Mon | Jul 15, 2024

Stern: Golding’s position on dual citizenship ‘hypocritical’

JLP member says opposition leader must admit PNP’s position was wrong and he’s changing its policy

Published:Thursday | May 16, 2024 | 12:12 AMKimone Francis/Senior Staff Reporter
Michael Stern
Michael Stern

Senior Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) member Michael Stern says Opposition Leader Mark Golding’s credibility must be questioned following his call for constitutional amendments that would allow Jamaicans with dual citizenship to run for office.

Stern, the former member of parliament (MP) for Clarendon North Western who was ousted by the court after it was revealed that he was also a United States citizen, said Golding’s position and the timing of it appear questionable.

“He needs to stop being hypocritical about it and come forward and admit that maybe his [party] was wrong at the time and he has now seen that and is changing the policy rather than trying to sneak it in [the report],” said Stern.

Golding on Tuesday said Jamaicans who also hold citizenship for non-Commonwealth countries should be allowed to seek political office.

He said there are Jamaicans domiciled overseas who may want to return to the island and contribute who should not be excluded from the eligibility to serve.

“My position is that dual citizenship should not be a bar to service. That’s my own view, and I think the party will continue to have discussions on this. As I’ve said, this issue, we’ve not had an opportunity to discuss it because we did not know what the specific reform proposals were … ,” said Golding.

He said he had only received an embargoed copy of the Constitutional Reform Committee’s (CRC) final report a few days prior.

2007 challenge

The position appears to be a departure from that of the People’s National Party, which in 2007, as opposition, lobbied to have several JLP MPs who possessed dual citizenship removed from Parliament.

Stern, Cabinet Minister Daryl Vaz, Everald Warmington, Gregory Mair, and the late Shahine Robinson had their legitimacy in the Lower House challenged on the grounds that they were citizens of non-Commonwealth states, which resulted in court-ordered by-elections that cost taxpayers more than $100 million.

Last October, Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs Marlene Malahoo Forte told Parliament that the CRC contemplated whether persons with dual citizenship should be eligible to sit as MPs.

She said it was determined that a test of allegiance would be necessary. The minister said the committee noted the Jamaican Constitution in its current form and had contemplated various ways to deal with persons who possess dual or multiple citizenships and their involvement in the Jamaican Parliament.

“A test of allegiance was, therefore, seen as necessary in resolving any contention that may arise from conflicting allegiance. The committee considered it important to design the rules on eligibility with sufficient flexibility to attract the best public servants to produce the best outcome for our nation,” Malahoo Forte said then.

Allegiance to Ja

On Wednesday, Stern maintained his party’s position on the matter of allowing eligibility to extend to dual citizens but said that this must be defined.

“Their first allegiance must be to Jamaica. There must never be any conflict there. I would never like to see someone having a dual citizenship not loyal to Jamaica sitting in Parliament.

“How you define that is what the Government and Opposition must come to but not to say, ‘If I serve somewhere already overseas I can’t contribute to my country’,” he said.

He suggested that criteria be put in place where, as an example, the country’s finance and foreign ministers or any ambassador must hold only Jamaican citizenship.

“If you are taking certain positions in the Government then maybe you should have only Jamaican citizenship, and the higher up you go, it applies even more. But you can’t say everyone who wants to serve must give up their citizenship,” he said.

Buttressing his point, Stern claimed that many civil servants possess dual citizenship, asserting that they carry greater influence over the country’s policies.

He said the same obtains for mayors and councillors.

“You are making one set of people ineligible, but it’s not that one set of people make decisions on running the country. My party’s position has always been that allegiance to the country means that once you get into critical positions, you cannot have dual citizenship, and I am with the party on that,” he said.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness in 2011 supported calls to amend the Constitution to allow persons with dual allegiance to offer themselves for political office.

“The Jamaican ‘commonwealth’ is its diaspora, and the way the law is structured now, we are giving preference to the British Commonwealth to represent us, whereas we should really be looking at ensuring that it is the Jamaican commonwealth that is able to come back to its country and participate,” he told The Gleaner at that time.