Stop treating expatriates as cash-cows: Patriotism isn’t a one-way street
Posted on January 8th, 2014

By Professor Shelton A. Gunaratne

 A long-time friend of mine, Gamini Gunawardena, has been circulating an appeal to Sri Lankan (presumably non-Tamil) expatriates  to boost up their patriotic  fervor to think of “ways and means of meeting the poor Sri Lanka lobby in the U.S.,  which is easily overwhelmed by the LTTE propaganda machinery.”
 
 Gunawardena, a retired deputy inspector general of police,  wants to jolt the expatriates “into action in this hour of need for your motherland Sri Lanka.”
 
Some expatriates are already doing this by writing to newspapers in their adopted countries (e.g., Australia, Britain, Canada, United States) and by donating money to their erstwhile “motherland,” which has by all indications unmistakably discarded its former “children.”
 
In my opinion, many non- Tamil expatriates have not responded to the propaganda campaign of the Tamil diaspora for the simple reason that Sri Lanka has failed to offer them a quid pro quo for performing such a voluntary service. 
 
One expatriate added the following comment to Gunwardena’s circular:
I think the crude attitude of the Sri Lankan government toward the expatriates is one of the main co-arising reasons for their lack of feeling for the “motherland.”
When they visit Sri Lanka, the expatriates are treated by all and sundry as cash cows. Unless they carry SL passports, they cannot enter the ruins of the Cultural Triangle without paying sky-high admission fees  charged from “foreigners.” Any one born in SL should be able to visit these cultural treasures as a birthright without having to pay such exorbitant fees. What offends them is the intention behind this discrimination.
The president and an entourage of officials seem to dissipate the foreign exchange so earned on foreign trips almost every month.
Moreover, the government is losing the goodwill of the expatriates by charging exorbitant fees to become a dual citizen of SL after they gain citizenship in the country they have settled down. The government has lost the expertise and goodwill of many of its expatriates because of this instrumental attitude.
Another expatriate responded:
You are absolutely right.  We work harder than the paid people for the country. Donate to charities. Help the poor and we are the first line of people who are asked to do more for the country but no concessions for doing so.  They ask us to come to serve the country but we have to pay for dual citizenship or else turn down offers.  The corporate sector is what keeps the country going.  That us why we have to make a distinction between the country and the worthless politicians.
 
The cash-cow syndrome became evident in the case of an expatriate professor who gave one million rupees in scholarship funds to a university in Sri Lanka some six years ago. The university accepted the money but failed to take any action until 2013 after the professor complained to the SL ambassador in Washington, DC.  The  professor also e-mailed a lengthy letter to the chairwoman of the University Grants Commission  asking her to inquire into the possibility of misappropriating the scholarship  funds. The chairwoman failed even to acknowledge  the request. Her lack of  concern  for corruption was appalling. However, she had no compunction in approving her husband as the vice chancellor of Colombo University.
 
The  Noble Eightfold Path, the way to cease suffering, seems to have been forgotten in SL. Instead, desire, attachment and ignorance appear to highlight the populace. Does nepotism come under Right Action? 
 
President J. F. Kennedy once asked Americans “to ask not what your country can give you but what you can give to your country.” But this does not apply to SL and SL expatriates because SL wants to treat its expatriates as aliens and cash-cows.
 
Patriotism isn’t a one-way street.

14 Responses to “Stop treating expatriates as cash-cows: Patriotism isn’t a one-way street”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    I DISAGREE. I have a right to express my opinion as well.

    The charges levied for expats are NOT sky high. They are very much bearable for those who earn in dollars. How much money do SL expats pay in skiing resorts here in Canada, in Rome, in European Museums, Thai hotels, etc.? Giving that BACK to SL is NOT an issue at all.

    When I go to SL I’m HAPPY to pay to the country that has given me so much.
    AND I do my bit of propaganda work for SL as well.

    Ask not what your country can give you but what you can give to your country.

    No excuses. No buts and ifs.

    Of course patriotism is a 2 way street. SL LOVED YOU already, gave you free education as much as it could afford and you love SL back. It is NOT about the money or the govt.

    When you give back to SL DON’T MEASURE. Just give any reasonble amout you would give to a Canadian skiing resort or a Thai holiday resort. Mother SL DID NOT measure when it gave you whatever she could afford. With BIRTH RIGHT comes BIRTH RESPONSIBILITY.

  2. Lorenzo Says:

    The BIGGEST reason why SL expats are NOT defending SL as much as they should is.

