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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2735

Issue of granting citizenship to 28,500 Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu to be completed soon – R.Chandrasekaran MP

Colombo, 31 December, (Asiantribune.com): A consensus is expected to be reached during the next Parliamentary Select Committee meeting schedule for January 2008, on the issue of granting citizenship to persons who are in the refugee camps for Sri Lankans in Tamil Nadu, South India. Reports revealed that in the refugee camps for Sri Lankans, situated in Tamil Nadu, there are at present nearly 28,500 persons, who though entitled to their Sri Lankan citizenship, have not so far been granted such status.Chairman of the Select Committee Ramalingham Chandrasekeran said that they have decided to summon the Attorney General as well as the Controller of Immigration and Emigration for the next meeting.Chairman of the Select Committee Ramalingham Chandrasekeran said that they have decided to summon the Attorney General as well as the Controller of Immigration and Emigration for the next meeting.

Ramalinggham Chandrasekeran, Deputy Chairman of Committees and Member of Parliament representing Janatha Vimukthi Perumuna, when talking to Asian Tribune, expressed confidence that Act, No. 35 of 2003 would be amended in order to grant Sri Lankan citizenship to persons who are in refugee camps, for Sri Lankans in Tamil Nadu and to provide other facilities to them soon.

The plight of these Sri Lankans who languishes in the refugee camps in Tamil Nadu was brought to the notice of Ramilingham Chandrasekeran and Bimal Ratnayake, JVP members of Sri Lanka Parliament, when they visited Tamil Nadu. Subsequently they visited some of the refugee camps and studied the problem of the refugees. They had come back convinced that these refugees would come back to Sri Lanka, if only their legal hurdles regarding their citizenship status were removed.

Chandrasekaran and Bimal Ratnayake were in India from May 7 to 13 to take part in a summit held by the Democratic Youth Federation of India, the youth organization of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

When they were in Tami Nadu, they on the invitation of OfERR, an organisation of Sri aLanka refugees, headed by S.C. Chandrahasan, the JVP Parliamentarians visited the Sri Lankan refugee camps. According to them, the refugees want to obtain Sri Lankan citizenship and intend to return to the country.

On their return, they made a proposal for amendment to the 2003 Citizenship Act.

Ramalingam Chandrasekeran, JVP Member of Parliament on 25th May, moved and adjournment motion in the floor of the Sri Lanka Parliament demanding to amend the citizenship laws for persons of Indian origin to enable `Ceylon Tamil refugees' now living in Tamil Nadu to obtain their Sri Lankan citizenship and return to the country.

The motion said that around 28,500 people, who are living in camps for Sri Lankan refugees had not received Sri Lankan citizenship though they were entitled to it.

"In terms of the 2003 Act, children of people who have lived continuously after October 30, 1964 are entitled to Sri Lankan citizenship. But those who have had to live as refugees in Tamil Nadu owing to the situation in Sri Lanka after 1983 have not been able to meet this requirement. As a result of this, about 28,500 have not received citizenship," the motion said.

It was realized that 28,500 Ceylon Tamil Refugees in Tamil Nadu would suffer disadvantages unless they were in possession of the Certificate of Citizenship issued under Sec. 4(2) of the Grant of Citizenship to Persons of Indian Origin Act No. 35 of 2003 confirming their Ceylon Citizenship.

Under Sec. 2 of the Act, "Any person of Indian origin, who on the date of coming into operation of this Act, (a) Has been a permanent resident of Sri Lanka since October 30; 1964 or (b) Is a descendent resident in Sri Lanka of a person who has been a permanent resident of Sri Lanka since October 30, 1964, shall be granted the status of citizen of Sri Lanka, with effect from such date and be entitled, in like manner and to the same extent, to all the rights and privileges to which a citizen of Sri Lanka is entitled to, by law:"

According to Ramalingham Chandrasekeran, most of the Ceylon Tamil Refugees in India fled the island in 1990. Since then, the refugees referred to in the Act as "persons of Indian origin" had been accommodated in the camps run by the Government in Tamil Nadu.

While agreeing to consider the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna's demand to amend the citizenship laws for persons of Indian origin to enable `Ceylon Tamil refugees' now living in Tamil Nadu, the Sri Lankan Government on 25th May said the subject could be referred to a select committee to rectify loopholes, if any, in the existing Act.

