29 November, 2020

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Dual Citizenship As A Moral Act & A Vehicle For Mutual Benefit

By Siri Gamage

Dr. Siri Gamage

Dr. Siri Gamage

Much has been talked about the merits of dual citizenship for countries in the globalised era. As populations move across country boundaries for work, education, residence and other pursuits, some governments are grappling with the issue of dual citizenship while others are benefiting immensely from the same due to their visionary policies. The previous government put on hold the granting of dual citizenship while the scheme was being reviewed. What are the mutual benefits that can be gained from a reasonable scheme of dual citizenship to Sri Lanka? What reasons are there for considering the granting of dual citizenship to Sri Lankan migrants in other countries who have lost their Sri Lankan citizenship?

For example, those who migrated to Australia in the 70s and 80s are now reaching their retirement age. Many of these migrants are professionals who left the country to provide a better education for their children and also to access career advancement while enjoying the fruits of a rule abiding, democratic system of governance and an orderly life. Before leaving the country, many had served motherland for number of years. When these cohorts of migrants settled in countries like Australia are reaching the retirement age, they obviously like to refresh their contacts with the mother country partly for their own self satisfaction but also to regain insights about the country’s rich culture, history, environment, people and customs. Reconnecting with close family and friends is another need. Some are motivated by a desire to serve the mother country in some fashion on the basis of the technical and professional knowhow they acquired from the host country.   This applies to those who are in their 40s or 50s also. Given the fact that these migrants are not a burden on Sri Lankan society financially or otherwise and that they can bring in funds for their expenditure in foreign currency, having a scheme to enable for them to stay longer in the country beyond being a mere tourist is a moral act on the part of the government. Dual citizenship is one such avenue commonly used for such purposes.

Some of these migrants to other countries are motivated to invest in Sri Lanka by way of buying an apartment or a house, land, businesses and other ventures. This can add to the growth of national economy. Furthermore, some important connections could be established between Sri Lankan institutions or companies and those in their domiciled countries in various technical and professional fields. They could also mentor younger generation in respective fields with or without remuneration as a community service if opportunities for this are made available on a formal basis.

Many of these migrants to other countries lost their Sri Lankan citizenship when they applied for citizenship in their domiciled countries. As busy people trying to make a living in an alien country and culture, they may not have thought through the consequences of this decision at the time. However, later in their life naturally some migrants develop a desire to return to the mother country- at least for a part of the year- and spend quality time with family and friends while enjoying Sri Lankan hospitality. Looked this way, the government of Sri Lanka can facilitate this desire of migrant Sri Lankans who lost their citizenship by formulating a viable dual citizenship scheme and coupled with a reasonable application fee.

During their stays in the country, most migrants also assist their close relatives who are not that fortunate, in various ways. It could be that they assist financially to improve their living conditions, or provide advice for younger members about how to progress in education or job seeking in and outside the country. Some contribute to religious centres financially and otherwise. Others embrace Buddhism and other religions more closely in such circumstances. These are positive contributions.

If the government makes it harder for those who left the country to obtain Sri Lankan citizenship, there has to be a very good rationale for such a decision. During the war years there must have been security concerns therefore the need to vet applicants carefully. But in the new environment where democratic energies have been unleashed and those in authority seem to understand the global and national issues better, there is no apparent reason to restrict or make it harder for those who left the country to regain Sri Lankan citizenship. Furthermore, many countries in the region and elsewhere have embraced dual citizenship. It is a global trend.

One area where there could be a challenge is when the children of these migrant Sri Lankans want to apply for dual citizenship. Many of them may not be fluent in local languages or the history, the culture and the place. Their motivations for applying for Sri Lankan citizenship could be quite different from the parental generation. Some may have interests in professional work, yet others in voluntary work. The opportunity for the second-generation children to apply for Sri Lankan citizenship should not be curtailed. Rather they should be facilitated.

