19 September, 2020

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Dual Citizenship Restriction: Time For Change 

By Chamindra Weerawardhana –

Dr. Chamindra Weerawardhana

The draft 20th Amendment to the 1978 Constitution of the 2nd Republic of Sri Lanka, in its current form, lifts the existing restriction on Sri Lankans with dual citizenship holding elected office. This is a laudable decision, and also a long overdue one. 

In an increasingly interconnected and globalised world, it simply does not make sense to prevent suitably qualified people from accessing opportunities based on criteria of this nature. Preventing citizens with dual citizenship from accessing high office effectively wipes out a substantial segment of educated, experienced, patriotic and committed Sri Lankans from serving the country. 

To contextualise this issue, Sri Lanka is not the only country to implement such restrictive policies. The 2016 Algerian Constitution includes a similar clause. Australia bans dual citizens from holding federal-level office. These developments are also linked to the rise of populist politics across the world. The fact that a UNF government introduced this ban is a clear indication of something this writer has been reiterating repeatedly – that the neoliberal UNF [or, for that matter, its present-day manifestation SJB] does not represent a more ‘pro-democratic’ posture than the neocon SLPP. The civil society/non-profit sector’s shortfalls in fathoming this reality has [and will] come at a high cost, to say the least.  

In many countries, people holding dual citizenship do occupy high office. In such places, reactionaries call for dual citizenship-related restrictions. While such views are sometimes veiled in a discourse of ‘order and ethics’,  these critiques only water down to a quintessential ‘frog in the well’ attitude. 

In President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government, the Garde des Sceaux-Minister of Justice, Rachida Dati, happened to have dual citizenship. The French far-right party Rassemblement National [RS, previously known as Front National] took issue with the Justice Minister’s dual citizenship – a critique that Sarkozy himself held in complete disregard. Views expressed back in 2007 by Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder and then leader of Front National, on Minister Dati share a great deal in common with elements of the Lankan alt-right that oppose the lifting of the existing restriction on dual citizens holding elected office. RS and other reactionaries have been using the topic of double nationalité to repeatedly attack ethnic minority politicians, such as ex-minister Najat-Vallaud-Belkacem and Sibeth Ndiaye, ex-spokeswoman of the Macron administration and ex-Secretary of State to the French prime minister. Reactionary politicians seldom fail to weaponize their opponents’ dual citizenship for political mileage. Former Canadian Premier Stephen Harper once criticised former NDP leader Tom Mulcair’s dual citizenship, adding the absolute platitude “I’m a Canadian and only a Canadian”. 

If the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration genuinely intends to lift the existing restriction on dual citizens assuming high office, it will be a very positive development. Whether the actual decision is motivated by concerns of a dynastic, if not a ‘fraternity’ nature is beside the point. Restricting Sri Lankans from serving the country simply because they have citizenship is, simply, an abject inanity. To give credit where it is due, previous Rajapaksa administrations have indeed shown a keenness to deploy the skills and experience of dual citizens – from Dr Palitha Kohona to Dr Chris Nonis – to the advantage of the Lankan state. 

Most importantly, a substantial majority of highly qualified Sri Lankans, who are indeed very well-placed to make valuable contributions to Sri Lanka, are in fact naturalised citizens of other countries. In most cases, people obtain a second citizenship due to work and family concerns. Being naturalised in a country where one works and lives does not make one any less Sri Lankan. Given the travel restrictions attached to the Lankan passport and the contempt with which it is held at international borders, it is impossible to blame Sri Lankans who seek naturalisation in countries with powerful passports. In the same way Canada has moved on to affirm that citizens with dual citizenship are part and parcel of the Canadian experience of public life, we in Sri Lanka will be doing ourselves a favour to come to terms with the reality that many of the best products of Lanka have dual citizenship. A clement policy will also be helpful in deploying the skills of Sri Lankan diaspora youth to the advantage of the Lankan state. 

