Book Review: “Unsung Hero: Ravindra Wimal Jayawardene alias Ravi " by Indu Perera
“Unsung Hero: Ravindra Wimal Jayawardene alias Ravi " by Indu Perera
Published by Police Special
By Udeshika Jayasekara
Ravi Jayawardene was a man who was not crowned. As the son of Sri Lanka’s first executive president JR. Jayawardene, Ravi had the opportunity to land in a plum political career or politics itself. But he shunned it. He was a regular social worker and lived a simple life.
Ravi Jayawardene was a tough guy; he dreamed of being a cowboy. His first job was as a dancer at a well-known club in Colombo. Politics and law were not his intended world, and he, like his grandfather, had a passion for joining the military. As a result, Ravi joined the Army as a cadet officer and was trained as a Second Lieutenant in the Army Volunteer Corps.
Then, he got married at 23 without parental consent.
In 1962, the then government sent Ravi on Compulsory leave for his father being a prominent figure in the opposition. Then he took up a job as a pilot of the Air Ceylon. He represented Sri Lanka in the Olympics and was crowned as the best shooter in Asia in the 1970s.
However, disappointed with the intricacies of life, he took flight to Thailand and entered to monastic life as Bhikkhu Aryavansa. Then, he abandoned his monastic life to become a car mechanic in Australia while his father, J. R. Jayawardene was the elected President of Sri Lanka.
The killing of 13 soldiers in Jaffna in 1983 triggered an ethnic Tamil pogrom, and soon a Tamil insurgency rose its ugly head. Ravi returned to Sri Lanka to help his father.
Anti-Tamil riots in July sent Tamil youth into the hands of the LTTE, and the army was confronted with a terrorist campaign that was gaining momentum day by day. Therefore, the reorganization of the Presidential Security Force was urgently needed. Thus Ravi became the Presidential Security Advisor, and also helped design a number of combat training courses .
Ravi was a military strategist. Recognizing the special circumstances of the domestic security challenge, he was cognizant of the need for formation of special forces that most countries have adopted to confront such security exigencies. Thus he founded the Special Task Force (STF). Though the STF was set up with the best trained commandos in the army, it was formed within police force.
Accordingly, under the strategic planning and visionary leadership of Ravindra Wimal Jayawardene alias Ravi Jayawardene, a Special Task Force was established to ensure the national security of the motherland and to ensure public order. It continues to operate, earning respect both in Sri Lanka and internationally. In addition, he established a village security service to train Sinhalese villagers in the North and East in basic warfare to wade off against brutal terrorist attacks by the LTTE.
He was the Commanding Officer of the Special Task Force and recruited officers from the British Special Task Force who had experience in various counter-terrorism operations in the world. On October 5, 1984, the first team of the Special Task Force (STF) travelled to Batticaloa to quell the terrorist activities in the East. The normalcy in the area was quickly restored. The presence of the Special Task Force in the area was recognized and appreciated by the public. He introduced the concept of small groups during the war and the strategy was vindicated by the “Wikaba” operations in Batticaloa and Ampara.
He also saw the need to provide modern equipment and other facilities for the security forces and police. He took steps to set up a fully-fledged military training camp and a Special Task Force Headquarters.
Ravi Jayawardene was keen to provide good training, regular supervision and good leadership to enable the STF to function in Sri Lanka. Overtime, the STF gained a reputation in Sri Lanka and abroad as a powerful and capable counterterrorism force.
Following his father's death, he spent the last years of his life working for animal protection, conducting religious observances and engaging in social service. This noble man sat in deep meditation for three days on April 3, 2017 and breathed his last. But his mission will remain immortal.
After the defeat of the LTTE, the STF is now assisting the police in suppressing organized crime, narcotics and counter terrorism. Ravi Jayawardene’s dedication and leadership exemplified the excellence that the STF has achieved today as a professional and workforce.
The writer is a Research Assistant of the Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka (INSSSL), National Security Think Tank under the Ministry of Defence. Opinion expressed in this article are her own and not necessarily reflective of the INSSSL