Obviously the rights and responsibilities of dual citizens is another area to consider carefully. Whether they should enjoy full rights of citizenship including ability to contest elections and campaign for the same or engage in political activity is one area to consider. In my view, there should not be any limit on these for dual citizens. Countries like Italy elect a number of MPs to its parliament from the Italian diaspora. In terms of responsibilities, dual citizens should be required to visit Sri Lanka and stay for at least a couple of months in every two or three years-unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Regaining Sri Lankan citizenship implies loyalty to the country and its people in addition to wanting to regain the lost identity formally. Though many migrants to countries like Australia are domiciled there, the heart and mind of many such migrants are still with Sri Lanka. It is because of the circumstances that they have chosen to be away from the country at some point in their life. This should not be a reason to deny them their Sri Lankan citizenship. I hope the authorities in the new government will look at this issue sympathetically in a broader perspective and facilitate those migrants who left the country and their children to regain Sri Lankan citizenship without creating any barriers

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Latest comments

  • 7
    13

    A person born in a country “automatically” by virtue of Birth gets it’s citizenship. Then he/she is a citizen by birth and in other words it is your “Birth Right”.

    If that person leaves his country of birth and obtains a “citizenship” in another country,he/she gets that citizenship as a matter of “privilege” and not as a “right”. It is therefore a “privilege” subjected to conditions and that can be “withdrawn” by the host country.

    If in such an event of a “withdrawal” and that person is sent back to his country of “Birth” who has a “Birth Right” to citizenship, can that person be “refused” entry? Or, in the case of a person who elects to give up the citizenship he obtained in a foreign country and comes back to his country of birth, can he be refused? Or, can a person’s “BIRTH RIGHT” to citizenship in his country of birth be “DENIED” at all? In any case, are the “Laws” framed to “forfeit” that “Birth Right” on obtaining a “privilege” offered by another country considered “LEGAL” and how do such “Laws” stand validity in the eye of Human Rights?

    Can someone, please, explain to me the answers to above “ambiguities” I have in regard to this matter of “Dual Citizenship”. Thank you.

    • 6
      12

      Dr. Siri Gamage,

      Douglas above is correct. That is a birthright. The Fee is a State expense and economic value issue, but should be independent of the birthright.

      “Many of these migrants to other countries lost their Sri Lankan citizenship when they applied for citizenship in their domiciled countries. As busy people trying to make a living in an alien country and culture, they may not have thought through the consequences of this decision at the time. However, later in their life naturally some migrants develop a desire to return to the mother country- at least for a part of the year- and spend quality time with family and friends while enjoying Sri Lankan hospitality. Looked this way, the government of Sri Lanka can facilitate this desire of migrant Sri Lankans who lost their citizenship by formulating a viable dual citizenship scheme and coupled with a reasonable application fee”

      Birthright issue they had to begin with. It is like a birth certificate and birthday. The State must make the cost reasonable, and the country can benefit enormously.

      • 4
        12

        Dr. Siri Gamage,

        Good, Good Children.

        Are these kids, in the video, whether Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim or other, when they grow up go abroad, get other citizenships, and cannot come back to where they were born and raised? Isn’t that a birth right?

    • 2
      12

      Very thoughtful question for which I too is waiting for a suitable answer

    • 2
      12

      What about the children of mixed marriages, born, bread and socialised with friends and relations in SL, classified as foreigners, but who wish to remain living in SL. Should it not be fair the granting of dual citizenship would apply to them also. Otherwise they would become stateless-like persons with the basic human citizens rights denied.

  • 5
    13

    Dr. Siri Gamage, it’s like lecturing to a bunch of morons. I am sure they have a different agenda when they refuse to grasp the obvious advantages in Dual Citizenship. My friends overseas are worried sick because their parents are aged and they cannot inherit their properties. These friends, after becoming foreigners, have invested Rs. Millions in Sri Lanka, not to make money, but to help the economy grow. The reward for this had been the SEC regulation (June 2013 Directive) that the monies in the mandatory SIA Account (credits from dividends and sales) can only be spent on investments, unless the investor is physically present. To give money to their relatives, they have to remit foreign currency.

    • 7
      12

      You are right in that the great demand today for dual citizenship is the desire to inherit parental properties. Your “friends”, I dare say should have helped the parents NOT in the hope of an inheritance but because it was what they wanted to do. Those who had gone abroad and accumulated their own earned wealth, should be more than happy for the parental properties to go to the siblings who were left behind in Sri Lanka and on whom the parents directly depended for their well being.

