14 July, 2020

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UK FCO Mishandled Brigadier Priyanka Fernando’s Case

By Rajeewa Jayaweera

Rajeewa Jayaweera

Former Sri Lankan Defense Attaché in London, Brigadier Priyanka Fernando had to be recalled post-haste after he was seen making a throat-slitting gesture at demonstrators in front of the High Commission during Independence Day celebrations on February 04, 2018.

In October 2018, The Public Interest Law Centre, on behalf of one Majuran Sathnandan (Complainant) filed a private petition against Brigadier Priyanka Fernando (Defendant) in the Westminster Magistrates Court. Sathanandan accused Fernando with offenses under section 4 of the Public Order Act 1986 of having repeatedly threatening protestors with a throat-slitting gesture while in full military dress uniform and produced video footage to the effect.

As background information, Sathsnandan had provided Fernando’s supposed wartime track record of having been active in the Mullaitivu Front while being attached to the 59th Division. He claimed, ‘battled hardened Fernando’ played a crucial role in the Mullaitivu offensive including the attack on the Mullaitivu Hospital and was a key member in military decision making and therefore performed a leadership role.

Fernando was charged for acting Contrary to S.5 (1) and (6) of the Public Order Act of 1986 (use of threatening/abusive/ disorderly behavior, display of writing, or any other threatening or abusive visible sign. He was also charged for acting Contrary to S.4 (1) and (4) of the Public Order Act of 1986 for making signs with intent to cause that person to believe that immediate unlawful violence will be used against him and others. Sathanandan sought for Fernando to be held accountable for his actions in the UK.  

Since Brigadier Fernando had left his post a few days after the February 4 incident, summons had in fact not been served. 

Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka High Commission in London, vide Note Verbal dated October 29, 2018, had informed the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) that in the first instance, Fernando was no longer in the UK and secondly, he enjoyed all privileges and immunities accorded to a diplomatic agent under Article 31 of the Vienna Convention.   

Under the standard diplomatic practice, it was the duty of the FCO to inform the Court through appropriate channels of the fact, Brigadier Fernando, on the date of the incident had been an accredited diplomatic agent of a foreign State and enjoyed immunity from judicial prosecution.

When the case was taken up for hearing on January 21, 2019, it was stated, the Defendant had not responded to a court summons issued earlier. It resulted in the issuance of a warrant for his arrest.

The FCO in this instance had either failed to inform relevant court authorities of Fernando’s diplomatic status or else it is a case of total breakdown of communications. Either way, the competence of the British bureaucracy has been found wanting in a relatively uncomplicated issue.

The Sri Lankan State often has failed to assert itself on both bilateral and multilateral issues. Its Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been notoriously shy in dealing with Colombo based foreign diplomats stepping out of line. In a surprise and welcome development, Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Ariyasinghe summoned British High Commissioner James Dauris last week. According to reliable sources, he had reiterated contents of Note Verbal 29 sent earlier by the Sri Lankan High Commission in London and requested Dauris to communicate same to his superiors at FCO without delay. The High Commission in London too had been directed to take up the issue with FCO.

Hopefully, Dauris will act with the same speed and alacrity with which he turned up at the Foreign Ministry in Colombo to register his government’s views after the incident on February 04, 2018.

The FCO would do well to investigate and establish if its communication to the Magistrate’s Courts stating Fernando’s diplomatic status was deliberately held back by saboteurs or delivered and lost within the Magistrates Courts. If it had been received and ignored by the Panel of Magistrates at the January 21 hearing, urgent steps need be taken to educate British Magistrates on International Law.                   

Meanwhile, the arrest warrant has now been withdrawn and relisted for another hearing on February 01 in the Chief Magistrate’s Court. 

London based International Centre for the Prevention and Prevention of Genocide (ICPPG), a Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) initiative, in a statement called the withdrawal of the arrest warrant “A shame to the independence of the British Judiciary” and a “disgrace to the integrity of the British legal system.”       