Instead of a blanket ban on dual citizenship holders, what is needed is a strong, efficient and feasible vetting system for dual citizens who seek high office with the Government of Sri Lanka. Apart from the positions of head of government and head of state, all other opportunities should be open to suitably qualified Sri Lankans who hold dual citizenship. It will be a tremendous incentive to citizens concerned, and will have a positive overall effect on the Lankan political landscape. 

*The writer is an educator, political analyst & human rights activist

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Latest comments

  • 10
    0

    The relevent subject minister can remove the Sri Lankan citizenship of any dual citizen without any legal procedure. So, what will happen if the minister remove Sri Lankan citizenship of an MP ?

    • 6
      1

      People were fooled for their come back.

      Today, even social media seems to be very silent on acts against srilanken deforestration being continued by direct mediation of Rajapakshes.

      How stupid the nation should be will be seen in next months and years.
      :
      Just imagine the man on the swing- would be GOTABAYA/Mahinda in the days to come, so long people would stay allowing anything and everything to do with them, as seen in the video. Why should srilanken fall to the primitive levels of rural indians `? Rajapakshes are fishing on muddy waters.
      .
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXZQomvJn4Q

      • 6
        6

        Mr. leela ge …..
        .
        Mexico Runs Out of Death Certificates After Rush of Covid Cases.

        • 2
          0

          SCP@
          Why should I bother with a guy who would never see it right ?

          I now stopped adding my two cts worth to your posts. Better to get my dogs out in that time for a walk. Or add a good comment to my dear FRIEND – Mr SINHALA MAN.

          Btw, Why not you try to start your kindergarten Ms/Mr SCP ? Tomorrow will be too late. Do it at least for your family sake !

          We are still waiting to get our special permission to land our pvt jet in BIA in November. My friends are very worried of travelling this time to srilanka. However, I told them that devil is not as black as he’s painted becuase I have still been thinking of real poor people of our country.

  • 3
    6

    Thank you Chamindra for the lovely narrative. A case well made fit for the needs of the Nation under current world order too.

    A through vetting by the secret services should remove any National Security issues??

    • 11
      0

      But who runs the Security Service in Sri Lanka and now to be made worse by 20A. All power concentrated with no balances or checks. Judges including CJ, the IGP,Auditior General and all others appointed on the whims and fancies of just the ONE.
      What vetting ?

      • 10
        0

        History of vetting is non existent. It is a myth. When Mr Gotabaya got dual citizenship, there was no vetting and he got it in a day. When he needed a SL passport, no vetting again, and he had it over the weekend.

  • 18
    1

    Well … that’s all well and good. But if such dual citizens come to Sri Lanka and get involved in racist, fascist, or terrorist/genocidal politics or governance and violate the human rights of its people – then the countries of their other citizenship should recall them and throw them in the jail. We don’t want them here.

    • 0
      2

      Dear Ajay

      One is under the jurisdiction of the country when you are in that land. Say for example when I am in SL the British can not protect me from any criminal activity in SL as I fall under SL jurisdiction. That is why many did not bother to take up the GOSL offer of dual nationalituy keeping themselves away from the law and order accounting in SL.

      I agree the host countries who have accommodated the killers on humanitarian grounds and given them the CItizenship should always repatriate them back to the their original crime scene for them to stand trial and labour the Nation Building acitivities too should they posses any valuable skills etc. I am not sure if SL has made formal request as some of the missing also could be accounted for the innocent parents who had their children stolen from Jaffna in the 70’s and never to see them again.

      This is also needed for the Truth and Reconciliation as all who killed and been party to crimes need to face their VICTIMS along with those whom you mentioned too. One for all and all for one.

      The SL only allows whom they consider to be acceptable to be dual Nationals in the first place?? But to hold the GOSL positions they may need to be further vetted correct.

