GRANTING DUAL CITIZENSHIP MUST BE VIEWED VERY SERIOUSLY BY THE GOVERNMENT
Posted on July 10th, 2011

Anjalika Silva USA

It was not long ago that the Government went all out to woo the expatriate populations overseas to invest in Sri Lanka in Tiera D accounts tied to a reward of dual citizenship on different terms.  It used to be that dual citizenship could be bought with one payment equivalent to US$2000 at the discretion of the President and that was the main criteria considered. There was no reference to a reason for seeking dual citizenship or whether this payment was made with legitimate earnings made by anoverseas resident who had taken the nationality of another country.    Anyone willing to cough out $2000 US became a dual citizen for any selfish personal gain or with other plans that went unchecked. 

Flaws in the former system of granting dual citizenship

The writer objected to this system in previous writings due to the fact that the country did not benefit in any way by the funds or the quality of some people who became dual citizens. Many hurled strong criticism based on the narrow thinking that the payment alone was grudged.The reference to the lack of a purposeful result and the blatant one sided benefit to individuals in the exercise were conveniently overlooked in the reasons for criticism.  Some who sought dual citizenship did nothing to support Sri Lanka through hard times and viewed the one-time payment as a convenient and easy way for personal agendas.

Dual Citizenship and property purchase

One of the most important of such self-serving needs fulfilled by dual citizenship was to purchase property and pay lower taxes.  Some went further and purchased properties for rental and investment purposes making huge profits.  Some even gained rental payments in foreign exchange while the country lost out.  It basically served as a loophole to avoid taxes and pick up foreign remittances of rentals as there was no system of checks and balances.  The country remained the “orphan” who was exploited in every way possible.  This gaping loophole in the entire exercise took a long timeto get noticed. It took too long  for “the penny to drop” in the lap of the government but when it did, all those who got through the net benefitted while many deserving cases lost out due to the moratorium.

Factors to consider in granting dual citizenship

Underlying my thought is that those who serve the country voluntarily as patriotic Sri Lankans while being overseas should be the true beneficiaries of dual citizenship.  I had hoped for the day the government would take a more serious view of this exercise of granting dual citizenship in a way that served some use for the country over individuals.Many who did not gain from their passion to help the country and also did not receive dual citizenship continued to serve in their volunteer capacities and shared in the sentiment that the dual citizenship process served those who found the easy way out with no interest in service to the country.  In the days gone by they paid $2000 readily because some of them did not contribute in any other way toward the country in service or kind.  There were instances when requests for help to the country were brushed aside as being the responsibility of the government by some who turned away when approached for charitable projects in Sri Lanka.  The stock excuse was corruption and some who chose that path had benefitted with free university education, but chose not to give back.  There are ample opportunities that are well documented and bona fide projects to support with evident and tangible returns.  Not all projects are corrupt if one seeks out the genuine and has a desire to help the country.

It appeared that the present government took a different approach to the ChandrikaKumaranatunge regime and modified the system.  However the appearance of the document and the criteria considered remained the same.The dual citizenship “purchased” for $2000 US turned out to be a very tacky piece of paper which was not even presentable.  However, even to this day, the entire process of granting dual citizenship appears one that has not been thought through as a critical exercise that required much planning with a vision for the future.  The loosely bound criteria can be dangerous to the country too.  The application asks for generations of names and information about dead people in the family.  This is of course important to determine genealogy. At the same time the depth of the past should not exceed that which is required for authenticating the applicant.   There must be required criteria introduced to this exercise framed around the value of the eligible individual with the future needs of the country or with some value added in service to the country globally.  The questions on the application in addition to personal information should be targeted more to the individual receiving the dual citizenship.

Dual citizenship should not be treated as a tool for making short term monetary gains for undefined purposes.  Some who received dual citizenship have no desire to contribute to the country even if they are from the generations that gained free college education as the foundation to their success in jobs overseas.Dual citizenship is far more serious than filing an application and paying a fee.  It must be granted on more binding terms given to only those who wish to return the favour to the country by service.  It is not necessary to be physically present in Sri Lanka to be able to serve some of its needs.We need to remind expatriates who have dissociated themselves from Sri Lanka but hold dual citizenship that great statesmen like John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what the country can do for you, and ask what you can do for the country.”  Americans are fiercely patriotic and that is something we need to learn from them. In this regard the dual citizenship application system should be modified by taking into account some of the criteria used by other countries.  Taking Sri Lanka’s case, the government should consider asking for the following criteria with special exceptions included in those that require other considerations.

