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Rs. 98 mn NGO law suit: Norway seeks immunity

2013 Jul 11

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Norway has told Sri Lanka to prevent several senior Norwegian government representatives from being hauled up before the Colombo District Court in a case filed by NGO activist Dr. Kumar Rupesinghe or face the consequences.

Well informed sources told The Island that Norway had told the government to take tangible action in this regard before the case resumed on August 2 at the District Court of Colombo.

The case was last heard on April 30 before Additional District Judge Mrs. Amali Ranaweera.

Responding to a query, sources said that one-time Norwegian ambassador to Sri Lanka Tore Hattram, also cited as a respondent, inquired about the government’s position vis-a-vis the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. Hattram had sent a missive to the External Affairs Ministry through the Sri Lankan embassy in Oslo close after Dr. Rupesinghe had moved Court demanding compensation to the tune of Rs. 98 million from Norway.

Dr. Rupesinghe has, on behalf of the Foundation for Co – Existence, alleged that Norway terminated a three-year contract for a special project aimed at improving relations among communities living in the Eastern Province. The project covered the period from 2008-2011.

Although the British government, too, was a party to the agreement finalised at the height of the conflict, Dr. Rupesinghe opted to move Court against Norway on the basis the British had fulfilled its financial obligations in terms of the tripartite agreement.

A veteran diplomat yesterday told The Island that there hadn’t been a similar case involving Norway or any other country since Independence.

Asked whether former Ambassador Tore Hattram had written to the External Affairs Ministry regarding the ongoing Court case, a Norwegian Embassy spokesperson said: "Norway’s position has always been that we do expect Sri Lanka to comply with well-established international rules on immunity, including those contained in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic relations to which Sri Lanka is a party. Diplomats and state officials from Sri Lanka are enjoying the same privileges overseas when serving their government."

The spokesperson emphasized that Norwegian position had been communicated to the Sri Lankan government.

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