      The contributions, in the millions made to the LTTE and it’s proxies should be written off as failed ‘investments’, though in fact they were used to destroy the local economy.

      • 1
        14

        It is the mindset of morons like yourself ‘Ram’ that assumes all the foreign Sri Lankans are LTTE supporters. I think what you fear most is that these foreign qualified Dual Citizens would improve the quality of ‘English Tutors’ that you have been able to exploit for so long with your broken English and atrocious grammar.

        • 0
          7

          ” Sylvia Haik “,

          ” assumes all the foreign Sri Lankans are LTTE supporters. “

          That is an assumption made by you, and therefore the description you’ve chosen belongs elsewhere. What I do know is that even among the Sinhala and Muslim Sri Lankans living abroad, there are a few LTTE sympathisers. The discussion is about ‘dual’ nationality. Those you refer to as foreign ‘Sri Lankans’ (whether foreign qualified or not) would by definition not be seeking this facility. The rest of your comment puts you in the same category as those of ‘our brethren’ living abroad who refer to us Sri Lankans as ‘ a dollar a day slaves ‘. Yet, they seek, nay demand, a Sri Lankan passport as a right, though at an earlier time they could not get rid of it fast enough.

          • 2
            1

            “Yet, they seek, nay demand, a Sri Lankan passport as a right, though at an earlier time they could not get rid of it fast enough.” I am sadly elevating you to a state of importance you don’t deserve by responding to your garbage. You are under a misapprehension that all former Sri Lankans seek to attain Dual Citizenship. Check how many applied for it during the years it was cheap and operational. You are deluding yourself thinking everybody is clamouring to come to Sri Lanka, perhaps for the corruption, white-van abductions and exploitations. If not for the relations ties and an unappreciated loyalty to the motherland, it is cost-effective for these former Sri Lankans to reside in India or Malaysia, where foreign self-supporting residents are welcomed with open arms, and commute to Sri Lanka. What you fear most is the superior quality and skill of these ‘foreigners’ would annihilate the living you have made thus far with your mediocrity.

  • 5
    13

    The question of dual-citizenship has to be restored to its original state, viz. as provided for in the 1948 Citizenship Act. The placing of
    its provisions on hold by Mahinda Rajapakse in Feb. 2011 was merely due to the debacle at the Oxford Meeting being disrupted. The back-log of
    nearly 90,000 applications are pending (subject to I/Es confirmation of
    this figure) and probably 90-95% consists of Tamils – which was enough
    to upset the psychopath Gota. Good Governance requires the restoration
    to status-quo, whilst only the Fees may be increased in keeping with
    monetary values.

    India has established very well its OIC (Overseas Indian Citizen) with
    some restriction on land purchase but not housing etc. They have the
    largest diaspora in the world. Sri Lankan diaspora is getting stronger
    all the time and making inroads into the economy & politics of the lands
    they reside.

    An indicator of how the diaspora benefits Sri Lanka is the recent change
    in the Index of Inward remittances, where NP beat WP for the 1st position.

    • 12
      0

      How about those ex pats as you self struggling in the West with the hypocrisy as you your self have written about many times regarding the double standard. Should they be granted duel citizen ship likes of Gotta. Or should they relinquish as in your case New Zealand citizenship before been granted Sri Lankan citizenship.For me I value my New Zealand citizenship very highly but that has not stop me doing my bit for Sri Lanka over the years.

  • 8
    13

    People who cancelled the dual citizenship in the previous government HAD DUAL CITZENSHIP. Thos morons should have given up dual citizenship before cancelling to others. I want sri lankan government to bring back the DUAL CITIZENSHIP.IF you were born in Sri Lanka no matter your obtain another countries citizenship you STIL SHOULD VE YOUR CITIZENSHIP IN SRI LANKA. THAT YOUR BIRTH RIGHT! THIS IS A HUMAN RIGHT!

    • 8
      7

      Could you expand on the first sentence. If you are referring to Gotabhaya R. and if it is true that he is a US citizen, he CANNOT be a citizen of another country. This is a privilege available on to the Judaics.

