The Swiss fiasco
Posted on December 15th, 2019

by C.A.Chandraprema Courtesy Island

Sriyalatha Perera as Rohini Hathurusinghe

Hanspeter Mock as Tissa Dias Bandaranayake

Deja vu for Kamal Gunaratne

December 14, 2019, 12:00 pm


The Swiss Embassy drama continues to dominate the news bulletins. With each passing day the drama surrounding the alleged abduction of a Swiss embassy local staffer is beginning to look more and more like the drama that we saw in the late 1990s in relation to the Commission to inquire into the deaths of Maj Gen Denzil Kobbekaduwa, Brigadier Vijaya Wimalaratne and others. For months, the principal witness of that inquiry, named Rohini Hathurusinghe who claimed to be the wife of a soldier related a story of intrigue and conspiracies to kill Denzil Kobbekaduwa which was lapped up by the naïve Chairman of that Commission, retired Supreme Court judge Tissa Dias Bandaranayake. All the stories that Hathurusinghe related received a great deal of publicity especially in the government owned press.

According to Hathurusinghe’s convoluted story, her own husband a Gajaba Regiment soldier had been a part of the UNP conspiracy to assassinate Maj Gen Kobbekaduwa. While these sensational revelations were being published in the media, overzealous goons of the ruling People’s Alliance even pulled down the statue of Maj Gen Vijaya Wimalaratne in the Kiribathgoda town, because Hathurusinghe had told the Commission that Brigadier Vijaya Wimalaratne was the principal implementer of the plot to assassinate Kobbekaduwa. The idea conveyed being that Wimalaratne was UNP while Kobbekaduwa was SLFP. The following is what Maj Gen (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne has written about this sorry episode in his book ‘Road to Nandikadal’:

“Several years after these unfortunate deaths, a suspicious female character called Rohini Hathurusinghe suddenly made an appearance. This woman claimed that she was the wife of a Gajaba Regiment soldier and that the blast that caused these deaths was the result of a conspiracy. She stated that President Premadasa had got Brigadier Vijaya Wimalaratne to hatch a plot to kill Maj Gen Kobbekaduwa and that he had by mistake got into the vehicle that was fitted with the bomb and that they had both been killed as a result. The damage that was done by these lies was immense and it is painful even to dwell on that subject now. Some evil characters who believed these lies even destroyed the statue of Maj Gen Wimalaratne that was at the Kiribathgoda junction. By the time Rohini Hathurusinghe’s lies were proved to be just that, the damage had already been done. The police conducted an investigation which resulted in Hathurusinghe being exposed as a liar and after being charged in courts she was sentenced to a term in jail.

“Be that as it may, it is regrettable to note that that there are people among us who would believe the tall tales of a woman who had emerged from nowhere and destroy the statue of a hero who had done so much for this country. After Chandrika Kumaratunga became President, she appointed a Commission to look into these deaths. I was at that time stationed in Kayts as the Officer Commanding of the 6th Gajaba Battalion. Retired Supreme Court judge Tissa Dias Bandaranayake was the Chairman of this Commission and Appeal Court judge D.P.S Gunasekera, High Court judge Nimal Gamini Amaratunga and Wing Commander R.A.Ananda were its other members. I built up a close relationship with them when they came to Kayts and began investigations. Even though I tried my best to convince them that this blast was not the result of a conspiracy but the explosion of a landmine set by the terrorists, I got the impression that they were not prepared to accept it as such.”

Many yahapalana players

Ironically, we now have Kamal Gunaratne playing a different role as Defence Secretary and once again he is confronted with another Rohini Hathurusinghe in the form of Sriyalatha Perera and another Tissa Dias Bandaranayake in the form of Hanspeter Mock, the Swiss Ambassador. Will Kamal Gunaratne have better luck in convincing Mock that he is on the wrong track than he had with retired judge Tissa Dias Bandaranayake two decades ago? The general public in Sri Lanka has been skeptical from the very beginning about this story that a Swiss embassy employee had been abducted. Only die hard supporters of the yahapalana camp in general and of the UNP in particular, seem to attach any credence at all to this story.

Several Parliamentarians of the UNP including UNP general secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam and Parliamentarin Wijepala Hettiarachchi have gone public warning that this incident could lead to a souring of diplomatic relations with Switzerland and jeopardize Sri Lanka’s relations with the entire Western world. Parliamentarian Rajitha Senaratne created quite a stir in the early days of this drama when the alleged victim was still being held incommunicado in the premises of the Swiss embassy by telling the media that the alleged victim had had a pistol thrust into her mouth during the reported ordeal and that she was in a state of shock and was not talking even to members of her own family.

The lawyer appearing for the alleged victim claimed that there were two reports by a Swiss doctor and a Sri Lankan doctor to the effect that she had been sexually molested. According to the Sri Lankan foreign minister, they had been informed by the Swiss Embassy that the victim had been examined by a Swiss doctor on Skype. No one knows how the Sri Lankan doctor is supposed to have examined her. But these supposed medical reports had been rubbished by the fact that the victim had changed the entire abduction story when she was questioned by the CID in the presence of Swiss embassy officials and her lawyers.

