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Sri Lanka: Failure to open a Diaspora office

The reasons for the inability to open a Diaspora office in Sri Lanka are multifaceted. Political disunity and personal agendas have been cited as significant factors.

3 mins read
A general view of city's skyline, amid the country's economic crisis in Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 19, 2022. [Reuters/Dinuka Liyanawatte]

by Our Political Affairs Editor

What became of President Wickremesinghe’s proposal to unveil a Diaspora office during the independence celebration that was meant to open to the public at the same time? Despite its significance, why did this initiative fail in Sri Lanka, a country that is unlike any other?

The diaspora experience can involve a complex negotiation of identities, as individuals seek to adapt to their new surroundings while preserving their cultural traditions and ties to their homeland. As such, the diaspora can be seen as a space of both dislocation and continuity, where individuals and communities are constantly negotiating their sense of belonging and identity.

The presence of an office for expatriates in the host country is an essential element for the successful integration of expatriates into their new home country. It provides a platform for expatriates to access necessary services, connect with their community, and participate in the country’s economic and social development. Unfortunately, Sri Lanka has been unable to open its Diaspora office due to political disunity and personal agenda, despite the rallying together for the national interest. This failure highlights the need for political leaders to put aside their differences and prioritize the well-being of their citizens, both at home and abroad.

The Sri Lankan Diaspora is estimated to be around three million people, with a significant presence in countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. These individuals have left their homeland for a variety of reasons, including education, employment, and to escape conflict. Despite being away from their home country, many Sri Lankan expatriates remain deeply connected to their culture and heritage, and continue to play an active role in Sri Lanka’s economic and social development.

Furthermore, the absence of a Diaspora office not only hinders the Sri Lankan government’s ability to engage with its citizens abroad, but it also perpetuates the sense of distance and disconnection felt by the expatriate community. The Sri Lankan diaspora remains an important part of the country’s social and cultural fabric, and they have a deep attachment to their homeland. Despite being physically away from Sri Lanka, many expatriates maintain close ties to their family, friends, and community in the country, and they often feel a strong desire to contribute to the development of their country of origin.

A Diaspora office would provide a platform for the Sri Lankan expatriate community to connect with their homeland, participate in social and economic development initiatives, and contribute their skills, knowledge, and resources to the country’s growth. It would create a sense of belonging and inclusion for expatriates, who often struggle with feelings of isolation and detachment from their roots. Additionally, it would allow the Sri Lankan government to gain a better understanding of the needs and priorities of the diaspora community and address any concerns they may have.

It is crucial for Sri Lanka to recognize the significance of its expatriate community and the important role they play in the country’s growth and development. A Diaspora office would be a concrete demonstration of this recognition, and it would help to foster a stronger sense of national identity and unity. While there may be disagreements among political leaders, the need to establish a Diaspora office should transcend political affiliations and personal interests. It is time for the government to take action and prioritize the establishment of a Diaspora office for the well-being of its citizens and the country’s future.

However, the lack of an official office for expatriates in Sri Lanka has made it difficult for the Sri Lankan government to engage with its diaspora effectively. This has resulted in missed opportunities for trade, investment, and knowledge transfer. Moreover, expatriates have faced difficulties in accessing government services, such as consular support, visa applications, and property ownership, which has left many feeling disconnected and frustrated.

The reasons for the inability to open a Diaspora office in Sri Lanka are multifaceted. Political disunity and personal agendas have been cited as significant factors. The lack of political will to address the issue, combined with bureaucratic red tape, has further compounded the problem. While various political parties have recognized the importance of opening a Diaspora office, they have been unable to find a consensus on how to proceed.

This failure is especially concerning because the opening of a Diaspora office would not only benefit Sri Lankan expatriates but also the country as a whole. It would enable the government to leverage the knowledge, expertise, and resources of the diaspora for the country’s economic and social development. It would also allow the Sri Lankan government to connect with its citizens abroad, fostering a sense of national unity and pride.

The failure to open a Diaspora office in Sri Lanka highlights the need for political leaders to prioritize the well-being of their citizens, both at home and abroad. The Sri Lankan diaspora has the potential to make a significant contribution to the country’s economic and social development. Political disunity and personal agendas must not be allowed to hinder progress towards achieving this important goal. Instead, the government must come together to address the issue and open an official office for expatriates, recognizing the significant benefits it would bring to the country as a whole.

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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