Jul 03, 2022

Western embassies face closure without fuel

While Sri Lanka is facing its worst-ever fuel crisis, one Western mission in Colombo has warned of a closure in a week due to the shortage of fuel, while others are cutting back on their consular services.

A high-ranking diplomat at this Western mission stressed that the Foreign Affairs Ministry had failed in its international law obligations to ensure foreign diplomatic missions could function properly.

On Friday, the Western mission’s senior diplomat told the Sunday Times: “We (embassy) are running out of fuel. We have diesel only for one more week. Thereafter we will have to close down. Together with my European Union and like-minded partners, we will officially remind the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Colombo of its obligations arising from international law (in terms of the Vienna Convention, host countries need to make sure that foreign diplomatic missions may function properly). The decision makers need to understand, if embassies cannot offer proper services any more or even have to close down, we cannot cater for foreign and local nationals anymore and this will negatively affect travel advisories,” he noted.

He said he only uses his official vehicle to meet high ranking representatives in Sri Lanka at the embassy premises and not outside.

“I am not going on official missions anymore,” he said.

The embassy staff experiences huge problems with transport, indeed, as most people do these days. Only essential staff is reporting to work. Others work from home, as much as possible. “Our visa section staff, however, are asked to be present, leading to a perception of unequal and unfair treatment,” he added.

He also stressed that Sri Lanka was in dire straits and needed help from the international community. “Currently trying to convince countries to give humanitarian aid which, even for me who is just a guest of this country, is humiliating. I never have thought the day would come where we would have to consider humanitarian aid for Sri Lanka. The day came last week, I asked my Government to provide humanitarian aid such as medicinal drugs and food,” he added.

On Friday, the Indian High Commission announced that from tomorrow it was cutting back on its consular services to three days of the week - Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, affecting the issuance of visas to those travelling to India.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry, however, said it was resuming its consular services throughout the working week due to the increase in the number of people wanting to leave the country and that its regional consular offices in Jaffna, Trincomalee, Matara, Kandy and Kurunegala would also be open throughout the work-week.

(sundaytimes.lk)

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