Govt. officials contradict each other over US embassy official incident

Govt. officials contradict each other over US embassy official incident

Govt. officials contradict each other over US embassy official incident

Written by Staff Writer

05 Jun, 2020 | 10:19 pm

COLOMBO (News1st): Government officials have expressed contradictory remarks regarding the U.S. Embassy official who refused to undergo PCR testing done at the Bandaranaike International Airport after arriving on a flight from Qatar on Thursday.

– What happened yesterday

An official attached to the U.S. Embassy in Colombo who had arrived on a flight from Qatar at around 1:30 a.m. on Thursday had refused to undergo a PCR Test.

Health officials have been conducting PCR Tests at the BIA to identify whether passengers have contracted COVID-19.

However, the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka said that the arrival of U.S. diplomatic staff to Sri Lanka complies with the norms and procedures outlined in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

– How did state officials react to this incident?

Director-General of Health Services Dr. Anil Jasinghe said that no one can refuse to undergo the test.

However, Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha said that diplomatic staff attached to foreign missions in Sri Lanka had not been informed about the PCR test.

He noted that steps had been taken to inform them in writing regarding this matter today.

Although the Foreign Secretary had made such remarks, the Ministry of Foreign Relations had addressed a special circular to all foreign missions on the 27th of March after COVID-19 had begun spreading in the country.

The circular had instructed diplomatic staff to abide by the directives issued by the Health Ministry and other relevant authorities in keeping with the Quarantine and Prevention of Diseases Act of 1962.

The Foreign Ministry had clearly explained to all foreign missions that it gives utmost priority to the sovereignty of the country.

Accordingly, the circular emphasized that all foreign nationals arriving in the country must follow the established procedures.

The document also stressed that the government has to implement certain measures amidst COVID-19, regardless of diplomatic immunity.

Against such a backdrop, what powers did the US embassy official exercise to enter the country after refusing the PCR test?

– What can be done now?

The US Embassy in Colombo states that its employee had acted in line with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

According to Article 41 of the Vienna Convention, a diplomat can enjoy diplomatic immunity while respecting the law and the regulations of the receiving state.

This provision also highlights that diplomats should not interfere with the internal affairs of the country.

It has been clearly stated in Section 9 of the Vienna Convention, that the head of a foreign mission or an employee at a foreign mission can be deported from the country after being terminated of their functions with the mission.

The latest incident has become the main topic of discussion in the political sphere.

Former Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara said that we should voice our diplomatic objection in this regard.

“We must inform the US embassy that this individual violated the health guidelines, and is now a threat to our country,” the Former Minister added.

Meanwhile, former parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa had also tweeted regarding the incident.

In his tweet, Rajapaksa had expressed disappointment regarding how the US diplomat had refused the PCR test.

The former parliamentarian also said that cooperation and respect of one another’s national frameworks which are put in place to save lives amid the global pandemic is needed more than ever, regardless of whether the Vienna Convention is in effect or not.

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