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Legislator urges voting rights for Sri Lankans back home

Sunil Handunnetti
RIYADH: Visiting Sri Lankan legislator Sunil Handunnetti told Arab News that the country’s expatriates should be given voting rights, and that their community schools should be affiliated to the Education Ministry in Colombo.
Handunnetti, chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) in Parliament, was on a brief visit to Riyadh to tell his countrymen about his brainchild, the Organization for Overseas Sri Lankans (OOSL).
Handunnetti, who was given a red-carpet welcome by his countrymen, met Sri Lankan expatriates in the capital and explored ways of assisting them back home.
He told Arab News that he was happy that Sri Lankan workers are happily placed in the Kingdom, but that their interests in their homeland had to be looked after.
“Irrespective of the period of stay in the Kingdom, Sri Lankans are natural citizens of the island and they should have their civic rights back home. They should be given voting rights to elect their own representatives to Parliament,” he said, adding that his organization would do its best in this regard.
He said returnees from the Kingdom should be given full assistance to earn a living back home, including a duty-free allowance to import machinery to continue their businesses. “They should be given a monthly pension to keep the home fires burning,” he added.
Handunnetti said he had visited some 20 countries and has set up the OOSL in 26 countries. “They have nothing to do with the local set up, and will only work for their countrymen’s welfare back home,” he added.
He said he would make representations to concerned authorities to make overseas Sri Lankan community schools affiliated to the Education Ministry in Colombo, so teachers and students will be treated as if they are in Sri Lankan government schools.
He lamented that Sri Lankan expatriates are treated as foreigners when they want to admit their children to Sri Lankan universities, and that they have to pay exorbitant fees.
He thanked Saudi authorities for hosting his countrymen and thereby helping their homes and motherland.

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