ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday December 16, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 29

Lankan HC dodges British summons

~ London Foreign Office wants to lodge official protest over Karuna’s ‘fake’ passport

From a Special Correspondent

London, Saturday - Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, Kshenuka Senewiratne, was summoned to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office for a meeting on Tuesday over issues relating to renegade Tiger guerrilla leader Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna entering Britain with official backing from the Government of Sri Lanka.

She, however, did not turn up. FCO sources said she had not intimated to the FCO her inability to turn up on that day. Other sources here said her absence was due to her not receiving instructions from Colombo on the official position of the Government and the position she should take up.

Kshenuka Senewiratne

The only official account the Sri Lanka Government has given is from the Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Bhaila. The deputy minister said the government was unaware of matters relating to Karuna’s entry to Britain. He told Parliament the diplomatic passport issued to Karuna (No: D 1944260) was non-existent and the Controller of Immigration and Emigration was unaware.

British Foreign Office sources told The Sunday Times they wanted to convey to High Commissioner Senewiratne their complete displeasure over official backing for Karuna to enter Britain. Whilst demanding an explanation over the move, the officials were also to tell her about the measures Britain proposed to take in this regard.

Karuna entered Britain on September 18 on a diplomatic passport. His visa has been issued by the British High Commission following a third person note issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The note urged the British High Commission to issue a visa to Kokila Dushmantha Gunawardena of “Diloo Court,” Malabe. This was the fictitious name given to Karuna.

The third person note gave his profession as Director, Wild Life Department. The purpose of travel was listed as attending a conference on climate change. The passport had been issued on August 18, 2007. The visa application sent together with the Foreign Ministry’s third person note had been made on August 18 this year. Despite posing off as Kokila Dushmantha Gunawardena, the diplomatic passport issued to Karuna carried his own photograph.

British Police, Immigration and Intelligence authorities have interrogated Karuna who is under detention. Immigration sources said he had made a statement giving details of the events leading to his arrest and detention. He has named an official of the Sri Lanka Embassy in Paris, holding a sensitive position, who had travelled to receive him at Heathrow Airport.

In Colombo, the subject of third person notes (TPN) from the Foreign Ministry to the British High Commission to facilitate the issue of visas has become a hot topic. Last week the High Commission received a series of these TPN from the Foreign Ministry on behalf of persons accompanying President Mahinda Rajapaksa. He left for Britain to take part in the passing-out ceremonies of his son Yoshitha from the Dartmouth Naval Academy.

The applicants included friends of Yoshitha. After clarification with the Foreign Ministry, most of the visas were issued. In one instance, a third person note recommended the visa for a businessman. He was designated as an aide to first lady, Shiranthi Rajapaksa. This application was first rejected. However, British High Commission officials declined to say whether a visa was thereafter issued.

Asked how many third person notes were received from the Foreign Ministry in Colombo, a High Commission spokesman said, “I can’t remember how many TPNs we have received from the Foreign Ministry in Colombo. We don’t maintain records. However, this year up-to-date we have sent more than 500 replies to third party notes. Most of these TPNs are seriously boring ones.”

Asked whether the visit of President Rajapaksa and his entourage to Britain was an official one, the spokesman said it was a private affair.“The Sri Lanka Government made a request that the President’s visit to Britain for the passing out parade of his son to be considered an official one though it was a private visit. As he is the President as well as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces he was allowed to take part as the chief guest at the event,” the spokesman said.

Among those in President Rajapaksa’s entourage was Navy Commander Wasantha Karannagoda. Unlike President Rajapaksa who flew from Tokyo to London, the navy chief flew from Colombo to be on hand at the Royal Naval Academy in Dartmouth for Subaltern Yoshitha Rajapaksa’s passing-out.

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