Subsequently S.K. Subasinghe and Chandrasena Wijesinghe, moved for the appoinrment of a Parliamentary Select Committee to amend the Act, No. 35 of 2003, in order to grant Sri Lankan citizenship to the persons who are in refugee camps for Sri Lankans in Tamil Nadu and to provide other facilities to them, -

Whereas it has been reported that in refugee camps for Sri Lankans, situated in Tamil Nadu, there are at present nearly 28,500 persons, who though entitled to Sri Lankan citizenship have not been granted such status,

And whereas they have been unable to obtain citizenship due to the fact that they had to live as refugees in Tamil Nadu being unable to live in Sri Lanka due to the situation that prevailed there from time to time since 1983 thereby failing to fulfill the requirement to the effect that “the children of those with continuous residence in Sri Lanka since October 30th, 1964 will be qualified to citizenship” in terms of provisions of Granting of Citizenship to citizens of Indian Origin Act, No. 35 of 2003,

And in order to grant citizenship to nearly 28,500 aforesaid persons who have not been able to obtain the citizenship of Sri Lanka and hence have become “group of stateless persons” requesting the citizenship of our country at present, Part II of the aforesaid Act be amended by including the following paragraph:-

“The persons who have not been able to prove the continuous residence in Sri Lanka as a result of being compelled to live outside Sri Lanka due to the reasons which are beyond their control and yet have been permanent residents of Sri Lanka from 30th of October 1964, shall be entitled to the citizenship of Sri Lanka” as accepted by the Law Commission of Sri Lanka by now,

Further more, this Parliament resolves that a Select Committee of Parliament be appointed, -

(a) to appoint a Committee with full powers and resources in order to make arrange ments for the re-settlement of approximately 80,000 Sri Lankans at present living in refugee camps in Tamil Nadu;

(b) to arrange a joint action plan in collaboration with India to take steps to uplift the condition of the Sri Lankan refugees as well as the refugee camps in Tamil Nadu;

(c) to provide employment in our country through a Special Graduate Employment Programme, to nearly 2500 unemployed graduates who have obtained their degrees from Higher Education Institutes in India while staying as refugees in Tamil Nadu;

(d) to provide without delay the required additional human and physical resources to the High Commissioner’s Office in Chennai to conduct these activities vigorously and smoothly;

(e) to look into and provide for other matters in order to address the issues faced by the afore said groups of persons.

2.(a) The Committee and its Chairman shall be nominated by Mr. Speaker,

(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order 95, the Committee shall consist of not more than twenty one (21) members.

3. That the Committee shall have the power to:

(a) fix its quorum;

(b) summon any person to appear before it, to require any person to produce any document or record, to procure and receive all such evidence, written or oral, as the Committee may think it necessary for the fullest consideration of the matters referred to above;

(c) Obtain the services of Specialists and Expert in the relevant fields to assist the Committee; and,

(d) make interim reports from time to time and to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of Parliament.

Parliamentary Select Committee Members :

Ramalingam Chandrasekaran (Chairman)
Prof. G.L. Peiris
Jeyaraj Fernandopulle
Arumugan Thondaman
Rauff Hakeem
Douglas Devananda
Mrs. Ferial Ismail Ashraff
P. Chandrasekaran
C.B. Ratnayake
Prof. Tissa Vitharana
Dew Gunasekara
Vadivel Suresh
P. Harrison
Dr. Jeyalath Jayawardana
T. Maheswaran
Bimal Ratnayake
K.V. Samantha Vidyaratne
Suresh Premachandran
Mavai S. Senathirajah
Mano Ganesan
N.D.N.P. Jayasinghe
Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thero
S.A. Jayantha Samaraweera

The Select Committee met on 12 December and it is expected to meet for the again on 24 January 2008.

Chairman of the Select Committee Ramalingham Chandrasekeran said that they have decided to summon the Attorney General as well as the Controller of Immigration and Emigration for the next meeting.

He expressed hope that a consensus would be reached in the next meeting and would be able to finalize the draft of the amendment to the prevailing Act to grant citizenship to the 28,500 Sri Lankan refugees presently languishing in the refugee camps for Sri Lankan in Tamil Nadu.

- Asian Tribune-

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