Swiss quagmire & Sri Lankan govt.’s options
Posted on December 21st, 2019

by C.A.Chandraprema Courtesy The Island

* LTTE recognized as freedom fighters in Switzerland
* Collecting funds for terrorist attacks on SL de-criminalised
* Terrorist attacks to gain independence justified


The drama surrounding the Swiss embassy employee is now in its fourth week with the Swiss government still holding that their employee is right and the Sri Lankan government is wrong despite all the evidence to the contrary that has come to light. It should be understood that Sri Lanka can never expect fair play from Switzerland. The Swiss government is more pro-LTTE than most other Western countries. Recently, the highest Swiss criminal court ruled that the Tamil Tigers are not a criminal organization and acquitted 12 LTTE activists of charges of sending 15 million Swiss Francs to the LTTE by collecting money from the Sri Lankan community in Switzerland during the war. There are around 50,000 Sri Lankans mostly Tamils living in Switzerland.

 The Swiss court acquitted the LTTE activists despite the Swiss Attorney General informing the court that the LTTE front organizations in Switzerland had a sophisticated system to raise funds for armed struggle in Sri Lanka whereby the Tamil community in Switzerland was systematically registered and its ability to pay sums assessed and individuals and families who refused to pay were threatened. Regardless of this, the Swiss apex criminal court refused to consider the LTTE a criminal group and had stated that even if the LTTE had carried out terrorist attacks, their primary objective was to be recognized as an independent ethnic community. This is a strange attitude to take in this day and time to say the least. 

Malaysia is rounding up LTTE activists, India and Sri Lanka are on the alert for attempts to revive the LTTE and the whole world is on alert with regard to any kind of terrorist activity because terrorism is the scourge of the modern world, yet Switzerland has justified terrorist attacks if it is to seek separate independent state. They have decriminalized the collecting of funds in Switzerland for terrorist attacks on Sri Lanka and refuses even to consider the LTTE to be a criminal group even though the FBI categorized the LTTE as the deadliest terrorist organization in the world in 2008. The LTTE military machine was smashed by Sri Lanka in 2009, but its international networks still remains intact and still poses a direct threat to countries like Sri Lanka, India and Malaysia. The Swiss government however actively promotes LTTE terrorism and provides a safe haven for LTTE terrorists on Swiss soil. This is the background in which this entire abduction drama is taking place.

Colombo Swiss embassy’s conduct 

Last week, the Swiss government issued two statements on the unfolding situation in Sri Lanka. The latest statement issued on Thursday stated that the Swiss government will be sending former ambassador Jörg Frieden to Sri Lanka to clarify what they refered to as ‘the security incident’ at the Swiss embassy in Colombo. The Swiss statement further stated that the security incident ‘has severely affected the health’ of the local staffer and that the Swiss considers the health and safety of its staff to be paramount and that it is the responsibility of the Sri Lankan authorities to ensure that these are protected in the further proceedings. They also expressed regret at the decision of the magistrate to place the local employee concerned in pre-trial detention, where the conditions do not take into account her state of health in any way. They requested that she be transferred to a more appropriate location, such as a hospital, on humanitarian grounds. 

The statement revealed that the Swiss ambassador in Colombo, Hanspeter Mock, had already underlined at a meeting on Tuesday with the Sri Lankan Attorney General that in this high-profile case, Sri Lanka’s reputation as a country that upholds the rule of law was at stake. It also stated that ‘the high level of media coverage, lack of privacy safeguards and public condemnation’ in this case not only endangered Swiss embassy staff but also eroded the trust and confidence required to jointly clarify the incident. What is remarkable about this statement is that even though the Swiss authorities keep harping on on the health condition of their local staffer, they have not explained why she was kept at the Swiss embassy for nearly two weeks without any treatment or hospitalization at all. The Swiss authorities have requested that she be shifted to hospital on humanitarian grounds, but that is something the Swiss themselves did not do.

Complicity of the Swiss government

Last Monday, following the arrest of the Swiss Embassy staffer, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs issued a statement criticizing the ‘lack of due process’ which stressed the following points –

* An employee of the Swiss Embassy in Colombo has today been detained on the grounds that she allegedly made false statements. The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs is concerned about this development and calls on the Sri Lankan judicial authorities to ensure better protection of its employee’s personal rights in any further proceedings and compliance with national law and international standards.

* On 25 November 2019, the local employee of the Swiss Embassy reported that she had been abducted in Colombo to force her to disclose embassy-related information. Both the victim and the Swiss embassy cooperated fully with the Sri Lankan authorities during the proceedings.

* The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs has repeatedly called for due process to be followed. In particular, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs has criticized the 30-hour interrogation to which the employee was subjected over three days despite being in poor health and the public statements by senior Sri Lankan officials questioning her account before the investigations had been completed.

* The FDFA expects the Sri Lankan law enforcement authorities to comply with national law and international judicial standards and to ensure that the employee’s rights are now better protected. As an employer, the FDFA calls on the Sri Lankan authorities to meet their obligations under applicable law and give due consideration to the employee’s poor state of health.

