27 July, 2021

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To Be Or Not To Be: A Dual Citizen In Sri Lankan Parliament 

By Thangamuthu Jayasingam

Dr. Thangamuthu Jayasingam

Cabinet spokesperson Mr. Udaya Gammanpila was on the news about the cabinet decisions and announced ‘the president at the cabinet stated that the dual citizenship in politics would be barred through constitutional reforms soon’.  

I still have in memory how people who spoke for the 20th amendment specifically for the clause to include the ‘dual citizen to parliament’ spoke on it and how many documents were circulated to state the then candidate Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa had surrendered his US citizenship and is eligible to be a candidate for presidency and the  news around it. 

Our Judiciary  held against Ms. Geetha Kumarasinghe to be a member of parliament being a dual citizen under the existing laws of the day. It was a herculean task to change that by way of changing the 19th amendment with support from various people and parties. Not even a year gone, they are rethinking of the amendments made. Our politicians are so variable in their thinking and actions that probably soon they will cancel the 20th amendment and go back to 19th if it suits them. 

It seems such a child play with constitution that many of our politicians practice. Many who had voted for the 19th amendment voted against it for the 20th amendment and it is they in my opinion who betray the country for their survival. Otherwise how does one agree to a constitutional amendment in 2015/6 and then reverse in 2019/20 and even comment/acknowledge in reverse of the clause in 2021. How could judiciary interpret the constitution if these change as frequently as once a year? A case filed in relation to such a claim in 2019 would have a different judgment in 2020 and another different one in 2021, legally correct, morally wrong. If the case had been delayed for a year then the judgment would vary. It also leads to the thinking that the change was made for a particular purpose and when that was achieved that then they want it reversed so that others also do not use it.

Can this re-emergence of dual citizenship have anything to do with the open spat within the government about who should lead the SLPP? There is a suitable dual citizen waiting in the wings.  On the other hand, I wonder that whether the news of the BJP coming to Sri Lanka generated a knee jerk reaction as there are many dual citizens between India and Sri Lanka who could easily involve in politics legally. Was that a concern, do not know but may be would be my answer? However we have had foreign country names in political parties before. The Communist Party (China) had been one recognized long years ago.

The time has come that even parliamentarians become accountable for their choices and options in issues and if they change frequently they may be made liable for litigation as they represent us and changes without adequate reasons may affect the entire nation; if they give a reason they also would have to answer why they had another view earlier, specially shortly earlier, with the same background information. Seeking revision through judiciary is a serious concern and not an arbitrary notion.

The million dollar question would be what would happen to a dual citizen who may become a member of parliament now, if and when the constitution is revised as suggested. There may be possible options for more litigations similar to ‘insider trading’ in commerce on these…..we will await. Another query would be employment of dual citizen to government service may also require judicial interpretation, if necessary.

*The author is an Attorney at law and also former Vice Chancellor, Eastern University, Sri Lanka and Chairman, Provincial Public Service Commission, Eastern Province.

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Latest comments

  • 3
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    TJ, very well said. That’s why one illustrious politician (forget who) said, during JR’s or Preme’s time that the Sri Lankan Constitution has replaced the position held by the Ceylon Daily News as the premier News Sheet of Sri Lanka. See the big neighbours constitution (of similar age as ours – but has the 3rd such document) or that of USA (200+ years now), how many amendments they have and how many we have? Every time we have breakfast, like reading the CDN, we want a new one – amend it. We don’t clearly understand a Joke.

    • 2
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      A dual citizen should not be a parliamentarian or a parliamentarian should not be a dual citizen – I don’t know which one is grammatically correct, that is the end of the story anyway. Full stop.

      Soma

  • 0
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    It is interesting to find out how many of our politicians had voted for all four constitutional amendments-17th, 18th, 19th and 20th .

  • 0
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    I was born a citizen lost it and regained it. Through it all I never felt that I was anything other than a Sri Lankan. I know after all my travails I will only be “home” in Lanka.

    I would never want to be a parliamentarian and would certainly have no such interest. But I think by preventing dual citizens Sri Lanka could be losing out .

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