Lionel Balagalle

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Lionel P. Balagalle

AllegianceSri Lanka
Service/branchSri Lanka Army
UnitSri Lanka Artillery
Commands heldCommander of the Sri Lankan Army

General Lionel P. Balagalle RWP, RSP, VSV, USP, VSP was Sri Lankan general. He served as Commander of the Sri Lanka Army and Chief of the Defence Staff.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Colombo, both his parents were teachers. Having received his primary education in a rural school in Ratnapura, he attended Ananda College for his secondary education, he excelled in sports winning college colours. He was a senior school prefect and a cadet.[2]

Military career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Balagalle studied medicine before he joined the Ceylon Army as an Officer Cadet on 5 April 1965. Receiving his basic training at the Army Training Centre, Diyatalawa, he was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the 4th Regiment, Ceylon Artillery on 5 April 1967. As an artillery officer he saw active service in the 1971 JVP Insurrection and later attended the Indian Army School of Artillery in Deolali from September 1971 to February 1972 for the Young Officers Course and from August 1977 to September 1978 for the Long Gunnery Staff Officers Course.[2][3]

Military intelligence[edit]

In the 1980s Balagalle initiated the formal military intelligence operations while serving as the General Staff Officer (Grade 1) and thereafter the Principal Staff Officer in the Joint Operations Command with the rank of Colonel. Here he played a major role in planning the Vadamarachchi Operation and subduing the 1987–1989 JVP insurrection. He became the first Director of Military Intelligence and Commanding Officer of the Military Intelligence Corps, serving from 1990 to 1994. He had attended the Intelligence Staff Officers Course in Pune from August 1975 to October 1975 and the Intelligence Security Administration Course in the United Kingdom in September 1989.[2]

Higher command[edit]

He had served as Brigade Commander of the Commander 4 Brigade and the Artillery Brigade Commander as well as Area Headquarters Wanni (1994). From January 1996 to December 1996, he attended the National Defence College. Promoted to Major General, Balagalle served as General Officer Commanding, Task Force 2 (for Elephant Pass, Pooneryn, Mullaitivu and Vavuniya areas), 51 Division. He then served as Commander Security Forces Headquarters – Jaffna and Commander Security Forces Headquarters – Wanni. In latter role, he conduced several offensive operations code named Rivibala (1998) and Ranagosha 1-4 (1999). Returning to Army Headquarters, he served as Deputy Chief of Staff and thereafter Chief of Staff of the army. He was also the Colonel Commandant of Military Intelligence Corps (1997 - 1998) and Inspector-General of Artillery.[2]

Commander of the Army and CDS[edit]

On 24 August 2000, he succeeded General C. S. Weerasooriya as Commander of the Sri Lankan Army and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General. He was the first officer cadet to be trained locally at the Army Training Center to become the commander of the army. During his tenor the army began deploying troops for United Nations peace keeping operations and established the Institute of Peace Support Operations Training in Kukuleganga in conjunction with the US Army Pacific Command. On the Army day, 10 October 2003, he was received concurrent appointment as Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS).[4][5] He is the first serving Army Commander in the country to hold the position CDC. During his tenor he was the first foreign military chief to visit the line of control after the ceasefire agreement between Pakistan and India was signed as well attended the sixth Chiefs of Defence Staff Conference in Hawaii and the fifth Chiefs of Defence Conference in Singapore.[2] He was succeeded by Lieutenant General Shantha Kottegoda on 30 June as Commander of the Army. He was continued as CDC until his retirement in 1 September 2005, with the rank of General.[6]


General Balagalle married to his wife Gnana and has three children. His son Lakmal Balagalle was also an artillery officer.[2]


His military decorations include the Rana Wickrama Padakkama and the Rana Sura Padakkama for gallantry; the distinguished service medals, Vishista Seva Vibhushanaya, Uttama Seva Padakkama, Videsha Seva Padakkama and the Sri Lanka Armed Services Long Service Medal and Clasp; campaign medals Vadamarachchi Operation Medal, Riviresa Campaign Services Medal, Purna Bhumi Padakkama, and the North and East Operations Medal with Clasp. He has also received the President's Inauguration Medal, Fiftieth Independence Commemoration Medal, Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force Centenary Medal.[2]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 March 2013. Retrieved 14 May 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ An officer and a gentleman
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 July 2009. Retrieved 14 May 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Past Army Commanders". Sri Lanka Army. Archived from the original on 30 August 2012. Retrieved 17 September 2014.
Military offices
Preceded by
C. S. Weerasooriya
Commander of the Sri Lankan Army
Succeeded by
Shantha Kottegoda