A senior State Department official told a Congress Sub Committee last Tuesday that Washington had made clear to President Maithripala Sirisena and other senior officials that Lt Gen. Shavendra Silva’s promotion to Commander “will significantly curtail bi-lateral co-operation with the Sri Lanka Army under the US law.” The reference was made by Alice G. Wells, [...]


Shavendra’s appointment: US fires warning to Sri Lanka


A senior State Department official told a Congress Sub Committee last Tuesday that Washington had made clear to President Maithripala Sirisena and other senior officials that Lt Gen. Shavendra Silva’s promotion to Commander “will significantly curtail bi-lateral co-operation with the Sri Lanka Army under the US law.”

The reference was made by Alice G. Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of South and Central Asia in the State Department. She was testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. She and another official said accountability for Lt. Gen. Silva and other perpetrators “could lead to easing restrictions and greater military engagement.” Just weeks earlier, Ms Wells was in Sri Lanka meeting both government and opposition leaders.

She told the Subcommittee, “We are deeply concerned by the appointment of Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva as Army Commander and the negative message the appointment sends for Sri Lanka’s “purported commitment to post-war accountability.” She added, “The allegations of gross human rights violations against him, documented by the United Nations and other organisations, are serious and credible. The appointment undermines Sri Lanka’s international reputation and its commitments to promote justice and accountability, especially at a time when the need for reconciliation and social unity remain paramount.”

Ms Wells’ remarks, a Foreign Ministry source said, underscored the attention the US was paying to the issue. However, President Sirisena has stood by his appointment and contended strongly that the allegations against the Army Commander were not correct, the source said.
Ms Wells said, “We look forward to continuing our work with Sri Lanka on these and other issues and will actively press our human rights agenda with whichever candidate emerges victorious from next month’s election.”

Porn twist  on Parliament twitter

Sri Lanka Parliament’s official Twitter account @ParliamentLK followers were stumped on Friday evening when it suddenly tweeted out a pornographic video. The 45 second clip appeared suddenly amid a series of other tweets that had been sent out by the account containing highlights of this week’s sittings.

The offending tweet was deleted soon after the Sunday Times reached out to Parliament officials over the incident. They stated that the account had been compromised but that they had regained control.

@ParliamentLK tweeted out an apology yesterday: “Unfortunately we had some issues with our account last night. We apologise for the content that has been briefly on our timeline. Our account is fully reset now. We are back and functioning.”

The internet, however, does not allow you to forget simply because you deleted something. Screenshots of the video were all over Twitter, with one user asking whether this was “Your tax rupees at work?”

Hundreds of Gota supporters coming from US

At least 850 Sri Lankans, dual citizens, are due in Colombo in the coming weeks both to take part in the election campaign for SLPP candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa and vote for him.

The news comes from a travel agent who has sold tickets. He said that most of the visitors are from the US East Coast, including Los Angeles.

What about this freedom deal?

Two top cops were over the second Arrack at their regular water hole when one asked the other “what about this freedom deal?”

“Oh, it’s a tasty one,” was the reply. The questioner then placed his index finger and exhorted “shooshhhhh!”

On the next table was the bodyguard of the bossy lady who was involved in the allegedly Rs 500 million deal.

Ex-chief  minister rides high on scooter

The Uva Provincial Council’s term ended at midnight October 7 with all councillors including the Chief Minister losing their positions.

Chief Minister Chamara Sampath Dissanayake returned his official vehicles that day. He now uses his private scooter.

Just this week, he arrived at the Badulla Government Hospital in the scooter to see a patient. He is seen talking to the security guard there.

Easter Sunday tragedy: More powers for commission

The Presidential Commission appointed to probe the April 21 Easter Sunday massacres has been conferred more powers by President Maithripala Sirisena.

The five-member Commission is headed by Court of Appeal judge Janaka de Silva.

In terms of the new powers, the Commission has been empowered to ask any Sri Lanka bank to produce account details of any citizen. Similarly, it has also been empowered to seek information on tax declarations from the Department of Inland Revenue.

