Foreign envoys and diplomatic excesses in Sri Lanka

As per a news item in The Island of 23rd July 2021, US Embassy officials, led by Ambassador Alaina B. Teplitz, held discussions with SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem, and earlier with TNA leader R. Sampanthan at the latter’s residence, where the focus was on the proposed new Constitution, post-war reconciliation efforts, devolution of power, rule of law, Prevention of Terrorism Act and other issues, which are solely internal issues of the host country. It is also reported that both the US and Indian missions are engaged in discussions with political parties, represented in Parliament and other groups, to reach sort of common agenda (https://island.lk/us-embassy-consultations-with-political-parties-devolution-of-power-among-issues-discussed/).

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961) contains the most widely accepted description of the international law on diplomacy. A diplomatic agent is granted different inevitabilities and privileges, as well as immunity from the jurisdiction of the receiving state, in order to enable them to exercise their official functions independently and effectively, and to avoid any interference on the part of the receiving state. The functions of a diplomatic mission are clearly stated in the Article 3 of the said Convention. https://legal.un.org/ilc/texts/instruments/English/conventions/9_1_1961.pdf

(a) Representing the sending State in the receiving State;

(b) Protecting in the receiving State the interests of the sending State and of its nationals, within the limits permitted by international law;

(c) Negotiating with the Government of the receiving State;

(d) Ascertaining by all lawful means conditions and developments in the receiving State, and reporting thereon to the Government of the sending State;

(e) Promoting friendly relations between the sending State and the receiving State, and developing their economic, cultural and scientific relations.

Organising meetings with local politicians, who are well-known for their racial extremism, to discuss the proposed new Constitution of receiving State, devolution of power, rule of law etc (none of which are any of the functions stated above) are gross violation of the Vienna Convention, since the foreign diplomats are bound to respect the laws and regulations of the hosting State.

The process of dealing with diplomats who are no longer welcome has now been fully recognised under Article 9 of the Vienna Convention:

1. The receiving State may at any time and without having to explain its decision, notify the sending State that the head of the mission or any member of the diplomatic staff of the mission is persona non grata or that any other member of the staff of the mission is not acceptable. In any such case, the sending State shall, as appropriate, either recall the person concerned or terminate his functions with the mission. A person may be declared persona non grata or not acceptable before arriving in the territory of the receiving State.

2. If the sending State refuses or fails within a reasonable period to carry out its obligations, the receiving State may refuse to recognise the person concerned as a member of the mission.

The most common response when foreign diplomatic officials act inappropriately, is to declare those officials ‘persona non grata ‘and to expel them from the country, if diplomatic parlance fails. While this is traditionally a remedy for offenses committed by the actual personnel being expelled, it is entirely at the host country’s discretion, and several nations have used it to respond to objectionable activities on the part of a foreign government as a whole. We remember how President Ranasinghe Premadasa declared David Gladstone, who served as Britain’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka between 1987-1991, ‘persona non grata ‘and expelled him from the country for his “unwarranted interference in an internal matter of the country”.

Statements issued by various foreign diplomats, in Colombo, notably those of former and current US ambassadors, almost one after the other concerning the internal affairs of the host country, and reported visits and secret visits said to have been made to meet the opponents of the democratically elected government to matters related to internal politics, are examples of diplomatic excesses.

We also remember how the former US Secretary of State John Kerry, blatantly boasted in public that the US funded to execute Sri Lanka’s regime change in 2015. They didn’t utter a single word against any of the undemocratic, unconstitutional and mega level corruption issues which took place under the government they funded to install; but appears to have restarted their old game, once again by various means, soon after the removal of their choice.

The government needs to act without further delay and take remedial action to safeguard the country’s sovereignty.

SANGADASA AKURUGODA

(Courtesy of island.lk)



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