Swiss saga: Stern action called for
By Sena Thoradeniya
(Courtesy of The Island)
On December 26, 2019, at least two people were injured and several buried in snow when an avalanche hit Andermatt, a ski resort in the Swiss Alps, 68 miles South of Zurich. In late November, another “Swiss Avalanche” hit tropical Sri Lanka, with the Swiss Embassy in Colombo granting political asylum to IP Nishantha Silva of the CID’s Organised Crimes Investigation Division, his wife and three children, and reporting an alleged abduction of a Swiss Embassy employee, of Sri Lankan origin, Garnier Banister Francis aka Sriyalatha Perera. The government of Sri Lanka should consider declaring Swiss Hanspeter Mock, persona non grata for several reasons associated with these two incidents.
Diplomatic immunity does not mean that it places diplomats above the law, and they are obliged to conduct themselves in accordance with the laws of the receiving country. In 1991, President Ranasinghe Premadasa declared the then British High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, David Gladstone persona non grata for “interfering with the country’s internal affairs “. It was a trivial incident; Gladstone had made an entry with a police station having observed some irregularities in the local election after visiting a polling booth in Dickwella. He was a highly regarded Western diplomat.
Mock should be declared persona non grata for granting asylum to IP Silva and his family, violating the laws of Sri Lanka and meddling with internal affairs of the country. He has issued a visa for a person who had not obtained government approval. It is believed that IP Silva carried with him highly sensitive, confidential and strategic information including statements, records, personal files, and fingerprints kept by over 1,500 intelligence officers. Thereby, Mock violated Sri Lanka’s sovereignty. It is a well known fact that no government officer can apply for a visa without submitting written permission from his or her departmental head or Ministry Secretary. In Silva’s case it was said that he was given a visa during a weekend.
Our Foreign Ministry did not act positively to this incident, treating it as an infringement of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty. It seems that the newly appointed Minister and his deputy, both novices in the field of international affairs, were ill-advised by the Brahmins of the Foreign Ministry. Had the Foreign Ministry panjandrums acted swiftly and asked for the extradition of IP Silva, who was given asylum in Switzerland, they could have avoided the enactment of the Garnier Banister Francis drama. Thus, Sri Lanka was made to follow a slavish defensive strategy. It is true that we cannot expect an offensive strategy from the people who co-sponsored the Geneva Resolution. Yet, the Foreign Ministry has not protested and issued a statement to the international media disclosing the facts behind this alleged abduction. Tamara Kunanayagam’s article (The Island of 12.12.09) should be taken as the clarion call by the Brahmins of the Foreign Ministry, who are in deep slumber. It was the President who correctly stated that “I am the victim”. Furthermore, Mock had received an assurance from the President that the alleged abduction never took place.
Mock kept Garnier in the Swiss Embassy, a person not entitled to diplomatic immunity, she being a local recruit. Without cooperating with the local authorities and allowing her to make a complaint to the police and her statement recorded and not revealing her true identity, he attempted to airlift her and her entire family to Switzerland in an air ambulance, without her being subjected to immigration formalities as any other civilian, and without any valid documents pertaining to her medical condition. He held that his employee was right, despite evidence to the contrary. Information given by the Swiss Embassy proved wrong.
Using a local lawyer, Mock had tried to record a statement of Garnier at the Swiss Embassy. In this context, the observations made by the Fort Magistrate, Lanka Jayaratne, regarding its consequences is commendable. She was farsighted than the panjandrums of our Foreign Ministry.
Mock kept Garnier’s private mobile in the Embassy. Later, it was revealed that it is not an official mobile phone given to her by the Embassy. It was the mobile phone of her husband. Mock should have complied with the court order and handed over the phone to law enforcing officers.
At his meeting with the Attorney General, Mock had criticised “high level media coverage”, “lack of privacy safeguards”, “public condemnation” and highlighted “erosion of trust and confidence”, providing more evidence with regard to meddling with internal affairs of the host country.
It was revealed that Garnier’s mother and three children had already left the country; no doubt as a prelude to receiving asylum in Switzerland. It will be interesting to investigate and find out who funded their tour.
If the government cannot ask Mock to leave the country, it should at least ask the Swiss authorities to recall him.