According to the Marxist theory of the state, the army is the chief component of state power. Whoever wants to seize and retain state power must have a strong army. The Sri Lankan state had a strong Army, Navy and Air Force led by a strong Three Forces Commanders, managed by strong Defence Secretary and backed by strong Political Leadership.
These leadership levels along with sacrifices made by patriotic soldiers of our armed forces immensely contributed to totally defeat the world’s most ruthless terrorist group the LTTE on 19 May 2009. The rebel movement existed for nearly 26 years.
Afterwards, the citizens of the country belonging to all communities enjoyed peace for ten years until a series of bombings struck churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday (21April), killing more than 250 innocent civilians including 40 foreigners. The blasts had an impact on the livelihood of many people.
Sri Lanka, which touches the shores of the Indian subcontinent in the North and the Antarctica in the South, is ideally located in terms of international trade and navigation with its fine harbors and allied resources and strategically placed in terms of its geopolitical significance. In proportion to this significance of the country, the possibility of threats to its internal security too increase. Therefore, it has become important to keep the country’s defence forces on their toes in order to face possible threats that might appear in different forms.
“There are no bad soldiers, only bad officers” - Napoleon Bonaparte French General and Emperor 1769-1821. A soldier may die, in combat, doing what they wanted done The soldier died performing the duties they were trained to do and enjoyed doing. Perhaps all the high lofty reasons merely lead to the one reason that is overlooked. The professional soldier is skilled in the administration of violence. This is the primary skill that sets them apart from the civilian. Their motivation stems primarily from a love of the military craft and a desire to so utilize it for the benefit of society. The soldier is willing to sacrifice his own comforts on a daily basis; so perhaps the sacrifice of their lives is just an extension of the sacrifices they have been prepared to make throughout their entire lives. Perhaps they are called to do something that they may not quite understand, but instinctively they know it is a part of their destiny. Their calling is so powerful that they are willing to endure pain and depravation regardless of what others may think of them. They fight in battle because they are being attacked by the ruthless enemy who is attempting to kill them. Or maybe they fight and die and yes, even kill, because the survival instinct that is within is stronger than our ability to rationalise in a life and death situation.
VALUES AND STANDARDS
Humans are naturally team players; we all seek the company of others and like to share our experiences. The Sri Lanka Army is the ultimate team. It has an excellent reputation across the World, for defeating the world’s most ruthless terrorist organization. A lot is expected of you as a Sri Lanka soldier; you will be required to serve in dangerous places, risk your life on behalf of the citizens and the country and put up with uncomfortable conditions. Our Values and Standards must be maintained throughout our stay in the Army. Patriotic soldiers are expected to behave and conduct themselves to the highest standards.
It is in this context, that there is a dire need to educate about the values that and Army soldier should possess and inculcate in order to perform the entrusted primary duty of ensuring national security and subsequently command respect from the public. Being a soldier is not easy. You are asked to do things not asked from other people. You have to be aggressive and strong in battle yet behave properly and show self-control eternally. You have to fit in and be part of a team. You have to trust your teammates and they have to be able to trust you.
SIX ARMY VALUES
1. Courage-Doing and saying the right thing not the easy thing
All soldiers need courage, both physical and moral. Showing physical courage and risking injury or death to complete the mission is about controlling your fear, rather than a lack of fear. Training and discipline will help you perform your duties regardless of dangers and discomforts. Moral courage is doing the right thing, not looking the other way when you know or see something is wrong, even if it is not a popular thing to do or say.
2. Discipline- Doing things properly and setting the right example.
All teams need discipline. Discipline is vital in the line of work; it means that orders are carried out and everyone is confident that they will not be let down by their teammates. Self-discipline is the best form of discipline - doing your job without being told. It depends on high personal standards that would earn you the trust and respect of your teammates. It gives you the courage to make the difficult choices that you would face in your career. Discipline helps you control fear.
3. Respect for others-Treat others as you expect to be treated.
Soldiers come in all shapes and sizes and all deserve to be treated fairly. There is no place for any form of harassment or discrimination in an Army that claims to ‘Be the Best’. Discrimination damages teams; it excludes members and does not give them an opportunity to contribute. The Army recognises the importance of humour, but humour must be inclusive. Humour that insults, ridicules or intimidates people is destructive and damages the team. Respecting others is part of the trust that has to exist between you and your teammates; you must judge people on their abilities and not on their race, religion or sex. Respect for others, including civilians, detainees and captured enemy forces, means treating people decently.
