Sex change operations at Dept. of Registration of Persons

  • NICs of males with female photographs and vice versa prompt greater vigilance, at dept. to prevent inconvenience, embarrassment to public
By Nadia Fazlulhaq

The National Identity Card (NIC) issued by the Registration of Persons (RoP) department is considered the most reliable identity document necessary to cast one’s vote, produce at security checkpoints, open a bank account, obtain a passport or driving licence, sit for exams or for job applications, or gain entry into a State or private institution.

This card that ensures identification of persons, mandatory that all citizens above 16 years of age.However, for 35-year-old Nissanka Wijeweera from Aralaganwila, North Central Province, it was an embarrassing moment when he received his NIC, as the RoP department had done the impossible, turning him into a woman.

Nissanka’s NIC bore his wife’s picture. Pic by Nimal Jayaratne

Nissanka’s NIC bore the photograph of a woman, in fact, his wife’s, together with whom he applied for their NICs. The NIC also identified him as ‘Female’. “My seven -year-old daughter laughed at me, when she saw her father’s NIC with her mother’s photograph. I was so upset,” he said.

This is not the first time Nissanka is faced with a blunder by the RoP department. All these years, he has been carrying his civil defence committee identity card, as the name on his NIC was ‘Nishantha’, instead of ‘Nissanka’, as stated in his birth certificate. His first NIC was destroyed when his house was gutted by fire several years ago.

When Nissanka’s 22-year-old wife applied for her NIC, for the first time this year, he too applied with the hope of having a rectified NIC, and submitted the documents and photographs to the grama-sevaka.
Last week, his wife Indrani received her NIC, and to their surprise, it had Nissanka’s photograph.

“My wife’s name is a common Sinhala female name, and it is unfortunate that, RoP department officials didn’t have the common sense to realise that there may be an error. Unfortunately, most villagers do not report mistakes, and continue to use the erroneous NICs,” he said.

In another incident, a man who did not possess a credit card, and applied for a loan for the first time, found that he was already on the Credit Information Bureau (CRIB) records, due to an identical NIC number issued to more than one person.

“When I applied for the loan, the bank informed me that I was in the CRIB records, which came as a shock, as I have not taken a loan, nor have a credit card. They said that I have failed to settle a credit card payment of Rs 134,000,” said Sohan*, not his real name.

“There was another person working in a different company with a different designation, but with my NIC number and name,” he said.He had to approach the bank that issued the credit card under his NIC, and obtain a statement for his bank, stating that this was a error by the RoP department. “I was inconvenienced due to this error by the department,” he said.

In another instance, a mobile service from the RoP department which issues NICs with colour photographs, enticed Perera* to apply for a new one. “I submitted my application and, being a professional, I also submitted a service certificate. The new NIC came with a colour photograph, but the occupation line was left blank. With busy work schedules, we seldom find time to go to the RoP department to stand in queues. The department should also be more service-friendly,” he said.

The Plantation sector is the worst affected, due to mistakes in their NICs, said a spokesman at the Hatton field office of Home for Human Rights, a non-governmental organization.“In most instances, applications are filled by Plantation welfare officers or clerks.

The letter that had been issued to *Sohan by the bank stating that RoP had made an error regarding his NIC

There should be more legal officials such as grama-sevaka’s and officers from the GA’s office, to look into the accuracy of information provided. There have been several instances of switch in the gender,” he said.However, the Commissioner General- RoP, Jagath Wijeweera told the Sunday Times that special instructions have been given to employees of the department following Nissanka’s incident.

“I have directed them to be more vigilant and avoid errors in the future. An inquiry into the incident, where a woman’s photograph was in a male NIC and vice versa, has commenced,” he said. Mr. Wijeweera said that the public should be prompt in reporting any mistakes in their NICs to the department, to ensure the discrepancies are rectified early.

* Name changed

Please call

Commissioner Wijeweera said that the public could inform him of any errors in their NICs by calling
011 2 583 122 or by sending a fax to 011 2 593 634.

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