“Speaker Hits Out at Foreign Missions”-A Few Comments
Posted on September 12th, 2009

By Darmitha

An article which appeared in the front page of the “Daily Mirror” of 12th September 2009 titled “Speaker Hits Out at Foreign Missions” in which is stated that Speaker W.J.M. Lokubandara is recorded as having stated that “there is serious harassment in the form of fingerprinting. Our Prime Minister had also been put through a difficult process by a certain country. We have to rise against it. It is the duty of this Parliament. Just questioning about it is not enough,” he said.

 This issue had come up for discussion in the Sri Lankan Parliament in relation to UK refusing a visa for Dr.Palitha Kohona to enter the United Kingdom, and subsequently the manner in which our Prime Minister Mr. Rathnasiri Wickramanayake had been treated by the Airport Immigration Authorities of Japan when he arrived in Japan to attend a Buddhist ceremony on the invitation of Chief Priest of a Buddhist Temple in Japan. The rejection of Dr. Kohona’s visa application is to all those who remember the recent past, a tit-for-tat by the British Government for having refused a Visit Visa to one of their Parliamentarians who wanted to visit Sri Lanka during the tail end of the war against the LTTE when this British MP thought he needed to appease the thousands of terrorist supporters who have been domiciled in UK on false pretexts. The incident relating to our Prime Minister being subjected to finger printing at the Japanese airport seems to have other mess ups in our Sri Lankan Mission in their coordination work which should never have happened in the first place. The Prime Minister of any country is a VIP and needs to be treated in an appropriate manner & given the meticulous precision with which Japanese authorities work, it is difficult to say this was an oversight!

 Ordinary Sri Lankans whether they apply for Visit Visas to UK, USA, Australia or the EU from Sri Lanka or any other country have been subjected to humiliation of being treated like criminals and treated with the utmost contempt, without any explanations applications have been rejected while finger printing has become mandatory when applying for Visit Visas to UK and a few other foreign countries during the last decade. Our salute to Speaker WJM Lokubandara for taking up cudgels with foreign missions on this count when he stated that no person should be harassed in the visa process merely because he or she was a Sinhalese or a Buddhist.  

At this juncture we need to question what the UNP government under Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe did when it was during his tenure as Prime Minister (2001-2004) during which period the late Mr. Tyronne Fernando was Foreign Minister that they both accepted with open arms, the decision by the British Government to finger print Sri Lankans applying for Visas to visit UK? At that point we never heard a murmur from these servile politicians to whom the west was the panacea for all ills within our own country irrespective of the fact that western powers were openly supporting LTTE terrorists to destabilize Sri Lanka. Did he ever reciprocate by stating that British citizens visiting Sri Lanka too will need to be finger printed either on arrival at The Katunayake International Airport or at our High Commission in UK when they applied to visit our country? It is because the then UNP Government permitted foreign countries to treat us Sri Lankans like criminals, that now we note with utter disgust other foreign countries also deeming it prudent to insult our citizens.

 It is time that our Foreign Ministry sent officials to do an investigation to buildings where the Visa Offices of the British High Commission, The US Embassy, The Swiss Embassy, The Canadian High Commission as well as The Australian High Commission accept Visa Applications from Sri Lankans living here. Most of these Missions do not even offer seating facilities to our citizens who are expected to weather the hot sun or rain and stand outside these offices for hours, at times we can see the old and the feeble who wish to visit their kith and kin living in these foreign havens are seated on steps or culverts by the road side! A Sri Lankan is not worthy enough to enter the High Commissions or The Embassies of these countries but the money we take to spend in those countries is welcome. Sri Lankan students who apply to study overseas are lured with extremely fancy advertisements in every Sunday newspaper because for a period of 4-5 years in the minimum, these students will be draining the much needed foreign exchange in Sri Lanka into these western countries to help their economy! One only needs to check the Sunday Times & Sunday Observer “Education Supplements” to understand how serious the issue is.  Does this not smell of the utmost hypocrisy and discrimination by “Holier than Thou” western powers? Humaneness & humanitarianism- where are they, that they preach to us all the time? What has the Canadian High Commission done to solve the situation where one of it’s local employees at the Visa Office demanded a highly respected Buddhist Monk to delete the words “Reverend” and “Thero” from his name and process a new passport before re-applying for a Visit Visa? Who gave that officer such high-handed authority? Will our Sri Lankan High Commissions/Embassies also have the same authority to request The Pope or The Archbishop of Cantebury to remove their religious titles of honour when they apply to visit Sri Lanka? If we did so, we Sri Lankans would be called “extremist chauvinists”- is it not so?

 If our Sri Lankan Government permit foreigners & Foreign Missions to insult our citizens within our own territory, can we expect decency fair treatment when we enter their countries? The time has come for Sri Lankan authorities to demand from these western powers, that they learn to treat our citizens with the due respect that they deserve- we do not ask for too much by doing that. Treat human beings as human beings and terrorists as terrorists but not mix the two together and put everyone in one basket!

 A few years ago, much publicity was given to a statement made by the Rt.Rev.Duleep De Chickera, Bishop of the Anglican Church in Colombo for having gone on record to say that he refused to visit UK because of the requirement to be finger printed. Nevertheless, he did make a visit to UK subsequently, and it would be interesting to know whether or not he was finger printed when applying & what happened to his principles?

 Against all odds the Sri Lankan Government and the Armed Forces were successful in defeating terrorism from this country and now it is time for the GOSL to start putting all other issues which need priority in their proper perspective and ensure that we as a nation are treated with due respect (not red carpet treatment) with the simple gentlemanly behaviour that is expected from one human being to another.

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