Economic refugees masquerading as victims of ethnic violence and other illegal Sri Lankan immigrants in affluent countries have done irreparable damage to the image of this country. It is thanks to these shameless beggars ready to stoop to any low level for a few dollars or pounds and the LTTE terrorists that each and every Sri Lankan becomes an instant suspect at airports in the developed world. The mere sight of a Sri Lankan passport is sufficient for foreign immigration officers to pounce on the bearer and grill him or her as if he or she were a criminal.
However, no one can question foreign governments for adopting such stern measures on their soil to prevent the never ending inflow of illegal immigrants from the four corners of the world. They have every right to protect their national interest.
Paradoxically, most affluent countries continue to harbour hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants including notorious terrorists responsible for crimes against humanity. They make a hue and cry but stop short of kicking the so-called `illegals` out.
Is it because those immigrants provide cheap labour and do menial and dangerous jobs such as scraping ships, janitorial work, applying agrochemicals and glass cleaning on skyscrapers? Developed nations are dependent on illegal immigrants reduced to semi-slavery sans labour rights to keep their economies going and it is not the elimination of the problem that they seek but managing it. If they are really desirous of solving the problem once and for all, all they should do is to round up and deport all illegal immigrants.
Now, we learn that the Sri Lankan government has given foreigners carte blanche to ride rough shod over Sri Lankans at the KIA on the pretext of blocking illegal migration at the source. There are disturbing reports of a bunch of arrogant foreign embassy officials lording it over at the airport and preventing even those who possess genuine travel documents from leaving the country.
Humiliation that Sri Lankans are made to undergo in the name of visa interviews is only too well known to merit elaboration. Visa applicants are made to wait in long queues exposed to the sun and rain at some foreign embassies that boast of their respect for human rights and try to enforce their `values` on the developing world. Visa interviews have all the trappings of police interrogations and callous pompous potentates seated behind two way mirrors ridicule captive applicants to their heart`s content.
The boot-licking `natives` at those missions are the worst culprits. They derive some sadistic pleasure by harassing their fellow countrymen. It is not for nothing that the old folk in this country say, `The bone licking canines are more ferocious than their masters!` We don`t intend to tar all visa officers with the same brush. There are real professionals who conduct themselves courteously. Unfortunately they are in the minority.
Now, the government has authorised some imperiously uppity foreign visa officers to expand their deplorable operations beyond their embassies. Earlier, assistance of the so-called Airline Liaison Officers (ALOs) from the western embassies was solicited to help check authenticity of visas at the KIA. But, today, the government has lamentably chosen to subjugate the country`s sovereignty by placing ALOs over and above the Sri Lankan Emigration and Immigration officials at the KIA!
Foreign embassy officials have been allowed to conduct checks right at the boarding gates and even turn away travellers according to their whims and fancies. This kind of unbridled freedom they enjoy to override even the Sri Lankan officers, who have been reduced to mere spectators, and to violate the rights of Sri Lankans amounts to gross interference in Sri Lanka`s domestic affairs.
It was only a moon ago that this country celebrated her 61 years of Independence on a very grand scale. President Mahinda Rajapaksa thundered from the ceremonial podium vowing to defend the country at any cost. One may have got the impression that Sri Lanka was an independent nation!
But, will any independent country allow foreigners to usurp the powers of state officials and be a law unto themselves at an international airport?
High-handed action of a British ALO who has become so powerful as to throw passengers waiting for boarding out of the KIA has been brought to the notice of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Controller of Emigration and Immigration, Foreign Minister et al by none other than Sri Lanka`s Ambassador to Italy Hemantha Warnakulasuriya PC. According to a news item we carried on Tuesday, this female British ALO prevented one of Ambassador Warnakulasuriya`s Sri Lankan aides with valid travel documents from going back to Rome after spending a few days here. She callously turned down even Ambassador Warnakulasuriya`s request over the telephone and stopped the aide from leaving the country.
This British officer seems to be more powerful than even Queen Elizabeth! What does she think she is? A viceroy?
We urge President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who wraps himself in the flag so ardently to order an investigation, find out what is going on at the KIA and remedy the situation forthwith. Sri Lanka may be a trouble-torn poor country dependent on foreign aid but that does not mean any diplomatic high muck-a-muck can treat Sri Lankans like criminals and violate their human rights with impunity Isn t this diplomatic terrorism?
Sri Lankans are perhaps the only people in this world who are not only fingerprinted for visa but also kicked out of their own airport by foreigners. Does Mahinda Chintanaya permit the subjugation of the country`s sovereignty to the whims and fancies of some haughty foreign diplomats?
This reprehensible practice, Mr. President, must stop right now!