SL prez polls: Row erupts over Gotabaya’s US citizenship

Sri Lanka Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa (C)

Colombo,  A fresh row has erupted over the US citizenship of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa, with incumbent Sports Minister Harin Fernando alleging that the former had not completed the process of renouncing it.

The row resurfaced after Fernando, in a lengthy Facebook post, on Saturday said that Rajapaksa’s name has not appeared in the latest Federal Register of the US even though the American law requires that the names of citizens who have lawfully revoked their citizenship to have their name published in the register, reports the Daily Financial Times.

However, a group of lawyers for Rajapaksa, led by Ali Sabry PC, on Sunday strongly refuted the allegation saying that it could 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 confirmed that the SLPP candidate was 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 was 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 April 17 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 wass now a Sri Lankan citizen and all the necessary documentation has been submitted to the Election Commission for perusal.

Fernando, in his post on Saturday, said that despite Rajapaksa’s claim that he submitted his application to revoke the citizenship on April 17 and received confirmation on May 3, his name was not in the second quarter report of the registry.

However, on Sunday afternoon, Facebook had taken down Fernando’s post, prompting him to take to Twitter to vent his anger where he condemned the social media giant for censoring his posts.

“American companies shouldn’t interfere on behalf of an American contesting Sri Lanka’s election. I stand by my every word,” he tweeted.

Political parties in Sri Lanka, including the ruling United National Party, have accused Rajapaksa for having US citizenship and claimed that he was in the country for over 10 years.

The former Defence Minister held a dual US citizenship but has claimed to have renounced it earlier this yeat for contesting the Presidential election.