General (Retd.) Lionel Balagalle, former Commander of the Sri Lanka Army and Chief of Defence Staff, has passed away.

Gen. Balagalle was aged 75 at the time of his demise.

He took office as the 16th Army Commander in August 2000 and relinquished his duties four years later.

Balagalle was appointed to the exalted military rank of the Chief of Defence Staff as the Head for Tri-Forces in October 2003. It was the first time a serving commander was made a Chief of the Armed Forces in Sri Lanka.

He enlisted in the Army as an Officer Cadet in 1965 and was commissioned in 1967 as a second Lieutenant and posted to the 4th Regiment, Sri Lanka Artillery.

Among the key positions held by Gen. Balagalle were the office of the Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff, Security Forces Commander, Wanni, Security Forces Commander, Jaffna, Colonel Commandant of Military Intelligence Corps, General Officer Commanding, 51 Division (Jaffna), General Officer Commanding Task Force 2 for Elephant Pass, Pooneryn, Mullaitivu and Vavuniya areas, Commander Artillery Brigade, Commander, Area Headquarters Wanni and Commander 4 Brigade (May 1994-1995), Director Military Intelligence and Commanding Officer Military Intelligence Corps, Army Headquarters, Principal Staff Officer, Joint Operations Command and General Staff Officer one at Joint Operations Command until he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General and appointed as Commander of the Army and subsequently as Chief of Defence Staff.

He has been honoured and awarded laurels, including two Gallantry Awards, Rana Wickrema Padakkama (RWP) and Rana Soora Padakkama (RSP), three Distinguished service medals, Vishista Seva Vibhushanaya (VSV), Uththama Seva Padakkama (USP) and Sri Lanka Armed Services Long Service Medal and Clasp, President’s Inauguration Medal, 50th Independence Commemoration Medal, Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force Centenary Medal.

Held in high esteem for his operational duties, Gen. Balagalle was also conferred with Vadamarachchi Medal, Riviresa Operational Medal, Purna Bhumi Padakkama, and the North and East Operations Medal with Clasp.