7 June, 2023


Appointing Shavendra Silva As Commander Of The Sri Lankan Army

By Kumarathasan Rasingam – 

Kumarathasan Rasingam

President Maithripala Sirisena on Monday [August 18, 2019] named a General accused of war crimes as Commander of the Sri Lankan Army, sparking concern over the appointment that the UN later termed “deeply troubling”. 

What the United Nations is saying? 

“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,” the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Michelle Bachelet said in a statement on Monday.

Bachelet added that the promotion “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.”

One of his brigades was accused of attacking civilians, hospitals and restricting humanitarian supplies to trapped Tamil civilians.

Silva’s appointment as the Army chief may strain Sri Lanka’s cooperation in UN Peacekeeping operations and the defence cooperation between the United States and Sri Lanka.

This is not the first time that Ms. Bachelet has expressed concerns about Lieutenant-General Silva and his role in the Sri Lankan army: in March this year, she described his previous appointment, as Army Chief of Staff, as a “worrying development” in a report to the Human Rights Council.

In March, Ms. Bachelet also warned that there has been “minimal progress” on setting up mechanisms to deal with the worst crimes committed during the conflict during 2009, and called for the establishment of an independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a vetting process to remove officers with questionable human rights records.

Silva’s own website describes himself as a “hero” for his role in the defeat of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers). But in 2012, while he was Sri Lanka’s deputy ambassador to the U.N., he was removed from the U.N. Special Advisory Group on Peace Keeping Operations due to the allegations against him. 

Silva has also been accused of human rights violations during security operations in southern Sri Lanka against the Sinhalese nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna [JVP] armed group in the late 1980s.

The U.N. human rights investigation recommended that Sri Lanka engage in vetting to remove “alleged perpetrators” from the military. But instead of investigating Silva, the government has rewarded him with promotions. 

What the International Truth and Justice Project [Jasmin Sooka –Executive Director] says 

The International Truth and Justice Project, a group seeking accountability for wartime abuses, said Silva’s appointment was “immensely damaging to the country”.

“After so much bloodshed Sri Lankans need to hold their leaders accountable in order to stop the repeated cycles of violence,” Yasmin Sooka, the organisation’s executive director, said. “Silva’s promotion, however, sends a message of total impunity.”

 “This is a man who has shown his willingness to violate international 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 immense loss in 2009 when Silva allegedly oversaw attacks on civilian sites”. 

“I imagine there has been intense diplomatic lobbying to stop Sri Lanka taking this step – with all the consequences explained. It’s striking an own goal for any country to take this step and frankly disheartening particularly for the Rule of Law,” added Sooka. “I very much hope Sri Lanka’s allies will now take a principled step and ensure Major General Shavendra Silva is not granted a visa to travel abroad even on official duty.” 

She also said also said that the appointment might put US assistance to the Sri Lankan Army in question. The island nation’s army is subject to Leahy Laws which prohibit the US from providing military assistance to foreign security force units that violate human rights with impunity.
She said they had compiled a 137-page dossier on Silva showing there was “more than enough evidence” to charge him with war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

What the American Embassy in Colombo says

The US expressed deep concern by Silva’s appointment, said the American Embassy in Colombo in a statement.
‘The allegations of gross human rights violations against him, documented by the United Nations and other organizations, 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 embassy said.

What the Main Tamil Political party says

Sri Lanka’s main Tamil political party too slammed the appointment of Silva as the country’s new Army chief, calling it a ‘serious affront’.”An individual who stands accused of grave crimes (appointed) as Army Commander is a serious affront to the Tamil people,” Tamil National Alliance spokesman M A Sumanthiran said.
“We are deeply disappointed by this appointment,” he said.

What the Amnesty International says:


The serious allegations against Major General Shavendra Silva, who has been appointed as Chief of Staff of the Sri Lankan Army, highlight the urgent need for thorough, impartial, independent and effective criminal investigations into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the armed conflict.

“President Sirisena’s appointment of Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva as Sri Lanka’s Army Commander makes a mockery of accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity during the armed conflict,” Thyagi Ruwanpathirana, Amnesty International’s Sri Lanka regional researcher, said. 

