Accusing eminent jurist and former Chief Justice J.S.Verma and a Bar Association delegation of withholding information and misrepresenting facts, Sri Lanka said on Sunday that it blocked the visit of the four-member delegation of the International Bar Association (IBA) because it detected “inaccurate information contained in the visa applications.”
Because of this “regrettably, the Government of Sri Lanka was constrained to withdraw visas issued through the ETA system for 3 applicants and the other by a diplomatic mission,” the Ministry added.
Former Indian Chief Justice, J.S.Verma, who was to arrive in Colombo late on Friday to head an international fact-finding mission to assess the legal issues involved in the impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake, was forced to cancel his visit. The other members too had to cancel their visits.
Justice Verma, a hugely respected figure in Indian judiciary, had headed a committee which was set up to amend Indian criminal law to provide quicker trial and enhance punishment for offenders of crime against women. He was widely commended for submitting a comprehensive report on the issue within a month.
The Sri Lankan External Affairs Ministry said that three persons had applied in the Business Visa category. They “were issued on the basis of the purpose of the visit being reflected as Conferences, Workshops and Seminars, while the 4th person had been issued a gratis visa and the purpose of the visit being cited as Private,” a press release from the Ministry said.
“Subsequently, it came to light that the stated purpose for the visit in the applications was not in conformity with the actual nature of the visit. In fact, there were media reports to the effect that this is an international fact finding delegation with a mandate to probe and prepare a report on the recent impeachment of the former Chief Justice,” the Ministry said.
Admitting that the Ministry was aware of the real purpose of the visit of the delegation, the Ministry said: “one of the delegates is on record stating that the delegation would be interviewing, in this regard, members of the Judiciary, Government functionaries, Members of Parliament and the local community. This demonstrates that the visit was not for the purpose of attending Conferences, Workshops and Seminars but undertaking activity surreptitiously which is of an intrusive nature to the sovereignty of Sri Lanka,” the Ministry claimed.
“Considering the prestigious reputation of the IBA, it would be expected that the organisation would scrupulously adhere to the rules and regulations governing a country’s visa regime. Further, intimidatory behaviour on the part of one of the IBA delegates directed at the Sri Lanka High Commission in London is unbecoming. In keeping with the Government of Sri Lanka’s interest in transparency, bona-fide applications for visits of this nature are processed with objectivity. However, in keeping with universal practice, appropriate action would be taken in the event there is a misrepresentation of information by a visa applicant,” it claimed.
The delegation, constituted by the International Bar Association, and was mandated to investigate and report on Sri Lankan Parliament’s actions on the impeachment issue, and if there were anomalies and transgressions.