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Former Commander of the Sri Lanka Army and the Sri Lanka High Commissioner in Pakistan General (Rted) GH De Silva RWP VSV USP

I am honoured to have been asked to speak at the launch of ‘A Most Noble Profession – memories that linger’, General Gerry de Silva’s account of his days in the army. This was at very short notice, for the obvious reason that a preferred speaker could not make it but, since the point was made with customary military straightforwardness, I was happy to accept.

There was also another reason for being keen to talk about such reminiscences. It is now ten years since I began teaching at the Sri Lanka Military Academy, and realized that one problem young officers faced was the lack of information about what had gone before. I was surprised to find that there were no descriptions by army personnel of campaigns that had been conducted, of battles that had been won or lost. I contrasted this with what for instance the Indians had produced after the war the Indian Peace Keeping Force fought against the Tigers between 1987 and 1990. I believe 17 books or so had been produced by the time I became Academic Coordinator of the degree course at the Academy, and I would point out how useful those accounts must be to young officers having to deal with similar situations.

Part of my point was the need for analytical skills and reflective capacity to digest what had gone before, and extrapolate from it lessons for the future. I used this to emphasize the importance of the degree course, its introduction of thinking skills as well as historical and political awareness, on top of the strategic and tactical planning that officers needed to pursue in systematic fashion. I would hope then that the products of the course would be able in time to set down their experiences to help their successors.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

July 2011
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