International Crisis Group reports

On May 2010 the International Crisis Group published a detailed report on war crimes during the final months of the civil war. The report collated vast amounts of evidence including numerous reliable eyewitness statements, hundreds of photographs, video, satellite images, electronic communications and documents from multiple credible sources. The report concluded that war crimes were committed by the Sri Lankan armed forces and the Tamil Tigers. The report found credible evidence of intentional shelling of civilians by the Sri Lankan armed forces; intentional shelling of hospitals by the Sri Lankan armed forces; intentional shelling of humanitarian operations by the Sri Lankan armed forces; deliberate obstruction of food and medical treatment for the civilian population by the Sri Lankan armed forces; intentional shooting of civilians by the Tamil Tigers; and intentional infliction of suffering on civilians by the Tamil Tigers. The report found evidence that suggested that during 2009 tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed, countless wounded and hundreds of thousands deprived of basic food and medical care which resulted in further, unnecessary deaths. The report suggested that the actions of some members of the international community produced conditions which allowed war crimes to be committed. The report made a number of recommendations, particularly that there should be an international investigation into alleged war crimes. The report stated that it was impossible for any domestic (Sri Lankan) investigation into the government/security forces to be impartial “given the entrenched culture of impunity”

Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal

Between 14 and 16 January 2010 the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal held a Tribunal on Sri Lanka in DublinIreland to investigate allegations that the Sri Lankan armed forces committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during its final phase of the war, and to examine violations of human rights in the aftermath of the war.

The tribunal concluded that the human rights violations during the war (2006–2009) “clearly constitute war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan Government, its security forces and aligned paramilitary forces, as defined under the Geneva Conventions and in the Rome Statute (Article 8).” Sri Lanka is a signatory of the Geneva Convention but not the Rome Statute. The tribunal found that war crimes were committed irrespective of whether the civil war was considered to be an international conflict or as an internal armed conflict. The tribunal also found that human rights violations committed in the IDP camps and the forced disappearances during the ceasefire (2002–2006) “clearly constitute crimes against humanity” as defined under Article 7 of the Rome Statute.[  The tribunal could not find enough evidence to justify the charge of genocide but it requested that a thorough investigation be held as some of the evidence it had received indicated “possible acts of genocide”

The Sri Lankan state has been accused of state terrorism against the Tamil minority as well as the Sinhalese majority. The Sri Lankan government and the Sri Lankan Armed Forces have been charged with massacres, indiscriminate shelling and bombing, extrajudicial killingsrapetorturedisappearancearbitrary detention, forced displacement and economic blockade. According to Amnesty International state terror was institutionalized into Sri Lanka’s laws, government and society. The promotion of Major General Shavendra Silva to the post of Commander of the Armed Forces is an affront to the families of the disappeared who surrendered to the Sri Lankan armed forces at the end of the war and have not been heard from since.  Silva was one of the most important field commanders at the end of the war and the International Truth and Justice Project Sri Lanka has stated, “Given his presence in and command over the area, there are reasonable grounds to believe that Major General Silva knew of or consciously disregarded information which clearly indicated that the troops under his responsibility were responsible for the enforced disappearance of those who surrendered, summarily executing some of them.”  Issuing the list of those who surrendered to the armed forces at the end of the war is one of the first actions for any credible government effort to provide truth, resolution and justice for enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka.

According to Amnesty International, Sri Lanka has a backlog of 60,000 to 100,000 cases of enforced disappearance from all communities since the late 1980s, approximately 40 – 80,000 of whom are Tamils.  Following a visit to Sri Lanka in 2015, the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearance noted that Sri Lanka has the second highest number of unresolved cases under its consideration. 

The Office on Missing Persons (OMP) had recently recommended that state officials, including members of the armed forces and police who are named as suspects or accused in criminal actions relating to abductions and enforced disappearances, be suspended pending the final determination of such cases 

The plain stark truth is Sri Lanka has an entrenched culture of impunity for the Security Forces and Government Officials to enable the continuing commission or genocidal acts against the Tamils with “Intent to destroy in whole or part of a national, ethnical, social or religious group”. As defined in the UN Convention on Genocide 1948.

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Latest comments

  • 12

    This was totally bad judgement on Sirisena’s part, and this is giving the finger to the Tamils, minorities, and the rest of the world. What kind of message are we sending? This is why international entities keep criticizing us, we are not showing that we make the right decisions, appoint decent officials, and prove we are doing things according to the rules and the law. We keep giving these war criminals prestige by placing them in such high positions, and attack the outside world when they want them held accountable. There is no point pointing to other nations saying they are doing the same, because we are like beggars depending on aid from the very nations that criticize us.

  • 11

    All these charges are dismissed as ‘mere allegations’ by the government, its agents, and others who want to sweep it all under the carpet. But it does not seem to occur to any of them that when very serious allegations are persistently made against individuals or institutions it is imperative to hold proper inquiries to get at the truth. Dismissing allegations as simply allegations while adamantly refusing to hold proper inquiries is a clear indication of guilt.

  • 4

    Regarding the allegations against Shavendra in 2009, readers must remember the LTTE chose to fight to the death. Most civilian casualties could have been avoided if the LTTE leadership surrendered. Let us think logically for a moment, if 10,000 armed militants are hiding behind 30,000 civilians, is it possible to extract the 10,000 militants without some civilians getting caught? SLA did not use heavy weapons on the civilians as the UN report (Darusman) suggests, if they had, there would be few Tamils left in the North. Furthermore, if SLA was using these heavy weapons on civilians, the war would have been over in the first month of 2009, not the fifth.