In fact with each passing day, this whole episode appears more and more like a show stage managed by the UNP. Firstly there was the issue that members of the UNP appeared to be better informed about the condition of the alleged victim even when she was being held incommunicado by the Swiss embassy. The UNP has from the beginning, been fully backing the Swiss Embassy in their claim that this alleged incident actually happened. Then there is the question of the lawyers appearing for the alleged victim. One lawyer Upul Kumarapperuma is identified with the JVP having been on their national list in 2015. The other lawyer Sudarshana Gunawardene is closely identified with the UNP and had served as the Government Director of Information during the yahapalana government. Everything seems to be revolving around the yahapalana camp and the UNP.

Last Wednesday, the well known foreign funded NGO, the Centre for Policy Alternatives, another key yahapalana player, had put out a statement to the media expressing deep concern about the conduct of several media institutions, including State media that deliberately revealed the identity of the alleged victim. The CPA claims that this raises serious issues of privacy and protection and is a blatant violation of media ethics and disregard for the victim’s right to privacy. The CPA has also drawn attention to Section 365C of the Penal Code which makes it an offense punishable with imprisonment for up to two years to print or publish the name or any matter which may make known the identity of a person who is alleged to be a victim of sexual harassment. They have also pointed out that the Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act, No. 4 of 2015 gives victims of crime the right to be treated with equality, fairness and with respect for their dignity and privacy.

Caught in a web of lies

The CPA urged media institutions to respect and adhere to the law and ethics, including giving due attention to the victim’s rights. They have pointed out that continued disregard in this area raises serious concerns and ‘will require attention and necessary action by the authorities’. However, in the opinion of this columnist, the victimized party in this whole sorry episode is not this alleged victim who is living in the Swiss embassy, but the general public who have been subject to a flatfooted hoax. The CPA’s attempt to prevent the media from exposing this charade for what it is, by quoting law and mentioning ethics is about as flatfooted as the Swiss hoax itself. Everything that has happened since this allegation first came to the attention of the public indicates that there is no victim here other than the people of Sri Lanka.

Everyone knows that the Centre for Policy Alternatives is not a disinterested observer of events in this country. Apart from being a foreign funded NGO, they have a well known relationship with the defeated yahapalana government. It is painfully obvious that everyone even remotely connected to the UNP is trying their best to salvage what they can from the Swiss operation. Take for example, the following passage in the CPA’s media release last Wednesday:

“CPA also notes that certain public authorities and officers holding official positions have publicly accused the alleged victim of fabricating facts, despite ongoing investigations. Such statements cloud the partiality of investigations being carried out, and CPA urges authorities to remain independent when investigations are underway and to ensure there is no interference of such processes.”

The CPA seems to be banking on making a victim out of a non-victim by alleging that the investigation was not impartial! The Swiss Embassy and the authorities in Switzerland will have to decide whether they are going to go down this path of flatly refusing to acknowledge that this alleged victim has been lying, or they are going to come clean and admit they made a mistake? The CPA has called on members of the public to exercise ‘responsibility and compassion’ when publishing and sharing information on social media. They state that our society is plagued by a high occurrence of incidents of sexual harassment, and that it is important that victims are free and able to make complaints of the same without the fear of facing further harassment for doing so.

If the Rohini Hathurusinghe episode took place in an environment like the present day with the internet and the social media, just imagine what things would have been like when it came to the stage where things began unravelling and Hathurusinghe called a press conference and insinuated that she was carrying Tissa Dias Bandaranayake’s unborn child. The social media would have gone berserk! From the details that the CID has been able to unearth from the statements they had been obtaining from this alleged victim in the presence of her lawyers and Swiss embassy officials, it is very clear that things have indeed come to the stage where Hathurusinghe started talking about Tissa Dias Bandaranayake’s alleged unborn child.

There was that episode which was caught on camera by the TV stations where a person called Manjula Perera claiming to be the representative of the alleged victim had told the TV crews to come to a location at Barnes Place where the victim Sriyalatha Perera aka Garnier Banister Francis will be holding a press conference to explain things. However no one showed up for the press conference. The camera crews had then done some investigation on the person who had invited them for the press conference and found that he is the son of Gampaha District UNP politician Bevan Perera. Later this Manjula Perera has posted a facebook video stating that he does not know who Sriyalatha Perera aka Garnier Banister Francis is, and that she could have cooked up this story on her own and that he had stepped in only to help someone who appeared to be in distress.

