The court of appeal has ordered Army commander Lt. Gen. Vikum Liyanage to promote Brig. Chandana Ranaweera to the rank of major general with effect from 01 January 2021.
The Infantry Regiment officer has filed a writ petition against his overdue promotion after failing to obtain a favourable reply to his repeated requests to the Army commander and the president.
Ranaweera is also to receive salary and allowance arrears.
This is a very rare court case by an officer in the Army over an issue of promotion or transfer.
Brig. Ranaweera has also lodged a related complaint to the Human Rights Commission.
Following a detailed investigation, the commission twice ordered the Army commander to explain in writing, before making its determination.
None was responded to.
The Army chief was again asked in September to hold an impartial investigation and report before 12 October.
Finally, his reply was that he would abide by a ruling by the court of appeal with regard to the matter.
According to an article in 'Anidda' newspaper, Brig. Ranaweera had been overlooked for promotion under a plan to ensure that an officer of the Gajaba Regiment becomes the next commander.
That plan came into being after Gotabaya Rajapaksa became the president.
His defence secretary Kamal Gunaratne, present chief of defence staff Shavendra Silva and incumbent commander Liyanage are all from the same regiment.
Incumbent commander Liyanage is due to complete his second service extension on 31 December.
Also, the position of the chief of staff of the Army remains vacant since the retirment of Majr. Gen. Sanjaya Wanasinghe more than a month ago.
The Army was briefly with a deputy chief of staff before Maj. Gen. G.R.P. Jayawardena was appointed to the position by the Army chief on 21 November.
He is the most senior officer in the Army and was due to retire on 08 December.
As per the court of appeal order, Ranaweera's promotion to major general rank makes him the second most senior officer after Jayawardena.
That will qualify him to fill the chief-of-staff position too.
Since he retires on 20 March 2024 and in the event Liyanage is not given another extension, Ranaweera becomes eligible to be the next Army commander.
Notwithstanding the court order, the most senior officer is Maj. Gen. S.P.A.I.M.B. Samarakoon of the Engineering Regiment, who retires on 28 November 2024.
However, as a non-combat regimental officer, he cannot go beyond the deputy chief of staff position.
Up next is Maj. Gen. U.D. Wijesekara of Sinha Regiment, whose retirement date is 30 December.
He is followed by Gajaba Regiment's Maj. Gen. W.H.K.S. Peiris, retiring on 06 May 2024.
If Ranaweera is not given the promotion, Peiris will be the next commander following Liyanage's retirement.
According to reports, the commander is planning to appeal the ruling, amid objections by the Army's judge advocate.
Even if the Supreme Court upholds the ruling, it could be too late for Ranaweera with a possibility of retirement or a new commander appointed by that time.
In the meantime, senior advisor to the president Sagala Ratnayake is trying to get an old Royalist appointed as the next Army commander, with Jayawardena of the Engineering Regiment being the possibility.