The Long Wait for New Dual Citizenship Regulations – This needs the attention of President Mahinda Rajapakse
Posted on November 15th, 2011

Anjalika Silva  USA

When the country”‘s immediate need to bring back knowledge workers to assist in the development process, why is so much weight given to a flawed system of dual citizenship which has now become tied to reversing brain drain and a hindrance to bringing people back. Politicians extend invitations to expats to come back when overseas. What about the rest of it?

It is a long time since the notice stated below first appeared on the website of the Sri Lanka Department of Immigration and Emigration with no indication of what is to follow.

“…”Acceptance of Dual Citizenship applications and the application already approved and due for payments are temporary discontinued until further notice.”‚

The government is justified in having taken steps to investigate some of the asylum seekers and refugees who have obtained dual citizenship under the radar without being detected. These are individuals who fabricated evidence to benefit their economic migration over the real need for gaining asylum status in another country. However, it is a greater lapse on the part of officials in the country to not put enough thought and planning to envision the likely loopholes that they were leaving wide open when they granted dual citizenship merely on the basis of payment without consideration for other criteria.

A stringent set of criteria should have been the first priority considering what went on in the last 30 years in Sri Lanka. This is really a sad state of affairs that due to lack of planning, instead of investigating past cases and continuing to scrutinize new applications more carefully with a better system, everything has come to a grinding halt. This is another typical example of taking the path of least resistance due to bureaucratic lethargy to think.

The detrimental effect of clamping down on dual citizenship

As always the victim of all this is not the politicians, politics or the dishonest”¢â‚¬it is the true patriots who can be of some use to the country and the country itself that suffers in the long run. The recent pace of development in the country clearly indicates that the physical development is racing ahead rapidly while the human capital development is lacking the impetus required to keep up. We do not seem to have enough well trained, experience people to go around especially in areas of management and developing efficient systems with accountability built in. In developed countries these areas are a given and accepting expats into the country can vastly benefit much needed improvement and to introduce efficient systems with knowledge workers for much needed training methods. In being open to welcome expats is in no way a boon to expats. Only those who sincerely wish to give back will respond and offer their services.

Sri Lanka was never at a point like it is today to be able to tap into its own resources of well trained personnel from overseas to come in and fill the gaps. In doing so, Sri Lanka is granting no favours to expats. With the halt in dual citizenship, there are many potential experts who have been accepted by private sector organizations that have made offers of employment for their valued experience being tossed around. This serves no purpose due to the lack of attention being paid to the ramifications of halting dual citizenship; they are not able to transfer their knowledge. There are many who are stranded having left lucrative jobs overseas to return and accept offers from Sri Lanka with dual citizenship applications in the pipeline. Those applications that were supposed to become effective to permit work are now stuck without any indication of the direction it will take. This has ruined many careers of highly qualified people who have the skills and desire to give back to Sri Lanka. They have lost at both ends and the harder part is that Sri Lanka has virtually rejected those who want to give their knowledge while politicians visit expat gatherings and call for returnees to serve Sri Lanka. All that needs to be done with those baseless invitations has not been thought through. Other developing countries like Ethiopia have created a one stop shop for expats to facilitate bringing back brains to the country.

The economy of Sri Lanka survived 30 years of carnage due entirely to the stamina of the private sector. The government needs to recognize this and offer all the support they can to provide easy access to resources required to grow the economy further. In this equation human resources structural development and the right kind of technical personnel can only be found from overseas as the brain drain took many away from the country. Even today, most young qualified individuals will prefer overseas jobs to jobs in Sri Lanka. It is the population of expats who have been out and secured experience and financial security that will and can come back. This is not being seen by those who make decisions. If this segment is rejected, they do not lose in the process because they can continue to live comfortably overseas.

The last piece of information obtained from the office of the Controller of Immigration and Emigration on October 14th 2011, was that the full and final report has been submitted to the President and the Defense Secretary who will review and give the order to resume accepting applications. In the meantime, many opportunities for companies to bring back expertise are floating away due to low morale.

If the decision and the criteria to grant full citizenship needs further thinking which has come a bit too late after all the horses have run, locking the stable can wait. Based on one piece of qualifying criteria below, which says,

Who can apply For Sri Lankan Dual Citizenship ?

 

1. An ex – Sri Lankan holding the citizenship of a foreign country

2. A Sri Lankan qualified to receive citizenship of a foreign country and who may contribute to the socio-economic development of Sri Lanka can apply for dual citizenship.

