Posted on April 21st, 2015

Rowena Sepali Fernando in London

Being born to Sri Lankan parents, yet growing and presently living/working in London, has created a somewhat disconnection to my motherland and sense of misplacement to my current land! Yet from early years I was always visiting Sri Lanka with family where we would visit other family members whilst absorbing the scenic beauty of the country.

These early memories are hazy like a passing cloud; yet when I grew to the age of 16 years and what is considered by UK standards to be a young adult! (Still a child by my parents’ standards), this is where my eyes began to really open; as I travelled more and more often to what could have been my home land too! This is when it started; truly seeing the beautiful green haven, which seemed almost worlds apart from this grey and concrete jungle reality that I have always known to be home.

Somehow never truly feeling a sense of belonging to either place? Defined by a piece of paper that says I am British, but feeling a connection to another land, I think this is a paradox that many people lime me face today.  As much as I am grateful for this freedom, my mind cannot escape the thoughts of, if Sri Lanka is my parents and family’s motherland; then should it not also be mine too?

Since the age of 21, I have been a free young lady with a broad sense of appreciation especially for nature, people, cultures & history. In this spirit and with such a freedom to explore possibilities an experience one can and should only be grateful for. I began to travel the world as a tourist for what we call summer holidays/vacations in England. I am lucky to have had so many adventures across the globe; ranging from Western to Eastern Europe and as far out to Australia and even to the big apple New York! Yet despite having grazed so many places, seeing so many varying cultures and tasting many fine foods; somehow after all of these explorations there is still no other land that can quite captivate me more like beautiful Sri Lanka.

Each time I visit Sri Lanka, I find a deeper sense of discovery into my ancestry, but ultimately the time spent passes so fast and is seemingly never long enough! This again leads me to psychologically ponder ‘what life would have been like’ or could be like, if I were to have been born in Lanka or even simply to be allowed non-restricted visits? Each trip to Sri Lanka I find to be cut cruelly short whereas if I were to have the privilege of staying for 6-8 months I am confident that I could reach my full genetic potential, communicate in the way I wish to, and get closer to what essentially is my roots and culture.

I am also in amazement of the fast development of the county and the beautification of modern towns especially in Colombo, new high ways like a mini metropolis every time I travel to Sri Lanka. The sky line has totally changed the outlook of the Island from my early memories of burning firewood in the kitchens, which is still apparent, but how much has changed from the early days when visiting as a child is simply astounding. With so much in development, yet my situation seems to remain the same the frustration and restriction of always having to travel as a tourist, on a tourist’s visa! Merely thirty days to take in this ibis of childhood memory and land in a state of change surrounded by a pure – in a way untainted beauty. What is thirty days to cover an endless fountain of beauty & reach all corners of the Island to visit various family members  – of course the option to extend the visa is available however this comes at a cost!

As I have grown and experienced Sri Lanka, more and more I find myself connecting wider and wider each time as if I am unravelling a little piece of myself in the process. (After the terrorist problems, which lasted the first 26 years of my life, the Island has suffered terribly) .Yet despite this, there is true and raw beauty of the land, a certain spirit that is held by its people. The Island offers so much in terms of culture, nature and history from art to the forests to the heavenly beaches of the South and East. Not forgetting the wonderful array of food and fruits that one can only dream of when living in London –  all the colours; it is another world and a little piece of paradise. I simply cannot escape the thought that this could have been my piece of paradise too, if not for a mere birth location and piece of official government paper that separates me from my parents home; their motherland which technically I believe should be mine too,  to ponder freely!

One day somehow I would like to find a way to get back to Sri Lanka and to have a home and settle down, as this is where I feel I am destined to be! As my parents had to follow a procedure to register and become British, in a sense due to this action that will define the future of our family. When me and my brother settle with family of our own it will be important to ensure our ancestry and culture are prominent as it should be.

The first obstacle I realised was that my father had taken British citizenship at the time of my birth in London. He was compelled by work to do so and live within the Sri Lankan immigration regulations at the time which stipulated that ‘all children born to Sri Lankan parents abroad must be registered at the embassy or the High Commission of the country’ which resulted my father not being able to register my birth at the Sri Lanka High Commission in London at the time.

Now things seem to have changed rapidly with a new government in office and what everyone seems to be talking about ‘a moderate’ and very considerate objective president.  The news reaches London of which I closely follow. I understand that Dual Nationality has been reinstated to anyone indiscriminately.

With this hopeful change in Government and all of its new and vibrant policies, I believe my situation too can shift towards a better tomorrow! As I begin to see a silver lining forming through the dark clouds of yesterday, because both my parents are native to Sri Lanka and have been granted dual nationality at present.

