By Darshana Sanjeewa Balasuriya
Army Chief of Staff Major General Shavendra Silva has been appointed as the Commander of Sri Lanka Army by President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday.
He was appointed as the 23rd Commander of the Army after being promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General. He succeeds Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake.
Shavendra Silva was appointed to the post despite concerns raised over the risk his appointment may pose to Sri Lanka’s cooperation with UN peacekeeping operations and the defence cooperation between Sri Lanka and the US.
Lieutenant General Silva was the Chief of Staff, Colonel of the Regiment, Gajaba Regiment and Colonel of the Regiment, Commando Regiment at the time he was appointed Army Commander.
During his exemplary career spanning over 34 years, he has held a number of key positions in the organisation and carved a name for himself as one of the few battle-hardened Army warriors who was at the forefront of the battlefield and defended the country’s territorial integrity together with his troops before May 2009.
He is among the few to be awarded one of the highest gallantry medals ‘Weera Wickrama Vibhushanaya (WWV)’ in recognition of his contribution to the war for peace.
Lieutenant General Silva served as the Adjutant General of the Army Headquarters. A proud product of the Sri Lanka Military Academy, he was enlisted on March 5, 1984 to the Regular Intake 19 of the Army. He has had an illustrious career from the rank of Second Lieutenant to Major General, covering all salient appointments in his career.
Lieutenant General Silva has fulfilled all three significant streams of any military discourse namely an instructor, a staff officer and a commander, which in combination is a rare fulfillment of qualifications to be a full-fledged officer.
Lieutenant General Silva was the Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in New York during 2010-2015. He was the Alternative Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Special Political and Decolonisation Committee from 2010 to 2015. He was also the Advisor of the Sri Lankan delegation to the United Nations Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs Committee. Being a member of the Official Sri Lanka Delegation for the 66th, 67th, 68th and 69th United Nations General Assembly, Lieutenant General Silva participated in many rounds of bilateral and multilateral consultations.
He commanded the 58th Division and the Commando Brigade during humanitarian operations. He also commanded the 53rd Division which is the Reserve Strike Force and the Air Mobile Brigade.
Lieutenant General Silva commanded three Infantry Battalions during the crucial period of the Sri Lankan Military. He had held key staff appointments in the Military Secretary’s Branch, Directorate of Plans, Directorate of Training and as the staff officer to the Security Forces Headquarters in Jaffna. After the humanitarian operation concluded in the year 2009, he was appointed as Director-General Operations at the Army Headquarters and also as Colonel of the Regiment, Commando Regiment.
He is a graduate from Harvard University in the United States and holds an MSc in Philosophy and in Defence and Strategic Studies in India. He has been trained and qualified in psychological operations by the United States Army. He is a graduate of the Defence Services Command and Staff College and holds a diploma in personnel management. He is also an instructor to the international humanitarian law course and a qualified physical training instructor.
US deeply concerned over appointment
In the wake of President Maithripala Sirisena appointing the new Army Commander, the United States said it was deeply concerned by the appointment of Lieutenant General Silva to this post.
The US embassy said in a statement that the allegations of gross human rights violations against him, documented by the United Nations and other organisations, were serious and credible.
“This appointment undermines Sri Lanka’s international reputation and its commitment to promote justice and accountability, especially at a time when the need for reconciliation and social unity is paramount,” the statement said.
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