Based on item 2, if contribution to the socio-economic development of Sri Lanka is a necessary part of the entitlement to dual citizenship, this can only be achieved by recognizing the applicants who have tangible opportunities in their hands to contribute to the country. There are many with pie in the sky ideas that have prompted applications for dual citizenship couching their grand plans to buy and rent property for business purposes as a personal goal. So far, the benefit to the country by dual citizenship alone is negligible. Dual citizenship has only become attractive for the purpose of investing in property. Very few maintain property as a residential need. Most are for investment driving the residential rental market through the roof. One has only to look through the classified advertisements to figure it out.

If contribution to socio-economic development is important, then granting the necessary permission to those who wish to come and prove their service will be easier and beneficial to the country. This can be proven only by service and not in rhetoric. How does the immigration and emigration service plan to measure this item #2 when people are resident overseas and waiting for dual citizenship with no plans to return. It should not be just a business advantage or an insurance against the collapse of the global economy. Sadly that is all it is serving right now and in this category those who are in the “…”wait and see”‚ mode are using the property investment only and for personal advantage. There is very little desire for service to the country.

At least honour the knowledge workers of Sri Lankan descent who can come back at the right time and give their expertise. It is critical that the right opportunities, the right skills and the right time are considered in the granting of dual citizenship or permission to work in Sri Lanka to those who have served the country even while being citizens living overseas. The government could not have achieved success in the battle against negative propaganda overseas if not for the educated expats and their unpaid voluntary services that don”‘t seem to count. Not all expats have played an active role while a majority has been complacent while a few battled. The service of expats should be considered also as important criteria for dual citizenship. Do not favour those who claim fame by name for their paid professions but recognize those who have given time and effort voluntarily as true patriots. If this talent is not harnessed while the motivation exists, the country can lose them forever because as the generations of the future are born overseas, their desire to serve and eligibility for dual citizenship will disappear.

Sri Lanka cannot produce enough well trained people to keep pace with the post war development and that is very evident under the present circumstances. It is also a lament of many private companies seeking talent. A work permit system seems to be far more important as an immediate need than the long term dual citizenship. One can transition to the other because with easier work permits, those who wish to give back to the country can be encouraged to do so. The department of immigration and emigration should also look into cases where foreign citizens of Sri Lankan origin are working without authorization.

Coming to Sri Lanka to serve is not lucrative by any means; it is only sought by those who have their heart in the country. No one in the government seems to recognize this fact and its value. The door has been shut in the face of those who deceived the country and those who got shut out are those who should have been inside of the door. At least the immigration authorities should process valid applications or provide work permits without the indiscriminate closure of the entire process.

Mr. President, this needs your attention as much as everything else you wish for the better good of the country. If not, scrap the dual citizenship process and leave a new system in place so that on a case by case basis, knowledge workers can be brought back to the country. Do we need a cumbersome dual citizenship? Has anyone asked this question? Has anyone evaluated the reasons why people get dual citizenship? How many of them have given back to the country? If the need is knowledge workers for development, then the criteria is plain and simple to determine eligibility to return and serve to be considered as a valued dual citizen to be granted such a status after physically coming back and working for the country. A work permit system is the answer. There is no other fair way to qualify those who fulfill the criteria #2 for eligibility to apply for dual citizenship. It should be preceded by a not so cumbersome work permit to serve and prove one”‘s value to the country.

Anjalika Silva

USA

 

15 Responses to “The Long Wait for New Dual Citizenship Regulations – This needs the attention of President Mahinda Rajapakse”

  1. Kamal Says:

    This is a controversial issue, why did some leave the country of birth and accepted citizenship elsewhere? It was for their benefit. If one needed and loved the country so much one could have applied for the dual citizenship immediately. One ends the useful working life and retire and now wishes to come back and here again, depriving the young of their due. The pretext is that the country needs the expertise. And some others who left the country claiming that they are being persecuted now wants to return, with their monies earned regularly or otherwise to create mischief. Some others went on paid leave and never returned. One left on one’s own will. If one needs to join the club again, one has to abide by the rules. I will not be surprised if someone complains that it is against human rights, may even go to the UN to claim their R2P. Only time will show. Some even complained that the fees charged were too high.
    Yes, the country needs experts but not the ones who have been retired from their services. They have earned their retirement. They should please enjoy their leisurely autumn of their life. There is no hurry to rush in. If your services were required in the country and you were head hunted the government would make the necessary arrangement. The government may have found some undesired persons creeping into the country and need some time to prepare necessary arrangements to filter them and weed them off. Please give the government some time.
    I have no doubt that you are a genuine patriot in a mighty hurry to help the country and you are the only person could save the motherland in its darkest hour, but then what is the hurry to complain so loud to the whole world, like the members of the opposition parties. I am not discouraging you from coming in to the country, but the country has enough complains against and there are enough so called patriots to shout about. Please be patient.

