Bring IOM chief to justice
Our continuing sense of outrage over the death
of 21-year-old radio journalist, Rukshani Prasadini in a road accident
featuring a car driven by the chief of the International Organisation
for Migration (IOM), Christopher Gascon, compels us to raise the issue
of whether justice is being truly meted out in this tragedy.
What is provoking exasperation and protest is the fact that the IOM
chief has slipped out of the country subsequent to the accident,
apparently claiming diplomatic immunity. In other words, if one enjoys
diplomatic status in this country, one could wriggle out of a charge of
even manslaughter or murder by citing diplomatic immunity.
If the provision of diplomatic immunity could be so abused it would
be futile to speak of the need to sustain the Rule of Law. These are the
reasons why a good part of our polity is aghast at the ease with which
the IOM chief seems to have slipped past the local justice system.
We are given to understand that the file relating to this case is
currently before the Attorney General. We request that every avenue be
explored to bring the IOM chief before the law. We join every right
thinking person in this country in demanding that justice be meted out
fully to Rukshani Prasadini.
What has compounded public exasperation and outrage in this case is
the IOM head's seeming indifference to the magnitude of the harm his
actions have caused.
It is only a prosecution by due process which could establish the
culpability or otherwise of Gascon for the tragedy which befell
Prasadini but the IOM chief's devious conduct only strengthens the
allegations and suspicions against him.
For, if he was not culpable of any offence, the IOM head would have
remained in the country and made himself available for questioning by
the law enforcement authorities. We believe that Gascon should not only
have stayed on but of his own accord provided assistance and succour to
Prasadini's next of kin until the legal process was initiated against
him and completed.
Accordingly, we call on the IOM to ensure that their chief is brought
back to Sri Lanka to answer the charges against him. They cannot evade
this responsibility. Besides, if the IOM has the interests of their
chief at heart it would advise the latter to come back to Sri Lanka and
clear his name, if he is not guilty of having committed any grave
In short, the IOM chief should conduct himself in an accountable
manner. There is no getting away for this crucial need.
Legal opinion in Sri Lanka should from now on seek to take-up with
the international community the need to rectify any loopholes or
limitations in International Law pertaining to diplomatic immunity. The
use of diplomatic immunity should be subjected to strict limitations and
curbs. This much is clear.
Certainly, one cannot commit a grave offence and seek to escape the
consequences by citing diplomatic immunity. This would amount to eroding
the foundational pillars of justice.
By raising these issues we do not intend to call for a kind of
retributive justice. Vengeance, in short, is not our motive. However,
our concern for preserving the Rule of Law is one reason. Another reason
is our concern that justice be meted out to the victim of the offence.
Yet another reason is our demand that accountable behaviour be enforced
on everyone who steps on our soil and comes under the purview of the
local law and order system.
The INGO community in particular should not run away with the belief
that it could play ducks and drakes with the local justice system. We
have come a long way from colonial times. Sri Lanka is not a subject
country and should be treated by everyone as such.