It was only last Wednesday that a Parliamentary Select Committee that probed the incidents released its report.


The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe  friction and the  Café story on proposed ban on Niqab

A ‘sneak peek’ into the frictions between President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is borne out in the Parliamentary Select Committee report on the Easter Sunday attacks.

This is what it said:  “The President informed the PSC that he had suspicions on some information that was discussed at the NSC which subsequently was reported in the media.

“One specific incident was the Sunday Times report dated 21st August 2016 where the Prime Minister is reported to have objected to banning the Niqab at the NSC meeting. The President indicated that no minutes were taken at the NSC and he felt Report of the Select Committee of Parliament to look into and report to Parliament on the Terrorist Attacks that took place in different places in Sri Lanka on 21st April 2019 the information on the specific discussion point had emanated from the Prime Minister’s camp for the purpose of political mileage.

“This reason is cited by the President for not inviting the Prime Minister after the 7th October 2018 meeting, but this is not an adequate excuse as the incident around the Niqab was in 2016 and the Prime Minister was only not invited in 2018. The PSC also notes that if the President had a problem with information discussed leaking to the media; this issue should have been discussed at the NSC.

“There was no indication that he raised this as a problem at the NSC. Evidence also indicated to the irregular NSC meetings and that sometimes meetings were called within a few hours with no time for preparation. The PSC was informed that the ad-hoc meetings and lack of focus contributed to it becoming an ineffective body with direct responsibility falling with the President….”

The reference is to a report that appeared in these columns Café Spectator on August 16, 2016. Excerpts from the report:

“Believe it or not! The National Security Council (NSC) recently considered a proposal by a top Defence Ministry official to impose a ban on Muslim women in Sri Lanka wearing the burqa or niqab. The burqa is the full body dress, usually black, with a mesh cover over the eyes. This is worn by some more traditionally minded Muslim women. The niqab is similar with only an opening over the eye area.

“MoD official’s proposal, a well-informed source said, was based on the recommendations by a controversial top sleuth running one of the country’s intelligence agencies of a service arm. The person has been serving in that top position under the previous Government, too.

“The top sleuth had made the recommendation in the belief that radicalisation in the Muslim community has gone beyond control — a point he has been articulating at different security meetings. The MoD official’s proposal to the NSC came thereafter.

“Though there is an element of truth — that Islamic radicalisation has its presence in Sri Lanka, just as much as elsewhere in the world – it is far from going out of control. Many believe that a vast majority of Sri Lankan Muslims have assimilated well with local mores and lived in harmony with others. Well placed intelligence sources said, however, that the radicalisation process was confined mostly to the Colombo District and parts of the Eastern Province. According to these sources the move for an immediate ban is “not only alarmist but also a measure that would discredit the Government in the eyes of the Muslims and enrage Muslim countries in West Asia.

“It was Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who frowned on the proposal and pointed out that it would be highly damaging to the Government. He was of the view that Muslims supported the United National Front (UNF) alliance both at the presidential and parliamentary elections last year. The proposal was thereafter dropped….”

It is not the duty of this newspaper to reveal sources. It would suffice to say Premier Wickremesinghe had little or nothing to do with this report. Was this also an intelligence canard? President Sirisena should be careful of such reports, at least for the rest of his term.

PSC report highlights CNI’s failures

The post of Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) sits at the apex of Sri Lanka’s intelligence community.

This is what the Parliamentary Select Committee that probed the April 21 Easter Sunday massacres had to say about CNI:

“Failures of the CNI – The ad hoc Committee also noted that the CNI did not have the needed knowledge and expertise in intelligence and thus failed to understand the gravity of the intelligence information received.

“They also noted that Director, SIS was aware CNI did not have this knowledge and had taken advantage of this situation. The Committee also noted that the CNI should have got the intelligence information analysed through his office which he had failed to do. The Committee also noted that the CNI did not respond as needed when the intelligence information was received including not responding to messages and calls.”

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