Admiral Sarath Weerasekera
By A Ret. Navy Officer.
There have been many characters in the history of Sri Lanka whom we have great respect for the work they have done in their lifetime. Finding a man with true patriotism, loyalty and genuine love for the country today is almost impossible. However, there are a few such valiant men still among us. This man whom I consider such a great man has influenced my life and become a role model for many of us.This great man is none other than the current director general of the Civil Defense Force, Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera. I had the privilege of working under his command when he was acting as the Northern and Eastern Area Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy. The man is a fearless warrior, a devout Buddhist, an artistic poet, a faithful family-man and a loyal friend. While serving in the Sri Lankan navy, I had the rare opportunity to see and feel this great mans enormous love and dedication for his motherland. Admiral Weerasekera joined the Sri Lanka Navy in the year 1971 and graduated from the Sri Lanka Naval & Maritime Academy in Trincomalee. He served as the Commander Eastern, S outhern, Northern Naval areas , Director Naval Welfare & Administration , Director Naval Projects and Plans and the Director Operations of the Naval Headquarters . He acted as the Chief of Staff of the Sri Lankan Navy before retiring in 2006, serving the country for 35 years. Admiral Weerasekera was awarded the 'Rana Wiru Padakkama', gallantry medal for volunteering and landing troops at Pooneryn under heavy enemy resistance, and subsequently rescuing his men in 1993. He is also the recipient of the Uttama Seva Padakkama a medal awarded for distinguished career in service and Poornabhumi Padakkama a medal for service in operational areas. His extraordinary ability to make decisions and take actions accordingly is clearly evident in many incidents in the Northern and Eastern area battles against the LTTE terrorists. One such incident occurred in 1990, where he was onboard the SL Navy Ship ‘ Edithara' which was attacked by three LTTE suicide boats. It was the first suicide attack a Navy vessel has ever faced in the history and was defeated successfully. Where ever Admiral Weerasekera was appointed, he was able to make sensational change around his surroundings. He was always a popular and a trusted character among the naval community as well as the civilians. I guess the reason behind the popularity came with his strong dedication and hard work which he took as his highest priority. Also, apart from performing his duties as naval officer he was actively involved in welfare of others and Buddhist activities. His vast knowledge of defense tactics, history, Buddhism and strong compassion towards his country certainly inspired us immensely and as a result he gained a lot of respect from the navy personnel and general public. As director of Naval Welfare & Administration, he dealt with welfare of troops, rehabilitation of disabled sailors, welfare of families of sailors killed in action and wounded in action. Many looked up to him and believed he was godsend. He initiated many projects to renovate and repair a number of ancient Buddhist temples and historical sites. Dodanduwa Kumarakanda Temple and the Telwatte Jayawardanaramaya are two of such temples that I remember. If my memory serves me correctly he is also responsible for initiating and building a Buddhist temple in Karainagar in the Jaffna Peninsula.
After the creation of the Home Guard Force (which later became the Civil Defense Force) in 1985 to protect villages from LTTE attacks, many considered home guards merely as inept bunch of villagers with Galkatas hand guns ( gambatta ). A massive transformation began after the defense secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa's appointment of Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera as the director general of the 25,000 strong Civil Defence Force in 2006. Since then he was able to recruit more than 5000 people and give them proper weapons & tactics training in order to protect the border villages. The recruits were also given new uniforms, lessons on anti-terrorism tactics, field craft, general law and history of the country as a way to boost their morale.
Admiral Weeraskera never let his extremely busy schedule interfere with his humanitarian work. I'd like to share one such example of his humanitarian work with the readers. Meragal Pedige Gunaweera of Mahavilachchiya joined the Home Guard Force in 1992. He vowed to protect his village and work towards the betterment of his community. Gunaweera always dreamt of one day being able to build a small house for his family though every time he tried to take a loan from the bank he was never approved. Like every other day on the 22nd of November 2007 he said good bye to his family and left the cottage to report to night duty. In the early morning the villagers heard a heavy gun fire coming from Karabagolleva reservoir area. Some people believed it was just the sound of crackers but the next morning the whole country learnt that Gunaweera was gunned down by the LTTE terrorists. In one of his visits to Mahavilachchiya , the home town of Gunaweera, Admiral Weerasekera became aware of this fallen hero's situation and promised to build a house for his family. Admiral Weerasekera and his wife Hemanthi Weerasekera kept this promise by building a house for Gunaweera's family.Admiral Weeraskera is one of the few military personnel to give sound advice to citizens who pretend not to know the reality of terrorism and to speak up for the honor and integrity of his fellow armed services personnel. In the recent past a few so called film producers and journalists who have never had the courage to venture into the battle front or hesitant to appreciate the courage and sacrifices of armed forces personnel and their families make have tried to disgrace the image of the Sri Lankan soldier through their “creations”. Admiral Weerasekera was the first to take the lead in pointing out the false information and inaccuracies portrayed by these so called cinematic creations . He strongly believes that the destruction done by such so called 'great' film makers is greater than that of the LTTE, as through such cinematic creations the reputation of a country could be slaughtered within a few hours when it is screened before an international audience. As I was recently informed Admiral Weerasekera has taken up the challenge of creating a cinematic representation of the hardships and danger faced by the people living in border villages based on his own experiences. In addition to his military achievements, Admiral Weerasekera also holds a masters degree in Buddhist philosophy from the Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies of the University of Kelaniya and currently pursuing a Ph.D in Buddhist philosophy. Recently he published three books ( Noothana Paravi Sandeshaya , Sagaraya saha Gahaniya and Ven. Thotagamuwe Siri Rahula ) which exhibit his poetic nature. Admiral Weerasekera is blessed with a courageous wife and two wonderful children. As every service family they have made many sacrifices realizing that the husband and father is also an asset to the whole nation. Military families have a deep sense of pride, honor and patriotism that few will ever know. They stand strong as they endure separations while their loved ones are deployed to the combat zones. We should stop for a moment and reflect upon and recognize the service of military families and the sacrifices they make on behalf of our great country. The reason for me to write an article about rear admiral Sarath Weerasekera is rather two fold. One being even after leaving the navy his guidance and advice still remain within me and made me the person I am today and I always wanted to show my gratitude in a manner that is also beneficial for others. The second reason is regarding rumors of him joining main stream politics in Sri Lankan. Many people have urged him not to go through with the idea due to their belief that such an honest, trusted man could easily ruin his reputation and recognition by joining mainstream politics in Sri Lanka. Also, his family and friend's concern over his safety and security must be a strong factor as well. Looking back at our political history those who oppose to the idea certainly have a valid point. But my personal belief is that Admiral Weerasekera being a Buddhist has understood that reputation and recognition are short lived and realized what ultimately matters is our service to the country and its people. Whatever said and done the final decision is up to you Sir and I want you to know that whatever that decision might be we are one hundred percent with you. You have done a marvelous job so far and you may have many ideas to put into work for the betterment of our motherland. Finally I must say that I have no doubt in my mind that Rear Admiral Sarath Weeraskerea is the reincarnation of the great naval warrior Nagaragiri Kiththi who in King Parackramabahu era landed on port of Kusumi (Burma), fought and rescued thousands of his countrymen. Sir, we salute you for the things you have done for us and the country, may the triple gem bless you.
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