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Sri Lanka asks US to review travel ban on its army chief

Sri Lanka asks US to review travel ban on its army chief
February 17
10:47 2020

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka on Sunday asked the US to review its decision to impose a travel ban on its army chief Lt Gen Shavendra Silva, who has been accused of grave human rights abuses during the final phase of the country’s civil war against the LTTE, and warned that America’s move “unnecessarily complicates” bilateral ties.

The US last week imposed travel restrictions on Lt Gen Silva and his immediate family members over alleged gross violations of human rights during the final phase of the military conflict that ended in 2009 with the killing of LTTE supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran.

US ambassador Alaina Teplitz was summoned by Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena on Sunday. Gunawardena conveyed to Teplitz Sri Lanka’s strong objections on the imposition of travel restrictions by the US on Lt Gen Silva and his family. He said that the move unnecessarily complicates the US-Sri Lanka relationship.

Noting that Lt Gen Silva was one of the senior military officials who contributed significantly to liberate Sri Lanka from terrorism over a decade ago, the minister said it is disappointing that a foreign government should question the prerogative of a democratically elected President to call upon persons of proven expertise to hold key positions on national security related matters.

Noting that the designation was not based on independently verified information, the minister requested the United States to verify the authenticity of the sources of information. Gunawardena asked that the United States Government review its decision. Ambassador Teplitz said that she would convey Sri Lanka’s concerns to the US.

Earlier, Sri Lanka’s ruling and opposition parties strongly opposed the US move to impose a travel ban on Lt Gen Silva. “Silva was only conducting a war against a designated terrorist group which was the LTTE. The US themselves named many organisations terrorist after 9/11 attacks,” Gunawardena told reporters.

Sajith Premadasa, the main opposition leader, echoed a similar view. “Imposition of a travel ban on army commander Shavendra Silva and his immediate family is regrettable and unfortunate. He is one of the heroic field commanders who spearheaded the national effort to eradicate terrorism,” Premadasa tweeted.

“All of us stand by him and his family at this hour of need. As a country we shall always stand with the war heroes that brought about an end to 30 years of terrorism,” he said. Other opposition figures also said that Silva was doing his job as a battle commander and should therefore not be punished for fighting the LTTE. Lt Gen Silva, 55, was appointed as the Sri Lankan Army Commander last year and previously headed the Army’s 58th Division in the final battle against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels of the civil war in 2009.

His brigade was accused of attacking civilians, hospitals and stopping humanitarian supplies to trapped Tamil civilians. The Sri Lanka Army has denied the alleged rights abuses. After the brutal civil war ended, Silva served in New York as Sri Lanka’s Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN Mission.

According to a United Nations report, some 45,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the last months of the war alone. PTI

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