So now we have still another dual citizenship scheme. After having suspended for two years or more the existing scheme, the then government announced the resumption of dual citizenship, albeit with new criteria for eligibility. It came at the butt end of last year as though Santa Claus was turning up with a basketful of [...]


Thoughts from London: Latest dual citizenship plan also lacks clarity


So now we have still another dual citizenship scheme. After having suspended for two years or more the existing scheme, the then government announced the resumption of dual citizenship, albeit with new criteria for eligibility. It came at the butt end of last year as though Santa Claus was turning up with a basketful of goodies for Sri Lankan’s global diaspora.


This revamped scheme was announced a few days before the presidential election. This time round some crumbs were thrown at those living abroad having satiated the appetites of the local voters with so many gifts including “sil reddas” for the devout and not so devout, that it seemed the government-owned santas had broken the banks at the several casinos that dot the capital city.


That New Year gift to Sri Lankans abroad was announced by the additional secretary of civil security and development of the Defence Ministry, Damayanthi Jayaratne. The poor lady has since gone down under meaning Australia not the waters of Diyawanna Oya, judging by reports in this newspaper.


It maybe, just maybe, she was cheesed off that her carefully worked out scheme which included applicants having to be interviewed and approved by some big guns in the Defence Ministry, proved a waste of time.


Commenting in early January on the Jayaratne citizenship scheme I mentioned how strange it is that a person designated as additional secretary civil security and development should be handling dual citizenship matters, unless of course the over-zealous officials in charge of security thought that every potential citizen should be given a thorough work over just like the citizens themselves who are surveilled by snoopers with their new spy technologies.

One could, I suppose, find some excuse to justify an official handing civil security and development meddling with dual citizenship. But how on earth could you find even a remote rationale for the additional secretary of the Ministry of Public Order, Disaster Management and Christian Affairs making pronouncements on dual citizenship?


Surely there would be hundreds if not thousands of others like me who are confused as to which particular arm of this ministry with such a curious mix of functions, is appropriate enough to deal with dual citizenship. Unfortunately the additional secretary Chulananda Perera who spoke to a local newspaper the other day on the subject of dual citizenship failed to mention the relevance between his ministry and dual citizenship, a subject which had earlier been assigned to the defence ministry. I dare say it would have been helpful if he had done so to dispel the confusion and put the confused out of their misery.


Why the task of dealing with dual citizenship should have been handed over to this ministry which, given its title does not seem even remotely linked to the subject, beats me. Whoever named some of these ministries and carved out their functions must either have a perverse sense of humour or an extremely elastic imagination. Who else would have joined together such a holy trinity as public order, disaster management and Christian affairs?


Perhaps it is the work of some far thinking person who, envisaging the possibility some day of a breakdown in public order and the country teetering on the brink of disaster, hoped to manage it by offering silent prayers to the Lord above to rescue us from the mess made by his creatures.
If one might be permitted to say another word about the ludicrousness of the names of some of the ministries and their mandates, Kabir Hashim is the minister of highways, higher education and investment promotion, a motley group of subjects surely. For heaven’s sake what is the connection between highways and higher education unless minister Hashim is intending to build highways that will smoothly lead our tertiary students to a higher education than is now possible along some of our rutted provincial roads.


New administrative system


Anyway there was Chulananda Perera laying out the six-point plan for the benefit of the journalist who appears to have faithfully reported what he said but failed to ask some relevant questions leaving gaping holes in the additional secretary’s narrative.


Fortunately he was no Moses — I mean Perera not the reporter — and so stopped with six ‘commandments’, as it were, that would lead potential dual citizens to the El Dorado that some have been trying to reach for years and were not privileged enough to become dual citizens even while the scheme was suspended.


Chulananda Perera reportedly said the criteria required to gain dual citizenship has been prepared “according to a new administrative system” and has been recently approved by the cabinet.


I fail to understand what a new administrative system has to do with dual citizenship and unlike Pontius Pilate the additional secretary did not wait to answer. Had the Right to Information law been passed as had been planned, we might have solicited answers not only to clarify matters but to see whether the law actually worked in this new era of yahapalanaya and was not a right Royal mess.


Among the requirements to qualify is having professional or educational qualifications along with immoveable property worth Rs. 2.5 million or more in Sri Lanka. Professional qualifications, well we basically know what they are — doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants and some others practising their vocations have professional qualifications and are usually registered with their respective professional bodies.


But what exactly is the meaning of “educational qualifications”? I ask this not only because it needs to be clearly stated but also because the UNP seems to have some difficulty in identifying what is an acceptable educational qualification.


Somewhere in the late 1970s-early 80s the J.R. Jayewardene government with ACS Hameed as foreign minister appointed a female (no need to mention names) to the Sri Lanka High Commission in London as first secretary information.


This appointment (lower-level political appointments were made even then) came in for a barrage of criticism from the opposition particularly because it was claimed she did not even have any educational qualifications.


Not to be outdone Foreign Minister Hameed did a Houdini act in parliament. He opened his brief case with a dramatic flourish and pulled out a document. He waved it before him and chided the opposition. The lady did have educational qualifications he said. Here is her SSC certificate to prove it.


My parliamentary sketch next morning in the Daily News front page appeared to have annoyed Junius Richard, his displeasure conveyed through Lake House chairman Ranapala Bodinagoda who threatened to stop me from writing the “Lobby” column.


The Senior School Certificate of the time was roughly equivalent to the GCE “O” level. It seemed enough of an educational qualification. Perhaps it is so even today, under the aegis of the present administration.

There are more gaps in this new scheme. Would every person with one of these requirements be eligible for dual citizenship? Would asylum seekers and refugees-some of whom might well be former LTTE combatants and guilty of serious crimes — be eligible as well?


No mention is made about the cost per individual and for a family in this exercise. Yet this could not be a free gift, good governance or not. So, why has this not been disclosed when transparency is the name of the game?

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