  • Circumstances under which the individual(s) left the country.  This is very important considering the blurred boundaries between economic migration and political or ethnic reasons for refugees and asylum seekers.  Especially those who have resorted to the use of human smugglers and falsified evidence.  These categories are far shorter processes than legal migration in most western countries and are granted to those who wish to abandon their countries of origin.  If so, seeking dual citizenship nullifies their intent to enter countries and short circuit the immigration systems.On the other hand, legal immigrants who have left for bona fide reasons should not be considered as abandoning their country of origin.
  • It must be noted that as one of the countries that permits immigration, the USA requires an independent police report on an individual from all countries of residence in their lifetime.  As Sri Lankans, we were subject to this scrutiny for immigration so why not the same in reverse?  If so, Sri Lanka can weed out all those who have criminal citations even in their host countries. There are plenty of those who have criminal records in countries like the UK, Canada and USA who may be holding dual citizenship granted without proper scrutiny.
  • If dual citizenship entitles expats to purchase property, it must be noted that in making such a purchase a mechanism to monitor expatriate purchases within the framework of the law should be in place.  Whether it is inherited wealth from within the country or earnings from overseas, verification must be required in terms of existing wealth in Sri Lanka and that earned from overseas.  It is very easy to verify income overseas with tax documents or proof of sustained investments that provide proof of earnings.  It must also be established whether the dual citizen is using legitimate funds earned in a job overseas.  Companies provide income verification letters for a multitude of purposes for employees.  It is not rocket science to be able to produce this proof.
  • If such property purchases are made by expats, some kind of checks and balances of proof of earnings abroad should be enforced to prevent money laundering and the dubious property purchases by refugees who have either lived on the dole or not earned sufficient foreign exchange to purchase expensive properties in Sri Lanka.
  • Above all, to qualify for dual citizenship there should be a points system for those who have served the country in any way possible through charitable projects to benefits libraries, hospitals, volunteering services to counter adverse propaganda, enlightening groups about Sri Lanka through lectures and presentations, holding office in organizations that provide the opportunity to showcase Sri Lanka, contributions to cultural activities and cultural exchange activities etc., to name a few aspects through which expats can add value to themselves and theircountry of origin to deserve dual citizenship.  This service counted should not be just for big names who claim fame for paid work done.  This should be strictly accounted for as unpaid voluntary service to the country of origin.
  • It must also be established whether the expats applying for dual citizenship have proof of payment of taxes on earnings in the form of tax certificates or tax filings to prove bona fide earnings overseas.  This tied to level of employment should be developed into a formula that can be applied to qualifying for property purchases for dual citizens.  This again can be learned from systems overseas, where property purchase is based on affordability and income formulated accordingly.  If cash purchases of property take place, they must require scrutiny to determine sources.
  • If the argument arises that foreigners (Non Sri Lankans) can purchase properties, it must be noted that they are doing so under a different category and are bound by a different set of rules that do not apply to Sri Lankans with dual citizenship rights whose original citizenship was from Sri Lanka.
  • Those who have claimed refugee or asylum status and defected from the country should not be readmitted as dual citizens under any circumstances.  Once Sri Lankan citizenship has been has been renounced for the above reasons and or any criminal activities in the adopted country can be proven, such applicants must be rejected and such rejections upheld without appeal.
  • On par with the Homeland Security Act of the USA, there should be guidelines to protect the safety of the country from regressing into a pre-2009 status of terrorism or support for terrorism by readmitting people with dubious motives and past records.
  • Any participation in or being part of a terrorist organization directly or indirectly associated with activities or as a donor violates global anti-terrorism laws.  This kind of investigation should be conducted and applied to the fullest measureas a deterrent to unlawful gains from dual citizenship.  This will be difficult to prove as it will be almost impossible to trace the path of some donations to terror coffers.  However, it must be on the books as a part of the requirement.    On the lines of the Patriot Act in the USA, Sri Lanka should take a firm stand against Sri Lankan diaspora that supports any activities that threaten the sovereignty of a democratically elected government.
  • Some thought should be given to dual citizenship privileges to generations of Sri Lankans by descent born overseas to parents who are first generation immigrants.  In the US Immigration system, if any one parent is a US citizen either by birth or by naturalization, the children qualify for dual citizenship (US Passport) provided the US citizen parent can prove residence in the USA for a given number of years.  The same can be applied to Sri Lanka with the criteria and stipulation of a number of years determined as needed. In this way, Sri Lanka will not lose future generations of Sri Lankans by descent who care enough about their heritage.  Similarly, Sri Lanka can stand to gain by the global insights that these future generations can bring back to their heritage. This must be addressed early on so that a regular supply of quality dual citizens will be readily available as a resource when needed by Sri Lanka.

