As leaders around the world congratulate Joe Biden on assuming office as the 46th President of The United States, the head of Sri Lanka’s army who remains barred from travel to the USA over his role in overseeing the execution of Tamils, delivered his own message to the American leader.
“I express my heartiest congratulations on your acceding to the highest cachet in the World (sic),” wrote Shavendra Silva on Twitter.
“The accolade for an arduous and inspirational life as a leader deserves nothing lesser than what you've got today. May your epoch be a nourishing watershed to the entire World (sic).”
#JoeBiden I express my heartiest congratulations on your acceding to the highest cachet in the World. The accolade for an arduous and inspirational life as a leader deserves nothing lesser than what you've got today. May your epoch be a nourishing watershed to the entire World.
— Gen Shavendra Silva (@SilvaShavendra) January 21, 2021
The tweet comes despite Silva and his immediate family still being barred from entry to the country, over what former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo termed “serious and credible” reports of human rights abuses.
“His designation underscores the importance we place on human rights in Sri Lanka and globally, our concern over impunity for human rights violations and abuses, as well as our support for promoting accountability for those who engage in such acts,” said Pompeo at the time.
In particular the US highlighted reports of “extrajudicial killings, by the 58th Division of the Sri Lanka Army during the final phase of Sri Lanka’s Civil War in 2009”.
Read more in our feature: US bans Sri Lanka’s army chief from entry over war crimes
As Biden laid out his foreign policy vision earlier last year, he warned of the “rapid advance of authoritarianism, nationalism, and illiberalism” and that “demagogues around the world are leaning into these forces for their own personal and political gain”.
"Many close to the new administration will be personally well aware of those failures in Sri Lanka - a point that Tamil victims have not forgotten," wrote the Tamil Guardian, in an editorial on his election victory.
"For more than a decade, it is those Tamils who have been at the forefront of resisting the systemic racism and illiberalism in Sri Lanka that the new administration says it will push back against worldwide. At the ballot boxes, in the parliament and on the streets, the Tamil nation has fought against Sri Lanka’s descent into authoritarianism and ethnic supremacy. Indeed, it is the Tamil mothers on the roadsides of the North-East who have been most unrelenting in their calls for justice. If Biden and Harris are to champion liberty and democracy on the global stage, it is the voices of those Tamil women that they should heed."
Read more, including on the new US administration, below.