By Chandani Kirinde
A fresh row erupted over the citizenship of SLPP presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa over the weekend, with Sports Minister Harin Fernando alleging that the former had not completed the process of renouncing his US citizenship, which drew a strong rebuttal from lawyers for the SLPP candidate.
The row resurfaced after Fernando, in a lengthy Facebook (FB) post, on Saturday said Rajapaksa’s name has not appeared in the latest Federal Register of the USA even though the US law requires that the names of citizens who have lawfully revoked their citizenship to have their name published in the register.
However, a group of lawyers for Rajapaksa, led by Ali Sabry PC, yesterday strongly refuted the allegations saying that it can take months or even a year for the name of a person who renounces US citizenship to get on the Federal Register. Sabry also produced documents at a press briefing which he said confirm that the SLPP candidate is no longer a US citizen.
“Harin Fernando has raised the issue of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s name not being in the new Federal Register and hence claimed that he is still a US citizen. This is a diabolical lie. I have the original US passport, issued in 2012 to Rajapaksa, valid for 10 years; but after he renounced his citizenship, a seal saying ‘cancel’ has been stamped on it.
I also have the official oath of renunciation he took on 17 April with an embossed seal, and I also have the original certificate of loss of citizenship, which has been approved by the US State Department,” Sabry told reporters.
He said Rajapaksa is now a Sri Lankan citizen and all the necessary documentation has been submitted to the Election Commission for perusal.
“There has been, particularly in the last five years, an onslaught of allegations to prevent him from contesting the Election. Case after case was filed, a special kind of Police named the ‘FCID’ was set up, and special courts, too, were set up. But despite all those things, he has managed to become the candidate, as a result of which last minute desperate attempts are being made by some sections of the opposition to mislead the public,” Sabry said.
Fernando, in his post on Saturday, said that despite Rajapaksa’s claim that he submitted his application to revoke the citizenship on 17 April and received confirmation on 3 May, his name was not in the second quarter report of the registry. And even though his spokesman assured the name would be in the third quarter report, it was not in the report released on 30 October either.
However, last afternoon, Facebook had taken down Fernando’s post, prompting him to take to Twitter to vent his anger where he condemned Facebook for censoring his posts regarding the American citizenship of Rajapaksa. “American companies shouldn’t interfere on behalf of an American contesting Sri Lanka’s election. I stand by my every word,” he said.
Meanwhile Rajapaksa’s lawyer Sabry also said a fake copy of an air ticket booked in the name of the SLPP candidate to leave the country on 17 November – the day after the election – for Los Angeles was also being circulated on social media.
“Rajapaksa is defending a case filed against him, and due to that, his passport is in the courts. There is also a travel ban in place. Even if he wants to go, he can’t go. The election is on Saturday and 17 November is a Sunday, so how can he get court permission to get back his passport?” he queried.
Sabry said the flight ticket being circulated is fake, and insisted it was part of the mudslinging campaign.
Monk launches fast seeking confirmation of GR’s US citizenship renunciation
Ven. Inguruwatte Sumangala Thero began a fast yesterday demanding that SLPP presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa produce the official documents confirming that he had recounted his US citizenship.He began the fast at Colombo Independence Square, Colombo. Lawyers for Rajapaksa who held a press conference yesterday urged him to call off the fast saying that they would deliver the documents to him.