News Item in Island, 12 January 2019, ….
Major General Shavendra Silva on Thursday assumed office as the 53rd Chief of Staff of the Army during a simple ceremony at Army Headquarters, amidst religious observances. In the backdrop of chanting by the Maha Sangha to invoke blessings on the new office, he placed his signature on an official document to signify the assumption of duties.
After offering ‘Pirikara’ to the Maha Sangha, senior officers extended their best wishes to the new Chief of Staff. Major General Niyshshanka Ranawana, Director-General General Staff, Major General Wajira Palihakkara, Director- General, Financial Management and many other senior officers were present.
The leadership qualities of Major General Shavendra Silva were witnessed before he joined the military. During schooling, he captained the college first 11 cricket team, Cadet Sergeant of the Cadet Platoon and Cadet Sergeant Major of the School Cadetting Band.
When he was studying in Grade 10, he was appointed the Head Prefect of the college, which still stands as a record in the history of S. Thomas’ College, Matale. He excelled in sports and received school colours at all the events that he participated in.
In this backdrop, he joined the Army as an officer cadet with Regular Intake 19 on March 5, 1984. After the successful completion of training, he was commissioned on November 16, 1985 and was posted to the Gajaba Regiment as the first ever Gajaba officer to be originally posted to the regiment since its inception.
Shortly after joining the 1st Battalion of the Gajaba Regiment, the Commanding Officer made him the Commander of the Special Operations Platoon, which was later renamed Rapid Deployment Force. This was the beginning of the concept what is known as ‘Special Forces’ today.
In recognition of his valour and bravery in the battlefield, he was awarded with three gallantry medals simultaneously – Weera Wickrama Vibushanaya, Rana Wickckrama Padakkama and Rana Shura Padakkama at a medal parade in 1991, which stands as a distinctive record even today, as the only Second Lieutenant of the Sri Lanka Army, including its equivalent of sister services, to be so decorated.
Major General Shavendra Silva received the highest number of medals earned by a military officer in Sri Lanka, and the left lapel of his uniform bears ample testimony to it.
During his 34-years illustrious military career, he held a number of staff, instructional, command and diplomatic appointments in various capacities. As a staff officer, some of the key appointments he held were G1 (Plans) at Directorate of Plans at Army Headquarters, G1 (Training) at Directorate of Training at Army Headquarters, G1 (Operations) at Security Force Headquarters, Jaffna, Staff Officer 1 at Military Secretary’s Branch of Army Headquarters and most importantly, Director-General Operations at Army Headquarters.
In his instructional appointments, he was an officer Instructor of the Sri Lanka Military Academy, where he became the Course Officer of Regular Intake 37 including training of foreign officer cadets for the first time in Sri Lanka in 1991. Later in 2005, he became the Commanding Officer of the Officer Cadet Wing of the Sri Lanka Military Academy and has groomed several hundred young officers to the Sri Lanka Army in particular and to the country at large.
In command assignments, he was the youngest Commanding Officer ever appointed by the Sri Lanka Army. He commanded an infantry battalion with nine and half years of service during the operation code named “Operation Riviresa”, conducted in 1995 to liberate Jaffna Peninsula from the LTTE.
At a very crucial stage of operations against terrorists, he was appointed Commander, Air Mobile Brigade by the then Commander of the Army. In August 2006, he was instrumental in re-capturing the forward defence lines of Muhamalai, then known as the “National Front of Sri Lanka” when half of the defences were under the control of LTTE at the time.
Thereafter, he commanded the victorious 58 Division which had the highest number of successful achievements during the Wanni Humanitarian Operation that liberated the country. His Division made the longest journey during this operation and fought over 200 kilometers until its final victory and wrested control of the single largest land mass ever captured by any formation, including the biggest quantity of military hardware, weaponry and other equipment from the LTTE.
His Division also conducted the largest ever hostage rescue mission at Pudumathalan by liberating over 100,000 civilians from the clutches of the terrorists. Lieutenant General Amarjeet Singh Kalkat, former Chief of Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka, recommended Shavendra Silva’s name to be recorded in the Guinness Book over his commitment in undertaking the rescue operation.
In 2009, he reached a landmark achievement in the history and was the youngest ever to be promoted to the rank of Major General by the Sri Lanka Army.
In 2010, he was assigned as the Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in New York. He is the one and only serving military officer in Sri Lanka’s history to be promoted to an ‘Ambassadorial’ rank by the Foreign Service of Sri Lanka. Major General Shavendra Silva became the first-ever Sri Lankan to be appointed to the United Nations High-Level Advisory Panel on Peacekeeping Missions by the then Secretary General. As a result of his thoughtful consultations, a salary increment to United Nations Peacekeepers were given.
Further, he was appointed Alternate Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Special Political and Decolonization Committee, which dealt with global territorial disputes as well as peacekeeping matters. It was his initiative to deploy Sri Lankan Air Force helicopters and establish the Military Hospital in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.
He was a graduate of Harvard University, USA and successfully completed the Senior Executives in National and International Security program. To his credit, he has authored a book titled “Sri Lankan Identity since 2600 years”, written to mark the 2600th anniversary of the Lord Buddha’s Enlightenment.
In appreciation of his true devotion to preserve the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the motherland, the tri-sects of the Sri Lankan Buddhist Order conferred on him the honorary titles “Sri Lankeshwara Aparadha Meheyum Visharadha Jothikadhaja Veeraprathapa Deshamanya Jathika Gourawanama Sammanaya” and the “Veera Gajendra Sangramashuri Jathika Gourawanama Sannasa”. They are the most prestigious awards that a lay person can receive from the tri-sects of the Sri Lankan Buddhist order.
At present, Major General Shavendra Silva is serving as the Colonel of the Regiment of the Gajaba Regiment.