      There are those who wilfully discarded their ‘birthright’ It is their right to do so. Some went further, much further and became traitors. They should NEVER be allowed to set foot in Sri Lanka.

  • 1
    12

    The Indians are giving non-resident indian status (NRIC) to Indians who can prove their descent. They find that this attracts a lot of capital back to India. It is a good scheme for SL to follow. The issue of birth rights are not important. It will be of immense economic benefit if SL people with foreign money are attracted back into the country. Of course, the moral argument that there is a blood connection ( as lawyers would put it, a jus sanguinis ) with the country does help.

    • 6
      1

      Go to Hindia pronto!

      Modi wants money laundering- no copy right in 3rd world.
      SL does not want guns & drugs sponsored by refugees of all races.

  • 1
    13

    I may not agree with the article on the whole. Yes they are citizens but they were willing to give it up for whatever reason. How should they be equated to the others who stay here? Should we consider those who leave us in distress to come back when things are better as equal citizens? I have no objections to giving them overseas citizenship with restriction on employment, vote etc, unless they are willing to give up their new citizenship. Why not?
    Why do you need a dual? You want to have the best of all sides. may not be fair from those who toil in this country not because they cannot leave but they wish to stay here.
    You have a right to be here as a citizen, but as a DUAL, you are asking for a previlage, because you waived your rights for another. Would you be happy if that country treated you as a visitor and not a citizen in all terms? We amyhave global citizenship one day like the EU, until then, DUAL is only a previlage as the article says for mutual advantage, and would and should be with restrictions and limitiations.

    jay

  • 5
    5

    correction :This is a privilege available only to the Judaics.

  • 5
    11

    Dual Nationality for those born in Sri Lanka should not be curtailed. I know of many parents who retained their Lankan citizenship when they emigrated abroad taking their minor children born in SL who when they reached majority had to opt for citizenship of the country they resided for reason of higher education or career prospects and were not in a position to return back with their parents when their parents decided to return home.
    Some of them have obtained valuable specialist qualifications and gained experience which could be utilised if they were given citizenship. I know many such youngsters who would prefer to return if they were only given a chance.

  • 11
    5

    For example, those who migrated to Australia in the 70s and 80s are now reaching their retirement age. Many of these migrants are professionals who left the country to provide a better education for their children and also to access career advancement while enjoying the fruits of a rule abiding, democratic system of governance and an orderly life. Before leaving the country, many had served motherland for number of years. When these cohorts of migrants settled in countries like Australia are reaching the retirement age,

    Above is a nice way to present, that many got free education from Sri lanka. Now, they are retired; their children grown up and they want to come back to Sri lanka and enjoy what was missing in their lives.

    Govt should charge them handily if they ask dual citizenship.

    Govt can not do moral acts. govt can do only what is fitting for the country.

    • 3
      12

      For once Jim talks sense. There must be a charge, depending on the circumstances. A fat charge for a person returning just to enjoy retirement but if he invests or starts a charity, then different considerations should apply.

  • 2
    13

    well my experience is: to live in Sri Lanka one has to be pretty rich or a politico or a thug then you are fine that’s it.

    • 8
      2

      Original bulath chewing north hindia Pan may be the Heyna got its colour katuso chaemelons.- shape shape human ha ha!

  • 0
    11

    Dear Dr. Gamage,
    Your article well represented the future of SriLanka. Some of the views expressed may reflects current political bias but it is very valuable to discuss policy decisions on Non Resident SriLankans( NRS). Indian and Chinese economies growing very fast and it needs sound knowledgeable and experience people to cultivate our economy to that level. If govt. make right policy decisions on dual citizenship and other related matters, it is not needed imported skilled people to cater our economy. For example, there are many doctors and technical skilled young and retired who are working in English speaking lands. If they encouraged to visit and shared their services, the entire country will benefit. Some of the political perverts think negatively and we can’t blame them. Current political climate is such. There are so many experts in different fields who can contribute their services to lift the economy faster even in the financial sector too.
    Some political pundits thinking in terms of racist mindset and interpret that, it is hidden agenda to infiltrate again. If any one concern on the country’s economic well being, they have to plan how to integrate valuable know how. Due to this purpose some of fellow expatriates started to form Non Resident Sri Lankans organisation within the Tamils in order to liaise with current government.

