Diplomatic tiff with Srilanka after mass raid at Louis Ville

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A diplomatic tiff seems to be simmering between Botswana and Srilanka, following the mass raid of Gaborone Srilankan nationalities at the Louisville Estate recently.

The local Srilanka consular has been instructed to pursue the matter and seek answers from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Speaker of Parliament as to what warranted such a degrading episode on the Srilankan nationals in Gaborone.

Head of the local Srilanka consular Chula Dahanayake has however played down the tiff saying their discussions with Botswana authorities remain internal and not for the public gallery.

Public relations officer at Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kago Thapa  was unable to provide information pertaining to the matter. “We don’t do telephone interviews with newspapers, you will have to send me a questionnaire and I cannot promise to respond as soon as you may require as there are several ongoing meetings.The questions have to go through a number of departments within the ministry. Expect the answers on Tuesday,”he said.

The Monitor however can reveal that efforts by Srilanka to seek answers from Botswana have been futile as the local consular office have not been briefed fully on what really triggered the raid on the Gaborone Srilankans.

According to our Srilankan sources who claim that they are worried by Botswana’s  non-disclosure stance, such reluctance to disclose any suspected crimes to the consular does not help matters after it was insinuated during the raid that the police were after some hard-core criminal activities.

More than  three weeks after they were raided at Louis Ville estate in Block 6, Gaborone and loaded on two police buses off to Mogoditshane police station for finger printing, local Srilankans based at the Block 6 Estate have told the Monitor they still do not know why they were harassed, and say the whole process was dehumanising.

They have since put pressure on their local consulate to demand answers from the Botswana government why they were treated in such a manner which they have observed smirked of hatred against their nationalities.

The concerned Srilankans told The Monitor that they have since reported the matter to Botswana Parliament.  ‘‘What happened to us is something we have never experienced in this peaceful country in our many years here”

“They did not tell us of any crimes we may have committed; maybe our crime was being Srilankans, because no other Asian nationalities were loaded onto the buses, we feel it was inhuman and degrading…the Chinese were not searched, the Indians were excused, while every Srilankan, including babies and pregnant women, were subjected to this ill-treatment,” says a concerned Srilankan national who says his company has employed tens of Batswana.

The Louis ville residents are speaking in hushed tonnes for fear of the worst because they tell The Monitor, they cannot explain why other nationalities residing in the Estate were not harassed like them.

“ Indians were sparred, the Chinese were sparred, only Srilankans were harassed, we are still looking for answers as to what he had done to warrant such treatment, some of us have been here for over 25 years, some 20 years, 15 years, and we run genuine businesses in Botswana”, says a seemingly worried Srilankan middle aged man as he recounts the ordeal. His colleague, who has invested in car dealerships in Mogoditshane, also chips in with his story, “ that morning I was in the toilet, and I heard my wife shouting my name, the police say we have five minutes to leave the house; I came out to see about 40 police officers who told me I am under arrest, for what, they did not explain, I was loaded into the bus together with my wife and son”.

The Srilankans say at Mogoditshane police they were subjected to going through finger printing, and nothing else was said.

“ When finally I thought I was done with the Police after 12noon, other police officers came again to my house and wanted to take me and my wife back to Mogoditshahne; we tried to tell them we had been there; they could not believe us; our maid came to our rescue he reasoned with them and explained that we had just returned from Mogoditshane Police, they also asked her if there were no other Srilankans in the house hiding under beds”. Another businessman says it was around 830am when driving out of the estate that he was stopped, “ They said you are Srilankan, get out, get into the bus”, says the young looking investor who also runs a successful car dealership in Mogoditshane.

“ It was hell at Mogoditshane Police, the quee was so long, the sight of pregnant women and children standing there for hours was depressing; some had babies who needed dippers but had to stand in the long queues for hours; there were no ablutions for pregnant women or nursing mothers either; when a heavily pregnant woman wanted to use the toilet they directed her to a dirty toilet in a holding cell”, narrated the youthful Srilankan man.

His fellow countryman recounts the day when his little children had to endure the slow and long queue, having had no breakfast or lunch.

“ It was bad, just when we thought finally our turn had come, there was a system failure; they took us to Broadhurst Police to be finger printed there, but at Broadhurst, the system went down again, they took us back to Mogoditshane, and we waited while they attended to the system.”

Another of their fellows says he was shocked to learn that after they were taken away in buses, they were told to find their way home after the finger printing.

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