    • 6

      ‘Some civilians getting caught’? it is not some but over 50,000 civilians who were murdered. Genocidal indeed. When the army could not fight the Tigers, they did use heavy weapons obtained from India, China, Pakistan, Britain, which finally decided the outcome of the war. You speak as if you were a witness to the war when it was a war without witness. That is why the government of the countries mentioned are silence about the Murder and Mayhem.
      If there were no civilian casualties, why are they afraid of an International court.? You can have international support for the war but reluctant to have an international Inquiry?

      • 5

        Ignore Lester he is a Sinhalese racist

        • 4

          No; he is only a slave of Ra..kse clan! He will be defending anything Ra..kse clan would say or do!

      • 2

        K. Anaga,

        Do you really think GOSL can murder 50,000 civilians and get away with it? This is 2019, not 1979. The Westerners have satellites in space with excellent accuracy. The satellites will show the location of mass graves that can be used to verify the claims. There are no mass graves caused by the use of heavy weapons. That is why no one takes this UN (Darusman) Report seriously. It is just Eelamist propaganda.

      • 1

        Of the 50,000 civilians killed 99% of them would have been killed by LTTE terrorists. The military certainly did not kill civilians with intent. The tamil terrorists could have surrendered if they cared for the civilians, and they did not. Self Inflicted Genocide, indeed.
        Shavindra Silva is an outstanding officer. Without Silva there be far fewer Tamils today. Be grateful he saved Tamils from Tamil Terrorists, Self Inflicted Genocide.

        • 4

          lal loo

          Its you again.
          Good to hear from you.

          “Of the 50,000 civilians killed 99% of them would have been killed by LTTE terrorists.”

          Assuming you are 100% right, would you mind telling us who killed the rest 500?

          “Shavindra Silva is an outstanding officer.”

          Of course he is good at mass extermination, using multiple-barrel, carpet bombing, shelling from field gun, howitzer, ………………..

          “Without Silva there be far fewer Tamils today. “

          With Silva there are fewer Tamils Today.
          With him soon there will be fewer Muslims, Sinhalese, ………………….
          Where was this outstanding officer between 1987 and 1990?
          Was he hiding behind his Grandma from IPKF?

  • 2

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

    • 4

      Eagle Blind Eye

      Great piece of typing.
      Keep typing.

  • 4

    What I find very disturbing is the UN ,which had backed the war against a helpless country like Iraq, so the West can steal its natural resources, can now use the argument of fairness, to torment a poor country that used what little it had to remove murderous dictator (Prabarkaran) who had held 20 million people to ransom close to 40 years. It still did nothing when the west repeated the same ting to Libya. How many people died and continue die in those two countries. Where are the human rights violations against the generals who lead those wars … that’s right, these people are heroes, they led bravely to defeat an army that had very little power to fight back.

    • 5

      Shane, you may have forgotten that the UN did not approve the US led war against Iraq. Kofi Annan then called it “an illegal war”

      • 3

        I wish to remind you all that what happened to Rebukewela’s daughter who was in UN. She was sexully bullied by major general shivndra de Silva Mahinda Rajapaksa intervened and promised Rambuke wela that Mahinda would take action against the Army major. What happened or what action taken?No one knows.Can anyone tell me what action taken?

      • 1

        More reason the West should be held accountable for war crimes .. but where is it?

    • 5

      Two or for that matter 10 wrongs do not make a right.

    • 5

      Another Sinhalese racist and apologist for the Tamil genocide. The biggest terrorist is the Sinhalese Sri Lankan state, establishment armed forces , police and Buddhist clergy. They are responsible for the deaths of over 300000 innocent Tamil civilians and the ethnic cleansing of more than a million native Tamils and the making another million Indian origin estate Tamils stateless, when they had lived in the island for more than 100 years and earned most of its foreign revenue and still earn a good amount. Even according to your own government statistics the LTTE killed around 3000 Sinhalese and Muslims civilians and the vast majority not all of these so called , Sinhalese and Muslim civilians were thugs , criminals , home guards who were killing and ethnically cleansing Tamil civilians in the north and east.

      • 1

        “…and the making another million Indian origin estate Tamils stateless, when they had lived in the island for more than 100 years and earned most of its foreign revenue…

        More Eelamist propaganda. According to the Wikipedia, “By 1996 plantation crops made up only 20% of exports (compared with 93% in 1970).”

  • 2

    “Appointing Shavendra Silva As Commander Of The Sri Lankan Army”
    One of the rarely ‘good’ decisions made by this flaming government.

  • 1

    Shavendra’s selection was a very good decision.
    Leaving politics and the war apart, Shevendra has had good exposure into International matters when he served the U.N.
    Therefore, I believe Shavendra will be an excellent Commander & will handdle situations very well.

