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Sri Lankan war criminal to lead coronavirus response

The head of the Sri Lankan army, who is currently subject to US travel sanctions due to his role in overseeing war crimes, is to lead Colombo’s response to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak on the island.

Shavendra Silva has been appointed the head of Sri Lanka’s National Operation Center for Prevention of COVID- 19 Outbreak, which has reportedly “been set up on the directive of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa”.

“This Centre will coordinate preventive and management measures to ensure that healthcare and other services are well geared to serve the general public,” said an official press release.

The Sri Lankan military has already been mobilised into the construction of quarantine centres, which have already come under criticism from locals. One such quarantine centre was moved from Hendala after protests from Sinhala locals to Batticaloa, where Tamil clinicians have expressed concern. 

Silva was a leading commander during Sri Lanka’s 2009 offensive, which massacred tens of thousands of Tamil civilians. Last month, the US State Department barred from Silva from entering the USA “due to credible information of his involvement, through command responsibility, in gross violations of human rights”.

“The allegations of gross human rights violations against Shavendra Silva, documented by the United Nations and other organizations, are serious and credible,” said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.


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