* Switzerland wishes to emphasize that in this high-profile case Sri Lanka’s reputation as a country that upholds the rule of law is at stake.

In the two statements issued last week, the Swiss government has condemned the public statements by senior Sri Lankan officials questioning the swiss embassy employee’s account before the investigations had been completed and the high level of media coverage, lack of privacy safeguards and public condemnation’ in this case. What follows are excerpts from an article that appeared in the New York Times under the title “Sri Lankan Critics Fear a Crackdown Is Underway, and Some Flee” on November 27 before we Sri Lankans knew anything about this alleged incident. Readers will note that the source quoted by the New York Times is the Swiss foreign ministry. 

“In a case that raised particular alarm, a Sri Lankan employee of the Swiss Embassy in Colombo was abducted on Monday by unidentified men and forced to hand over sensitive embassy information, Switzerland’s foreign ministry said. Officials in Colombo said the men forced her to unlock her cellphone data, which contained information about Sri Lankans who have recently sought asylum in Switzerland, and the names of Sri Lankans who aided them as they fled the country because they feared for their safety after Gotabaya Rajapaksa won the presidency in elections this month. On Wednesday, a spokesman for President Rajapaksa at first denied the abduction of the Swiss Embassy employee, and then hours later said that “defense authorities have decided to look into those allegations to ascertain the truth.”

 “In the abduction case, the diplomatic officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of security concerns, said the men held the embassy employee for several hours and then, before releasing her, threatened to kill her if she told anyone. The officials said the men appeared to be focused on finding information about a Sri Lankan detective who had been investigating Mr. Rajapaksa. The detective fled to Switzerland with his family on Sunday. It was not clear whether the men were connected to Mr. Rajapaksa or were acting of their own accord as supporters of the popular leader and his political dynasty.

 “A spokesman for the Swiss Foreign Ministry, Pierre-Alain Eltschinger, told The New York Times, “We can confirm that a local employee of the embassy was detained against her will on the street and threatened at length by unidentified men in order to force her to disclose embassy-related information…Switzerland regards this incident as a very serious and unacceptable attack,” he said, adding that the Swiss government was “demanding an immediate and complete investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident.”

 Thus we see that the Swiss foreign ministry had informed the international media about this alleged incident even before they informed the Sri Lankan government or even verified whether the story was true or false. From the time the Swiss Embassy in Colombo informed the government about this incident, the only thing they wanted to do was to take this alleged victim out of Sri Lanka without even revealing her name. If the government had caved in and allowed that to take place, the person concerned would have gone to Switzerland as a victim of abduction and sexual assault by agents of the government of Sri Lanka. It is only because the government stood firm and initiated action in courts to prevent this alleged victim from being taken out of the country that this whole incident was exposed as a hoax. The entire incident as related by the Swiss authorities to the New York Times has been proved to be completely false.

Lack of cooperation by Swiss embassy

 Even after it was exposed as a hoax and the embassy employee was arrested by the police on the orders of the Attorney General, the Swiss authorities have put out the above statement falsely claiming that both the employee and the embassy had ‘fully cooperated’ with the Sri Lankan authorities.  The Swiss embassy took nearly two weeks after the incident to present the alleged victim for a medical examination to be carried out and for a statement to be recorded. During that entire period she was held incommunicado in the Swiss embassy in Colombo. There is no word about that in the Swiss government’s statement. Even though the Swiss authorities have condemned the 30-hours of interrogation to which the employee was subjected over three days despite allegedly being in poor health, the Swiss have not explained why this person who was supposedly in poor health was kept inside the Swiss embassy instead of being given medical help for nearly two weeks.

 Even after presenting the alleged victim for a statement to be recorded, the Swiss embassy retained possession of the alleged victim’s and her husband’s phone and a court order had to be obtained asking the embassy to give that phone and the sim cards to the CID. Up to the point that this column is being penned, there are no reports to say that the Swiss embassy has complied with this order. Perhaps Ambassador Jörg Frieden’s first task in Sri Lanka should be to ensure that the embassy staffer’s phone is handed over to the investigators. We have to hope that the Swiss Embassy will not do to those phones and SIM cards what Hillary Clinton had done to her phones and SIM cards – the FBI found that they had been smashed to bits with hammers!  

