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To an Admiral with stature


In 1951, a young Sri Lanka Police Sub Inspector hailing from the Southern Province, decided to steer a major alteration of course, in his chosen career pathway, and said goodbye to the “Police khaki” uniform in favour of the naval sea-going blue and white, unfolding a distinguished 28 year career in the Sri Lanka Navy and ascending to the helm in 1973 as the seventh commander at the young age of 44 holding the rank of Commodore.

During the course he steered in his long voyage, he not only had an impactful influence on our nation’s national security, and the progress of the Sri Lanka Navy, but also shaped my destiny in 1974 selecting me as an officer cadet of the 04th intake alongside 11 other batch mates and also in 1976, awarding me the only vacancy that the prestigious Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, UK offered Sri Lanka, after 17 years of absence of Dartmouth training to Sri Lanka Navy officers. He revived this vital training opportunity, which is practiced even today, for the Best Cadet only.

The Naval and military training that groomed him included training at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, UK, in 1951, followed by further training at Portsmouth and Plymouth, and on board training on HMS Newfoundland, a Fiji- class light cruiser. With his interest in under water activities he opted to follow the specialization in Torpedo and Anti-Submarine Warfare in 1960, aboard HMS Osprey, UK. Climbing the Naval career ladder with confidence, in 1963 he followed the Defence Service Staff Course in India and was selected as the first Sri Lanka military officer to follow the prestigious Indian National Defence Course in 1972, prior to being selected as the Commander of the Navy. Having been promoted to Rear Admiral rank in 1976, he continued to show and prove his stature alongside all levels of governance.

The unparalleled operational experience that he gained was from long tenures at various ranks in Thalimannar, Jaffna, Karainager, Diyathalawa, Trincomalee and Naval Headquarters in Colombo which showcased a strong significance. His sea-going appointments culminated in 1969 with the command of the flagship Gajabahu, a river class frigate, a ship which I too was privileged to serve as a trainee.

He, being the Commander of the Navy didn’t hesitate to shoulder lift 50 kg floor bags, joining his naval subordinates who were unloading the cargo of a merchant vessel, as harbour workers were on a trade union strike in 1977.

His initiating the purchase of five 20-foot Cheveton Class new Naval Patrol Vessels built on the Isle of Wight, UK, in 1976, for the Sri Lanka Navy fleet, stands tall even today, as one of those crafts, P 422 Tarawa, is still being used for Trincomalee harbour protection. Incidentally, P422v was my first sea command in 1981.

The Admiral was responsible for negotiating and coordinating the temporary acquisition by the Sri Lanka Navy, from 1975 to 1982, of MV Lanka Kanthi, a 6000-ton general cargo merchant ship, from the Ceylon Shipping Corporation, to be managed by Sri Lanka Navy officers and sailors. The main purpose was to provide an opportunity to gain experience and on-the – job training in ocean navigation and cargo handling in commerce and trade. During a long period of 15 years, a large number of officers and sailors sailed around the globe enriching their seagoing experience to greater heights. I too was a beneficiary of this golden opportunity in 1979 on two voyages to the Mediterranean and South China Sea serving as the 4th Officer.

Following a military tradition practised in many parts of the world and in Sri Lanka, the Admiral did not hesitate to encourage one of his three sons to join the Navy in 1975 and to pursue his underwater interest for him to become a diver, reaching the rank of Commander at retirement in 1998.

The Admiral engaged in every possible naval event with confidence, pride and sense of loyalty. His conspicuous presence even after retirement was always welcomed by the naval fraternity with willing gratitude and respect.

Admiral Goonasekara lived a legacy and left a legacy for all of us to understand, embrace and follow in shaping our pathways to the future.

I pay my steadfast respect and profound gratitude to him for placing trust and confidence in me at a very young age, as well as being a guiding light to me as well as many other naval personnel who had the privilege and opportunity to meet this gentle giant with a great stature, who left us after a long, colourful and productive life at the age of 95, on the February 17, 2024.

His demise has created a vacuum in the lives of all those who knew him.

May Admiral DB Goonasekara attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.

Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe