“The lack of civilian oversight over Sri Lanka’s militarised COVID-19 response raises some very serious human rights concerns,” the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) said in a press release.
“Sri Lanka has an alleged war criminal heading its COVID-19 response, who served in the same army regiment as the President, raising questions about transparency, accountability and oversight,” Yasmin Sooka, ITJP’s Executive Director said.
Infographic by ITJP
“Appointing military personnel to manage the crisis without any civilian oversight does not bode well for Sri Lanka- not does Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva specifically identifying those COVID-29 patients who are Muslims in public statements,” the statement said.
“Experienced professionals from the civil service should be in charge of coordinating complex public health and distribution issues, not the Army... It is essential that the public be allowed to question the response operation without being threatened with arrest. This crisis shouldn’t become an excuse to erode civil liberties yet further,” Sooka added.
The press release highlighted that the legal basis for Silva’s appointment is unclear “as there is no gazette notification establishing the COVID-19 National Operation Centre, as for other COVID-19 entities. This raises the question of who in the civilian administration holds Shavendra Silva accountable, other than his friend the President who is himself ex-military.”
ITJP have called on the Sri Lankan government to “establish a civilian, non-partisan, independent response committee that has oversight of the Government’s response; the military and police should not be allowed to simply do whatever they want to combat the pandemic. COVID-19 should not be used an excuse to impose military control through stealth especially by officials already discredited.”
See the ITJP’s full press release here.