By Shamindra Ferdinando
Manohara De Silva, PC, yesterday urged the government to conduct a ‘no-holds-barred’ inquiry into high profile accusation that its agents abducted a local employee of the Switzerland mission in Colombo, and questioned her before releasing her.
Responding to Switzerland demanding an inquiry into the alleged abduction on Monday, Nov 25, the top lawyer said that it would be the responsibility of the government to ensure a thorough inquiry. However, the refusal on the part of Switzerland to deny access by the law enforcement authorities to the alleged victim was quiet surprising because no less a person than the Swiss Ambassador lodged the complaint.
President’s Counsel De Silva said that in terms of the Vienna Convention in case of such an incident, countries had to follow agreed procedures to ensure smooth investigation.
Responding to another query, de Silva pointed out that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government couldn’t allow what the President’s Counsel called ‘a Swiss mystery’ to undermine the new administration.
The constitutional affairs expert said that the Swiss refusal to name the accuser could only be compared with UN classified source material for a period of 20 years, thereby effectively depriving Sri Lanka an opportunity to inquire into accusations. The President’s Counsel pointed out that on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations, the treacherous previous government co-sponsored an accountability resolution in Geneva in early Oct 2015. “Now we are asked to inquire into an alleged abduction without giving access to the accuser. The government should offer to record the alleged victim’s statement even in the presence of Swiss diplomatic staff,” De Silva said.
The President’s Counsel pointed out that nearly a decade after UN accused Sri Lankan military of massacring 40,000, the source material remained unverified.
Authoritative sources yesterday told The Island that the Switzerland embassy was yet to provide access to the local employee allegedly abducted on Monday.
The President’s Counsel alleged that the government should be mindful of the attempts to discredit it in the run-up to the next Geneva sessions in March 2020. The top lawyer said that Sri Lanka should seek the identity of the alleged victim as an inquiry wouldn’t be possible without recording her statement.
The civil society activist said that Sri Lanka would have to swiftly bring the investigation into a successful conclusion or face the consequences.
The President’s Counsel said that Sri Lanka paid a huge price for not countering accusations. On the day before the presidential election, the Army was accused of trying to discourage Jaffna voters. A section of the media charged that the Jaffna-based Army of setting up of road blocks though the canard was denied, the public believed it, De Silva said. The government never took tangible measures to counter accusations, he said. The accusations regarding the abduction of Swiss embassy employee could cause quite serious problems as a section of the international media was likely to step up pressure unless the issue was addressed.
Responding to another query, the President’s Counsel urged the government to examine the possibility of interested parties trying to cover up Chief Inspector Nishantha Silva, his wife and their children receiving refugee in Switzerland. The President Counsel emphasized that the Foreign Ministry owed an explanation as to how it intended to proceed on the issue of the Chief Inspector securing political asylum there. Manohara de Silva pointed out that accommodating the entire family was a decision Swiss authorities would have taken lightly.
The President’s Counsel said that there couldn’t be any justifiable reason for the Switzerland embassy to suppress information since Monday. Had there been an attempt to coerce an embassy employee to reveal information as regards asylum seekers and those backing them, the Foreign Ministry should have been alerted immediately.
The Switzerland embassy, too, owed an explanation as to why it continued to deny access to the alleged victim