Tamils set long and short records at Sri Lanka navy
By Our Political Correspondent
Oct 26, 2017 14:52 PM GMT+0530 | 5 Comment(s)
ECONOMYNEXT - Sri Lanka's outgoing navy chief Travis Sinniah, the first minority Tamil to reach the highest position in the force in nearly half a century, has set a new record for being the shortest serving commander.
The previous Tamil commander, Rear Admiral R. Kadiragamar, and Admiral Sinniah now firmly hold records for heading the navy for the longest and shortest periods respectively in the 67 year history of the Sri Lanka Navy.
Kadiragamar retired on June 30, 1970 after serving nine years, seven months and 15 days. His is the longest stint as Sri Lanka navy chief.
In contrast, Sinniah served just two months and four days till his retirement on October 25, 2017 after having taken up the post only on August 22, 2017.
President Maithripala Sirisena earned plaudits for appointing a member of the minority Tamil community to head an armed forces unit after 47 years, but failure to extend his services has left a sour taste.
Sinniah had left the navy in 2011 under a cloud after differences with the then chief Admiral Somathilaka Dissanayake who is under investigation for controversial multi-million dollar deals with Avant Garde company.
Dissanayake had been closely linked to Avant Garde after retiring from the navy in September 2012. He is still under investigation.
President Sirisena took Sinniah back into the navy despite him having served as a security advisor to the US government.
Sources close to the president said he had done justice by Sinniah by taking him back to the navy despite him having quit and made him commander. However, a further extension could have deprived several others of the commandership.
"Some of these justifications for not extending Sinniah's tenure should have been made public when he was given the job," a military source said. "Had Admiral Sinniah known this, he would not have accepted the job in the first place."
At his first press conference after assuming command, Sinniah pledged there will no forgiveness for his officers who may have committed crimes taking the cover of the island's drawn out separatist war.
Several senior naval officers are currently facing allegations of extra judicial killing, extortion, robbery even after the end of the war in May 2009.
Sinniah was irritated when questioned persistently about action taken regarding Yoshitha Rajapaksa, the navy officer son of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is currently suspended pending cases before civilian courts.
Sinniah also brushed aside the allegations against Yoshitha saying they related to being absent without leave and travelling abroad without prior approval of the then navy commander.
"We are talking about the future navy, I am not worried about what happened in the past," an irritated Sinniah told reporters who questioned him about ongoing investigations.
Sinniah had stressed that he was keen to "wipe the slate clean," but wanted more time. "Ask me in six months and I will be ready to answer honestly," he said in August, but he had only 65 days in office. (COLOMBO, October 26, 2017)