Singer Yohani Diloka de Silva embroiled herself in further controversy this week after footage of her singing for Sri Lanka’s war crimes accused president Gotabaya Rajapaksa and shaking hands with the US-sanctioned army chief Shavendra Silva were shared online.
The singer, who faced criticism over her repeated public praise of her father - Sri Lankan army Major General Prasanna De Silva who is yet another a military commander credibly accused of overseeing war crimes – recently returned from India, where she met with Tamil Nadu based recording artists. Her visit stirred controversy with Tamil Nadu film composer Harris Jayaraj hastily deleting a photograph with Sri Lankan singer.
On her return however, more would follow, after a video of her privately singing the Sri Lankan president was shared online. Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s former defence secretary, stands accused of overseeing the bombing of hospitals and killing tens of thousands of Tamil civilians. He has repeatedly refused to an international accountability process and vowed to defend troops accused of war crimes.
Yohani also appeared at a military banquet hosted at the Sri Lankan army headquarters on Friday. There, she was photographed with Shavendra Silva, the head of the Sri Lankan army who is currently banned from entry to the USA due to his role in overseeing war crimes, including the execution of surrendering Tamils.
The Sri Lankan army highlighted Yohani’s appearance at the banquet, hosted for the visiting Chief of the Army Staff of the Indian Army, stating that she had “elevated Sri Lanka’s singing industry to unbelievable heights”.
“Ms Yohani De Silva is the daughter of one of the best former Sri Lanka Light Infantry Warriors Major General Prasanna Silva (Rtd),” it added.
“Why is Yohani appearing at Sri Lankan military events and serenading a war criminal accused of genocide?” asked one Tamil activist, who requested anonymity. “By openly engaging in such events, she is becoming what we all feared – a propaganda machine for the Sri Lankan state that is attempting to whitewash their crimes.”