  2. Marco Says:

    The writer appears to have missed the bus here.
    As Kamal quite rightly says you left the country of birth seeking a better life elsewhere like I suppose many of us did.
    One has suddenly woken up to this “patriotic” lark providing knowledgeable skills to assist in the development process when times have changed from a war footing to peacetime. Where were you during the times when bombs were a daily occurrence?
    No doubt in the comfort of your adapted home.
    One now complains about being caught in the bureaucracy where every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to apply for Duals.

    You need to talk to the Lankan expats who worked for Multi nationals in SL in the late nineties early 2000 being paid in $ tax free, benefits that even “whites” had’nt dreamt about and being paid a lump sum at end of the contract as “danger money”

  3. Lorenzo Says:

    This was published before.

    There are good reasons why everyone is not given duel citizenship. It is not a right.

    It is better not to give it to anyone than allow it to be exploited. LTTE Diaspora is much bigger than the good crowd. You cannot discriminate against those criminals. So it is better not to give it to anyone.

  4. NeelaMahaYoda Says:

    Dear all expatriates,
    Read this even before considering return to Sri Lanka. Recently one of my cousins who had a chest pain and taken to the General Hospital in Colombo for investigations. The angiogram shows that he has got triple vessel disease and needs a bypass operation. Unfortunately, the hospital authority informed him that he has to wait for 2 years in the waiting list to get it done at the General Hospital Colombo under the National Health Service. Or, he has to sell all his assets and life long savings to pay for his private treatment. So, do you really like to abandon your free medical facilities you are entitled to in your country of residence and try to offer some sort of help that they themselves do not really appreciate. In England, these patients will be taken in immediately for bypass operation as a matter of urgency if on the spot angioplasty can not be performed.

  5. DrPadmaWijesekara Says:

    Kamal & Marco
    Migration is a basic human behaviour that so much associated with the diverse aspects of social evolution. Migration can be local or global. I do not see the difference between a family coming from Deniyaya to settle down in Kuruduwatte (Cinnamon Garden) and another family from Weliwerya and settle down in London. When they get older, both parties tend to return to their place of origin and no one can deny it.

  6. Lorenzo Says:

    Padma,

    No the two are different.
    One involves visa/immigration/emmigration and the other doesn’t.

    All the countries have fully equipped multimillion dollar immigration/emmigration functions!

    What you say is true in nature.
    e.g. Birds migrate free of visa!

    But the world has come a long way from that. People living outside SL have a choice of citizenship of that country and PR. The choice is theirs.

  7. Lorenzo Says:

    Neela,

    Very true.

    While we must support uplift SL’s conditions, from a personal note, it is not very wise to return to SL in old age. People now live longer than before which means more dependency on health, etc. In old age it is better to live in where healthcare is more accessible and developed. Otherwise it also burdens others.

  8. Christie Says:

    In the UK you and everyone pays for it from the time you start working. Please be greatful to your country of origin where best health care and education is free.

    Go and live in the US and you will be dead in no time without private Health Insurance.

    I hear in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) paid health care is as good as anywhere else

  9. Christie Says:

    The government should tighten dual citizenship provisions. If people want tkae citizenship in another country they should stop complaing as it was their choice.

    I am sure these people have paid a fee to obtain their newfound great citizenship but wants the original back for nothing.

  10. Marco Says:

    I’m unsure to the reasons why the Govt placed a bar on Dual Citizenship. If it was to stop former asylum seekers to apply for dual citizenship and thereby avoid the 100% land/property tax on property/business ownership, there are number of avoidance schemes available and been used over 20 years such as shell companies, nominee ownership under a Declaration of Trust etc. Lets not forget all SL expats are refugees either economic or political. The Govt as usual has not thought this through carefully. I believe it was a knee-jerk reaction to an event that took place in London.

    The latest is the Expropriation Act, a good case in point. Investor confidence is low since the Bill was hurriedly passed in Parliement without any public scrutiny or debate. The manner it was introduced as opposed to the content.
    Following adverse comment from Rating Agencies we now hear consolatory statements from Govt spokesman as a damage limitation exercise.
    What sort of message are the Govt giving to foreign and/or Expat investors?

    I was fortunate enough to renew my SL passport weeks before the Dual Citizenship bar was introduced thereby continue to live in SL during the winter months and in Europe during the summer months without the hassle of visa extensions and the like. I have enjoyed Dual Citizenship over 30 years and worked in SL as an expat during 1990’s. Initially it was tax driven not sure if it will still be the case if this facility is withdrawn.

