The former chief minister of the Northern Province C V Wigneswaran has praised the US travel ban imposed on Sri Lanka’s army chief, Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva, last week and said he ‘speaks on behalf of Tamils of Sri Lanka’ when he says the decision is commendable.
When asked “How do you see USA’s entry bar against Army Commander Shavendra Silva?,” by a journalist in a conference today, Wigneswaran replied;
“The Tamil people of the North-East welcome USA’s entry bar against Shavendra Silva and his family. We wholeheartedly applaud US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s decision to declare Silva persona non grata, “due to credible information of [Silva’s] involvement, through command responsibility, in gross violations of human rights.”
He insisted that the ban imposed on Silva has been long overdue and Silva's accusations have been well documented and evidenced;
“Channel 4 has documented credible accusations that Silva ordered extrajudicial killings during the final phases of the armed conflict in 2009. Its televised report includes testimony that Silva relayed a command, from then-Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to his subordinates in the Sri Lankan Army’s 58th Division: “Do whatever it takes, however it is done… (but) finish it off the way it has to be done.” This order allegedly resulted in the mass slaughter of Tamils, including both civilians and surrendering fighters—the notorious “White Flag” incident.”
Wigneswaran hopes the ban is the first step taken by the international community to hold those individuals implicated in war crimes during the 2009 civil war accountable;
“The USA’s entry bar on Silva therefore serves as an example for other countries to follow. This constructive measure further reinforces the international community’s duty to prosecute Sri Lankan personnel for acts that may constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Sri Lanka has consistently asserted non-compliance with multiple resolutions of the UN Human Rights Council.”
He also said that supporters of Silva who view him as a hero “must realise that killing of innocent civilians calling them terrorists purposely and erroneously does not amount to heroism by any means”.
Wigneswaran further went on to add that Silva’s ban should be followed with an international investigation and stated “All personnel who bear such clear allegations of criminal responsibility must have their cases heard at the International Criminal Court or any other international venue competent to try them”.
He added, “Given the intransigence of three successive Sri Lankan administrations over more than ten years, the rule of law must now prevail. The Tamil People’s time for justice has come!".
Whilst the ban on Silva has been widely praised from Tamils in the North-East and around the world, it has drawn the ire from both the Sri Lanka government and opposition who continued to insist that the commander is a “hero”.