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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 Operation

* 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.

Committed leader

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 Kobbekaduwa

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 terrorists.

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 success.

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 that time.

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 Kobbekaduwa.

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.

Bravery

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 beside them.

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 military history.

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 were congested.

He said Major General Vijaya Wimalaratne pioneered in bringing these bunkers to Thondamanar , Velvetiturai and several other areas where the LTTE terrorists dominated.

Well focused

“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 relentlessly.”

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 subordinates.

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 the country.

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.

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