By Chandani Kirinde
Switzerland yesterday demanded an immediate and complete investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident in which 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.
The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) in Bern, in response to an email inquiry by the Daily FT, said Switzerland regards this incident as a very serious and unacceptable attack on one of its diplomatic representations and employees.
“Switzerland promptly reported the incident to the Sri Lankan authorities and is demanding an immediate and complete investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident. It also calls for the perpetrators to be brought to justice and for the guarantee of the security of the Swiss representation in Colombo and its employees to be fully restored,” the Swiss FDFA said.
It added that this message was conveyed yesterday by the Swiss Ambassador to Sri Lanka to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena together with a diplomatic demarche.
“Furthermore, the Sri Lankan Ambassador to Switzerland has been summoned to the FDFA, Switzerland’s Foreign Ministry,” Pierre-Alain Eltschinger of the FDFA’s Information Division said in the email.
The Swiss Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Hanspeter Mock, paid what was described as a “courtesy call” on new Foreign Affairs Minister Gunawardena last morning.
When asked for a comment, the MFA in Colombo said: “The Police and CID are conducting an investigation into the alleged incident and the authorities are hopeful of the fullest cooperation of the Swiss Embassy.”
The Daily FT learns that the incident had taken place on Monday night and the employee in question had been questioned about the issuance of a visa to CID officer Inspector of Police (IP) Nishantha Silva, who left for Geneva earlier this week along with his family.
CID officer Silva, who investigated several high-profile cases including the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge and the disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda, left the country on Saturday for Geneva.
As he had left the country without prior permission from the Police Department, an inquiry has been launched against him by the department.
Following Silva’s departure, on Monday the Government issued a directive to immigration authorities placing overseas travel restrictions on 704 CID officers.
The list containing the names of CID officers who are barred from overseas travel was sent to the Immigration and Emigration Office at the Bandaranaike International Airport.
When asked about the issue, Cabinet spokesman Bandula Gunawardana said he was “unaware” of the incident. “We will ask the Acting IGP to make a statement on this matter.”