    1. LACK of patriotic drive. Some think like parasites not patriots.

    2. IDIOTS in some diplomatic positions. Some can’t speak even the language of these countries.

    3. GOSL BETRAYING SL to Endia always. Expats are fed up of GOSL inaction against TNA terrorists, other traitors, NOT implementing 6 amendment, not scrapping 13 amendment, dancing to Endian tune, etc.

    4. MESSED UP system in SL of drug dealers, murderers, terrorists, rapists, crooks in parliament. Educated expats are ASHAMED to associate or defend such people and those who tolerate such people.

    5. GOSL NEVER listens to patriotic expats.

  3. Christie Says:

    These expats can keep their money and stay away and suck up to Indians including Tamils. They can always go to India and spend a lot of money visiting Sai Baba likes and Kovils and pay lots of money to stay at substandard lodgings. The poor women and men who work in the Middle East bring more money than these expats who benefited from free education and health etc.

  4. Senevirath Says:

    WELL SAID LORENZO. WE KNOW HOW THESE EXPATS SPEND THEIR MONEY ON WOMEN GAMBLING AND FOR OTHER ENTERTAINMENT IN THESE COUNTRIES BUT THEY DONT WANT TO PAY ALITTLE MONEY TO THEIR HOMELAND WHEN THEY VISIT OUR RUINS ETC…..

    BEST THING IS TO GIVE DUAL CITIZENSHIP WITHOUT CHARGING A BIG FEE
    JAMAICANS ARE ALLOWED BE CITIZENS IN COUNTRY WITHOUT LOSING JAMAICAN CITIZENSHIP
    IN PHILIPINES THEY CHARGE ONLY A NOMINAL FEE TO GIVE DUAL CITIZENSHIP

    3 YEARS BACK I WROTE ALETTER REGARDING THI TO GOTHABAYA R . LATER ON I THAT THE GOVT HAS DECIDED TO REDUCE THE FEE AND IT IS MENTIONE IN MAHINDA CINTHANA BOOK

    BUT NOTHING HAS HAPPENED SO FAR. 2000USD IS TOO MUCH ((( IT WAS CHANDRIKA WHO DID THIS)))) WHY NOT CHARGE 200.00 FOR EACH PERSON. IT WILL HELP ORDINARY PENSIONERS TO COME BACK AND LIVE IN SRI LANKA WITHOUT SPENDING THEIR LITTLE PENSION(((((( 500- 600 usd))))in other countries

  5. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    This article hits the nail right on the head. There is a double standard between expat Sri Lankans and Sri Lankans. I visited Sri Lanka in 2009 just when the war ended and Colombo had check points across the city. Whenever I and my American friend were driven in a hired car. We were flagged for security reasons and in each case they would talk of me being an “American Sinhalese”. Their curiosity was understandable but I gleaned the sense they saw me as not really a Sri Lankan but some kind of foreigner.

    Shopping was a peculiar experience for once the shop keeper knew I was from America they would only accept American dollars and not the rupees I had exchanged at the bank. Fortunately I met a couple of Jewelers where I and my American friend became fast friends with their families. Even here no one would accept the Sri Lankan rupee but wan the dollars instead.

    One of my main purposes of going to Sri Lanka was to get dual citizenship even though when I boarded the plane in the US the war was still raging and I had no idea of its outcome. The second plan was to buy a bungalow. When I went hunting for a house I learned I had to pay the full sale price in order to buy the house since I was not a Sri Lankan per se. I soon realized that at that time there were very few laws regarding building a house. For example there was no such thing as zoning for residential areas and commercial areas. One hideous five story house that was suggested by the Jewelers that I looked at was built right in the middle of a low income neighborhood and the owner happily told me that anything can be built next to his 750 thousand dollar (not rupee) house.

    Living in a nationally registered historic home that dates back to 1840 in the US with around four thousand square feet of space and the style of the early 19th century, this monstrosity of cement, marble, hardwood was overpriced. So I decided to postpone the process till I hire an attorney to do all the work in procuring me what I want in order to have a dual citizenship or become a full citizen of Sri Lanka. My retirement income would place me in the highest bracket in Sri Lanka when purchasing parity is factored in.

