NEW DELHI: As Gotabaya Rajapaksa prepares to take over as Sri Lanka’s seventh Executive President on Monday, SNI Editor-in-Chief Nitin A. Gokhale, who has known and interacted with the President-elect while reporting on Eelam War IV (2006-2009) and in subsequent years, brings out some fascinating and little known facts about the man who will lead the island nation for the next five years:
Gotabaya joined the Sri Lankan Army in April 1971 as a cadet officer.
He was commissioned in the Signals Regiment and sent for the Young Officers’ course to Rawalpindi in Pakistan.
On his return, his first posting in the SL Army was Palaly in northern Sri Lanka.
In October 1974, Gotabaya opted to move to the infantry, joining the Sinha Regiment. Later, he was tasked with raising the Gajaba Regiment and commanded the 1st Gajaba Battalion.
In 1983, he completed the Staff Officers Course at the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington, near Ooty, in India.
Then Lt Col (now Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka), commanding the 1st Sinha Battalion and Gotabaya, as Commanding Officer of the 1st Gajaba Battalion, launched a combined operation to rescue Sri Lankan Army soldiers from the besieged Jaffna Fort, surrounded by the LTTE.
The current Commander of the Sri Lankan Army, Lt Gen Shavendra Silva, has served under Gotabaya in the 1st Gajaba Battalion as a young officer.
Gotabaya quit the Army in November 1991 and migrated to the United States.
He returned to Sri Lanka to help his elder brother Mahinda’s election campaign in 2005 and stayed on to become Defence Secretary and play a pivotal role in Eelam War IV to end the Tamil insurgency in Sri Lanka.
A niche Indian venture that straddles the domains of strategic affairs, foreign policy and defence-related information, Strategic News International packs a team of self-driven and vastly experienced media professionals.