LIFE ABROAD – Part 107 NEVER SAY DIE!
Posted on December 4th, 2014

Dr.Tilak Fernando

If there is any Sri Lankan who had to fight consistently for eighteen consecutive years to obtain the dual nationality, the writer certainly qualifies as the first!

It all started from London after the Sri Lankan Citizenship (Amendment) Act No. 45 was ratified in Parliament on September 28, 1987. When the writer contacted the Sri Lanka High Commission, he was advised to send a written request initially to the Ministry of Defence, Colombo. This was done on May 23,1988; the MoD acknowledged it under their reference CIT/U77/19(2) 70 on June 8, 1988.

A reminder sent to the MoD at Chaithiya Road, Colombo on April 1, 1989 had no effect. JVP turmoil in the meanwhile paralised almost every administrative function at the time. While the writer was in Sri Lanka in 1990, he listened to President R. Premadasa making a statement to the effect that ‘if there was any bureaucratic bungling in his administration any one was free to write to him personally’. The President was intimated on this score on December 27, 1990 by letter.

On March 25, 1991, a semi-official letter was sent to President Premadasa expressing the writer’s disappointment and highlighting the fact that the initial dual nationality fee of Rs.5,000 had gone up to Rs.100, 000 by then. Secretary to the President advised the writer, under Ref. PPA/5 that ‘the matter had been referred to the Secretary, Ministry of Defence for necessary action’. However, the MoD officials chose to reign silence, which obligated the writer to draw President’s personal attention yet again.

Out of the blue

In the midst of such a hullabaloo, Walter Fernando, the Controller of Immigration and Emigration, a buddy of the writer’s brother (the late M. R. Fernando-Director of Highways) had contacted him to inform him about the writer’s involvement on the dual nationality issue with the MoD.

In July 1992, the writer arrived in Colombo and met with Walter Fernando officially, obtained an application form for the first time and handed it over back to the Immigration and Immigration Dept. On October 23, 1992 Asst. Secretary for Secretary, H.R. de Silva at the MoD advised the writer under reference CIT/U7/19(2) 2725 that H.E. President had approved the application for Dual Citizenship of Sri Lanka, and requested to pay Rs.100,000 to the Controller of Immigration and Emigration at Chaithiya Road, Colombo 1. Imprudently the applicant wrote back to President Premadasa once again seeking his advice whether to pay Rs.5,000 retrospectively, as he was first registered as far back as June 8, 1988, or to pay the requested amount of Rs.100,000!

When the late General Sepala Attygalle (former Secretary of State) assumed duties as the High Commissioner in London, the writer briefed him about the iniquitousness of the whole situation. He immediately wrote to his former Secretary, Mahinda Bandusena, requesting him to review the case emphasising on the applicant’s first registration in 1998 under ref. CIT/U77/19(2) 70.

The writer followed up the General’s letter by telephoning Mahinda Bandusena, all the way from London, and submitted a detailed summary on 14th April 1993, detailing what had taken place. Mahinda Bandusena’s reply dated 24th August 1993 really took the cake. At the start he stated ‘there was ‘no trace of any communication under the reference CIT/U7/19(2) 70 at the Immigration Department’ (though it was the original reference quoted by the MoD in 1988). Secondly he made two injudicious statements as follows:

In paragraph (e) he stated, If the Dept. of Immigration or Ministry had not sent you the application within a few months of writing to the Department/Ministry, you would have, without waiting for a printed application form, typed an application or in your own handwriting sent it to C/I & E. Even with shortcomings, Dept/Minstry would have accepted this as an application. The fact that you have not attempted even that method shows you were not keen at that time”(sic).

In the same breath, immediately underneath, in Para (f) he contradicted himself thus: Merely writing a letter to the Dept/Ministry asking for an application form cannot be construed as forwarding an application” (sic).

It certainly was an ill-advised reply coming out of a responsible Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, which made the writer put the whole matter into a limbo state, out of sheer exasperation.

General Cyril S. C. Ranatunge, who succeeded General Sepala Attygalle as the Secretary to Ministry of Defence, was briefed with the history of the case on March 28, 1994 when he was the High Commissioner in London. On May 6, 1994 Gen. Ranatunge wrote back to the writer stating:

The law being very clear on the issue, I regret I am unable to revise the fee, as such a course of action will lead to an Audit Query, and therefore reference to the Public Accounts Committee”.

The writer’s intention however had never been to revise the fee but only to seek advice whether he could be entitled to the retrospective payment from the time he was registered initially.

On May 12, 1995 Secretary/Defence, Chandananda de Silva, was approached on the same subject, however, a cut and dry reply, under reference SMOD/126/6/PER, dated July 15, 1995 stated, …. Having gone through all the documentation forwarded to me, I find that there is no way I could be of assistance to you in this regard”. R. A. A. Ranaweera, Additional Secretary had signed the letter.

