Sri Lanka: A Call to Arms Against On-Arrival Visa Fiasco

Granting authority over border control to a foreign entity is not simply an administrative oversight; it constitutes a fundamental breach of trust.

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A Sri Lankan air force soldier stands guard at the Bandaranaike International airport in Katunayake on March 19, 2020, (Photo: Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP)

Editorial

In the wake of recent events, a troubling revelation has emerged — one that strikes at the very core of our nation’s security apparatus and national interest as a whole. The assertion that a foreign entity, albeit headquartered beyond our borders, holds sway over critical aspects of our border control mechanisms, raises grave concerns that demand our immediate attention. While some may attempt to cloak this issue in the semantics of geography, the crux of the matter lies not in where the company’s headquarters are located, but in the profound implications it poses for our national sovereignty and security. Private companies do not possess the constitutional accountability that public servants have. However, according to a statement issued by some officials, they reaffirmed without hesitation that they are planning to resume the project in two weeks’ time, once the technical difficulties are resolved. We really can’t believe such a reaffirmation on the first line of defence in this nation.

It is indeed a paradox that while the Indian mission hastily issues statements to distance itself from this foreign company, the reality on the ground paints a starkly different picture. Nearly 90 percent of the personnel steering the company’s operations are Indian nationals, with the upper echelons of management dominated by solid Indian professionals, save for a token presence of two foreigners. Yet, the nationality of the individuals involved is but a superficial facet of a much deeper concern — a concern that revolves around the compromise of our national security and the erosion of our first line of defence.

At the heart of this debate lie three pressing issues that demand our utmost scrutiny and introspection. Firstly, the unsettling precedent of delegating the issuance of on-arrival visas to a private entity strikes at the very foundation of our security protocols. We must interrogate those who advocate for such a move and compel them to produce evidence of any other nation in the world where foreign private companies are entrusted with such a critical responsibility. Can they, in all honesty, provide examples of countries where this compromise of national security is tolerated?

Secondly, the glaring absence of proper governmental procurement procedures casts a long shadow of doubt over the integrity of the decision-making process. The lack of transparent tender procedures hints at a nexus of favouritism and clandestine dealings that undermine not only the principles of fairness and accountability but also the sanctity of our democratic institutions. How can we, as responsible citizens, stand by and condone such opaque manoeuvres that threaten to erode the very foundations of our democracy?

Thirdly, the imposition of exorbitant service charges and convenience fees by this foreign company serves as a stark reminder of our own shortcomings and vulnerabilities. Are we to believe that our competent immigration officers are incapable of handling such affairs, thus necessitating the intervention of a foreign entity? The drain of profits into the coffers of an external corporation not only undermines our economic sovereignty but also raises questions about the competency and integrity of our national institutions. As the prominent journalist Lakshman Gunasekara rightly pointed out in an online discussion, “How can any private company have access to state security intelligence resources? How can such private sector staff exercise judgment in granting access to enter a country without the constitutional authority that public service cadres have?”

Moreover, granting authority over border control to a foreign entity is not simply an administrative oversight; it constitutes a fundamental breach of trust. The responsibility of safeguarding our borders cannot be outsourced to entities devoid of constitutional accountability and public scrutiny. The ramifications of such reckless privatization extend far beyond mere administrative convenience — they strike at the very heart of our national security infrastructure, leaving us vulnerable to exploitation and manipulation.

The delegation of border control to a private company represents a glaring aberration — a departure from the principles of constitutional accountability and public service. How can we, in good conscience, entrust the guardianship of our nation’s borders to entities that lack the institutional safeguards and regulatory oversight inherent to public service? The very notion of privatizing such a critical aspect of our national security apparatus is tantamount to a betrayal of the trust reposed in our leaders and institutions.

It falls upon the shoulders of conscientious citizens to rise in unison and demand accountability from those responsible for this compromise of our national security. We cannot afford to remain passive spectators to this travesty of governance — we must raise our voices in protest and demand that those responsible for this egregious lapse be held to account. The sanctity of our borders, the integrity of our democratic institutions, and the sovereignty of our nation are non-negotiable — they are the bedrock upon which our collective security and prosperity rest.

It is time to stand together as guardians of our nation’s destiny, resolute in our commitment to uphold the principles of accountability, transparency, and constitutional governance. In the face of adversity, let us draw strength from our unity, for it is only through collective action and unwavering resolve that we can safeguard the future of our beloved nation. This is our clarion call — to defend the sanctity of our borders and uphold constitutional governance principles. The stakes are too high, the risks too grave. Let us not falter in our resolve, for the eyes of history are upon us, and the judgment of posterity awaits. This is our moment to stand tall and proud, to defend the ideals upon which our nation was founded, and to ensure that the flame of liberty and democracy burns bright for generations to come.

Sri Lanka Guardian

The Sri Lanka Guardian is an online web portal founded in August 2007 by a group of concerned Sri Lankan citizens including journalists, activists, academics and retired civil servants. We are independent and non-profit. Email: editor@slguardian.org

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