    The two Jeweler families were most helpful and I bought many gems but even here they would only accept dollars and not rupees. Finally I found out why. The Sri Lankan takes the dollar to the black market and not to the bank where he would have only got 100 rupees for each dollar. But at the black market he would get many times more for that same dollar so it seemed the merchants were engaged in two businesses when it came to foreigners and expat Sri Lankans. 1st sell the item and get dollars for it. 2nd. take the dollar and get much more for it in the black market.
    Needless to say this would mean a massive drain of much needed foreign currency to the Colombo and should be stopped for it not only damages the Sri Lankan economy by the avaricious nature of the merchant but it makes the Expat Sri Lankan feel that he or she has been “taken”. These jewelers even suggested that we all get into the business of laundering American dollars through the black market. He assured me that is is a “win win” situation where we will all prosper. He however failed to tell me that it would be at the expense of Sri Lanka. Needless to say I did not accept the offer.
    By the way I still plan to return to Sri Lanka but this time more wiser

  6. aloy Says:

    I think the term “expat” as applied here is a misnomer. In my opinion expats are those persons who have moved out of SL to other countries for work, retaining the SL passport and would return. Unlike those who have sold their properties and migrated (most often taking the money via black market) the real expatriates bring their hard earned money back to SL. All the expatriates I know of are doing the same irrespective of their social or educational back round. Sinhala expatriates do not normally go to India for Sai Baba worship etc. It is interesting to see most Sri Lankans who have migrated to western countries have not got assimilated to the societies they live with and have a grudge against the ‘White Caucasian Christians’ and therefore reflect a very bad impression of our country in their minds instead of getting their sympathy for our cause.

  7. aloy Says:

    Sorry for the typo ‘background’

  8. Nanda Says:

    Aloy,
    Very true, except that western countries do not expect them to “get assimilated” which is considered a racist statement.

  9. aloy Says:

    BW,
    I have been following your interesting comments for some time. But the following statement is wrong:
    “Finally I found out why. The Sri Lankan takes the dollar to the black market and not to the bank where he would have only got 100 rupees for each dollar. But at the black market he would get many times more for that same dollar”.
    Since the open economy came into existence in SL the difference has not been that high. Now you can get only about 1.5% more from a money changer. That too is for big notes. I may have changed over 15000 Sing Dollars during the last two weeks. Therefore it is good to have a knowledge about the country before writing.
    Nanda,
    I may sound racist particularly with respect to our minorities as it appears to me that some of them have no love for our country. But I know at least many of our Sinhalas are assimilating to Australian society. My daughter tells me that many patients of Sinhala origin in that country are not interested in exchanging even one or two words in our mother tongue when they come for consultation and they appear to be fully westernized.

  10. Nanda Says:

    Aloy,
    Even in Sri Lanka many are “westernizes”, Colombians are more westernized than the Australians.
    By the way Sinhala is a minority language in Colombo now.

  11. Sooriarachi Says:

    It is regrettable to note that Sri Lankan diplomats are only acting in a defensive manner, rather than in a pro-active manner to corner the separatist forces in to a defensive position.
    Also, within the country, there is supposed to be uncontrollable corruption and the children of politicians behaving like thugs. This type of reputation does not encourage expatriates to continue with their selfless service to the motherland by responding to hostile forces operating from foreign countries.
    Sri Lankan Govt MUST enforce law and order within the nation, to dilute the effect of false propaganda by the likes of Ryappu Joseph, Wigneswaran, Emmanual, Rudrakumaran and other TNA politicians and bishops.

  12. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    Aloy: you forgot the rest of my comment where one member of a Jeweler family invited me into that racket. These people are very wealthy, have direct access to the government since they were going to arrange for me to meet President Rajapakse in person, and are excellent merchants. They would not meddle on manipulating the dollar if it did not produce a substantial profit. This is not a guess on my part but part of the sales pitch which was given to me. I was willing to be their representative in America but not to enter into the sale of dollars.
    You also forgot to address why the Sri Lankan rupee “suddenly” became worthless when the merchant knew I was a Sri Lankan American. I have traveled across the world and visited many nations, mainly in Europe and South America where the local currency was a legitmate tender.
    The only person who did accept local currency was my driver. So please read my entire comment before labeling a section of it as wrong.

  13. aloy Says:

    BW: Actually I do not have comments about the rest of your comments except to say that all business people are the same. Most of them do not have patriotic sense. Like all politician they are concerned with maximum gains like asking for 50% or simply windfalls.

  14. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    aloy: Thank you for the clarification. I agree with your most recent comment. Unless the government clamps down on this practice Sri Lanka is losing untold amount of foreign currency. There should be a place where tourists should be able to complain that the Sri Lankan rupee is being rejected. I tried the police and they were as helpful as a bump on a log. In retrospect I can understand why they would not take action for these jewelers were very well connected. Through them I had already met with a Minister responsible for the resettlement of the Tamils and through them I was scheduled to have a personal meeting with President Rajapakse. They are powerful business men and most likely have the police under control. If my hypothesis is correct then corruption will bleed Sri Lanka.

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