My brother, who is living and working in Switzerland and I, a mature lady working as a professional in London, are wondering as to how we should go forward and tackle this issue that has plagued and restricted us for our life time – Dual Nationality, the answer to which no one seems to be very clear as to the procedures especially with my case of not being registered at birth at the Sri Lanka High Commission in London due to my father being categorised as ‘British’ at the time but now with his dual nationality, he is considered both British and Sri Lankan ( dual national).

I very much hope this article may be read by someone responsible within Sri Lankan authorities who will no doubt be able to guide and advise me as to how to go about getting my dual nationality in the immediate future; especially considering that my name as mentioned above had not been registered within the Sri Lankan high commission at the time of my birth.

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  1. Lorenzo Says:

    At any cost don’t give dual citizenship to the LTTE diaspora.

    There should be a way to separate PATRIOTIC people from OTHERS before giving it.

  2. Independent Says:

    My experience is, even if your father registered your birth at the high commission, there is a good chance that the application will get lost in Colombo. It is common to receive the birth registration certificate after 5-10 years or completely get lost if a parent did not follow up while they are in Colombo.
    What you should do is to ask you father to register your birth now. It is never too late.

  3. Independent Says:

    By the way, I am very happy to hear your nice feeling towards our motherland. All my children (youngest is your age) have dual citizenships but none of them like the way our citizens behave in Sri Lanka and they are too scared. Politics and lack of law and order in our country lately have destroyed the culture of the country. LTTE is greatly responsible for a part of it but our own people too.

  4. RohanJay Says:

    Sepali, reading your article you sound like a lady who is fairly well off, middle class and well travelled. Like many middle class Brits. I don’t you should have any problems staying upto 6-8 months in Sri Lanka provided you can show Sri Lankan immigration, that you are financially well off can support yourself for the duration of your stay in Sri lanka. Also that you can pay the immigration visa fees for the duration of your stay. Which in Sri Lankan money is a big amount but in British money is well affordable. Like it won’t be more than 200 pounds even less than that if your staying 6-9 months in Sri Lanka. Also you sound like you have family you can stay with so accommadation costs will be minimal for you than if you came as a tourist living in guest houses etc.
    I too am half sri lankan, I think it would be a good idea every few years to go to Sri Lanka for 3-6 months to keep in touch with your Sri Lankan side. When talking with Sri Lankan immgration officials they don’t mind you staying for 6-9 upto a year in Sri Lanka as long as you have got enough money to support yourself. If your doing a middle class job in Britain. The SL immigration I am sure will give you a visa for upto 1 year without any problems. Because they know you can financially support yourself as well as pay their visa costs without any problems.

    The problem maybe I can see for you is maybe you might have to leave your job and close down your house in the UK or give to rent. While your are away from UK living in Sri Lanka for 6-12 months.
    At the end of the day bottom line is if you got enough money it shouldn’t be a problem for you to live in Sri Lanka for up to a year.

  5. Nimal Says:

    I just can’t believe what you have written above, unless you have lived the good life of the Colombo types, never bothered to look around you and associate with the average type of people while you were there.
    As for me, I have invested heavily in my country of birth encounting far too many frustrations and obstacles in carrying on with my business in SL.
    Compared to life in London it is very depressing in the island to say the least.
    I get very disappointed and depressed if I stay long enough then perhaps like you book into a 5 star hotel in Colombo where I detach myself from the real world just outside and feel life is even better than in UK,without ever worrying about my business and unfortunate people outside thev5 star hotel. Then I too could write like you but I am different to you but truly feel, for my people back home.
    Next time you go there just visit a govt hospital and meet a relative of a patient and how they are treated by the system.
    They will say that they have to buy the essential medicines, keep a person 24 hours a day costing over Rs 3000 per day, if the patient needs attention while the hospital staff watch TV at night, which I saw it to my self in the emergency ward.
    Then visit a court house and see the stupidity there where the heartless system only postpone the cases for decades.
    Have you ever driven on the roads in SL,see the reckless way they drive and the intolerance they show to another road user, where tooting horns is just a bad symptom of our intolerance to one another?
    If you know me well then I could enlighten you a bit more and to describe that everything is just fine is very naïve.
    Just open your eyes, mingle with the people in SL without living a pampered life.
    Just remind me of the French revolution where a society woman uttered why the starving people demand bread when they could eat cake?
    It is 2.35 AM yet the night is too young for me here in London where people work hard and make a honest living, where every one wants to settle, driving our property prices sky high so something must be right in London?

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