the SLRFU and the Asian Rugby Football Union. His services as a professional coach were in demand by leading schools and clubs. He coached St. Thomas’ College, St. Peter’s College, the National Team, and the Kandy Sports Club with remarkable success.

The secret of his success was his devoted and charming wife Chrisanthi, the daughter of a onetime police stalwart and cricketer of repute, the late S.L. de Silva. They have two children- Dushanth and Anushka, with Dushanth also a brilliant ruggerite who captained the National team as well as Royal College Colombo & CR & FC.

I was privileged to have known Nimal as a colleague and team mate at cricket. In my estimate he is the embodiment of sincerity with an abundance of compassion and understanding as well a deficit of deceit, craft and guile.

At a time when the Police Department has lost some of its lustre due to the distressing effects of mediocre leadership saddled with a litany of recent atrocities and dearth of top management material some of who are clueless in the art of dispensing justice in the matter of the many police chores like investigations or strategies required in combating crime or dealing with sensitive matters without leaving room for complaint of unfairness or ethical shortcomings, Lewke was the exception who symbolized sound management and leadership.

Generous, compassionate and kindhearted, he reached out to people especially at the end of the war when he confronted scores of displaced persons as Senior DIG Vavuniya, demonstrating understanding and compassion irrespective of caste, creed or race.

A highly decorated Officer who was awarded the coveted Bravery Medal and several other decorations, Lewke carried a heavy burden on his relatively young shoulders as chief of the STF. With his retirement the Police Service has lost an exemplary officer who set standards to be emulated by the younger generation.

I wish him a happy retirement with the message that as a policeman of whatever rank you are not a person, Nimal, but rather a purpose. May God Bless and be with you always. Remember that they cannot keep a good man down.

Carlyle de Silva

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