House seeks clarification from Foreign Ministry

Dual citizens as heads of diplomatic missions:


By Shamindra Ferdinando

Joint Opposition Leader Dinesh Gunawardena, MP, yesterday said that in the wake of enactment of 19th Amendment to the Constitution the government should review its policy on appointing dual citizens as heads of Sri Lankan overseas missions.

MP Gunawardena told The Island that the contentious issue of dual citizens given top diplomatic posts had been discussed at the last meeting of the parliamentary High Posts Committee chaired by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya in parliament where representatives of the UNP (Higher Education Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC and TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran) agreed with his stand.

JO leader pointed out that consensus on such overseas foreign ministry appointments was needed in the wake of 19th Amendment which stipulated that dual citizens couldn’t contest parliamentary or presidential elections. Supreme Court recently disqualified Galle District MP Geetha Kumarasinghe over her dual citizenship therefore guidelines on key state sector appointments couldn’t be ignored, Gunawardena said.

The MP appreciated the UNP and TNA lawmakers taking a principled stand on the matter at a time a section of the media was strongly critical of the parliamentary High Posts Committee. The veteran politician emphasized that the parliamentary committee shouldn’t be allowed to be used as a mere rubber stamp.

Responding to a query, Gunawardena said that the Attorney General should be consulted in this regard and if necessary Foreign Secretary Prasad Kariyawasam called before the parliamentary committee to seek his views.

According to him, the issue came up last Thursday (July 5) when Australian Professor

Anusha Cooray appeared before the committee seeking approval to take over mission in Oslo. Asked whether, they found fault with her qualifications, Gunawardena said that there was absolutely no issue with that. "In fact, we assured her there was no problem with her qualifications."

Speaker Jayasuriya, however, has pointed out the appointment of another Australian Palitha Kohona given top UN posting during the previous administration.

MP Gunawardena explained that as Kohona’s appointment took place before the enactment of the 19th Amendment in April 2015, it couldn’t be cited to justify dual citizens as heads of Sri Lankan missions.

The JO chief said that political parties should discuss this matter further and observations of the Foreign Ministry obtained without further delay to finalize policy on dual citizens.

MP Guwawardena admitted that all members of the parliamentary high posts committee hadn’t been present when the issue was taken up. In addition to Speaker Jayasuriya, Gunawardena, Rajapakse and Sumanthiran, Minister John Seneviratne was present. State Finance Minister Eran Wickremaratne had come at the conclusion of the discussion on Anusha Cooray’s matter.

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