Recently, it was announced that a “Security Clearance Report” is mandated by the Defence Minister from any foreign citizen that wishes to marry a Sri Lankan. Foreigners are required to fill out a health declaration form as well as obtain clearance from the Ministry of Defence. This leaves one to wonder whether Sri Lanka will train into a scene from The Proposal with its absurd requirements for one to simply get married.
Registrar General Weerasekara had told the media over the weekend that the circular was drafted on the instructions of the Defence Ministry, as the authorities have seen foreigners marry Sri Lankan citizens for “ulterior motives” such as drug trafficking and money laundering whilst Prime Minister’s Co-ordinating Secretary Geethanath Cassilingham Tweeted on 26 December that Defence Ministry officials had informed him that the need for this circular arose as a result of increasing numbers of foreigners who arrive in Sri Lanka on a spousal visa in order to conduct illegal activities. This again leaves open the question of whether locals aren’t capable of committing crimes, and why such a rule was suddenly put into play.
When speaking to an official at the Registrar General’s Department, we were told that the new regulations will not affect those holding a dual citizenship status or those who opt to marry under the law of another country.
Brunch spoke to a few foreign-local couples, as well as one that had gotten married previously to understand the implications of this new circular.
In conversation with Eric Heinrichs, an American that married Manisha who resides in Sri Lanka, he informed us that when he married her back in 2020, they didn’t need to get the approval from the Ministry of Defence (as this new rule was recently imposed). He told us: “Our marriage certification was simple and pleasant and allowed me to feel welcomed as a new member of the Sri Lankan family without any sense of segregation.”
All that was required of them were their birth certificates, their passports, and a lawyer’s approval. It was a simple and efficient affair, and the pair were able to tie the knot peacefully. Lastly, Heinrich told us that he needed to also write a letter to declare that he had not been previously married, which is a basic ask of anyone planning to get engaged. The two signed their registration with witnesses and a voluntary gift was given to the lawyer from Manisha and him and they were on their way to marital bliss, in their new hope in the heart of our island.
Steven Shera, a well-known Sri Lankan musician however, has been quite frazzled by the new rule, as he had planned to marry his Polish girlfriend, and now he questions how it is supposed to be done. “To be very frank, there is a new regulation, but there is no real process that has been told to us on how one is supposed to go ahead with this,” he commented, adding that all that is known is the requirement of clearance from the Ministry of Defence.
He questioned: “Do we walk up to the Ministry and tell them we want to get married? What forms do we fill? How long will it take? What will they check?” He also observed that if they do refer to the police records to check whether he or his girlfriend are registered as criminals, then he questioned whether that wouldn’t mean they’d be in jail; a good point being made as to why a criminal would be allowed to freely roam the streets in Sri Lanka.
“This whole regulation seems like just another way for the Government to make money and make it difficult for a person to marry someone they love,” he stated, adding that there is a whole other case of the person you’re marrying needing to provide a health declaration.
Shera is of the opinion that this new rule is targeted towards people who want their foreign partner to live in the country, and questioned how this would impact situations where the couple wishes to leave the country. “Unfortunately, it has come to a point where no one wants to live in this country anymore, and we can understand that this is simply a step put in place to prevent people from trying to leave the country,” he stated.
With all these new regulations coming into play, we are left to wonder if marriage is even a necessity anymore.