The appointment of Shavendra Silva as the new Army Commander has brought the focus of the world’s super powers on an island which is still to recover from the mental wounds caused by a civil war which concluded in 2009.
The appointment of Lieutenant Gen. Silva as the Army chief has initiated scathing attacks on the Government; the biggest player jumping on the bandwagon of those throwing criticism at Sri Lanka being the United States of America (USA). The others who have directed their criticisms regarding the appointment are Canada and The European Union (EU) and United Nations Human Rights Council. The UN’s Human Rights Commission affirms that Silva’s appointment is deeply troubling and is likely to impact Sri Lanka’s ability to contribute to
its peacekeeping efforts.
The truth is that powerful nations could never stomach little Sri Lanka finishing off the country’s war against terrorism. Then there is also the fact that security officials involved in squashing a terrorist movement having to live with the allegations that they committed human rights violations. Lieutenant Gen. Silva is not immune to such allegations. The military man however has denied these allegations.
The Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) has defended the appointment of Silva and responded to critics stating that their concerns are based on allegations and not facts. The GoSL has shot back in response to these statements by the super powers saying that ‘these nations trying to influence decisions and internal administration of public service promotions in Sri Lanka is unacceptable’.
USA’s true interests are associated with setting foot in Sri Lanka to have a say in development work. This is largely due to the fact that Sri Lanka is so important to many nations from a geographical point of view and America doesn’t like to be left out of the equation. For the record USA has promised Sri Lanka a grant worth US $ 480 million, but USA state officials say that the financial help to be extended towards the island’s regime could be affected by this
Silva’s appointment comes just months away from a likely announcement for presidential elections. Government critics have pointed out that the regime is trying to promote a nationalistic air through this military appointment because ‘heroism’ is a label which is marketable and helps during election campaigns. Though it is the Wickremesinghe Government that has earned the wrath of the people, President Sirisena can’t escape criticism because he invited the former to be his second in command; both working together before they saw their relationships being soured. It would be that Sirisena has played one of his trump cards through this appointment to salvage the dwindling respite he has, being the head of state.
The criticism levelled against this appointment by some of the most powerful world nations isn’t coming without reason. United Nations Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet has warned that ‘the UN investigations have implicated the Division (Division 58 which Siva served) in service for allegedly violating the international humanitarian and Human Rights laws’. Bachelet goes on to say in a statement that this military appointment compromises Sri Lanka’s commitment towards promoting justice and accountability in the context of the Human Rights Council’s resolution 30/1; which promotes accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka. Critics state that the evidence they have to support their accusations against Silva is ‘credible’.
Silva’s appointment is hailed by staunch nationalist forces mainly because he marks the return of a member from that crack military team which was marshaled by Mahinda Rajapaksa who served as both President and Defence Minister. Many feel that he could be the person to elevate security in the country. This is because security in the country dropped to such a low ebb, largely because of the questionable appointment of certain individuals to positions of authority in key
Lapses in the country’s defence mechanism were exposed when members of an extremist Muslim terrorist organisation blew off a series of bombs on Easter Sunday, this year, and caused both loses to property and lives.
Sirisena’s appointee Silva has his hands full in putting the country’s security in order. Close associates of Silva say that this could be achieved easily for this man who is known as both an ‘officer’ and a gentleman.