By Easwaran Rutnam
The British High Commission in Colombo yesterday refused visas to outgoing Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona and former Deputy Tourism Minister and MP Arjuna Ranatunga, government sources told Daily Mirror last night.
According to well informed sources Dr. Kohona and Mr. Ranatunga had submitted their passports to the British High Commission for a visa to London but to their surprise the passports were returned without any valid reason for turning down their visa applications.
Protesters spray political messages on the wall of the British High Commission during a demonstration in central Colombo May 18, 2009-Reuters pic.
The Foreign Ministry’s Chief of Protocol, through whom Dr. Kohona’s passport was forwarded to the British High Commission, later sought an explanation for returning the passport but a High Commission official had reportedly told the Foreign Office that the Foreign Secretary should be personally present at the High Commission to obtain the visa.
However the Foreign Ministry had insisted that Dr. Kohona had no reason to be personally present at the High Commission to obtain the visa as he was the Foreign Secretary of the Country, government sources told Daily Mirror online.
The Foreign Ministry had later again sought a visa to London for the Foreign Secretary, but the second attempt too was rejected with the High Commission saying there was not enough time to process the visa.
An angry Foreign Ministry, which insisted that the application was given with 24 hours notice, had made several attempts to contact the British High Commissioner and his Deputy to seek their intervention but they could not be contacted over the telephone, the government said.
The government is of the view the British High Commission had violated diplomatic protocols by rejecting a visa for the Foreign Secretary and parliamentarian Arjuna Ranatunga and felt this had further strained relations between Britain and Sri Lanka.
Dr. Kohona left the country late last night to take up his new post at the United Nations as the Permanent Representative to Sri Lanka.
Government sources said Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama was expected to summon the British High Commissioner Dr. Peter Hayes today to seek an explanation over the visa rejection, particularly to the Foreign Secretary.
Earlier Attorney General Mohan Peiris was also inconvenienced by the British High Commission which asked him to appear in person for an interview to grant a visa.
Attempts by Daily Mirror to contact the British High Commission spokesman for a comment on the incident were futile.
COURTESY: DAILY MIRROR