Aug 07, 2019

Issue over Gota’s passport Featured

It has been reported that former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had obtained his Sri Lankan passport in 2005 in a fraudulent manner.

In an FB post, Senior Journalist Kusal Perera had stated, “Here is the story in brief. He had applied for dual citizenship on November 18, 2005. The ministerial approval had been granted three days later on November 21.
By them ministers had not been appointed.

Prior to obtaining dual citizenship, he had included his name on the electoral register at Medamulana in 2005. Last month too he had obtained a new passport under a new ID number in contradiction to the regular
procedure. These are some of the actions of a presidential candidate wanting to develop the country.”

The issue of former Defence Secretary and presidential hopeful Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s dual citizenship has taken a new twist with revelations that he had obtained his new Sri Lankan passport sans the “dual citizen” stamp
without appearing in person and by applying after hours to the Immigration and Emigration Department.

Also, Rajapaksa had not appeared at the Immigration Department to be finger-printed, and the passport was issued in a matter of hours under a new National ID card number that is not connected to Rajapaksa’s previous
NIC or border control records.

New face to passport crisis!

The Leader had reported that Rajapaksa’s passport application was received and processed by the Immigration and Emigration Department on an urgent basis on May 7, this year after 3.00 p.m., which is the cut-off time
for new applications.

Gotabhaya had not reported to the Immigration and Emigration Department in person and his finger prints had also not been obtained. However, the department officials had taken measures to issue him a new passport under a
new ID number within a few hours.

It has also been revealed that Rajapaksa has not made an application under the Citizenship Act and that his new passport has been issued under a new National ID that is unconnected to border control records.

Rajapaksa has reportedly obtained the new passport from the Immigration and Emigration Department in May without the dual-citizen stamp.

According to Rajapaksa, this new Sri Lankan passport was proof that he was no longer a dual citizen under Sri Lankan law.

According to immigration officials, persons with dual citizen status are required to make a formal application under the Citizenship Act if they wish to regain regular Sri Lankan citizenship. However, Rajapaksa it is
learnt had not followed this regular process, but had obtained a passport which did not indicate his dual citizenship status.

It is also learnt that the use of a new National ID card number for Rajapaksa when obtaining the new passport had prevented the immigration computer systems from automatically noting that he was on record as a dual

Ministerial powers

Dual citizenship, the officials said, is a ‘status’ granted by the Government to former Sri Lankan citizens allowing them to exercise all of the rights of a Sri Lankan citizen. “Unlike regular citizenship, it is a strictly political decision,” the officials said. “The Minister has unquestioned authority to approve, deny or revoke dual citizenship as he determines in the national interest.”

According to Section 19 of the Citizenship Act, the Minister may only grant dual citizenship “if he is satisfied” that doing so “would, in all the circumstances of the case, be in the best interests of Sri Lanka.”

Unlike normal citizens, the Citizenship Act allows the Minister to revoke the status given to dual citizens. Section 19 (7) states that “the Minister may, at any time, revoke” a declaration of dual citizenship status if a
dual citizen.

Should a dual citizen wish to become an ordinary Sri Lankan citizen whose status is not subject to revocation, they must apply under the Citizenship Act for a declaration that they are again full Sri Lankan citizens. This again is a decision that is delegated to the Minister for citizenship matters.

According to an affidavit filed by Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the Supreme Court, he returned to Sri Lanka in 2005 in order to assist with his brother’s presidential election campaign. He was an American citizen and not a Sri
Lankan citizen at the time. Immigration records indicate that he arrived in Sri Lanka on his American passport with an on-arrival tourist visa in order to campaign for Mahinda Rajapaksa, applying for dual citizenship on Friday,
18 November 2005, the day his brother was sworn in as President of Sri Lanka.

Astounding factor!

It is now learnt that files on Rajapaksa’s dual citizenship are not at the Immigration and Emigration Department.

The only record available is one that indicates he had applied for dual citizenship on November 18, 2005.

However, records show that his application was approved by the Minister on the next working day, Monday, November 21, 2005. Interestingly, the approval was granted by the ‘Minister’ although there was no Minister appointed at that time.

Rajapaksa’s application was given top priority although there was a large backlog of applications over several months. The computer system at the Immigration and Emigration Department has noted that while the dual citizenship was granted in November 2005, the data pertaining to Rajapaksa was only entered into the system on January 13, 2014.

When inquiries were made to observe the original documents, it had been revealed that there are no copies of the application, receipt of payment, or the dual citizenship certificate granted to Rajapaksa in the Department file.

Also, dual citizens are usually required to present their dual citizenship certificate when obtaining a new passport. However, there are no records of Rajapaksa presenting his dual citizenship certificate when obtaining the new passport.

 'Immediate investigation required'

 Meanwhile, in a statement posted on his FB page ‘Colombo Telegraph’ Editor Uvindu Kurukulasooriya states, “The government should initiate an immediate investigation regarding Gota’s passport issue.”