Marksman who never took a life | Daily News


Ravi Jayewardene:

Marksman who never took a life

Ravindra Vimal Jayewardene who led a life of austerity and simplicity, was asked why didn’t he become a politician. “Politics? My father did not want me to. But he asked me to consider about it a long time ago. I told him that I was not concerned about politics at that moment, but would reflect upon it later. But I never considered about it and he never ever again.” Not only his father, the first Executive President of the nation, but his uncles and ancestors were in politics.

Ravi, the only child of JR and Elina Jayewardene and the Air Lanka pilot was considered the best marksmen the country has ever produced. He once demonstrated his talents being asked how quickly can he pull the revolver and shoot. He had his gun out in a fraction of a second and said that he can shoot 12 people [dummies] in eight seconds.

Ravi who delivered a silent service was the chief architect of the elite STF, [Police Special Task Force] during father J R’s time. Unlike the progeny of other politicians, he did not abuse armed security or drive around for no particular reason other than enjoyment with black Defender escort. Ravi was a well-known nature photographer.

Sovereignty of Sri Lanka

In preserving the independence of the nation, though cited summarily in some write-ups, the gallant and brave task he undertook has not being acknowledged duly or recognized properly.

Concerned and worried about the bloodshed in ‘border villages’, Ravi voluntarily got involved in preserving the unitary nature of state—Ravi joined hands with a grouping of patriotic people from the city who planned a course of action which they considered would reinforce the territorial integrity of the nation.

They built up a relationship with Buddhist nayake priests in the affected areas of border villages. Herman Gunaratna, who was an additional General Manager of Mahaweli Development, and Devinda Senanayake, a grandson of D. S. Senanayake, along with a few other senior officials of the Mahaweli Ministry—were the others who joined Ravi in settling over 45,000 Southern people to go and live with the Tamils in the Batticaloa district. He did it meticulously, causing no aggression; not a single Tamil family living in the district was troubled. Their main intention was to make all three communities - the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim populations live in peace and harmony in these areas so that the longing for segregation and territorial degeneration is checked. It is to do away with the occurrence of constant hostility, carnage, suspicion and bloodshed.

Jungle craft taught to villagers

Military top brass under JR were confident; they assured victory over LTTE –President trusted them. Son Ravi, however, was cast in a different mould.

He worked on a different agenda and went on to save the people; Ravi who at one time renounced the mundane world to enter the spiritual, commenced disciplining the mind and was on a assignment in Thailand with Thai meditation masters, but subsequently changed his thinking. July 1983 catastrophe made him re-think his future responsibilities. He contacted Devinda Senanayake whose grandfather, DS was responsible for setting up Padaviya settlement.

The group on their own decided to go ahead before the LTTE re-group as a fighting unit to attack the colonies and settlements. Ravi unofficially headed the informal group; when the proposal was made all concerned made their views, but left the final decision in the hands of Ravi himself. He wanted the message communicated to the villagers of Padaviya, that weapons and instructors are arriving.

He knew that the armed forces were not capable to defend the settlements of Sinhalese and Muslim and that the best alternative is that they must protect themselves from terrorism; which finally became the thinking of the entire group. Ravi wanted the instructors first put through a physical attack course, and given firing practice and brought up to battle level at STF headquarters; he undertook the full responsibility for the task agreeing to do it himself.

The unceremonious group maintained the strictest confidentiality about their procedures though there were no undisclosed secrets among themselves. Ravi saw the calamity from the viewpoint of the soldier; believed they, the terrorists can only be stopped by conquering them militarily. Our trained military men taught villagers the basic techniques of defence and jungle craft.

The government ministers were discussing how to arm and train the settlers, but they lacked the skill and intelligence on how this was to be put in to practice. Ravi ushered in a chapter in the war by re-assigning it from soldiers to the very people who became the target of the terrorists.

During the 1983 July pogrom, unprecedented communal clashes occurred when the marauding gangs took law unto their hands for four days. The father, President Jayewardene was shaken and became inactive. Police and forces that paraded streets encouraged the looters and hooligans. Ravi demanded the father to act immediately; he said the troops were just spectators while racist elements in his party were provoking the rioters. In fact, he understood that ethnic violence had no rational basis or reasoning.

The 14-seater helicopter landed in the jungles of East— Buddhist priests had ordered a ‘battalion’ of volunteers from the area. Later, the famous Dimbulagala priest, Seelaratna Thera joined the team that met Ravi who was an alert soldier by then. The commander of Padaviya camp was delighted, as he had anticipated this moment for two long years.

Ven. Dimbulagala thera requested Ravi to address the gathering, which he categorically refused saying “I have only come to make every villager here a soldier, I am not a politician.” The two head priests joined the team for the ‘copter ride to a place near the Kent and Dollar farms, where the settlers from Maduru Oya were being rehabilitated. The commander there took them in jeeps to the terrorist-infested venue, an unsafe place deep into LTTE territory. Ravi’s and his two sons’ presence made everybody nervous and concerned. The Dimbulagala priest spoke to the people giving assurance that President JR Jayewardene’s son and D. S. Senanayake’s grandson had arrived there to rescue them.

Masses sans politics

Great-great-great grandson of Don Adrian Jayewardene, the Intelligent agent of both Dutch and British rulers and grandson of SC Judge EW, Ravindra Jayewardene represented the country in international games, even led the Sri Lankan team to the Tokyo Olympics in 1954. He passed away at the age of eighty exactly a year ago on April 2. The champion marksman Ravi once confessed, “I have not killed a living being with a gun all my life.”


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