Patriotism isn't a one-way street

Stop treating expatriates as cash-cows

| by Prof. Shelton A. Gunaratne

( January 8, 2014 -Colombo -Sri Lanka Guardian) A long-time friend of mine, Gamini Gunawardena, has been circulating an appeal to Sri Lankan (presumably non-Tamil) expatriates to boost up their patriotic fervor to think of "ways and means of meeting the poor Sri Lanka lobby in the U.S., which is easily overwhelmed by the LTTE propaganda machinery."

Gunawardena, a retired deputy inspector general of police, wants to jolt the expatriates "into action in this hour of need for your motherland Sri Lanka."

Some expatriates are already doing this by writing to newspapers in their adopted countries (e.g., Australia, Britain, Canada, United States) and by donating money to their erstwhile "motherland," which has by all indications unmistakably discarded its former "children."

In my opinion, many non- Tamil expatriates have not responded to the propaganda campaign of the Tamil diaspora for the simple reason that Sri Lanka has failed to offer them a quid pro quo for performing such a voluntary service.

One expatriate added the following comment to Gunwardena's circular:

I think the crude attitude of the Sri Lankan government toward the expatriates is one of the main co-arising reasons for their lack of feeling for the "motherland."

When they visit Sri Lanka, the expatriates are treated by all and sundry as cash cows. Unless they carry SL passports, they cannot enter the ruins of the Cultural Triangle without paying sky-high admission fees charged from "foreigners." Any one born in SL should be able to visit these cultural treasures as a birthright without having to pay such exorbitant fees. What offends them is the intention behind this discrimination.

The president and an entourage of officials seem to dissipate the foreign exchange so earned on foreign trips almost every month.

Moreover, the government is losing the goodwill of the expatriates by charging exorbitant fees to become a dual citizen of SL after they gain citizenship in the country they have settled down. The government has lost the expertise and goodwill of many of its expatriates because of this instrumental attitude.

Another expatriate responded:

You are absolutely right. We work harder than the paid people for the country. Donate to charities. Help the poor and we are the first line of people who are asked to do more for the country but no concessions for doing so. They ask us to come to serve the country but we have to pay for dual citizenship or else turn down offers. The corporate sector is what keeps the country going. That us why we have to make a distinction between the country and the worthless politicians.

President J. F. Kennedy once asked Americans "to ask not what your country can give you but what you can give to your country." But this does not apply to SL and SL expatriates because SL wants to treat its expatriates as aliens and cash-cows.

Patriotism isn't a one-way street.