Germany has strongly protested over the arrest of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation’s Sri Lanka branch chief, Nora Langanbacher. The German-Government-funded NGO has been functioning in Sri Lanka for more than 30 years. A statement of protest from the Foreign Office in Berlin follows a meeting between German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and External Affairs Minister G. L. Peiris in Berlin on June 13 — the same day the NGO head was arrested and taken into fiscal custody.
Mr. Westerwelle while expressing serious concern over the incident called upon the Sri Lankan Government to allow the German political foundation to continue its work unhindered. Earlier, German Ambassador Juergen Morhard had protested over the incident and a senior embassy official was also present when the NGO head was arrested.
In a statement to partners working with the NGO, Ms. Langanbacher said that the foundation was temporarily stopping its operations with immediate effect for the safety of its staff because of disturbing developments. External Affairs Ministry Secretary Karunatilleke Amunugama told the Sunday Times the NGO chief was taken into custody on a court directive as there was a case pending against her.
The case had been filed in the Colombo District Court by a former employee of the NGO over a compensation issue. The employee had been dismissed from the NGO and had gone to courts seeking redress, Mr. Amunugama said.
The NGO chief was allowed to leave the country on Thursday night after depositing assets worth Rs. 200 million as a surety, he said.
The Government would respond to the statement made by the German Foreign Office, Mr. Amunugama added. Last month, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation here hit the headlines when it sponsored a seminar for UNP members on how to topple a government democratically.
By Leon Berenger