There is a lesson to be learned. Proponents of the UNHRC 30/1 Resolution, namely the USA now replaced by Canada, and the UK have been advocating the introduction of foreign judges in local tribunals to investigate war crimes and other accountability issues. Sri Lanka should resist such a move with all available resources. Sri Lanka could well manage without the likes of West Minster Magistrates not familiar with International Law!

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Latest comments

  • 5
    11

    “Sri Lanka could well manage without the likes of West Minster Magistrates not familiar with International Law!”
    Not only SL, any country on the world map today is capable of handling her own affairs. The so-called superpowers and a certain section of politicians still believe they should control the rest of the world. It won’t happen in the future whether there is a ‘powerful’ or ‘powerless’ diaspora in those countries, that manipulate politics hiding behind their newly acquired citizenship.
    If you want to live in a peaceful world let those democratic countries decide what they are supposed to do on politics, society, culture, and economy. How can you remote control a country situated thousands of miles away? Even through Neo-Liberal policies this exercise has become a non starter and total failure.
    If Trump wins again, it is because he has realized this as a fact.

    • 6
      3

      Rj

      “Even through Neo-Liberal policies “

      What is a Neo-Liberal and what are Neo-Liberal policies?
      Don’t be shy you can tell me all that you know about Neo-Liberal policies.

      • 2
        0

        Rajeewa, it is not UK FCO that mishandled this case but the government of Sri Lanka. When it became known that a crime had been committed not in keeping with the diplomatic status, the then High commissioner correctly suspended him of his duties. Instead of promptly recalling him, that donkey Sirisena reinstated him for political reasons. It was only after diplomatic pressure by UK that government recalled him. It is in the Vienna convention that if a person with diplomatic immunity commits a crime, the country of origin has to punish him. In this case no inquiry or punishment was made but instead the criminal was presented with a gift of a three month trip to China, violating the Vienna principle. If everything was done according to set procedure, nothing would have happened. Due to this madness, those who felt that crime has gone unpunished filed action in UK courts. Even then when summons was sent to High Commission, instead of saying that the person is no longer there, they should have sent a representative to the courts explaining the diplomatic immunity status of the accused. They were haughty and when judgement was given that a crime has been committed, they woke up and started defending. Even if the case collapses due to legal reasons, the fact that this person was tired in courts and becomes a convicted criminal. So much for the war heroes who are in the eyes of the world are war criminals.

    • 2
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      @Raj, Not only SL, any country on the world map today is capable of handling her own affairs.

      If the above is true why is that Lanka goes on its knees begging for foreign aid? Please explain this strange issue to ignorant people like us, please please please

  • 3
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    Well said.

    • 5
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      Hela

      “Well said.”

      Did you really mean “Bull S**t”?

  • 2
    1

    Jayaweera: Mishandling is part of their democracy. Read about Brazil which months ago was fast developing and was a member of BRICS etc., Now look like Sri lanka.

  • 6
    3

    We can send this Genaraaal to Maali.

    • 1
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      Nathan: I feel That Tamils were involved in MAALi.

  • 5
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    Very sad to see Rajeewa Jayaweera gnawing away on the wrong bone.

    The simple, unassailable fact is that the Former Sri Lankan Defense Attaché in London, Brigadier Priyanka Fernando, when under provocation in a non-combatant situation, behaved like a Mattakuliya chandiya when he should have maintained a stiff-upper-lipped, diplomatic, demeanour. He did not behave like a responsible officer (leave aside the ‘gentleman’ bit). He embarrassed his own High Commissioner. Because of his silly schoolboy action, he had to be recalled, in haste, to Colombo.

    Everything else is collateral. A waste of everyone’s time. Mr Jayaweera could do better.

    What is it with our Foreign Ministry? Did they learn nothing from the Sajin Vass Gunawardhena slapping incident? Do they not consider the character of the people they send out to lie abroad on our behalf?

    • 3
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      Spring Koha

      Is it true “A fish rots from the head down”?

      • 2
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        Very true, Native Vedda. Not only that, when it rots, it gives off a very bad smell. Phew!

    • 1
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      Well said, the defense attaché must have forgotten that he was in a foreign soil, where laws for behaving indecently in public places is a crime Whilst in Sri lanka they could bend the laws at their will and whimsy.

