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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 916

Dual Citizenship – some facts

By K.T.Rajasingham
Colombo, 12 January, (Asiantribune.com):

If someone wants to apply for the dual citizenship, they have to apply under the ‘Overseas Sri Lankan Scheme’ and the person has to be in the scheme for five years to be eligible for dual citizenship.

Initially applicants under the ‘Overseas Sri Lankan Scheme’ would be given ‘Permanent Residency’ and after 5 years of waiting period, the applicant becomes eligible for dual citizenship.'

The ‘Overseas Sri Lankan Scheme’ might take another two to three months, may be in March 2013, this scheme is expected to come into operation.

Furthermore, those applies under the scheme are to be interviewed, investigated and screened before the issuance of the permanent residency.

This dual citizenship scheme commenced in 1987, but came into operation in 1988 and so far nearly 2000 former overseas Sri Lankans are offered with dual citizenship.

Earlier whoever applied for dual citizenship was granted without out any investigation, screening or scanning.

But in the future those apply for dual citizenship has to undergo an investigation process and wait for 5 long years in the permanent residency status to be granted with the Sri Lankan citizenship.

Given below the excerpts of the interview Asian Tribune had with Mr. Harsha Ilukpitiya, Deputy Controller – Citizenship, in the Immigration and Emigration Department:

Asian Tribune: Already you have suspended the issue of dual citizenship well over three to four months. Tell us when the granting of dual citizenship would commence again?

Mr. Harsha Ilukpitiya: I still can’t say the exact date, but it might be earliest by next March or between next February and March.

Asian Tribune: What is that you are offering this time? I learnt that you are not granting directly dual citizenship, but in the beginning only ‘Permanent Residency.’

Mr. Harsha Ilukpitiya: The problem is that the scheme is still not finalized. We have prepared a very simple draft and sent it to the legal draftsman department. I think we need to have some more inputs in the draft. Therefore, we have planned to have another meeting by the 18th of this month. I think after that everything will be finalized.

Asian Tribune: There are thousands who were earlier granted with Sri Lankan citizenship. Presently thousands though they are now nationals of another country, but they wish to apply for dual citizenship. Will they be given citizenship immediately or in the beginning just granted with permanent residency?

Mr. Harsha Ilukpitiya: I think the proposal that we have submitted to the cabinet and accordingly everyone should apply for the permanent residency. We call it ‘Overseas Sri Lanka Scheme.’ so everyone should apply under that scheme and after five years waiting time only, one will become eligible to get the dual citizenship.

Asian Tribune: If someone is a permanent resident, is he eligible to contest in an election held in Sri Lanka for any political offices?

Mr. Harsha Ilukpitiya: No, those who have citizenship are only eligible to participate in any political activities – such as voting and contesting in elections.

Asian Tribune: Why not?

Mr. Harsha Ilukpitiya: Because a person who is a citizen of Sri Lanka can only participate in a parliamentary and other elections in Sri Lanka.

Asian Tribune: This granting of dual citizenship scheme was in operation since 1988, am I correct?

Mr. Harsha Ilukpitiya: Yes, 1987 the Act was amended and the scheme came into operation in 1988.

Asian Tribune: What is the name of that Act?

Mr. Harsha Ilukpitiya: It is not an Act by itself, but it is an amendment to the Citizenship Act. We introduced a few section - section 19 and 20. We amended those two sections to enable someone to apply for the dual citizenship.

Asian Tribune: If someone apply for the dual citizenship under that particular amendment, is he or she not entitled for dual citizenship?

Mr. Harsha Ilukpitiya: You were entitled earlier, but now that scheme is suspended. Hereafter you cannot apply under that system directly. That is the law. All that we are going to implement is that initially we are going to introduce the permanent residency for new applicants.

Asian Tribune: You have decided with the issuance of Permanent Residency in the initial stages. Why are you discriminating, when 2000 odd people are already given dual citizenship according to the amendment to the existing citizenship act? Why others are precluded?

Mr. Harsha Ilukpitiya: There is no discrimination as such, but hereafter we will issue the dual citizenship according to the earlier procedures we followed and it must be clearly said that we have not deviated from the earlier practice. According to the present scheme, If someone wants to apply for the dual citizenship, first they have to apply under the Overseas Sri Lankan Scheme and he has to be in this scheme to be eligible to get the dual citizenship. According to the law we will offer dual citizenship after a waiting period and there is no discrimination shown to anyone.

Asia Tribune so far already 2000 odd people have been directly given dual citizenship without any waiting period.

Mr. Harsha Ilukpitiya: That was earlier and adopted in the beginning stages. .

Asian Tribune: Yes it was earlier, but why suddenly you are precluding by not allowing new applicants to apply directly for Sri Lankan citizen? Is there any reason for that?

Mr. Harsha Ilukpitiya: Yes, there are so many reasons. Under the previous scheme, when a person who have applied for the dual citizenship, we just gave them without adopting any screening or any examination process. If a person applied we gave the dual citizenship. There was nothing to verify their qualifications, or any clarification was either sought from those applicants and they were not even screened before granting the citizenship.

On the other hand, I think there are very few countries where someone can obtain dual citizenship. All over the world, according to our report, there are only 10 countries that allow dual citizenship. But no Asian country allows dual citizenship. So we need to introduce the new scheme to other people who are willing to come forward and who are presently not having dual citizenship. Singaporeans, who were earlier Sri Lankans who are now in Singapore, similarly so many people in Malaysia have Malaysian citizenship and there are so many people in Asia; we need to get them back to Sri Lanka. And we need to get their commitment to the country. That is why we introduced this system so that they can apply.

Asian Tribune: Instead of being very rigid with giving the dual citizenship, will there be an exception for people to directly get the dual citizenship?

Mr. Harsha Ilukpitiya: No, there will not be any exception as such but ...?

Asian Tribune: That means that rightly or wrongly you have already conferred to some 2000 odd people dual citizenship, but suddenly without revealing what went wrong with the process, you are changing the law.

Mr. Harsha Ilukpitiya: The thing is that if we need to change the law for the best interest of the country.

Anyhow, I think we are anticipating one exception even though earlier I said no. The exception is that Country’s President alone can confer a dual citizenship on a person without that person going through the five years waiting period. President is authorized to give that citizenship to a person whom he feels deem fit.

Asian Tribune: This exception will be included in the Act?

Mr. Harsha Ilukpitiya: Yes.

Asian Tribune: How do you word that exception?

Mr. Harsha Ilukpitiya: After amending these two Acts, you can apply directly through the approval of the President of Sri Lanka.

Asian TribuneL What is the name of this Act?

Mr. Harsha Ilukpitiya: There are two names, one is the Immigration Act No. 824/ 1948 and the other one is Act No. 18 of 1948.

Asian Tribune: What is the name of the present amendment?

Mr. Harsha Ilukpitiya: The name is not finalized yet, we will do that in the next meeting on the 18 January. After that only I will be able tell you further details.

- Asian Tribune -

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