K. Godage, courtesy of the Daily News, … http://www.dailynews.lk/?q=features/scandalous-abuse-diplomatic-passports
There has been a shocking and absolutely scandalous abuse of this privilege by the last government, surely persons such as then Secretary to the President at least should have known better; or was it that even he merely carried out orders; whatever it be they have brought down our image and no wonder that we have been referred to as a ‘Banana Republic’. The Karuna Amman case cited in an article in a Sunday Paper by a respected senior journalist is quite unbelievable. There is said to be one thousand eight hundred and forty five (1,845) Diplomatic Passport holders in the country today; it has been stated in Parliament that no less than two thousand eight hundred and seventy two (2,872) Dip Passports had been issued in the past ten years!!
This is, to repeat, absolutely scandalous and those responsible must be brought to book and exposed. It is of course quite possible that these VIPs who issued orders for the issue of these Dip Passports did not know what a Dip PP was and why there was such a category. Let me explain what Diplomatic Passports are and their purpose.
Diplomatic channels: Diplomatic Passports are issued by governments to heads of Diplomatic Missions and their Executive staff and by UN agencies to their Executives to enable them to discharge the sensitive duties entrusted to them without any interference. Diplomatic Passports in the first instance facilitate travel but it is generally accepted that a Diplomatic Passport is used only for official travel and the normal PP is used for personal travel. The main benefit of having Diplomatic status is that it enables the Diplomat to carry out his or her sensitive duties without interference; another subsidiary advantage is that when travelling on a Diplomatic Passport the authorities cannot search baggage or hinder the entry of the passport holder nor can the Diplomat be arrested in the host country.
In the past ten years, as stated above, the former government has issued Dip Passports indiscriminately perhaps without an understanding of what a Diplomatic Passport was meant to be and why such passports were issued.
Many airports have diplomatic channels at customs/immigration for Dip PP holders. I suppose this falls under the old diplomatic immunity privileges enjoyed by foreign representatives. In certain countries former Diplomats, Ministers and Ministry Secretaries are afforded the courtesy of being issued with Diplomatic passports but this courtesy is not extended freely.
Foreign Service Act: Incidentally some countries only recognize Dip Passports of countries with which they have diplomatic relations. Having set out the reasons for having Diplomatic Passports let me refer to the international law relating to this matter; it is the Vienna Convention that codified the rules and agreements relating to privileges involved in the management of international relations.
Another matter that comes to mind is that some years ago I filed action in the Supreme Court against the appointment of every Tom Dick and Haramanis to our Missions as Diplomats, but the AG’s Department took the position that the then President had the power to appoint anyone in terms of the Vienna Convention, which position was wrong according to me but the court held with him and thereafter the President and the then Minister, not Peiris, went to town.
To conclude I do hope that this government brings legislation to secure our Foreign Service from clueless predators, dressed in brief authority, by bringing a Foreign Service Act, a draft was prepared by me some years ago after much research but was not accepted by the then government, such a law should most definitely include a section prohibiting the granting of Diplomatic Passports to all and sundry.
Yes it would be in the interest to everyone if the government inquires into this scandalous matter and legislates to ensure that this does not happen again. If we wish to facilitate the travel of our VIPs then we should issue them with ‘Official Passports’ and enter into bilateral agreements with countries, if they be willing to do so, to extend certain courtesies to our VIPs including facilitating their clearance at airports.