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Sri Lankan refugee dying to be a Swazi

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MBABANE – A Sri Lankan refugee wants to kill himself because government is refusing to grant him Swazi citizenship.

Navaratnam Mathen (34), who resides in Mbabane, has even made his intentions known in a letter he wrote in April this year addressed to the King’s Office.

He has not yet received a response.

Mathen first came into the kingdom in 2003, but was granted refugee status on August 17, 2004. He lives with his uncle who acquired citizenship status more than 10 years ago and is a teacher by profession.

The uncle asked not to be identified by name or the school in which he teaches.

The 34-year- old said he worked at a grocery shop and also did odd jobs for his uncle. However, he earned a meagre salary and wanted a better job, and also to stop being dependent on his uncle for almost everything. Mathen has no wife or children.

"This is my ninth year in Swaziland and it’s not the first time I applied for citizenship at the Citizenship Board. The first time was in June 2007, but I received an answer in March 11, 2009 whereby my request was turned down," said Mathen.

The Board, in their letter to Mathen, mentioned that he was refused Swazi citizenship because his ‘investment in the country was too low and that he was not contributing to the development of the country.’

The letter was signed by Prince Mabekisa Dlamini, who was the Board’s acting Chairman at that time. Mathen has tried again this year with assistance from Musa Dlamini, Headman for the Inner Council of Kwaluseni Royal Kraal.

The challenge now is that a Citizenship Board has still not been appointed.

"Your Majesty, I would like to bring it to your attention that I have even contemplated taking my own life because of the pain I have been subjected to over the years," Mathen stated in the letter he wrote to the King’s Office.

Mathen mentioned that he had gone through a lot of hardship in his life; from the time when he had to live in the jungle in Sri Lanka to escape from being forcefully turned into a child soldier, to the time when he was arrested and tortured by some of his countrymen who thought he was a soldier from an opposing faction.

"There has always been fighting in Sri Lanka since I was a child. There are two tribes, the Sinhalese and the Tamir and they are always at loggerheads. I’m a Tamir, but was tortured and hurt my eye because I was thought to belong to the Tamir Tigers," he explained.

He added that in the kingdom, he was once stabbed three times by thugs while doing some menial duties for his uncle.

Mathen believes that attaining a Swazi citizenship would help him find a better job with a better salary so that he could provide for himself instead of depending on his uncle. He however, admitted he had no formal education but has a driver’s licence.


Sihle Dlamini, the King’s Office’s Estate Manager, said he could not recall Mathen’s letter as the King’s Office receives many, but he understood that there were international laws that allowed Mathen to work and even start a business even though he is a refugee.

He advised him to see the Ministry of Home Affairs.

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