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3RD LEAD (Update)

Pompeo blacklists pro-China Shavendra giving Gotabaya second chance to toe US line

[TamilNet, Friday, 14 February 2020, 19:44 GMT]
It was Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who led the genocidal onslaught on Eezham Tamils in 2009, giving instructions to the then Major General Shavendra Silva to bomb the hospitals as well as to carry out the brutal white-flag killings. Gotabaya was a US citizen and SL Defence Secretary at that time. Instead of holding the greatest war criminal and genocidaire, liable under US Congress’s War Crimes Act, accountable for the crimes, the Trump administration has opted for a different approach with strategic interests in mind. The US State Department is enticing him offering carrots while pointing its stick selectively against his pro-China Army Commander Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva. On Friday, US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo designated Silva under Section 7031(c) of US Department of States Appropriations Act, passing a severe message to Gotabaya not to delay toeing the US line.

“The United States remains committed to strengthening the bilateral relationship with Sri Lanka and helping reshape its security forces to tackle current and emerging threats,” Mr Pompeo said in a statement issued on Friday.

“Security cooperation will continue to emphasize respect for human rights as a fundamental component of our training, assistance, and engagements,” the statement added.

The emerging pattern of the US trick of coercion was already reported in October 2019.

The move has come as US President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit New Delhi later this month.

The Rajapaksa establishment has been dilly-dallying over pursuing defence agreements with the US and considering “multi-polar” options with Russia, China, Pakistan and Israel in addition to the Quad actors in the Indo-Pacific, the US, Japan, India and Australia.

Colombo has seen high profile visits in the wake of Gotabaya becoming SL President.

“We will not allow any outside influences to interfere with matters that are essentially internal concerns of Sri Lanka,” said China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who was visiting Colombo exactly one month ago.

The latest travel ban is Mike Pompeo's response to Wang Yi.

Ultimately, it is New Delhi that has been assigned the task of “course correcting” the SL State to fall in line with the Indo-Pacific Strategy of the US.

On Tuesday, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang was commending SL Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa for ‘positive’ remarks on China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) during his recent visit to India. He was condemning Pompeo for his recent remarks on China.

The US travel ban on Shavendra Silva is also seen as a message to the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who terminated the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) his country was having with the US earlier this week. The VFA termination was viewed as a severe setback for the US Indo Pacific Command in the South China Sea.

SL Army's 58 Division, led by Major General Shavendra Silva, was behind assassinating LTTE members and their families who carried white flags as advised by foreign diplomats and ministers such as Erik Solheim in May 2009.

In the meantime, Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed the ‘retired’ Major General as its deputy permanent UN representative in August 2010.

Some of the war crimes committed by the 58 Division, especially at the final stages of the Vanni war in 2009, have been detailed by the Report of the Secretary General's Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka in 2011.

However, the then ‘retired’ SL commander was rescued in 2011 from a civil litigation in a New York court over war-crimes allegations.

Despite serious allegations of war crimes, Silva was also "selected" as an advisor for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Senior Advisory Group.

Former SL President Maithiripala Sirisena appointed Silva as the Chief of Staff of the Sri Lanka Army in January 2019 and in August 2019 took over the command of the SL Army.

In January 2020, Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed Shavendra Silva also as his Acting Chief of Defence Staff.

“His elevation as the Acting Chief of Defence Staff by the current Head of State President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, was on account of his being the senior most serving military officer,” said a statement issued by the SL Foreign Ministry immediately after the US designation. The statement noted it was the previous SL President (Maithiripala Sirisena), who appointed Silva as the Commander of the Army.

“The Government of Sri Lanka takes strong objection to the imposition of travel restrictions on Lt. Gen. Silva and his immediate family members by the Government of the United States, based on independently unverified information,” the SL Foreign Ministry said.

Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva, is the acting Chief of Defence Staff, a position that outranks the commander positions of SL Navy, Air For and the Army at the moment.

The US Establishment seems to be disturbed by having a pro-China personality in the higher ranks, particularly above those commanding the SL Navy and the Air Force in the island.

Full text of the announcement issued by the US Department of State follows:

The Department of State has designated Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, current Commander of the Sri Lanka Army and Acting Chief of Defense Staff, as required under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, due to credible information of his involvement, through command responsibility, in gross violations of human rights, namely extrajudicial killings, by the 58th Division of the Sri Lanka Army during the final phase of Sri Lanka’s Civil War in 2009.

Section 7031(c) provides that, in cases where the Secretary of State has credible information that foreign officials have been involved in a gross violation of human rights or significant corruption, those individuals and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States. The law also requires the Secretary of State to publicly or privately designate such officials and their immediate family members. In addition to the public designation of Shavendra Silva, the Department is also designating his immediate family members.

The allegations of gross human rights violations against Shavendra Silva, documented by the United Nations and other organizations, are serious and credible. His designation underscores the importance we place on human rights in Sri Lanka and globally, our concern over impunity for human rights violations and abuses, as well as our support for promoting accountability for those who engage in such acts. We urge the Sri Lankan government to promote human rights, hold accountable individuals responsible for war crimes and human rights violations, advance security sector reform, and uphold its other commitments to pursue justice and reconciliation.

We deeply value our partnership with the Sri Lankan government and the long-standing democratic tradition we share with the Sri Lankan people. The United States remains committed to strengthening the bilateral relationship with Sri Lanka and helping reshape its security forces to tackle current and emerging threats. Security cooperation will continue to emphasize respect for human rights as a fundamental component of our training, assistance, and engagements.

The United States will continue to use all available tools and authorities, as appropriate, to address human rights violations and abuses around the world no matter when they occurred or who perpetrated them. Today’s actions underscore our commitment to support human rights, promote accountability for perpetrators, and encourage reconciliation in support of a peaceful, stable, and prosperous Sri Lanka.

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External Links:
US Department of State : Public Designation, Due to Gross Violations of Human Rights, of Shavendra Silva of Sri Lanka
SL Foreign Ministry: Sri Lanka takes strong objection to the imposition of travel restrictions by the US



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