Norway shocked by court ruling: tells Lanka,respect Vienna Convention

law 2     The Norwegian Foreign Ministry says it is unable to understand the court ruling last week that allowed an NGO to proceed with a case against the Norwegian Embassy in Colombo.

Colombo Additional District Judge Amali Ranaweera last week ruled that the Foundation for Co-existence headed by Kumar Rupasinghe can proceed with the case to sue the former Norwegian Ambassador,  Hilde Haraldstad and other Norwegian officials for Rs. 98.5 million for failing to honor a 2008 agreement.

“We are unable to understand the court’s decision in this matter. The local court has chosen to disregard the statements of the Sri Lankan government lawyer and Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry in this lawsuit,” Frode Andersen, deputy director of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying by The Nordic Page website.

Norway has asked Sri Lanka to comply with “well established international rules on diplomatic immunity” after a Colombo Court ruled that the former Norwegian Ambassador and three officials did not have immunity in a huge transaction involving an NGO.

Norway’s Ambassador Grete Lochen said yesterday that her government had held the position that the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations should be respected since Sri Lanka was a party to this convention. “Diplomats and state officials from Sri Lanka are enjoying the same privileges when serving their government.

The ambassador said the Norwegian embassy was carefully studying the translation of the Colombo District Court order in which four Norwegian nationals including the country’s former Ambassador Hilde Haraldstad were being held accountable for the non-fulfillment of a financial transaction with a local NGO.

Colombo Additional District Judge Amali Ranaweera ruled out diplomatic immunity for former Norwegian Ambassador Harlstad and three other Norwegian Foreign Ministry officials in a case filed by Kumar Rupasinghe, the head of the Foundation for Co-existence (FCE). Mr. Rupasinghe is seeking Rs. 98.5 million from the Norwegians for failing to honour an agreement between his NGO and the Norwegian Government.

The NGO leader said he had taken bank overdrafts because of the Norwegian undertaking and he had to pay this money back now.

Ambassador Lochen said Norway’s decision to terminate the agreement with FCE was in accordance with the termination clauses in the agreement relating to non-fulfillment of the recipient’s obligations.

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