4. Integrity- Be honest with yourself and your teammates.
Integrity means being honest, not lying, cheating or stealing. If you lack integrity, your teammates cannot trust what you say or do; they cannot rely on you and your team would suffer. You must look after your integrity as, like trust; once it is lost it takes a long time to earn back, if ever.
5. Loyalty- Support the army and your teammates.
Loyalty is about supporting your teammates, looking after and helping them, putting their needs before your own, not letting them down, even when the going gets tough. In return, they would do the same for you. However, loyalty does not mean you should cover up for illegal or unlawful acts committed by your teammates, as that would show a lack of integrity and moral courage.
6. selfless commitment- Mates and mission first, me second.
The Army is about teamwork - none of us works on his own, we always work in a team: section, platoon/troop, company/squadron/battery, battalion/regiment. Teams can only be effective if we all play our part in full, putting the team and the mission before our own needs, trusting each other totally - even with our lives if necessary.
Infantry is a military specialization that engages in military combat on foot, distinguished from cavalry, artillery, and tank forces. Also known as foot soldiers, infantry traditionally relies on moving on foot between combats as well, but may also use mounts, military vehicles, or other transport. Infantry makes up a large portion of all armed forces in most nations, and typically bears the largest brunt in warfare, as measured by casualties, deprivation, or physical and psychological stress.
The first military forces in history belong to infantry.
Infantry has much greater local situational awareness than other military forces, due to its inherent intimate contact with the battlefield (“boots on the ground”); this is vital for engaging and infiltrating enemy positions, holding and defending ground (any military objectives), securing battlefield victories, maintaining military area control and security both at and behind the front lines, for capturing ordnance or material, taking prisoners, and military occupation. Infantry can more easily recognize, adapt and respond to local conditions, weather, and changing enemy weapons or tactics. It can operate in a wide range of terrain inaccessible to military vehicles and can operate with a lower logistical burden. Infantry is the most easily delivered force to ground combat areas, by simple and reliable marching, or by trucks, sea or air transport; it can also be inserted directly into combat by amphibious landing, or for air assault by parachute (airborne infantry) or helicopter (airmobile infantry).
SRI LANKA INFANTRY SOLDIER
The courage, discipline, integrity, loyalty, selfless and patriotism are inherited qualities of soldiers in the Sri Lanka Army, specially soldiers belonging to five Infantry Regiments-Sri Lanka Light Infantry, Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment, Gamunu Watch, Gajaba Regiment and Vijayaba Infantry Regiment. There is no parallel to Infantry soldiers as they are robust and brave like lions in the face of the enemy. They took the largest brunt during 26-year-long civil war; suffering heavy casualties. Every Infantry Regiment had less or more than 4000 of their Soldiers killed to bring a long lasting peace. They have proved by action not by arguments. The Infantry soldiers are more experienced, knowledgeable, practical and understanding the local situation above anyone.
The foundations of Army leadership are grounded in history, loyalty to the nation and the Constitution, accountability to authority and evolving Army doctrine. To enable leaders to become competent at all levels of leadership, the Army identifies three categories of core leader competencies: lead, develop and achieve. Leaders embrace the responsibilities to lead others to achieve mission and organizational outcomes. They do so while taking care of Soldiers and Army Civilians and ensuring they prepare to assume greater leadership responsibilities. Through education, training and experience leaders develop into competent and disciplined professionals of the Army. The Army and its leadership requirements are based on the nation’s democratic foundations, defined values and standards of excellence. The Army recognizes the importance of preserving the time-proven standards of competence that distinguished leaders throughout history. Leadership doctrine acknowledges that societal change, evolving security threats, and technological advances require adaptability.
Army leaders are expected to look and act as professionals. Soldiers and Army Civilians displaying an unprofessional appearance do not send a message of professionalism. Skillful use of professional bearing can help overcome difficult situations
ARMY LEADERSHIP QUALITIES
The Army exists to serve the Sri Lankan people, to protect enduring national interests and to fulfill the nation’s military responsibilities. This requires value-based leadership, impeccable character and professional competence.
