Sri Lanka demanded an explanation from the United Kingdom government why the request of President Maithripala Sirisena’s son Daham and his three friends to travel to UK was subject to long delays. This unusual protest received a right royal snub and a strong telling off from UK officials.
This is while President Sirisena, who speaks of press freedom, telephoned newspaper editors and proprietors to request them not to print any news report in this regard. Like the power blackout, there is also news blackout in the Sirisena era that is ordered by him. His explanation was that he was unaware about the son’s matter. The same President Sirisena told a meeting of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress in Kalmunai this week that there was media freedom in Sri Lanka now and the media could report on anything without fear or favour.
Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Chitranganee Wagiswara summoned Laura Davies, Deputy UK High Commissioner in Sri Lanka to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to lodge a strong protest on behalf of the government and the President. Davies has been told in strong terms this should not have been done.
Davies has challenged the Sri Lanka government’s claim and emphasised the proper procedures have not been followed. At first, Daham Sirisena’s application together with the ones from his friends have been sent to the British High Commission with only a request note by the Chief of Protocol M.R. Hassen. It was only after they asked for documentation some were forwarded.
The female diplomat has said thereafter Daham’s visa was issued. However, Davies has declared other applications had to be processed in the normal course and revealed something shocking. One applicant had been debarred from entering the United Kingdom five years ago for forwarding false documentation. The British diplomat has said it was not the right of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to demand visas for third parties without proper documentation in keeping with UK laws. The issue of visas were at the sole discretion of the UK government.
In the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where cut throat infighting is the order of the day, the story had been leaked to the media by one faction. On finding this out, Chief of Protocol M.R. Hassen, who worked earlier at the Presidential Secretariat (before becoming protocol chief), had conveyed to President Sirisena that the story embarrassing him and his son was going to appear in all the media. This is why Sirisena made the urgent calls to Sinhala, Tamil and English newspapers.
Chief of Protocol Hassen is identified in the Ministry as the one who has been conveying matters against Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera to the Presidential Secretariat. It was he who was responsible for Hotel Taj Samudra giving bills to the Prime Minister of New Zealand and his party who came to Sri Lanka. No proper instructions have been given by him to the hotel and Hassen has been blaming the Prime Minister’s office during meetings with those in the Presidential Secretariat.
One leading Sinhala journalist said there was no difference between former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and present President Maithripala Sirisena. When Sajin de Vass Gunawardena physically assaulted Chris Nonis, Sri Lanka High Commissioner then to UK, it was Rajapaksa who telephoned newspapers in Colombo not to publish the report. The Colombo Telegraph brought this out. Now, it is Sirisena, who is after Rajapaksa’s own children, who is preventing the wrong doings of his son being exposed. “There is no difference between the two sides. In fact President Sirisena is turning out to be much worse,” the journalist said.
Correction: The original version of this story said Chris Nonis, Sri Lanka High Commissioner then to New York.