By P.K.Balachandran/Daily Express
Colombo, December 18: Sources close to Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa say that he has decided to go strictly by court rulings and the findings of the independent police probe into the alleged abduction of a local employee of the Swiss embassy here last month.
“The President is keen that the case should not be politicized as politicization would prevent the truth from being found out. Politicization will also bring disrepute to the government and Sri Lanka in the international sphere,” one of the sources said.
The alleged abduction case could be misused by Sri Lanka’s adversaries if there was even a hint of manipulation by the President or the Executive, the sources said.
However, the case is expected to be brought up in the March 2020 session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) by interested member-states and also the Tami Diaspora, out to use any stick to beat Sri Lanka with.
The allegedly abducted lady, Garnier Banister Frances, formerly Siyalatha Perera, has since been arrested and remanded by a Colombo court till December 30. This followed several hours and days grilling by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). The preliminary probe revealed that she was contradicting herself and that technical evidence meticulously collected by the CID did not match her versions.
The police, who had her examined by a psychiatrist, are apparently wanting to know her true intention in making the allegation of abduction and if she had been part of a group of conspirators with an yet unknown objective.
Swiss Slam Lanka’s Approach
On Monday, the episode took a new turn. Even as the Sri Lankan Presidential press release spoke of Swiss Ambassador Hanspeter Mock’s fully agreeing to cooperate with the Sri Lankan authorities, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FADA) put out a press release on its website rejecting the Sri Lankan government’s contentions about the alleged abduction.
The Presidential Media Division had said that Ambassador Mock stressed that Switzerland harbored no intention to do any harm to Sri Lanka. “We wish to work together for the benefit of both countries. Also we need to overcome this situation of tension and to remove any misunderstanding,” the Swiss Ambassador told the Lankan President.
In response, President Gotabaya explained to the Ambassador the progress of investigations into the incident so far and said: “It is very well established by now that the alleged abduction is a total fabrication. Irrefutable evidence such as Uber reports, telephone conversations and CCTV footages point to this fact. The Embassy official must have been compelled by some interested parties to bring myself and my government into disrepute. It is not clear why the alleged victims acted in such a manner. ”
Being reasonable, Gotabaya said that he saw no wrong in the initial reaction by the Swiss Embassy when this incident was first reported. “It is justifiable. If a member of its staff is in trouble, the Embassy has to intervene,” he said.
The President then requested the Ambassador to cooperate with the government to conduct the investigation to its end so that the truth would emerge.
But the Swiss Foreign Office came out with a stinging attack on the Sri Lankan police and the judiciary saying that Lanka is flouting the rule of law and that Sri Lanka is in danger of being branded internationally as a failed state.
Here is a verbatim reproduction of Monday’s FDFA’s release: “ An employee of the Swiss embassy in Colombo has been taken into custody today for alleged false statements. The FDFA is concerned about this decision.”
“It demands that the Sri Lankan judicial authorities ensure that the personal rights of its employees are better protected and that national law and international standards are complied with in the further proceedings.”
“The FDFA and the Swiss embassy in Colombo will continue to fulfill their responsibilities as employers and will support employees to the extent possible.”
“The local employee of the Swiss embassy was reportedly detained in Colombo on November 25, 2019 against her will to disclose internal information. During the proceedings, the victim and the Swiss embassy cooperated fully with the Sri Lankan authorities.”
“The FDFA has repeatedly requested compliance with the rule of law. In particular, the FDFA criticized the 30-hour survey over three days despite the poor health of the embassy staff and the public questioning of their descriptions by senior Sri Lankan officials before the end of the investigation.”
“After arresting its employees, the FDFA expects the Sri Lankan judiciary to comply with its own legal requirements, to comply with international standards for proper procedures and to protect personal rights better than before.”
“ As an employer, the FDFA requires the Sri Lankan authorities to perform their duties in accordance with applicable law and to take into account the unstable health of employees.”
“Switzerland emphasizes that in this exemplary case, Sri Lanka’s reputation as a constitutional state is at stake.”
“The FDFA and the Swiss embassy in Colombo will continue to support their employees wherever possible.”
“The FDFA has repeatedly told the Sri Lankan authorities that it is looking for a common and constructive way to resolve the security incident. On December 16, 2019, the Swiss ambassador to Colombo also underlined this in a direct conversation with Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.”
Given the stubbornness and aggressive posture of the Swiss Foreign Office, Switzerland is unlikely to accept the version of the Lankan police and the court. It is therefore likely to garner support from other European and North American countries to haul Sri Lanka and its leader Gotabaya Rajapaksa over the coals in Geneva and keep up the campaign in Europe till at least the Lankan parliamentary elections, expected to be held in April 2020, with the objective of defeating the Rajapaksa-led coalition which is thought to be anti-West and pro-China.
However, the chances of the issue being blown up internationally will be less if the investigations and the court decisions continue to be unbiased and thoroughly professional. This is the reason why President Gotabaya has decided to go by the probe and the court’s rulings.