Colombo talking tough over Brigadier conviction
Sri Lanka is talking tough over the conviction of Brigadier Andige Priyanka Fernando by a UK court for making a threatening gesture at pro-LTTE supporters staging a demonstration outside the London High Commission calling the court decision “a politically motivated action.”
Fernando, the Defense Attaché at the Lanka High Commission was convicted by Chief Magistrate Erma Arbuthnot on December 6 and fined around GBP 2,400.
Action against Fernando was filed by one of the demonstrators who conducted a noisy demonstration outside the mission on February 4, Independence Day.
Arbuthnot found that Fernando the former Military Attaché at the Sri Lanka High Commission in London made a “Disreputable act for a senior military officer,” when he made the cut-throat gesture.
She said she has “no doubt he intended to cause at the least alarm. They were purposeful gestures, made as the Brigadier was staring at these protesters. The Brigadier was a senior officer in uniform wearing medals. Unlike the other senior officer there, his body language appeared to be arrogant and intimidating.”
She also noted that Fernando made the gesture three times and not just once. “In the context of the relationship between Sri Lanka and Tamil Elam (sic) protesters he must have known that it would have been alarming at the very least to the protesters who saw him do this” the Magistrate found.
The Sri Lanka Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement released today Dec 7 reiterated that Fernando as a diplomatic officer was immune from prosecution, a matter that Arbuthnot dismissed during the hearings.
The MFA said that the sequence of events – “the private prosecution, failure to uphold Brigadier Fernando’s diplomatic immunities, the timing of the delivering of the judgment on the eve of the UK elections, the alleged unruly and intimidatory (sic) behaviour of the supporters of the prosecution during Court hearings who were also carrying LTTE flags during these hearings, the alleged leaking of privileged information submitted in Court by the defence to the public domain by the private prosecution, makes abundantly clear that this is a politically motivated action.”