Storm over Army Chief appearing in Gota advertisement

A potential political firestorm is brewing over the current Army Commander Lt Gen Shavendra Silva appearing in an advertisement carried in the weekend newspapers endorsing the candidacy of Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The Chief Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya told reporters today Oct 16 that it is “wrong for the Army Commander to appear in an advertisement for a candidate.”

The advertisement that has caused the storm over Lt Gen Shavendra Silva which appeared in the “Aruna” newspaper/Twitter.com

He said that he has written to the Secretary to the President Udaya R Ratnayake and Secretary to the Ministry of Defense Gen Shantha Kottegoda “asking them for explanations” as to how this has happened.

Lt Gen Silva is learned to have informed Gen Kottegoda that the advertisement carried a statement he had made to the Media some years ago and he had no involvement in the advertisement.

However, the Army or the Commander’s office is yet to release a public statement on the issue.

He said that he had also written to the candidate concerned, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna about the matter.

Yesterday at his first press conference Rajapaksa was asked about the advertisement and replied that the “party had nothing to do with it.”

Deshapriya said that he has received multiple complaints with regard to the advertisement.

Yesterday United National Party MP Ajith P Perera, acting as an election agent for the New Democratic Front lodged a complaint with the Elections Commission against Silva’s appearance in the advertisement.

Perera told reporters that this was “a flagrant violation of election laws for a sitting Army commander to appear in an advertisement endorsing a candidate.”

The Center for Monitoring Election Violence, (CMEV) an independent watchdog body recognized by the Elections Commission, also brought the matter up.

In a letter to the Commission its National Coordinator Manjula Gajanayake wrote that “Lt. General Silva is still the Army Commander on active duty and the use of his statement compromises the integrity of civil-military relations in Sri Lanka. We further believe that the integrity of the election would be severely compromised if other candidates also adopted this practice.”