After the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was passed by Parliament last month and the Speaker signed and put into force, no one with dual citizenship can enter into the Parliament. It has also become impossible for them to contest any election and come to positions elected by the people. It is in keeping with the dignity of their posts that the so-called people’s representatives who are now in Parliament admit to holding dual citizenship and resign their posts. But three weeks later, none of our MPs have done so.
Ten MPs are said to have dual citizenship. Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) leader Champika Ranawaka has stated this openly. If there are indeed ten such people, they are illegally sitting on the chairs of Parliament. Look at how Sri Lankan democracy is being ridiculed if there are illegal representatives within the country’s highest legislative council.
All members of the current Parliament were elected at the August 2020 general election. At that time, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which had a provision prohibiting dual citizens from contesting elections was in force. It is obvious that the MPs, who are said to hold dual citizenship, have concealed the truth when they filed nomination papers to contest that election. They have hidden the truth not only to the Election Commission, but also from the leaders of their parties. Or it must be said that the leaders nominated them as candidates despite knowing the truth.
The major issue in the matter is the problem facing the state institutions involved, including parliament, in identifying dual-citizenship MPs.
When speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena was questioned by the media about the possibility that dual citizens would have been elected or appointed to parliament he said it is not the parliamentary responsibility to find it out, but the responsibility of the Election Commission. But when a person files nomination papers to contest elections, it is not the responsibility of the Elections Commission to investigate his/her citizenship, says its Chairman Nimal Punchihewa.
His stand is that anyone can approach the court in the matter if there is enough evidence. It is to be noted that former Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya also took the same stance when complaints were made that Gotabaya Rajapaksa filed nomination papers without giving up his US citizenship to contest the 2019 presidential election.
It has been announced that the Department of Immigration and Emigration will submit a report about the controversy that has arisen over some MPs keeping their dual citizenship secret. If such a report is submitted, those who are identified as members of Parliament and continue to remain members of Parliament without telling the truth even after the passage of the 21st Amendment with dual citizenship must abdicate their posts. It is not known whether they will insist that their status should be decided by the court even after they have been identified.
Those who contested the last general election concealing their dual citizenship and were elected to parliament have been members of the House for more than two years. It is not known whether the salaries, special allowances and benefits they have received so far will be recovered from them in the event that they are exposed and forced to leave parliament. This has to be decided by the Parliament.
But the concerned MPs may also argue that they have not done anything illegal or improper as the 20th Amendment, which was later passed in October 2020, allowed people with dual citizenships to come to Parliament even though the 19th Amendment was in force when they contested the elections. But there is no question that when the nomination papers were filed, they concealed the fact of dual citizenship and were bypassing the law.
The leaders of the political parties that are part of parliament have an important responsibility in the matter. But none of them seem to have yet realized that they have a moral obligation to fulfill that responsibility. Leaders should find out if any of their party’s MPs have dual citizenship and ask them to resign. Will they do so?
Since the passage of the amendment, no MP has so far voluntarily declared that he has dual citizenship and has come forward to resign. ‘Find out if you can’ seems to be their approach to this issue. Perhaps they do not even care about the humiliation that might befall them when the truth would be discovered and they are forced to resign. Such are the qualities of honesty and dignity among out politicians.