CBK to confer highest gallantry award to Colonel Laphir, Captain Jayanath

By Shamindra Ferdinando
President Chandrika Kumaratunga on April 24 will confer armed forces highest gallantry award Parama Weera Vibhushanaya [PWV] posthumously to Colonel Aslam Fazly Laphir and Captain G. S. Jayanath, army headquarters said on Thursday.

The commanding officer of the first battalion of the Special Forces, Laphir [37] was killed on July 18, 1996 during the disastrous heli-borne attempt to break the siege on the Mullaitivu Brigade Complex. One of the finest officers produced by the Sri Lanka Army, Laphir had been involved in many close quarter engagements with LTTE terrorists during his 16-year career.

Laphir, based at Maduru Oya at the time of the terrorist assault on Mullaitivu, was ordered by the then army top brass to lead the rescue operation. He was killed in a mortar attack.

He was one of the ex-Rajarata Rifles men who joined the then Colonel Wijaya Wimalaratne’s Gajaba Regiment and then the Rapid Deployment Force [RDF] before joining the Special Forces.

Commando Captain Jayanath will be other recipient of the PWV. He was killed on December 4, 1997 in the Wanni theatre in the bloodiest battle waged by the Commando Regiment. Approximately 180 officers and men were killed in action after the top brass ordered the elite 53 division to destroy what the top brass believed was an enemy artillery position. But it turned out to be a dummy position set up by LTTE terrorists to trap the army.

Before them, less than half a dozen men had won the PWV posthumously. Army headquarters said that the PWV is awarded to all ranks of the regular and volunteer armed forces for individual acts of gallantry and conspicuous bravery of the most exceptional order in the face of the enemy. This is awarded to those who performed voluntarily while on active service with no regard to the risk to his own life and security with the objective of safeguarding the lives of his comrades or facilitating the operational aim of his formation.

The two PWV recipients were among 3,561 army, navy and airforce officers and men who would receive gallantry awards. The second highest, Weera Wickrema Vibhushanaya, the third, Rana Wickrema Padakkama and Rana Sura Padakkama would be awarded to a selected group of officers and men by President Kumaratunga. A large number of them would be awarded posthumously.

The PWV was won by soldier Gamini Kularatne or Hasalaka Weeraya for sacrificing his life to stop an LTTE operated bulldozer that broke through the Elephant Pass defences in April 1991. Kularatne was reported to have climbed on top of the bulldozer to drop a hand grenade into the chamber, killing the terrorist who operated the armour plated vehicle. His sacrifice inspired his colleagues to resist the enemy attack until sea-borne troops broke the siege on the base at that time commanded by Sanath Karunaratne, Brigadier and military spokesman now.

In 1998, the government began awarding National Honours to armed forces personnel. Before that National Honours have never been conferred on security forces.