News Features

Officer morale downstream

  Army Chiefís new promotion structure ruins future prospects say Senior Officers                          

Senior Officers of the Sri Lanka Army are dismayed by a promotion structure introduced last year by the Commander of the Army Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka, which has effectively, they say, ruined their future career prospects in the Army.

According to an ĎArmy Routine Orderí issued by the Commander on February 13 last year, promotion to the rank of Lt Col and above will be confined to Field Engineers Officers who have gained experience in high intensity operations or, have proved extreme commitment to tasks assigned and performed duties well, along with a very high command strength.

Officers in a selected Majors list have been relegated to three categories. Main, Common and Logistic Stream. Officers of Armour, Artillery, Mechanized Infantry and Infantry will be considered for the Main Stream appointments, provided they fulfill the selection criteria. Therefore, any future Commander of the Army will be chosen from this stream only.

The Mechanized Infantry, in fact, was a brainchild of Lt. Gen. Fonseka, who initiated the fighting brigade in 2006.

Officers of Armour, Artillery, Mechanized Infantry and Infantry who are not considered for Main Stream appointments and Officers of the Corps of Engineers and Signals will be considered for what has been termed Common Stream appointments, subject to having fulfilled the selection criteria. In addition, Officers from the Service regiments may be promoted to selected Common Stream appointments, as determined by the Commander of the Army. While Officers of Service regiments will be appointed to the Logistic Stream.

The document from the Commander, spelling out the promotion details, states that, in considering Officers for promotion to the ranks of Lt Col and above, Main Stream Officers will be given priority, provided, of course, they conform to the stated criteria.

However, it adds that the performance of Officers will be assessed on each occasion, when due promotion, whether to be promoted in the present stream or transferred to the Common Stream, based on the assessment, during the period under consideration. Under these circumstances, Common or Logistics Stream Officers should not supersede Main Stream Officers in parallel seniority, it states.

Previously, promotions of this nature, were based on seniority and determined by the Ministry of Defence. However, since this order was issued in February last year, the Defence Ministry is yet to confirm and validate the order. Nevertheless, Officers have already been put into these three categories and at least two, promoted to Main Stream, on the directions of the Army Commander.

The Commanderís decision is based on his assertion that the Army, being a command oriented organisation, the command strength shall be considered as the most important trait for higher leadership in the Army. His order states that this trait shall be given priority in all training activities mainly focused at gradual intellectual development, with a view to improve their ability to command units/formations, both during peace and war.

The order adds that when Officers are considered for promotion to higher rank/appointments, the command strength shall override excellence attained in other streams of employment such as staff and instructional appointments. To achieve this, performance of Officers at various levels of command, will be carefully recorded and scrutinised.

A selection Board has already begun making the appointments. Thus far only two Officers from the Common Stream have been promoted to the Main Stream. Col P.M.R. Bandara and Col T.J. Nanayakkara.

The promotions have irked senior Officers, who, speaking on grounds of anonymity, said that countless other Officers who are more senior and experienced than these two Officers, have been deprived of promotion, as a result of the new selection criteria.

Brig S. Ranasinghe, Brig K.J. Wijeytilleke, Brig L.N. Wickramasuriya, Col H.A.N. Hapuarachchi, Col K.M.U. Wijerathne, Col D.S. Weeraman, Col D.S. Weerasekera and Col W.R. Palihakkara are among dozens of other Officers bypassed for future promotion.