Special Task Force - Valiant to the core
The latest batch of STF recruits will pass out at Katukrunda today.
This is a tribute to the valiant men and women of the STF.
The beginning of 1980’s saw the emergence of new trends and
dimensions of subversive terror in the Northern part of Sri Lanka, where
terrorism started gradually raising its head.
Tamil national leadership, moderates, bureaucrats were targeted
whilst inflicting a fear psychosis in the mindset of the public of the
North. The next victim was the police ensuring the law and order in the
Assassinations, robberies, disruptive activities on the Government
infrastructure, developed into separatism by violent means.
The police being the premier law enforcing authority was first to
face the onslaught of a violent campaign of terror unleashed to achieve
their goal. There were attacks on police personnel whilst on duty and
late on the police stations completely disrupting the normalcy
prevailing in the North.
The new security challenges posed by the advent of separatist
terrorism in the North, heightened the need of a special paramilitary
arm within the police service, prompted by the killing of policemen and
isolated police stations becoming targets.
Initiatives on immediate formation of a paramilitary arm, capable of
meeting the threat, saw the emergence of the special paramilitary
striking force (SSF).
This outfit was deployed in the North exclusively to counter the
emerging threat. The lack of will, manpower and the material support
made the SSF fragile and denied its infrastructure for prolonged
It is in this light that the Special Task Force, (STF) now a
household word in Sri Lanka, was born on March 1, 1983, headed by Bodhi
Liyanage, Superintendent of Police, who is a Senior Deputy Inspector
After the initial training at police college, Katukurunda, the first
intake of recruits were inducted to the Army combat training school
Ampara, for counter revolutionary warfare.
The Ministry of Defence which had been closely monitoring the
progress and the performances, decided to streamline this unit by
providing specialised training and equipment required to function more
Ravi Jayewardene, security advisor to the then President, J.R.
Jayewardene, took an active interest in realising its objectives and as
a result the services of Special Air Service (SAS), who were involved in
training special forces in the Sultanate of Oman, were obtained to make
the STF a professional outfit.
The SAS experts trained the STF troops at Katukurunda wing of the
police college, after making the training school into a sophisticated
training complex. Later, the STF experts took over from the SAS in 1988.
Today the STF has a fully-fledged training wing, regarded as one of
the best in South East Asia. The name of Upali Sahabandu, the late DIG,
whose dedicated and committed services to elevate the training school to
this status has to be mentioned as a mark of respect.
The STF has been headed by seven Commandants since its inception
starting from Bodhi Liyanage-senior DIG, Dharmasiri Weerakoon - DIG,
Zerney Wijesuriya - Senior DIG, Lionel Karunasena - Senior DIG,
Dharmasiri Weerakoon - DIG (second stint), Nimal Gunatilleke - DIG. The
present incumbent, Nimal Lewke - DIG, who joined the force in 1984 as an
inspector, is marshalling this elite outfit as the seventh Commandant.