[APPRECIATIONS - (03-09-2018)] | Daily News

[APPRECIATIONS - (03-09-2018)]

TRIBUTE

Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage

A silent warrior

Major General Chagie Pamoda Gallage, a true patriot, soldier to the core, as well as an inspiring military leader and gentleman, hung up his uniform on August 31, after 35 years of service to the nation after reaching the maximum permissible age of service (55 years) in the Army. Having known Major General Gallage for over three decades, I trust that I could pen many distinct attributes of him with authority and accuracy. Major General Chagie Gallage, whom I would respectfully and fondly call hereinafter as ‘Chagie’, was my senior colleague in the Army; an officer of repute of the prestigious Gajaba Regiment, who always upheld customs, traditions and ethics of the organisation and left a legacy that cannot be repealed in the Sri Lanka Army and the Gajaba Regiment.

General Gallage is no doubt a national figure. To gain such recognition, he neither blew his own trumpet nor did he write an autobiography. It is the humility embedded in his persona that brought him this adulation. Although Chagie became popularly known to the public in Sri Lanka because of the decisive role he played in the final thrust against the LTTE during 2007 - 2009, he had always been popular among his comrades in the Army, batch mates, old Anandians, the motor racing community, as well as his relatives and friends.

Burly and diminutive, a keen ruggerite and a Scout at school, Chagie joined the 19th Intake of the Army as an Officer Cadet in 1984. He took to the military career like a fish taking to water. I recall seeing him for the first time at the Military Academy in Diyatalawa from a batch junior to him, and essential attributes of a great military commander were evident all over in him, even at that very formative stage of his military career. Tough and robust, mentally and physically, Chagie was charismatic and inspiring to watch.

Chagie, as a person, is always willing to help others. He is one in a million who never changed his qualities from his youth to date. That is to say that if you had known Chagie in 1984, when he was 20 years old and even in 2018, when he was in his mid-50's, you would meet the same character, which is not so with many others. He was an adornment to the positions he held and did not use the positions to adorn himself. This no-nonsense officer could also get stubborn easily and stand for what is right against all odds, which sometimes got him into trouble.

Chagie’s contributions to the Gajaba Regiment has been outstanding. The Gajaba Regiment is synonymous with Chagie Gallage. Chagie, as a young subaltern in the mid-80’s, was a skillful and tactically-sound combat fighter who operated along with his rifle-company in many areas in Jaffna. His first independent command was to guard the Nagadeepa (Nainativu) island in 1986 with his platoon. He played a key role in 'Operation Vadamarachchi' and 'Operation Clean-sweep'—the two military operations led by late Generals Kobbekaduwa and Wimalaratne, which were launched to rid the terrorist out of Jaffna peninsula in 1986.

I presume that Chagie’s stint at the Sri Lanka Military Academy (SLMA) as an officer instructor, is one of his most memorable. Working under late Major General Gamini Gunasekera, Chagie not only excelled in training Officer Cadets, but also became one of the pioneers of organising motor racing competitions in the Army, in partnership with the ‘Sri Lanka Auto-sports Drivers' Association’ (formerly SLARDAR)—a journey that began at Fox-hill, Diyatalawa. The motor racing track at the Gajaba Regiment in Anuradhapuara, is a result of his hard work.

During most of his long and enduring military career, Chagie served in an operational area or at a military training institute. He is one of the few officers in the Army who always commanded respect not only from his subordinates, but also from his superiors and peers. Battle-hardened Chagie was the first choice of any senior military commander to include in their team of field commanders for operations. Thus, Chagie was seen in almost all major combat operations in all fronts in North and East, during 1985 to 2009.

Some called Chagie a ‘meticulous man’ because he goes into minute details of any assignment, and that particularly is the reason for his success. Be it official or private, he was always well-focused on whatever he was doing. Duty was always at his heart that he would stay the whole day in uniform doing his job and exceeding expectations of his superiors. Chagie would do all the work around him, disregarding whether that work is within his purview or others, and would stay backstage without claiming credit for the achievement. By doing so, he gained a reputation among senior officers as well as confidence among juniors, which was one of the reasons for his seniors to count heavily on him and his juniors to place their faith in him.

‘Calmness in crisis’ is a much required quality of a good battlefield commander. Once, during an intense battle at Karadipokku in Kilinochchi, during ‘Operation Sathjaya’ in 1996, the Army suffered heavy casualties and the battle was about to be lost. It was at that crucial moment that Chagie arrived without waiting for instructions from superiors and led his elite Airmobile troops to control the situation. The LTTE later fired mortars at the ‘Advanced Dressing Station’ (first-aid point just behind the line of fire), while he was being treated after the battle. At this moment, while others were running for cover, while carrying their saline bottles in hand, Chagie lit a cigarette.

