Latest Sri Lanka military promotions “reeks of brazen impunity”

Sri Lanka has been slammed for further entrenching impunity by awarding top positions to officers with a dubious track record.

The International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) has released the service history of five promoted to the rank of Major General questioning their suitability.

They are among 177 officers promoted to mark the 11th anniversary of the end of war that killed at least an estimated 70,000 civilians.

This is one of the largest segments of promotions, made in recent times, announced the Military Secretariat Branch.

Those intentionally promoted by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to the rank of Major General should have been vetted and screened out of any official position, in accordance to Sri Lanka’s commitments under UN resolution 30/1 to security sector reform, said the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP). It has released details of the controversial officers’ service history.

“The choice of these individuals is a highly politicised one which again sends a message to Sri Lankans and the international community that even lip service to reconciliation is off the agenda. This is yet another insult to victims and reeks of brazen impunity,” said the ITJP’s Executive Director, Yasmin Sooka.

Slit-throat gesture

Major General Chandana Marasinghe of Sri Lanka Army Ordnance Corps, Major General T. Jagath Kodithuwakku of Sri Lanka Light Infantry, Major General Harendra Parakraama Ranasinghe of Special Forces, Major General Andige Priyanka Indunil Fernando of Gemunu Watch and Major General Channa D Weerasooriya of Sri Lanka Light Infantry were among those promoted.

ITJP highlights that the most striking promotion is of Andige Priyanka Indunil Fernando who was found guilty in absentia by a UK court of public order offences, while a Sri Lankan diplomat.

He was convicted of making threatening throat slitting gestures at Tamil protestors outside the Sri Lankan High Commission building in 2018. Since returning to Sri Lanka he has been repeatedly promoted and hailed as a hero despite his criminal actions.

“The message to army officers – and diplomats - is if you go around the world insulting and threatening the Tamil diaspora you will be rewarded,” said Yasmin Sooka. “It is also an acute show of disrespect for the judicial system in the UK”.

Isai priya murder

The promotion of former special forces commander, Harendra Parakrama Ranasinghe was also condemned as another resounding blow for accountability.

He was identified in a video as one of the soldiers accepting the surrender of a female Tamil TV presenter known as Isaipriya in May 2009, whom a UN Inquiry found was shortly afterwards executed whilst in army custody. Ranasinghe to date has never been questioned about what happened though he’s clearly visible in the video with Isaipriya, whose semi-naked corpse was also seen in trophy photographs.

“One has to ask what it means to Isaipriya’s surviving family – driven into exile – to see a material witness to their daughter’s execution promoted to Major General,” said Ms. Sooka.

Channa D. Weerasuriya was 512 Brigade commander in Jaffna at a time when the unit, and other units, were allegedly involved in the detention and torture of Tamil suspects, some of whom the ITJP has interviewed.

The promotions come against a backdrop of increased militarisation and civilian jobs being given to retired and serving officers close to the President. A war commemoration event involving the armed forces was permitted to go ahead in Colombo this week despite concerns about Covid-19 but security forces used the virus as an excuse to prevent such memorialisation by Tamils in the north-east.

“What we are seeing is the “normalisation” of military influence in the civilian sphere,” said Ms. Sooka, “informal networks are becoming formalised under President Rajapaksa with the result that impunity is further entrenched”.

In addition to the 5 new Major Generals, 4 Brigadiers of Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force, 39 Lieutenant Colonels, 69 Majors and 60 Lieutenants of the Army have also been appointed.

A further number of 14,617 promotions for military personnel have been approved to mark what it calls the National War Heroes’ Day, the Army announced.



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

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