By Amrit Muttukumaru –
There is a great deal of controversy on the eligibility of former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa (GR) to be a candidate at the presidential elections due shortly – most probably in December 2019. This hinges on whether or not he has lawfully renounced his US citizenship.
Notwithstanding the absence in the public domain of irrefutable documentary evidence of renunciation, Gotabaya was anointed with much fanfare as the presidential candidate of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) by his elder brother and leader of the party former President Mahinda Rajapaksa at its convention held on 11 August. Although from the looks of it based on realpolitik, GR appears to be the frontrunner, it is by no means a done deal due to inter alia strong opposition to him from the 30% minorities and part of the 70% Sinhala-Buddhist vote going the way of the UNP and JVP candidates. Nevertheless due to GR’s perceived image as a no-nonsense national security ‘champion’, he is most likely the strongest ‘beneficiary’ from the Easter Sunday carnage. Even some portion of the traditional UNP catholic vote could go to GR.
Into this conundrum steps in US Ambassador Alaina B. Teplitz who at a press conference held a few days ago made an astounding assertion that hugely compromises the integrity of the US Federal Register which lists persons who have lost their US citizenship. This in particular applies to the Federal Register of the Internal Revenue Service which as recently as 15 August 2019 listed persons “losing United States citizenship …… during the quarter ending June 30, 2019.”
This is in the context of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s name not being listed among those losing their US citizenship. Has the US ambassador given a lifeline to GR’s candidacy by stating:
“Federal Register could often be months behind the recording of one’s renunciation of citizenship” (Ref. ‘Daily Mirror’ 20 August 2019)
SOFA & MCC
Although in stray cases there could possibly be a delay in the transmission of renunciation data applicable to remote locations in the world where communication is slow and inefficient, it could hardly be argued that Sri Lanka is one such place. For example, in the aftermath of the recent Easter Sunday carnage, were not video clips uploaded and shown on CNN within a matter of minutes?
Is it not reasonable to surmise that the US Embassy in Colombo which is working enthusiastically to have in place in Sri Lanka controversial agreements such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) would have in place state-of-the-art communication equipment? Hence is it not reasonable to assume that information relating to Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s renunciation of citizenship which purportedly took place in May 2019 would have been transmitted to the relevant US state agencies promptly? Are we to assume that the names published in the US Federal Register on 15 August 2019 do not include persons whose expatriation of citizenship took place in May and June 2019? In the event that such names do appear, what is the rationale for discriminating against Gotabaya Rajapaksa by deferring the publication of his name?
Does not the question also arise as to why the US takes the trouble to publish data on a quarterly basis if it is neither authentic nor complete?
It is telling that the notification published in the Federal Register by the Internal Revenue Service does not contain a disclaimer relating to its accuracy.
Ambassador Teplitz as per the media report contradicted herself at the press conference when after commenting on Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s name not being in the Federal Register she later “declined to comment on specific cases of renunciation”! (‘Daily Mirror’ 20 August 2019)
The upshot of the ambassador’s astounding assertion is that in the future it will be difficult for countries and people to place confidence in the integrity of US official data.
The million dollar question is – why is the US Ambassador seemingly bending over backwards to give an IMPROBABLE reason for Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s name not being included in the Federal Register? Is she being disingenuous?