Dinesh conveys “strong objections” over Shavendra ban to US Ambassador

Foreign Relations Minister Dinesh Gunewardena meeting US Ambassador Alaina Teplitz in Colombo/MFR release

Foreign Relations Minister Dinesh Gunawardena on Sunday formally conveyed to the US Ambassador Alaina Teplitz Sri Lanka’s strong objections on the travel ban on Army Chief Shavendra Silva saying “individual criminal responsibility can only be determined by a Court of Law with all necessary due process guaranteed.”

Silva and his immediate family were banned from entering the US because of “credible information of his involvement, through command responsibility, in gross violation of human rights, namely extrajudicial killing by the 58th Division of the Sri Lanka Army” in the final phase of the conflict in 2009, a statement from the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

Minister Gunawardena told Ambassador Teplitz that the investigation into these allegations was “a human rights investigation and not a criminal investigation”, and that “the names provided in the description of the chain of command do not imply criminal responsibility for those particularly alleged violations listed in this report, either as direct responsibility or under command or superior responsibility,” a press release issued by the Ministry said.

Teplitz was summoned to the MFR Sunday for Gunewardena to formally deliver Sri Lanka’s objections and call for a revision of the decision.

On coming to learn that the designation was not based on independently verified information, but on the much-disputed OISL Report of 2015, the Minister requested the United States to verify the authenticity of the sources of information. Foreign Relations Minister asked that the United States Government review its decision.

Teplitz had said she “would convey the concerns of the Government of Sri Lanka to Washington DC, and reiterated the continued commitment of the US Government to all aspects of on-going collaboration with Sri Lanka and to ensure its expansion, including in the field of defence.”

Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha, Director General/ North America, Dharshana M. Perera, and officials of the Ministry of Foreign Relations were associated with the Minister at the meeting.  Martin Kelly, Deputy Head of Mission accompanied the US Ambassador to the meeting.