Army’s new CoS creates many problems
A cold war raged among several senior officers for the position of the chief of staff (CoS) of the Army following the retirement of Maj. Gen. Channa Gunatilake on March 01. The normal procedure is for the commander to recommend the five most senior officers after him to the Presidential Secretariat through the Defence Ministry. This time, tradition had been ignored and three names, including Maj. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake, were sent instead.
During the previous regime, senior officers were overlooked and the juniors Daya Ratnayake and Prasad Samarasinghe were appointed the CoS to fulfill political and personal needs of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. After president Maithripala Sirisena took office, seniority, not the political friendships with the ‘Yahapaalana’ government, was considered and Jagath Dias, Milinda Peiris, Ubhaya Medawala and Channa Gunatilake were appointed to the position. Their close relationships with Gotabhaya during the previous regime were not considered a disqualification. Certain top figures in the government with personal agendas attempted to get their friends appointed this time. However, hopes in the Army that seniority would be considered and injustice caused to no one in making the appointment was dashed, as a junior, overlooking six seniors, was appointed.
During the previous regime, certain seniors eyeing the CoS position went after powerful government politicians, did their political bidding, created divisions within the Army and engaged in mud-slinging among themselves. That changed after president Sirisena appointed the most qualified person. Boniface Perera and Sudantha Ranasinghe, recommended as per their seniority, were targeted by mud-slinging through the media by another hopeful. Such actions were encouraged when a junior was given the position. The Army did not expect such a thing to happen under the ‘Yahapaalana’ government.
Maj. Gen. Ranasinghe was the main victim. He does not hold the key positions of CoS, deputy CoS or even the principal staff officer of the Army headquarters, all of which are being held by seven officers who all are junior to him. He showed his commitment, saved the government from blame and boosted the Army’s image by fulfilling his duties to provide relief to the people affected by the Salawa Army camp blast, Meethotamulla garbage dump collapse and other disasters.
The advisory board, board no. one and two, ERE board etc. convened by the CoS is the body taking the important decisions in the Army, such as promotions, transfers, appointments, policymaking, training, discipline etc. Several officers senior to Maj. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake cannot sit in these meetings convened by him. A similar situation arose when Daya Ratnayake was made the CoS during the previous regime. That was rectified by the then commander Lt. Gen. Jagath Dias by appointing the most senior officers at the time – Aruna Jayatilake and then Krishantha Silva, present commander – to chair these boards, and they had taken correct decisions without causing problems. The incumbent commander, using his experience, can do likewise, appoint the most senior officer in service to chair the boards, to rectify the mistake.


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