Air ambulance to move embassy employee, govt insists on immigration formalities Swiss mystery takes a new turn;
Posted on November 30th, 2019

by Shamindra Ferdinando Courtesy The Island

Having accused the government of interrogating a female local employee of the Swiss embassy in Colombo last Monday (Nov 25) in the wake of top CID detective, Chief Inspector Nishantha De Silva, his wife and three children taking refuge in Switzerland, the Swiss government has sought approval to move the embassy employee along with her family to Switzerland, authoritative sources told The Sunday Island.

The CI and his family left the country last Sunday (Nov 24) having stayed at a luxury hotel on the previous day, sources said.

Citing rapid deterioration of her health after she was interrogated in a car by unidentified persons, Switzerland requested that alleged victim be allowed to be moved out in an air ambulance, sources said.

The Sunday Island learns that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, on a two-day state visit to New Delhi had been apprised of the developments as Switzerland sought to bring the contentious matter to an end by moving the alleged victim out of the country.

In a brief statement issued on Friday, Nov 29, the Swiss embassy in Colombo claimed that its employee wasn’t in a condition due to testify due to deterioration of her health.

Highly placed government sources said that the embassy owed an explanation as to why the local employee was in such a bad health condition. Did the embassy imply she was tortured during the interrogation? ministerial sources asked, pointing out the diplomatic mission alleged the employee was seriously threatened at length by unidentified men who forced her to disclose embassy-related information.

Responding to a query, sources said that the government didn’t object to Switzerland accommodating the alleged victim, her family or even extended relatives in an asylum program though they should follow proper immigration procedures. Having demanded an investigation into alleged abduction, the Swiss embassy couldn’t expect to move the employee without her being subjected to immigration formalities.

Sources asked whether if the employee was in such a bad condition which required Switzerland to deploy an air ambulance the government should know whether she was currently receiving medical treatment in a state or private hospital.

In spite of Sri Lanka seeking access to the alleged victim, the Swiss embassy is yet to accede to that request, sources said yesterday afternoon.

Referring to Swiss embassy statement that a formal complaint had been lodged immediately after the incident and the embassy was fully cooperating with law enforcement authorities, government officials pointed out the police were yet to receive a complaint, five days after the incident.

Sources said that Swiss Ambassador in Colombo brought the alleged incident to the notice of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on Wednesday, Nov 27, at his Wijerama Mawatha residence. One-time External Affairs Minister and Premier Rajapaksa’s foreign affairs advisor Prof. G.L. Peiris, acting IGP and the senior officer in charge of the CID had been present, sources said, adding that the identity of the alleged victim was not revealed.

Responding to another query, sources said that Switzerland could swiftly move the embassy employee out once immigration formalities were completed. The embassy couldn’t be allowed to skip immigration formalities under any circumstances especially against the backdrop of very serious claim that she was in such bad shape that the police could not record a statement, sources said.

Ministerial sources said that the incident caused a severe headache for the new government. Sources pointed out that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa left for New Delhi amidst the crisis caused by Swiss accusations as regards abduction of an embassy employee. Sources acknowledged that the latest accusations had to be examined against spate of high profile long standing allegations pertaining to ‘white van’ abductions, disappearances and extra judicial killings.

Sources said that with Geneva Human Rights sessions scheduled for March 2020, fresh accusations could place the new government in an extremely delicate situation with Western powers demanding the full implementation of the accountability resolution the previous government co-sponsored in Oct 2015.

Sources said that Norwegians were among those who secretly moved out Sri Lankans, including LTTE cadres over the years. Sources recalled how Rajapaksa administration sought an explanation from former Norwegian Ambassador in Colombo Hilde Haraldstad regarding clandestine moving of Sri Lankans via the BIA.

Foreign Ministry issued two statements last Thursday, Nov 28, regarding the alleged abduction.

Sources said that though the government declared that it directed the CID to investigate, the premier agency was yet to receive the required support from Swiss embassy. Sources said that the Swiss turned down police request to reveal the identity of the victim following the Swiss representations to the Premier Rajapaksa.

Meanwhile, the government was yet to seek clarification from Switzerland embassy as regards the CID Inspector receiving privilege status on the basis of accusation his life was at risk in Sri Lanka. The statement issued by the Switzerland embassy on Friday categorically denied ever receiving a request from Sri Lanka to extradite De Silva.

Well informed sources said that a senior navy officer who gave evidence against Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Admiral Ravi Wijegunaratne, too, reached Switzerland.

President’s Counsel Manohara De Silva yesterday told The Sunday Island that the government machinery seemed struggling to cope up with unprecedented accusations regarding abduction of embassy employee. During the war though successive governments knew the LTTE remained in touch with some persons working for foreign missions they were not at least questioned, De Silva said. The latest incident underscored the pivotal importance of having a mechanism capable of swiftly responding to accusations, De Silva said. According to him, the Swiss move revealed significant shortcomings in the relevant government machinery meant to counter accusations.

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