COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – President Maithripala Sirisena has accepted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s nominee, Krishantha de Silva, for the post of the new army chief in a move to patch up a rift in the new government, official sources said.
Sirisena, under pressure from former army chief and ally Sarath Fonseka, had been keen to appoint Major General Mahesh Senanayake, an officer who had been politically victimised by the former regime.
However, Senanayake was seen as a staunch Fonseka loyalist who could be a proxy of the army-general-turned politician who has already influenced several other key appointments within the army to establish his de facto control.
With the appointment of Maj Gen. Krishantha de Silva, the president has moved to mend fences with the Prime Minister and deflect criticism that he was ignoring the government and acting at the behest of Fonseka.
The new army chief had been sent as deputy ambassador to Moscow in May 2014 by Gotabhaya Rajapakse. However, de Silva is the only military officer sent on a diplomatic posting who did not join the Rajapakse re-election bid.
With de Silva’s elevation with effect from February 22, several other senior officers who openly campaigned for the former president are either expected to resign or forced to retire with no further extensions granted.
Fonseka’s camp which pushed for Maj. Gen Senanayake to the army chief had speculated that ‘Maj. Gen. Jagath Rambukpotha would be elevated to replace Lt. Gen. Daya Ratnayake who retires tomorrow.
Rambukpotha is one of the few independent honourable officers in the military hierarchy, but there are several others who are more senior to him.
With the latest appointment, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe may have asserted his authority, but the two key appointments of director operation and military secretary are with nominees of Gen. Fonseka.