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Suspension ordered as Sri Lanka seeks to defuse outcry over death threat by military official

The Sri Lankan military official who motioned a death threat to Tamils protesting in London on Sunday is to be suspended the country's Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement today as the government sought to stem rising international outcry at the incident. 

"Authorities in Sri Lanka have taken serious note of videos being circulated on social and web-based media of an alleged incident involving the Minister Counsellor (Defence) attached to the Sri Lanka High Commission in London behaving in an offensive manner. In this connection, instructions have been sent to Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in London today, 6 February 2018, to suspend the Minister Counsellor (Defence) from work, with immediate effect. Authorities in Sri Lanka including the Sri Lanka Army will initiate inquiries on the incident immediately," the MEA said in a statement

The official, who has been identified as Brigadier Priyanka Fernando, ran a finger across his neck motioning the slitting of one's neck, whilst he stood in front of the Sri Lankan High Commission in London next to embassy officials. 

The suspension order comes amid calls by British MPs for Brigadier Fernando to be expelled.

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As part of the military offensive in 2009, Brigadier Fernando fought in Weli Oya and Janakapura for the 11 Gemunu Watch Battalion as part of the 59 Division of the Sri Lankan Army.

The United Nations OHCHR Investigation into Sri Lanka detailed multiple incidents, implicating the 59 Division in the shelling of hospitals south of Mullaitivu.

“Brigadier Fernando was clearly active in the final offensive in the north of Sri Lanka from at least April 2008 – and on those grounds alone should have been subjected to a scrupulous vetting process by both the Government of Sri Lanka and the UK which should have precluded his diplomatic appointment to London,” a briefing note released by Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) & the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) read. 

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