Major General Vijaya Wimalaratne:
Icon of unparalleled bravery and commitment
Profile of a top brass officer
* Joined as subaltern on August 1, 1962
* Adjutant of 2(V) Gemunu Watch in 1968
* Officer Instructor at the ATC from August 1970 - 1979
* From 1983, Commanding Officer of I Gajaba Regiment in addition to
being Acting Commander of North Central and Deputy Commander
(Operations), Security Forces Jaffna.
* From 1987 -1989 - Commander Garrison Command CBO
* In 1987, Commanded the Second brigade in the Wadamarachchi
* Principal Staff Officer at JOC from 1988 - 1989
The Nation today remembers a fine soldier who showed unparallel
bravery and commitment in the liberation of Motherland from the menace
of terrorism.He was among the top brass of defence hierarchy in the
Northern Province who was caught in a landmine explosion in the Kayts
island on August 8, 1992.
Major General Vijaya Wimalaratne
This valiant officer and a gentleman of the highest calibre gave
formidable courage and stamina to his juniors who later succeeded in
achieving what he was committed to by following in his footsteps.
Major General Vanigamuni Indrajith Vijeyakumar Mendis Wimalaratne,
popularly known as Major General Vijaya Wimalaratne was deeply loved by
his subordinates for his inspirational perseverance and fortitude in the
discharge of duties to the country. Wimalaratne left an indelible
impression in the hearts of all Sri Lankans who firmly believed that
terrorism could be defeated.
Major General Wimalaratne initially joined the Gemunu Watch of the
Sri Lanka Army as a subaltern in 1961 and was promoted to the rank of
Second Lieutenant on completion of training at the Indian Military
Academy where he was the first overseas cadet officer to receive the
covetous appointment the Battalian cadet adjutant. Wimalaratne was a
member of the first batch of cadet officers that received training in
the Indian Military Academy.
Major General Wimalaratne was instrumental in producing a large
number of officers of all ranks and file who played a key role in the
anihilation of terrorism in the country. Being a course commander for
the officer cadets from 1970 – 1991, he conducted jungle warfare and
counter insurgency courses , platoon commanders and second commanders
courses and pioneered in raising the officer study centre.
The Sri Lanka Army having recognized his mettle in all spheres in
soldiering gave the task of building the newly formed Gajaba Regiment.
It is the first time in the history of Sri Lanka Army that two
regiments- I Rajarata Rifle and I Vijayaba Regiments were amalgamated
and formed a new regiment under the name of Sinhala King Gajaba.
Building seven batallions
He devoted his time to raise this youngest regiment to its pristine
glory. His untiring efforts resulted in building seven batallions
comprising of well-trained officers and soldiers.
Major General Vijaya Wimalaratne and Lt. General Denzil
The officers and other rankers in these batallions maintained high
desiciplinary standards and displayed outstanding performance in
carrying out their duties.
The defence authorities at that time selected Major General Vijaya
Wimalaratne who was a Colonel then and Lt. General Denzil Kobbekaduwa as
a Brigadier to command the two brigades in the Operation Vadamarachchi.
For the first time in the history of the Sri Lanka Army three Brigades
were formed for the Operation to relieve the Jaffna Peninsula from
The troops under the command of Wimalaratne set out from the
Velvetiturai camp destroying enemy fortifications in Velvetiturai, Point
Pedro, Pulloly and Nelliaddi areas. It is a well-known fact that the
Operation Vadamarachchi had to be stopped and the Indian Peace Keeping
Forces were sent to North and East to disarm terrorists, which was not a
With the breakout of Eelam War II, the LTTE mounted a series of
attacks against our camps in the North and East and one of their
significant attacks named ‘Mother of Battles’ by the LTTE leader was
unleashed on July 10, 1991 at Elephant Pass. The Army launched an
operation code named ‘Balavegaya’ to break the Tiger grip that was
inexorably strangling the Elephant Pass Camp. The terrorists were trying
to completely evacuate the troops from the Jaffna peninsula and to take
control of the Vanni and Eastern part of the country.
The Kankesanthurai, Palaly and Elephant Pass camps were the main SLA
camps in the Jaffna Peninsula after the camp established at the Dutch
Fort in Jaffna was strategically evacuated by the defence authorities at
It was under these circumstances that then Commander of the Army,
General Hamilton Wanasinghe ordered the Operation Balavegaya I and
appointed Brigadier Vijaya Wimalaratne as the Task Force Commander to
rescue over 800 troops trapped inside the Elephant Pass Camp which was
commanded by Major Sanath Karunarathne.
The Balavegaya operation was launched under the supervision of the
then GOC of the Army’s Northern Command of Major General Denzil
Sri Lanka launched the firstever large scale amphibious operation to
rescue troops trapped in the Elephant Pass Camp amidst heavy LTTE
resistance after all attempts to land reinforcements via helicopters and
dingies failed. `
“Assignment Peace in the Name of the Motherland” by LMH Mendis
records events which led to the operation Balavegaya on July 14, 1991.
