Unfortunately, the new government led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had to face a diplomatic crisis even before a fortnight of its election into power is over. The Swiss Embassy in Colombo has lodged an official complaint with the Foreign Ministry about an alleged abduction and questioning of one of its local employees by an unidentified group.
Prior to this incident a senior official of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Nishantha de Silva, who had been in charge of the investigations into the high profile crimes that had been committed during the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration had left for Switzerland with his family.
It is believed that he had left Sri Lanka fearing action against him by the new government and he had obtained political asylum in Switzerland.
It was also alleged that the female employee of the Swiss Embassy had been questioned by her abductors on the circumstances of Inspector Nishantha Silva leaving the country. Despite the fact that what really happened involving the Swiss Embassy employee would come to light after a thorough investigation into it, the backdrop of the complaint unfortunately but naturally goes against the government.
After preliminary investigations, the Government authorities on Sunday said that the findings of those investigations did not tally with the information provided by the Swiss Embassy while claiming that the investigations were continuing.
Yet, there are still possibilities of the world opinion being unfavourable to the government. Firstly, the former Mahinda Rajapaksa Government had been accused of so many abductions and disappearances by the opposition political parties, civil society organizations, local as well as international human rights organizations and even the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
Apart from this, there are several other factors as well that might go against the government. The Swiss Government has said that it had taken the incident very seriously, as its embassy in Colombo had claimed in a statement on Friday.
And one has to realize that Switzerland is not a country like Swaziland in Africa when it comes to creating world opinion. It has the capacity to influence the world opinion as a European country than what Sri Lanka can do in the world political and human rights arenas.
Sri Lanka would be the main topic again at the 43rd regular session of the UNHRC that is to be held in Geneva also in Switzerland, between February 24 and March 20 next year.
The UNHRC in its earlier resolutions on Sri Lanka and in the reports of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had expressed serious concerns over the alleged abductions during the war against the LTTE and after the end of it.
Even if the government is totally innocent in the alleged latest abduction case, it has to take into account the adverse impact on its image by these factors. If the government did not act swiftly and in a professional manner in this issue, it would be tantamount to giving its adversaries new opportunities to open the old wounds
Hence, the duty of the government in this regard is twofold: one is to bring the truth about the alleged abduction to light and to take the culprits to task and the other is to clear its image, at the earliest.
It would be very essential for the government to be open in this regard and leave no room for suspicion on its stance and activities pertaining to the matter. Leaders of the government have to focus on addressing the international community, rather than their local constituency. In case of a conflict between the government’s version and that of the Swiss embassy, there is a possibility of many Western governments siding with the embassy.
Yet, the Swiss embassy has not so far accused the government over the incident. It had lodged the complaint with the very government. Hence, both parties must be on one side, rather than acting as the accuser and the accused.
The government should not leave room for any prior conclusion to be vindicated due to dragging feet by the investigating authorities. Finally, there could only be two scenarios; an incident of abduction or a canard of abduction.
The only way for the government to absolve itself from any allegation or suspicion is to swiftly bring the truth to light and take the culprits –abductors or canard makers - to the task, failing which government would have to take the responsibility to the alleged crime.