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Gen. Sarath Fonseka

Gardihewa Sarath Chandralal Fonseka, known as Sarath Fonseka (born 18 December 1950) is a former Commander and General of the Sri Lanka Army and a former candidate for President of Sri Lanka. As Commander of the Army, he played an instrumental role in ending the 26 year Sri Lankan Civil War in 2009, defeating the militant Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the process. He later had a public falling out with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and unsuccessfully challenged Rajapaksa in the 2010 presidential election.

Fonseka joined the Sri Lanka Army in 1970 and saw extensive action throughout the 26 year civil war, culminating in a term as Commander of the Army from 6th December 2005 – 15th July 2009. As commander, he oversaw the final phase of the Sri Lankan Civil War, which resulted in the total defeat of the militant Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam organisation. He also survived an assassination attempt when an LTTE suicide bomber attacked his motorcade in April 2006. Following the end of the war Fonseka was promoted to a four star rank in the Sri Lanka Army, becoming the first serving officer to hold a four star rank. He has been described as Sri Lanka's most successful army commander and his successful conduct of the war led the Indian National Security Advisor Kelath Narayanan to describe him as the "best army commander in the world".

A few months after the defeat of the Tamil Tigers, Fonseka was appointed Chief of Defence Staff by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

His candidacy was endorsed by the main opposition parties, and Fonseka became the main opposition candidate challenging President Rajapaksa. He campaigned under the sign of a swan, and the slogan Vishvasaniya Venasak (A Credible Change). In the election, held on 26th January 2010, he was convincingly defeated by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who obtained 57% of all votes cast.

In school, Fonseka captained the swimming and water polo teams.  He later represented defence services in these sports.

Military Career in the Sri Lankan Army – Fonseka joined the Army during peacetime, in 1970, and held a large number of staff appointments. He rose to the rank of Chief of Staff of the Sri Lankan army, a post he relinquished to take reins as Commander of the Army in 2005.

During his career, Fonseka, was involved in the operations Balawegaya and Jayasikuru, which led to the capture of the Elephant Pass and Mankulam. The 6th Battalion of his Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment, which was under siege at Elephant Pass in 1991, repulsed the LTTE attack with reinforcements. He served as Deputy General Officer Commanding during Riviresa, the capture of Jaffna from the Tamil Tigers in December 1995. Later, troops commanded by Fonseka offered stiff resistance to Tamil Tigers in 2000 following the Fall of Elephant Pass, ultimately having to flee since they were unable to withstand the attack. Fonseka was wounded in 1993 in the Yaldevi operation.

Among other appointments, he commanded the 23 Brigade of the Sri Lankan Army at Polonnaruwa in 1993, he served in the General Staff at Army Headquarters, he was a Centre Commandant of the Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment, Brigade Commander in Operation Balawegay, Deputy Commandant of the 5 Brigade Group, Mannar, and Coordinating Officer for Gampaha.

"Midnight Express"

In 1993, the Jaffna Fort was under siege by Tamil Tiger rebels. Then Colonel Fonseka led troops in the “Midnight Express” operation to relieve the besieged position. Several hundred soldiers were saved due to the operation.

Suicide bomb attack

On 25 April 2006, Lt. General Fonseka survived an LTTE suicide bomb attack by a pregnant LTTE operative who infiltrated Army Headquarters under the pretext of attending the regular maternity clinic provided for civilians at the military hospital. Fonseka was seriously injured in the attack, and nine others were killed. The General was rushed first to the military hospital at Army Headquarters, transferred to the Colombo General Hospital and later flown to Singapore for medical treatment. After recovering from his injuries, he resumed his duties in July 2006.

His awards and decorations in order of precedence, include the Gallantry Medals; Rana Wickrama Padakkama (RWP), Rana Sura Padakkama (RSP), distinguished service medals; Vishista Seva Vibhushanaya (VSV), Uttama Seva Padakkama (USP) and other notable campaign medals; Desha Putra Sammanaya, Purna Bhumi Padakkama, North and East Operations Medal, Riviresa Campaign Services Medal, and several others.

Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda

Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda RSP, VSV, USP, MBA, MSc, ndc, psc, DISS, PISS, MRIN, MNI, SLN was the Commander of the Sri Lankan Navy of Sri Lanka and current National Security Advisor to the President. Before serving as the Commander of the Navy he commanded four Operational Naval Commands on seven occasions. He has the distinction of being the only officer to be considered to the highest seating of the Commander of the Navy straight from a Naval Area Command. When he retired from his post on 15 July 2009, he was made the Advisor to the President on National Security.

After assuming command of the Navy, he changed the modus operandi of Sri Lankan Navy operations by increasing deep sea operations against LTTE arms. This ensured the success of naval operations against the LTTE with the destruction of over eight LTTE ships within a year.

He possesses a Masters in Business Administration as well as in Defence Studies. He is also a member of the Royal Institute of Navigation and the Nautical Institute of the United Kingdom.

During his naval carrier he has held many senior commands, including four Operational Naval Commands on seven occasions – Northern, Eastern and Western Commands twice each and North Central once, for a total period spanning six years, first ever Director General (Operations) at Naval Headquarters, Director Naval Projects and Plans, Director Naval Personnel and Training, Commandant of the Naval & Maritime Academy, Deputy Area Commander (West), Deputy Area Commander (North) and Deputy Area Commander (East), Deputy Area Commander (south).

As a Navigator, he has served many years at sea. His sea career terminated in 1992 on board SLNS Wickrama (a Sri Lankan navy ship) with the abdication of command and duties as the Commander of the 7th Surveillance Command Squadron. In the early 1980's he had served as Flag Lieutenant for Admiral Basil Gunasekara, the then commander of the Navy.

During his years in the navy he was awarded the Rana Sura Padakkama medal, the Vishista Seva Vibhushanaya, the Uttama Seva Padakkama service medals and several other service and campaign medals including the Sri Lanka Armed Services Long Service Medal, North and East Operations Medal, Purna Bhumi Padakkama, Riviresa Campaign Services Medal, Republic of Sri Lanka Armed Services Medal, Sri Lanka Navy 50th Anniversary Medal, President's Inauguration Medal and the 50th Independence Anniversary Commemoration Medal.

He is an alumnus of the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, Hawaii, the Near East-South Asia Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University in Washington D.C., the Royal Naval Staff College in the United Kingdom, and the National Defence College of Pakistan.

After the conclusion of Eelam War IV and the demise of the LTTE, he was awarded the rank of Admiral by the President of Sri Lanka, His Excellency Mahinda Rajapakse, in recognition of his contribution during the campaign. He was made the advisor to the President on National security.


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