The behavior of the Swiss embassy from the very beginning is suspect. The incident is said to have happened on the 25th of November. It was the 27th November by the time the Swiss embassy informed the Sri Lankan foreign ministry. They had informed the New York Times before informing the Sri Lankan authorities.  Even after the Sri Lankan authorities were informed, the Swiss embassy refused to divulge even the name of the alleged victim and all they wanted was to get her and her entire family out of Sri Lanka in an ambulance plane. The official Swiss government statement quoted above has made much of the fact that senior Sri Lankan officials had questioned the alleged victim’s account before the investigations had been completed. It was the Swiss foreign ministry that made the whole incident public on an international scale by informing the New York Times even before it was reported to the Sri Lankan authorities. The New York Times article can be read on the following link:

 All the details provided by the Swiss embassy to the Sri Lankan government about the alleged incident have been proved wrong. The victim herself has retracted that story and told the CID another story and that second story too has been proved wrong. So much so that she is now being subject to a psychiatric examination on the orders of the Magistrate. There are three possible explanations for what may have happened. The Swiss embassy may have been duped by this employee who was looking for a quick way to get to Switzerland by claiming to be a victim of government repression. Seeing other people like fugitive policeman Nishantha de Silva getting visas over the counter may have motivated this woman to try the same.

The need to look East

 Another possibility is that this woman may have been motivated to do this by some outside party without the knowledge of the Swiss embassy. Another possibility is that she may have been put up to this by an outside party with the knowledge of the Swiss embassy. The latter possibility is what appears to be the case, when looking at the behavior of the Swiss embassy and the UNP with regard to this incident. There seems to be a close connection between the LTTE groups in Switzerland, the UNP, the TNA and the Swiss government. The new Sri Lankan government will have to figure out a way to deal with this. From the very beginning, the enemies of the Rajapaksas were the UNP and associated political parties and the Western embassies backing them. Now that the Rajapaksas are back with a huge mandate, naturally, these local representatives of the global liberal mafia are doing their damnedest to undermine the new government. We see this happening in other countries too where the global liberal mafia has been conclusively defeated.

 In the USA, the Democratic Party is trying to impeach President Donald Trump in a desperate bid to prevent him from being re-elected President. In the UK, Boris Johnsons’s victory at the recent general election has had the liberal mafia in that country literally chewing its own rear ends in anguish. Desmonstrations have been held with people shouting that Boris is not their Prime Minister. One individual was shouting into the camera saying that she wishes Boris Johnson a horrible death. The difference between the USA and the UK on the one hand and countries like Sri Lanka on the other is that in the former, only the political parties and their supporters are involved in the desperate, defeatist resistance to those elected governments, but in Sri Lanka, the political parties, their supporters and some foreign embassies are all involved.

 The Swiss drama which began within days of the new President assumed office clearly shows that the Western embassies will not allow the new government to rule the country in peace but will do their damnedest to undermine it. In last Monday’s statement, the Swiss authorities had indicated to the Sri Lankan authorities that it is seeking ‘a common and constructive way forward’ to resolve the security incident. This position has been reiterated in the statement issued by the Swiss authorities on Thursday as well. What is the resolution that the Swiss are seeking? If they want to have legal action against their local staffer stopped and permission to take her out of the country as they have been demanding all along, that is a not a feasible option for Sri Lanka because we would then be portrayed as the guilty party.

 We have not yet got to the bottom of who is behind all this. If the government caves into the Swiss demands and stops legal action against this local staffer, will Sri Lanka be left alone? Hardly likely. It will only intensify the campaign against Sri Lanka. Thus, the only feasible option that Sri Lanka has in the present case is to come down hard on all those involved. That will at least deter any future gimmicks of this sort. We should look at what Donald Trump and Boris Johnson are doing – they are steaming ahead with their plans regardless of opposition. We have no option but to follow suit. However we have a problem that the governments of the USA and UK do not have – which is interference by powerful Western countries that seek to divide Sri Lanka. The only practical antidote for this is for Sri Lanka to seek powerful international protectors. We have to take a long term perspective with regard to this matter. 

Sri Lanka’s economy too should turn east. Till the 1970s, Britain bought most of Sri Lanka’s tea. Today, the proportion of tea going into Britain is miniscule. That was not done deliberately but happened quite naturally over a number of years. In Sri Lanka’s case, the economy will have to be oriented away from the West to the east consciously over the next few years so that our dependency on the West is reduced and their ability to dictate terms goes down proportionately. It is certainly true that it is only the Swiss embassy that is involved in this spat with Sri Lanka and the other Western embassies have not got involved. But the fact that the Swiss can get away with what they have done up to now without international condemnation, indicates that Sri Lanka has no future with the West and that the wisest course of action is to look Eastwards.

 It’s ironic that things should come to such a pass today, when progressive, nationalistic governments have been elected against the determined resistance of the global liberal mafia in the USA, UK and Sri Lanka. Ideally, the relationship between Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Gotabaya Rajapaksa today should be the same as the relationship between the conservative leaders Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and J.R.Jayewardene in the 1980s. The common enemy of Trump, Johnson and GR is the global liberal mafia. However, the question of Tamil voters in the UK and the geopolitics of the Indian Ocean in the context of US-China rivalry preclude such a relationship today. Despite the victory of like minded political formations in certain important countries in the West, Sri Lanka cannot expect their help due to the compulsions of domestic politics or superpower rivalry. So we are more or less on our own and will have to seek protection from powerful countries that can stand up to the West and guarantee our sovereignty.

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