Tissa Weeratunga

General Tissa Indraka Weeratunga, VSV (August 29, 1930 – November 2003) was a Sri Lankan military leader. He was a former Commander of the Sri Lankan Army (1981 – 1985) and first General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Joint Operations Headquarters (JOH) (at present referred Chief of the Defence Staff), he was later Sri Lanka's High Commissioner to Canada.

Tissa Indraka Weeratunga
BornAugust 29, 1930
Matara, Ceylon
DiedNovember 2003
Colombo, Sri Lanka
AllegianceSri Lanka
Service/branchSri Lanka Army
Years of service1951-1986
UnitCeylon Light Infantry,
Gemunu Watch
Commands heldChief of the Defence Staff,
Commander of the Sri Lankan Army,
Chief of Staff of the Sri Lankan Army
Battles/wars1971 Insurrection,
Sri Lankan Civil War
AwardsVishista Seva Vibhushanaya
Other workHigh Commissioner to Canada

Early life and educationEdit

Born to Arthur Weeratunga, a planter from Matara and Henrietta Weeratunga (née Gurusingha). He had one sister, Krishnajina Weeratunga who married Ana Seneviratne, a police officer who served as Inspector General of Police from 1978 to 1982. Tissa Weeratunga was educated at the Royal College, Colombo.[1]

Military careerEdit

Early careerEdit

Weeratunga joined the newly formed Ceylon Army on 11 October 1949, in its first cadet officer intake and received his basic officer training at the Mons Officer Cadet School, Aldershot and at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and posted to the Ceylon Light Infantry on 2 August 1951. He was appointed as adjutant of the Ruhunu Regiment on 4 July 1956; adjutant of the 1 Battalion, Ceylon Light Infantry on 22 October 1956 and Staff Captain Administration Branch at Army Headquarters on 25 July 1958. He was transferred to the Corps of Infantry on 8 December 1962 and posted later to the Gemunu Watch on its formation. In December 1965, he was appointed Brigade Major of the 1st Brigade Group in Panagoda. From 23 February 1966 to 01 November 1967 he served as the Military Liaison Officer in the Ministry of External Affairs and Defence. He had followed the Unit Commander’s Course in Australia and the Joint Service Defence College.[1]

Field commandEdit

On 1 September 1968, he was appointed the acting Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion of the Gemunu Watch. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel on 1 October 1969 and confirmed as the Commanding Officer. Later he took command of the Ceylon Army General Service Corps and the Ceylon Army Pioneer Corps. With the outbreak of the 1971 Insurrection, he was appointed Military Coordinating Officer of the Monaragala District on 15 August 1971 and thereafter served as Military Coordinating Officer of the Kurunegala District from 16 April 1972 to 7 May 1972.[1]

On 1 November 1972 he was appointed Commander, Task Force Anti Illicit Immigration (TAFII) in Jaffna serving till 1 March 1976, having been promoted to the rank of Colonel on 1 January 1974. On 1 March 1976, he was appointed Commander Western Command and later made Director Operations and Training at Army Headquarters on 15 September 1977. On 1 December 1977, he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier and appointed Inspector of Training of the Army. He attended the National Defence College, India and on his returned he served as Competent Authority for Sri Lanka Airports.[1]

Higher commandEdit

On 18 March 1979, he was appointed Chief of Staff of the Sri Lanka Army. Concurrently, Brigadier Weeratunga was then tasked by President J. R. Jayawardene to clamp down on the Tamil militancy that was taking root in Jaffna and was dispatched to Jaffna as Commander Security Forces - Jaffna, with extensive powers under the provisions of Prevention of Terrorism (Special Provisions) Act No: 48 of 1979. From 13 July 1979 to 31 December 1979, Brigadier Weeratunga lead extensive operations to route out the elements of Tamil militant groups forcing them to take refuge in India and reducing their terrorist activity.[2]

He was promoted to the rank of Major General and made Commander of the Sri Lankan Army on 14 October 1981, and held the post till 2 November 1985. His tuner marked the start of the Sri Lankan Civil War with the LTTE ambush of the army patrol Four Four Bravo in July 1983. He undertook several reforms in the army, including the formation of the Gajaba Regiment and undertaking the rapid expansion of the army to cope with the civil war.[3]

He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General and appointed as the first General Officer Commanding of the Joint Operation Command on 11 February 1985 to co-ordinate army, navy and air force counter-terrorist operations in the north and east of Sri Lanka. He retired from the army on 29 August 1986 and was promoted to the rank of General. Brigadier Cyril Ranatunga was brought out of retirement with the rank of Lieutenant General to succeed General Weeratunga.[1]

Later lifeEdit

After retiring the army he was appointed as Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Canada in October 1989 and served till 1990.[1] He died at the age of 73 in November 2003 and was cremated with full Military Honours at General Cemetery Kanatte on November 9, 2003.[4]


His decorations include the Vishista Seva Vibhushanaya (VSV), Republic of Sri Lanka Armed Services Medal, Sri Lanka Army 25th Anniversary Medal, Ceylon Armed Services Long Service Medal, Sri Lanka Armed Services Long Service Medal, President's Inauguration Medal and the Ceylon Armed Services Inauguration Medal.[1]




Weeratunga was married to Sonia Evangeline St.Clair Rhode and had three children: Rohan, Annouchka and Ajith.

See alsoEdit


External linksEdit

Military offices
Preceded by
Post created
GOC of the Joint Operation Command
Succeeded by
Preceded by Commander of the Sri Lankan Army
Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Sri Lankan High Commissioners to Canada
Succeeded by