The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has informed the Westminster Magistrate’s Courts of the Sri Lanka Foreign Ministry’s objections in the case filed against Brigadier Priyanka Fernando in the UK court.
The Foreign Ministry has pointed out that Brigadier Fernando is no longer a resident of the UK and that during his tour of “duty in the UK, a diplomatic agent, and thus entitled to the immunities and the privileges extended to a diplomat under the Vienna Convention”.
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Saroja Sirisena speaking to the Daily News explained that they had conveyed their objections against the ruling of the court with the above submissions.
This week, the Westminster Magistrates Courts issued an arrest warrant against the Brigadier having ruled that he was guilty of violating the Public Order Act in London. A group of Tamils in the UK had filed a private prosecution against him for having made throat slitting gestures during a protest carried out before the Sri Lankan Embassy in London in 2018.
Brig. Fernando returned to Sri Lanka soon after the protest as the Police who investigated the complaints of the protesters at the time, did not file any charges against him.
The UK Judge had allowed the case to be heard and tried in absentia, having stated that she was “satisfied every effort had been made” to serve the charges on him,” according to foreign media reports.
President’s Counsel Dr. Jayatissa de Costa in the meantime said it was against the principles of natural justice to try a person in absentia and finding him guilty of an offense without having first served summons on him or heard his side of the story.
“This officer works for the Sri Lankan Government which is part of the Commonwealth, they cannot say that they could not find him, he could have been easily found to serve summons,” he said.
He added that as this was a private prosecution, more precautions should have been taken before passing judgement.
“They cannot serve rulings in the absence of concrete proof that they have served summons. This looks like an ex parte affair”, said the senior lawyer.