| by Gaja Lakshmi Paramasivam
( March 06, 2012, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) I write in response to the letter by Anjalika Silva – USA published in the Sri Lanka Guardian. This is an important issue for most of us investing in Sri Lanka one way or the other. To me, the investments made by Tamils of Sri Lankan origin now living in other parts of the world is also a strong investment in Sri Lanka.
Anjalika Silva says ‘In the first place the lack of thought and planning with a vision for preventing exploitation was totally lacking at the time the system was put in place under Chandrika Kumaratunge. The big idea to offer dual citizenship with a huge price tag when she saw the dollar signs coming with the applications was a joke. At the end of it the dirty brown paper of the certificate was a disgrace.
I hope President Mahinda Rajapakse will give some consideration to expats who are returning with assets. The price for the revelation that asylum seekers and refugees who left and incited violence against the country have already received dual citizenship will now be paid not by those who made use of loopholes to cheat the system but those who genuinely require this status.’
If one required this ‘status’ above one’s current status ( for example US citizenship) then one would renounce that current status to take up Sri Lankan citizenship. By doing that, one would also confirm that one took up another country’s citizenship for economic purposes and/or that one found the new country less of a home than Sri Lanka was. The higher the price of Dual Citizenship, the higher the apparent ‘status’ of Sri Lankan carrying Dual citizenship. My family and I did not take up Dual Citizenship when we achieved Australian citizenship status by law. The high price was one of the reasons but not the fundamental caus. The fundamental ‘cause’ of our actions is our inner Truth. We knew within ourselves that we would not live as much in Sri Lanka as we would in Australia. We knew also that we would not invest in our future through Sri Lanka as much as we would through Australia. Hence, we allowed our inner Truth to surface and influence our decision NOT to take up Dual Citizenship. This was in agreement with the economic calculations. If the Government of President Rajapakse placed a lower price tag on Dual Citizenship, than did former President, Madam Kumaratunge, I would conclude that the President Rajapakse’s valuation of Sri Lanka is lower than that of Madam Kumaratunge.
I myself continue to pay for my Resident Visa as an Ex-Sri Lankan. I do so willingly – as willingly as I would spend when in my parents’ home after marriage. The more I spend with that part of my family, the more valuation I show myself and register in my brain about my own investment through that family. It’s a reinforcement of my past investments. I have discovered that my brain functions ‘automatically’ unless I consciously override the natural memory with conscious thoughts. It functions like an engine that functions on automatic mode unless overridden by manual operations. Be it in Australia or in Sri Lanka, often racial discrimination happens in this ‘automatic’ mode and only occasionally due to conscious manual drive – especially by politicians on either side. The May 2009 massacre would not have been so tragic if Tamil armed forces had been used to punish Tamils seen to be acting unlawfully. The Government did not groom enough Tamil armed forces despite knowing that Tamils were exceptionally clever in combat. A Tamil punishing a Tamil would naturally be conscious of the social effects and that prevents excesses. That is the basis of ‘Sovereign’ rights. A Sinhalese punishing a Tamil would not have been, unless the Sinhalese had matured into a Sri Lankan and therefore has the natural memory as Sri Lankan rather than as Sinhalese. We need to do the assessment for ourselves before returning to Sri Lanka.
Anjalika Silva says ‘A special category for retired persons should be created with a lesser fee. Contrary to beliefs based on exceptions, most average Sri Lankans who lived abroad and of retirement age now did not have the earning capacity enjoyed by later generations. In later generations those who had access to liberal exchange to obtain foreign education in developed countries enjoyed a higher earning potential. The retirees who lived abroad and survived with only Sri Lankan qualifications (the current baby boomers of the 1940s) mostly took on average jobs with modest earnings which leave them with average pensions. Considering the cost of living in Sri Lanka, today even a US$ pension does not go very far.’
The challenges faced by retirees are different to the challenges faced by young ones. There is a saying in Tamil ‘Terrible it poverty in youth and even more terrible is wealth in old age’(Kodithu, kodithu, ilamayil varumai; athanilum kodithu muthumayil selvam). The essence of this to me is that by the time we are old/retired, we need to ensure that we do not hold any assets other than those needed for our essential living for the rest of our physical life on earth. By then our money and status ought to benefit the next generation. This muthusum / inheritance / consolidated wealth – needs to be to say ‘thank you’ to family values, community values and social values respectively, that supported us to achieve the standard of living we achieved. We need to spend/invest accordingly in mature age. Those who make this allocation from young age – would have developed a rich ‘superannuation’ of service opportunities. They never retire from work itself. Swami Sathya Sai Baba is my Leader in this. Swami worked until His last days physically on earth. The monies received from Swami’s devotees went into Trusts.
Former Sri Lankans returning to live in Sri Lanka, would be a headache to any vote-driven Government of Sri Lanka. This is the reason why the Tamil Diaspora is known to being called a headache to the Government of Sri Lanka. As for ‘surviving’ with Sri Lankan qualifications, Anjalika Silva does not obviously value Sri Lankan qualifications as much as American qualifications. My parents are not less than other parents to me. They are at least equal to other parents known to me. My parents are the ‘other’ side of me as a child. Likewise, my Sri Lankan qualifications as well as citizenship prior to Australian citizenship. I did not just survive, I achieved the highest level possible based on merit. Had I considered Australian qualifications to be better than Sri Lankan – I would not have reached those heights through merit – but only by submitting to the conclusion that Sri Lankan qualification is less valuable than Australian. I have worked with Australian qualified Chartered Accountants and have found that I am at least equal to them in knowledge. I tutor students preparing for Australian professional exams based on the foundation of my Sri Lankan knowledge which now resides as wisdom within me. To me therefore, I am more Sri Lankan than someone who claims to value American qualifications more than Sri Lankan – even if they reside in Sri Lanka and I in Australia.
Anjalika Silva says ‘Expats return only if they want to and not everyone does as there are some who have completely severed ties and don’t consider Sri Lanka their home anymore.
There’s no place like home where the soil is where our feet touch the ground of the land of our birth and our families have warmth and love for each other. All we now need to do is to guard our peace and live as good and honest people.’
I know of many Tamils of Sri Lankan origin who have not gone there for years and are now consciously overriding their urge to go there due to the ethnic conflict. To the likes of Anjalika Silva, they may seem to have ‘severed ties’ but to me they are contributing more strongly to the Governance of Sri Lanka by voicing their opposition including by using the International resources available to them. They are thus handing over to the next generation – beyond their immediate families – the essential value of their work. They are like International Monitors of Sri Lankan government. It does not matter whether they agree or disagree. Their work is to improve Sri Lankan governance. If others like Anjalika Silva take it as being against the government – then to me that comes from that ‘automatic’ memory – yet to be manually overdriven by Global values, until one is in automatic Global mode. This confirms that to such persons, life in USA was for economic purposes by abusing citizenship opportunities.