Tamil to head Sri Lanka Navy, first since 1970

Rear Admiral Travis Sinniah was key figure in separatist war

August 18, 2017 10:28 pm | Updated 10:55 pm IST - Colombo

Maithripala Sirisena (left) swears in Navy commander Rear Admiral Travis Sinniah in Colombo.

Maithripala Sirisena (left) swears in Navy commander Rear Admiral Travis Sinniah in Colombo.

Rear Admiral Travis Sinniah was on Friday appointed as the chief of Sri Lanka’s naval forces, making him the first from the minority Tamil community to head the Navy since the brutal civil war erupted in the country 45 years ago.

Rear Admiral Sinniah, who played a decisive role in the destruction of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) warships in deep sea during the height of the civil war, was appointed as the Navy chief by President Maithripala Sirisena.

“Rear Admiral Travis Sinniah, who has served Sri Lanka Navy with immense loyalty for many decades, took office as the Navy Commander today,” President Sirisena tweeted. His services will be effective from August 22.

Second such Tamil

Rear Admiral Sinniah succeeds Vice Admiral Ravi Wijegunaratne who has retired. He is the second Tamil to head the Lankan Navy after Rajan Kadirgamar, who was the commander in the late 1960s.

The Navy chief is the first from the Tamil community to head the Navy since the outbreak of the civil war in the north and east of the island in 1972.

He successfully commanded a mission in 2007 to destroy the LTTE’s weapons smuggling ships in international waters off Indonesia and Australia, that is considered to be Sri Lankan Navy’s biggest achievement, media reports said.

Rear Admiral Sinniah, who joined the Navy in 1982, was the senior most Naval officer to be in active combat operations at sea during the conflict with the LTTE separatists.

Wijegunaratne to be CDS

It was also announced that Vice-Admiral Wijegunaratne would be appointed as the Chief of Defence Staff.

The LTTE waged a war with the government to carve out a separate Tamil homeland in the regions with the conflict ending in 2009. Tamils in the country claim discrimination at the hands of the Sinhala majority.

According to UN figures, up to 40,000 civilians were killed by security forces during the Rajapaksa regime that brought an end to the brutal civil war with with the defeat of LTTE in 2009.

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