During the ‘Humanitarian Military Operation’, Chagie, as a Brigadier, commanded the Commando Brigade which had been grouped with some infantry battalions, with which he moved into action against the LTTE in the Eastern Province, in 2006. His leadership was instrumental in liberating the Southern region of East that included the LTTE stronghold Thoppigala. Then he switched to the Wanni theatre with the beginning of operations in the Northern front in 2007. He raised the Task Force-1 there and launched it from Mannar, along with the Commando Brigade, which was later driven by his closest friend in the Regiment Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva, until the completion of the Eelam War, which was later known as 58 Division.

Thereafter, being away from battle due to a brief illness, Chagie returned to the field in 2009 to Command the 59 Division in Mullaitivu. On completion of the campaign, Brigadier Chagie Gallage was promoted to Major General well ahead of most of his peers, on merit. Chagie not only earned medals multiple times for his bravery in battle, but also worked hard to for his juniors to be able to earn such medals as well.

Chagie is extremely innovative; he could device things when the resources were scarce or unavailable. I recount how Colonel Chagie, as the Commandant of Army Training School in Maduruoya, in 2004, was instrumental in conceptualising and forming the highly-skilled ‘Special Infantry Operations Teams’ (SIOT) of the Army, together with Lt. Col. Ralph Nugera, realising a vision spelt out by then Inspector of Infantry Major General Sarath Fonseka. It was these SIO Teams that boosted the fighting capacity of the infantry and fought as vanguards of the advancing army during the Humanitarian Military Operation. On another occasion, during the middle of the same military campaign, the army encountered highly-fortified LTTE fortifications built on ‘Ditch cum Bund’, commonly known as ‘DCB’ (DCB is a line of bunkers coupled with about 10-foot-wide water obstacles in front of them). These obstacles hindered the movement of the army. Chagie, as the Director Training, under the direction of the then Army Commander, created special teams and trained them on a special battle drill that eventually enabled troops to cross these LTTE obstacles.

Any army would pick one of its highly professional and loyal military officers to command its ‘Presidential Guard’ force that provides protection to the Head of State. His superiors at that time, had no hesitation in recommending Chagie to that vital appointment, which he held for four years from 2010. Matured to the core and dedicated to excellence in all its manifold facets from command to instructional, the army received Chagie’s services as a Tactical Level Commander and thereafter, as an Operational Level Commander, proving himself a well-accomplished General officer. The army, in particular and the country in general, received a tremendous service from this legendary military leader of our time. Yet, he never grumbled about what he did not receive in return.

The Leadership of Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage should be researched and documented for the benefit of budding military leaders. A good source for such a research is his close associates in and outside the army, who know his inner qualities well. It is my sincere wish as well as of many others whom I know, that the outstanding potentials of Major General Chagie Gallage (retired) may be utilised for the benefit of this country for a few more years.

Maj. Gen. Nirmal Dharmaratne

****

K.V.S. Vas

Remarkable Editor

The death anniversary of K.V.S. Vas, reputed journalist and former Chief Editor of Express Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (Virakesari), fell on August 30. Vas was born in Kumbakonam, Madras. After completing his MA degree, he arrived at Sri Lanka in 1933 and joined the Virakesari newspaper as a translator.

On account of his hard work, honesty and efficiency, he was promoted to news editor in 1944 and in 1959, was appointed editor-in-chief. With his high degree of discipline, combined with the loftiness of his character and versatility of his intellect, he successfully edited the paper. Vas was a man of action and a powerful editor. His penetrating observations of men and matters made him one of the foremost writers of his time. He also wrote a series of novels and short stories under the pen names 'Val Miki' and 'Rajani'. The introduction of fiction in serial form then, was something entirely new to Sri Lankan media. Successive editors found Vas to be a pillar of strength.

He was also appointed acting general manager once. Throughout his career at Virakesari, Vas maintained cordial relations with his counterparts in sister newspapers. He possessed a strong personality and had sufficient confidence in his ability to excel in debates. He wrote a history book called Eelaththin Kathai, of sections were serialised in the weekly magazine Ananda Vikatan, in 1956. He had written over 45 fiction books and thousands of articles on various subjects.

K.V.S. Mohan

****

Prof. S.H. Hasbullah

Excellent academic

It is with deep sorrow that I pen this note of appreciation on our respected senior lecturer, Professor S.H. Hasbullah, who passed away on August 28, this year, at the Jaffna University.

He was born and bred at Erukkalampiy in Mannar. He graduated from the University of Peradenya and pursued a Doctorate in Geography, in British Columbia, Canada.

Apart from his academic responsibilities, he toiled for social empowerment. There would be many students and academics, local and foreign, that would be mourning him, and they would hold on to his memory forever, for inspiration and guidance.

M. Jalaldeen Isfan


 

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