Feb 06, Colombo: The International Bar Associations Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) has expressed serious concern over the Sri Lankan government 's decision to deny entry to a delegation comprising senior international figures, including a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India, Justice J S Verma.
The Association rejected the clarification given by the External affairs Ministry of Sri Lanka on the government's decision to revoke the visas for the delegation.
The External Affairs Ministry of Sri Lanka said the authorities had detected that the four members of the delegation representing the International Bar Association (IBA), had provided inaccurate information on their visa applications.
Explaining the situation further, the IBAHRI said the government's visa application procedure allowed only four options to choose for the purpose of the vast and the delegation picked the option to 'participate in conferences, workshops and seminars' as the best choice describing their visit.
"The online visa application process does not allow applicants to provide further information on the purpose of their trip," the IBAHRI said.
The Sri Lankan government said it has later learnt that the stated purpose for the visit in the applications was not in conformity with the actual nature of the IBAHRI delegation's visit.
The External Affairs Ministry said the visit was to surreptitiously undertake an activity which is of an intrusive nature to the sovereignty of Sri Lanka.
The Association explained that a visa had been issued to one
member of the delegation, facilitated through the relevant national diplomatic channels on January 18 but was revoked on January 29. Approval to enter the country was suspended on January 29 and 30 in the cases of the other delegates, who had applied and been approved for entry to Sri Lanka through the online application process on January 21.
Dr. Mark S Ellis, Executive Director of the International Bar Association has said that it is disappointing that the Sri Lankan authorities have missed the opportunity to cooperate on a visit by respected foreign members of the legal system.
"It will suggest to the international community that the Sri Lankan authorities are fearful of having independent eyes on the issues of interest to the legal profession," Ellis said.
The Association further said that following the suspension and revocation of the visas the Sri Lankan High Commission in London had assured the IBAHRI that it would cooperate in the investigation and resolution of the matter.
"To date, no further information has been forthcoming. However, we remain hopeful that the Sri Lankan government will wish to remain open to international engagement and will reinstate the visits accordingly," the Association expressed hope.