|Saturday, 30 August 2003|
by Ranjith Premadasa
The issue of high-security, tamper-proof N-series passports is proceeding smoothly, says Controller of Immigration and Emigration M. Wijesekara.
Wijesekera said the new passport introduced on August 1 will deter forgers who have been expertly making the old series' passports.
He said the whole process of issuing passports has been streamlined, with the office being open to the public from 6.30 am and the workers reporting to work sharp at 8 am to begin a hard day's work.
This step has saved hundreds of applicants from remote areas from the clutches of middlemen and touts who would otherwise have exploited them. A special unit headed by a public relations officer has been opened to assist those who need help to fill the forms. There are 16 counters where applicants can hand over the forms.
He said all the counters are manned by helpful officers who help applicants to solve any problems they have with their applications and documentation. Several roving officers inquire about the needs of applicants. Even if a document is missing, we try to verify the facts through other documents and means.
Wijesekara said his office issues nearly 1,500 passports a day. Depending on the applicant's urgency, a passport can be issued in as little as two hours. An ordinary issue takes five days. "There are more applicants now as more people are going abroad as migrant workers and tourists, especially to Asian countries," he explained.
The Passport Office is now equipped with a new public address system for the benefit of applicants. An instant photo booth and photocopy machines have also been installed. The fees levied for these services are very reasonable. Applicants from outstations who wish to collect the passport on the same day and have no other place to go in Colombo can wait at the office. Refreshments are available in a spacious canteen downstairs.
Wijesekara reminded applicants that forms can be obtained free of charge from divisional secretariat offices. The forms can also be downloaded from the web. They should then get the forms signed by a genuine JP, commissioned officer etc, without falling prey to unscrupulous middlemen.
He said the Department would do everything possible to extend a better service to the people.
Produced by Lake House