COLOMBO – Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said Thursday the alleged kidnapping of a Swiss Embassy staffer that triggered a diplomatic spat between Colombo and Bern had been concocted to discredit his election victory.
A Sri Lankan national working for the Swiss mission in Colombo was arrested Monday for allegedly falsely claiming she had been abducted and sexually assaulted by unidentified attackers on Nov. 25.
The alleged abduction happened a day after a Sri Lankan police inspector investigating cases involving the Rajapaksa family sought asylum in Switzerland.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa — who was elected president last month — told Colombo-based foreign correspondents Thursday that he was the real “victim” of the saga.
“In this case, the victim is me because immediately after my election, this story came up,” he said, giving details of the Swiss Embassy staffer’s movements on the day she claimed she was held against her will.
“It is very clear it is a planned thing to discredit me and the government.”
Rajapaksa said he did not believe the Swiss Embassy itself had any role in making the allegations, and insisted he did not want anyone to create tensions between the two countries.
Switzerland on Monday criticized the embassy worker’s arrest and “lack of due process in the case,” and asked for evidence that she had faked her claims.
Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis also spoke to his Sri Lankan counterpart, Dinesh Gunawardena, about the case on Wednesday, his ministry said.
Cassis informed Gunawardena that Bern had sent an experienced diplomat, Jorg Frieden, to oversee the efforts to clarify the facts and resolve the situation, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
During the conversation, Switzerland’s top diplomat also voiced deep concern over the arrested embassy employee’s health, and stressed that Sri Lankan authorities were “responsible” for her wellbeing, it said.
Noting that the conditions in prison were not suitable for the woman, he suggested the authorities should transfer her to a hospital or a similar facility, the statement added.