At his first Press Conference after assuming duties as the Commander of the Army, L t Gen Shavendra Silva vigorously defended himself saying all that has been levelled against him were still allegations.
Silva’s appointment by President Maithripala Sirisena drew criticism from local and international Human Rights organisations, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations all who pointed out that Silva faces allegations of gross violations of Human Rights during the conflict.
Silva said the President who is the Commander in Chief “has considered the state of the security of the country, the condition of the Army and appointed me. I am pleased to accept the appointment from my Commander in Chief.”
Among those who objected to Silva locally is the Tamil National Alliance the pre-eminent political party representing the Tamils many of whom complain that they suffered from Silva’s actions towards the end of the war.
On his appointment the TNA said “an individual who stands accused of grave crimes, as Army Commander is a serious affront to the Tamil People. We are deeply dismayed by this appointment.”
Silva told reporters who asked him for his reaction to this statement, “I am not the Army Commander to any particular ethnicity, I am the Commander of the Sri Lanka army to protect each and every Sri Lankan. As far as civilians go I will treat all of them equally. ”
He referred to his background saying he grew up in Matale “where there are members of every ethnic group in Sri Lanka, Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamils. We learnt to respect them as we did during the days of the conflict.”
Silva said that his first duty is to protect the country, protect all its citizens and protect and develop the Army and look after the well-being of the Army.
Silva also faced questions about statements made by the CID that the Army was not treating requests by the Police for information and documents in on-going investigations into serious crimes.
He answered that he “considers the courts with high esteem and we will abide with anything the courts rule.”