The appointment of Lt. General Shavendra Silva as the new Commander of the Sri Lanka Army by President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday (19) has gathered criticism from the international community with the US, Canada and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issuing statements expressing concerns over the appointment.
Lt. General Silva was appointed to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Lt. General Mahesh Senanayake on Sunday (18).
The mounting criticism over the appointment has even resulted in the Sri Lanka Army indefinitely postponing a news briefing that was scheduled for today.
The Army has postponed a press conference that was scheduled to take place today (20) on an annual defence seminar.
The Army had earlier said that a press conference will be held today (20) to announce details related to the ‘Colombo Defence Seminar 2019’, organized by the Sri Lanka Army to be held on 29th and 30th August 2019 at the BMICH.
The Seminar is to be held on the topic ‘Military Excellence Developing within Contemporary Security Environment’ with the participation of nationally and internationally renowned defence intellectuals will facilitate exchange of expertise and views pertaining to the discipline of defence.
The appointment of Lt. General Silva as the new Commander of the Sri Lanka Army has therefore been overshadowed by concerns expressed by local and international representatives.
UNHRC Chief notes resolution 30/1
The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has already received a critical report from the High Commissioner in March 2019 on Lt. General Silva when he was appointed as the Army Chief of Staff. In March she said that it was a “worrying development.”
The High Commissioner expressed concerns since Lt. General Silva has been heavily implicated by a succession of UN reports in alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, as the country’s new army commander.
“I am deeply troubled by the appointment of Lieutenant-General Shavendra Silva as Commander of the Sri Lankan Army, despite the serious allegations of gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law against him and his troops during the war,” Bachelet said.
“The promotion of Lieutenant-General Silva severely compromises Sri Lanka’s commitment to promote justice and accountability in the context of Human Rights Council resolution 30/1,” the High Commissioner further pointed out.
“It undermines reconciliation efforts, particularly in the eyes of victims and survivors who suffered greatly in the war. It also sets back security sector reform, and is likely to impact on Sri Lanka’s ability to continue contributing to UN peacekeeping efforts.”
Lieutenant-General Silva commanded the controversial 58th Division of the Sri Lanka Army during the final stages of the war against the LTTE in 2009. Successive UN investigations have implicated his division in alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws.
SL’s reputation undermined - US
The US has expressed deep concern over the appointment of Lieutenant General Silva as the new Army Commander by President Sirisena and said it would undermine Sri Lanka’s international reputation.
The US Embassy in Colombo yesterday (19) said the allegations of gross human rights violations against him, documented by the United Nations and other organisations, are serious and credible.
Expressing deep concern over the appointment of Lt. General Silva as the new Commander of the Sri Lanka Army, the Canadian government has said it undermines reconciliation and accountability efforts.
The Canadian High Commission in Sri Lanka said, “Canada is deeply concerned by Lt. General Silva’s appointment as Army Commander in Sri Lanka, despite credible allegations of gross human rights violations against him during the war.”
“His appointment undermines reconciliation and accountability efforts,” the Canadian High Commission added.