  • 3
    3

    A citizenship act came into being way back in 1948, when the Controller of Immigration and Emigration, informed the Prime Minister of the day that the latter’s request cannot be implemented without a change in the law. In 1980’s the act was amended to facilitate dual citizenship enabling ex-Sri Lankans to enjoy citizenship rights permitting their contribution to the country, not without any personal overtone. The 19th amendment introduced restrictions for a dual citizen to be an MP and consequently for the positions of Ministers, Prime Minister and President, not without any personal overtone. The 20th amendment intends to remove that, not without any personal overtone. So, there is a bearing on persons and personalities in each of these enactments. Note that the restrictions imposed in the 19th amendment does not cover elected offices in Provincial Councils and Local Governments. Why must there be a difference? It is tragic that the laws were enacted not based on a principled stand but to grant favors to friends or shut out your adversaries. It is also known that SLFP is opposing the entry of dual citizenship, using as a bargaining ploy for a newly created position for its leader.

  • 3
    1

    Algeria!

  • 1
    1

    agree , For anyone other than the President this should be ok

  • 10
    1

    The author must be looking for a Government position.
    Read the US citizenship oath quoted below.

    Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America
    Oath. Allegiance to US and even to bear arms. How can a US citizen giving the below oath- give priority to Sri Lankan issues

    https://www.uscis.gov/citizenship/learn-about-citizenship/the-naturalization-interview-and-test/naturalization-oath-of-allegiance-to-the-united-states-of-america#:~:text=%22I%20hereby%20declare%2C%20on%20oath,the%20United%20States%20of%20America

    “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

  • 7
    0

    Duel citizens have the ready-made escape route !

  • 9
    0

    Total humbug.
    Dual citizens should not even be eligible to vote, let alone being MPs.
    If you remove the condition that one must be a citizen of Sri Lanka we can attract not a pool but a WORLD of talent. Like Arjun Mahendran who became the governer of central bank.

    Soma

  • 9
    0

    Sri Lankans, being the duplicitous lot that many of them are, will obtain citizenship of another country merely to obtain the perquisites and privileges that accrue under such citizenship, and not due to any loyalty or allegiance to that country. In other words, they’re always in it for solely selfish motivations. That being said, it is important to understand why a citizenship oath or even test is (sometimes unfairly) conducted by powerful “in demand” countries when poor sods arrive at their shores. One would be quite naive to imagine that the lifting of such restrictions in Sri Lanka has an altruistic or compassionate motivation. No, it is merely to facilitate access and consolidate the status quo of the powerful.

  • 5
    1

    People were fooled for their come back.

    Today, even social media seems to be very silent on acts against srilanken deforestration being continued by direct mediation of Rajapakshes.

    How stupid the nation should be will be seen in next months and years.
    :
    Just imagine the man on the swing- would be GOTABAYA/Mahinda in the days to come, so long people would stay allowing anything and everything to do with them, as seen in the video. Why should srilanken fall to the primitive levels of rural indians `? Rajapakshes are fishing on muddy waters. XXXXXX
    .
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXZQomvJn4Q

  • 6
    0

    Dr Chamindra Weerawardhana

    I am a bit confused, maybe because I don’t have your intellect but aren’t you contradicting when you say ”……. Instead of a blanket ban on dual citizenship holders, what is needed is a strong, efficient and feasible vetting system for dual citizens who seek high office with the Government of Sri Lanka” & in the same breath say ”… Apart from the positions of head of government and head of state ….”? In my simple understanding, when you say ‘high office’, is it not the same as the office of the President?

    Certainly, I agree that suitably qualified & experienced expats holding duel citizenship should be given the opportunity to serve their country of birth if they so wish & their expertise would be most welcome at this crucial time but it’s ethically & morally wrong for a duel citizenship holder, who invariably has pledged allegiance to an ‘adopted’ country to get citizenship, to serve as the head of state. Can you pledge allegiance (even only ceremonially) to 2 countries at the same time? Considering the uncertainty hanging over GR’s American citizenship, will he pass your robust vetting system? In fact, who should be responsible for the vetting system?

