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Sri Lankan Citizenship and Human Rights

| by Victor Cherubim

( January 5, 2014 – London – Sri Lanka Guardian) In the world we live in, being a Sri Lankan living abroad with only Sri Lankan nationality, is becoming a virtual nightmare. There is no kudos or prizes for such status. There is no luxury of achievement. Yet many I know, want dual nationality passports, for a multitude of reasons, among them is, ease of travel in a world of unbearable, unaffordable restrictions and human rights violation on privacy. Visas are reciprocal but mysteriously, observance has strictly become conditional for travel for Sri Lankan citizens abroad.

You don’t need a degree in “Rocket Science” to fathom why many of the worlds’ 197 nations all want to look dis-favourably on Sri Lanka and its passport as a means of entry to their respective countries. It would, of course, be not a true reflection of the situation in a majority of cases. However, there are a plethora of countries, both in the West and the East who find every excuse to discourage visits from Sri Lankans, for entry to their countries.

Perhaps, we are not as welcome as we once were for a range of reasons – poor image projection, or record of the 30 odd year war in Sri Lanka, our perceived multiplicity of purpose, the fact that many of our Tamil citizens have sought admission as economic migrants couched as refugees. Then there is the small number of visitors wanting to go abroad for medical care, for educational purposes and/or for business pursuits. Yet simultaneously, each nation wants to promote tourism, encourage exchange of persons as visitors, for a variety of reasons, primarily to attract foreign currency.

Over the years during the war of attrition in Sri Lanka, there was an exodus of migration on humanitarian grounds. Like the tides, the weather and of fortune, many who disowned their nationality seeking refugee want to return to their homeland. This is quite a natural tendency and a trend in human affairs. But recently, we are witnessing a mass influx of both visitors and previous holders of Sri Lankan passports wanting to visit Sri Lanka, on the pretext of being holiday makers. One disowns his/her country of birth, and then wants a visit visa, how hideous?

Some others want to reclaim their lands; still others want to buy property in Sri Lanka, a further number it appears, want to open up scars of discontent, by dislodging the apparent tranquillity after 4 years of “relative peace”. Yet Sri Lanka welcomes them.

According to Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, persons, ”are arriving in Sri Lanka, with tourist visas and are getting involved in political activities, which is forbidden. Some others remain in the country even after their visas expire and once they are arrested or questioned for violating immigration and emigration laws, they try to interpret it, as a more of a human rights violation”.

He stated according to a recent news report: “in contrast foreigners have the freedom to arrive in Sri Lanka on tourist visas and enjoy their visit. However, we can observe that the Tamil diaspora is trying to misuse this freedom.” He added: “there were instances of people involved in terrorism and manufacturing of bombs (incendiary devices, it is presumed) who are now trying to speak about human rights.”

He went further to state: “we cannot allow people to go about projecting false propaganda on human rights violations against the country, when these people don’t know even the meaning of the term human rights”.

No one in their right frame of mind can dis agree a word of what Defence Secretary has said.
Rathika's latest tweet;

Take the case of NDP Canadian Politician, Ms.Rathika Sitsabesan, M.P. for Scarborough Rouge River, near Toronto, who we presume, was “graciously” granted a Tourist Visa and arrived in Sri Lanka days ago, on the express purpose of visiting her native homeland where she grew up.

It is no secret that Ms.Sitsabesan denounced her Sri Lankan citizenship on taking oaths of office on becoming an M.P, representing a Canadian constituency with a large majority of Tamil expatriates.

No one argues her right to visit Sri Lanka, but she does not have a legal right to stir up controversy and issue statements at least to some media on her behalf, that she is being “hounded by house arrest” and “subject to political intimidation.”

As a politician, it appears she can’t stand the heat? Did she come to Sri Lanka expecting any favours? It is well known that she has visited enroute to her ancestral home in Mavaddapuram, many places in her short stay, including Mannar, the Vanni, and other parts of Sri Lanka and met with NPC politicians. Perhaps, the SL Security Forces were gracious enough to allow her this privilege, which she perhaps not wantonly “used” or we don’t know “misused”.

But of course we must give her some credit of venturing on a perilous “expedition”, but hopefully returning safe thanks to her Canadian privilege.

Liberties which are conferred on a Head of State visiting another country, in a private capacity cannot automatically be claimed or conferred on an MP of a country, on the basis of a human right. Of course, media hype may have misrepresented the statements of Ms.Sitsabesan, in a different light, but that is the thrust of politics..

Sri Lankans are prone to imagine, but often are accused of human rights violations for every excuse possible under the sun, even when we welcome uncouth visitors, who degrade our nation and its pristine traditions.

The issue of a Visit Visa is discretionary. It can be rescinded at any time at the will and pleasure of the Government of Sri Lanka. Claiming diplomatic immunity is no valid excuse if we do not observe the condition of its issue. We cannot have the cake and eat it. The purpose of a tourist visa will always take precedence over other considerations. Rule of law, diplomacy and common sense, must always prevail, whether it is a humble citizen of any country or an MP of Rouge River.

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