That Swiss ”Third Person Note”

By Sena Thoradeniya
(Courtesy of The Island)

The diplomatic note simultaneously released recently by the Embassy of Switzerland in Sri Lanka on Garnier Banister Francis’ alleged abduction raises more issues than what it attempts to resolve.

The note says “excellent relations” Switzerland and Sri Lanka maintained were “greatly marred by misunderstandings surrounding an incident involving a local staff member of the Embassy who was subsequently taken into custody by the Sri Lankan authorities.” Is it simply a “misunderstanding” as the Swiss Embassy labels the whole episode? Hundreds of articles written in English and Sinhala and the information gathered by the law enforcement authorities in Sri Lanka reveal that it is not a “misunderstanding” as downplayed by the Swiss Embassy. The Swiss Embassy has conveniently forgotten that it committed a serious offence by keeping a local employee in the Embassy without allowing her to make a statement to the police and attempting to airlift her to Switzerland in an air ambulance. Thus, Garnier was given “diplomatic asylum”, in the Embassy itself, albeit temporarily.

While a court case is pending, the Swiss note refers to “uncorroborated facts made into the public domain”, “putting an unnecessary strain on the otherwise cordial relationship between the two countries.” The Swiss Embassy forgets how their local staffer later gave several statements to the police contrary to each other. In short, this incident put “unnecessary strain” on the newly elected President and his government locally and internationally, providing much wanted weapons to Sri Lanka bashers and their local hirelings. While investigations were in progress the Swiss Embassy in Sri Lanka and the Swiss authorities were in a mighty hurry to call into question Sri Lankan authorities’ “commitment to due process”.

There is a veiled threat in the said note; it adds that “the Embassy is convinced that both sides will remain attentive to the working conditions and the wellbeing of all staff of diplomatic missions”. Does the Swiss Embassy interpret producing the local staffer to courts and remanding her is a violation of “working conditions and well being” of staff of diplomatic missions? The note “recalls that it is the responsibility of any government to protect the diplomatic missions of other states on its territory”. It should be noted that there were no protest rallies or any damage done to its personnel or property. Is the Swiss Embassy trying to frighten Sri Lanka into submission? The Brahmins of the Ministry of Foreign Relations should take cognizance of these veiled threats.

The note has been worded in such a way that it implies that Sri Lanka is at fault. The spectre of foreign domination in Sri Lanka’s foreign relations that reigned during the Yahapalana regime should be driven away forthwith. In his Address to the Parliament on 3 January 2020, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said, “We must establish an honourable governance that will allow this country to maintain its sovereignty, security, national pride and deal with all nations on equal terms without demonstrating weakness in our diplomatic or trading relationships.” The Brahmins of the Foreign Ministry should strictly adhere to this policy and issue a note expressing their views on the Garnier Banister Incident. It must ask why the Swiss authorities have granted refugee status to IP Nishantha Silva and his family, and why they have omitted reference to that part from its note while asking his extradition. Telephone conversations between Nishantha Silva and Ranjan Ramanayaka are now in public domain. Will those leaked tapes bring about more information related to Garnier Banister Incident too?

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