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US Assistant Secretary ‘deeply concerned’ over Silva appointment

The US Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of South and Central Asia in the State Department told the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week that the appointment of Shavendra Silva to the head of Sri Lanka’s army had “deeply concerned” Washington.

“We are deeply concerned by the appointment of Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva as Army Commander and the negative message the appointment sends for Sri Lanka’s purported commitment to post-war accountability,” Alice Wells told the committee.

Wells, who is the top US diplomat for South Asia, went on to add,

“The allegations of gross human rights violations against him, documented by the United Nations and other organisations, are serious and credible. The appointment undermines Sri Lanka’s international reputation and its commitments to promote justice and accountability, especially at a time when the need for reconciliation and social unity remain paramount.”

Reuters reports that whilst Wells had praised some progress around the Office of Missing Persons and the lease of military occupied land in the North-East, she said progress in areas of constitutional reform, replacing the Prevention of Terrorism Act and creating an accountability mechanism had stalled.

See more from Reuters here and the Sunday Times here.

Her comments came as the official in charge of human rights at the State Department, Robert Destro, told the same hearing that the US may curtail security operations with Sri Lanka over Silva’s appointment.

Silva, who currently heads Sri Lanka’s army, has been dubbed the “most wanted man” in Sri Lanka, due to his role ins overseeing a military offensive that killed tens of thousands of Tamil civilians. He headed Sri Lanka’s notorious 58 Division, an army unit that committed grave violations of international law, including the execution of surrendering Tamils. 

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