Govt sees Swiss Embassy abduction saga as attempt to discredit President

Having assured the Swiss Embassy of protection to its employee at the centre of the alleged abduction/detainment controversy and urging her to provide a statement to the police, the Ministry of Foreign Relations suggested yesterday that the entire episode could’ve been an attempt to discredit President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Following a briefing session for all heads of missions in Colombo on the situation, Foreign Relations Minister Dinesh Gunawardena told reporters that the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has investigated the information conveyed by the Swiss Embassy and that there is “very little truth in the main allegation.”

“We feel this is another step of spreading misinformation and slinging mud at the political leadership of the country. Just before the election, the same thing in a different form was campaigned, but the country rejected it,” said Gunawardena.

Stressing that the CID is on the case, the Minister said that, based on what has been revealed so far, the allegation has “no standing”.

In his latest communication with the Swiss Ambassador, the Minister had reiterated the Government’s request to have the employee make a statement to the CID, and had assured him that both the employee and her family will be protected.

“We met the Ambassador on 27 November [two days after the alleged incident]. The Prime Minister also met him that same afternoon. We have assured them that we will abide by all the diplomatic immunities and respective processes adopted in relation to such situations. We have also requested the Embassy to cooperate [with the authorities] by asking this person to make a statement to the CID,” he said.

Subsequent to the meeting, the Minister said, permission had been sought from the Government to have the employee and her family airlifted to Switzerland via air ambulance over the weekend. The Foreign Relations Ministry, however, had asked the Embassy to follow standard procedure adopted by diplomatic missions in such situations.

The Swiss Embassy has maintained that the female staffer is unable to testify owing to a deteriorating state of health. Foreign Relations Ministry Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha said that, so far, only a Swiss doctor has examined her and there was no evidence that she had been looked at by a Sri Lankan doctor.

In the absence of a formal complaint, the CID’s preliminary investigation had been based entirely on the information conveyed to the Government by the CID, said Minister Gunawardena. Pointing to a statement issued by the Ministry earlier this week, he said there were contradictions in the Embassy’s version of events and the actual movements of the alleged victim.

“We stand by this statement,” he added.

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Meanwhile, State Minister for International Cooperation Susil Premajayantha who was also present at yesterday’s press briefing said that, as a citizen of Sri Lanka, the embassy employee should’ve first gone to the police.

“The first thing one must do when faced with such a situation is to lodge a complaint at the nearest police station. Failing which, one may call the 119 emergency hotline,” said Premajayantha, adding that while the Government is committed to upholding diplomatic values and obligations, safeguarding the country’s image was of paramount importance too.

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