This whole episode has all the hallmarks of a Rohini Hathurusinghe style fiasco. The Swiss embassy staffers who have been sitting in while the CID was recording a statement from the alleged victim will by now know whether the story that the alleged victim told the Swiss Embassy and the story she has been telling the CID tallies. Certainly what we outsiders have been hearing indicates the contrary. The original Swiss Embassy complaint had indicated that she had been abducted in a white car in the vicinity of St Bridget’s Convent. Now we hear that the story has changed and that the victim claims to have been threatened when she had visited someone in Kollupitiya. In any event, it has been well established that after the alleged incident she had made her way back home in the same Uber taxi that she had arrived in.

The original Swiss Embassy statement issued on 29 November 2019 about this incident went as follows: “On 25 November 2019, a serious security incident involving a local employee of the Embassy of Switzerland in Colombo occurred. The employee was detained against their will in the street, forced to get into a car, seriously threatened at length by unidentified men and forced in order to disclose embassy-related information. Several false pieces of information are circulating in the reporting of this incident. The Swiss Embassy in Colombo is issuing the following clarifications: 1. The Swiss Embassy immediately lodged a formal complaint and is fully cooperating with the Sri Lanka authorities in order to support police investigation and initiate an inquiry over the case, while duly considering the health condition of the victim and their relatives. 2. Due to a deteriorating health condition, the victim is currently not in a state to testify.”

Everything the Swiss embassy had been told about this incident has already been proven wrong. From day one, the Swiss embassy was in a headlong quest to get this alleged victim and her entire family out of the country in an ambulance plane without even revealing her identity to the Sri Lankan authorities. Was that because they knew that this was a concocted story? Was that because the Swiss embassy was also complicit in this drama of alleging an abduction in order to bring the new government into disrepute? Our sister paper the Divaina says that the Swiss Ambassador had objected to the appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister in October 2018 and that he is not an impartial individual. Everything that has been happening since 25 November certainly seems to bear out these suspicions. In any event, it’s up to the Swiss Embassy to come clean on what really happened. Let not what happened to Justice Tissa Dias Bandaranayake happen to Hanspeter Mock!

In any event the government should under no circumstances allow this lady to be taken out of the country until this is resolved and the people of Sri Lanka have been informed as to what really happened.

Boris Johnson’s victory

Boris Johnson’s comfortable victory at the British general election means that Brexit will take place as scheduled at the end of January 2020. The fact that the Conservatives won so convincingly in a situation where the Brexit vote was split between the Conservatives, the Brexit Party and the UK Independence Party shows that the British public had ignored factional disputes and political rhetoric and consciously voted for the party that could actually deliver Brexit. Boris Johnson’s victory is a major triumph for all nationalists the world over. For us Sri Lankans however, the proverbial spot of dung in the pot of milk was the passage in the Conservative Party manifesto which said “We will continue to support international initiatives to achieve reconciliation, stability and justice across the world, and in current or former conflict zones such as Cyprus, Sri Lanka and the Middle East, where we maintain our support for a two-state solution.”

As could be expected, this statement raised a great deal of ire in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan Embassy in the UK sought a correction of this and what we got was a clarification from the party’s deputy chairman saying that the reference to a two state solution applied only to the Middle East and not to Sri Lanka or Cyprus. It was further stated that as far as Sri Lanka was concerned, the British government would only support peace and reconciliation. A clarification is not the same as a correction. There can be little doubt about what the above mentioned sentence in the Conservative Party manifesto actually meant. However Lord Naseby who has been a genuine friend to Sri Lanka has issued a statement on behalf of the Conservative Party stating as follows.

“I accept the reassurances given. Nevertheless, this issue should never have arisen in the first place. It is particularly poor that whoever wrote and checked the Foreign Policy part of the manifesto failed so badly to see the implications of the Manifesto as published. The leadership of the Conservative Party should understand that it is not the least bit surprising that the Sri Lanka High Commission as well as the Sri Lanka Government and British Sri Lankans were deeply concerned about this manifesto error. This has been compounded by sections of the Tamil Diaspora stating to their followers that the Conservatives were considering a two-state solution.

“I am now asking the Party Chairman to issue to the world at large that ‘The Party does NOT have or seek a two-state solution for Sri Lanka’. On top of this I shall, once Parliament is opened by Her Majesty the Queen on December 19th immediately put down a written Question seeking confirmation of the statements made so that The High Commissioner for Sri Lanka, The Government of Sri Lanka and all the people of Sri Lanka will see in writing that there is absolutely no policy for a two state solution. Furthermore, I expect to speak in the Debate of the Queen’s speech which will quickly follow the Opening and will ‘ram home’ to Her Majesty’s Government the need to reassure Sri Lanka that there is no two-state policy for Sri Lanka.”

Until the end of the UK election, the British Conservative Party Chairman had not issued that unequivocal statement on Sri Lanka that had been requested by Lord Naseby. We will now have to leave it to Lord Naseby to raise the matter in the UK Parliament. Clearly there are some issues that Sri Lanka still needs to get clarified from the Conservative government in Britain. Despite this, Boris Johnson’s victory is a triumph for the nationalist camp the world over and a resounding defeat for the global liberal mafia.

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