Dual citizenship issue has become prominent in Sri Lankan politics. The Sri Lankan Government has taken extraordinary steps to allow dual citizens to serve their country without losing citizenship status of their adopted country. This is a forward and visionary step taken by the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government, considering its numerous benefits to this developing nation.
Sri Lanka needs foreign experts for developing the country for the benefit of current and future generations. Many Sri Lankan expatriates have a high level of skills, knowledge and necessary linkages in vast technical areas, for supporting Sri Lanka in its development efforts. Such Sri Lankan expatriates must be considered as trading arms in countries such as Australia, USA, Britain, Canada, France, Italy,New Zealand etc.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa has a good understanding of the advantages of having dual citizenship, and disadvantages of not allowing its dual citizens to engage in state affairs. He himself was a dual citizen with adopted American citizenship. However, he had to give it up to contest for the presidency. We believe allowing dual citizens to enter the Sri Lankan parliament helps not only secure individual support but also connect the Sri Lankan expatriates in their respective countries, thus allowing them to influence their adopted countries when needs arise.
Those who argue against the decision to allow the Sri Lankan expatriates to engage in state affairs, should not forget that the country was supported by dual citizen holders when LTTE activities were high in countries such as Australia, USA, Britain and Canada. When President Mahinda Rajapaksa continued the war against the LTTE, we gave him a helping hand, influencing Australian politics.
As an Australian citizen, I was given an opportunity to contest at the Local Government election of Penrith City Council in 1999, from the Australian Labour Party. This connection opened avenues for me to study the LTTE activities in Sydney, and control their activities, using their supporters in the Australian Labour Party. With my influence, ALP Senator Steve Hutchins blasted the LTTE on the floor of the Federal Parliament of Australia on 16th June 2006. Addressing Australian Parliament Senator Steve Hutchins said “Acts of Violence were not the actions of a group seriously attempting to consolidate peace. Those were the actions of cold-blooded killers not interested in bringing to a conclusion the conflict that was tearing their country apart. If they were serious about making peace there would be no child soldiers, no suicide bomb attacks on civilians, and no assassinations of members of the governments. Senator Steve Hutchins further said, “My friends in the Sri Lankan community here, and High Commissioner Balapatabendi, are always in touch with me regarding Sri Lankan affairs.”
Considering my contribution to protect my motherland from the LTTE, the High Commissioner for Sri Lanka wrote to me, “I deeply appreciate your untiring efforts. Your timely intervention, followed by the address by Steve Hutchins of the Australian Labour Party, will bring encouraging results”. President Mahinda Rajapaksa was aware of my contribution on the issue, and congratulated me over the phone, as this was a helping hand for him to completely wipe out terrorism from Sri Lankan soil.
Those who are criticizing dual citizenship must understand the value of dual citizens. They have contributed protection to the Sri Lankan nation over the last decades, contributing their energy, time and money. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa used every support available for him in Sri Lanka and overseas, to protect the people of Sri Lanka . Now both Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa have immense tasks ahead for protecting Sri Lankan people from economic war. Many Sri Lankans are below the poverty line and disabled people have been ignored. Consecutive Sri Lankan Governments failed to solve these problems. They failed to maintain equal opportunities for all sectors in society . This kind of discriminatory behaviour of the Sri Lankan Government must be addressed without delay. It can be achieved through getting support from wealthy countries such as Australia, USA, Canada, Britain, New Zealand, France, Germany , Italy, etc. through influence from Sri Lankan expatriates on these countries.
It is our view that the Sri Lankan government is on the right track in extending government tentacles, attracting Sri Lankan expatriates to its development efforts. We are happy Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has proposed an election commission to provide voting rights to Sri Lankan expatriates. This is another visionary action of Mahinda Rajapaksa to protect the nation from the economic war, by removing discriminatory behaviour of the government that excludes Sri Lankan citizens abroad from voting rights.
As Australian citizens with Sri Lankan heritage we will work with the Australian Government to help and support the Sri Lankan Government for winning economic war, providing Australian Development Assistance to Sri Lanka during next decades, until Sri Lanka becomes a developed nation from its brand of a developing nation. Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims must work together, respecting each other and maintaining equity in the society.
SUMANE LIYANAARACHCHI JP