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Birds of a feather - Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Shavendra Silva

The head of Sri Lanka’s army and accused war criminal Shavendra Silva, landed himself in trouble with the country’s election commission this week, after he endorsed former defence secretary and fellow accused war criminal Gotabaya Rajapaksa ahead of the island’s presidential elections.

“We highly regret this advertisement,” said Sri Lanka’s Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya.

The advert quotes Silva as saying Rajapakse was "extremely efficient" and "addressed the urgent need of the security forces... during the final stages of the conflict".

"It is an election law violation for a serving military officer to endorse a candidate and engage in political activity," Deshapriya added.

Silva could face up to three years in jail and a fine over the advertisements.

Whilst Rajapaksa was serving as defence secretary and oversaw a military offensive that killed tens of thousands of Tamils, Silva was the head of Sri Lanka’s notorious 58 Division, an army unit that committed grave violations of international law.

One of the most disturbing crimes that Silva is accused of directing is the mass murder of surrendering Tamil civilians and LTTE cadres, since dubbed the “White Flag” incident. The officer quoted Silva as telling troops on the frontline;

“This is a very decisive day for us because last night I got a call from the defence secretary. He told me that we only have a small chunk of land left to capture. Do whatever it takes, however it is done… finish it off the way it has to be done.”

An officer from Silva's 58 Division told Channel 4 News in 2011, 

“I can confidently state that those who ordered the killing of people who surrendered were defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and Brigadier Shavendra Silva”.

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