    • 12
      0

      In a way dual citizenship is like legalised bigamy. You will be faithful and serve any one or the other depending what you can get from each, money, sex, status etc. It is, so very often, not principles or morals that will be guiding factor. Most obtain dual citizenship to open the doors to a plethora of business opportunities, and conclude business deals, get medical or educational facilities that were otherwise unavailable or hard to come by based on the original passport.
      So it depends on how sincere one is and not there to get whatever one can. And who is there to judge? Double-edged.

      • 2
        2

        F
        A bigamist’s actions are personal matters (except where law stands in the way) and do not affect any outside the family circle.
        The country is a little bigger, I guess.

  • 12
    0

    Dual citizenship is fine where it concerns apolitical matters.
    There is the question of divided loyalty in the affairs of the state.
    If there is conflict of interest between the US and Sri Lanka, where does the dual citizen stand?
    It does not matter if the person is not in a position to make decisions,
    So it is not just elected posts but also appointments to sensitive posts.
    *
    Can an alien be the President of the USA?
    If that is possible, a US national with Sri Lankan nationality can be the president of Sri Lanka.

    • 10
      1

      The writers contention of citing Dr Palitha Kohona and Dr Chris Nonis is not quite in order. They served the country abroad as envoys. They did not direct any affairs of state policy by being an MP or Minister or President. Even now we have many US citizens of SL origin serving currently as envoys and even as Chairman of the CAA, under 19A.

      • 1
        0

        Envoys carry out orders on laid down policy of govt but not in the making of policy by being MPs PM or Prez.

      • 0
        0

        F
        Even then, there is room for discretion on the part of an envoy in many contexts. The person could say or do something hurting relations between Sri Lanka and a friendly country with which his ‘other motherland’ is at loggerheads.
        So it is best to be safe than sorry.

  • 10
    1

    This young lady is clearly batting for the privileged classes/persons holding “dual citizenship” in Sri Lanka, including herself, aspiring for political or other office. Fine with me. What I find repulsive is that she has not a single word for the ordinary “dual citizens” who are disenfranchised (and penalized) by the current law. Many “ordinary” so-called “dual” citizens (99 percent) do not aspire to enter parliament or become ministers etc. They want to belong to the country of their birth or ancestry. Nothing wrong with that either. I am sure that some of these “dual citizens” have in mind the thoughts expressed in the Amaradeva lyrics Sassara Wassana Thuru: “ ….. hela randerane yalli upadinnata, hethu wassana wewa …Thisa wewai Sigiriyayi mage urumayayi…. Nothing more, nothing less!

    • 1
      1

      Y
      Of the 99% many are dual citizens not for love for the motherland but for love for the wealth that they possess in the motherland.
      Give them a choice between the two passports, you will know where their true love lies.

  • 5
    1

    I am amazed at your wisdom. You must be a veterinarian. How could one be the president of SL, when the person has pledged allegiance to another country? Mahendran jumped ship after defrauding the CB. We cannot touch him.

  • 5
    0

    Sri Lankans who have gone from here seems to get the best of both worlds. Well, if they are indispensable, they may be made use of for specialized engagement with highly technical jobs. But certainly not to be a politically high ranking individual to guide Lanka.

  • 4
    0

    Dual sexuality? Certainly but dual citizenship? No. There are far too many loopholes and dangers.

  • 2
    0

    Being a dual citizen has its risks, especially for war criminals. Chucky Taylor, the American born son of the Liberian war lord Charles Taylor, was convicted and sentences to 99 years by a court in the USA, for war crimes committed in Liberia.

    Likewise, US citizens can be tried in the USA for financial and other crimes committed abroad.

  • 2
    0

    By vetting system read between the lines.
    Is the dual national a Rajapakse clan?
    Yes – OK
    No- kick him/her out

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