Birthday tribute to Dr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (June 20th 2012) : Reflections of the War Hero and Patriotic Legend of our times

Hon. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa

Onlanka News – By Dr. Telli C Rajaratnam

“Some men are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”-William Shakespeare

* Born – June 20, 1949
* Appointed Defence Secretary in 2005
* Joined Sri Lanka Army in 1971
* Commanded 1st Battalion of Gajaba Regiment in Vadamarachchi in 1987
* Awarded President’s commendation from President J R Jayewardene
* Awarded Rana Wickrama Padakkama (RWP) and Rana Sura Padakkama (RSP) by President R Premadasa and D B Wijetunga<
* Awarded Doctorate from the University of Colombo

Dr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is a ‘born leader’ as he has exercised effective leadership as Secretary of Defence and Urban Development. ‘Some achieve greatness’ denotes, above all, those whose greatness is self-made. But all of the really great leaders must be regarded as achievers, whatever their advantages of birth and training. Alexander the Great was born to kingship and inherited a strong army. With Aristotle as his tutor, he was perhaps the most privileged person, educationally, that there has ever been. Nevertheless, what he achieved in his short life was beyond anything that could remotely have been expected of him. Much the same is true of Julius Caesar.

He was a young Roman aristocrat whose career began as a demagogic politician, but who turned out to be a military commander of genius. The trajectory of his career could never have been predicted. Napoleon is the supreme example of the utterly self-made leader – the man who ‘achieved greatness’ by his own unaided efforts. When he was on his way to St Helena, he was still slightly younger than John F. Kennedy at the time of his assassination. And Napoleon was not a millionaire’s son.

Dr. Gotabhaya was born on June 20, 1949. We now have freedom of movement, development and more tourists coming into this beautiful isle. Citizens of Sri Lanka and the citizens of other countries whose citizenship of origin was Sri Lanka are coming into Sri Lanka after several years owing to the peaceful situation created by our Defence Secretary and President Mahinda Rajapaksa. He assumed duties as Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law and Order on November 25, 2005.

He joined the Sri Lanka Army in 1971, spent 20 years in service, and held the appointment of Deputy Commandant of Sir John Kotelawala Defence University in 1991 and, as a Lieutenant Colonel was Coordinating Officer of Welioya area from 1990 to 1991. Prior to that, he was the Coordinating Officer of Matale District and the Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion, Gajaba Regiment from 1989 to 1990. He has also held numerous other positions in the Sri Lanka Army such as Instructor, Adjutant and Staff officer to the Operations Officer commanding contingents.

During his military career, he has been awarded the President’s Commendation letter by former President J R Jayewardene and medals for valour in combat such as Rana Wickrama Padakkama (RWP), Rana Sura Padakkama (RSP) – by former Presidents R Premadasa and D B Wijetunga. He has also received a commendation from the Commander of the Army for his bravery in action.


Most of those who achieve anything in the world are ambitious and some have exalted ambitions which they have never the chance to realize. A few rise higher than they or anyone else could have imagined, and then prove equal to the challenge. Like those born to great offices who prove, against the odds, worthy to hold them, such people have ‘greatness thrust upon them’.

Courage, fearless speech and absolute honesty are the tenets of Dr.Gotabhaya’s success. He cannot pretend. He is forthright with raw honesty and speaks his mind and heart. This has been advantageous as well as disadvantageous to him. Of all the qualities required for leadership, only one is indispensable – courage. Without it, all the others are more or less useless. Courage has been shown by all who we recognize as true leaders, from Alexander to Thatcher.

A leader must have the ability to take hard decisions and calculated risks. Leaders have to give courage to others, while creating the illusion that they know exactly what they are doing.

Dr. Gotabhaya was born great, achieved greatness and has greatness thrust upon him by his absolutely honesty has not a popular notion. As all human beings, we have short memories. More so,  for patriotism. People tend to forget the most important factors which have historical value. The most memorable historical factor was winning the war. The joint effort of the Armed Forces under the able directives of the Defence Secretary Dr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and the leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa was able to rescue the nation from the evils of terrorism.

Anti-terrorist operations

He has commanded many anti-terrorist operations in the North and East in different capacities. Among them was his Command of the 1st Battalion of the Gajaba Regiment in the important Vadamarachchi Operation in 1987 and Operation Thrividabalaya in 1990 respectively, to rescue Jaffna peninsula and the Jaffna Fort from terrorist control.

He completed his basic officer cadet training at prestigious Military Academy at Diyatalawa and proceeded to Pakistan to complete the Young Officers’ Course at Rawalpindi and later the mid-career course at Quetta. He had advanced training in Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare at Assam, India. Later in his career, he graduated in Advanced Infantry Training from Infantry School Fort Benning, USA.

