Garnia’s tele-chats with CID | Daily News


 

Swiss saga continues:

Garnia’s tele-chats with CID

The intriguing episode of alleged abduction of a local employee of the Swiss Embassy in Colombo has taken a new turn with the investigations into the telephone calls made by her. Some startling revelations cropped up leading to a strong suspicion of a very sinister motive to slander the government as it took office in November 2019.

The alleged abduction of Garnia Barrister Francis hogged the media spotlight, not only in Sri Lanka but in foreign capitals too barely a week from the commencement of new president Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s term of office. The Western media immediately jumped to their own conclusions even before the commencement of police investigations and depicted it as the ‘return of white van abduction era’.

First doubt about Garnia’s story, which was swallowed hook, line and sinker by her bosses including Ambassador Hanspeter Mock, began when the close circuit cameras revealed that she had not gone to St Bishop’s College, outside of which she claimed that the abduction had taken place. Then she changed the place of abduction to a housing complex in Colpetty. This change of story made the Swiss authorities to think about the veracity of her story as well as the conduct of the Ambassador, who tried to take her to Switzerland by an ambulance aircraft. They dispatched a former Ambassador to Sri Lanka for further discussions with the authorities. Later there was a half-hearted apology and reassurance of protecting bilateral friendship and cooperation.

Political asylum

Now there is more evidence to suggest a sinister plot. The Criminal Investigation Division (CID) informed the Colombo Chief Magistrate’s Court earlier this week that an analysis of phone recordings of Garnia had revealed that some people including former CID Director Shani Abeysekara had conducted several telephone conversations with her. Immediately after the Presidential elections in November, they fled to Switzerland and suspected to have obtained political asylum. This information was revealed in court when the case in which Garnia Barrister Francis was named as a suspect for causing disrepute to the State was taken up for hearing. Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne directed the CID to obtain a report from the Government Analyst based on Garnia’s mobile phone.

The court ordered that the report be submitted as a secret document to the court and the CID. This secrecy was to protect diplomatic immunity because the conversations could reveal some material that could fall into the category of diplomatic confidentiality. Although the Vienna Convention guarantees diplomatic immunity only to the diplomatic staff of the Embassy and that did not cover local employees like Garnia, the judiciary, as well as the government, took extra care to take these precautionary measures in the interest of bilateral relations.

The CID in its report said Garnia Francis had made a 108-seconds long phone call on November 21, 2019, to a phone number registered under a media person, who told that another media friend had used that phone. While the media person held a conversation with her Chairman, he had also held telephone conversations with interdicted CID Director Shani Abeysekara. Meanwhile, Shani Abeysekara has phoned IP Nishantha Silva, who had left the country without permission, on November 23.

Meanwhile, the CID said it expected to summon former CID Director Shani Abeysekera, who was under interdiction to Court on January 23 to obtain a statement on this matter. More facts could come up when the next hearing takes place on February 11.

While the Swiss abduction event, now apparently a non-event of a fictitious nature, continues to unfold, the people worry about the motive of this staged drama. What is the role of the Swiss Embassy? Was there any diplomatic involvement? If so what is the objective?

It was reported that the CID shared its evidence with the Swiss. Technical evidence, such as CCTV footage and phone records cannot be disputed. Similarly, the discrepancies in Garnia’s several statements cannot be dismissed offhand as a result of mental fatigue or fear.

The Swiss Foreign Ministry earlier delivered a series of demarches, and the State Secretary summoned Sri Lanka’s then-ambassador Karunasena Hettiarachchi to Berne demanding that he explained what it called the purported evidence.

However, with the emergence of new evidence, the Swiss dropped the belligerent attitude and extended cooperation accepting the thoroughness of Sri Lankan judicial system. They extended an apology – though a very reluctant half-hearted one – and expressed the need for normalizing relations.

However, so far no final answer has been found to the dispute whether or not Garnier Banister Francis, a Visa Assistant in the Swiss Embassy was abducted by unknown men, sexually assaulted and threatened to reveal information about Chief Inspector Adrian Nishantha Silva of the CID on November 25.

The government in its statements from the day of the complaint of the alleged abduction, adopted a certain rectitude in the face of this diplomatic onslaught, apparently seeking to avoid confrontation.

Lack of cooperation

Although the Swiss Embassy claimed that the ‘victim’ and the Embassy cooperated fully with the Sri Lankan authorities during the proceedings, they refrained from extending any cooperation in the beginning. They kept Garnia hidden in the Embassy premises and refused even to give her name to the host country. She was produced only after a court order was issued nearly two weeks later. Senior State counsel Janaka Bandara appearing on behalf of the CID told the magistrate last December that the embassy had not cooperated with the CID officers who visited the embassy to get a statement from Francis. He pointed out that if Garnia leaves the country without giving a statement, it would be impossible to find out what really happened.

The Swiss Embassy, without availing itself of local medical services for her for several days, wanted to fly her out of the country in an ambulance plane. Had this request been granted, Sri Lanka would have had no basis to defend itself against allegations that could be made by Garnia outside the country, since there would be no record of the incident, in the form of a victim complaint, to be investigated.

In a phone call to Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunewardena on December 18, his counterpart Federal Councilor Ignazio Cassis expressed his regret at the decision by the magistrate to place the embassy employee in remand custody. Minister Gunawardena, dismissing the charge, said that Sri Lankan judiciary has every right to investigate and question Garnia, who is a national of this country. However, he acknowledged that the incident should not cast a shadow over the good relations between the two countries.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, even after confirmation received that it was a fabricated incident, defended the action taken by Ambassador Mock. The President said the ambassador had all the right to report this matter when his local employee complains of such an incident.

The ambassador believed her story, so the government took action. When the CID inquiry showed it was fabricated, the legal process had to be followed, he said. Adding that he did not want it to become a ‘government to government’ issue, the president added: “I think it would be fair for the Swiss ambassador to distance himself from this lady – when they see the evidence.”

With the dramatic revelations on phone calls and ulterior motives, the Swiss authorities should take the President’s advice and distance from Garnia Barrister Francis, who is guilty of false evidence, not to talk of other criminal acts.

 


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