INTEGRITY AND DOING WHAT’S RIGHT
Leaders of integrity consistently follow clear principles. The Army relies on leaders of integrity who possess high moral standards and are honest in word and deed. Leaders are honest to others by not presenting themselves or their actions as anything other than what they are, remaining committed to the truth.
Leaders of integrity do the right thing because their characters permit nothing less. To instill the Army Values in others, leaders must demonstrate them. Personal values inevitably extend beyond the Army Values, including such things as political, cultural, or religious beliefs. However, as an Army leader and a person of integrity, these values should reinforce, not contradict, the Army Values. Conflicts between personal and Army Values should be resolved before a leader can expect to become a morally complete Army leader. If in doubt, a leader may consult a mentor with respected values and judgment.
MILITARY AND PROFESSIONAL BEARING
Army leaders are expected to look and act as professionals. Soldiers and Army Civilians displaying an unprofessional appearance do not send a message of professionalism. Skillful use of professional bearing—fitness, courtesy and proper military appearance—can help overcome difficult situations. A professional appearance and competence command respect. By the look, public should be able to say this is our commander. A person who has fully shaved his head and appears before social media regularly to gain cheap popularity and threatening public to use force cannot be considered or recognised as the leader of an armed service.
Expertise is the special knowledge and skill developed from experience, training, and education. Domain knowledge is what leaders know about application areas used in their duties and positions. Leaders create and use knowledge in at least four domains. Tactical knowledge relates to accomplishing a designated objective through military means. Technical knowledge consists of the specialized information associated with a particular function or system. Joint knowledge is an understanding of joint organizations, their procedures, and roles in national defense. Cultural and geopolitical knowledge is awareness of cultural, geographic, and political differences and sensitivities.
LEADS BY EXAMPLE
Leaders operate on instinct that has evolved from what they have seen. What leaders see others do sets the stage for what they may do. Modeling these attributes of character defines the leaders to the people with whom they interact. A leader of sound character will exhibit that character at all times.
Living by the Army Values and the Warrior Ethos best displays character and leading by example. It means putting the organization and subordinates above personal self-interest, career, and comfort. For the Army leader, it requires putting the lives of others above a personal desire for self-preservation.
SRI LANKA ARMED FORCES
The Sri Lankan Armed Forces consist of three distinct organizations: The Army (SLA) the Navy (SLN) and the Air Force (SLAF). It is a set of organizations different in very many ways to civilian society. The formation and structure of each of the Armed Forces underpins how they operate, how individuals are trained, how they perform their roles, how they relate to one another and how they operate as organizations, culturally different and separate from civilian life. Each branch of the Armed Forces has specific roles to play in defending Sri Lanka and each has its own particular cultures and traditions. However, with the advancement of technology in the present-day scenario, Tri – Services operate together, and Joint doctrine presents fundamental principles that guide the employment of military forces in coordinated and integrated action toward a common objective. It promotes a common perspective from which to plan, train, and conduct military operations. It represents what is taught, believed, and advocated as what is right. It provides distilled insights and wisdom gained from employing the military instrument of national power in operations to achieve national objectives.
The Sr Lanka Army being the oldest and largest of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces comprised of Regular Force, Regular Reserve, Volunteer Force and Volunteer Reserve is primarily responsible for land operations in the country. Over the last few decades, Sri Lanka has committed its Army to fight against the internal conflicts including the one in which it made the greatest contribution to defeat the world’s most ruthless terrorist organizations. In addition, the Sri Lanka Army has also responded to disasters and emergency situations such as natural disasters (e.g. Tsunami, landslides, floods and forest fire) and resettlement of Internally Displaced People (IDP). The credit for successes achieved and sacrifices made in such commitments should go to Army veterans and the current generation of Sri Lanka Army members. From the ingenuity and the dedication of its leaders to the robustness and sacrifices of its soldiers, the men and women of the Army often reflect the qualities and characteristics of our nation. It is a professional and disciplined team, with a long tradition of service to the country and it has strong public support. Its job was often difficult, dangerous and demanding; so, in order to do it, the Army needs all to have high standards of behavior all the time from senior most to junior most.
