By Shamindra Ferdinando
Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader Udaya Gammanpila MP announced, yesterday, that wartime Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa had officially relinquished his US citizenship.
Attorney-at-law Gammanpila emphasised that there was absolutely no issue over Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s current status.
Gammanpila, one of the key people, who spearheaded the campaign for Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s entry into active politics, said that the announcement of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s candidature at the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) convention at the Sugathadasa Indoor stadium on August 11 would be a formality as final decision in this regard had already been made.
Gammanpila was responding to media queries after giving a statement to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) located at the BMICH regarding a complaint he made in respect of All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) leader Rishad Bathiudeen, MP, acquiring over 3,000 acres in the Mannar administrative district.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa underwent heart surgery on May 31, 2019 in Singapore. He returned to the country on Wednesday (24) night.
MP Gammanpila said that a section of the media misconstrued the absence of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s name in the latest list released by the US on those who had renounced US citizenship. The latest report dealt with the period up to March 31, 2019, the MP said, claiming that Gotabaya Rajapaksa received the last US document pertaining to him renouncing US citizenship in May 2019. Therefore, Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s name couldn’t have been in the released list, the MP said.
In terms of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in 2015, dual citizens cannot contest either presidential or parliamentary elections. Earlier, former Customs Revenue Task Force Chief attorney-at-law Nagananda Kodituwakku relinquished his British citizenship to contest the 2019 presidential election.
The presidential election is scheduled for late November or early December 2019.
Gammanpila said that Gotabaya’s name would be certainly in the next list issued by the US State Department as one of those who renounced US citizenship up to June 30, 2019.
Asked how he could be so sure of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s eligibility to contest 2019 presidential, Gammanpila said that there couldn’t be any issue regarding his candidature.
MP Gammanpila emphasized that as one of the few people who had seen the documents pertaining to the US citizenship matter, he was confident of the completion of the process with the former Defence Secretary receiving the US State Department certificate on him giving up the citizenship. That certificate was received in May this year, he said.
Gammanpila said that participating in a live television programme on April 29, 2019, Gotabaya had declared that 90 per cent of the process had been completed. Rajapaksa dealt with the situation up to April 29, 2019.
The renunciation of US citizenship is effected in terms of the Section 349(a) (5) of its Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
Asked by The Island whether Gotabaya had returned to the country on his Sri Lankan passport on Wednesday, MP Gammanpila said that in fact Rajapaksa had used his Sri Lankan passport when he left the country for Singapore in May.
Gammanpila said that the SLFP had to take a decision soon as the SLPP presidential candidate would be Gotabaya. The former Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) stalwart said that as the SLFP no longer enjoyed the status as a major party following the humiliating defeat it suffered at the last Local Government polls on Feb. 10, 2018 it could either keep quiet or pledge its support for the SLPP candidate once he was officially named.
Gammanpila said preparations were being made for a high-profile campaign soon after the official announcement was made on Aug 11.