By C.V. Wigneswaran –
A journalist asked me: How do you see USA’s entry bar against Army Commander Shavendra Silva?
My response was: I speak on behalf of the Tamils of Sri Lanka.
The Tamil people of the North-East welcome USA’s entry bar against Shavendra Silva and his family. We wholeheartedly applaud US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s decision to declare Silva persona non grata, “due to credible information of [Silva’s] involvement, through command responsibility, in gross violations of human rights.”
Channel 4 has documented credible accusations that Silva ordered extrajudicial killings during the final phases of the armed conflict in 2009. Its televised report includes testimony that Silva relayed a command, from then-Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to his subordinates in the Sri Lankan Army’s 58th Division: “Do whatever it takes, however it is done… (but) finish it off the way it has to be done.” This order allegedly resulted in the mass slaughter of Tamils, including both civilians and surrendering fighters—the notorious “White Flag” incident.
The USA’s entry bar on Silva therefore serves as an example for other countries to follow. This constructive measure further reinforces the international community’s duty to prosecute Sri Lankan personnel for acts that may constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Sri Lanka has consistently asserted non-compliance with multiple resolutions of the UN Human Rights Council—which have directed it to establish a hybrid court and to try such alleged criminals. Those who try to paint Silva as a Hero must realise that killing of innocent civilians calling them terrorists purposely and erroneously does not amount to heroism by any means.
All personnel who bear such clear allegations of criminal responsibility must have their cases heard at the International Criminal Court or any other international venue competent to try them. The authority for the international community to prosecute such crimes is enshrined both in the doctrine of universal jurisdiction (contained in Chapter VII of the UN Charter) and in the legal procedure for implementing the Rome Statute against nationals of a non-signatory state.
Given the intransigence of three successive Sri Lankan administrations over more than ten years, the rule of law must now prevail. The Tamil People’s time for justice has come! “Kala Kala dey pala pala whey” is a Sinhala proverb. It means you reap what you sow.
*Justice C.V. Wigneswaran, Former Chief Minister, Northern Province and Secretary General, Tamizh Makkal Kootanii