Item in Sunday Observer, 9 April 2017
Today, Sri Lanka pays her solemn condolences to the late Ravi Jayewardene. He was a pilot, and later went on to make significant contributions in the corporate sector. Perhaps, the greatest legacy he leaves behind is the Special Task Force of the Sri Lanka Police. He was the daring visionary who used his prudent mind to foresee the need for a specialized unit within the Police Department at that time, in order to engage in counter terrorism operations and mitigate threats to national security.
Vibrant and positive
In the early 1980s Police stations in the Eastern Province were subject to attack. It was the vibrant and positive attitude of this gentleman, when he served as the National Security Advisor to former President J.R. Jayewardene, which paved the way for the formation of the Special Task Force. Ravi Jayewardene had also served as a Captain of the SL Light Infantry Regiment prior to this. The philosopher Socrates said, “The secret of change is to focus your energy on building the new” and this is exactly what Jayewardene achieved, for the defence establishment at that time. Sixty policemen were handpicked for advanced training.
The first batch of the STF augmented their skills with training from the world renowned British SAS- Special Air Service. Bodhi Liyanage, ASP, was in charge of these officers. Change requires courage. Ravi Jayewardene inspired those in the defence circle at that time and made the need for the STF into a reality. Over the decades the STF has grown in manpower, technology and tactics, from humble beginnings.
It is the solid foundation laid by Jayewardene that has sustained the force over the years, and enriched their operational capability. His vision continues to guide the men and women of the STF, as we streamline our methods and stay ahead of growing needs. Present Commandant of the STF Senior DIG M. Lathiff shared some reflections on Ravi Jayewardene. DIG Lathiff has the distinction of being a Sub-Inspector of the 1st Intake trained by the SAS in February 1984. He said, Ravi was an ‘Unassuming gentleman, who treated all with equality and a man who lived a simple life”.
He had been instrumental in introducing the concept of small team in the sphere of combat. Ravi Jayewardene strongly believed that “Small teams win small wars”. This was endorsed in the STF operations carried out in Batticaloa and Ampara.
Later, during the 1987-1989 subversive insurgencies he wisely positioned the STF in the Moneragala district, which was a fine strategy. Some of the men groomed by his visionary leadership are DIG Ranjith Perera (former Commandant STF), DIG/PSD L. S. Roshan Silva, Senior DIG /CID Ravindra Seneviratne, DIG Special Protection Range Roshan Fernando, DIG Field Force Head Quarters Gamini Walgama (champion shooter) DIG Western Province North Kapila Jayasekera.
Of the pioneers N.K.Illangakoon went on to become IGP. Gamini Navarante became Senior DIG Administration and DIG Nimal Lewke served as a former Commandant STF. To date, 428 officers have laid down their lives to usher in peace. Aristotle once stated, “Excellence is not an act, but a habit”- this can be said of the way in which Jayewardene worked and motivated others around him to attain a common objective. The excellence of the STF today, as a professional and formidable force is a reflection of his untiring efforts. As an expert marksman, he trained the Police Shooting team and introduced Practical Pistol Shooting.
Retired SSP Deva Corea recalls the late Ravi as a good coach and man of discipline who trained him in shooting at the Kalutara firing range, when he was an Inspector. Today, there are many expressions of patriotism. In Latin, it is called “Amor Patriae”- Love of Country. This is an endorsement of the good work done willingly by Ravi Jayewardene, whereby he enriched the security of our nation, which was burdened with a bloody conflict that affected all communities. Establishing the STF further enhanced the capability of counter terrorism and law enforcement, supplementing the Police Service.
ALSO SEE —The Tribute from Hiranthi Wijemanne at http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=163312
A NOTE: I only met Ravi Jayewardene (1936-2017) oncc but was impressed by his sincerity and simplicity. I knew of his sharp-shooting capacity and role through friendship with an old school-mate Sarath de Zoysa. This NOTE is from Wikipedia: “Captain Ravindra “Ravi” Vimal Jayewardene (22 April 1936 – 2 April 2017) was a Sri Lankan aviator and sports shooter. He was the son of President J. R. Jayewardene and served as the National Security Adviser in his father’s administration.Born as the only child of J. R. Jayewardene and Elina Jayewardene, Ravi was educated at Royal College Colombo. Avoiding a political career, he became a pilot in Air Ceylon. He was also a officer in the Ceylon Army reaching the rank of Captain. He competed in the 50 metre rifle, prone event at the 1964 Summer Olympics. In 1971, during the JVP Insurrection he was arrested by the police and never changed. Leaving the country shortly there after he spent time as a Buddhist monk Thailand. He return to Sri Lanka in 1983, to take over the security of his father who was then president and was appointed National Security Adviser. In this capacity he formed the elite Special Task Force, as well as several new regiments in the Sri Lanka Army.”