The newly-appointed Commander of the Army, Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake called upon the Army to assist him to transform the Army to be a ‘capacity’ based organization rather than a ‘threat’ based one, by raising the professional standards of the soldier in every sphere.
“Everyone can be an Officer but cannot be a gentleman of required quality. Gentlemanliness is therefore much more admired and your example is more significant rather than your perception. I always welcome constructive and fair criticism with positive attitudes and like to be a ‘patient listener’ all the time. In this new era, we must be able to take challenges and reach our targets with dedication and commitment,” Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake said.
Thanking the President, Prime Minister and the former Defence Secretary for keeping full confidence in him, the Commander, paid a glowing tribute to all 21 of his predecessors who elevated the organization to the dizzy heights of invaluable service, in which he has been serving for more than 36 years.
“Late General Denis Perera, being my first Commander and all past Commanders, including my immediate predecessor, General Crisanthe De Silva, deserve my praise and gratitude because it was their dedication which enabled me to stand here, today as the 22nd Commander. I also owe a deep gratitude to the people who prayed and cried for me,” he movingly remarked.
“Competition has to be there in the Army too, like in any other organization, the second oldest profession in the world. This is the truth, but it should be a fair, decent and a gentlemanly competition, through which anyone can reach the apex of office as the Commander,” the Commander noted.
Speaking out his mind about how the future would hold for the organization, the Commander underlined the importance of transforming the Army to be a ‘capacity’ based one instead of a ‘threat’ based one as full-fledged professionals in disaster management, nation-building, reconciliation and all other spheres of national responsibility and concern, certainly with the military prowess to fight against a conventional or an unconventional urban fighting, insurgency, etc. “A soldier must be able to adjust to face any challenge of uncertainty and eventuality under any circumstances. You need to focus on the area of his interest, area of influence and area of responsibility, if we are to groom him as a skillful one,” the Commander pointed out.
“Ours has to be ‘mission command’- oriented assignment, and I am always prepared to perform my part and I expect the same from you, but ensure you do your part within the parameters of your responsibilities. I am not going to do your job and I trust you. I will only be steering the organization. You would have come here onboard different ships, but we all are now in the same boat. I will steer it as the Army wants. If we fail to sail together, we are bound to fall,” he cautioned.
“When it comes to malpractices, misuses and wrongdoing, I maintain, justice should equally be meted out to the rank of a ‘General’ down to a ‘Private’. Discipline is the strength of our organization, and I need that be kept in mind all the time by everyone. Training was one of the best welfare for me and that should be the case with any soldier in a capacity-based Army. We are on our way to establish a National Defence University for ourselves, intending to produce more learned Officers. Similarly, qualitative standards of the Senior Command, Officer Cadet, down to the Recruit training level would be raised with introduction of new modules,” he quipped.
Talking about the structural reforms that may be introduced to the Army, the new Commander remarked that the proposed move is not to ‘downsize’ the Army, but to ‘rightsize’ the Army to get the best results. “We have our own expertise within the organization for such forthcoming reforms since we had the skills to make war-winning strategies, tactics, small group operations, etc and apply them by ourselves. Such moves are always open to negotiations and discussions. Having fought a bitter war for so many years and admired as the world’s best Army, we ourselves are able to manage things and no outside assistance is needed for that. Such structural changes for the organization would be introduced for the betterment of the Army administration and other logistics. I am always prepared to take up any challenge in my life,” the Commander opined.
“Without compromising the national security concerns, we need to change our attitudes and mentality since the war is over now and we are now in post-conflict era. Before somebody directs us to do changes, we have to produce our own suggestions and take necessary action. I need to use two different criteria for the Officers and Other Ranks who served the Army before the year 2009 and afterwards. It’s a fair way to care for them,” the Commander commented.
In his view, the Commander said that 1/3 of the Army should always have Combat Readiness, another 1/3 for nation-building and the remaining 1/3 for administration of the Army and it is high time for us to re-build and promote the image of the organization. I would also suggest the appointment of a special committee for preparation of image-building measures. I also feel that soldiers must get priority over Officers because Officers could always manage easily. Remember that we are going to fight a Corporals’ War in future and not that of the Generals, the Commander added.
He also requested Colonels of Regiments to inculcate their treasured values to respective Regiments and arrange programmes, accordingly. (Colombo Gazette)