Passport applicants face delays

[TamilNet, Friday, 07 August 1998, 23:59 GMT]
Ask anyone who has applied for a passport from Batticaloa, and they will tell you that if the Peoples Alliance (PA) Government wants to reach out to the Tamil people through a benign system of public administration, it has to think again.

With the decentralisation of administration, Kachcheries and Divisional Secretariats (DS) are authorised to collect the relevant documents of the applicants for passports, which are then sent to the Controller of Immigration and Emigration.

The Passport Office processes the documents, prepares the passport and posts it to the appropriate Kachcheri or DS office. Though this process usually requires a period of one month, applicants for passports in Batticaloa complain that even after a lapse of six months, they are unable to obtain their passports from Colombo, said sources.

An example of this bureaucratic apathy or not-so-subtle discrimination is the experience of Chelliyan Perinpanayagam, Mayor of Batticaloa.

Mr. Perinpanayagam submitted all the relevant documents in February, but since the Manmunai DS office where he handed over his papers stated that it had posted all the documents, but had not received the passport, the Mayor tried calling over at the Passport Office in Colombo.

At the Passport Office in Kollupitiya, he was told his application was not received and to try the Immigration and Emigration Department at Galle Buck in the Colombo Fort. But they had not received any such application either.

Mr. Perinpanayagam went back to the Kollupitiya office which professed ignorance about the matter once again and said batches of applications might be lying undelivered at Galle Buck. Off went Mr. Perinpanayagam to Galle Buck, only to be told that if he could wait till 4:00 p.m., they might be able to tell where exactly the problem lay.

But when he went at the appointed hour, an official took the passport, duly completed, and handed it over to Mr. Perinpanayagam. The general public however is not so fortunate as the first citizen of Batticaloa and many persons have complained at the delay, extending well over six months in most cases, in obtaining passports.

They say that as citizens of Sri Lanka they are entitled to a passport if they submit copies of their birth certificate, national identity card and two photographs certified by the grama Sevaka.

Fearing however that immigration authorities could reject their applications for the flimsiest of reasons, they also furnish such documents as police reports and voters lists. But to no avail as the delivery of passports continues to be delayed, said sources.

 

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