  • 1
    1

    Throat cutting gesture? If so, even King Siri Sangabo would have been guilty of a serious crime. But thanks to the fact that the British who killed millions of men, women and children around the world to make an Empire upon which the sun never set, were not around at that time, he remains a true hero.
    .
    As I have been stressing many times in CT, it was either a Siri Sangabo style gesture of Metta, to avoid more trouble for the Tamil something, something or an offer of gold chains for those well known women terrori… – sorry, activists- who now act as if they were cats observing Ata Sil.

  • 2
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    ‘jayaweera’, what shame name you got –
    haven’t got time to read your article in detail
    But its seems to be you are disappointed by the court order
    If you behave well in another soil – You wont be in trouble
    Srilankan military threat tamils here and there
    I dont think its an acceptable practice for a military person – who hold a diplomatic position in UK
    Doesn’t Matter the background of protestors – there is a way to react when you hold a position which suppose to handle things diplomatic
    (don’t give feedback to this comments – because i don’t follow them ,save your time)

  • 0
    1

    Rajeewa Jayaweera,

    “The FCO would do well to investigate and establish if its communication to the Magistrate’s Courts stating Fernando’s diplomatic status was deliberately held back by saboteurs or delivered and lost within the Magistrates Courts. If it had been received and ignored by the Panel of Magistrates at the January 21 hearing, urgent steps need be taken to educate British Magistrates on International Law.”

    Agreed.

  • 1
    1

    Dude do you think ITGP too has mishandled Shavendra,s case. Message is pretty clear. Allow investigations to proceed, that includes international participation (because you guys have been lying too long and the world bodies are sick and tired of it). If you resist, the cases will be transferred out of Lanka to international judges. You are well aware that Jaliya will be surrendering soon to FBI. They are good at offering deals to get information (Flynn and Cohen will attest to that) on the master minds of these murders.Eventually this man will be in a list which is of serious offence.

  • 0
    1

    By the way ITGP wants to talk to you and DJ at the earliest.

  • 2
    1

    Lankan Military Attaché in the SL High Commission in UK, Brigadier Priyankara Fernando repeated gestured throat slitting from inside the High Commission. He is in the Lankan Army.
    This dismayed the international community and has damaged our reputation.
    Here is our very own Rajeewa Jayaweera nit-picking on some other details!
    .
    In the CT article of 27 January 2019, “Boycott UK Defense Advisor” Rajeewa Jayaweera hopes that Lord Naseby will persuade UNHRC to let SL off the hook.
    Lord Naseby has not succeeded in persuading his own peers.

    • 0
      0

      Is there any chance that the noble Lord Naseby can have a word with Westminster magistrates and have our esteemed brigadier’s name expunged from the record?

      I know the answer, but I think that some Sri Lankan politicians think that Lord Naseby can turn water into wine.

      • 1
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        Spring Koha

        I heard Champika too travelled all the way from his home to the lord’s abode in London, looking for wine. Champika used to be a home grown nasty nationalist who had no respect for foreign states or foreigners that mattered.

        Why do our little islanders make much ado about nothing?
        Is Rajeewa Jayaweera naive, or a bigot, or craving for attention?

  • 0
    2

    This incident has shown why Sri Lanka should vehemently reject the idea of foreign judges. The British judges seem not to have knowledge that diplomats are covered with Vienna convention. Do we need any of our army personal to be judged by such inferior judges? British judiciary seems to be inferior when it comes to its standards and extremely unprofessional. No wonder UK is on a downward direction with such judges and David Miliband as foreign secretary who was humiliated in Sri Lanka.

    If Brits agree, Sri Lanka should offer to help them improve their judiciary. Even the brits and NGOs did acknowledge the high standards of our judiciary when the judges gave a decision against president of the country.

    • 1
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      sach the stupid

      ” The British judges seem not to have knowledge that diplomats are covered with Vienna convention. “

      Of course they may or may not have the knowledge.
      Please invite them for a seminar conducted under the auspices of Sajin Vass, Shavendra Silva, Priyankara, Palitha Kohana, Dayan, ………………………

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