Task Force Commander of Operation Balavegaya Brig Wimalaratne delayed
the landing of reinforcement due to heavy resistance on July 15, 1991.
Major General Denzil Kobbekaduwa being the Security Forces’ Commander of
the Northern Province having discussed with the Operation Commander
Wimalaratne on board SLNS “Wickrema” of the Sri Lanka Navy sought the
postponement of landing due to heavy LTTE resistance.
Kobbekaduwa said “This is Patton to Bulldog. Let’s delay the landing
as the resistance is heavy”
But the dedicated battle commander , Brigadier Wimalaratne said “ No,
Sir let’s barge through”.
The Brigadier ordered the second attempt for the landing of
reinforcements to break the siege under the cover of fire from Navy
gunboats and bombardment to terrorist targets by the Sri Lanka Air Force
fighter craft in the evening of the same day and achieved success.
As a result of this courage on decision of the Task force Commander,
troops were able to approach the Vettilaikerni coast.
Not only Major General Wimalarathne took a courageous decision and
commanded troops but he was in the first wave of troops which attacked
the LTTE held beach front at Vettilaikerni.
Troops crossed a rough terrain of 12 kilometres which consisted of
sand dunes, dotted with anti- personnel mines and booby traps to reach
the Elephant Pass Camp under a heavy mortar fire from the LTTE.
These most illustrious war veterans were directing Opetation
Balavegaya in the forefront when they were called to command in vehicle.
A motor bomb fell as they moved into the vehicle killing two soliders
Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as a military officer with
exceptional qualities who played a pivotal role in the battlefield in
Jaffna in an article to a Sinhala daily on August 25, 1992 in
remembrance of Major General Vijaya Wimalaratne said he was the much
decorated gentleman officer who left an indelible mark in the country’s
The Defence Secretary said I Gajaba Regiment entered the Jaffna
battlefront in 1984, when the country was at a decisive juncture. The
soldiers were under the virtual siege of the terrorists and the bunkers
He said Major General Vijaya Wimalaratne pioneered in bringing these
bunkers to Thondamanar , Velvetiturai and several other areas where the
LTTE terrorists dominated.
“Major General Wlimalaratne proved the world that terrorism could
effectively be crushed if well trained”.
Defence Secretary and the Former Commander of the I Gajaba Regiment
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa in an article to the Daily News on July 25, 1992
said the late Major General Vijaya Wimalaratne inspired his men. “He was
a perfectly disciplined soldier who was never worried of personalities
and never carried petty jealousies in him.
“Battlefield was for him the home, the playing field and with
unprecedented loyalty and support of his officers and men fought
Whenever an incident occurred in Jaffna, Major General Wimalaratne as
the Security Forces Commander in Jaffna rushed to the scene with his
battalion and assessed the situation. . In one instance where several
claymores were blown off on the Iddaikkadu–Jaffna road, he was asked to
evacuate several injured who needed early treatment.
He sought SLAF support but they were unable to help as the light was
fast fading in the evening. He then ordered a buffel armoured personnel
carrier to go.
The driver had been injured and there was no volunteer to drive.
Vijaya whose light vehicle driving was questionable took over the 15 ton
vehicle and guided by red lights to the rear from the Gemunu Watch
position, drove in pitch dark, picked up the injured men, gave some
words of encouragement to the Battalion Commander and drove back
virtually through no man’s land.
His life in the Sri Lanka Army was a source of inspiration to others.
He excelled in planning and execution of operations and made his
presence in the battlefront where fierce fighting was raging.
He made all arrangements to ensure that proper logistic support was
available before an operation was launched.
He paid scant attention on his own safety. When a journalist
questioned him about his safety Wimalaratne said to have remarked:
“Don’t worry a bullet can kill you if it has your name on it.”
His knowledge in jungle warfare was enormous that he can be called a
master at it. A good sportsman who always encouraged sports in the Sri
Lanka Army and the I Gajaba Regiment which he formed, was willing to
give an ear to his subordinates. He never distanced from his
The pride he had in I Gajaba Regiment was tremendous and he passed
the feeling onto every soldier.
The Gajaba Nivasa at Saliyapura Anuradhapura stands as a memento to a
man who established it.
The Gajaba Regiment nurtured by him proudly boasts of having seven
Major Generals who played a key role in the eradication of terrorism in
His son, Dr. Hiran Wimalaratna following the footsteps of his beloved
father chose soldiering as a profession after qualified as a medical
practitioner and presently serves in the Sri Lanka Army Medical Corps as
Major. Hiran, the Head Prefect at Royal College at the time of his
father’s untimely death had to finish the last examination paper of the
Advanced Level whilst the family was getting prepared to do final rites
of Major General Wimalaratne.
Major General Wimalaratne’s daughter Dr. Nishanthi was studying
Medicine at University of New Delhi when her father was killed in a land
mine laid by the terrorists in Kayts in 1991.
As a student of Royal College Colombo, he took relentless efforts to
eradicate terrorism and mould a well disciplined army which could face
any challenge with proper training and guidance.
His service for the Motherland will be forever remembered by the
masses eager to live in peace.