Nearly 26000 service members have given their lives for this country during 26 years long civil war. The nation must first honour these men and women by supporting their families who are left behind. Furthermore, it should be the duty of our nation to honour the sacrifice of our fallen heroes and the heroism should be passed on to our generations in order to make them patriotic towards the motherland rather than only organizing name sake memorial ceremonies annually. Many soldiers pay the ultimate price in serving their country by giving their life. This sacrifice allows the rest of the country to enjoy to live in peace and continued freedom. During any holidays, spending some time to remember fallen soldiers and their families is just one way to pay homage to their service.
NEGLIGENCE OF THE SOLDIER
Total negligence and failure of the Yahapalana Government to ensure dignity and pay respect to soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice to bring peace and harmony to 22 million people in the country is a strategic mistake. Although, ten years has lapsed after eliminating terrorism, sacrifices made by soldiers are fresh in public minds and it was felt badly during the Easter Sunday attacks. Soldiers feel that they are being sidelined and neglected by the politicians in power. The behaviour of the government and statements made by responsible ministers during protests by disabled soldiers demanding the Government to continue paying their salaries even after their retirement at the age of 55 was condemned by the majority of the public.
Most of the soldiers are visually impaired and are having physical difficulties due to the injuries they suffered during their service period. It was evident that during the protest, soldiers were venting their anger upon the Government. The protest ended only after Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa visited the soldiers and promised to fulfill the request once his party assumes power. This shows the confidence soldiers have in Rajapaksa.
Each branch of the Armed Forces has specific roles to play in defending Sri Lanka
Sri Lankans, angered by the Government’s inability to look after soldiers in addition to prevent the Easter Sunday terror attacks that killed more than 250 people, want a strongman back in power; a person who can guarantee their safety and bring back glory to the country and also take care of defence. The people have placed confidence in Gotabaya. The Rajapaksa brothers, Gotabaya and Mahinda, were credited with bringing peace to Sri Lanka in 2009 by defeating the Tamil Tigers in a brutal end to the 26-year-long Civil War. Gotabaya was the Defence Secretary at the time and Mahinda was the President.
With the precision of a skilled strategist, Gotabaya decisively defeated the LTTE. With limited resources, the military intelligence network he put together to keep track of the terrorists was second to none; he literally had the country “wired” for real-time information-collecting and feedback to authorities. The mental concentration he focused on completing his mission was driven by an unwavering intention to get the job done as required. At that time, he cared little for sparing the feelings of his and his President brother’s legion of opponents, who were merciless in their criticisms; he was often chastised for his brusque and sometimes curt manner. His task of ending the war and rebuilding the country occupied his mind 24/7, and he had no time or inclination to indulge in the pettiness of politics.
It means putting the organization and subordinates above personal self-interest, career, and comfort. For the Army leader, it requires putting the lives of others above a personal desire for self-preservation
Few believed in Gotabaya when Sri Lanka’s powerful Secretary said that he required three years to defeat the once invincible Tamil Tiger rebels. When Gotabaya made the assertion, the Tamil Tigers, or Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam [LTTE], controlling nearly one third of the country, had a well-organized, ruthless fighting unit, sufficient stocks of heavy weapons, a small navy and a rudimentary air force. Only a handful of military analysts believed that the rebels could be wiped out.
Gotabaya has become an unparalleled and proven leader who has been able to win the confidence of not only soldiers, but the entire nation. When the nation is in trouble, Gotabaya’s name comes to their minds, not forgetting soldiers. The people of the country have placed their confidence in him to a such an extent that he is identified as “the defender of the nation.”
He is both a historical figure and a legend—and it is sometimes difficult to separate the two. For the first time in the history of this country we had an efficient, meticulous, brilliant Defence Secretary. As Sri Lankans we should be proud of this Patriot, who is back to shoulder the greater responsibility as head of state and will have an edge not only through the soldiers, but all patriots of the motherland.
(The writer is the former Security Forces Commander (Wanni), the Competent Authority for Internally Displaced Personnel in North, The Colonel Commandant of the Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment, World top ten in National Defence Studies (China), A Doctor in Economics and the Architect of Wanni Bogaswewa settlement with 36 years of Active military service and presently works as international writer and researcher )