Tue | Jul 23, 2024

Michael Abrahams | Citizenship conundrum

Published:Tuesday | May 28, 2024 | 12:07 AM
Daryl Vaz, minister of science, energy, telecommunications and transport.
Daryl Vaz, minister of science, energy, telecommunications and transport.
Juliet Cuthbert Flynn
Juliet Cuthbert Flynn
The Constitution of Jamaica permits Golding and anyone in Parliament to have citizenship in Jamaica and another country as long as that country is a member of the Commonwealth, including Britain.
The Constitution of Jamaica permits Golding and anyone in Parliament to have citizenship in Jamaica and another country as long as that country is a member of the Commonwealth, including Britain.
Most of us are citizens of Jamaica only.
Most of us are citizens of Jamaica only.
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Recently, Opposition Leader Mark Golding expressed his support of dual citizens being allowed to sit in the Houses of Parliament in Jamaica, and all hell broke loose. There were demands for Golding to admit if he has British citizenship as well, and when he confirmed it, the governing party excoriated him and demanded he step down from his position as Opposition leader.

The Constitution of Jamaica permits Golding and anyone in Parliament to have citizenship in Jamaica and another country, as long as that country is a member of the Commonwealth, including Britain. In fact, according to our Constitution, if you are a citizen of another Commonwealth country, after living in Jamaica for one year, you are eligible to run for office, even for prime minister.

The disingenuity of the Holness administration is offensive. They know Golding is not in breach of the Constitution, but they and organisations affiliated with them are demanding that Golding step down, with no rational basis. Their minions, lackeys and flying monkeys are pushing the false equivalence between Golding’s situation and that involving Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Member of Parliament (MP) Daryl Vaz several years ago, when he was forced to renounce his United States citizenship.

But that scenario was different, and they know it. The Constitution does not allow for people with dual citizenship in a non-Commonwealth country, such as the US, to be in office. But Holness and his crew have taken advantage of much of the populace’s ignorance of the Constitution.

And it has become nasty. JLP MP Juliet Cuthbert Flynn, while referring to Golding in a tweet, said,

“He can never be more Jamaican than any black Jamaican. I have more rights to this land where my great great grand chopped sugar cane in St Thomas.”

Sinking to the same abysmally low level, fellow JLP MP Daryl Vaz continued the former athlete’s racist and xenophobic rhetoric, tweeting,

“So now that Golding has admitted he is part Jamaican and part British, maybe our fully Jamaican Olympian was right that she is indeed more Jamaican.”

STATUTORY DECLARATIONS UNCERTIFIED

Cuthbert Flynn and Vaz’s comments were utterly ridiculous, suggesting that because Cuthbert Flynn’s ancestors hailed from Jamaica, that somehow makes her more authentic. Not only do these people demonstrate wilful ignorance of the Constitution, they also choose to ignore our national motto, ‘Out of Many, One People’, imprinted on our coat of arms which is likely displayed in the offices of the ministries to which they are assigned.

There are child molesters, rapists, thieves, murderers and other criminals whose parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and beyond originated from Jamaica. On the other hand, George William Gordon, one of our national heroes, and Bob Marley, our most famous and revered icon, had British fathers. So, what is Cuthbert Flynn’s and Vaz’s point? Mark Golding was born and raised in this country. Also, Golding’s father, Sir John Golding, founder of the Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre, possibly did more for Jamaicans than Cuthbert Flynn’s and Vaz’s parents combined.

Also, former Prime Minister Edward Seaga was not black. I wonder if Cuthbert Flynn thinks she has “more rights to this land” than him, too.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness stated he is not against individuals with dual citizenship constituting the Parliament, but believes that once that individual aspires to lead Parliament, for them to remain a dual citizen is “untenable”and“incurable”.

But if the Constitution allows it, why is it “untenable”? In my opinion, being prime minister and having your statutory declarations remain uncertified for three years is “untenable”. It is a requirement for the country’s leader, but for some reason, this is the state of affairs with Holness.

Vaz doxed Golding by publicly releasing details of his Jamaican passport applications, stating, “Nothing is private or secret.” So, if nothing is private or secret, why can’t we see the prime minister’s statutory declarations and get an explanation as to why they are not certified? Why can’t we know the identities of the six parliamentarians being investigated by the Integrity Commission for illicit enrichment? Can we then get a list of all parliamentarians who have dual citizenship?

BEHAVIOUR IS DISGRACEFUL

In expressing his support for Jamaica moving away from the Privy Council and for the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to be made Jamaica’s final appellate court, Golding remarked that it should not be a case where Jamaica has “one foot in and one foot out of King Charles’ yard”. It does appear hypocritical for him to say this while holding both Jamaican and British citizenships, as this situation can be interpreted as him having “one foot in and one foot out”.

The desire for our political leaders to have citizenship solely for this country is understandable. Citizenship in more than one country allows the possibility of a conflict of interest to arise if the countries are at odds over specific issues. Most of us are citizens of Jamaica only. We want to feel connected to our leaders. We want to feel like they relate to us and are in the trenches and in the same boat with us. A leader with dual citizenship may lead us to believe that if the boat should sink, they would have the option of access to a lifeboat to take them away to a safe shore while we drown. In my opinion, if Golding wants to convince us of his loyalty, silence his critics, and eliminate a source of distraction from the Holness administration’s actions that are cause for concern, he should renounce his British citizenship with alacrity.

You have a right to disagree with aspects of the Constitution, and if you do, it would be appropriate to voice your concerns and lobby for the relevant changes to be made. What is not okay is to vilify, denigrate and tar and feather someone who is not in breach of the Constitution, as is being done to Mark Golding. Unfortunately, the Holness administration has resorted to gaslighting, xenophobia and racially divisive tactics, using the citizenship issue to disqualify their primary political opponent. Their behaviour is disgraceful.

Michael Abrahams is an obstetrician and gynaecologist, social commentator and human-rights advocate. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and michabe_1999@hotmail.com, or follow him on X , formerly Twitter, @mikeyabrahams.