“I am no American agent”

In his first press appearance as Navy Commander, Vice Admiral Travis Sinniah speaking of past controversies said that under his leadership “the slate will finally be wiped clean.”

He immediately faced questions about rumours that he is an agent for the United States government, an accusation frequently thrown at him by members of the previous regime.

Sinniah worked briefly at the American Embassy in Colombo as a security specialist.

“I’m being accused of being an American agent, but in my view if that is so, then it is good for our country as we would benefit from such an alliance,” he said. “But, people can assume anything ... these people don’t know what it is to be an American agent.”

When asked by reporters about Naval officers accused of the abduction and disappearance of 11 students at the end of the LTTE terrorist war, Sinniah said that he would not protect them if they were found guilty in court.

“In Sri Lanka, everyone is innocent until proven guilty,” he said.

But “wearing this uniform doesn’t give you the sanction to rob, wearing this uniform doesn’t give you the sanction to murder, wearing this uniform doesn’t give you the sanction to torture,” he said.

Sinniah said that the Navy would also accept any verdict in the court proceedings against Yoshitha Rajapaksa, the son of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is accused of engaging in political activities while serving as a Naval officer.

He added that he did not of the view that the charges against Rajapaksa as “serious.”

On the ongoing issue of Indian fishermen poiaching into Sri Lankan waters, Sinniah said he would take a different approach than the previous command.

“We have always opposed the Indian fishermen. We are not going to oppose them,” he said. “We are going to help them understand where the international borderline is.”

He said he would order an increase in “presence” patrols along the sea border.

“When they stray into our water, we will take them out,” he added.

Vice Admiral Sinniah joined the Navy in 1982. He fought in numerous sea battles during the terrorist war, including capturing the LTTE second-in-command and nine LTTE leaders. He is the first Tamil Navy Commander in four decades. 

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