Appeal filed by former Sri Lankan Ambassador to the United States Jaliya Wickramasuriya challenging Court of Appeal’s decision to dismiss a writ petition filed regarding his diplomatic immunity dismissed by Supreme Court as having no merit

By

Lakmal Sooriyagoda

An appeal filed by former Sri Lankan Ambassador to the United States Jaliya Wickramasuriya challenging Court of Appeal’s decision to dismiss a writ petition filed regarding his diplomatic immunity has been dismissed by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court further refused to issue a writ of Mandamus directing the Minister of Foreign Affairs to write to the Government of the United States of America, informing that Wickreamasuriya continue to enjoy all the diplomatic privileges and immunities in terms of Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Privileges and immunities respect of acts performed by him in exercise of his functions the America and United Mexican States.

Supreme Court three-judge-bench comprising Justice Vijith K. Malalgoda PC, Justice Kumuduni Wickremasinghe and Justice Mahinda Samayawardhena observed that there is no merit in the appeal before Supreme Court and thereby decided to dismiss the appeal with cost fixed at Rs. 50,000.

The writ petition filed by Jaliya Wickramasuriya challenging the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s decision to waive his diplomatic immunity had been dismissed by Court of Appeal on March 29, 2018.Through this appeal before Supreme Court, Jaliya Wickramasuriya sought an order to set aside the order dated March 29, 2018 by Court of Appeal.

While upholding the preliminary objections raised by Attorney General against the writ petition, Court of Appeal had decided to dismiss the petition in limine. The Attorney General contended that the powers relating to the diplomatic affairs are vested with the President and thereby this application should have heard before Supreme Court.

The position of the petitioner was that he is entitled for immunity even though he is no longer holding a diplomatic position, under Article 39 (2) of the Convention for acts committed in the capacity of the Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the United States of America. However, the Attorney General had contended that the Court of Appeal does not have jurisdiction to entertain the said application as the decision to waive diplomatic immunity enjoyed by the Petitioner was based on a decision taken by the President, which was conveyed to the Embassy of the United States of America by the Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Justice Malalgoda observed that the Court of Appeal had correctly allowed the preliminary objection raised by the state, based on the affidavit filed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs before the Supreme Court. The decision of the Court of Appeal was mainly based on Article 35 of the constitution.

By submitting an affidavit before Supreme Court, the newly added Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had informed that, all his efforts to find any documentary proof with regard to any decision that was communicated from the Presidential Secretariat to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was failed but he has not taken up the position that there was no such decision by the President on or around 23.10.2017 to withdraw the Diplomatic immunity enjoyed by the Petitioner with regard to the official acts committed by him during his tenor as the Ambassador to the United States of America.

However, the affidavit filed before the Court of Appeal by then Secretary to Ministry of Foreign Affairs who said to have received such instruction and acted on the said instruction and communicated such instruction by Note Verbal dated 23.10.2017 was not rejected or denied by any authority before Supreme Court.

In his writ petition before Court of Appeal, Jaliya Wickramasuriya alleged that the Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had issued a letter informing US authorities that diplomatic immunity of former Sri Lankan Ambassador to the US Jaliya Wickramasuriya had been removed. The former Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya is a close relative of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The FCID had filed a ‘B’ report in the Fort Magistrate’s Court against Jaliya Wickramasuriya for allegedly misappropriating USD 330,000 out of USD 6.6 million allocated for purchasing a building for Sri Lankan Embassy in US.

Courtesy:Daily Mirror