Conclusion

Let’s hope the government will take a more serious view of the exercise of granting dual citizenship and examine thoroughly in detail the currently apparent and the possible loopholes for the future to prevent exploitation by those who continue to benefit from Sri Lanka and participate in smear campaigns for their benefit.  What matters ultimately are the people who truly value Sri Lanka.

7 Responses to “GRANTING DUAL CITIZENSHIP MUST BE VIEWED VERY SERIOUSLY BY THE GOVERNMENT”

  1. L Perera Says:

    Lengthy posts however important and true tend to discourage readers and put them off.

  2. KingSasanka Says:

    Even the animals do this.

    This is everyone’s right to return to the place of his or her birth.

    The reason/s why the person/s left the country in the first place, the task of proving how the money was earned and or if any criminal records against that person in the adopted land should not be hindrance in obtaining one’s birth right.

    The onus of finding out whether the money was ill-gotten or not is the responsibility of the authorities of his/her adopted land and spending it legally is the responsibility of the authorities of his/her birth country.

    This should apply also to Sri Lankans by descent born overseas.

  3. hela puwath Says:

    Anjalika Silva,
    Well reasoned and well explained, thank you! Hopefully the authorities will take a sirious note. Criminals who commit crimes against one’s motherland have no right to return.
    Loyalty is much valued in the animal world. Animals kill traitors if they return!

  4. KingSasanka Says:

    Human beings are expected (and are capable of) to do better than animals than taking cues from them.

    Do not try to stoop to that level.

  5. Sajith Says:

    Kingkong says at July 11th, 2011 at 5:04 am
    Even the animals do this.

    After 15 hours later Kingkong says at July 11th, 2011 at 8:57 pm
    Human beings are expected (and are capable of) to do better than animals than taking cues from them.

    Do not try to stoop to that level.

    Suffering from a mental disorder?

  6. Ananda-USA Says:

    Dear Anjalika,

    I have often written at various patriotic websites, including the Sri Lanka Defence Forum (http:\\SriLankaDefenceForum.blogspot.com), about the threat posed by Sri Lanka’s simple minded policy on granting dual citizenship, to its national security, and the economic well being of current and future Sri Lankan citizens.

    Your article has addressed this very important topic in much greater detail and depth than I had. The Government of Sri Lanka should seriously consider your recommendations, and revise its current policy.

    The immigration disclosures required for US citizenship, that you cite, also include questions regarding previous membership in Nazi and Communist parties that had posed threats to the survival of the United States. Immigration to the US is denied to members of these movements. In addition, membership in proscribed terrorist organizations is also sufficient reason for denial of entry to the US. Immigrant’s whose answers are found to be untruthful, are stripped of their citizenship, and are deported after serving time in prison.

    As you point out. after the 9/11 terrorist strike, the USA enacted The Patriot Act which has tightened immigration requirements and penalties, in addition to giving the US Government broad powers to gather information, including financial information, with or without consent, … in the national interest.

    Sri Lanka is no different from the USA in the threats it faces from terrorism. We are confronted by a machiavellian global terrorist separatist movement that continues to actively exploit every avenue and every loophole in Sri Lanka’s laws to undermine and destabilize Sri Lanka, destroy its economy, and disposses its citizens of their national inheritance.

    Dual citizenship, as currently implemented, is a door that is wide open to such destructive anti-national activities. It must be closed to all miscreants while being made available to legitimate sons and daughters of mother Lanka who have established a record of commitment to its security and well being.

    Thank you for writing this very timely analysis of Dual Citizenship policy.

  7. Nisha Says:

    This makes it very difficult for the “average” person to have a connection to Sri Lanka. Why would anyone want to invest, buy property or contribute if you don’t have any guaranty that their property or investment is safe when there is instability in the decision making process related to investments? For those who are comparing US, Canada, UK with Sri Lanka, I’d like to mention that these countries uphold property rights and investments are also guaranteed. There are no rights for “squatters” no matter where the owner is from, unlike in Sri Lanka !!!

    When Sri Lanka establishes some higher standards on investments and property rights, they should start comparing with other countries, as if dual citizenship is worth something. At this point maybe only the refugees are willing to dole out $2000 to get it. Out of 20 million, only 3500 holds dual citizenship with 750 new applicants. So what’s the big deal about giving it to these poor 750 patriots without making such a big deal out of it??? Are they not high quality enough??? Why haven’t thousands of people rushed to get dual citizenship even after the defeat of the terrorists? Doesn’t that give a clue to how much it must be ACTUALLY WORTH?

    Instead of making it so difficult, Sri Lanka should try to promote ex-Sri Lankans to actually get dual citizenship. Otherwise the more they lose ties the less they are going to need Sri Lanka…

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