Born in August 1940 AD in Colombo, Vanigamuni Indrajith Vijeyakumar Mendis Wimalaratne (or just Vijaya) was Sri Lanka’s most – more realistically, only – distinguished general. He spent his career training officers and commanding the forces fighting the freedom (or, depending on one’s view, terrorist) movement known as the “Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam” (FTTE).
Wimalaratne joined the Gemunu watch of the Sri Lankan army as a subaltern in 1961 and trained in the methods of jungle warfare in Malaysia. Later he would graduate from the British Army’s Staff College at Camberley. From 1970 through 1991 Vijaya was the course commander for Sri Lankan officer cadets in counter-insurgency and jungle warfare, in the process rising to the rank of major-general. In 1987 he was tasked with forming the new Gajaba Regiment to put his training into practice. His first chance to do so came with the operation to rescue troops trapped by the FTTE in the Jaffna Fort in 1990 and the follow-up amphibious Operation Balavegaya in 1991 to clear the Elephant Pass of rebels.
His final appointment was as Commander of Security Forces, Jaffna. Early in 1992, together with other commanders, Vijaya was in charge of planning Operation “Final Countdown” to clear the northern peninsula of the FTTE. In August, Wimalaratne sought to finalize plans by personally reconnoitering the region, accompanied by Major-General Kobbekaduwa, commander of the Northern Sector troops, and Commodore Jayamaha, commander of the Northern Naval Area. It turned out to be a poor decision, although certainly in keeping with his “hands-on” notions of military command. As they were driving back to be airlifted out by helicopter, the Land Rover they were travelling in hit a land mine. Wimalaratne was killed instantly.