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Monday 16.07.2018 | Name days: Hermīne, Estere
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Lithuania’s former NBA star to his Lithuanian citizenship nemeses: «Kiss my bum»

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Žydrūnas Ilgauskas

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

How to respond to an action by authorities that seems to some a crap? Ask the officials to land a kiss on your bum. That’s is exactly what the retired NBA star, until now a citizen of Lithuania Žydrūnas Ilgauskas did after learning that, with his U.S. passport in the pocket, he will be stripped of his Lithuanian citizenship. Asked whether he intends to plead for an exception from the stringent Lithuanian Constitution in order to retain his Lithuanian citizenship, the once hoops star was blunt: «No. Let them kiss my ***.»

Lithuanian constitution forbids dual citizenship

When Ilgauskas was recently visiting Lithuania, his motherland, he entered the country with his brand new American passport. He was not aware yet that the Lithuanian emigration authorities had already been in the process of stripping him of his Lithuanian citizenship.

The reason? Lithuanian Constitution excludes dual citizenship.

If things come to it, one must make the life-defining decision. Having spent nearly half of his life dribbling the ball on the U.S.’s most famous basketball courts, he did not wave-opted for the U.S. passport.

Lithuanian journos did not have to do anything extraordinary to sniff it out, as the former Cleveland Cavaliers forward neither hid it, nor bragged about it.

Already winding down his 14-year affiliation with the club he and his wife Jennife adopted two Lithuanian orphans, Povilas and Deividas, to whom the U.S. has been a new-life opener.

«After hanging the boots, I want now to make up the time I spent on the court with my kids and wife,» 39-year-old Ilgauskas admitted to the Lithuanian daily Lietuvos Rytas.

When tapping the American passport and giving the Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America in 2013, he confesses he  knew of the draconic Lithuanian citizenship law.

«Then I didn’t give much thought of it. Obviously, I knew what I could expect. What I cannot believe that the whole thing has stirred such a big state-size scandal,» he said referring to the brouhaha in Lithuanian media, following the leak of news Lithuania has started his Lithuanian citizenship’s termination procedures.

He says he signed up with the American citizenship, because he wanted to exercise his rights as an American citizen, including that of voting.

Lithuania should heed Israel’s example

The 221-centimer giant is particularly irritated by the attention his parents back in Lithuanian have been dipped into.

«I really want to ask everyone to leave my parents alone. They are an elderly couple whose health is so-and-so, and now all keep disturbing them. Their words later are interpreted as mine, thought they don’t know everything about me,» Ilgauskas told.

There are many things that can disappoint in life, but getting stripped of Lithuanian citizenship does not fall into the category to Ilgauskas.

«It is just very saddening that Lithuania has that kind of law. It seems that Lithuania is a democratic state, but all normal states allow bearing dual or even triple citizenship. Look, for example, how Israel is taking care of its people in that regard,» he argued. «It’s all about the Lithuanian bureaucrats. I’ve done for the cause of Lithuania a hundred times more than they have (..) My conscience is calm,» he said.

Obviously irked, Ilgauskas hinted he can send over his and his sons’ Lithuanian passports if the state wishes so.

«Maybe the state will feel calmer having ridden of the Ilgauskai,»he said, but he insisted the U.S. passport doesn’t virtually change anything: he will keep considering himself a Lithuanian.

Asked whether he is planning to take advantage of them to apply for an exception to citizenship rules, Ilgauskas scoffed, adding, «I don’t need any privileges. I am not in any way exceptional from all the Lithuanians who now live in the United States. Give dual citizenship to all or no one…Let the bureaucrats kiss my bum.»

Lithuanian establishment tries to avoid embarrassment

The Lithuanian Interior Ministry Deputy Minister Elvinas Jankevičius confirmed That the retired Lithuanian basketball player is to lose his Lithuanian passport.

«We have received an official notice from the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius that Ilgauskas became a U.S. citizen last year. It is regrettable that one of Lithuania’s best basketball players became a national of another state, but we are obliged by the law to start the procedure to take away his citizenship,»he told.

Meanwhile, the Lithuanian political elite seems is eager to avoid embarrassment from the fallout.

The President’s Office has submitted an amendment to the Law on Citizenship, proposing to allow dual citizenship in some cases.

Lithuania’s current citizenship legislation allows it only under very strictly-defined circumstances.

Before the last Winter Olympics in Sochi, Isabella Tobias, an American ice skater, was granted Lithuanian citizenship so that she could skate in a pair with her Lithuanian ice partner.

According to the Lithuanian President, it would be unfair to strip Ilgauskas, who had played in Lithuanian national basketball team, of his citizenship.

«Lithuania is proud of its citizens who promote its name in the world. It is unfair that Lithuanian nationals with special merits to the state were forced to give up the passport of their native country,» President Grybauskaitė is quoted in the statement.

But others point out that Ilgauskas had played a mere three games for the national team and never exuded much patriotism and loyalty to the Motherland.

Under the current Law on Citizenship, dual citizenship is only allowed for those who left Lithuania before the country regained independence in 1990 and those who acquired citizenship automatically through birth or marriage.

PM and Seimas Speaker thumb up citizenship referendum

Lithuania’s Social Democratic Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius also weighed in on the issue, saying he is backing the idea of holding a referendum on dual citizenship alongside parliamentary elections in 2016.

«We need a preparation period to avoid making mistakes in a hurry. We need to do explanatory work for the public to be fully informed on why the referendum is being organized. We could do this by the next Seimas elections,» Butkevičius said.

Lithuania’s Constitutional Court has clarified that the liberalization of dual citizenship can be sought only with the amendments to the Constitution, which requires a referendum.

The Lithuanian Parliament’s speaker Loreta Graužinienė has also expressed support for the proposal of holding a referendum on dual citizenship alongside the 2016 Seimas elections.

«All political groups agree that members of parliament should discuss the issue in detail and prepare for a referendum that will ask the nation a question about citizenship,» she said.

President’s legislative initiatives would bend Constitution?

Meanwhile, lawyers at the Lithuanian Seimas say that President’s amendments on dual citizenship for people with exceptional merits to the country may be inconsistent with the Constitution.

«Discussions should be held on whether the legalization of such a new exception does not run counter to the constitutional concept of citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania, enshrined in the Constitution and defined in the Constitutional Court’s doctrine on dual (multiple) citizenship,» the Office of the Lithuanian Parliament’s Legal Department said in a statement.

The World Lithuanian Community would also like to see the Lithuanian authorities putting their hand on legalization of dual citizenship and e-voting, said the WLC deputy chairwoman Dalia Henke.

She argues the recent lackadaisical presidential and European elections in Lithuania show the need to attract more voters abroad.

Alvydas Medalinskas, a political analyst, is convinced that the idea of putting the issue of dual referendum for the nation’s vote along with the parliamentary election in 2016 is «the best».

«It would put the final point for once and for all. Allowing the Seimas to make the necessary amendments to the Constitution would, certainly, save the resources, but, in this case, all kinds of adverse interpretations of the move wouldn’t be avoided,»he told BNN.

Though the Lithuanian parties are likely to support dual citizenship, some of their members on the fringes might be raising loyalty and even economic issues.

«Look, now it seems that most stand for dual citizenship. But the argumentation that many of the expats have left their elderly parents in Lithuania and had used some of the benefits Lithuania was offering them when they lived here yet can sound pretty strong,» the analyst reckoned.

Ref: 020/111.111.111.1944


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