  • 2
    12

    Yes, everyone born in Ceylon/Sri Lanka should have the right to be a citizen of Sri Lanka irrespective of subsequently becoming a citizen of another country because of job requirements, etc.

    Most left the country because of economic reasons. When the country could not provide the promotional opportunities under an inefficient administrative and political system, they left after serving their motherland for a number of years to compensate for their education.

    Most of those who remained were those who failed to find greener pastures in more developed countries. Now, they pretend to be patriots. Of course, there are a few exceptions.

    It’s moronic to treat these expatriates as foreigners when they return home on holidays or for retirement. Don’t target them as foreign tourists when they visit the Cultural Triangle to make some fast money.

    The expatriates helped an overpopulated island to control its misery during a period when unemployment and underemployment was rampant and an ethnic war rampaged for 30 years.

  • 2
    10

    Granting of dual citizenship should also apply to children of mixed marriages born, bread and choosing to live in SL. Such children are otherwise discrimated to become mere stateless persons without basic human citizensrights.

  • 1
    1

    Yes, there should certainly be a nominal fee for application of a dual citizen status. What is wrong with the picture is that it has turned out to be a revenue generating venture for the government. Rather than provide incentives for the expatriates to come back and contribute to the economy by spending or in investments, the exorbitant fees suggested (USD 5000), will discourage many from returning. They may have earned in dollars, but don’t forget that they also spent in dollars in places where cost of living was exorbitant . In addition the current cost of living in SL is a far cry from affordability and access to basic comforts with the meager savings that most expatriates seem to posses.
    http://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living/index
    Just my two cents worth.

  • 1
    0

    The concept of the dual citizenship in this country was introduced or mooted by Minister Lalith Athulathmudali, Minister Karunanayake’s guru, in the JRJ government.

    Ex Sri Lankans who had some attachment to this country were prepared to become Sri Lankans again while retaining their acquired nationality even to the extent of paying nearly USD 1000 per applicant. Benefits that Sri Lanka gained unfortunately has not been quantified.

    I personally know of a case where he was a field engineer in 1970’s, migrated to greener pastures, not only did he acquire wealth but did enough research on many subjects, returned to Sri Lanka in his age of retirement and is now holding an honorary position in one of our Universities, lecturing students free of charge, performing research for down trodden people of North Central Province stricken with kidney diseases again free of charge. There are many dual citizens of Sri Lanka who teach on a voluntary basis to down trodden students.

    The MARA government, in the pretext of security shut off processing applications. But it was a sham operation. People who were labelled as security risks were declared OK when they used the right connection. Only MARA/GOTA cleared fellows got it and not others.

    Now Ravi K who is bent to Tax heavily whom it is considered as luxury has decided a USD 5000 fee. It is as good as taxing heavily the hybrid vehicle which is energy saving. The failure on the part of the state machinery to quantify the benefits of dual citizens to our country is indeed a loss for our down trodden. Most of these people who left us for greener pastures because they did not have to the levels they expected and now that they have they are giving the ordinary folks their soft and hard skills.

    The Maithri – Ranil government of the people should not look hard at dual citizenship but encourage it and invite more expatriates to build our country.

  • 0
    0

    I wish to add some points, frequent travelers living abroad would like a nationality other than Sri Lanka.

    In my 30years experiance last year I experianced a horrible delay with geting a new passport due to exsisting passport did not have sufficient pages.

    My application was sent in November and I received new passport in March. One of the reasons the delay was because in the passport application I wrote my proffesion as engineer and my passport in was blank and previous passport it stated as traveling service engineer.

    In order to satisfy, I has to get orginal certificate translated in english by authorized translater and certified by forign office and certified also by local Sri Lankan embassy.

    In the mean time I had to wait to apply for Visa to England.

    Due to these disadvantages, I am now considering to change my nationality to host country.

    I recently realised that my motherland can issue dual nationality to me but the host country does not approve Sri Lankan Dual nationality scheme

  • 0
    0

    My dear friends and fellow country menn
    Please inform what are the benifits to maintain Sri Lankan Nationalitay
    appart from owning property, long term stay in Sri Lanka and voting rights.

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