    Problem is with the attitude and double standards engaged by the U.N.
    Darusman report how it was prepared and only Ban Ki Moon will know the motive.

    Past is history. Let Shavendra move on. Afterall it was a ruthless war waged by the LTTE.

    • 3


      “Shavendra’s selection was a very good decision.”

      Yes of course a good selection, only if you want to rapidly hit the bottom.
      You been on a rush since 1956, the president made the right choice.

      “Shevendra has had good exposure into International matters when he served the U.N.”

      Did he?
      What did he learn?

      Of course he was seen driving in a $100,000 (approximately Rs 17,924,000) BMW

      Did you know he was banned from attending Senior Advisory Group (SAG) on Peacekeeping in 2012?

  • 9

    This is Sihala Lanka:

    It is a Lawless Country. There is no Law & Order , No due process. Murderers are held in high esteem and rewarded. There is so much talk of Reconcilition but nothing to show for.This is a slap in the face for Minorities and an Insult to the Victims. MS is Mahinthas illegitimate child and and what we are seeing the the rise of the Third Reich. Make no mistake.. This is where Sinhala Lanka will come unstuck for all their Crimes. I cant wait for the Presidential Polls which will usher in the most dangerous times for Sinhala Lanka.
    Gotha if you are reading this I have a message for you:

    1) You are not stading for Presidenvy to save the Nation as there is nthing to save. You are standing in the hope that Presidency will give you Immunity. Just give a call to Al Bashir.You will never be airborne. Not even Palali which is controlled by India
    2) . No decent cuntry will engage with you when there is an arrest warrant on you as I am sure there will be one afer the trial in the US.
    3) I hope you are an inteligent individual and I am not sure who in their right mind would have advised you ( other than the mad proff GLP) to apply for stay of proceedings because you are standing for president.
    4) You have already admitted that you know the identity of the two who are behind the killing of Lasantha. Me and my Shadow. That admission alone is enough to find you guilty for Aiding and Abetting.

    Give up man for the sake of your mother country which you abndoned. You are not a patriot You are a liabilty.

    • 4

      kali ,

      ” It’s a lawless country”. Yes , it is a fact the dumbest creature in the
      country knows and the best part is , they want to keep it that way
      for their convenience ! Those who are talking about law & order are
      those living in countries of law abiding citizens and a few who read
      Western books and those who can see it from Western eyes ! But
      that doesn’t go to 95% of where it has to . Only a handful might know
      that law and order is a result of hard work , genuine patriotism ,
      respect for human values , meaningful education and so on . Wealth
      plays the most significant contribution in that direction . Law & order
      doesn’t come like Samurdhi , people need to pay a heavy price to get
      it in place .We are a country that has trained politcians and
      professionals for 71 long years to create loopholes in the system and
      to cooperate with each other to break laws for co-existence . Fraud
      and corruption are a set of law and order for one group of people that
      is the successive ruling parties . So , I don’d believe for centuries
      we would be able to find any light in the tunnel !

  • 3

    Kumarathasan, according to Rajapaksas, GR is apparently nominated , for election to get immunity from all the alleged crimes you mentioned. Lankan way of thinking ???? election means free pass out of jail.

  • 6

    The issue with Shavendra Silva is not merely war crimes but paedophilia also. I have heard that he likes to rape underage minors and did it alot during the war. And it is not unique to him. The Sri Lankan soldiers working for the UN were twice caught running child prostitution rings in Haiti. And the UN still continues to use them as a part of their ‘peacekeeping’ forces. The same UN has been accusing Sri Lanka of war crimes in SL for over 10 years now. And no action has been taken by them to date against the island.
    And all the sinhalese higher caste politicians work together to attack minorities. Their rivalry is purely staged to fool the masses. Sirisena appointing the paedophile general is not some accident but done deliberately as part of a larger plan. A plan which also involves getting Gota in power. A plan which also involves further communal violence and possibly even a civil war mainly against muslims. Muslims helped Sinhalese destroy tamils so muslims could expand rapidly. The sinhalese rulers have noticed this and now want to cut the muslims down. And some foreign powers (India and the USA) have agreed to help them with this. Another agenda to bring USA and India into the picture is to push the chinese out, who have been steadily taking Sri Lankan land. But this game is not going to end well. When you invite elephants to fight in your garden, your garden is going to get trampled and destroyed

  • 0

    LTTE,and prabakaran,waged a 30 year war. He killed any one who stood against his plans tamils , sinhalies or Muslims.It was like a cancer. needed eradication.the government had to do what it did ,otherwise country was on a path to destruction, he was given ample opportunities to surrender he did not.it is un avoidable even if you take precautions that there was going to be some collateral damage, like treating a cancer.

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