Thursday, 19 September, 2019

Shavendra Silva's appointment undermines Sri Lanka's reputation

A group of Bangladeshi pilgrims exits Dhaka airport after the first Hajj flight landed on Saturday A group of Bangladeshi pilgrims exits Dhaka airport after the first Hajj flight landed on Saturday
Patty Aguilar | 20 August, 2019, 08:32

A general accused of grave human rights abuses during Sri Lanka's long civil war has been appointed as the country's new army chief.

Major General Shavendra Silva, who on Monday was also promoted to the rank of lieutenant general, was in charge of an army division that encircled the final stronghold of the Tamil Tiger rebels in the final stages of the war that ended a decade ago.

President Maithripala Sirisena's office announced Monday that Maj. Gen.

Meanwhile, the President conferred the Weerodhara Vibhushana medal on two war heroes at the presidential secretariat today.

Silva's 58th division has been accused of violating worldwide human rights laws, including shelling a hospital.

"This appointment undermines Sri Lanka's global reputation and its commitments to promote justice and accountability, especially at a time when the need for reconciliation and social unity is paramount", the U.S. embassy in Colombo said in a statement. With the former Commander of the 58 Division taking over as Commander of the Army, the entire military will be under a cloud of allegations, stepping from its Commander's record, diplomatic sources told Daily FT.

United Nations rights chief Michelle Bachelet said she was "deeply troubled" by Colombo's appointment of Major General Shavendra Silva.

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In a statement issued yesterday, the CPA charged that Shavendra Silva's appointment as Commander of the Army was effectively a "repudiation" of promised security sector reform and accountability by the current Government.

His appointment demonstrates a disregard for human rights, said civil society groups including the Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The Sri Lanka Army has denied the alleged rights abuses.

According to a 2015 investigation by the United Nations office of the high commissioner of human rights, near the end of the war Mr Silva was tasked with capturing the Putumattalan area from the Tamil Tigers.

The CPA report said that in 2012 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights informed the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that "there is at the very least the appearance of a case of worldwide crimes to answer by Mr. Silva".

The organisation noted that his appointment was made ahead of presidential elections due before December 9.

"This is a man who has shown his willingness to violate global law,"said ITJP Executive Director Yasmin Sooka, "his promotion will spark fear throughout the country but especially among the hundreds of thousands of Tamils who suffered huge loss in 2009 when Silva allegedly oversaw attacks on civilian sites".

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