As a staff officer, he completed his Staff Course at the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington, India in 1983. He obtained his Masters degree in Defence Studies from the University of Madras in 1983. He has also obtained a Postgraduate degree in Information Technology from the University of Colombo in 1992.

He is a revered figure in Sri Lanka for leading the military operation which drove out the opponents from the entire Eastern Province of the country.

He was the grundnorm for the victory of the 2009 war against the LTTE. In recognition to the services rendered to the nation, the University of Colombo conferred a Doctorate to him.

Victory at war

Our Air Force Pilots have returned to base. The air strikes have halted. The Naval boats have slowed their speed. The Army has slowed its pace. Aggression against innocent people by the LTTE and the terrorists have been halted.

When the President ordered our armed forces into combat as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, he had three clear goals: to enable the Tamil people, the victims of some of the most vicious atrocities in the North due to terrorists and militant groups, to return to their homes with safety; to destroy the LTTE; and to deploy our armed Forces to protect all the people of the North. Those goals were achieved.

Unnecessary conflict has been brought to a just and honourable conclusion. He survived an assassination attempt in December 2006. We have sent a message of determination and hope to the entire world.

The Doctrine of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa

The doctrine of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is discipline, honesty, effective strategies, straight talk, courage, wisdom and above all love for the country before self.

Think of all the millions of innocent people who died in this bloody century because democracies reacted too late to evil and aggression. Because, the duty of the Defence Secretary was well performed, the past is gone not with helpless indignation, but with a hopeful affirmation of human dignity and human rights for the 2010. In a world too divided by fear among people of different racial, ethnic and religious groups, he has given confidence to the friends of freedom and pause to those who would exploit human difference for inhuman purposes.

History tells us that solidarity means strength, progress and success. Peace, co-operation, development and progress are what the entire international community is hoping and striving for. The developing nations must continue to work closely together in the spirit of solidarity and co-operation and raise their voice and strengthen their position in international affairs if they are to secure their fundamental interests.


One of the magnificent achievements of the UN has been the transformation that has taken place in global opinion on the relationship that should form between the governing and the governed, between the government and the citizen. It was on the basis of the moral authority of the General Assembly’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the determined endeavors of the Commission on Human Rights, that this transformation was achieved. The dignity of the individual has now, largely as a result of United Nations leadership in the field of human rights, been placed, as it should be, among the priorities of national and international attention.

The Universal Declaration on Human Rights is not limited in scope to ensuring the observance of human rights by governments alone.

The Declaration has a far wider purpose: the observance of human rights by all governmental and non-governmental parties alike.

Article 3 of the Universal Declaration, which requires that everyone has the right to life; and the provisions of Article 30 of the Declaration prescribes that: “Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein”.

An act of terrorism by a non-governmental entity against civilians is surely a violation of the human rights of its victims and, surely, a crime against humanity as well.

We know the horrific consequences of terrorism: the horror; the thousands of unsuspecting innocent lives lost or maimed, the thousands of families then left to grieve; the countless personal tragedies that terrorism leaves. The horrors of terrorism have devastated the country and have cast a heavy burden on successive governments and the nation including all of us and on humanity as a whole. There are also the larger disruptions of national stability and order as well: of the economy and the customary ways of life.

We remember the bombing of the Central Bank, the adjacent buildings, the Temple of the Tooth Relic and other temples, the buses and trains in Sri Lanka where numerous people of all communities were killed, injured, the numerous innocent civilians who were killed and each of us would have a story to tell about the injuries sustained or the deaths of our loved ones.

Dr.Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as Defence Secretary was able to direct the Armed Forces to go ahead with their assertive, offensive and defensive action which led to the victory over the LTTE. It is in this connection that the President liberated the Tamil people. The exodus was like Moses giving freedom to the Jews from Egypt. But the difference is that the Tamil people were liberated by President Rajapaksa, while some of our friends overseas have from time to time been misled by those marketing terrorism for their own corporate interests. We should therefore not be surprised that allegations of civilian casualties in the present times generate from certain corporate interests involved in international terrorism and their complex trade beneficiaries.

Military necessity

Over 30 years or more, we have not been able to solve this problem. We required a balance between the need to achieve a military victory and the needs of humanity. In this sense, necessity has been viewed as a limitation to unbridled barbarity. The application of the doctrine of military necessity makes use of the principle of proportionality as a mechanism for determining the positioning of a fulcrum between these competing poles. Using proportionality thus gives effect to the recognition that the choice of methods and means of conducting war or armed conflict are not unlimited.

The means and methods of conducting war operate to achieve a particular military objective, which consequently assists in achieving a larger political objective.

