The silence maintained by Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa over the criticism of Lt. General Shavendra Silva’s appointment as the new Commander of the Sri Lanka Army
by the US and members of the international community has raised suspicions in the minds of patriotic leaders in the SLPP like MPs Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila, sources in the ‘joint opposition’ said.
Although several activists in Gotabaya’s “Viyathmaga” organization have criticized the US criticism of Lt. General Silva’s appointment, Gotabaya has remained silent over the issue.
However, questions have been raised in social media over the silence maintained by the US when Gotabaya was named the presidential candidate of the SLPP while statements have been issued against the appointment of Lt. General Shavendra Silva as the new Army Commander.
“Why does America that shouts when Shavendra Silva becomes Army Commander, keep silent when Gotabaya is trying to become the President?” are the questions raised in the social media. The reason for the social media discussion on the issue is due to the suspicion that the US was engaged in a conspiracy to install Gotabaya as the Head of State in Sri Lanka.
Many social media posts have been posted on the alleged secret deals between Gotabaya and the US at a time when there is a similar discussion in political circles.
When The Leader inquired from a foreign diplomat about the silence maintained by the US over Gotabaya’s presidential candidacy and the open objection to Lt. General Silva’s appointment, the diplomat said the reason for raising concerns over the appointment of the new Army Commander was because it was an appointment of the state.
“Silva’s appointment as the new Army Commander is an act of the state. The international community could express its opinion on such state appointments. However, the naming of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the presidential candidate is an act of a political party. It is only an announcement. Although diplomatic interventions are made with regard to government appointments, it cannot be done so when over actions of a political party,” the diplomat said.
Major General Shavendra Silva was appointed as Lt. General and the new Commander of the Sri Lanka Army by President Maithripala Sirisena on Monday (19).
Lt. General Silva was appointed as the new Army Commander after Lt. General Mahesh Senanayake retired from service on Sunday (18).
The international community expressed concern over the appointment of the new Army Commander.
EU questions SL’s commitment
The European Union (EU) raising concerns over the appointment of Lieutenant-General Shavendra Silva as Commander of the Sri Lanka Army has questioned “Sri Lanka’s commitments to the UN Human Rights Council.”
The EU noted that it shares the sentiments expressed the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and stated the appointment “sends a worrying message to victims and survivors of the war.”
A joint statement on Lt.General Silva’s appointment was issued in agreement with the Embassies of Germany, Italy, Netherlands, the UK High Commission, the Embassies of Norway and Switzerland.
It notes that the EU members share the same concerns as the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on the appointment due to the allegations of human rights and humanitarian law violations against the new Army Commander.
“We fully share the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s serious concerns about the appointment of Lieutenant-General Shavendra Silva as Commander of the Sri Lankan Army, given the allegations of grave human rights and humanitarian law violations against him,” the EU stated.
“The promotion of Lieutenant-General Silva to the post of Army Commander calls into question Sri Lanka’s commitments to the UN Human Rights Council, as recently as March 2019, to ensure justice and accountability. It also undermines Sri Lanka’s efforts towards national reconciliation and sends a worrying message to victims and survivors of the war,” the statement added.
UNHRC Chief notes resolution 30/1
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has expressed deep concern over the appointment of Lieutenant-General Silva as the new Commander of the Sri Lankan Army and noted that it would severely compromises Sri Lanka’s commitment to promote justice and accountability in the context of Human Rights Council 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.
“This appointment undermines Sri Lanka’s international reputation and its commitments to promote justice and accountability, especially at a time when the need for reconciliation and social unity is paramount,” the US Embassy in Colombo said.
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.