  11. NeelaMahaYoda Says:

    Christie
    You don’t have to pay national insurance contribution to qualify for your free national health service in England. Even if you were unemployed, you are still entitled for free National Health Service. Apparently, you got mixed up with National Insurance contribution, National Insurance contribution is for you to receive government pension in addition to your company pension.
    If you go private in Sri Lanka , one single angioplasty will cost you Rs 6 lakhs, Bypass will cost you 8 to 10 lakhs. That is lot of money for middle class people. Practically they can’t afford it. Either you have to wait for 2 years or face inevitable death. Unfortunately Free health service is ok for minor ailments and sicknesses only.

  12. Sa Says:

    Good article BUT it’s as if Anjalika is asking the government to qualify only herself based on all those criteria. These rules are too stringent and good as not having it at all from a investor’s perspective

    Dual citizenship should be reinstated based on a few widely set criteria valuable to Sri Lanka. Such as attracting expats who might want to invest in the country, who might be able to make intellectual contributions (Entrepreneurship almost never exists in Sri Lanka), generate an interest in Sri Lanka in future generations (For example, the whole world is interested in India or Singapore, their culture and business opportunities and will continue to do so mainly because these people in other countries generate this interest)

    Not everyone is capable of getting involved developing the country and not everyone can risk their time and money without a guarantee of their interests. The expats can choose to spend their vacation in Mexico, choose to buy property in Florida and contribute their charities to Africa just like any other westener, when the interest in Sri Lanka is lost. Sri Lanka still needs to attract all of the above, investors more than visitors I’m sure.

    Dual citizenship would be one of guarantees that would be essential if anyone with the know how and the will to invest in an entrepreneurial endeavor in Sri Lanka.

    In researching Sri Lanka for suitability for a business venture, I came across many negative aspects of owning business while not being a citizen. If I had dual citizenship, I have some sort of a guarantee. So let’s hope President Rajapakse will really look into this sooner than later. Maybe the next RIMM is in Sri Lanka.

  13. Christie Says:

    There are no barriers to investing in Ceylon (Sri Lanka).for expats, wherher they are duals or not.

    Ceylon has plenty of money for investing and developing the country, but unfortunately thr leadership has not done much in this regard since 1956.

    Lots of the expts that are making monehave taken the money out of Ceylon in the first place.

    For example, take Rajaratnam, where did he get his seed money from.

    The government of Ceylon should take a leaf from Singapore. The major business conglomorate in Singapore before Lee Kwan Yu was Indian who had similar status in Ceylon. The one in Ceylon has propered while the Singapore one has dissapeared from the horizon. The one in Celon has massive business ventures in India and the family lives in India most of the time.

    Their homes are in India, their social and philathropic work is India. They only give some monet to politicians back home but the amount is huge for them but peanuts for these merchants.

    Wake up Ceylonese, unite and demand your basic economic rights.

  14. Sa Says:

    Christie you are incorrect and misleading. Non Citizens have only very few options as individual investors. So it is apparent that people might be taking money out once they lose Sri Lankan Citizenship. The only options are SFIDA accounts and TIERA-2 treasury bonds with a low return of 7% compared to inflation. NRFCs are only for non resident Citizens. If it’s land there’s a lot of negative factors where you could lose all your investment, while it is a guaranteed investment in many other countries.

    As for your other comments Singapore offers deposit insurance of up to SG$ 79,000; Rajaratnam moved to UK when he was only 16. And who are these no name big Indian business family, what is their business?

    As it is currently without Dual Citizenship, the risk of investment in Sri Lanka is high and the rewards are not worth it !!!

  15. Burgherboy Says:

    Great insight and a bunch of valid and not so valid ( in my opinion of course ) comments. The bottom line is, HOME is where your HEART is and no matter why one left SL, those Sri Lankans who want to come back, just want to return HOME! Trust me, not evryone wants to come back, it is only those who truly consider SL their home that want to do so, so why have any restrictions? I do understand and appreciate that due dilligence such as back ground checks to determine character/financial stability need to be done to weed out undesirables ( I would imagine terrorists/criminals and paupers will not qualify) but aside from that, a SriLankan is a Srilankan is a Srilankan no matter what other citizenship he/she may have acquired and should be able to enjoy the privilege of dual citizenship. I for one would like to retire in SL , help the underprivileged, share my experiences/expertise, coach,mentor and equip the younger generation with much needed life skills! anything wrong with that???

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