The Controversy over Dual Citizenship in Sri Lanka’s Parliament

It is very clear that the drama over dual citizenship came with ulterior motive to initially prevent Gotabaya Rajapakse from contesting Presidential Elections. This was why the 19a was hurriedly passed in March 2015 which eventually led to Gotabaya Rajapakse having to renounce his American citizenship to contest Presidential Election. A faux pas made, which the former so-called independent election commission members especially its Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya has to be responsible for was that inspite of the dual citizenship clause in place, he did not ensure no dual citizens were allowed to contest the August 2020 General Elections. The independent election commission failed to uphold the constitutional amendment of March 2015 & deny dual citizens from contesting elections in August 2020. These MPs make up the present Parliament & cannot be removed because they hid their dual citizenship status & the election commission failed to filter their nominations. The only honest nominee who admitted being a dual citizen was unceremoniously removed as a MP. The election commission has to feel ashamed for their fallacy.

The 19th amendment brought dual citizenship clause – March 2015

The 20th amendment removed the dual citizenship clause – October 2020

The 21st amendment returned the dual citizenship clause – October 2022

Though dual citizenship was introduced in March 2015, alongside independent commissions, the independent election commission did not uphold the 19a clause when the onus was on them to ensure no dual citizens were contesting general elections. This is a major faux pas by Mahinda Deshapriya the Election Commissioner. This failure is further established because he removed Geetha Kumarasinghe as a MP simply because she admitted she was a dual citizen on the nomination paper. The other dual citizen candidates hid their dual citizenship status. If candidates hide their dual citizenship, was it not the duty of the election commission to ensure that the 19a dual citizenship clause prevented any dual citizens from entering parliament?

The present MPs in Parliament are those who contested August 2020 General Elections.

The law cannot be applied in retrospect – which means the 21a return of dual citizenship clause cannot be applied to the MPs who got elected in August 2020 to Parliament. However, given that they contested when the dual citizenship clause of March 19a was in place, they can and should be challenged in a court of law.

The PAFFREL has made a RTI request to identify MPs who hold dual citizenship. They have made this request to the Speaker, the Dept of Immigration & Emigration. Therefore, the Speaker and the Dept of Immigration & Emigration must respond to this request. PAFFREL proposes to legally challenge the MPs who are dual citizens.

Similarly, citizens can also file FR with the Supreme Court – citing the 19a dual citizenship clause which is applicable to the MPs who contested and won the 2020 August General Elections. This will be applicable to all the 10 MPs currently accused of being Dual Citizens as they hid their dual citizenship status when the constitution clearly established no dual citizens could contest. Thus, they can be legally challenged and be unseated if their dual citizenship is established. The Speaker, the President & the relevant authorities are required not to play politics but to make public all dual clitizens. Those MPs that contested 2020 August elections and won should be unseated if they are dual citizens using the 19a that is applicable to them.

Now that 21a has brought back dual citizenship clause – all of the 10MPs who are dual citizens cannot be allowed to contest unless they renounce their dual citizenship.

It must be also added that being a dual citizen does not make a MP unpatriotic while being a 100% Sri Lankan citizen does not guarantee a MP is patriotic either. There are enough and more of MPs who are 100% Sri Lankan citizens but traitors to the nation. There may be dual citizens who are more patriotic than 100% Sri Lankan citizens. The argument that MPs should not be dual citizens is relevant because of the political pressures the other nation may exert on a dual citizen MP. We saw this pressure exerted on the former President and was a key reason why he could not lead the nation as per national agenda or interest. This is a core reason why many people are happy to bring the dual citizenship clause though it does not guarantee that a person is 100% patriotic being a Sri Lankan citizen. At the same time even 100% Sri Lankan citizens can be bought over by political pressures – all these test the integrity of the politicians and leave the voters puzzled as to who they can actually trust and which MPs have integrity to lead the nation.

The politicization of constitutional amendments is clear. 19a was brought to prevent Gotabaya Rajapakse contesting Presidential Elections while 21a was brought to prevent BR from contesting elections though he entered Parliament from national list while being a dual citizen after 20a brought back provision to allow dual citizens to enter Parliament.

What is clear is that all of the constitutional amendments are with political agendas and not in the interest of the country or its people.

Shenali D Waduge



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