The Sri Lankan immigration department on Sunday detained Australian Greens party Senator Lee Rhiannon and New Zealand MP Jan Logie, minutes ahead of a press conference they were scheduled to address here.
Ms. Rhiannon and Ms. Logie were in Sri Lanka, reportedly on a fact-finding mission. They travelled to the Northern Province — which was shattered during the civil war — and on Sunday organised a press conference to share their observations. It was to be held at the Colombo office of the Tamil National Alliance, which recently formed the provincial government in the north.
However, immigration officials detained them, saying their visa norms did not permit them to hold a press conference during this visit and told them that they were engaging in activities without the knowledge of the Sri Lankan government. The officialsasked both MPs to make separate statements to authorities before allowing them to leave the country, The Australian reported in its website.
Around 11 a.m. on Sunday, the senators were seen seated in the lobby of Hotel Renuka on Colombo’s sea-facing Galle Road —talking to two immigration department officials. “They are not cooperating with us,” one of the officials told The Hindu.
However, Ms. Rhiannon, according to The Australian, insisted she was acting within the permit of the visa —the visa, she said, allows her to visit special projects — and that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had sent a note to the Sri Lankan government ahead of her arrival in Colombo this weekend, advising of her intended visit. The Sri Lankan consulate in Sydney had approved the visa, she added.
Denying that his office had any knowledge of the Senators’ visit for such special purposes, Controller General of Immigration Chulananda Perera said they were on a tourist visa and could not hold press conferences. “We did not deport them. They are Senators and we need to deal with the case diplomatically,” he said.