Seemingly, the dual nationality fee had gone up to Rs.200,000. However, the writer persistently followed the matter up by writing to President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga on September 4, 1995, emphasising on the two separate reference numbers: CIT/U7/19/(2)70 and CIT/U7/19(2)2725, but to no avail!

After many challenges and vexations and repeated correspondence, copies of two communications were faxed to Assistant Secretary, Administration Mr. W.A.S. Perera as per his request later. On February 1, 1999 a communication reached the writer with the following encouraging comments:

Please make the payment i.e. Rs.100,000 under the same reference number assigned to you(CIT/U7/19(2)2725)and NOT NECESSARY TO RE-REAPPLY AS A NEW APPLICANT”(sic). Signed squiggly – Assistant Secretary.

In Sri Lanka

The writer upon returning to Sri Lanka in early January 2006 met with Abeykoon Bandara, Controller of Immigration & Emigration hoping to get the above mentioned Assistant Secretary’s letter dated 01.02.1999 re-validated to make the payment of Rs.100,000.

Controller, Abeykoon Bandara, expressed his ‘inability to validate the produced letter without cross referring to the original in the applicant’s file’, the reason given being that the Immigration office had just shifted from Colombo 3 to Borella, and all official files were in disarray at the time, as such, it posed a problem to detect the writer’s file! As an alternative he suggested to reapply for dual nationality on a fresh application!

The writer managed to unearth his old file ‘miraculously’ with the help of an official peon at the Dept. Immigration and Immigration, and completed a fresh application too on 18 January 2006. Finally the old file (with the new application attached to it) was sent for the Committee for approval (instead of simply revalidating the document) even after the original letter was found in the applicant’s file!

On 04.04.2006 an Assistant Secretary MOD wrote to the writer’s Borella address, under reference CIT/U7/19(2)20920 (2725) confirming his dual citizenship, with a request to make the necessary payment of Rs.200,000 to the Controller of Immigration on or before 28.08.2006

The payment of Rs.200,000 was made and a yellow receipt (bearing two reference numbers (CIT/U7/19(2)70 & CIT/U7/10/(2)2725) was issued by the cashier at Immigration and Immigration Dept. Having paid the requested fee, the writer had to cultivate patience for over six months to hear and/or receive his dual nationality certificate!

Despite having gone through every rack for eighteen years, the writer still had to seek President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s assistance at the end and ask the responsible officials to take suitable measures in handing over the dual nationality certificate to the writer.

The writer could hardly believe at the end how the Department had written to his London address ‘to come and collect the Certificate’, when in fact, his address was in the new application and in all the correspondence with the Controller, Abeykoon Bandara, from 1 January 2006!

To cut a long story short, the writer approached the Chief Clerk personally at the immigration office (dual nationality section) in Borella one morning. He was flummoxed to see a female clerk bringing two certificates up to the Chief Clark, as the writer was about to sign on a register for receiving it.

Prior to placing his signature on the register, the writer made a request to the Chief Clerk to have both certificates (which were staring at him on the table). However, the matter was referred to an Assistant Commissioner to get authorisation.

The writer’s attempts in explaining to the Assistant Commissioner about the existence of two certificates, under references CIT/U7/19(2)70 & CIT/U&/((2)2725), which he had seen from his own naked eyes on the Chief Clerk’s desk, fell on deaf ears; instead it turned into a conflict situation where the Assistant Commissioner blatantly refused the writer’s claim making him look like a fibber, which naturally led to an exchange of words between the two parties. Finally, the writer had to leave the office with only one Certificate under reference CIT/U&/((2)2725) for which he had paid Rs.200,000.

Subsequent attempts to locate the writer’s file to contest against the overcharge amount of Rs.100,000 came to a nonentity despite the official letter issued by an Assistant Commissioner under reference CIT/U7/’9(2)2725 on 01.02.1999, specifically requesting to pay Rs.100,000 without having to re-apply for dual nationality, remained glaring and conspicuous on the writer’s file.

Immigration & Emigration department still owes the writer Rs.100,000 paid in excess, after such ham-fisted experiences for eighteen long years while the authorities shamefacedly dealt with a simple administrative task.

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2 Responses to “LIFE ABROAD – Part 107 NEVER SAY DIE!”

  1. dingiri bandara Says:

    I am so sorry to learn of the difficulties the writer had to undergo to get dual citizenship. My experience with process was very pleasant. In 2010 when my wife and I visited Sri Lanka, we submitted an application for dual citizenship and returned to country of our residence. Within two months we received a letter from the Immigration Dept requesting us to pay RS 250,000/= to the Immigration Dept within a certain period which I asked my brother in Sri Lanka to pay. I can not remember as to How long it took but I must say that within a very reasonable period we received our Dual Citizenship certificates signed by the President. When we went back in 2012 we got our Sri Lankan passports using the same day service paying Rs 7500/= for each . Now we are proud dual citizens.

  2. radha Says:

    Well better luck next time TF, I wonder why you are craving to get a citizenship of a country that you left, treated by successive administrations like a Mr Nobody despite string pulling, whereas you enjoy your life in UK and have all your needs met here.

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