Gross violation of Vienna convention on diplomatic relations
Posted on May 2nd, 2023

S. Akurugoda

As per a news item appeared in The Island dated 2023/04/27, while launching ‘Nine: The Hidden Story’ to make the public aware as to how Gotabaya Rajapaksa was unconstitutionally removed, National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa named US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland as the architect of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ouster and its Ambassador here Julie Chung as its Director.

NFF leader pointed out how US Ambassador Julie Chung went to the extent of rushing to the Speaker’s official residence to persuade the Speaker Abeywardena to take over role of the country’s Presidency as protesters declared plans to take control of parliament. Ambassador Chung made this unprecedented move in the wake of a religious leader and an Opposition MP’s failure on the previous day to win over the Speaker, MP Weerawansa said.  When the Speaker pointed out to Ambassador Chung that in terms of the Constitution, in the event of the President’s resignation under whatever the circumstances, the Prime Minister succeeded the President, Ambassador Chung assured the Speaker he should assume the presidency and they would look after other issues,” MP Weerawansa said.

The parliamentarian compared the US strategy here with what they did in Libya in the run-up to the execution of Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011and after, and Ukraine where the US in 2019 installed Volodymyr Zelenskyy as President after ousting the legitimately elected President in 2014 in the Maidan uprising instigated by it after spending as much as five billion dollars as admitted by Nuland.

MP Weerawansa also pointed out how US Ambassador Julie Chung inquired from Secretary to the Treasury Mahinda Siriwardena about how Sri Lanka intended to spend the IMF money.

Statements issued by various foreign diplomats in Colombo, notably those of former and current US ambassadors, almost one after the other concerning the internal affairs of the host country, and reported visits and secret visits said to have been made to meet the opponents of the democratically elected government to matters related to internal politics are examples of diplomatic excesses. According to media reports Ambassador Julie Chung is meeting, questioning and advising government officials and politicians beating all the records of her predecessors.  

Mean while, as per a most recent news item appeared in Daily Mirror, former Navy Commander Karannagoda has said he believed that a former military official and the US ambassador are behind the US decision to blacklist him after the 14 years after the war. 

As stated above by the MP Weerawansa, the said Ambassador’s alleged involvements   in local politics are gross violation of the Vienna Convention since the foreign Diplomats are bound to respect the laws and regulations of the hosting State.

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961) contains the most widely accepted description of the international law on diplomacy. A diplomatic agent is granted different inviolabilities and privileges, as well as immunity from the jurisdiction of the receiving state, in order to enable them to exercise their official functions independently and effectively and to avoid any interference on the part of the receiving state. The functions of a diplomatic mission are clearly stated in the Article 3 of the said Convention.

The process of dealing with diplomats who are no longer welcome has now been fully recognized under Article 9 of the Vienna Convention:

1. The receiving State may at any time and without having to explain its decision, notify the sending State that the head of the mission or any member of the diplomatic staff of the mission is persona non grata or that any other member of the staff of the mission is not acceptable. In any such case, the sending State shall, as appropriate, either recall the person concerned or terminate his functions with the mission. A person may be declared non grata or not acceptable before arriving in the territory of the receiving State.

2. If the sending State refuses or fails within a reasonable period to carry out its obligations, the receiving State may refuse to recognize the person concerned as a member of the mission.

The most common response when foreign diplomatic officials act inappropriately is to declare those officials ‘persona non grata ‘and to expel them from the country, if diplomatic parlance fails. While this is traditionally a remedy for offenses committed by the actual personnel being expelled, it is entirely at the host country’s discretion and several nations have used it to respond to objectionable activities on the part of a foreign government as a whole.

We remember how President Ranasinghe Premadasa declared David Gladstone, who served as Britain’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka between 1987-1991, ‘persona non grata ‘and expelled from the country for his unwarranted interference in an internal matter of the country”. Although it is hard to believe that the current rulers will take any action against the said superpower envoy,   time has come to let the meddlesome foreign envoys in Colombo to be aware of the growing concern, among the Sri Lankan population about their undue foreign interference.      

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