While necessity might determine the legitimacy of the armed attack, proportionality determines the amount of force that might be used. In a sense, necessity operates at a macro level, while international humanitarian law operates at a micro level, though both might lie on the same continuum given the difficulties in the transition.

This difficulty is most apparent when the principles of necessity and proportionality have been incorporated into conventional international law, particularly international humanitarian conventions. The development of these conventions and the application of these principles require some consideration if one is to arrive at an understanding of their application in a modern armed conflict. Military necessity has been described as “a basic principle of the law of war, so basic, indeed, that without it there could be no law of war at all.” The acceptance that, while the object of warfare is to achieve the submission of the enemy, which may require the disabling of as many enemy combatants as possible, this should only be achieved in a manner that does not cause any unnecessary suffering or damage.

Humanitarian Law

This limitation to the means of waging war is not, however, necessarily humanitarian in nature and much of the early restraints were based on economic, political and military considerations. However, the need for a balance between the considerations of humanity and the military actions necessary to win a war is regarded as defining the very nature of international humanitarian law, making military necessity a central principle in this balance.

The ‘principle of distinction’ is fundamental to humanitarian law, but its precise content varies according to the kind of conflict. In national liberation struggles – and international armed conflicts – the distinction is between ‘civilians’ and ‘combatants.’ Combatants have no right to life under humanitarian law. Every individual is classified as either a combatant or as a kind of protected person, such as a prisoner of war (a captured combatant) or a civilian. An individual’s rights change when his classification changes. A civilian has the right not to be targeted for attack and the right to receive some protection from attack. If the civilian joins the armed militants, he exchanges the rights of a civilian for the rights of a combatant. A combatant has the right to take part in hostilities.


The Urban Development Authority now comes under the purview of the Defence Ministry. ‘The Development Plan for the City of Colombo,’ the theme of the Sujatha Jayewardena Memorial Speech by Dr.Ghotabhaya Rajapaksa at the Sri Lankan Foundation Institute, was presented in a coherent and scholarly manner and was well-received and ably strengthened public aspiration for the transformation. Desire to move toward a sustainable eco city to optimize quality of life for its community gained significant momentum soon after the end of the war against terrorism and dividends of peace in Sri Lanka.

By encouraging the innovation of green architecture and technology, he lucidly clarified the way in which a coherent framework for applying sustainable design to all sector of society in developing Colombo City would enhance the quality of life of the community, in consequence by making the city vibrant and modern. The rate of unprecedented population growth over years increased the urban population while thinning the rural population.

Urbanization was a major cause for increased urban dwellers living in poverty. The cultural, social and political consequences of this transformation are enormous and the long-term effects difficult to foresee and therefore difficult to plan for.

Urbanization is inherent in economic and cultural development and the trends are common. Local conditions may temporarily speed up or slow down the process, but urbanization can neither be stopped nor reversed. Ways to meet the challenges and manage rapid urban growth and mitigate subsequent economic despair have become important and imperative in order to smooth the progress of equitable income distribution and creating wealth for the nation. Modernization of the city provides opportunities and benefits and the rapid transition over time with good governance overcomes inherent urban problems and poverty. Increase in per capita incomes come with the modernization of the city, which could contribute even more to the national economy, thus reducing poverty and creating more habitats, health, clean water, prosperity and happiness.

Spontaneous shanty towns sans essential services where conditions are depressed are also the products of failed policies of the past, bad governance, inappropriate legal and regulatory frameworks, dysfunctional markets, unresponsive financial systems, corruption, and not least, a lack of political will. Developing the Colombo City in an environmentally-sustainable manner in Sri Lanka may require action by both the private sector and civil society and political leadership that support laissez-faire including proficient and essentially transparent urban council.

Traffic congestion

Planning, developing and managing our urban environments more wisely will benefit health and improve environmental outcomes: Public health intervention to reduce dependence on motor vehicles thus improves air quality, locating jobs, services, schools and shops close to where people live, promoting active modes of transport (walking and cycling) and providing mass transit options. Good for the environment because it reduces carbon dioxide emissions and good for business because it reduces the cost of traffic congestion. Mass transit is particularly good for young people, the elderly and the disabled, who may not have access to a motor vehicle. The profile of our population and their needs and aspirations will also be very different in the future. How can Colombo continue to be a special place for its community, a home that offers hope and opportunities, a home that offers a high standard of living and above all, a city that is socially inclusive, where no one is left out?

Concluding his deliberation, Dr.Gotabhaya Rajapaksa appealed for national consensus to make that vision a reality. This is the moment when we must come together. Let’s commit to share our knowledge in order to build the ‘Grand City’. The scale of our challenge is great. With courage, with heart and hand and let us all combine to take Sri Lanka forward.

Happy Birthday Dr.Gotabhaya Rajapaksa!

Dr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa