After a gap of 47 years, Sri Lanka on Friday appointed a Tamil as the Commander of its navy.
Rear Admiral Travis Jeremy Liyanduru Sinniah, who was made navy chief by President Maithripala Sirisena, is the second Tamil to head the country’s navy after Rear Admiral Rajanathan “Rajan” Kadirgamar who served between 1960 and 70.
Hailing Adm.Sinniah’s appointment, President Sirisena tweeted saying that he had served the Sri Lankan navy “with immense loyalty for many decades.”
True enough, because both Adm.Kadirgamar and Adm. Sinniah had stood by the state like a rock when the country was undergoing political turbulence.
Adm.Kadirgamar had stood by the government of Mrs.Sirima Bandaranaike when a section of the navy, army and the police, including his predecessor, Rear Admiral Royce de Mel, had tried to overthrow the elected government through a military coup in 1962, and his own brother, Sam Kadirgamar, was a defense counsel for the plotters.
Critical Role in Eelam War IV
Likewise, during the 30 year fight against Tamil terrorism and separatism, Adm. Sinniah had stood by the State like a rock though he was a Tamil and the separatists were targeting Tamil “collaborators”.
During Eelam War IV, in which the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were defeated comprehensively and decisively, Adm.Sinniah had headed a Task Force which destroyed ten LTTE “floating warehouses” and completely crippled the LTTE’s fighting ability.
Codenamed Operation Sagara Balaya, the destruction of the floating warehouses was a turning point in the war against the LTTE.
During the course of the three-decade armed conflict with the LTTE, Rear Adm. Sinniah had over 37 hits against the LTTE under his command and over 70 hits during his tenure as commander of the Fast Attack Flotilla.
He was also the officer who apprehended the infamous LTTE ship “Kadalpura” off Kankesanthurai in Jafna with 19 Black Sea Tigers on board including the LTTE 2nd in command and 9 LTTE area leaders.
An erudite officer and thinking warrior, Adm.Sinniah had studied at the Defense Services Staff College at Wellington in Tamil Nadu and obtained a Master of Science degree in Defense and Strategic Studies from Madras University.
He was trained on Specialized Naval subjects at HMS Dryad, HMS Mercury, HMS Collingwood and HMS Vernon at Portsmouth, United Kingdom, and specialized in Naval Communications and Electronic warfare at HMS Mercury, Petersfield Portsmouth, and INS Venduruthi, Kochi, India.
Adm. Sinniah did a Counter Terrorism Fellow (CTF) of the National Defense University, Washington DC., and was awarded the prestigious “Distinguished Graduate” medal for the year 2005.
He has followed the Defense Cooperation Course conducted by the Defense Institute of Security Assistance Management, Ohio.
A specialist in counter terrorist and littoral warfare, Adm Sinniah was nominated to direct the Maldivian Defense Forces in formulating a maritime security strategy and anti/counter terrorism doctrine, which was implemented in 2008 and remains as a MNDF foundation policy on counter terrorism at sea and on land.
He was also instrumental in the modification of naval guns for the Sri Lankan avy (SLN ) at Royal Ordnance UK, and had led the team which designed the indigenous 30 mm stabilized gun of the SLN.
A sharpshooter and “X” marksman, Adm.Sinniah had captained the navy team in 2001-2002.