• 2,872 diplomatic passports issued since 2005
  • Housewives, students, unemployed persons issued diplomatic passports
  • Opposition to seek a debate on passport issuance

| by Ashwin Hemmathagama
The Finance Times

( May 24, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) A major flaw in the issue of diplomatic passports to non-diplomats, who are not entitled to hold such important internationally-valid documents, was taken up yesterday at Parliament by Opposition lawmaker Akila Viraj Kariyawasam.

Diplomatic passports issued by the Sri Lanka Department of Immigration and Emigration during a “nine-year period since 2005 now exceeds 2,872” regardless of the “exclusivity of a list of pre-approved personalities” the department was to follow in the issuance.

As a result, the VIP lounge at Bandaranaike International Airport is “crowded with diplomatic passport holders, mostly the merchants,” which is a clear “violation of the purpose such passports are issued,” charged MP Kariyawasam.

In response, Minister of Water Supply and Drainage, and Chief Government Whip Dinesh Gunawardena on behalf of the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development tabled the long list of both active and inactive diplomatic passport holders till 31 December 2013.

The long list confirms along with passport numbers and names the diplomatic passports issued to housewives, students, undergraduates, unemployed persons, journalists, teachers, physicians, clerks, retired persons, private secretaries of politicians, attorneys, businessmen, photographers, IT personnel, media secretaries, researchers, designers, retired Government servants, undergraduates, management assistants, bank officers and proprietors.

However, according to Gunawardena, the President, his spouse and their children, the Prime Minister, his spouse and their children, former Presidents, former Prime Ministers, the Speaker, Chief Justice, Ministers and Leader of the Opposition, representatives of the Government of Sri Lanka accredited to the governments of other countries while they are serving abroad, officers holding substantive appointments in the overseas service (including officers posted to Sri Lanka Missions from the Department of Commerce) while serving abroad, governors of the provinces, chief ministers of the provinces, Deputy Speaker, Deputy Ministers, Deputy Chairman of Committees of Parliament, Chief Government Whip, and their spouses and unmarried daughters and minor sons of categories, the Attorney General, Judges of the Supreme Court, Judges of the Court of Appeal, Members of Parliament and spouses, Chairpersons of the Provincial Councils and Provincial Ministers, Secretary to the President, Secretary to the Prime Minister, Secretary to the Cabinet, Governor of the Central Bank, Secretaries to the Cabinet Ministers, Advisors to the President, Deputy Secretary to the Treasury, Auditor General, Secretary General of Parliament, Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (Ombudsman), Secretary to the Leader of the House, Secretary to the Chief Government Whip, Secretaries to the Non-Cabinet Ministers, Chief Secretaries, Additional Secretaries to the President, Chief of Defence Staff, Commanders of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Inspector General of Police, Mahanayakes of Malwathu, Asgiri, Ramanna, Amarapura Chapters, Archbishops of the Roman Catholic Church, Most Reverend Chief Priests of the other religions, Chairmen of the Commissions appointed under the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, Director General, Department of Commerce, Deputy Inspector General, Intelligence Service, Commissioner in-charge of Tea Promotion work (Overseas) and Mayors of MCC to be specially approved by the President are entitled to hold diplomatic passports.