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Foreign diplomats in Lanka must project true picture

2013 Jul 15

Several Colombo-based diplomats acted in a high-handed manner and the LTTE leadership took the upper hand when terrorism was at its peak. Some Western diplomats in Sri Lanka were more concerned about the human rights of the Tigers than those of hapless civilians, who had been forcibly held as a human shield by the LTTE.

It is an open secret how certain Western diplomats in Colombo, who projected themselves as the guardians of human rights and champion peace brokers, went that extra mile to pamper Velupillai Prabhakaran and his goons.

There were several instances where some senior-most Colombo-based diplomats had overstepped their limits and attempted to interfere in Sri Lanka's internal affairs. The most notable of them was when British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, David Gladstone overstepped his limits and was declared persona non grata by the then UNP Government led by the late President R. Premadasa.

Diplomats in the foreign service should strengthen the ties between countries. It is their sacred duty to further strengthen bilateral ties and foster cordial relations between the two countries. They should desist from doing anything that would harm bilateral ties and moreover, conduct themselves in keeping with their high office.

Regrettably, some diplomats disregard the mandate entrusted to them and attempt to overstep their limit. Although this is not tolerated in their home countries, some diplomats ignore diplomatic protocol and other accepted norms and attempt to meddle in Sri Lanka's internal affairs. Perhaps, they are under an illusion that Sri Lanka is still a colony and that they could call the shots.

While Western countries make a song and dance of good governance and the independence of the judiciary, it is deplorable that their diplomats posted here attempt to interfere even with judicial matters.

Colombo Fort Magistrate Thilina Gamage last week said that he does not hear cases according to the whims of the British High Commission. The Magistrate was constrained to say this after he rejected a request through the police, by the British High Commission in Colombo, to get a Briton's passport released from court custody.

The British suspect had been charged with defaulting a hotel bill. The Magistrate said that the Courts functioned in accordance with the laws of the land and added that it was not for the British High Commission, but for the holder of the passport to attend Court and request that his travel documents be released.

This incident came to light after the General Manager of a Colombo star class hotel complained to the Fort police, that Allen John, a British citizen, had defaulted on a payment to the tune of Rs.17,202 after availing himself of the hotel's facilities. He had stayed in the hotel and reportedly vanished the following day without settling the hotel bill.

The suspect, in his haste, had forgotten to take his passport when he did the vanishing trick and the hotel management lodged a complaint with the police and handed over his passport.

The police who conducted investigations, apprised the British High Commission about the defaulter. It was reported that the British High Commission had thereupon settled the British national's hotel bill.

Filing a motion before Magistrate Thilina Gamage, the Fort police told Court that the British High Commission had sent a letter requesting them to get the suspect's passport released since he was to be sent back. However, the Magistrate rejected the British High Commission's plea to have the passport released without following the proper legal procedure.

This is by no means an isolated incident, but a serious violation of diplomatic protocol. In the event the British High Commission, or any other diplomatic mission in Sri Lanka has a genuine concern in a matter regarding one of its citizens, they should first and foremost get in touch with the Ministry of External Affairs and follow proper procedure. Without taking recourse through the proper channels, diplomatic missions have no right whatsoever to interfere in a country's internal affairs, either directly or indirectly, and interfere in court procedure.

It is a crying shame that those who pontificate to us on the independence of the judiciary do not practise what they preach. They should respect Sri Lanka's sovereignty and territorial integrity as an independent nation. Some foreign diplomats take upon themselves the role of self-appointed governors and interfere in domestic matters.

They should understand that Sri Lanka is a sovereign state and is governed by democratically elected leaders who are only answerable to the people of the country.

Diplomats stationed in Sri Lanka should respect the law of the land and do what is expected of them. They should abide by diplomatic protocol and communicate through the Ministry of External Affairs on any domestic matters they wish to raise.

It is common knowledge how certain foreign diplomats had maintained close contact with Tiger sympathisers through International Non Governmental Organisations (INGOs) in their countries. Most INGOs have their own agendas and some of them were notorious for funding the LTTE during Sri Lanka's humanitarian operation.

Certain countries also exploit these INGOs to fund sinister elements and local NGOs, and even make sweeping statements against the motherland. Some INGOs had not even obtained proper registration or approval to operate in Sri Lanka. Thanks to the vigilance of the local authorities, the horrendous activities of those notorious INGOs have now been revealed.

People should bear in mind that those against Sri Lanka put their agendas in motion through different channels and some INGOs provide the ideal platform for these organisations to sully Sri Lanka's image internationally. They are intent on a regime change to empower a leadership that would be a puppet of the West. Certain Western politicians who depend heavily on the Tamil Diaspora vote for their political survival dance to the tune of LTTE cohorts. They too operate in a clandestine manner to discredit Sri Lanka and undermine the country's landmark achievement in crushing terrorism.

It would not be a surprise if LTTE cohorts fortify their anti-Sri Lanka campaign in the coming months in view of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to be held in Sri Lanka later this year. From the day Sri Lanka was selected as the host nation for the 2013 CHOGM, they have been making subtle attempts to thwart Sri Lanka from holding it.

Thanks to Sri Lanka's friendly countries and the current CHOGM chair, Australia, Sri Lanka had beaten all overwhelming odds to host the biggest summit of the Commonwealth. Tiger sympathisers abroad spared no pains to stop Sri Lanka from hosting the CHOGM as it would help Sri Lanka to showcase its praiseworthy achievements since terrorism was defeated.

Hosting CHOGM in Sri Lanka will help the country to counter LTTE propaganda and demonstrate the country's positive developments to the world. What the Tiger cohorts project to the Western countries and the actual ground situation in Sri Lanka are diametrically opposed.

LTTE sympathisers would no longer be able to mislead the international community when the Commonwealth leaders get first-hand experience on the new lease of life that people in the North and the East enjoy. Wooing the sympathy of the West and projecting a gloomy picture about Sri Lanka would not be possible thereafter. The democratic right of the people in the North had been denied by the LTTE through its gun culture. The Government has restored lasting peace and elections will be held to the Northern Provincial Council in September. This would enable the people in the North to exercise their democratic right and elect people of their choice to run the provincial administration.

Colombo-based foreign diplomats should be urged to tell the true story to their respective governments. Sri Lanka has achieved remarkable progress since LTTE terrorism was eliminated and over half a million people rescued in the world's largest human rescue mission. Foreign diplomats in Sri Lanka have a huge responsibility in taking this message to the outside world.

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