US Ambassador summoned by Foreign Ministry over Silva ban

ECONOMYNEXT – United States Ambassador in Colombo Alaina B Teplitz has been summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Relations tomorrow Sunday over the ban imposed on the Army Commander Shavendra Silva from entering the US, a top official said.

He added that Teplitz will be meeting Minister of Foreign Relations Dinesh Gunewardene at his office.

On Friday Sri Lanka’s army chief Silva was banned from visiting the United States, over alleged human rights violations in the last stages of the islands civil war which ended in 2009, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said.

“..[I]in cases where the Secretary of State has credible information that foreign officials have been involved in a gross violation of human rights or significant corruption, those individuals and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States,” Pompeo said in a statement.

He added that Silva was “designated” 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.

Originally appointed by then-President Maithripala Sirisena he was recently made the Chief of Defence staff. The US also raised the issue when Silva was first appointed saying sanctions could go as far as a ban on entry to that country.

Sri Lanka immediately called on the ban to be lifted.

“The Government of Sri Lanka takes strong objection to the imposition of travel restrictions on Lt. Gen. Silva and his immediate family members by the Government of the United States, based on independently unverified information,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“The Government of Sri Lanka requests the United States to verify the authenticity of the sources of information and to review its decision.”

“The Government reiterates that Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva was appointed as the Commander of the Army by the then Head of State, taking into account his seniority and that there were no substantiated or proven allegations of human rights violations against him.

“His elevation as the Acting Chief of Defence Staff by the current Head of State President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was on account of his being the senior-most serving military officer” it added.

“While the timing of the imposition of this travel restriction 6 months after Lt. Gen. Silva’s appointment as Army Commander is concerning, it is disappointing that a foreign government should question the prerogative of the democratically elected President to call upon persons with proven expertise to hold key positions on national security-related matters,” the statement added.