Letter to Editor
( March 05, 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) It is a relief to learn that dual citizenship applications will be resumed shortly as stated by the Controller General of Immigration and Emigration Chulananda Perera. It has taken too long already. 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 Kumaranatunge. 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.
The application process should not ask for unnecessary information but instead focus on information that is relevant to determine eligibility as well as to determine the value of the individual through education and qualifications acquired that is of use to Sri Lanka. The documents asked for should not include nonexistent records considering the poor record keeping history in Sri Lanka where documents and files are destroyed at the whim of short sighted staff.
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.
We sincerely hope that the new regulations are not only about revenue for the country but also about the value of individuals. Expatriates have contributed extensively towards financial and other needs of Sri Lanka over the years. Such service is never recognized — not even with a smile from the first line of officers of the Immigration service on arrival in Colombo.
Expat bashing has become the norm by “sour grapes” that wish they could live abroad and be naturalized in other countries had the opportunity been available. It is not all about the glamour of earnings. Life overseas is hard work and those who wish to return to their home land have worked hard for what they have and the government should not look to them as sources of income or plunder their pension income through regulations that require large payments when they want to return home. Those who gave up citizenship had to do so for many reasons. One being the harassment and humiliation at transit ports during travel owing to the ugly things that happened with refugees and asylum seekers who became a nuisance to countries and continue even today with criminal activity. Careers were at stake if one retained Sri Lankan citizenship while competing with citizens of other countries or their adopted land. Whether in Sri Lanka or in an adopted land, each one is entitled to securing their future. It should not be frowned upon or be used in ugly abusive remarks that some choose to hurl at people who still value their Sri Lankan roots and wish to come home.
Expatriates are still Sri Lankans who have kept their traditions alive even while living abroad and genuinely cared for the country through the darkest days. If they want to return, it is a sign of being patriotic. Some are even more patriotic than those living within the country. They should be treated with respect and dignity and commended for thinking of their home country after long years away. 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.
| by Anjalika Silva – USA