Dual Citizens Make Bridges Between Sri Lanka, Host Countries

Speech made by Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera, at the Ceremony to mark the Granting of Dual Citizenship to 150 members of the Sri Lankan Diaspora, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 11th June 2015

The Minister of Public Order and Christian Religious Affairs, Hon. John Amaratunga,

Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Chitranganee Wagiswara, and
Mr. Chulananda Perera, Acting Secretary of Ministry of Public Order.

The Controller General of Immigration & Emigration, Mr. M.N. Ranasinghe,

Distinguished guests,

Friends,

I am honoured to be able to share this very special day with you in this Ministry.  Let me also take this opportunity to thank my Cabinet colleague, Hon. John Amaratunga for choosing the historic Republic Building as the venue for this function.

Today, you formally renew your ties with your country of origin, Sri Lanka, and become citizens of this country again, in addition to the countries which you have chosen as your new homes.

I am extremely happy that you have chosen to make Sri Lanka’s journey towards development, reconciliation, peace and prosperity your own again.

This is a step that a few in the over one-and-a-half million strong Sri Lankan diaspora have taken. In fact, since 1987, only 34,000 Sri Lankans abroad have made such a firm commitment.

Of course, we are aware, that some of you wanted very much to resume citizenship earlier, but the facility for this purpose was restricted in the last few years.   

The Government of President Maithripala Sirisena realizes the true value of the diaspora community and welcome all of you as our citizens. You are all citizens of this country who now carry the flag for Sri Lanka overseas.

We welcome your renewed participation in all aspects of Sri Lankan civic, economic and cultural life.

There is much that you can contribute, and there is much that we can learn from your experiences.

You bring the experience of many different political, economic and social systems; knowledge of best practices in science and industry and the latest ideas, developments and trends in academia and culture.

Perhaps, as importantly, you can see the mistakes others have made, and help us appreciate what we have taken for granted at home.    

It is important to note that Sri Lanka’s relationships with your adopted second-homes and with the Sri Lankan diaspora are not a zero-sum game – we all want peace, we all want prosperity and we all want an equal and just society, and world.

Sri Lanka is our motherland. So far too many years since Independence, we allowed ourselves to be divided along different lines–ethnic, religious, linguistic, class–whatever it was. We suffered. We lost our best to violence in all parts of our country. We have seen enough violence. It is time that we united in mind and spirit. This land is the common space that should unite us – those of us who live here in this country and those of you who left our shores and live overseas.

We must ensure that the mistakes of the past do not get repeated again. This nation cannot afford to lose more of her sons and daughters to violence.

Together, as a reconciled and united nation at peace, we must work and strive to achieve common goals that will benefit present and future generations in this country and enable Sri Lanka to achieve its full potential in all fields.

With your help, with your participation, we will be able to achieve these objectives faster and more easily than we can, alone.

You can play an important role in this journey. You are a bridge between Sri Lanka and your host countries. Each of you is an ambassador of this country to your host countries. Each of you are also ambassadors to the one-and-a-half million persons of Sri Lankan origin living overseas.

Per capita, Sri Lanka’s diaspora is one of the world’s largest and it is also one of the most illustrious diasporas.

In fact, according to the OECD, in 2006, one in three members of the Sri Lankan diaspora living in the OECD is an educated professional.

They also estimate that OECD contains over 8000 legislators, senior officials and managers of Sri Lankan origin.

In a nutshell, Sri Lanka’s diaspora consists of individuals who are hardworking, talented, and responsible. They have contributed positively to the nations which they have made their homes and through perseverance and wield influence.

Our diaspora has demonstrated their contribution to the advancement of science and technology, the pursuit of justice, and the production of wealth in many nations overseas.

Now that Sri Lanka has opened its doors to welcome them, we hope they acknowledge and respond by returning home to become stakeholders in Sri Lanka’s new journey towards peace, reconciliation and development.

We hope that they use the talent and skills they have gained over the years, to help us accelerate our development and enrich our thinking.

We should strive to reverse the brain drain during the long years of conflict and ensure that Sri Lanka will now receive all the benefits of a brain gain at this crucial time of her history.

Dual-citizens are in a privileged position of being a bridge – bringing us closer together and enabling us to travel together again.

Many say that you have the best of both worlds, but in you, as a country, we have the best of both worlds.

You live and work among the Diaspora, among the leaders and citizens of some of the most developed and advanced countries in the world.  Yet also maintain the closest of relationships with our island.

Your hybrid identity allows you to provide honest information, facilitate tourism, trade and investment and act as a gateway to Sri Lanka.

But, above all, it is your passion that Sri Lanka needs: the passion to motivate and mobilize the diaspora and the world to join our journey in creating a new Sri Lanka.

In one of my previous speeches, I argued that salesmanship will be as important as statesmanship, for the modern Sri Lankan diplomat: this applies also to citizen ambassadors like you who represent this nation overseas as citizens of Sri Lanka and elsewhere.  

We hope that you would take on the task of persuading the world that Sri Lanka is not only a paradise for tourists, but that it is becoming a paradise for investors too.

We hope that you take our story, our nation’s story to the world outside. Tell them about the pain of conflict, what we have experienced and the renewal of our democracy, to embark on this new and promising journey, having realized that this is the only meaningful way forward.

Tell them about the beauty of this island, its ancient history, its potential for investors, its advanced human resources, the advantage of its location.   Today, I invite you to take a single practical step in that direction.

In order to encourage diaspora members to engage and contribute to efforts in Sri Lanka, this Ministry is keen to organize a Diaspora Festival later this year.

We believe that such an event to connect Sri Lanka to its diaspora, which could even take the form of a regular annual event, will enable the communities in the country to benefit from their knowledge, capacity, expertise and skills.

As you know there are several other countries who have benefited from such organized events – India and Ireland to name a few.

While we try to think of new ways to embrace you and engage with you, I urge you too to be innovative and creative in joining this journey.

Perhaps with the help of our embassies in your host countries, you could try to unite as Sri Lankan dual-citizens overseas.  We must now stop thinking in narrow, parochial terms; you must call yourselves the Sri Lankan diaspora and not define ourselves on ethnic lines by labeling yourselves as the Sinhala Diaspora, Tamil Diaspora or the Muslim Diaspora.  Let there be unity in our diversity.  The new Sri Lanka we all dream of will be a celebration of our multi ethnic, multi religious, multi cultural country.

Let us now together travel on a common journey of peace to achieve progress and prosperity for our nation.


Thank you.

© 2017 Asian Mirror (pvt) Ltd