Marking the 65th Birth Anniversary of General Cecil Waidyaratne on May 16, 2003 despite my deep-felt sentiments for the untimely departure he made, it was a great privilege for me to be his ADC (Aide de Camp). As a result I could closely observe his behaviour as an Army Commander.
General Cecil Waidyaratne was born on 16 May 1938 and was educated at St. Benedict’s College, Colombo. He was an outstanding sportsman and represented the college at First Eleven Cricket from 1956 to 1957. He loved his college and always rallied to the call of his "alma mater".
General Waid-yaratne was enlisted the Regular Force of the then Ceylon Army on June 26, 1959. Having completed Officer Cadet Training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, United Kingdom, he was commissioned in the rank of Second Lieutenant on July 28, 1961 and posted to the Ceylon Armoured Corps with effect from the same date.
Having earned due promotions he rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel on January 1, 1980 and was appointed Commanding Officer Sri Lanka Mechanical Engineers on the same date. Subsequently he commanded 1st Battalion Sri Lanka Singha Regiment, 1st Reconnaissance Regiment Sri Lanka Armoured Corps and 1st Battalion, the Rajarata Rifles. Thus he had the rare opportunity of Commanding four Battalions. Further he held the appointment of Commander Northern Area in 1985 and thereafter Southern Commander and General Officer Commanding 1 Division and also held the appointment of Commander of Combines Operations in 1989 and he was responsible for the security of Colombo Metropolitan area.
His strong personality mixed with intelligence and efficiency paved the way for his promotion to the rank of Major General, upon which he was appointed Chief of Staff in 1989. During his brilliant career he attended several courses of training in the United Kingdom, Pakistan and India. He utilized the knowledge acquired from these courses of training and contributed towards the betterment of the Army. On November 16, 1991 he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General and was appointed Commander of the Army.
Having rendered more than 34 years of distinguished and unblemished service to the Army he retired on January 1, 1994 and was promoted the rank of General with effect the same date. General Waidyaratne on retirement was appointed the Ambassador for Sri Lanka in Thailand and continued to serve the nation as a diplomat till December 1994.
Going by the experience of General Waidyaratne’s life, I learnt that strong, charactered, straight men make many enemies and by the actions of these enemies, the General suffered severe mental strain due to accusations he was not guilty of.
The last that I saw of this great gentleman was when I went to see him at Asha Central Hospital at 6 a.m. to say goodbye and good luck. I remembered he spoke a few words with me and told me that he would like to wish Good Luck to the newly appointed Minister T. Marapana and ask me to get Minister on the line on my mobile phone. He congratulated the Minister and wished him and left the hospital to the airport to go to India for an operation, which sad to say, was not a success. And his life ended at a early age of 63 years.
We were extremely distressed to learn of the demise of General LDCE Waidyaratne VSV USP ndc psc (Retd). His demise is a great loss not only to the Armed Forces but also to the nation as a whole. Though departed, his name will remain forever in our hearts as a great patriot of Mother Lanka.
His three grandsons Shanik, Amrith and Yadesh, whom he adored so much, were too young to realise what a honourable and strong charactered grandfather they had. I have many more things to write about this outstanding officer and gentleman. I’m sure there are many more who could speak of his greatness.
General Waidyaratne, you live forever in the memories of the men at arms, whom you inspired with your excellent command and leadership.
May you attain Nirvana, the eternal bliss of emancipation!
Mahesh de Zoysa RSP
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