Wide-scale abuse of DPL bags
Aug 3, 2014

Criminal Investigation Department (CID) detectives have been called in to probe a scandal in the External Affairs Ministry involving the abuse of diplomatic bags.

The move came as the Ministry sent on compulsory leave the Director General, the Director and ten other officials who were dealing with bags and dispatches in its Consular section. Widespread abuse of the use of diplomatic bags has been reported in recent times.

The investigations were sparked off after the reported loss of valuable items belonging to a deceased worker in Seoul, South Korea. Those items including valuable jewellery are reported to have been sent to Colombo in a DPL bag. Initial investigations have pointed to two staffers in the Sri Lanka embassy in Seoul violating circulars governing the use of diplomatic bags. Detectives are to question the two officials to ascertain whether the package with valuable jewellery did arrive in Colombo.

Such bags or pouches which are sent from different Sri Lanka missions overseas to the External Affairs Ministry in Colombo are not subject to Customs or other checks. However, an officer in every mission is tasked to ensure the type of material that should be sent.

CID detectives are probing whether a peon attached to the Sri Lanka embassy in Seoul had run a mobile phone bill to the equivalent of two million Sri Lankan rupees, and one of the two under investigation, had utilised the DPL bag to send items to Sri Lanka. Another official under investigation is being described as one who handled labour matters. Employment opportunities for Sri Lankans in South Korea have increased in recent years.

According to External Affairs Ministry sources, action against officials in the Sri Lanka embassy in Seoul is to follow. These sources said initial investigations had revealed that there had been no proper supervision or adherence to laid-down procedures when sending or receiving DPL bags. This aspect, the sources said, was being investigated by the EAM.

The EAM has also launched a detailed inquiry into the conduct of Ashoka Girihagama, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Muscat, Oman. The front page lead story in the Sunday Times last week reported his recall over allegations of cases relating to an abortion that was carried out in the sultanate on a Sri Lankan worker. Whether it was in fact the case or whether the claim was made up is now under investigation, the same sources saud. The recall order, these sources added, was over a multitude of complaints against the ambassador.

The ambassador’s conduct had also caused a rift between the Buddhist community in Oman supporting the ambassador and the 21-member embassy staff who had complained against him to the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Employment.

Both, the South Korean and Omani issues had gone up to the “highest authorities”, these sources said.

Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka

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