Dual Citizenship aspirants in dilemma | Sunday Observer

Dual Citizenship aspirants in dilemma

Harindra, a mother of two, settled down in Sri Lanka after spending 10 years in the UK. She returned to Sri Lanka in 2005, with her two sons, after her husband passed away, and immediately thereafter, applied for Sri Lankan citizenship, as she had ceased to be a Sri Lankan citizen when she obtained British citizenship. At the time of her return her sons were 9 and 7 years. According to the officials of the Department of Immigration and Emigration her sons cannot become Sri Lankan citizens, as neither of their parents were Sri Lankan citizens at the time of their birth.

Harindra admitted her two sons to a local school in Colombo, where they followed the local syllabus. When they were ready to sit the GCE O/L Exam they were without a National Identity Cards, since the NIC is issued only for a citizen of the Republic of Sri Lanka.

So Harindra had to remove both children from the local school and admit them to an international school in Colombo. Consequently, the two children enjoyed only resident visas, while their mother eventually became a Sri Lankan citizen.

When the older son turned 18, he had to apply for a tourist visa in order to stay in the country. He then moved to UK for higher education and whenever he visited Sri Lanka he had to pay for the landing visa. Also, when they were on family vacations, he had to pay tourist ticket prices, not being a Sri Lankan. He couldn’t even apply for a driving licence. While all his friends were enjoying life here, he had all the reasons to be worried over it.

Throughout this time, the Dept. of Immigration and Emigration, had been advising Harindra on this matter. The officials said that once a child becomes 18, he or she could get Dual Citizenship through registration, but in such instance they have to give up their previous citizenship. Otherwise they would lose the Sri Lankan citizenship at age 22, the officials further explained to her. It seemed, it was the only option available to them.

Harindra was disturbed by all this advice by the Dept. of I&E, and googled to find out the respective law.

“I was horrified. Both my children could have got Sri Lankan citizenship soon after we returned to Sri Lanka” she says.

She found out that there was an amendment to the Citizenship Act of Sri Lanka in 2003, whereby, any person whose parents are not Sri Lankans at the time of their birth, but gains Sri Lankan citizenship through resumption, they (children) are entitled to apply for citizenship and they do not even have to give up their current citizenship.

But, when Harindra claimed these rights in terms of the Citizenship Act and its amendments, the Dept. of I&E official had acted like a child, pretending to be unaware, she said. “They simply said that there were no applications under section 5A. Is it our fault that they don’t have applications?” Harindra questions.

The problem arises as to how many applicants might have been turned down by these officers due to their ignorance of their own Act and its amendments. It is a sad situation, indeed.

The Sunday Observer contacted the Controller General of Immigration and Emigration, Nihal Ranasinghe to inquire about the allegations directed at his Department.

“There is no issue with regard to registrations of Dual Citizenship. Now we are discussing with the Attorney General for certain clarifications because there were some practical issues that we faced. We have now resolved almost everything, and are waiting for for clarification from the Senior Deputy Solicitor General, who has been assigned with the task. Anyone can be accommodated under the current law, but we have to understand the various provisions of the law that applies to each category. Different applications are accommodated under different provisions of the law. Under section 5A those who were born outside Sri Lanka before 2003 and after 1948 can be accommodated. But we need to get the AG’s opinion on people who were born after 2003. That is the point on which we are expecting the AG’s clarification,” Ranasinghe said.

When asked about not possessing application forms under Section 5A, the Immigration Controller General refuted the allegations. “It is not true. It’s just a computer generated application. That’s a simple matter” he said. But he didn’t say that ‘there are applications under 5A’.

“But no one need to worry as they can always obtain citizenship under Section 11” the Commissioner General pointed out. When asked about the situation of forcing to give up the current citizenship in order to gain SL citizenship, he didn’t acceptthat either. “While they retain their current citizenship, they can obtain the Sri Lankan citizenship under section 11” he pointed out.

We then came across another situation where a gentleman called Andrew* faced a bribery case, at the Dept. of I&E.

“It was my sister’s citizenship certificate. They (Officers at the Dept. of I&E) were simply refusing to hand it over to me, saying that it can’t be given that easily and needs to go through the Minister. But we already had her citizenship number as it was registered at the Airport arrival counter when she landed in Sri Lanka. I think they were indirectly asking money from us,” he said in a firm but sad voice.

This actually is a sad situation. All the complainants who revealed these unpleasant experiences with regard to the Dept. of I&E, are well respected people in society. They want only to create awareness among the public and wish no personal gain whatsoever out of this.Their grievances are not isolated cases. They could be the voice of thousands of Sri Lankans around the world who are looking for Dual Citizenship. Sleepy mechanisms and arrogant behaviour in the public sector of Sri Lanka has led, not only to further dissatisfaction about the country’s public service, but also to the breaching of rights of the people.

(The real names are withheld.)