Sri Lanka arrests MP Weerawansa for travelling on ‘stolen’ passport – Update

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s ultra nationalist legislator Wimal Weerawansa was arrested by the Criminal Investigations Department as he tried to leave the country using a "stolen" passport.

Weerawansa told a Sinhala-language website that he was leaving for Dubai, Italy and France when he was stopped at the immigration counter of the Bandaranaike International Airport.

The CID took him into custody after immigration records showed that he himself had reported his diplomatic passport stolen, yet he was trying to use it to travel out of the island today. After complaining that his passport was stolen, he had obtained a new passport.

The travel document he was using on Friday was the "stolen" diplomatic passport he had obtained during the former regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa. However, he also had another passport in his possession in violation of immigration laws.

"My diplomatic passport was stolen. Then I got a new one. While changing houses, I found the old diplomatic passport. I had thought that (the diplomatic passport) was the new one and got the visa on that. This morning I got another passport.

"The CID is detaining me for investigations. I said let me go and you can do the investigations when I return, but they won’t let me."

However, parliament was later told that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe intervened and ensured that he could leave the country and face an inquiry on his return, a privileged ordinary citizens are not accorded.

Discounting the government claim in parliament that Weerawansa had been granted special treatment, the CID produced the MP before a magistrate in Negombo who ordered his release on 10,000 rupee cash and two million rupees in surety bail.

Opposition legislator Dinesh Gunewardene questioned why Weerawansa was blocked at the airport and warned that a future administration may do the same to other legislators.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said if there was a court order against Weerawansa he would not be able to do anything, but promised to look into the matter.

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He said when Mahinda Rajapaksa wanted to travel to Geneva to ask for an international inquiry during an earlier United National Party administration in the late 1980s, Ranjan Wijeratne, then defence ministry had wanted to stop him.

Wickremesinghe said he had advised Wijeratne to allow Rajapaksa to travel to Geneva and demand an international court. (Colombo/Oct23/2015)

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